Saraswati, Hindu goddess of understanding and wisdom.

Today, my lotus of understanding blossomed a new layer as Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, wisdom and learning, shed a new light on what it means to live in Ubud.

It all started yesterday.

I was leaving a business and put my wallet in the front cupholder on my scooter and drove up to the gas station to refuel before I met up with a date. After the attendant finished filling up my tank, I reached for my wallet in the cupholder only to find it missing. I panicked a bit, but fortunately I had some loose change in the interior compartment of my scooter so I was able to pay the attendant.

Instead of taking responsibility for my mistake, my first inclination was to blame someone else. The only person other than myself that was within reach of my wallet had been the gas station attendant. I went to the police to file a report for my missing wallet hoping that they might be able to question the gas attendant. I was frustrated that they wouldn’t accompany me to the gas station to talk to the guy but the policeman who spoke the best English did something perhaps even more useful: he calmed me down and helped me think through what I had lost, detach myself from it, and figure out solutions to replacing things like my debit and credit cards.

By the time I got back to my house, I was late for my date and a little frazzled when I showed up 10 minutes late. She was very understanding and sympathetic and helped me take my mind off of the missing wallet. In classic Ubudian yogi fashion, I ordered some Vata tea to calm my nerves – and it worked.

Later in the evening we were in a loud bar listening to a talented young Indonesian band cover American rock ‘n roll music and I noticed I had some missed phone calls on my local phone number. I assumed they were missed calls because no one really has my local number because I use Whatsapp, Facebook messenger, Skype, etc. instead. We said goodnight and I headed home to pick up the pieces of my financial life.

The first thing I did was report my debit card missing to my California bank as I didn’t have time to do it before the date and didn’t want to be later than I was. Then I checked my phone messages and realized I had a surprising number of missed calls and messages. Agung, the guy who rents me his scooter had been trying to get ahold of me.

He said, “Ian, are you missing something?” I said, “Yes, my wallet. Why? Did you find it somehow?” “Yes, the restaurant Lemonade found it in the street and have been trying to get ahold of you. They must have found my card in your wallet.”

I was incredibly relieved and quite touched at the lengths that everyone involved had gone to get ahold of me. Of course, I had shot myself in the foot by cancelling all of my cards right before I found this out! But nonetheless, it was nice to have my driver’s license and the little cash I had in my wallet.

The next day, I drove down to Lemonade and the taxi driver who found my wallet was waiting for me smiling. I told him how grateful I was and offered him some of the cash in my wallet as a reward, but he would not accept it despite my persistent follow up attempts. I finally acquiesced to his graciousness and thanked him again with a big smile. Instead, he gave me his business card and said, “if you ever need a taxi, please call me.” I told him that I have a new taxi driver and will recommend him.

My assumption when I lost my wallet was either that someone had taken it or that it had fallen out of my scooter and that I would never get it back because anyone who found it would take the cash and dump the rest. This viewpoint can be described well with game theory, where, if at least one party doesn’t have trust, the best outcome is to look out only for oneself; but if there is trust on both sides, the best outcome is reached overall.
It is refreshing to find myself living in a culture that chooses to have trust over selfishness, where not only will someone not steal your wallet, but strangers will make great efforts to get it back to you despite that you are the one responsible for losing it. That is why today I am finding the corners of my mouth starting to turn upwards as I join the community of smiles here in Ubud.

And by the way, if you need a taxi driver here that you can trust, I would like to recommend to you I Wayan Sukadana. You can reach him at +62 081 338 336 020. He is the man that decided, instead of simply taking my cash and forgetting about it, to instead call all of the phone numbers in my wallet to make sure that it got back to me. Thank you.