June 15, 2017
I wait two days before writing about this day, so it may be difficult to describe the wave of emotions that crashed over us.
We started with our habitual morning routines of coffee and quietness before packing and going to our next place in Kuta.
“I’m going to miss this bungalow,” I said.
“I know so am I, but tomorrow we are going to wake up on the beach!” encouraged Eric.
We almost always stay in Airbnbs, but Eric really want us to stay at a hotel the last couple of nights so we could be right on the beach. We imagined seafood dinners and evening walks beside the ocean, observing the sun’s descent towards the horizon.
Once we arrived at Citadines Hotel, the man at the reception desk said we couldn’t pay with Eric’s card even though they had it on file, so we left our luggage at the hotel and walked to nearby money exchangers.
We found a great conversion rate, so we went inside.
One worker stood behind the counter to assist us. As Eric placed a $100 bill on the counter, another worker came beside me and kept asking me questions.
“Where are you from?”
“Where are you staying?”
In that moment, it just seemed like a friendly, curious interaction. However, the feelings that took over me were instinctual. My intuition started quietly communicating with me, telling me that something wasn’t right. An inner dialogue was dictated within my mind.
“Kat, isn’t it weird that this guy approached you at this specific moment? Pay attention to this transaction,” a voice from within warned me.
One after another, like rolling waves, the voices inside my head were pleading their cases…
“He’s just being friendly. Don’t worry.”
“No, he doesn’t care about what you’re doing or where you are staying. He’s a con-artist trying to distract you!”
“Why are you so suspicious? Think the best of people.”
“Just ignore him. Or tell him to leave you alone.”
This battle in my brain continued.. Thoughts were appearing and dissolving before I could grasp them.
The man behind the counter started counting the rupiah. At the same time the man beside me continued his questioning…
“Are you going shopping?”
“Are you going swimming?”
I was counting money mentally while answering his questions verbally. Even though my intuition warned me, I became overwhelmed and distracted.
I had been paying attention while the man placed bills in front of us. After he counted the large bills he said he didn’t have small change and could not give us an exact conversion. He asked Eric if he could break a large bill. Eric looked down at his money for a second.
Because I had read about exchange scams, I knew not to take my eyes off the bills on the counter. I also knew it was fishy that he asked Eric for small change after converting on calculator and counting the money.
Then the man beside me began tapping on my arm.
“Are you married?”
“Is this your honeymoon?”
As I recall and write this now, it seems so obvious! But it all happened so quickly. Eric didn’t realize what was happening in my head.. and he seemed oblivious to any deception that was occurring during the exchange.
I just had a feeling.
As soon as we walked out, I told Eric we should recount the money.
He responded, “We just watched him count it, but okay..”
“I just think it’s weird that another man was involved. He was tapping on my arm, as if he was trying to distract me. Then the other man needed you to look for change. They exchange money, they should have the change, not us…”
My intuition was practically screaming at this point, wanting to be heard.
Eric listened to what I had experienced. He usually believes my feminine intuition to be a powerful asset during our travels and life in general, so he led us into a hotel lobby around the corner, away from the crowds of tourists and souvenir shops. Eric took the money out and began counting the stack of blue bills.
$100 USD was supposed to covert to 1,389,000 rupiah.
I counted in my head as he flipped through the blue papers. We both counted 1,000,000, but no more.
Eric seemed surprised that 389,000 rupiah was missing.
He counted it again. While he checked his pockets, I had already began walking back to the exchanger.
My feelings had started simmering as soon as we initially entered their shop and were bombarded with questions. Now, they were boiling. From Eric’s perspective it probably seemed as though my emotions hit a hundred in an instant. But I now felt like my suspicions were justified.
During our walk back to retrieve our stolen money, I told Eric that I could feel it, that I knew something wasn’t right.
“You were right. You were right. You were right,” he said.
I was so confused about that phrase, You were right. He wasn’t listening to me. I felt dismissed.
I was mad. Mad at the money exchangers for taking advantage of others. Mad at them because they tarnished my capacity for trust. I think some people are ignorant when they meet American tourists. They become blinded by the USD, and forget that we are people too..
I also felt mad at Eric because of his comment, “We just watched him count it.” It felt like he didn’t take me seriously when I expressed a need to recount. And for saying, “You were right,” when I was just trying to vent. We have never been the kind of couple that cares who is right or wrong.
But mostly I was mad at myself. Because of my desire to be kind, even though something inside me knew we were being deceived, I didn’t listen to my intuition. I heard it, but I didn’t listen.
It doesn’t feel good to be suspicious of other humans. In my heart, I wish I could just trust. A daunting cloud of guilt hangs over me when I judge a person or situation without knowing them. And now, I was judging myself. My pace quickened.
Eric asked me to calm down. He wanted me to slow down. I wanted him to speed up.
“Think about it. They just robbed us, they are not going to just give it back,” he said.
“I’m still going to try.” I replied.
When we re-entered their store, their friendly smiles faded into frowns. They knew why we returned. We asked for the rest of our money. Instead, the man behind the counter handed us our $100 bill, and we gave him back the rupiah. It was like they had been through this kind of encounter before because they didn’t show a hint of hesitation.
Eric slipped the bill into his pocket.
“I can’t believe you do this to people. I would never steal from you. It makes me very sad,” I said with all of my heart.
We walked away.
At least we got our money back.
Did I cause them to steal it with my negative thoughts?
* * *
After the deception, we were both a little off balance, a little on edge. We still needed to exchange money so we could check-in to the hotel. We went into a couple more places, and for some reason none of them had exact change.. only big bills. It didn’t make sense to me. Like it was a trend… Do they all do it the same way? The art of stealing.
We purchased a drink at a mini-mart so we would have change, then went to a new money exchanger prepared. As the worker led us to the counter, Eric reached into his pocket for the $100 bill. But it wasn’t there.
“Babe, where did we put the money?” he asked.
“You put it in your pocket,” I replied.
He took off our backpack, and we started unzipping and searching while the man stood beside us waiting to exchange.
We couldn’t find the bill anywhere.
We retraced our tracks. Did the same people from earlier steal it? Did someone on the road steal it? Did it fall out of Eric’s pocket?
At this point, I just wanted to get out of this area. I felt like a target.
I was trying to think, but with every step we took, hagglers were hollering, trying to lure us into their souvenir shops.
“Cheap, Cheap! I give discount.”
The equatorial sun was pouring its relentless rays onto our shoulders. The haggling continued as store owners saw dollar signs instead of humans. We couldn’t even go back to the hotel because we still hadn’t exchanged money.
I really resented the men who robbed us right before our eyes, because now I was looking at all of the other store owners with narrow vision. I didn’t trust anyone.
We went back to the hotel. Eric was upset that they wouldn’t use his card and seemed to be taking the previous hour’s frustrations out on them.
I wasn’t any help. I wanted him to take care of everything without me. I couldn’t believe he lost a hundred dollars. I was being stubborn, and I regret that now.
He told them that we would stay somewhere else, and we took our luggage outside.
We were both pretty heated at this point. In the grand scheme of things, it was just money. But it wasn’t just money. It was the key into our hotel. Here we were in a foreign country, having just been recipients of deception and misfortune. Now with nowhere to stay, we were stranded.
We found some chairs outside another mini-mart. Our laptop had 6% battery, and Eric tried to find an Airbnb before it died… without my help.
It seemed like one thing after another. We couldn’t check in. We were robbed. We lost our money. Negative circumstances were just following us like rain clouds, and I got caught in the weather. My frustrations were tangible, and I wasn’t really communicating with Eric.
He wanted me to “let it go.” That made me more upset because I thought I had the right to navigate through these circumstances and feelings in my own way. I thought, Just because he can let it all go so quickly doesn’t mean I have to be like him. I will let it go, but it just takes me more time.
As soon as he booked a place for us to stay, we stood up and put on our backpacks. Nearby Taxi drivers saw us and began yelling.
“Where are you going?” one asked.
“Need a ride?” another one chimed in.
Eric asked how much.
“No thanks,” we responded.
No. This is a game. Get me out of this area!
Eric arranged a Grab car. It ended up being 27,000.
By the time we arrived to the Airbnb, we were deflated. The whole day was wasted. We were mostly upset at ourselves and each other for how we responded to the situations.
* * *
We thought, “How can we try to make the most of today…. or what little of today is left?”
We decided to go to the beach as it was only a two minute walk. We didn’t take our bathing suits or a towel or sunscreen. Neither of us was in the mood to play. We were both lost in a maze within our minds.
At this point, I was pretty frazzled. In my head I was questioning everything. I was questioning humans. Questioning myself. Questioning Eric.
I could feel that he was in a similar state. It caused him to question the future… that under negative circumstances I might just close myself off and not be on his team.
He said that I care about money differently than he does.
Then I felt like I had to justify myself, explain myself, and I had never had to do that before. He had always loved and accepted my quirks and flaws.
We spent the evening talking by the ocean, ignoring the crowds, attempting to express our fears, concerns, and true feelings. We felt defeated. We felt misunderstood.
We are different when it comes to money, and that’s always been okay. But we have been sharing an account for six months now, and it’s been an adjustment.
I told him I want his help with all of the little things I do. I always double check the bills, search for the best deal, recount change, look for the best value, negotiate. I resist a lot of temptations so I can save. I research how much a scooter costs before we go to the rentals, and I research the usual taxi fare so we don’t get ripped off. As a driver takes us from one place to the next, I whisper to Eric how much this should cost because there has been a pattern of getting overcharged, and he laughs..
He lets a lot go. He doesn’t understand why I care so much. Sometimes he defends the person we are paying. “This is their job. This is how they support their families,” he says.
That doesn’t mean we should be tricked. We travel on a budget. When we are traveling all the time, we can’t afford to be careless. If a taxi fare costs 20,000 rupiah, I don’t want to pay 100,000.
If it was just me, I would continue my financial habits in the solitude of my own mind with my own money. Now that everything is ours, I feel like I have to verbally share my resistances and calculations. Sometimes it’s exhausting, and sometimes it makes me insecure. That’s why I asked Eric to help me with some of it.
“But I am different than you when it comes to money,” he said. “I don’t care about some of the things that carry so much weight with you, and I feel like you need me to. I am worried that maybe I am not what you need to be happy and comfortable in the future, and I am just holding on to you for my own selfishness. I don’t want you to suffer.”
By the end of the night I just felt so misunderstood. Finally… I let the waves take me under.
“I think you are right,” I said with coldness.
“Maybe you aren’t the person I need for happiness in the future,” I continued, “because you aren’t listening or trying to understand. I don’t need you to care about things like money the same way that I do. I need you to care about me enough to help make things easier on me because I care.”
Suddenly, there was silence. The rolling waves became still for just a moment, and we could finally come up for air. In that space, the energy shifted.
Dark waves could be heard, but not seen. Music streamed from beachside restaurants. It was getting chilly, and I wrapped my sarong over my shoulders. The wind whistled. Stars shimmered.
And we cried. He finally realized what I was trying to say. He finally understood.. not the words I was saying.. but the meaning and feelings behind the words. He wrapped his arms around me.
“I’m so sorry, Kat.”
I looked up at him with tears in my eyes.
“I am sorry too.”
We took a step back from the struggle and gave ourselves enough space to see the maze in our minds from the outside. With our gazes pointed within, we found our way back to each other.
“For you and for me, the highest moment, the keenest joy, is not when our minds dominate. But when we lose our minds, and you and I both lose it in the same way, through love.” -Anais Nin
* * *
We both have so much learning to do. Right now our lives are not consistent. We are in a new country every month, staying in new places, navigating unknown roads, and learning different money conversions. It’s intoxicating and incredible, but at times it is hard. It’s hard to find balance.
And we are doing the best we can. We are growing from all of these experiences. We are learning so much about the world… things that we wouldn’t learn if we had the same day-to-day routines. We are learning so much about ourselves and each other.
If I want him to take on more, I have to learn to let go. Sometimes things happen that are out of our control, and all we can do is control the way we respond to them.
We love each other enough to not give up when rocks appear in the river of our relationship. Our roots are entwined. In the end we are lucky to experience these moments because they teach us how to become better. They are preparing us for something bigger…
* * *
As we embraced beneath the desolate sky, we saw a sea turtle emerging from the ocean onto the sand. We ran closer so we could see.
Isn’t it amazing how they can migrate such long distances, sometimes across entire oceans… but can always find their way home?