Singapore Adventure

Monday, January 08, 2007

SOS Garage Sale
by venitha

At the SOS (Sumatran Orangutan Society) garage sale in Ubud, we admire a long-sleeved t-shirt sporting a familiar god emblem, sanskrit scribbling down its sleeves.

"It's your colour!" blonde #1 says, an audible wink in her Scottish brogue. Jim and I laugh. The shirt is a blinding blaze orange, a color that looks marvelous on the chocolaty Balinese, but on the Scottish, including our pale hostess and, distantly, swarthy Jim, not so much.

While Miss Scotland chats Jim up, I shop, demolishing first a perfectly folded pile of batik bath robes, then a neat stack of hibiscus-patterned beach shorts.

"Singapore is so clean," she gushes. This the one positive sentiment that everyone makes about Singapore. I roll my eyes at a pretty blue wraparound skirt that can grow with my expanding belly. It does a snotty little so clean dance; I like it. "And how do you find Singapore?"

"It's a good place to travel from," Jim offers, tossing back the audible wink.

Miss Scotland catches it and laughs wryly on cue. "I know what you mean. It's a strange place, isn't it? I'm not sure I could live there."

"Well, it definitely doesn't compare to Bali. We'll be glad to go home."

"Oh, Bali has its moments. But they do have the most fabulous coffee here." I've given up a lot for these ungrateful orangutans, but not, thank God, my cappuccino. She yawns dramatically, garage sale volunteer clearly being an exhausting job, then excuses herself for her mid-afternoon caffeine run.

I move from the clothes to the jewelry, enormous gaudy necklaces and thick silver bracelets. My audible entertainment moves from Scotland to, I later learn, Belgium, where blonde #2 is holding forth an overly-bright one-sided outrageous-French-accented conversation with Miss Indonesia, a local volunteer. Her condescending tone hurts my teeth. I grimace, the local lovely smiles patiently, clearly in the running for Miss Congeniality, and the uselessly-shaped pottery in front of me gapes stupidly.

Jim takes my selections from my arms, then cocks an eyebrow at the lopsided pots. I intercept him before he states the obvious: I only like them because they're blue.

"Passing on the shirt, izzit?"

"Yeah, there's just not that much deer hunting in my future. Hey, look at all those lamps!" He's right: we don't need any more blue dishes. To his chagrin, I add two small ones to his load.

"Orang utans are a good cause," I tell him, pronouncing the word appropriately in its language of origin, Malay. Jim nods with mock sagacity and wisely says nothing, transporting my purchases to Miss Belgium for her talent competition, excessive wrapping. She's good.

Momentarily, Miss Scotland returns, triumphantly bearing two steaming cups of cappuccino. "It's really hot out there today. Look at me, all sweaty! And I just went to get coffee."

I look at her. She is sweaty. If this is her talent, Miss Belgium's definitely got her beat.

She turns to Jim. "You must be used to the heat now, after all this time in Singapore."

From the picture frames, I join in Jim's laughter. "I don't think you ever get used to it. Hot is hot."

Miss Indonesia takes an innocent sip of her cool blended fruit juice, then moves to restore order to the havoc Typhoon Venitha wreaked on the clothing tables.

Before the frothy cappuccino grows cold, I resist the lamps and finish browsing. Miss Belgium totals our purchases, and Jim, recently thrilled by his millionaire status, pays her tens of thousands of rupiah.

I turn to Miss Scotland and flash my best Miss America smile. "Now where's this fabulous coffee shop?"

Jim and I spent six glorious days in Ubud, Bali, in December.