We arrived in Bali at 12:15 a.m. their time. After making it through customs and immigration it was close to 1 o'clock. Long story short, by the time I hit the pillow it was 3am in Bali, but with jet lag it felt more like 5am.
When I woke up the next morning I slid out of the room and found myself to be pleasantly greeted by the morning sounds of a city underneath the hallway window. Immediately a romantic peace fell over me. I was in Bali. The uneasiness of the night before had been replaced with a sense of wonder at the exotic city before me. I looked down at what had looked like abandoned garage sheds in the night. Today they were full of color and open with assorted businesses and happy workers. The Balinese scooters were driving around the parking lot, honking often as they do. I took a deep breathe and felt the sticky warmth in the air. It was all so lovely. I felt for a second as though I must be Julia Roberts in a fancy travel film.
After locating breakfast, I found myself being lured in to the sounds of none other than Shania Twain. I hadn't heard the song in years and instantly brought me back to my childhood.
"You're still the one I cling to, the only one I dream of, you're still the one I kiss goodnight.."
After fixing myself some toast and tea, another beautiful song took me away. This time it was Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson. It reminded me of my college days. I remember when the song came out. My friend, Lynsie, had the whole cd and we'd listen to it while we drove around the city.
"Just a shot in the dark that you just might be the one I've been waiting for my whole life.."
What was it about country music that made me feel so at home? I had heard very little of it on this trip and the sounds of Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean were as soothing as the black tea I was sipping on. It was only the second time I had heard country music since leaving the States.
A soaked up my beautiful breakfast by finishing up with the softer sounds of Michael Buble and Frank Sinatra. I could hear a staff member in the other room singing along with every word. Just as I was wondering if he spoke English or not, he came around the corner and greeted me sweetly. He asked when I had arrived and how my sleep had been. We chatted briefly before he wished me well for my time in Bali. I smiled.
After breakfast I snuck back upstairs to find Matthew awake and ready for his own breakfast. We agreed we could kill a few hours here before our check-in time at 2pm in a nearby city.
While sitting in the lobby we charged our phones and fell into conversation with the nice young man who had been playing country music. I learned his name was Sam. Sam had a beautiful smile, dark wavy hair and dark eyes. He was my first Indonesian friend. His look, by American comparison, was a mix between Mexican and Black, which made his skin tone quite lovely.
Sam had great English. I asked him if studied it in school and was surprised when he said he had only picked up English by talking with tourists. Matthew and I asked him about his appreciation for country music and he said he absolutely loved it, but he knew no one else who did. His friends told him it wasn't meant for black people to listen to, but Sam said he felt more connected to it than the booming sounds of his piers. I told him I felt the exact same way.
Michael Buble filled our ears with his version of “You Were Always On My Mind,” a Willie Nelson classic. We asked if he knew Willie Nelson and he said no. This led to a whole explanation of Country Music 101. We explained that many artists, such as Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, Reba McIntyre and Miranda Lambert were from Oklahoma, which was the state we were from as well. Sam was amazed by this. He said he knew nothing about where the music came from and seemed quite interested. Matthew pulled up a map on the desk computer and pointed out the different regions of music. We explained the difference between Nashville country and the red dirt sound that originated in our local area. His infatuation with country music originated with an Indonesian artist, Tanto Yahya, who sang popular American cover songs.
I was amazed at how similar and how different our lives were. Like me, Sam was 25 and interested in learning about the cultures of the world. Foolishly, I encouraged him to pursue traveling and working in other countries. He politely explained how hard it is for Indonesians to do such a thing. The rupiah dollar was worth so little that it would take him years and years to even be able to afford a holiday in a different country. He was working towards that, but he figured he'd be about 30 years old by the time he had enough saved for a short trip. Sam told me he sometimes wished he had been born in a western country like me, that way he could travel easily. When I heard this desire, I understood for the first time what people meant when they told me I was lucky to be from America. In Australia the people were just as wealthy as me and all the backpackers I met were from Europe or China, equally as wealthy countries. But here sat a man with just as much drive, intelligence and optimism as me, yet he could barely work enough to make his dreams a reality. I felt a rush of humility wash over me as I thanked God in a new way.
Sam explained the “many rules” young people had to follow in Indonesia. His culture recommended that people marry young and dress modestly. When he explained in further detail I laughed and told him the same rules applied in western Oklahoma. We talked for a few minutes about the changing times and the views of our parents versus our own. It seemed as though we had the same fears and struggles, despite our different cultures.
We pretty much sat around talking at the hostel all morning and into the early afternoon. Matthew and I agreed it was really nice not having to have a schedule or plan sometimes. Finally around 3pm, we set off on our journey towards our hotel, and after a long, frustrated car ride, we found our villa. Just beyond the front desk lie a huge courtyard with a pool. Our room was directly in front of the pool and ready for our stay. The place was beautiful and I felt immediately relaxed. We spent the rest of the day sitting around the pool, saying and doing very little. Sometimes it’s nice to just be.