Monkey Wars

Sometimes a craving for cheese grabs me. I slip on sandals, fling a grocery bag over my shoulder, and I’m off. This means a trip to Bali Buddha Bakery for dark, sourdough bread. Cheese without this bread is only half the orgy. But today I should have gotten the cheese first.

Bali Buddha Bakery Sourdough Bread

Bali Buddha Bakery Sourdough Bread

Bali doesn’t produce cheese. Only the large supermarkets that cater to Western diets have a limited (and I do mean limited) supply. The eternal optimist, I approach the cooler, drooling. My eyes flick over the selections. It doesn’t take long, there are only three: parmesan, feta, and mascarpone. That’s it. My taste buds ache for manchego. Couldn’t there be a manchego? Or even a pecorino? Those aren’t so terribly exotic, are they?

I move the three cheeses around in the case, hopeful that I might uncover even a lowly cheddar at this point. No luck. Okay, I gather my thoughts. I already have the bread, what else would be delicious? I resign myself to an avocado and a tomato. My taste buds are telling me that these are poor substitutes. I reassure them that it will be fine, but they’re not convinced.

The path home takes me past Monkey Forest. There are always ten or twenty monkeys hanging out in the trees, on the street, or climbing on the buildings in this area. That’s normal. But today, just as I’m opposite the mid-point of the forest, a virtual river of furry bodies comes pouring over the wall. They dash pell-mell across the street in front of me. There are hundreds of them. I freeze in my tracks, then, as casually as possible while hyperventilating, I retrace my steps until there’s distance between us. I turn and watch them evaporate into the landscape.

Yes, they’re cute. But I’ve seen their teeth. And I’ve seen a bloody hole in the haunch of one after another one was finished with him. They can be vicious.

Macaque Monkey King credit

Macaque Monkey King
photo credit

Later that day, I learn that there was an uprising. One alpha male, the monkey king, took offense at the leader of another troop and ousted him and his faithfuls. My timing was impeccable. I got to see the defeated being banished from their home.

The next morning I awaken to what sounds like Armageddon overhead. It’s a barrel of monkeys on my roof. (It’s true. A group of monkeys can be referred to as a troop or a barrel.) The marauding outcasts are hungry. Apparently they’ve come to me for breakfast. I text Gede, next door, “Monkeys!” and hit send. In a flash he appears with his slingshot and the critters scamper for cover. He never has to use it, he just shakes it menacingly in their direction making shwaa! shwaa! sounds, and off they go.

That afternoon, Ketut comes by. I tell him I want a slingshot. He disappears into the garden and returns bouncing a largish rock up and down in one hand. “No problem,” he says. “You do this, monkey gone.” As if to test his theory, at that very moment a monkey appears on the wall a few feet away. Ketut bounces the rock. The monkey flees.

I love my peaceful community. And it is peaceful. But maybe I love it most because, woven into the tranquility, is the possibility of a monkey invasion or other random surprises. And, better yet, there’s always someone ‘at the ready’ who knows exactly what to do.

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