15 Sep 2007

115° 9'51.97"E



No-one could ever accuse me of being a greenie, but even I shake my head in wonder when I see the amount of rubbish generated in hotels.

Every day in hotels all over Asia, you are provided with 2 small bottles of safe drinking water. Sometimes glass, but more often than not plastic. For an average sized hotel with a couple of hundred rooms, that's an awful lot of plastic going to the landfill. Even if the bottles are glass, they have to be collected, returned, sterilised and re-filled. I've often wondered why rooms don't have water coolers. In Bali, a 1.5l bottle of the cheapest drinking water is IRD2,100 or 26c/11p. A 19l swap-over water cooler bottle retails (we've seen the ad's in shop windows) for about IRD3,000 or 50c/22p. It doesn't take a full blown cost-benefit analysis to work out that the initial cost of purchasing the swap-over bottle and (non-refrigerated) stand would be recouped after a couple of refills. Cost aside, guests would be able to drink as much water as they wanted - and more importantly no plastic bottles. It's co-incidental that I was suggesting this to Peter a few days before we checked into the Jayakarta. Here, every apartment has it's own water cooler. Logic tells me that if they're doing it in a timeshare resort, it must be more cost effective so I'm at a loss to know why all hotels don't do it. Even if not a cooler in every room, a bank of them on each floor like some hotels have ice machines wouldn't inconvenience guests that much. And just in case they did feel a little inconvenienced, a carefully worded guilt trip about pollution would ensure that nobody would dare to be seen complaining. Surely I'm not the only person to think of this. I'd start a campaign if I could be bothered.

Anyway, we've had an eventful week. We got talking to Paulus, originally from Flores in the east of Indonesia and living in Bali for about 10 years. He invited us for lunch at his house, and we accepted. It gave us a real insight into how people live here. The house comprised of two small rooms which served as bedrooms and a wide passageway that served as a living area. His wife cooked us the best meal we've had since leaving home in a semi-open air kitchen, and after a bit of initial curiosity his 3 boys aged 7, 6 and 5 got bored with us and went outside to play. It was a bit awkward as Paul us was the only one who spoke any English, but an experience we'll never forget. Mostly because of the kids. They had nothing, but were as happy as you like. Somehow, I can't imagine little ones in the west being this content, even with their electronic gadgets and games, bikes, and designer clothes. After thinking long and hard, we decided not to take the camera as it would seem rude to start snapping.

Our biggest event was on Saturday. Peter decided he was going to watch the Aussie Rules grand final on the big screen at the Sports bar down the road. As soon as he left, an almighty noise started – apparently the exchanger or some other such named thing on the roof above our apartment. They figured out within minutes that it couldn't be fixed, and asked if I wanted to move. After knocking back the first two units offered to me on the grounds that they had no natural light in the lounge and were too dark, I scored a better apartment than the one we'd been in. We're traveling so light that it only took a few minutes to bundle everything together and switch to our new digs. The receptionist said she'd keep an eye out for Peter coming back and let him know the unit number. I started working on the web site, and before I knew it, it was 6 o'clock. Goodo, I think. I'd been looking forward to sausage sandwiches all day and hoped he would remember to pick the loaf of bread up on his way back. I started taping away at the keyboard again, and all of a sudden it was 8.30. I wasn't worried about Peter – he talks to anybody and everybody, and he's big enough to look after himself, but I gave up all hope of my sausage sandwich as it was too late to start cooking. In fact, I was getting tired and wanted to go to bed, but couldn't because if I fell into a deep sleep, I wouldn't wake up to let him in when he finally rolled home. At 9.15 I got a call from reception, asking me if I was Mrs Swan then telling me they had my husband and would I talk to him. I sighed, expecting him to have drunk himself to a standstill and not being capable of pressing the lift button, but he didn't sound too bad. I couldn't figure out why I was talking to him on the phone, until he told me he didn't know where I was. I told him same floor, I'll meet you at the lift.

Oh dear

Peter had left the sports bar at 7.30, picked up a loaf of bread and gone to the apartment. Thinking I'd zonked and knowing you can let firecrackers off in the room without waking me, he spent almost 20 minutes knocking on the door, banging on the window and ringing the bell. Then he went downstairs and around the back in case I was sitting on the balcony and couldn't hear him. Then back upstairs for another 15 minutes of knocking, banging and ringing .Eventually, at 8.30 he gave up and went to reception. There'd been a change of shift of course, and the night receptionist/handyman doesn't speak the best English. Peter explained that he couldn't get into 6566, that I must be asleep and would they let him in or give him a spare key. He got a spare key and went up, only to find me not there. He opened all the drawers and cupboards and checked the fridge. Empty. He thought I'd gone, and here he was in a third world country with the equivalent of 75 cents in his pocket. By himself. He sat down on the bed and stayed there for more than half an hour, figuring out what he was going to do. At 10 past 9 he went back to reception and asked if I'd checked out.

Don't know. Mrs Swan. Don't know. 6566. Don't know. Can you check please. At that stage, the only other member of staff on duty appeared from nowhere and said someone had been moved due to noise problems earlier. Seems that the paperwork hadn't been done. So I got a very tentative call from reception. As he was telling me about being abandoned without any money or passport, only having 75 cents and a loaf of bread, I tried really hard not to laugh. Really hard. But it was impossible. He's still at the “it's not funny” stage.

The moral of this story is thus: If you are going down the pub to watch the match and pick up a loaf of bread for tea, don't stay out for 8 hours. You never know what you'll find when you get back.