Saturday, December 10, 2011

I finally caved and bought a fanny pack...

if you're avid and intent on finding out what I've been up to for the past month (which probably means you're putting off doing something more important) I suggest you get up, go make a cup of coffee, or pour yourself a glass of wine. a lot of things happen in a day, let alone a month so settle on in and get cozy cause this is a looong one.

last time I wrote i was preparing to spend the next four weeks at Jiwa Damai, the retreat center. Well, we stayed for a week.  The place was absolutely beautiful, two buildings, surrounded by Venetian water ways and with fish and lily pads in the water.  It is situated in a sort of valley (ditch) and the trees and flowers around it are gorgeous.  On the property there is a whole grove of coconut trees, and they produce their own pure extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil and delicious sweet coconut water.  Our impression of what life would be like staying there was that it would be stress-free, relaxing, a quiet haven, an opportunity to work side by side with and really get to know some Balinese people in a community based farming experience. well, it was certainly quiet and relaxing... almost too much so. As for the farming.... it was really a hotel
with a garden, not so much a farm.  And as we were in Bali during the lower season, there were zero guests staying there, so it was just Sarah, Margret ( the owner) and me... everyday. The other employees were fantastic, we just didn't have the interactions we had anticipated, seeing as if we ever even worked in the garden, we just weeded.

That being said, I'm so glad I got to go to Jiwa Damai, even if it wasn't what I had anticipated.  Margret is a psychologist with some very interesting philosophies and works and talking to her was eye-opening on a lot of levels.  Staying there we were also able to practice meditation and yoga for an hour in the mornings after sweeping all the tokay (super awesome balinese gecko) droppings off the floor.  Everything is open air (much like the rest of Bali) and so starting our day with yoga in the sunshine felt great.  Yoga was always followed by breakfast, which could be banana pancakes, eggs, or Nasi goreng. All of which are delicious. Astri and Made (maa-day) are the kitchen queens. They cook the most fanastical indonesian food. it's unreal. we would have fresh salads with lettuce, basil, tomatoes, beets, carrots and radishes... all picked from the garden.  sometimes a fresh blended nothing added tomato juice to accompany it. Matter of fact we had a bit of a tomato overload because all six million plants they had started ripening at the same time. tomato salad, tomato juice, tomato coated sweet tofu (so good), tomato sauce, tomatoes in soup, tomatoes in noodles, sambal (homemade spicy tomato sauce).

Aside from the mentioned tomato frenzy, nothing to complain about food wise, unless you can complain that we were given too much.  We had a very sort of set schedule at Jiwa Damai. Get up at 630. Sweep. Yoga/meditation at 8. Breakfast at 9. Work doing various things such as weeding or administrative work or picking ripe veggies or prepping lunch/ dinner if neither Astri nor Made is there until lunch at 1230. At 1 start working again, doing other various things amongst those which I previously mentioned and finish working around 4. Then it was reading and writing and showering time. Freezing cold showers, I might add. Then dinner at 630.  lather, rinse, repeat, you know?

I ended up doing loads of work for Margret with her Mac products.  (Dave Link aren't you proud?) she had just invested in an ipad2 and has an iPhone and a new macbook pro, having switched from some lame PC.  Basically I just helped her with shortcuts, and syncing things and installing iCloud and the latest software stuff. we had a blast cause I just hung out in her pristine house that only contained the colors white and turquoise. seriously though only white and turquoise everything. she told me stories of her travels and her life and it was fascinating, aside from her three sort of terrifying Balinese street dogs that are pseudo-domesticated. that is to say, they only like and listen to Margret and they will bark at you for twenty minutes and follow you at your heels until she calls them off. I was supposed to play it cool and ignore them or something but i was secretly terrified they would attack at any time.

our first night at jiwa damai we were in our second earthquake since having been in Bali. figures. we were in bed and then we both felt this weird sensation and were did you feel that? so that was an interesting welcome hahah but it was a super
minor quake and all was well. the rest of the days were just your typical monsoon season in Bali. it didn't help that we were in this ditch at the bottom of a village... literally the rainwater was just overflowing everywhere and pouring down the steps and splashing onto the walk ways surrounding the buildings.  as shoe-wearing is extremely un-common in Bali (sound familiar vt?) everything just ended up covered in muddy barefoot prints because in order to get from
the kitchen side to the sleeping side you had to go outside and walk around the canals surrounding the buildings. a coconut tree fell down after one on said storms and narrowly missed the lumbung that we very luckily opted not to make into our sleeping space for our stint at jiwa damai.

so, as youve likely gathered, jiwa damai mostly consisted of great food, a lot of sweeping, scary dogs, and rain. oh and michael jackson. ( we spent one night eating pisang goreng -- fried bananas -- and watching this is it with margret).  

good for us (and for her) margret had a clause in her letter to volunteers through wwoofing/workaway that gave both parties the ability to change the plan after one week. margret expressed that she would like us to stay and continue working with her, but we gracefully declined and explained that we were frankly just lonely and not doing what we might have expected it to be and she took it very well and was very understanding. as it turns out i ended up working for margret, editing and putting together a manuscript of hers to get it ready for publication. she exoressed interest in hiring me again for some article editing jobs while
I'm on the road. great way to make
some extra cash while I'm
spending it. we finished up our week there and made our way back into ubud. it was definitely a change to head from the land of bed at 930 to the land of bed at 330 am, but it just ended up solidifying how much I love ubud. the place feels like home. 

our first night back there we went to CP lounge, the late night hang out spot we later found out, to meet up with our friend gusti. Our soon to be great friends Aboe and Keduk's band was playing and we just had so much fun dancing the night away and meeting people and finally being social again. the first couple nights back we stayed in this cute homestay with an open air bathroom and great breakfast. only catch -- no sink. well...such is Bali.

we told gusti about our housing situation after we had decide to stay in ubud for two more weeks, and he was able to find us this awesome house out in the rice paddies. yes. I said house. we had one huge bedroom with two beds (although one of the beds was mostly just a slab of wood so we shared the other one), a big bathroom with a tub and hot water (only for the first two days), a huge furniture-less living room, and a kitchen! the kitchen consisted of a lovely table, a mini fridge, a sink, and two burners. we had two pans, a small frying pan and a wok. I'm pretty sure I can now make anything at all in a wok. that's how we made coffee, tea, thanksgiving dinner, and everything else. oh and we also had a gated in yard and a huge front porch. all this for $17 a night, divided by two. not too shabby, eh? gusti also hooked us up with a motorbike rental for under $3 a day, and taught us how to drive it. I'm probably never going to drive a car again. we lived about 4 km outside of downtown ubud so it was necessary, especially when coming home in the wee hours of the morning when the crazy Balinese dogs are all prowling around.  so pretty much we were living the life. gusti saved the day, to no one's surprise.

ubud really became home. we knew where to go for everything, and people who worked everywhere and it felt like being in Burlington or something. except way warmer. we made some great friends. Manja and Gildor are from Holland but live in France and we ended up spending a whole lot of time with them. they have come to Bali on holiday many times before, so they had a lot of good insight and were great to be with. they were staying at a friends place in campuan (western side of ubud) in an adorable villa type place also among some rice paddies, and right behind the Bintang supermarket. we had some very delicious lunch there that the lady who cleans for them cooked especially for us all. a very traditional Balinese meal of tempeh manis, coconut tempeh and veggies, spinach, bergedel, mie goreng and fresh mango juice. yum. all made with coconut oil. it was one of those meals where you want to keep eating and keep eating because the tastes are so good, but you're afraid you might burst at any given moment. we had to all sit around lazily looking at photos for a while afterwards.

earlier that week Sarah and I decided to finally conquer Mt batur for the sunrise hike, a volcano just an hour north of ubud. we went through this travel booking guy who wanted to charge us something like IR 550,000 each which is ridiculous, but we got it down to 300,000 each, so like $30 each and it included transportation to and from as well as breakfast on top of the mountain while watching the sun rise.  we got picked up at 3 am. awesome. especially cause the night before we decided to go to our favorite cafe that had Internet, cafe seniman, and have espresso at like 7 pm.... I don't think either of us slept more than an hour or something horrid before our alarms went blasting at 230. we had two other people with us for the hike, two French cousins who had just been in Australia for a while. it was great to have some other people to complain with about the ungodly hour, especially because that was normally our bed time.  the long and extraordinarily bumpy and winding car ride did not allow for sleeping unfortunately. we started off our hike with our guide Nyoman at about 430. pitch black, never been there before, only a headlamp apiece, crossing roads, lots of loose rocks, rogue motorbikes, you know, the usual.  we knew it was not a terribly long or difficult hike, but any hike at 4 am when you haven't slept much or hiked in a while is a challenge. we made it up in great time though, able to look down below us on the trail and see the huge group tours looking like a huge group of fireflies all swarming together in the night. lucky we started before them.  and my god, I have never seen the stars like that before. there was absolutely zero light pollution and so you could see stars forever. it looked like you could reach out and touch them. there is a lake at the base of Mt batur and with the moon and stars shining off of it, from hundreds of feet above, it was the most incredible view.  by the time we made it to the top, it couldn't have been better. the sky was just beginning to lighten up so we got to see the whole sunrise with a steaming cup of kopi bali in hand. the sun is so red and huge, and it outlined the adjacent mountains beautifully. during the sunrise Nyoman, having done this hike over a thousand times, had made his way to one of the warungs (small restaurant, or in this case, a kitchen) conveniently located on top of the mountain. breakfast was served. fried banana sandwiches and hardboiled eggs. not too bad for a mountaintop meal. we had this great spot on a ledge above the rest of the giant tour groups who had just finished their ascent, so we could watch the monkeys running around trying to steal breakfasts, and the steaming fissures from the craters.  there is one cone that is still active on Mt batur, but it hasn't erupted since 1996.  Nyoman told us that we were an exceptional team so he would please like to take us on an extended hike, over to the more active part and more craters and fissures.  it was so great, we extended our hike by almost two hours, walking around the summit to other neat places. we got to listen to the volcanic rocks crackling in our ears. they sound like pop rocks in your mouth. I may have collected a few. we also got to feel how seriously hot the steam coming from all the fissures is, it's wild. you can literally fry eggs over them. it was getting super hot by the time we started the downward climb.  for a portion of it we got to "ski" down in the volcanic sand. my shoes got totally filled with sand, but it was worth it. you just feel like you're not even on the ground but in some mysterious snow drift in the middle of the sky. by the time we got to the bottom we were all exhausted but happy; feeling proud of ourselves for managing to hike a volcano at 4 am.  we all sort of crashed in the car and made it back to ubud by 10 or 1030.

that night we met Manja and Gil and our other good friend Steph at a restaurant in Campuan where Sarah Gil and Steph got the smoked duck with lawar and Manja and I both got the Nasi campur there. it was reeeal good Nasi campur... but the best was still in Padang Bai. it was a lovely evening of conversation and food and then we made our way to Napi Orti to see Aboe and Keduk's band play.  

One night chatting with Aboe we ended up talking about music for a while and I showed him some pictures of dr ruckus and other project I've been involved in.  His band is apparently one of probably five good ones in all of Bali... they play mainly American cover songs (the far preferred genre in general..) He decided that I would sing with them
next time, and sure enough they were playing at Napi again a couple days later and he had no shame in announcing my arrival and calling me up to sing.  this was the beginning of something that came to define our time  in ubud. from that day on, I sang with them at every gig they had, even traveling to the southwestern beautiful coast.  at first it was oh sing two songs, then it was oh sing four, oh now five, ok now just sing every song in our books that you can. it got to the point where I was singing doors songs with a Latin feel because that was "my style" according to the band hahah. these guys became really wonderful friends. Keduk and Aboe are cousins and we got to know them the best by far. I can't even explain how badly I want to unleash them on New York City and see what happens. it's a bummer because neither of them have ever left indonesia because it's just so ridiculously expensive. Keduk just rips on guitar and plays the blues like nobody's business. Harrison I just really want to see you and him have a super shred battle because you would both have a ball.  Aboe has this deep gravely voice, giving Jonny cash a run for his money, and plays the doors like there's nothing else in the world worth listening to.  The bass player is absolutely incredible. I don't know how to spell his name but it begins with a k.   Also the percussion box is all they use and the player has a fantastic ability to sing perfect harmonies without knowing anything about the lyrics. it's really quite impressive.  I played with them at CP lounge a lot, Napi Orti a lot, bamboo bar once, and el cabron in padang padang twice.  

CP lounge is owned by Dewa (uncle d) and he's awesome. He is another cousin of Aboe and Keduk. this is the late night hang out in ubud. we would always go there after being at Napi Orti  and there were people there until anywhere around 5 am most nights.  there's an enclosed bit where the live music happens and because its closed in, unlike everything else, so the music can be played way later.  there's a big outside area where people can order food, or lounge on comfy cushions. we spent a lot of time in the comfy cushion area. There's also a pool table inside and lots of crazy lights reminiscent of club metronome, and between sets they usually played really  great hits such as the whisper song, and lean back as loud as possible. awesome. there was a definite crew of regulars at both Napi Orti and CP and so we made some really lovely friends.   

one saturday, pre-CP show we drove down to Padang Padang with the band and Manja and Gil to this cliff side bar called el cabron. it was about two hours drive through trafficy Denpasar and Kuta.  long and hot with seven of us in Aboe's sister's van with all of their gear...  this place was absolutely stunning. it has this infinity pool that makes it look like you can swim off the edge of a cliff into the waiting gorgeous   warm ocean.  The sunset was impossible to describe. Sarah and Manja and Gil and I made camp on some comfy bean bag chairs and enjoyed the show and the night.  I ended up singing for an hour or so. its this super swanky fancy bar/ lounge and it's the opposite of rowdy so it was a very laid back set.  Aboe has these books full of songs with their lyrics printed out so we just went from one to the next. there was a fair amount of people there who seemed to be enjoying themselves but it was hard to tell, actually. it sort of felt like a gig at an art gallery opening or something where no matter how loud and awesome the music is, it's just for the background.  we had to then hightail it back to ubud for the gig at CP at 11. we had a very healthy curbside Indomaret dinner of cup o noodles and granola bars. we tried to share with blackie, the only nice street dog in ubud, but he had no interest in noodles. 

being back in ubud was so easy to just live a normal life, doing day to day things and whatnot. we did manage to make it to another traditional dance called the legong and barong dance. it's entirely accompanied by gamelan and there are somewhere between twenty and thirty musicians, mostly playing gamelan, but a select few playing gongs or a flute. the music is so so beautiful, I miss hearing it all day everyday pretty much anywhere you go . anytime there is a ceremony (which is most of the time) there is gamelan music involved. it can be trance inducing or dance inducing. the costumes are so bright and beautiful and comprised of sarongs and scarves and headdresses and lots of makeup.  we saw the dance at the royal palace and we had front row seats, good for viewing, not so good for being accosted by women with buckets of refreshments for sale on their heads. post dance we went up the street to visit our friend Malik. he is a mind-blowingly talented artist and he works only with pen.  he does canvases that are approximately 2.5 ft by 5 ft, and they mostly feature rice fields and banyan trees. he is blind in one eye from playing badminton (his favorite sport), but the detail in his work
is impeccable. his big pieces go for over 5 grand in Singapore.

we got really really good at bartering in ubud. Chinese women are telling me im a business woman cause I wont buy anything for the prices they come up with.  we made this awesome friend in the upstairs bit of the ubud market (which is huge, ps). our first time buying stuff from her we got the "Barack Obama special discount" which turns out to be very similar to the "morning discount" and the "after lunch discount" and the "good luck discount".... Obama happened to be in Bali in Nusa Dua for a conference while we were there which was super ironic but gave us great excuses for getting stuff for cheap... we would barter with this woman who was all smiles and laughs and she would give us great deals and scoff at the ridiculously low prices we offered for everything. but we were super loyal to her and kept going back and so she hooked us up big time. 

our last night in ubud was a night out at Napi orti with manja, gil, steph, aboe, keduk, wira and loads of other cool cats followed by the rest of the night lounging at CP. nothin too suprising. except that when we tried to leave, we ran out of gas in our motorbike in the middle of jalan monkey forest hahah. sooooo I called aboe since we are serious freshmen when it comes to all things motorbikes and he sent Wira right along to first attempt to push our bike with his foot while he was on his motorbike with me driving ours and Sarah on the back of his. needless to say, that was a disaster. so he literally ran ours over to the circle k (convenience store) for safe overnight parking and then we all piled onto his bike and he got us home safe and sound.

when we got up the next am (after a very fulfilling three hours of sleep) we had to make our way into town to find a place with petrol who would take it to our bike at circle k so we could drive back home and return it to the owner.  it was a bit of a fiasco, and I got ripped off for pulsa (phone credit) accidentally by the nice guy who sold us the gas, but we had a good excuse to go into Bali Buddha and buy some delicious pastries for the upcoming days at the beach in Kuta. on the way home we stopped at this woman's house in our village where we had dropped off dresses we got at the market for hemming. she's really great and does it in a day and for $.50 apiece! we had our favorite driver, dharma, pick us up for the journey to Pura Tanah Lot (touristy temple on an island off the west coast) and then on to Kuta. we both sort of crashed on the drive there and woke up super groggy and emerged into the million degree heat and blaring sun to take pictures of this temple that was cool, but not as exciting as was hyped up to be. it's on this little island about 50 m from shore, but you can't go over to it so theres actually not too much to see/ do. we had this really odd experience where two other tourists came up to us and their tour guide (which you don't really ever need one of in bali) informed us that they would like to have their picture taken with us. mind you, we are running on no sleep, looking like hell, and I forgot my sunglasses in the car. so we just let it happen because it's just a picture, right? well, sort of. they had us stand on either side of them
and then they grabbed our hands and linked fingers. I can't say I've ever had a complete stranger hold hands with me for a picture in front of a temple ever before... so that was odd. then we left. 

arriving in Kuta after living in ubud was shocking. there are bathing suit clad intoxicated foreigners everywhere at any given time of day or night.  we were staying on this road called poppies 1, which is barely the width or a car, and exploding with market shops, selling stuff to idiot tourists for 400x the worth. Manja and Gil
had recommended the place. it was dirty and dimly lit and the bathroom was horrid (no sink again), but it was dirt cheap and removed enough (not that you can actually ever be removed in Kuta) that you could sleep at night. there were two beds in our room: one larger than a king size, but hard as a rock, and one twin sized more
soft bed that smelled like urine. take your pick. at least it was under five
minutes walk from the beautiful
beach....  so we spent as little time
in there as possible. we barely had time to arrive and for me to
go get a cup of coffee before aboe was calling to tell us he would pick us up in thirty minutes because we were playing in Padang padang again that night.  this time aboe had to play percussion because we were down a
man, so I sang the whole gig. three hours I think. the weather was less
promising this time, and the crowds were essentially non existent... but we had a really good time actually. we just messed around and tried things out, and butchered songs and nailed songs and overall players around. Sarah sang some songs too so that was really great.  on the way home we got some super delicious local food at a warung on the side of the road. Sarah and I split mie goreng for under a dollar. mmm. 

that night I had an extraordinarily interesting experience. I swear sometimes my life could be a movie. sarah was feeling a bit under the weather so she didn't venture out to brave the land of drunk australian schoolies and music so loud your head hurts. aboe decided we should go check out this club called bounty because his friend was playing there. so we had to weave our way in through the throngs of teenage boys with no shirts on and the girls in jean shorts in bathing suit tops. there was a cover charge at the door, but only for guys. Aboe didn't have to pay because he talked to the door guy in Balinese and was probably one of ten non aussie guys there hahah. so we walk in to find fifteen people on stage yelling the lyrics to summer of 69  very poorly while the musicians looked bored as all hell. every one was running around and dancing and it was bright as day inside. every person was drinking out of this opaque sports water bottle (idiot/break proof) and inside was this gross mix of sugary booze and juice. the keys player sent one over to Aboe and I tried it, it begs for a hangover.  the way the music worked was like accompanied karaoke by request. there were these huge huge books of songs. yet, somehow, they played summer of 69 SIX times while we were there.... with some eye of the tiger and don't stop believing mixed in. the poor musicians.  kids were hanging off of rafters and throwing water bottles and dancing on tables. I've quite honestly never seen anything like it. ever. it felt like we were in a movie, just sitting at the bar drinking a beer watching the chaos surrounding us. I don't ever want to go back there. 

the next two days in Kuta were spent lounging on the beach being solicited by women and men trying to sell us everything. ohhhh we missed the beach so bad.and the beautiful red sunsets over the ocean.  we ventured out for one last night out at a terrible club, much resembling the one previously described. at least we only had to buy ourselves one beer. Manja and Gil came to Kuta for our last night and we had delicious dinner and walked around doing some market shopping.  we had a flight at 10 the next morning so we got up at the god awful hour of six am.  

next chapter: hong kong and china. and our Balinese thanksgiving which I forgot to write about. 

1 comment:

  1. Hello. Thank you for your blog !!! We are going to woof in Bali in two months and we want to contact Margret. We are psychologists and woof in her garden can be a wonderful experience. The problem is that we cant find her contact, even now that we suscribe in independent woofing. Can you give me this contact ? It will be wonderful. Thank you very much.