To celebrate our first wedding anniversary; we went to Ubud, Bali, and stayed in the most luxurious hotel we had ever seen. It was the kind of place that made you run through each room pointing out beautiful things–“look at that bowl of fruit! look at the four-post bed! Oh my god—we get our own pool?’ We arrived late at night, and there were candles floating in the water that overlooked paradise. And so, while we explored Ubud thoroughly; the monkey forest, art galleries; rice paddocks, there was nothing better than the vast suite. After the bustling (and crumbing) streets; the sights, the smells, the poverty (nothing like a mother breast feeding in the gutter to really put first world problems in perspective), there was nothing better than lounging in our private pool. One day, while taking a cab home, we passed a Four Seasons Hotel and the driver expressed contempt for the necessity of the tourist culture in Ubud. “These people with their private pools” he grumbled, to which Ben and I did not respond. We asked him about his family, and he talked about living in a small room with three generations and how he was working extra jobs to afford a whole chicken. “That’s nice, more economical that way…soups and whatnot” I trail off. Back at the hotel–in the pool as if it were a baptism to wash away the guilt of holidaying in such a poor country–we discussed the idea of class, caste systems and social roles. Bali is Western Australia‘s playground; and there is an equal measure of animosity and reciprocity from the locals.
We were living and working in a fortuitous country, and in a short time, got ourselves a little slice of the pie. But while wealthy miners were winging to Bali for a quick weekend getaway; we were aware that this was not a throw away holiday. This was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and though we had to acknowledge staggering levels of poverty, all you could do was feel humble gratitude and tip extremely well. And we were determined to not let it get in the way of our good fortune. I even got a little sassy and stared roaming pool side with only a sarong wrapped around my waist. The angle of our pool was high up, and therefore, there was not a soul to see us. Until we realized that we had been putting on a pretty good show for some construction workers over the hill. Floating in the water, my legs wrapped around my husband, I noticed half-dozen or so men, crouching down and eating lunch and watching our watery antics.
I waved, as if to say, “I see you asshole!”. He waved, as if to say “I totally saw your boobs, and this is going to be our new lunch spot!” Normally, this would have been a serious buzz-kill, but I was deep into holiday mode—and aren’t we all the most fabulous sons-of-bitches on vacation? ‘Oh well–let ’em look, it’s probably good for morale’.
A few months later, back at work on the construction site, I get a phone call from Ben, who is on a different floor on the same building. “Where are you?”
“The twenty-fifth floor…Why?”
“Cause there’s something I need you to see”.
He comes into the apartment and pulls me into a bedroom with floor to ceiling windows. “Do you see that roof-top hot tub?”
“Yes…” squinting my eyes.
This hot tub had never seen so much action; or rather we had never seen this hot tub get this much action. The world below was like map, the ground was punctuated with water; pools, tubs, and the river in the distance. Each work day was interrupted by no less than one million glimpses out the window. We literally watched a suntanning couple get browner as summer blazed on. But in this particular afternoon, there were five people in the tub, four of them paired off in passionate two-somes, with one fellow in some sort of awkward fifth wheel–all at once trying to include himself in the waterworks, and secondly, trying to get out of the water whilst trying to cover his swim truck clad boner.
And, after about fifteen minutes of viewing and commenting, cracking jokes and making up horny dialogue; it occurred to me that we no different than the Balinese construction workers watching us in the water. I wonder if they made up jokes about us, or just watched with interest, wishing they were on a holiday as well–like the fifth person in the hot tub; so close to paradise, with that kind of pleasure simply out of reach.