As I entered the breakfast room this morning, disheartened by the rooftop filth yet determined to get my mouth around a cup of coffee by 8am, I discovered four Germans at one small table. They were dining very slowly in silence in the billowing swish of several zebra patterned curtains, which were blowing at them from the walls under a turbo powered fan. They were making their way through a ‘continental breakfast’ plate of bananas at a rate which had me contemplating the possibility that they were in fact Madame Tussauds style waxwork figures and I was in some kind of modern art exhibition.
I was told I must wait till they were finished at the table before I could eat my ‘traditional Kerala breakfast’. Seeing the Germans and their bananas I felt smug that I’d obviously made the right choice but it was already 8.15. Panic brewing in the absence of a gurgling coffee pot I begged Preethy and she smiled and nodded, as lovely Indian home stay ladies do, and bustled off in a red and yellow swirl of sari to hopefully pour something hot into a cup. I sat on a mind bendingly loud patterned sofa and waited next to a painting of Jesus and his disciples draped in fairy lights, which was when it dawned on me I was sitting in the Indian family’s living room.
Eventually the Germans left and I sat at the table amongst their banana skins. The zebra curtains began their attack and leapt at me from all angles as I was presented with a stack of flat puffy white things that looked like an anaemic Spongebob Square Pants had fallen off a cliff onto a plate. They smelled like rice wine and came with a plastic blue bowl of curry. There were two eggs in the curry so I supposed it wasn’t too different from an omelette with a bit of sauce and I tucked in. The Spongebob rice wine bread swiftly invoked flashbacks of the night I thought was lost for all eternity in an Ubud rice paddy after a night drinking arak. It was delicious, if disturbing.
I was at this point the only stranger in the Indian family’s home and as their two daughters hurried around getting ready for school I talked to the eldest, Fabi, about her favourite subjects. She loves science because it can change the world. Fabi’s dad sat in an open shirt and sarong on the loud couch next to Jesus, watching a Bollywood singer called Rubaru cavorting on MTV with a big white tiger. He was eating something yellow with his hands. Eventually, Preethy arrived with my coffee. Elated I expressed my gratitude but as I took a sip from the miniature cup I realised I’d be needing twenty five more servings to reach even 5% of my usual level of operation and I felt my heart sink in the acceptance that I’ve been corrupted and caffeinated by the Balinese to the extent that I cannot function anywhere else. Was this their plan?
I pondered this as the girls were sent off to school and their dad continued to stare at MTV and I ate some more of Spongebob, being slapped by the curtains. I was wondering how on earth I was going to leave the stack of roughly six more stodgy, boozy-smelling items without seeming ungrateful but eventually, when someone’s phone rang to the tune of Nokia’s first ever jingle I made my escape. Full of egg I went to the phone/pharmacy/gift card/carpet/stationary shop, where a team of five men took on the project of cutting a SIM card down for my iPhone5 with some pliers.
It cost about £3, a passport photo and a photocopy of my visa, and took half an hour. I was told to come back tomorrow for the data package. This will ensure that whilst going cold turkey from my coffee addition and nursing the bruises from my zebra attack, I can still do my freelance work by a swimming pool as soon as I find one. Apparently you have to bribe people to let you use a hotel pool here if you’re not a guest.
That should be interesting.