For those interested, the Earthquake/Tsunami that affected a lot of S. Asia did not impact me here in Siem Reap, Cambodia, but I do know many of the places effected in Thailand and my heart goes out to the victims everywhere. Mother Nature can be a real bi**!@
OK, well as I somewhat expected (but hated to admit), the darling girlfriend that I returned to Bali for was less interested in me and more interested in my wallet. A number of revelations came out upon my return to Bali, not the least of which was that she had three children, not just one (the other two being cared for by family members), and that her husband was not really dead, but had become an ex-husband unbeknownst to him, in his absence. I was still willing to let all that slide and hoped that a new leaf had been turned whereby she would be completely honest with me. Of course that was not meant to be and I drew the line when I discovered money missing from my wallet after becoming increasingly reluctant to give into her demands of presents and money.
Feeling totally deflated and not a little bit vengeful, I ended up at a local bar to drown my sorrows and plot my next move now that my return to Bali was sans companion. I started chatting to the bar staff about my desires to rent a motorcycle and tour around the island a bit. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had rented a spiffy Honda motorcycle (not one of the two-bit scooters that are normally rented out to tourists, but a real honest to god motorcycle with proper clutch and all that). Starting to feel a bit better about myself and plans for the future I began to try and chat up anyone passing by - partly to have someone to talk to and partly to help out the bar staff who had told me that the place just opened and was still struggling to acquire a regular clientele. The tourists passing by pretty much universally blew me off, quite jaded at this point by the numerous come-ons from all of the various business establishments lining the alley where the bar was located.
Then I saw one local girl chatting in Indonesian to one of the staff and asked if she spoke English and having responded positively, whether I could buy her a drink. She declined the offer for a drink but accepted the invitation to sit and have a chat. Events start to become a little bit blurry in my mind after that due to my increasing level of inebriation. I started spilling my sob story about my romantic woes and fortunately for me this didn't repel her as it might have normally done. We got to chatting about a number of different things and I guess it got to the point where she felt somewhat responsible for my well-being as it became somewhat clear that I was no longer completely up to the task myself. So she took me under her wing and brought me along to meet a few of her friends she had previously arranged to meet up with. When it got to the end of the night I was no longer coherent enough to articulate where it was that I was staying. Rather than leave me to fend for myself, she was kind enough to bring me back to her place and make sure that I did not end up in the gutter. One thing led to another and by the next morning I was fortunately sober enough to realize that I had stumbled across quite an extraordinary girl. She moved into my hotel room the next day and we spent pretty much the entire rest of my stay hanging out together.
Her name is Lola and she is originally from Surabaya on the island of Java, but lives in Germany now, working for a cargo shipping company that she originally started working for in Indonesia but has branches all over the world so she eventually transferred to Germany. She was originally scheduled to return to Germany the week after we first met but after we hit it off so well, we agreed to split the cost of a new ticket back to Germany so she would leave Indonesia at the same time as me.
So we spent the next week taking day trips around Bali on the motorcycle I had rented and getting to know each other better. The more I got to know her, the more I respected and admired her. She's got grandparents, a sister, and several nephews and cousins that live in a small house she owns outside of Kuta in Bali, who she helps to support with her earnings. On top of that, she's also got sort of an adopted family on the island of Lombok, where she ran away to when she got pregnant at a young age and was scared to face up to her family. She helps to support them as much as possible as well. She's also quite resourceful, running her own import business of Indonesian handicrafts in Germany through her connections at the cargo company. She also ran her own business of a more illicit nature when she was younger but gave that up after having her daughter and invested the proceeds into her house in Bali. So yeah, she's also got a 7 year old daughter who she raised singlehandedly (with much assistance from her adopted family in Lombok but not from the father, who exited the picture upon learning that she had become pregnant by him, an all too common occurrance in Indonesia, unfortunately). Her daughter, Verta (pronounce Berta), also seems to be quite sharp and very independent-minded for a girl of her age, helping her mom to make some of the crucial life decisions that brought her to where she is today, like moving to Germany.
Lola is also quite well travelled, a rarity among Indonesians, who often can't afford to travel much beyond their own island in Indonesia, perhaps having made it once or twice to Jakarta or something like that. Lola has travelled quite a bit around Indonesia itself, as well as Australia and the rest of Southeast Asia, and a bit of Europe as well. She's got loads of friends everywhere she goes and is quite well respected and admired by everyone that has the pleasure of getting to know her. So I feel quite lucky that we have hit it off so well and she somehow seems to share the same feelings for me. Even after spending almost every waking hour together for the month or so that we have spent together those feelings only seem to have grown.
I have long contemplated living outside the United States especially after the election and incredibly baffling re-election of George W. Bush as president. There was a bit of an email debate among friends and family after the election about whether it is patriotic or not to get up and leave the country when the going gets rough, or whether you should stay and try to effect change. But for my part, I consider it a bit of a lost cause to try and change a system (or shitstem as Peter Tosh accurately referred to it) that is so deeply entrenched to reward power to the ones with the most money, regardless of how ill-gotten. I am an American and in many ways proudly so. America is quite a phenomonal place, something I learn to appreciate the more I see of the rest of the world. But these days, I'm not so proud to say I'm an American, although fortunately most people seem to realize that who I am as a person does not reflect how my government behaves. In any case, I have always wanted to live abroad for a while to broaden my horizons and gain new perspectives and what have you. The chain of events just seem to have come together that kind of makes it clear to me that now is the time.
Anyway, to cut to the chase I have decided to move to Spain for a while, something I was strongly considering even before I met Lola. But the fact that she has said she would be willing to transfer her job there to come and live together with me has made the decision pretty much a no-brainer for me. To be honest, the whole prospect scares me in a lot of ways, having never really lived with a girlfriend for any extended period of time, let alone with a young one to look after as well. At the same time, I ain't that young anymore, and it's probably about high time that I give it a shot and start to grow up and settle down, at least a little bit. So cross your fingers for us, it's undoubtedly gonna be my biggest adventure yet.
In the meantime, I am once again on the road, stopping over in Kuala Lumpur for the umpteenth time due to its being the hub of Air Asia, the cheapest way to fly around Asia. I fly to Bangkok later today, where I'm meeting up with my established travel buddy at this point, Jenni, from Australia. I have already met up with another travel mate, Prash, whom I first met in New Zealand. So anyway the three of us are gonna head to Cambodia for Xmas and probably New Year's as well. After that, I spend the next two months travelling around Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, before heading back to the States in March. I will probably spend at least a couple of months in the States settling my affairs and hopefully earning a bit more money, then it's off to Spain. Wish me luck and stay tuned to see how it all works out. No doubt there will be many more twists and turns on the way.
Here's wishing everyone a safe, happy, and loving holiday season and New Year, and best wishes for the new horizons ahead of us.