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True love in Bali?

Bob Kessler | Friday, February 12, 2010

She wasn’t on the dance floor at Club Fever sipping on a mixed drink. She was neither dripping with sweat inside The Backer, nor was she chatting with her friends in a small circle at Finny’s. While I suppose it’s possible that I stepped foot into her apartment, I wouldn’t know it now. No, the love of my life wasn’t in any of these places (or at least I think), because from where I sit right now (in a beachfront bar on the Indonesian island of Bali), the love of my life is still absent from my life.
A year ago I wrote a Valentine’s Day-themed piece in this paper describing my quest to find the love of my life at Club Fever. That weekend I spent time searching not only the dance floor of Fever, but also the crowded confines of Finny’s and The Backer. I moved between bars and house parties distributing Winnie the Pooh Valentines (complete with my name and phone number) to unsuspecting girls along the way, but I didn’t find her that day, or that week, or that semester.
Instead I spent much of those mornings working off my hangovers by watching movies like “Definitely Maybe” and “When Harry Met Sally,” or re-runs of “The O.C.” that I had recorded off SoapNet. Distraight with my utter failure to purchase a ring by spring, I postponed my search and left the country to teach English in China. I didn’t think I would find the love of my life in Asia, and thus far I haven’t. In fact, I have found searching here to be immensely more difficult.
The thing about Notre Dame bars is that you have to show your ID to get in. At Finny’s, it is nearly impossible to enter if you are under 21, and at The Backer it is incredibly difficult. Most Notre Dame students see this as a burden; they want to go to the bars, and they don’t want to get a fake ID to enter. For me, however, this burden is actually a gift, because (don’t let my Blogspot profile or Observer picture fool you) I look like a 17-year-old.
At the bars of South Bend (and all of America), the fact that you need to show an ID to enter means (in theory) that everybody inside is over the age of 21. While this is an afterthought to most patrons, it was of critical importance for me because it subconsciously told everybody that I met inside that I was at least over the age of 21, and not the St. Joe’s High School student I appear to be.
Here in Asia, however, there are no legal drinking ages, and I have been asked my age more times by other patrons than I ever anticipated when I first crossed the Pacific. For me, trying to dance with a girl in the clubs of Shanghai, Vang Vieng (Laos) and Bali has been almost as difficult as explaining what hair cut I want to the Chinese stylist using nothing but hand motions.
How can I possibly find true love in these circumstances that are almost as horrible as the new Facebook interface?
Usually after a few drinks (OK, after a lot of drinks), I get fed up with all the ageism that is thrown in my direction from Australian, Swedish and Canadian girls, and I talk to a local for a while. Usually this local is very nice, until she asks me if I want sex, at which point I remember that paying for sex falls outside of my moral spectrum (and I am a pro-choice morally repugnant Obama voter).
After rejection and dejection, I leave the club or drinking place longing for the days of The Backer and Finny’s where I was rarely asked my age and at least had a chance at a Notre Dame hook-up. I might wander the streets for a while or maybe pass out in the back seat of a Chinese cab while thinking about that parallel universe where Flight 815 never crashed and where I am living in Chicago right now and going on a Valentine’s Date to “Valentine’s Day” (the movie) with some really awesome girl.
Before I go to bed, however, I always wind up in the same position: with my hands on a keyboard and my eyes on Gmail. I’ll send messages to my friends spread all across the States telling them about my adventures and how great the drinking is in these strange corners of Asia, but deep down I know this isn’t why I’m in the Internet café or the hostel lounge at three in the morning. Deep down, I just want my friends, because the adventures and everything are great, but they would certainly be greater if I could be able to share them with the people whom I love instead of just telling these people about them on my Buzz (whatever this is).
So with this weekend being Valentine’s Day, I wish they all were here with me; if not because I miss them, then because the white sand beaches have to beat the white snowpocalypse.

Bob Kessler is a 2009 graduate
currently on vacation from his position as an English Teacher in China and you can contact him at bob020787@gmail.com
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.