What to do when the only digital camera you own, the one that goes wherever you do, lest you miss that unmissable shot, breaks down while you’re living on a tropical island with an astounding paucity of repair options? You ask your photographer-friends and you turn to Facebook.
You might, as I did, get instructions to go to Jalan Pulau Saelus in Denpasar. Yes, just like that. No address, no name of a repair shop, no landmark, no hint of how to find this place. Such is life, often, in this part of the world: You’re left to your devices, so off you go on an adventure, utterly unsure what lies ahead.
So you schedule to join a friend who’s heading down to Denpasar for her meeting with the finicky folks at Immigration. You hire a Blue Bird taxi. The driver barely skips a beat when you tell him that you only know the street name. He drives up and down the road for a few minutes, while your eyes shift from one side of the road to the either at break-beck speed, hoping to spot the one sign you don’t know you’re looking for – with (yes of course) the meter running.
You ask the driver to pull over every minute or so, jump out and dash into a supermarket, offices, a body shop, asking for help finding a camera repair shop nearby. Shoulders are shrugged and you’re back to square one.
Eventually, you liberate the driver from this mystifying treasure hunt and, under the blazing heat of a midday southern sun, you try to unravel the mystery yourself on foot. You stumble into an advertising office in a shophouse, where a young man points out a small side street not far away – that just happens to bear the same name as THIS street. A pole at the corner is littered with signs, among I spot a barely legible placard for a “foto” shop.
It’s “only” 200 meters down that side road. But hope is revived.
You’re beaming as you open the door. It’s empty, save for a couple of uniformed, teenage-looking employees who look desperately bored.
I need to get my camera repaired today, I tell them in bahasa. Can I please see the guy who does repairs?
The young woman, who is leaning over the glass display counter, glances over at her colleague, then back at me.
He’s not here, she says.
When will he return, I ask.
I’m not sure, she replies. There’s a smile inching up her face, convincing me at that moment that this very smile is a harbinger of unwanted news.
Is there only one repair guy?
Yes. There’s a smidgen of malu (embarrassment) creeping into her eyes. Only one guy.
Then, she adds, as if her explanation would sound so reasonable that it might calm my frayed nerves: He got married five months ago, then he never came back. Now there are many cameras (she points to another counter) that are still waiting to be fixed.
Which is why, more than a week later, I am still searching for an elusive camera repairman in Bali.