Bali has always been one of my favorite destinations. Especially Lembongan took my heart by storm when I first visited in 2007 and it has enchanted me ever since.
Last month, I was on my way there again for my 5th visit. After landing in Denpasar, my wife and I, Mr. and Mrs. Klenk, together with two friends, drove straight to Sanur where we stayed the night. The next morning, a driver from the speedboat company picked us up.
He introduced himself with a beaming smile, “Good morning! My name is Gede. You’re going to Lembongan today? I’m here to bring you to the speedboat.”
He then addressed me directly, “Are you Mr. Kleng?”
It was a slightly different pronunciation. The softer “g” at the end felt exotic and gentle compared to the strict “k” people would apply in Europe. Otherwise, it definitely still sounded exactly like my name. I nodded and smiled, “Yes, that’s me.”
Something like a mad sparkle passed through Gede’s eyes for just an instant. The sides of his mouth twitched. Then he said, calmly, “Great, let’s go. The boat is waiting.”
The four of us hopped into the van. Only about a minute had passed when I could hear what sounded like barely repressed giggles or crying coming from the man in the driver’s seat. “You’re really Mr. Kleng?” he asked once more.
“Yes, I am.” I assured him patiently.
Whereupon he began chuckling and laughing uncontrollably. I was amused and getting curious as to what I might have done to set him off like this. After a while he calmed down enough to ask, “Has anyone ever told you what your name means in Balinese language?”
“No”, I said, “This is my 5th time in Bali but no one has ever said anything. What does it mean?”
“Are you sure you want to know? You won’t get angry, right?”
“No of course not. Tell me. I am really curious now.” I said with a smile.
“In Balinese, a Kleng is a bastard, a shit, a dog head. So in our language you are Mr. Bastard.” And off he went again, dissolving in laughter. “I guess nobody dared tell you so far. But I am sure they thought it was hilarious, too, hahahahahaha.”
“Mr. Kleng,” he added again for good measure.
We all looked at each other and burst out laughing. “Seems like I need to have a serious talk with my parents when I get home,” I said, “What were they thinking?”
We all roared with laughter. Then my wife said, “And I am Mrs. Kleng!” which got us all bent over double, gasping for breath, the entire van now surely vibrating from our chuckles and howling laughter.
After a few minutes we fell back exhausted. Then one of our friends became all thoughtful, “Hmmm… and when you have children… you’ll have little Klengs.”
This set us off even harder than before. Five people, barely able to catch their breaths anymore. Eyes sparkling. Our entire bodies aching from the prolonged laughter.
By the time we reached the speedboat office we could barely speak. We stumbled out of the van, weak in the knees, still giggling, gurgling, and chuckling like a chorus of Mad Hatters.
Gede led us into the office, took a deep breath and said to his colleagues, “This is Mr. Kleng and company.”
The lady behind the counter stayed remarkably neutral. “Yes Sir, over here, I’ll issue your speedboat tickets. Thank you.” Her colleagues fared less well and were desperately trying to hide their good-natured, spreading smiles behind the palms of their hands.
Half an hour later, Gede and I shook hands. “All the best my friend,” I said. “It was a fun ride. Take care.”
“Goodbye Mr. Kleng,” he answered, a big grin immediately spreading over his entire face again. “It was a pleasure driving you, your friends, and Mrs. Kleng this morning.”
He turned and walked away. As I looked after him I saw his shoulders were shaking, and even through the deafening noise of on- and off-boarding passengers I could still hear him giggling until he turned the corner of the speedboat office building.
Now that we knew, it was fun to watch people at diving center and guesthouse receptions when we signed in. We made a point of introducing ourselves by name. “Hello, we are Mr. and Mrs. Kleng. Can you help us please?” Each time, the clerk behind the counter managed to put a hand in front of his or her mouth just in time to hide the spreading grins they were barely able to contain.
Now we are back in Zurich. But watch out Bali. The Klengs will be back!