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Advertise on the Tentacle

December 3, 2014

A Day’s Bargaining

Tom McLaughlin

Balikpapen, Indonesian Borneo – We returned to this city for our flight out and back to Kuala Lumpur then to Kuching. Yes, we had to fly over Kuching and an hour and half in the opposite direction and back again. However, that is the path.


As I said before, we left with me purchasing two small statutes for about $57. I should have bargained harder, but the excitement of even finding these statutes was very exhilarating. They were made long ago by a tribal people who moved among various peoples. They made brass war-like arm bands and gongs; and these small statutes were composed as afterthoughts. They still contained their genitalia. When the Christian and Islamic missionaries came to convert, they made the people, and their art, cover up, which meant whacking them off. Finding them was a real treasure.


The stall attendant was happy to see us and greeted us in the Islamic fashioned. I took Dzul for a walk and allowed the girls (Suriani and the attendant) get down to negotiations. I had what I wanted, so whatever else she could get, at a cheap price was extra.


The owner informed us she was just selling her deceased husbands collection and wanted to be rid of it. She hated standing around in a booth all day waiting for customers. Suriani told her about me, our wedding, the birth of Dzul, her trips to the States and how we were just poor, acquiring of beautiful things. The beads were an admirable collection, but she want Rp 8.0 million ($650) much more than we could afford. We ignored them.


There was a Ming Dynasty plate she liked for Rp 2.5 million ($205) which was more our speed. The plate was green and had a raised dragon on the bottom. They talked some more while I entertained Dzul. We broke for lunch at a seafood stall. I was getting tired and ho, but Suriani said this was the way we bargained.


The stall had seafood that was barbequed outside. Fish and shrimp (prawns), as well as chicken, was all on the grill. I enjoyed the shrimp while Suriani had the fish. Rice in a large bowl and a seafood soup was also served. It was delicious. A man was playing the guitar, singing just outside trying to impress everyone with his knowledge of western songs. He tried; boy, did he try.


We went back to the stall and the lady thought I was mad at her. No, Suriani explained, I was just watching Dzul. They returned to bargaining and the plate suddenly went from Rp 2.5 million to Rp 700,000. ($57) I am not sure what had happened except Suriani had promised her undying friendship. We also bought a figure of a guy with a black cone head, a white frowning face, gentiles (male) all carved on a stick. I have no idea what it is, but I knew it must be something special.


That night we went home and looked up the price of beads on the Internet. There were no prices of these very rare commodities, but we called her at home and offered Rp 4 million, about half of what she was asking. She said she would check with her son. The son said he would lower it to 7.5 million but that was it. We said no.


The next morning we went there and the price decrease to 6.5 million, but it was still too expensive for our budget. We purchased a few other small items to maintain the good cheer, and then we went on our way.


Such is life of heavy bargaining in Balikpapen.


...Life is good. . . . .


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