This is the day. Tupi dragged his brown suitcase early morning to the airport. This was the first time in a long time he was excited to go on a flight. Checking in at the airport went smoothly, there was not a long queue and the staff at the counter was polite. Taking in a deep breadth, Tupi felt that this was going to be a good adventure.
It was a short flight and Tupi collected his luggage around 8am in the morning and he felt like he had the whole day ahead of him. The NGO seemed pretty well organized, there was a driver waiting for the group and they were led to a nice comfortable bus that brings them to a hostel. As they were driving, there were parts of Bali that looked like slums, and others that looked like nice resorts. This was the first time Tupi was in Bali and the roads were very different from Singapore.
The bus arrived, everyone checked in and were given rooms. The accommodations were much better than what Tupi expected and Michael was sharing a room with him. "Wow, this is nice, you can see the beach from here...There's air-conditioning, wifi, memory foam pillows..." Tupi said. "We have our own refrigerator in the room too..."
Tupi looked at the itinerary and it showed that there was a dinner and the day was otherwise free. After a change of clothes, Tupi wanted to leave and as he saw Michael taking a nap, Tupi left the room to explore the surroundings. After a few minutes of walking away from the beach, Tupi felt uncomfortable as more beggars can be seen. Tupi returned to the beach area where there seemed to be more tourists around. As Tupi entered a cafe, he sat down at a table and overheard some conversations around him.
"I do 3 hours of English class a day and I get to stay for free, food included." A young lady said. "I can work on my online business and earn more this way."
"I volunteer with this village and teach English as well." A young man said. "I'm just here for 4 weeks and my stay is free as well."
Tupi could not help it but overheard some conversations and it seems that there were many people volunteering. "Foreigners are helping Indonesia. That's nice." Tupi muttered and continued to drink his coffee and relax. Tupi decided to talk to a guy sitting alone.
"Hi, how long have you been on this Island?" Tupi asked.
"I live here." The man said. "I am born in Bali."
Tupi was shocked as this man just looked like everyone else -- he could speak English, he does not look poor and he had a big iPhone. "You don't look local..." Tupi said. "I just got here and want to learn more about this Island."
"The population here is actually quite diverse. Income gap is pretty bad too. We have some people living in poverty and some are ultra rich, but we do have an upper middle class. " The man said. "Is there a way a local should look?" Tupi was embarrassed as his question made him sound like an ignorant tourist -- which he is.
"Hey, don't worry about it, no offence taken, please sit." The man said. "Are you visiting Bali?"
"Yes, I'm with a group coming to help the village." Tupi said proudly.
"Really? Helping the village?" The man said. "How long are you staying?"
"I'll be here for 10 days..." Tupi said and took out his itinerary, "lets see... I'll also build a water filter to provide the kids at a school with clean water and make the whole village healthier."
"Wow, 10 days huh, must be great that you can have such great impact with the kids by staying in Bali for 10 days." The man said. "I'm sure clean water will help much when that village does not even have sewage system."
"I'm here to help." Tupi said adamantly. "You should appreciate it"
"Whatever helps you sleep at night..." The man said. "I guess every little bit helps when things are so screwed up. So many people just come and go, nothing changed, but maybe the hotel owners and restaurant owners got richer."
Before Tupi could give a reply, the man walked out of the cafe, leaving Tupi with a sense of doubt.
Tupi walked back to the hostel. It was owned by the same people running the organization that brought them in. The whole place seemed well maintained and new compared to the surroundings. Perhaps there was some truth to what that man said, but Tupi felt that doing something was better than nothing.
At the hostel, the group gathered in the evening and went out for dinner. On the luxury bus, Tupi looked out and saw several houses along the way with people sitting outside but no lights in the house as there was no power grid and lines to the houses.
It was a nearby seafood restaurant where they had crabs, steam fish, fried prawns and other nice dishes. The food was rather good and Tupi enjoyed the food very much.
"So what is the schedule like tomorrow?" Tupi asked.
"We have breakfast then go to the morning bazzar, follow that, we visit Tirta Gangga -- a formal royal palace, then we go to the village... and in the evening, we go up a mountain to look at the sunset." Michael said. "The views are all very beautiful, remember to bring your camera."
Tupi was confused. It seemed more like a holiday than helping the village, but since its his first time in Bali, Tupi wanted to visit some sites as well, and it seemed to be all planned out.
The group returned to the hostel where they met other expats from Europe visiting and everyone started to drink. There was several bottle of fine scotch and lots of beer. "Bali Hai Hefeweizenbier" Tupi muttered as he looked at the beer menu. "My god, they have local beers..." And Tupi ordered one and join the drinking secession.
Beer was relatively inexpensive and Tupi had 3 pints before he felt light headed and decided that it was time for him to go to bed. Perhaps, drinking can help him sleep too. Tupi went to his room, cleaned up and as expected, when he closed his eyes, he had no problems sleeping.