Wow, it has taken a long time to get onto this site. The internet connection is very slow here in Kuta because, according to Joe, it is powered by one old man with a crank. I hope that the very fact that I have perservered in obtaining a connection shows the true depth of my new dedication to keeping in touch.
We got in late last night, stood around in the visa and customs lines for a while, and finally got dropped off in the middle of the city around 2am (4am Sydney time). We wandered the steets with a fellow backpacker with whom we'd shared the cab (actually she didn't have small enough change so she ended up just bumming a ride off of us) looking for a hostel whose front desk was still open. We came upon the lovely Sorga Hotel, a slightly run down jungly resort with the very resonable room price of US $14 for a private room with ceiling fan, balcony (pool view), hot and cold water, and complimentary breakfast! We had an alarmingly overweight hostelmate in Sydney (with an equally alarmingly large stack of pornographic magazines displayed across his bunk) who told us he was headed to Asia 1) because feminism, the bane of his Western existence, hasn't arrived here yet and 2) because in Asia a common American man can live like P. Diddy (He later likened himself to Tom Sellek as well, in reference to the Asian lifestyle he planned to lead). Well, he was at least right about the second point: things here in Bali are indeed dirt cheap.
At night this city looks like an small-scale, Asian, electric Las Vegas. During the day, it more closely resembles a prettier, tropical, overgrown Rocky Point, Mexico. With quadruple the number of street vendors trying to sell you tatoos, hair braids, surf lessons, "transport," and even marijuana! Dehydrated and alert with the excitement of our first night on a new continent (or string of islands between two new continents?) we went out exploring. In bed around 4am, I was back up again (poor Joe) at 6:30, unable to sleep. We headed downstairs for our free egg sandwich breakfast with a side of fruit and unlitmited juice, tea and coffee on the beautiful poolside terrace. Our day consisted of pooling, sunning, beaching, beering (in moderation), and bartering.
Speaking of bartering, Joe decided he was going to buy himself a new pair of swim trunks, since here they are both quite stylish and very reasonably priced. The first kiosk we entered was one in a long line of similar roadside clothing vendors, the walls and ceiling actually constructed from hanging merchandise. You know the type- Big white t-shirts with Bart Simpson drinking a Corona and wearing a sombrero, except this is Asia, so he's wearing one of those triangle hats and drinking Bintang, but still saying something perverse in English. Anyway, the shop's walls were made of this kind of t-shirt, etc. Joe was looking at some shorts, and she said he could try them on, and turned to go out the door. We followed, thinking she was leading us to the changing room. Oh, no. She was blocking one of the two doors into the shop, so that Joe could try on the shorts right there in the middle of it. I promptly moved to block the other door, while Joe hurredly changed, stopping periodically to cover himself when the saleswoman would turn around to ask how they fit. They didn't. We carried on. The next shop we ventured into had actual cement walls, and while I looked at watches, Joe was lured (or, rather dragged) into the back of the store by the very, very eager salesmen. I found him holding multiple hangers of swimming trunks, while store attendants held up different sized and colors to his face and crotch, turning to ask me which I prefered. Naturally, when we said we thought they were too long, the men insisted Joe try them on. In the corner of the back of the store, there was wall that stuck out about three feet from the primary wall, forming a three-sided area about the size of a small bathroom stall. They pulled up a chair for me to sit with them, facing the wall-less side of the changing area. Of course, I turned the other way. As Joe was standing there, shorts around his ankles, struggling to get them over his Tevas without undoing the velcro, five more men entered the store (in addition to the three that were already helping us) and headed for the back of the room. Overhearing in my conversation with the store attendants that we were Americans, one of the new Indonesian arrivals shouted to Joe "What up my nigga??" and turned his hat around backwards, "American style." At this point Joe was standing in a snug shirt that came down to just above his hips, his Tevas, and nothings else. He smiled and sheepishly replied, "What's up?" Those shorts didn't fit either, but I did buy a watch.