Sometimes you just have to sit, wait and watch.
Just being quiet and observant you can learn so much. It's hard to do that in the dirty backstreets of Bali's Denpasar, with all the hustle and bustle, the sounds of gold shop cash registers and barking dogs, tile cutters and knife sellers calling out to you in a constant flurry of tones and notes. Sitting among this cacophony is deliriously fun and sometimes it's deafening, but ALWAYS it is deliciously eye-opening.
Walking into a filthy workshop and disturbing a jeweller inspecting a gold setting under the lamp lights, we shuffled down into stools (only standing the tests of time by a hair) and waited patiently to see the boss. He finally materialised after half an hour (and several hushed phone calls back and forth to a very twitchy worker) sweaty and anxious. There was no hand shake nor look in the eye, but there was a look up and down at us and a murmur of 'tish....bule' that passed his lips. I took that as a bad sign, but Nini kept her cool and offered a smile and some details to hook him into our project. The word 'diamond' rang clear and up pricked the ears at the dulcet tone of the word to the man's hearing.
We showed him what we were making for a customer and the size and clarity we were looking for. He shooed our paper away with a 'come back tomorrow.' But anyone who knows us by now, we don't like tomorrows' so we stood the test and buried ourselves deeper into the stools until we would not budge. He showed us a few samples, after he had served all the men behind us first. The stones he showed us were average and I think the shock of us taking out a glass to view them, simply irritated him further. Not only are they women.....they don't believe me! I could see one little cog turning in his head slowly.
After some oo'ing and ahh'ing and head shaking from us, we left Mr.Shady and headed for the door to another seller across the way who had the shiny shop and the shiny cases and the shiny shirt. A well bred Indian who knew his stuff and settled into a deal with us, as though we may be 'almost' equal. I did note however, that he may have been suffering from 'short man syndrome' as the floor was elevated in his favour behind the counter when he leaned over us. We did our deal and walked back towards the place we had come from before. As we passed, we both saw a very dark man, possibly from Ghana or the DRC, cross legged on the carpet of the dirty little shop we had been shooed from. He was a hulk of a human and i could see his giant head peering out from behind the counter, so I snuck a peek at what he was doing there. Sure enough, he dumped a pound of diamonds onto the floor and Mr. Shady (now with his eye glasses on) started to sift through and weed out the good, the bad and the ugly from each other.
We watched in awe for a while, catching the eye of the dark man in the dark little cornice, hoping to get some sign language to him or do some lip-reading, but moments later, it seemed their deal was done and they both lifted off the floor. 'Hello!' I said to the man. 'Bonjour' he said back. 'Selling diamonds to this man?' I said. 'Oui' he said, 'Are you looking for some?' As he pulled out his card, Mr. Shady snatched it from his hand, before it could reach mine and retorted in perfect English (after I was assured he was a mute previously) 'That is not ethical.' 'You are absolutely right' I said, and winked at the man holding the little velvet bag and turning on his heels to walk out. 'See you around' I said. 'Oui' he said.
Nini and I waited around the corner, while I quickly Googled the name I had memorised on the card. Amazing Google gave me all I wanted and more in seconds, but then a honk came from a distant scooter and the man with the huge head laughed and beckoned to us. 'I found you already online!' I shouted laughing. 'Do you want me to send you an email? I said. 'Not necessary', he said in English, 'Do you want to come to my factory it is not far from here?' Nini and I looked at each other, smiled and jumped on our bikes to follow, not noticing that the angry owner of the shop and his side kick were quick on our tail and only until I glanced in the mirror did I see the fists being raised in the street behind us.
But the story doesn't end there. Our stories never do!
An hour later, through every backstreet and alleyway known to man, jittery with a mixture of fear and excitement, we arrive at a giant gate. There is no welcoming party in the foyer, no ginger tea and sliced fruit. This is a garment factory, not a diamond sales room. He asks us to wait patiently on the factory floor. We start the guessing game as to what is going on, but neither of us can come up with something anywhere near cohesive to represent our last couple of hours.
Our dark giant returns with a small Chinese lady, who seems irritated and disturbed by our presence. 'What you want?' she says in an Australasian accent. We comply with the question and explain where and what we have just done and how we came to meet her staff member. Then we ask to see her diamonds. It's then that she disappears, we think to find samples and offer us some green tea in a lovely office setting. We hear some screaming on the phone in Mandarin and then a mobile phone hitting a desk. Our lady returns we think, but seems to have been kidnapped by a dragon. 'No diamond here for sale' she says in her thick accent and then shakes her head in the direction of the door. I press. 'I have seen your employee's diamonds, please can we discuss, that is why we are here.' She shakes her head and we are left in bewilderment. Nini and I look at each other and then head for the door. We could hazard a guess as to the outcome of our experience, but we will never know the truth. Diamonds possibly devoid of certificates and brought in illegally, Diamonds harvested through bad means that can be tracked. Diamonds that may have been stolen. Diamonds that WE will never see in the flesh and may well have had a pound of flesh given for them.
Diamond hunting..... is dirty work.