Introducing Ebong to our place in Seminyak


After working away at Internet Outpost, Sean and I rode back to Seminyak and had arranged to meet up with a Ebong (his name means tadpole) at a local bar down the street. We picked this place as it’s pretty relaxed (actually when we go it’s empty as the nightlife around here starts at 11pm) and they have a backgammon set. The owner is a lady from Austria who is married to a local. We forgot the camera so Sean volunteered to go back and get it while I set up the backgammon board and ordered a large Bintang with 2 glasses (really tough work out here!).

We played a game then Ebong arrived on his cruiser. He’s a good surfer with a lot of local knowledge and we were exploring ways he might want to work with us or suggest ways in which he could cover surfing. His place is in Jimbaron, close to the Four Seasons hotel and he will take Sean out for a surfing lesson sometime.

The most interesting part of our conversation was the subject of local crime and cops. Everyone hates the cops here and they specialize in shaking down foreigners for money. I asked Ebong what I should do if I’m on my bike and get pulled over. He said the first thing to do is turn off the engine and put the key in my pocket. The cops often try to take your keys and then tell you to come with them down an alley or somewhere to give them money. Basically if they’ve got your keys you aren’t going anywhere.

Sean and I both have international driving licences and don’t speed so should be okay. This won’t prevent some bullshit though as these guys are just looking for money. My attitude will hopefully be to listen, be polite but not bend to these guys and let them know firmly I’m not handing over money. I asked Ebong what if I did hand over money and told the guy I would inform his superior. He said they wouldn’t care as all the cops are corrupt. I asked who I should complain to that the cops were scared of and Ebong said the local banja (neighborhood residents association). He said these guys can kill someone (village justice) and there’s nothing the cops can do about it. There are many levels of government and the banja is the lowest with a couple of hundred families.

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Ebong said stealing is considered really bad in Balinese culture and told of one incident where locals caught a burglar on a rooftop. They persuaded him to come down, then beat and stoned him to death. I said, “too bad we aren’t in a banja,” to which Ebong replied, “you are, banja Seminyak”. He said locals would come to recognise us and see us around, although not being Balinese we would not be allowed to participate in the bi-monthly banja meetings. This whole set up helps to explain why some foreigners who have romanced and dated locals have been approached by relatives when they have stopped. Once you dabble in local affairs a whole range of people take an interest.

The local banja would probably find out sooner or later if we did not hire any outside help for our place. Contributing to the local economy, both in daily life and in ceremonial activities is expected (we’re exempt from getting into funky outfits).

Our dinner consisted of a nasi goreng (fried rice) cooked by a fellow from Madura, an island off of NE Java, who had a street cart….kind of the Indonesian hotdog vendor. The thing was 3,000rp (about 35cents) and was filling. It was cool watching this guy fire up his afterburner gas fire and fry the bacteria out of it right in front of us.

Ebong came back to the place with us and chatted for a while before taking off for Jimbaron.