For the love of beautiful stuff…

It’s not fair. Here I am, trapped in paradise, surrounded by the most exquisitely crafted objects of art, and I’m committed to a simple, less is more kind of life? That’s just wrong!

But I’m adamant about keeping my possessions minimal and until now I’ve done well, buying only functional items that I need. One of those, the Bali Blue Bed that Ketut’s father made for his family over 30 years ago, is a treasure. It’s also my couch. I love it…cherish it…and so do visitors!

P1100176Then, lacking storage space, I commissioned a carved teak door from a craftsman near the Tagallalang rice terraces and hired a local tukang to create a pantry for my kitchen.

P1090999A cavernous refrigerator once occupied that space. It woke me up in the night growling because it was empty. Now I have a tiny, under-the-counter frig that I keep comfortably full, and a new closet that is functional, practical, and beautiful!

But then…oh dear.

You know how it is when you fall in love? The object of your affection becomes an obsession. You try to put it out of your mind. You tell yourself all manner of stories to reduce its importance, to diminish it. But nothing works. You make excuses to see it, to hang out in its neighborhood, to just stop by. And then, in a moment of weakness…you marry him! Whoops, no! You BUY IT!

Here’s what happened…

Penestanan is a village of master beaders. The first time I saw their creations I was smitten. But I had no home and less money so I tucked the memory into the ‘save for later’ corner and went about my business. That was three years ago. The other day I passed the shop. Except I didn’t pass the shop. I stopped and went inside. The array of shapes, sizes, and colors of baskets entirely encased in glass beads dazzled me all over again. My resistance melted and dribbled out the door. The bargaining went well and I placed an order. I’d have to wait a month, she said. No problem.

Yesterday I got a call from the shop. It was ready, but, so sorry, too tall, no short baskets, if you don’t like no problem, so sorry. All this was uttered in rat-a-tat-tat Indonesian and I caught the gist but had no idea what it really meant. I told her I would come right away.

She began apologizing again the minute I walked through the door. Please slow down. My Indonesian is no good! Uttering a few more sorry’s she disappeared into the back and returned carrying a fabulous basket, by far the biggest one I’d ever seen. Over the course of the next half hour I learned that the rattan structures that form the framework for the beading come from Java and the size I’d ordered hadn’t arrived. Of course this one, more than twice as large, was also twice the price.

Negotiation is a process I enjoy. It often takes unexpected side trips, and this was no exception.

I have villa, you have friend, maybe your friend like my villa, maybe rent, stay long time, maybe I give you good price and you tell your friend…(she quotes a price.)

Oh, sorry Ibu, that’s too much. I’ll wait until the smaller baskets come.

Long time, maybe not come…

I’m not in a hurry…

Okay, okay, what you pay?

No, it’s beautiful, and the price is good, but too much for me. I don’t want to steal it!

Okay, okay, you tell friend I have villa…(she quotes a significantly lower price and I’m hooked.)

Now I own the biggest beaded basket in Bali.

P1100232And I’m done. Really, I am. There’s nothing else I need, nothing else I want, my home is complete! And every time I look at that incredible, non-functional, impractical basket, I smile.

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Negotiating Bali Style!

We were on our way back to Ubud. Made Mangku had stopped to gift us with another incredible view of rice terraces. We took our photos, ooo’d and aaah’d and were returning to the car when, across the road, a sarong vendor spotted us. The last thing I need right now is another sarong so I asked her in my best pidgin Indonesian if I could take her photo. She immediately went into a sort of sarong ballet, whipping a bright pink one off the stack on her head and winding it around her ample middle.

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After the photogenic pose she sashayed toward our little group saying, “Nice photo…now you buy!” Terri, Barbara, and Sharon had that look of, “Oh no…here we go again.” Our trip to Besakih, the Mother Temple, had been well populated with many opportunities to purchase the handicrafts of Bali, and my friends are not overly fond of negotiating. But there was something in that impish face…and I decided there was nothing I needed MORE than a sarong from this engaging woman. So it began…

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She handed me the pink one and I quickly made her understand that pink was NOT my color. Then the stack of them came down off her head and we went at it.

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I found one that I liked and said, “Berapa?” (how much?)

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When she answered I, of course, looked horrified. “Sanghat mahal! Bagi saya sanghat mahal!” (Too expensive for me!)

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“Berapa?” I asked again, knowing what she would say. “Berapa?” she asked back. How much would I pay. In other words, “Okay, let’s get real, what’s it worth to you?” I named my price. Then it was her turn to look horrified.

After a bit more haggling she met my price. "Good for me, good for you," as the Balinese are fond of saying.

After a bit more haggling, she agreed to my offer. Then with that decidedly smug look she quipped, “Good for me, good for you.” When mama’s happy, everybody’s happy!

My Balinese friend should have won an Oscar for her performance. By the end our audience was laughing hilariously, except for Sharon. She was behind her camera capturing the whole show in living color.

My Balinese friend should have won an Oscar for her performance. By the end our audience was laughing hilariously, except for Sharon. She was behind her camera capturing the whole show in living color.

This is my 9th sarong. Two of them turned into beautiful pillow covers. One is now a pair of wild pants. The rest give me many choices when ceremonial dress is in order. But for sheer, dramatic delight, this one is my all time favorite!

Note:  The white stuff on my forehead is rice. We were allowed to participate in a Hindu prayer ritual at the Mother Temple. It is a complex process, but at one point sticky rice is affixed to the middle of the forehead. Mine really stuck!

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