Attempt to Break and Enter Thwarted

The approach to the Indus Restaurant’s broad staircase flanked by two lions, and the grand rotunda with a full-winged Garuda, awes me. It’s the same every time.

Tonight a friend is treating me to dinner at this elegant site. We sweep past masterpieces of Balinese art in the yawning gallery space and pause before descending the second flight of steps. Overlooking the vast, grand restaurant itself, I suck in the magnificence of the view. It’s not only the stunning decor, and it is stunning, but the vista just beyond the terrace makes this a one-of-a-kind experience in the Ubud area.

We’re escorted to a table by the rail overlooking the Campahuan River Valley. Just as menus are placed in our hands the rain starts.

We’ve come early on purpose. There’s a lot to catch up on. So we scramble to a grouping of cushy settees under shelter of the roof to wait out the downpour with a couple of cocktails and an appetizer. My friend has a Margarita. I opt for a benign little number called Killer Coconut.

P1090263The combination of Bicardi Rum (75% alcohol) and Midori Liqueur (20% alcohol) makes my head hum.

Hours later, after a satisfying meal of chickpea curry, raita, chapati, and a shared caramel custard reminiscent of creme brulee, a band sets up. Seductive Latin rhythms begin and professional dancers hit the floor. Entranced, my eyes follow the sensual interplay between the stiletto-ed beauty and her alluring Don Juan. The first number ends and a second begins, slower this time. But when the music starts for the third set, the dancers’ eyes scan the audience for guinea pigs. It’s our signal to leave.

The downpour has slowed to a mist. We catch the shuttle to Casa Luna, a sister cafe, then disembark to walk the remaining distance home. At the corner we part ways. It’s still early and Taxi? or Massage? queries ring out as I pass holding my long, swishy pant-legs at mid-calf to avoid the sludge.

At last I turn off Monkey Forest Road and slosh the muddy lane, breathing a sigh of relief as I round the corner to see the familiar garden lamp and the stairway to my home.

At the top I drop my umbrella on the landing and use both hands to fish the key out of the coin pouch in my billfold. Coin pouch…coin pouch…? I unceremoniously dump the entire contents of my purse and verify the unhappy truth. No coin pouch. No key.

Ketut has a spare. He left earlier for a day off with his family in Kintamani but maybe it’s hanging with the other keys in his kitchen. I hurry back downstairs. Mindful always of the security of his beautiful B and B, this door, too, is bolted.

My mind spins. How tough can it be to pick a lock?  I try a bobby pin, a nail, a random piece of wire, my hands sweating in the sticky night. But nothing makes the door spring open.

Okay, so lock picking isn’t one of my skills. What about the window over the stairs? I could slide my feet along the ledge…grip the insides of the frame and hoist my body through the narrow…very narrow…opening.

P1090266From the landing it appears to be my best option. I move a few steps down and grasp the sill while hoisting my left foot to the ledge. The right foot follows suit. I’m suspended over the stairway and the bottom of the window is still above my bustline. I can do this, is the last thought before I remember Killer Coconut. Could my judgment be just a tad bit impaired? Are my reflexes all they should be if I start to lose my balance? But that drink was hours ago now, followed by curry and dessert. Surely the effects have worn off? Surely the alcohol is out of my system, all 95% of it…! A wave of vertigo crashes over me and I remember that I’m terrified of heights. My body goes weak and shaky. Get off the ledge you idiot! 

The right foot searches for the step. I stare straight ahead, afraid to look down. Ah! There it is! I creep back to the landing and ponder my momentary lapse of sanity.

A quick check of the clock on my cell phone says it’s now 10:45 p.m., too late to enlist the help of a neighbor. I descend the stairs to the terrace and consider other possible points of entry. If I stand on the bench and…

P1090267or maybe the roof to the kitchen window…

P1090268or a ladder…I think there’s one in storage….I check storage and there are three ladders, all far too short.

P1090270The truth settles over me. My house is secure. I can’t break in and neither can anybody else without equipment and advance planning. In the midst of this inconvenience I feel happy about that.

The room that Jessa and Dan occupied until this morning is unlocked. There’s a king bed with a satiny-soft duvet. I let myself in, lock the door, and draw the curtains closed. A hot shower leaches any remaining energy from my pores and I exhale exhaustion as I pull the blanket over me. A quick text to Ketut: Forgot key. Door locked. I’m in the blue room, lets him know not to be surprised when he finds an unexpected guest in the morning.

Light seeps in as the cacophony of dawn erupts. Where am I…oh. Right. Just then there’s a polite tap on my door. I slide it open and peek out to the grinning face of Ketut. Good morning! he says. Then, in his finest schmoozy-guest voice, You want breakfast?


Ubud Writers Festival – Khairani Barokka

I’m in writer’s heaven. Where else but Bali could I find 130 writers from all over the globe assembled in one place? And where else would I have the opportunity to ride with different ones to and from their speaking engagements and assist with their needs? I am one of about 200 volunteers who have the pleasure of working with these auspicious figures of the literary world. I am in awe of the superhuman effort that has been undertaken to produce an event of this magnitude. Let me tell you about today…

I awake before my 7:00 a.m. alarm. It wasn’t a peaceful night. There was a domestic quarrel taking place somewhere nearby at about 1 a.m. That never happens, but it did last night. I made sleepy note of the fact then fell back to sleep. About 4 a.m. a pounding rain hit. I love the sound of rain, even at 4 a.m. Again I observed, appreciated, and fell back to sleep. A little before 6 the roosters, doves, ducks, and who knows, monkeys, giraffes, hyenas…every living creature woke up talking. Who does that? The first fingers of morning were sneaking across the sky and once it’s light out there’s no more hope of sleep for me. I get up and send a message to Ketut’s phone, Tolong makan pagi 8 am, sama-sama. Translated: Please breakfast at 8, same as usual. In a minute there is a little beep on my phone. Message from Ketut: OK.

At 8:45 I am astride Ketut’s motorbike on blissfully empty streets speeding toward Casa Luna, the venue for the workshop I am assisting today. The staff there is amazing and I introduce myself to Made, my contact “go-to” person. He takes me through the first level, then down a marble staircase, through the second level, down another marble staircase, through the third level (the restaurant hugs the side of a river gorge) across a marble bridge and into a lovely room. No projector. Whoops! It’s all supposed to be here. Well, that’s why they have 200 volunteers and why I am here an hour before showtime.

About 9:30 Khairani Barokka, the writer, arrives. Still no projector. Ms. Barokka, fondly known as Okka, registers mild concern and is assured that it is coming. I secretly hope this is accurate information.

At 9:45 the group, 14 students and two teachers from the Jakarta International School, arrive and begin their descent to ‘the room.’ To my intense delight a very tall man with a huge projector screen is bringing up the rear. I begin to breathe.

At 10:05 all systems are go. Okka starts her presentation. She is amazing, delightful, and we all listen, mesmerized.

At 10:15 the room goes dark. I leap from my chair and make a mad dash to find Made. Across the bridge, up one flight, two flights, but he’s nowhere to be found. Down one flight, two flights, across the bridge…the lights have come on in my absence. I tiptoe to my chair.

At 10:20 Okka fires up the projector that is linked to a computer where she has downloaded videos of spoken word poetry. Once again I forget to breathe. Nothing happens. The screen is dark. She shoots me a questioning look. I leap from my chair…

Let me tell you about Okka. She is a true performer, a tribute to her kind who, in the face of difficulty know that THE SHOW MUST GO ON. This amazing woman doesn’t miss a beat. Without hesitation she whips out her laptop all the while explaining to the group that since the video is not available she will do a live spoken word performance for them. And what a performance. She is brilliant. I am secretly glad, as I clap until my palms vibrate, for the mysterious electrical snaffu that made her improvisation necessary.

At noon it’s over. I’ve actually been breathing for about an hour. Pre-arranged vehicles arrive to ferry the students back to their hotel. I  sms Ketut. He’s here in a heartbeat and I gratefully sink into the comfort of the now familiar bike seat and sweaty hot helmet. There are three more Festival days to go. Note to self: BREATHE.

Khairani Barokka, Indonesia

Khairani Barokka is a writer, performer, producer, artist and researcher. Okka has performed in the US and Indonesia, including livestreamed the @atamerica Jakarta show. She has a Masters from ITP at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, as a Tisch Departmental Fellow, and was the first Indonesian writer-in-residence at Vermont Studio Centre.

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