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The other face of paradise

Of course, there are the white beaches and the sunsets and the amazing diving and the rest. But then, it's also Indonesia. One of the most corrupted countries in the world, ranked in the first third overall, next to Egypt and Ecuador. One where people can tell straight away you are not from here, because you're white. One where there are so many different languages and religions and traditions that things are quite difficult to grasp.

Last week, we were having the traditional Friday night party. Usually, it's full of foreigners, both tourists and people that live here, and there are always a few local people that show up, dive guides from other dives centers, freelancers, etc. This time, there are also a little group of clearly highly intoxicated guys (we reckon crystal meth and booze). One of the guys is being a bit "overfriendly" with the girls, eyes wildly rolling, asking if I am married, etc. (of course I am, to him). So I sort of avoid him all night, and because he annoys me I go and ask another dive guide who the hell is this guy. I am told he is part of the local mafia, so I am advised to be "nice enough" to him. Oh.

A couple of days later, one of my friends will tell me "You don't know him but he knows who you are. Because they know exactly how long we've been here, where we live, where we work and probably where we go for dinner every night and where you get your laundry done". Mmm.

People that have lived here long enough or run businesses here make jokes about how with the right amount of money you can fix anything. Immigration issues, police issues, authorization to do stuff. About how you can't really fight it because if you do, troubles just pile up on your doorstep like sand.

A few days ago, someone I know got into a traffic accident in Bali. He was driving a car and had a collision with a motorbike (given the amount that drive around and the crazy traffic, it probably happens about 1,000 times a day in Bali). The guy on the motorbike got up, walked to the car, opened his door and started to beat the crap out of him, in daylight, in the middle of the road. Now, wait for the best part...he was a POLICEMAN. So this ended up with stitches and a really bad bruised face. When I hear about this my jaw just dropped, and of course I asked whether he was going to report it. The answer I got was along the lines of "well, not really a great idea: I would report it to the police, I might just talk to one of his friends, and then they would have my name and know where I live".

This was, once again, a reminder that I now live in a country when death penalty is still big and executed by a firing squad, where you will always be in the wrong in many situations because you are white, where adultery can send you to jail for a couple of years.

Mum, don't worry, I promise to stay out of trouble :-)

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