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The serpent in paradise - Ed Brock

The snake had made it half way up the staircase that led from the ocean to the stone pavilion that supported the small caf– at which he had been drinking.

It was maybe a couple of hours before midnight, a couple of months into the year 2000, and it was Sanur, Bali.

There were a lot of things my wife and I did on Bali, including white water rafting and a tour of the Monkey Forest Temple, but the sea snake is perhaps my strongest memory. Well, no, that's not true.

I remember the children.

"You buy this," one boy said. "I need shoes. You buy me shoes."

I can't remember the boy's name, but we have his picture in an album somewhere, bright smile shining with a blue sky background. My wife took it from her chaise lounge chair on the beach. I do know we bought cigarettes and water from him even though we didn't really need it.

The boy and his friends hung around with us during our week-long stay, more because we were nice, I think, than because we bought their stuff. One day a guard chased them off and I was annoyed, but that's just part of those kids' lives, it would seem.

Sanur is a few miles away from Kuta, the most popular tourist locale on the island and the location of the bombings Saturday that killed at least 26 people. According to a report on the China View Web site the dead include 13 Indonesians, one Australian, one Japanese and 11 people of unknown nationality.

During our stay my wife and I went into Kuta one time. We strolled the busy streets, bought some CDs and ate dinner at the Hard Rock Caf–. It was the day before the white water rafting trip and my stomach was already churning from a piece of bad fruit I'd had the day before.

I remember feeling a little queasy on the truck ride to the Ayung River where we would experience class II and III rapids. I couldn't back out, though, because my wife was already taunting me for expressing reluctance to go at all after she showed me the brochure.

It was only because the picture on the front made it look like you had to go over a waterfall, for God's sake! And really, I just didn't want to do so much work on a vacation.

Of course the trip turned out fine. Our guide, Dadab, took exceptionally good care of us, considering the fact that he got paid maybe $2 a trip.

On the evening we spent in Kuta my wife and I returned to our hotel after dinner, strolling through the lush green garden in the courtyard and out onto the beach. We followed a sidewalk that ran through the sand, looking up at the stars and other such nonsense, until we came to that little caf– on the stone pavilion overlooking the ocean.

Which brings me back to the snake on the stairs, trying to creep into that touristy paradise in the Indonesian archipelago. With some gentle prods from a stick a waiter convinced the creature to do an about face and return to the waves.

But it would seem another serpent slithered into the jungles of Bali and into the minds of certain radicals who seem intent on making this island into a tropical war zone. It's a far off place for most of us, but for me Saturday's bombing hit close to home.

Ed Brock covers public safety and municipal governments for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or at ebrock@news-daily.com .