In compiling this travelogue, I came across a note in my 'diary summary' document – a list of one-liners that remind me what I want to write about – that read as follows:
JUST FUCK OFF! (JFO)
This demonstrates how the friendliness of the locals really got to me on the day after my walk up Gunung Rinjani, though it wasn't their fault at all. To the Indonesians a foreigner is someone to be friendly to, to talk to, to be interested in, but for the foreigner it can be more wearing than brakes without brake pads. There is no such thing as sitting quietly in Asia: one of the things I used to love doing in Australasia was sitting in a park or botanic garden, watching the world go by as I read another chapter of my book, wrote some more travelogue, planned the next stage of the trip, or whatever. This simple pleasure is just not possible in Asia.
People just come up to you and start talking. There is no concept of personal space in Asia: everyone is a potential conversation, and although it's meant well, it can grind you down after the tenth local in a row has had the following conversation with you:
Local: 'Hello meester, what your name?'
Local: 'Where you from, Meester Marrr?'
Local: 'Ah, Ingran. You know Laydee Deeana?'
Me: 'Ah, Lady Diana.'
Local: 'Lady Deeana dead, meester.'
Me: 'That's right.'
Local: 'What job you do, Meester Marrr?'
Me: 'I'm a journalist.'
Local: 'Ah. You be Indonesia long?'
Me: 'Oh, about two months.'
Local: 'Your hat. Marlboro Man, ha, ha.'
Me: 'Yes. Ha, ha.'
Local: 'Yes. Ha, ha... you very funny man, Meester Marrr...'
[Conversation draws to a close. Local eventually makes a polite withdrawal when he's realised that getting further conversation from me is like getting money out of an insurance company, to be replaced by an identical conversationalist just two minutes later. As we leave this happy scene, we can hear Meester Marrr quietly screaming for peace. Poor bastard.]
Yes, it can sometimes be a right royal pain in the arse to be a tourist in Asia. It's important to realise that the locals are just being friendly, though, and that it's rude not to chat back, but while it's often really satisfying chatting away, sometimes you wish they'd give it a rest, and JFO.