• Bad American! Eric is Booted Back to Bali, BLOG OCTOBER 2015

    Posted in Blog by Eric Shaw

    australia population

    After a lecturing around Bali, I popped back to Perth, Australia on October 14th.

    I love Aussie immigration.

    Your poke your passport into a non-threatening kiosk.

    The kiosk flashes a welcome shade of green.

    You stroll through saloon-door scanners.

    A guard smiles warmly there, peeks carefully at your customs card—then waves you through.

    Easiest border crossing on Earth.

    But . . . not this time.

    The saloon guard took me to the desk guard.

    The desk guard walked me to the office.

    There, the office guard interrogated me (but with unheard-of warmth . . . not kidding.  Ozzie immigration folk are stunningly friendly and fair.)


    The truth is, I’d moved to Australia, March 1st

    But I’d been flying beyond its borders every month, too.

    I was home in Oz (Australia) for 4 weeks, gone teaching in the US and Asia for 4 weeks, back in Oz again, etc.

    But, in spirit, I was “living” in Australia, and to “live” in in the country on a tourist visa is A Terrible Wrong.

    I’d found a tiny town in the middle of nowhere where I was terrifically happy. I abided by my 60-day stay limit, but my visa status clearly forbade me from the onerous act of  “living” in The Lucky Country.

    I was also teaching a bit of yoga on the side—another clear abrogation of my stay status.


    Back in the Horrible Now, I sat stunned as the office gendarme carefully laid out a case for my work violations—using emails and internet ads that showed my labors littered across the web. (Terrific investigative work!)  They offered me cups of tea and gave me formal opportunities for contradictions.

    Imperfect yogi that I am, I prayed madly to the gods while offering these guardians of Aussie’s galaxy a rash of half-truths (“the classes were unpaid!”)–which they initiallly believed.

    But I’d been nailed.

    Frantic prayers and white lies weren’t slowing this juggernaut.


    As I resigned myself to my fate, they collected two other new-made convicts and me, put high-visibility vests on us, and stacked us in a van.

    We were shuttled to a nearby locked facility that held people from Chad, Saudi Arabia, Germany and elsewhere—and treated us like honored guests the whole way.

    Aussie Immigration 1

    “Fly you back to America, Mate?” they asked.

    “America doesn’t interest me anymore,” I said, sleepily quoting a friend who’d left permanently for India.

    “Make it Bali,” I added.

    I know.  I’m ungrateful.

    But I had an appointment in Shanghai 21 days hence and zero desire to zip back to the States.

    Oz was my preferred home.

    But Bali was a good back-up!


    They said a flight would come available in 1-3 days.


    This was a flight perk.

    A chance to fulfill the fantasy of prison!

    A yogi by trade, sitting down and doing nothing seemed pretty cool to me.

    But prison life isn’t all meditating and behaving monkish, dear Grasshopper.

    Its own work, play and emotional processing will fill your days.


    After collapsing onto my dorm-bed out of existential angst for an hour or two, I rose to wander the compound and direct myself to the business of yoga book study, notifying the people in West Australia that I wasn’t on my way, and weeping over the loss of an Aussie woman I can’t seem to forget.

    Cricket: I don’t get it.

    In my grief, I watched movies and played poker and cricket (yes, cricket!) with the boys.

    I traded stories with the infinitely decent guards and my somewhat neurotic fellow prisoners-–some of whom had been there 10 years.

    Most—even the German couple gathered from the same Jetstar flight (and who left before me)—busied themselves with bitter complaints.

    But I’ve dealt with immigration officials in lots of places and have seen how evil they can be and—till now—always were.

    I knew I’d landed in a golden cage.

    They provided a weekly emolument of 25 Australian dollars to waste at the commissary (DVDS! Chocolate bars! Socks!) and heaps of things to do.

    Maybe because I knew I’d get out before a decade passed, it all seemed delightfully new and intriguing.

    Still, as the savants say, “All things must pass.”

    At 4am on the third day, they woke me—saying they had a flight.

    Visa Passport Picture Duo

    The exit papers took 20 minutes.

    I grabbed my bags from lock-up.

    I showered.  I shaved. I donned fresh underpants.  Surely . . .  nothing can stop me now! 


    Two guards threw me in a mom-and-pop Ford, and took me to Perth International.

    I was kept in the car while they secured my ticket and checked my bags.

    They then drove me—across the tarmac!—to my gate.

    We bought pineapple juices there and plopped down—and began to gab.

    I looked at the rash of travelers waiting for planes.

    For a second, I felt shame.

    Then I thought:  no-one knows if these guys have a detainee or a diplomat on their hands.

    So I sat up–andPhoneCallDonAdams conjured the posture of a well-loved rockstar, a spy stalked from Kiev, or a CEO whose drawers were knit from gold.

    I just relaxed into it.

    . . . and I learned that my lock-keys were pretty sweet dudes.


    They told tales about their families and cultures. (Most Aussies I meet on my travels are immigrants.)

    One came from Pakistan.

    His mom had recently died back home.

    He felt his time in Oz was coming to a close.

    “In Pakistan, there is food waiting for me to eat,” he said.

    “Uh, what?” I answered.

    Then he patiently explained that nomadic Muslim culture says people travel only because fate draws them to eat food waiting for them where they arrive.

    I was touched.

    Work stories came.

    They told me how they’d flown deportees to Nigeria, Myanmar, and Paris—where they’d always arranged to stay a few extra days for French cuisine.

    I gave them stories of poking around Mongolia, Korea and north India—eating dogmeat, bugs and heart-rendingly good desserts.


    We spent an hour with this sweet talk.  

    Then, a two-guy-size Maori tribesman showed up-–bald, tattoo-sheathed, and sporting opinions like Archie Bunker–-to relieve my companeros of their 6am shift.

    They stalked off.

    I looked after them, forlorn.

    We’d bonded.

    I pushed past the Maori’s opinions to get to know him too, but time was short.

    A drop-dead gorgeous groundstaff girl was given my passport as we bused out to the plane.  I made conversation with her, but—paradoxically—she hated flying and travel.

    I couldn’t figure out what else to say.

    Mr. Maori escorted me up the stairs to the plane-door.

    He handed my body, passport and phone to the flight attendants.

    I fist-pounded him goodbye, then pivoted to the plane.


    Hullo Jestar!

    I strolled past the expectant eyes of my law-abiding fellow-passengers.

    It was the first, sad moment of my three-year banishment from Oz, but I glided smilingly to the last row—like a French king to the guillotine. Jetstar

    Despite the grim occasion, the ecstasy of air travel that keeps me a complaisant wayfarer began searching toward my bones.

    In no time at all, I was entranced by the burly efficiency of the baggage-haulers outside my window.

    Then, I looked back to the cabin.

    The flight was shaping up like the usual Aussie affair: everybody on board appears the picture of ill-health and happy as sin.

    As the seat-belt light blinked off, they stood, talked garrulously, and generously purchased pasta, sandwiches, and beer. (Hey! It’s JetStar! Nothing’s free!)

    “Go ahead and party,” I thought.

    I was feeling distant in my new criminal persona, and my no-cost flight had fortuitously gifted me 3 free seats.

    I stretched out to sleep.

    Three-odd hours of flying dissolved in a dream.

    I woke to the steady tones of a pilot gargling weather stats on the P.A.

    The landing was rough, and I wondered if my supercheap airline couldn’t filch for computers, and actually made the champ with the challenged speaking skills land the plane!

    I let go an emotional exhale as we taxied.

    On to the next chapter!


    In Denpasar, the attendantspink handed me to a smokin’ hot stewardess in a radiant pink company dress, accessorized with dashing black heels.

    We marched happily through the concourse.

    I felt like I could hold her hand.

    Exhausted by my dreams of global romance, I had the overpowering urge to ask her to marry me, join my Americaness, and retreat at my side to Dust-Thick Nowhere, New Mexico.

    But I elbowed the thought away with notions of the ominous logistical and cross-cultural details, and-–despite small talk-–kept my co-habitational hopes close to my chest.

    Two bright-eyed, slightly puzzled, young male attendants joined us, and we paraded past mobs of eager tourists snaking in infinite lines toward their face-to-face with Indonesian immigration.

    My I.D. was taken into a windowless room, then quickly brought out.

    My consorts led me to the staggeringly-skylit international lobby.

    The pink beauty passed passport and phone into my hands like holy relics.

    I got a last, mute smile from my loving boy-guards, then walked to the light and the trees of the dus passebarkation area.

    I broke the calm—phoning my default driver to wheel me the neighborhood of my friends—and a meal.

    Bali’s thrillingly-warm air received me.

    I blinked.

    I was free.






  • 10 Responses to "Bad American! Eric is Booted Back to Bali, BLOG OCTOBER 2015"

    1. David schlussel October 29, 2015 08:08 am

      Great story Eric. Miss you over here.

    2. tan kheng hua October 29, 2015 08:42 am

      Hi Eric. This article is too funny. I hope you find your Wizard to Oz soon 🙂 Take care, teacher. This ex-student of your will soon have one more certificate,
      But none the wiser.
      xoxo kheng

    3. Eric Knouse October 29, 2015 10:49 am

      Wow! I had no idea you could write so well.

      I am glad you are safe… resting.

      I really appreciate how you managed your emotions through all of this… you are an inspiration to me.


    4. Lori November 13, 2015 08:17 am

      Even tho you are a bad-assed Yogi who has obviously developed some of those unwanted superpowers (the baddest being your boyish charm) I would implore you not to continue to waste them on flaunting international law…. Your talents are needed elsewhere!

    5. Mary November 13, 2015 10:43 am

      Hilarious, how board must our immigration officers be to target you! Or is there a jealous yoga teacher lurking in the backwaters of Denmark!?!? Were you dobbed in?

    6. Lis Addison November 13, 2015 13:07 pm

      Engaging article, Eric, and thoroughly entertaining! I think you’ve found your true calling. Keep writing these travel anecdotes from around the world! I’d read a blog such as this.

    7. Yoga Boobs November 13, 2015 14:09 pm

      I like you’re writing. Sad to hear you cannot homestead in Australia, especially if it was one of your dreams. Plot a new course…Namaste

    8. Nancy Muñoz November 19, 2015 13:17 pm

      You belong to the world anyway.

    9. Mike Ashe November 19, 2015 15:09 pm

      What a story Eric! Wow. It makes me wonder what happened to all your belongings in Australia??

    10. Eric Shaw November 19, 2015 23:31 pm

      Hey Everyone, Thanks for your reflections and kind words here. Yeah, Nancy, I do feel like I belong to the world and Mike–Yeah, i wonder what will happen to my Australia stuff. Maybe it belongs to the world now, too.

    Leave your response

Share This