As soon as I land on Bali I am chased by a dude trying to sell me a transport service to my hostel. “Which hostel?!” I ask myself. Once I get to the official taxi counter from the airport, I decide to catch a cab with a French girl and spend the night wherever she’s spending it. We are exchanging in English our first impressions about Indonesia. “The sucker guy at the taxi counter asked for 100 Rupiah more than what was written on the paper,” she complains. “And then they always try to skin-head tourists.”
Do you know the Japanese manga characters? The ones that always have a drop of sweat at the corner of their forehead when feeling cornered? That’s the undeniable sign: the tension is increasing. In this taxi, a manga character I am.
Uncomfortable as the situation is, I ask the taxi driver his name to unleash a little bit the heaviness of the discussion. “Buddha, miss,” he tells me bluntly. I smile in disbelief. “It’s also on my nametag,” he continues in a neutral-tone voice. Indeed, his name is Buddha. Coincidence? I don’t’ think so.
We change the topic to generosity and how to make the best of our stay in Bali. Buddha has seven kids. All are in school and difficult as it may be, he will do his best to support them. “For you, 100 rupiah is nothing. 50 cents, maybe. But for me, that’s big money,” he says. “Here, in Bali, it’s’ not complicated: smile, be generous and treat people kindly.” How’s that for a reminder that regardless of the country, fundamentals apply?