In the middle of all this beauty and silence it is difficult to remember what day it is, or when the day of departure arrives. And how does one confirm a flight’s departure time or check in, when there is no internet miles around?
The ladies at our retreat office advised me of an internet café down in the village, and the route to this village. “Hati-hati” (“be careful”), one said. “Of what?” I asked, alarmed. “Dogs? Other people?” But she only smiled, saying the walk was no more than 15 minutes.
I began to walk down the narrow road between the rice paddies, and passed a few small villages. Dogs, I thought. If a dog were to attack me here, or out between the villages, who would help me? I do not look local or smell local, and no local person walks. Everybody rides a scooter. I have been bitten by a Balinese dog before so hiding my fear of them is not possible, no matter how loud I yell back at them.
I passed three very placid dogs, and began to relax. Then a European man on a scooter drove by me, stopped, and asked if I needed a ride. He drove me all the way to the internet warung, which proved to be not 15 but a 25 min walk away. The Balinese ladies at the office have probably never crossed the entire distance on foot.
The warung was a local haunt, with a little kitchen, a television, and a couple of grimy couches. The lovely owner behind the counter gave me wifi access in exchange for a large bottle of water, which I quite needed.
A few minutes later I was up to date: flights still on track, no new major aftershocks or deaths on Bali or Lombok after the quake earlier in the month, but over 400 dead, and thousands left homeless. My week at the retreat had been calm and quakeless. No more than a day later I would be reminded of how fortunate I was: the same night, hours after my departure, there would be another proper shake that frightened people on Bali and would have flattened things on Lombok, had there been anything left to flatten. Hati-hati, dear survivors on Lombok.
When I was about to head back to the retreat, up the hill and through the villages, the wife of the warung-keeper asked if she could give me a ride. She was busy cooking, but she did not like to see me walk. Hati-hati, she said. Clearly wandering around the village roads was not a thing to do here. I accepted, the wife convinced her husband to drive me up with his scooter, and I offered a fair price for the ride.
On my return I met an American woman at the office. She looked restless. It turned out she had approached the office ladies with the same request: wifi to check in on a flight, just a little while after I did. She had began to walk down but had not got past the first village where she met not one but two growling dogs blocking her way. The owner of the dogs was leaving on a scooter but did not want to give her even a short ride past the house of the dogs. She asked him to control his dogs, unaware that Bali dogs belong to a house, not a master. He had duly advised her not to try to pass the dogs on the road, and driven away leaving her alone with the beasts. She was forced to turn around and walk back.
I was lucky. And despite how much I distrust the safety of scooters and motorbikes on Bali (at least in my hands!), I know first-hand that I dislike dog bites even more. Hati-hati of dogs on Bali if you visit.(Near Batu Karu, Bali, Indonesia; August 2018)