1-14 Cockfighting and Warungs

The men, lining up with their cocks.

Our transition into “travel mode” was fairly easy. We started in Bali, one of the travel destinations of the world where they are as used to tourists as I am to cockroaches. (That comparison speaks to the last two years of my life as much as anything else.) A lot of people spoke “tourist English.” That’s enough to hawk wares, order food and point to destinations. It makes being a tourist a lot easier.

So, what I’m saying is that we’d been taking it easy. We weren’t throwing ourselves in the deep end and trying to travel on local buses first thing. I did want to start easing into things more though, so I was determined to get out a bit more.

Opportunity number one occurred while we were waiting for the herons. We were waiting on the roof of someone’s house/shop. Below us, men started to amble up with chickens. They were sitting the road, laughing and chatting and petting these roosters. I have a very low opinion of chickens, so I thought they were a bit crazy to be petting them. Then they started riling them up, stroking their shoulders against the feathers and pointing them at other roosters. Once two roosters got going, the men would let them posture and start to fight while keeping a firm grip on the rooster’s tail. When the rooster got too aggressive, they would each pull their fowl back by the tail feathers and settle it down. This was meant to train the roosters on how to fight without damaging them.

Hold on tight to your tail feathers!

One of the other tourists we were waiting with decided the roosters were more interesting than the herons and went down to egg on the men. He didn’t quite get that they were training them and kept offering to place bets on the fight. His additions made watching them all the more entertaining. As the evening wore on, they did let two cocks fight for a brief moment.

More than the cockfight, it was interesting to see the process. As the day was winding down, the men started to gather in front of the shop. They fetched their roosters from wherever it was they spent the day and then started to congregate. They joked and gossiped like old friends. The cockfighting was really just a side gig, because what they were really doing was unwinding from the day. That became more and more apparent to me as the other tourist tried to get them to engage in the fight part. He didn’t get that it wasn’t about the fighting, it was about the socializing.

Once we got back, we decided to go find food. We’d been playing it pretty safe, eating in restaurants that had English translations on the menu or at the hotel. I wanted to venture out into the unknown. We went to a warungor local food stall. The one we ended up in was pretty local, but still had minimal English translations on the menu. (It is Bali, afterall.)

A street warung in Jember (a few days after this post.)

With very few problems, we managed to order food and drinks. Then we sat and waited. The place was dimly light and a bit smoky from the cooking, incense and cigarettes. We alternated between watching a gecko climb out from under the calendar pinned to the wall and the soap opera playing on the tiny TV in the corner.

The food was decent. Jason thinks Indonesian food is delicious since it mostly consists of fried noodles or rice. I think it is delicious because it has tempeh and tofu. We both win.

Going out was not record shattering. I did not have some epiphany about life. But it felt good to push the bubble and step away from the touristy things. Besides, it is better food at a better price.

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