Catching up and Heading out!

Amazing!

The sky just after our volleyball game

Traditional Balinese dancers and I

I wore fresh flowers in my hair almost every day

The face of Bali - gritty and beautiful

Day 114: Saturday, November 21st

Today marked our last day in Bali. Sadness. I love this place. I have been to Hawaii two times before, and I would have to say, that given the option of going to either one agian, it would have to be Bali. There is something gritty and raw about Bali that the cosmopolitan Hawaii doesn’t have. Here things are what they are – no make-up to hide the blemishes. And that’s what is so endearing: its honesty. What you see is what you get. The friendliness of the people here inspires friendliness in me. Their laid-back approach to life accepts whatever storm they must weather. They do it with ease. They do it with grace. They are happy with what they have, and they ask for no more. I could get used to this. I would like to get used to it, but it might be a little difficult to accomplish back in D-town. The compass seems to lose true North more easily in the Big City.

I spent most of the day catching up on my journal: typing the entries and posting the pictures. A day passes so quickly lately, too quickly. It’s a real challenge to keep up. But I know that this journal will be very important to me. I haven’t written everything that I have thought or felt, but little cues between the lines will remind me of what it was that I valued in the moment.

So I felt the call one last time. I needed one more visit to the $6.00 Salon. I had to pay my final respects to the single greatest place of all time! This time I went for broke (via another treat from Dannie): a $6.00 hour massage and a $9.00 pedicure and manicure combo! Whoa! Slow down there! I know. I know! The decadence of it all! Ha! Ha! I am really going to miss my little diamond in the rough. I will never find such deals on pampering again. Oh well, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy it while it lasted! I suppose that I will have to rough it from now on.

Finally, the evening hours were upon us. And after High Tea and Happy Hour, we sauntered down to the beach to watch a fireworks display on the beach. A wedding was taking place, and we were guests by proxy! I didn’t toast the happy couple, and I didn’t get my signature dance, but I did enjoy the fireworks just yards away from the official celebration, and that was plenty good for me! Indeed, it was the perfect ending to our time in Bali. Truly, we went out with a bang!

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Published in: on December 2, 2009 at 9:50 am  Comments (1)  

Bali by Bicycle!

Local children we passed along the way

School children from a local village

One of the many beautiful rice fields that we passed

At the elephant park with a few months old baby

One of the most beautiful trees that I have ever seen

Day 113: Friday, November 20th

The morning came early today. And that was just fine with me. On the agenda for today was a bicycle ride through Bali! At first I was a little nervous. It is both hot and humid here during the burning hours of the day; PLUS, I do not know what kind of shape I am in for long distance biking. Pathetic, I know. Trust me, I plan on working on that one upon my return to the good ol’ US of A. But for now, I wasn’t feeling super-confident!

A van came to pick us up, and we drove the hour and a half to our beginning destination. Up and up and up we wound through the mountains until we reached the summit of one of them. What a view! In the near distance was a glorious looming active volcano. It was absolutely gorgeous to gaze upon. From the other three sides we were afforded a beautiful view of the hills all around us. My excitement regarding this little excursion was mounting by the second. Dan and I grabbed a cup of coffee made from the very same beans grown on the volcano in front of us. I downed the ridiculously strong coffee, grew some hair on my chest as a result, strapped on my helmet, slipped my water bottle in place, mounted my seat, and was ready for action. Bring it ON!

I quickly figured out that this was not going to be as hard as I once thought. All that would be required of me was a strong left hand – necessary to hold that rear brake in place for the ten-mile downhill ride! What a piece of cake! Add to that, the fact that God was most merciful on us regarding the weather. The clouds graciously shielded us from the searing heat of that sun on steroids! Our rapid pace created the loveliest and most refreshing of breezes. This was – hands down – the best bike ride that I have ever experienced. We glided down the hill as though we were coasting on ice. I shifted my eyes left and right, trying to absorb as much of the local color as possible. The countryside of Bali is surreal. Locals waved and called out to us from every side, their beautiful smiles bursting with sincerity and good will. Little shops, one after the other, lined the road. These Balinese may be simple folk, but don’t let that fool you! They are quite skilled. I mentally decorated my entire house on that ride! My eyes grew exponentially as they saw the gorgeous hand-carved furniture and statues. I knew exactly where I would place that stone statue in my garden, and which exotic plants would grow around it! That glass mosaic platter would be lovely in the kitchen. Oh! And that one would be beautiful in the guest bathroom! Wouldn’t some lovely linen curtains be beautiful around that canopy bed? Trust me on this one. The little house in my head was cozy, comfortable, and gorgeous! If only… If only…

Our guide finally made our first stop – the first of many local villages that continues to live as it always has. We parked our bikes and took a look around. Wow! Talk about simplicity. All of the little houses, or should I say “huts” were single-roomed and measured about 12’X12’ at the most! We walked between the rows of living quarters and gazed directly into the houses from the “streets.” No glass in the windows. Some didn’t even have doors. Almost everybody was gone! It was explained to us that the children were all in school, and the adults were all in the fields. Amazing! No cars. No roads. No privacy! Our guide began to narrate more of their traditions. Interestingly enough, when the village teenagers reach sixteen years of age, both the girls and boys go into the jungle by themselves for seven days, during which time they pick their spouses. Both the boy and the girl have to agree to the match. If you are not picked or accepted by the other party, you simply return the next year and try your luck again! Well, SIGN ME UP! What a great idea! I would be more than willing to give this a go, and I told our guide to expect me again in February, when this mating game is next scheduled. You never know – it could work. OH! And I almost forgot about this very bizarre tradition. Upon leaving the village, we passed through a heavily treed area, in which coconuts were hanging everywhere by ropes. We were told that – are you ready for this one? No, really, are you sure? Okay, don’t say that I didn’t warn you! When a baby is born in the village, its placenta is stuffed inside a coconut and hung from a tree branch – where it STAYS! This is to remind all the villagers (if they are ever tempted to leave), that this is their home, and that they should stay where their roots are! Ughh! It was so creepy! Their placentas in all of those coconuts. I sped through that forest as I quickly as I could pedal. My skin was alive with repulsion.

We stopped at other little villages and spoke with any locals that we could. In addition to that, we stopped and visited a primary school. The students ran from their little classrooms and came to greet us! They couldn’t have been cuter or friendlier. They said “hello” to us until the cows came home. I took pictures of them, and then showed them my camera. They were delighted and surprised to see the images of themselves. Some were shocked. Others were amused, but all of them were delighted. We made our goodbyes and carried on. At several points along the way, our guide pointed out all the various crops being raised: cocoa beans, coffee beans, ginger, cumin, peppers, sugar cane, cinnamon trees, etc. There is absolutely nothing that won’t grow here. My mouth was salivating at the thought of what kind of garden I could actually have here. It would truly be a wonder to behold.

Finally, we made it to the end of our ten-mile journey. Our tour ended at an Elephant Sanctuary. We turned in our bikes and hit the trails in search of the mighty, but gentle beasts. The children and I oohed and ahhed over the three babies, who were only a few months old. I had never seen such small elephants. They were positively adorable – and terribly friendly! Dan was trying to get pictures of all of us next to the adult elephants in the water. Now remember, I love nature, but I do not like when it gets too near me! I squatted down on the ground to take a quick picture, but the elephants smelled the banana bread that I was still chewing, and out of nowhere, I was surrounded by four sniffing trunks – right in my face! I panicked and screamed! No one could understand my fear, because everyone else thought that the “up close and personal” experience was ideal. I tried to make sure that all the banana bread residue was gone and ran in for a quick picture. As I knelt down next to one elephant, the one next to it wrapped its trunk completely around my head! I just knew that I was a goner! I leapt from my place and ran away! Dan got a picture midstream, but it made me look maniacal in my state of panic, so don’t ask to see it, because it has been mercifully deleted!

I will end on this note. If the reader of this journal entry ever visits Bali, this day of bicycling is a MUST! Today will be remembered as another one of my favorites on the trip.

Published in: on December 2, 2009 at 9:37 am  Comments (1)  

More Monkey Business!

Where the sun never sets on beauty

The picture says it all

The island's active volcano

Poised and ready to ride!

Local villagers encountered on my bike ride

Day 112: Thursday, November 19th

Ahh… Another beautiful day in breathtaking Bali! After the usual morning studies, the family wanted to go bike-riding along the beach. And as tempting as that sounded, I was feeling the need to go visit what I have named the Sugar Shacks – those ever delightful little stands situated on the beachfront that sell everything you can possibly imagine for next to nothing. I went to one of the furthest ones first and ended up getting a bracelet and necklace. The two men in the shop wanted to talk about, of all things – Julia Roberts. Apparently, about a month ago she left Bali, having spent a good two months there filming her next movie. The locals here are quite enamored with her. It was quite adorable to hear them talk about dear Julia and their attempts to get a glimpse of her, let alone actually talk with her. Next I visited the shack next door and bought the belt for Tori. I must have tried on a billion dresses, but settled on two dresses and two shirts – priced at just $5.00 each! Ahh! I could redo my whole wardrobe for a measly hundred bucks! My appetite for frugality and bargain shopping has been well-satiated here, almost to the point of gluttony (which is actually quite ironic!).

After shopping, I met up with the family to go visit another temple inhabited by monkeys. We were told that the monkeys here would be more aggressive due to the fact that they lived in a drier habitat where food was not as plentiful. Before we were allowed to enter the sacred grounds, we had to fasten sarongs around our hips out of respect for the holy place. We started up a narrow pathway and were blocked by two male monkeys who immediately started hissing at John. We threw them some bananas and quickly passed them. To be honest, I was quite scared! I had remembered what that other monkey had done to Tori, and I was fearing the same for me – or worse! Tori and I walked side by side. Our eyes were pealed. We figured that we were better off following the whole safety in numbers approach. And then I saw it! The ocean! The glorious ocean! We were very high above it, but there was that endless beautiful blue trimmed with lacy white ruffles along its edges. I momentarily forgot about the menacing monkeys and simply stopped and stared. The beauty was almost overpowering.

I was in Heaven as long as we were walking along the ocean, but as soon as we arrived at the temple gates, I grew wary once again. I looked around, but I didn’t see any of them. But I KNEW they were there, and that they could see me, that they were, in fact, watching me! I quickly snapped some pictures of the temple, shifting my eyes to the left and right to check on my creepy friends between the frenzied frames. I started on the path again, and then spotted the gathering crowd of them.

Although these monkeys are small, they are vicious little creatures, and they are quite unaware of their diminutive size! Concerning them – their bark is as bad as their bite! The boys and Tori more or less threw the bananas at the monkeys rather than let the monkeys come to them! At one point, I was leaning against the stone wall that lined the cliff and was simply enjoying watching all the shenanigans. All of a sudden, I was pushed from the side by a monkey who had come from out of the blue. After pushing me he jumped onto Dan’s back and stole his glasses! We could not believe how quickly it had all happened! The monkey immediately jumped over the wall and hid somewhere on the cliffs. Naturally, Dan was fuming mad! The locals tried to throw the monkey food so that he would return the glasses, but he only hoarded the food and continued to play with the glasses. Finally, a Balinese woman climbed over the precarious wall and threw piles of food in front of the monkey. At last he relinquished the glasses and the lady returned them to Dan (for a small donation!). After that incident, we decided to leave the Temple. Enough was enough!

We drove to the Ayana Bali Resort, formerly the Ritz-Carlton, to have drinks on the beach and watch the sun set. The grounds were some of the prettiest that I have ever seen!. Fountains, flowers, and infinity pools overlooking the ocean were everywhere. Tiki hut bars and open aired restaurants spotted the lawn. I opted to skip the vermicular and take the stairs down to the beach. Each step brought its own unique vantage point and view of the sky. My heart leapt as the sound of the waves’ roar grew louder and more ominous. By the time I reached the bar, there was already a glorious blueberry mojito waiting for me! The mix of fresh lime, fresh blueberries, and fresh mint was pretty much the most refreshing beverage that I have ever had! I kicked off my flip-flops and headed for the deserted beach. Wading in the water, I studied the ocean floor in search of nature’s treasures. The flashes of pink, blue, green, and purple caught my eye but eluded my hands! It was high tide, and the waves came fast and furious. The ocean had clearly won our little game of cat and mouse. Nonetheless, the waters were warm and wonderful, wrapping around my legs like a watery winter blanket. It was from this position that I watched the waning sun and all the pinks, peaches, and golds quietly escort it away. Much like the sun’s light, my time here was nearing its end as well. Two weeks to go before this sun rises and greets a new day back home.

Published in: on December 2, 2009 at 9:32 am  Comments (1)  

A Little R and R!

The ultimate feeling of freedom

No words are necessary.

The tropical plants in Bali make me drool! Oh! To plant a garden here!

The beach by the Monkey Temple

Bali is the land of the nicest, most gracious people!

Day 111: Wednesday, November 18th

After the whirlwind of yesterday, today was rather tame. After studies, I decided to explore the other side of the beach and see what was for sale in the little huts. Funnily enough, I saw the same dress that I had purchased before. I asked the lady how much hers cost. It was only $5.00 here! Amazing! I ended up buying one dress and one shirt for a whopping $10.00 total. Can I please move here and buy my wardrobe from beach huts? PLEASE!

The second highlight of the day was my attendance at the High Tea between 3:00 – 5:00 and the Happy Hour between 5:00 – 7:00. Allow me to explain the awesomeness of these two events which occur every day during the aforementioned hours. High Tea consists of all the various coffees, teas, and mixed fruit juice drinks you can imagine accompanied by a smorgasbord of little pastries, cakes, and cookies. All you can eat. All you can drink – FOR FREE! As if that weren’t amazing enough, Happy Hour follows on its heels. This entails all the beer, wine, and cocktails that you want – FOR FREE! And they made the absolute best mojitos and pina coladas on the planet! Needless to say, the family and I made it a priority to attend these glorious events daily. Ahhh… the good life.

Finally, to cap off this low key day, Dannie, Tori, and I returned to the $6.00 Salon for another glorious massage. Boy, do I love that place! Wait a minute. Is this my job we’re talking about? Mixed drinks and massages. Beach huts and bargains. I would ask somebody to pinch me, but I would rather not wake up from this dream. Not too shabby, my friend, not too shabby.

Published in: on December 2, 2009 at 8:42 am  Leave a Comment  

Under the Water, Through a Jungle, and Over a River

A typical village street

Bali at its best!

Whitewater rafting! Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

The wilderness at its wildest!

Waterfall! Wonder-fall!

Day 110: Tuesday, November 17th

Today has to go down as the most fun day of the entire trip! It was loaded with adventures from sunup to sundown. Our excursion began with a drive to another resort, where we had to sign our life away for insurance purposes! I was not entirely sure what I was getting myself into, but I knew that it would be both dangerous and fun. After getting fitted in water shoes, a little motor boat whisked us away and across the beautiful water, under which’s surface, I could spot numerous yellow, orange, and white starfish – if I looked closely. Out in the middle of nowhere, we were dropped off at a kind of floating dock. The next thing I knew, the men aboard the docking station were securing a life jacket on me and explaining all these underwater hand signals that I should use and understand. Okay… This is bizarre. Now I was getting nervous.

When I saw the apparatus, I finally understood (although not fully). Basically, it goes like this. I become the goldfish in a bowl of air while the fish watch me, and I watch them – on their turf! It’s called seawalking, and how it exactly works, I am not quite sure. But what I do know is that the concept is both cool and very scary. Essentially, a forty pound helmet, shaped like a goldfish bowl, and fed by tubes of oxygen is placed over your head until it rests on your shoulders. That’s it! You are free to move about the cabin. We were told not to panic if water started coming in the helmet, that it was normal as long as it didn’t go higher than your chin! I wasn’t feeling very secure about the whole thing at all. We descended slowly down the ladder and into the water. How water was not rushing into this helmet from the bottom, I could not comprehend. We reached the seafloor, and I almost started to panic. All I could hear was the Darth Vader sound of my breathing. I had to focus on breathing constantly. I kept fearing the flooding in of the water.

Walking on the seafloor was a bit challenging. The currents near the bottom are quite strong. Every now and again I would lose my footing, which served only to make me more afraid. I kept imagining that a strong current would push me too far too suddenly and that my helmet would pop off because I would have drifted out of the oxygen tube’s range. My imagination was definitely getting the better of me! In the midst of this, the guide marched us to a reef where we were supposed to kneel and watch the fish. The fish were everywhere, which made me quite nervous. I love nature; I love it a lot in fact, but I do not like when it gets too near me, and these fish were very, very near. The guide handed me a bottle of fish food. I tried to decline it, but he wrapped my hands around it and swam away. Immediately, more fish came. They recognized the bottle and desired its promising contents. I tried to hide the bottle behind my back. I didn’t care if the whole ocean was behind me as long as I couldn’t see it in front of me! And for a time, it worked – until…

Tori thought that she could be cute and clever. She looked at me through her goldfish bowl and poured out her fish food right in front of my face. The fish streamed in, eating the food and nibbling at my mask at the same time. I had to close my eyes to keep from panicking. They were everywhere – everywhere! I was trying desperately not to touch their slimy surfaces. I couldn’t bear the texture of it! I was fairly successful for the most part, but there were times when their little scales glided across my hands, and every nerve in my body sizzled in disgust.

Overall, the experience was unique and memorable, and believe it or not, I would probably do it again. It just seemed so unnatural, so contrary to physics, that it was difficult to process the first time. Essentially, the ocean was a lovely place to visit, but no place to live.

After the seawalking, we headed for a change in venue: destination jungle. I have never been to the jungle before, but I have always longed to see it. The idea of lush, verdant areas teeming with life appeal to me. The added bonus was the fact that hundreds upon hundreds of monkeys live in this certain part and approach visitors eager for food. Again, I was excited – so long as the monkeys didn’t touch me! Once we arrived, we could see the monkeys immediately. We bought some bananas from a vendor and ventured into the emerald mass. The monkeys were everywhere, and they wanted those bananas. The family took turns holding the bananas over their heads. The monkeys literally climbed up their bodies and grabbed them! It was positively surreal! I watched in amazement. The idea was terribly intriguing to me, but the thought of a monkey crawling on me was not so appealing. I had watched too many Discovery shows on monkeys to know that they are not always the most docile of creatures, and sure enough… Tori tried to hold on to her banana; at which point, the male monkey bared his teeth, hissed at her, and nipped her with his teeth. Tori screamed! That was enough for me. I was perfectly content watching rather than risking! Eventually though, the family talked me into trying it. I was nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof. I braced myself, raised the banana, and eyed my little customer. Quicker than lightning, he scaled my limbs, grabbed my banana, and leapt from my head! Aghh! I can still feel his little tugs on my clothing! I enjoyed the experience merely because it was safe and successful, but I dared not tempt fate again!

After the jungle, which was positively gorgeous (and everything that I thought and hoped it to be), we drove to the river for whitewater rafting! We had to hike through the jungle to access the river, which was half the fun. Again, the jungle did not disappoint. Tori and I shared a raft with a lovely Japanese couple, who were on their honeymoon. They could not have been more darling! They didn’t speak English, and we did not speak Japanese, but it is amazing how well we all communicated! On top of this, Tori and I absolutely adored our guide. He was hilarious, and he kept us laughing the entire journey down the river. He had the most amazing sense of humor and made the most of every opportunity to play tricks on us. The rest of the family was in another raft. Almost the entire time, we raced against each other to be lead dog.

The voyage was utterly amazing. The trees towered over us like spring giants, weaving their mighty arms above us in a protective canopy. The sounds of exotic birds chimed madly. Occasionally, a daring beam of sunlight penetrated the leaves above us and kissed our working shoulders. On either side of the river we marveled at the rock carvings in the boulders. Beauty, serenity, power, and majesty penetrated us from every angle. Finally, well into the ride, our guide led us into and trapped us under a powerful waterfall. The waters beat on my head like a furious hammer, but nothing has ever felt so good. The feelings of freedom and surrender washed over me in a strange sort of way. There was no resisting the power and pressure of those lofty waters. I smiled and laughed until it hurt. It was the best kind of pain.

Shortly thereafter, our guide told us to hop out of the boat and simply swim. He couldn’t have said anything more welcome or more wonderful. Without hesitation, I threw myself into the coolness of the water. Because of my lifejacket, there was no struggle to stay afloat, no need to fight nature. I simply relaxed and handed myself over. After the intensity of the waterfall, the river was a calm reprieve, a different, but equally important, taste of freedom and exhilaration. I think that I could have swum in that river for the rest of my life. At times I swam on my back, and at times I simply let the current take me where it desired. There was no right or wrong way to approach this river. It was all good. It was all perfect. In many ways it felt like Baptism should. In much regret, I finally exited my jungle paradise. Our venture had turned to the last page in its book.

If anything else happened this day, I don’t remember it, and it doesn’t matter. Today was perfect, like the jungle was perfect, like the river was perfect, like surrender is perfect. I used to think that perfection did not exist, but there is a certain little river in Bali that has proved otherwise.

Published in: on December 2, 2009 at 8:17 am  Comments (1)  

Magical Lands, Magical Hands!

A monkey to my side is better than one on my back!

Just about the cutest thing that you have ever seen!

Welcome to the jungle!

Witessing the wonders of a wood-worker

A temple in the Forest of the Monkeys

Day 109: Monday, November 16th

After studies this morning, Dan surprised us with a real treat – snorkeling. I love snorkeling; I absolutely love it! We all went down to the beach to get our gear. A boat raced us away to our underwater paradise. The water was absolutely amazing! It was the perfect temperature, just a little cool occasioned by currents of warm and cold. I love the not knowing when the little bursts of heat and coolness will take you by surprise, almost as if the water were teasing you playfully.

As soon as I looked under the surface, I was in a watery heaven. The fish were everywhere: too numerous to count and too numerous to name. Try as I might, I could not determine my favorite. I loved the shape of this one, but the color of that one. It was a virtual underwater rainbow. There were purples, blues, reds, yellows, oranges, and tropical fruit sprays. The ocean floor was no less mystifying. All kinds of sponges, anemones, and urchins grew out of every nook and cranny. Once I recovered from my initial excitement, I simply allowed myself to float and let the waves carry me where they willed. And that was the best part of all. This was not my world; it was an entirely different planet all together. This realm of Neptune hypnotized me completely. I lost complete consciousness of my body and became one with the rising and falling of the waters. They pulled me and pushed me, so that I followed the migrating patterns of the fish themselves. Each new current introduced to me a new kind of fish, some of which came quite close to me, observing me, wondering who I was or what I was – this stranger in their strange land. Yet all of them were quite polite, and any fears that I might encounter a shark or an eel drifted away like so much seaweed.

After snorkeling, Tori wanted to get her hair braided by a lady who ran an oceanfront hut. In the absence of her parents, I gave her permission, but then she quickly disappeared. I started walking the beach in hopes of finding her when I finally discovered the little hut. It was further away than I had guessed, and you can only imagine my relief when I espied her sitting in the little hut with two women ardently working their craft on her smiling head! I took the occasion to look around and peruse the shop’s offerings. There were several adorable cotton dresses there, and I found myself really wanting one of them. My mouth about dropped to the floor when the lady revealed the price: $8.00 USD! That’s it! No way! I didn’t even try to bargain with her. She offered me to try it on. But where? Right there, there on the spot, in a hut with no walls! I took a quick look around and the beach was momentarily deserted. Oh! Why not? Off went my clothes and on went the dress and … SOLD! It was a paltry price for such a lovely summer frock, and it was mine – without a moment’s hesitation.

Later in the evening, Dannie decided to treat me to a massage at the $6.00 Salon (that’s what I decided to name it). This place is off the charts! There are fake flowers in the most unnatural hues everywhere. A clock made of shells ticked out the time. The scuffed walls were painted a science lab green, and all the photos hung on the walls from the fashions and hairstyles of a good twenty-five-years ago. It was entirely laughable, but then they took us to the massage rooms, which are really quite beyond description! Two beds in each room – my room having a bathtub in it that was stained and rusted! Oh well, what do you expect for $6.00? I plopped myself down on the bed and awaited my traditional Balinese massage. And although the surroundings were a bit scary, the skilled hands of my masseuse assuaged all worries and doubts of cleanliness away. The woman had magic hands – hand of magic, I tell you – capable of performing all kinds of wonderland tricks! After my glorious sixty minutes, I could barely stand; I could barely keep my eyes open, so relaxed was every fiber of my being! I decided then and there that the $6.00 Salon was to become my second home here.

The sleep that night was dreamy and deep.

Published in: on November 21, 2009 at 9:41 am  Comments (1)  

Un-Bali-vable!

The beach at our hotel, the Conrad in Bali

Two goddesses - Ha! Ha!

The glorious colors and architecture of Bali

Tori and I prepare to snorkel

Ladies walking along the beach with their loads!

Day 108: Sunday, November 15th

Who comes to Bali without flip-flops? For the longest time on this trip, I have existed with two pairs of shoes, but they are both lace-up, tennis-shoe-like walking shoes. The heat and humidity of this island hit me like a tidal wave, and there was no way that I was going to be wearing socks and walking shoes during my stay here. So the first order of business was to buy some flip-flops. I had been asleep when we arrived, so I did not know the lay of the land. I decided to go to the resort’s stores to check out the merchandise. Fortunately, I was able to find a pair of cute flip-flops. Unfortunately, they cost about $18.00 USD. At that point though, I was desperate; I would have paid anything. I met the family for lunch and showed off my new footware. Dannie loved them, but she told me that you could buy flip-flops on the beach for way less! What? Oh, yes, there are plenty of little shacks right on the borders of the resort that sell all kinds of things.

I wanted to go armed and ready with cash before I approached the huts. I decided to go find an ATM, since there wasn’t one at the hotel. I left the resort and started down the street. There were no sidewalks lining the narrow-laned street at all! I was literally having to zigzag my way down the street to make any progress. Heaven help me if there had been a car coming and going at the same time. Within minutes I was POURING with sweat. The heat and humidity were merciless. I finally found an ATM, but it would not accept my card! Aghhh! The frustration! I headed back to the resort feeling quite dejected, until I saw the sign! Literally. The sign of all signs! Massages: 60 minutes for 60,000 rupees. WHAT? That translates to about $6.00 USD. That’s right! $6.00 for a 60 minute massage. I knew that Bali would be the best place ever!

Fortunately, back at the resort, Dannie forwarded me some money to check out the flip-flops. After a little bargaining with the lady, I was able to get a pair of shell-decorated flip flops and a pair of clustered freshwater pearl earrings for $10.00 total. Not too shabby! I was thrilled!

By then, it was time to leave for Mass. The singing in this church (St. Francis Xavier) was amazing! Everybody sang, and everybody sang extremely loudly! Before communion they sang an Aborigine Our Father. It was the most beautiful version of the Our Father that I have ever heard. The church was beautiful and the people couldn’t have been nicer or happier. At the sign of peace, people from several pews away came over to shake my hand and bow to me. It seems like that is the way with everyone here. They are positively steeped in happiness, and it warms my heart to witness it.

Dinner brought us to the beach for some fresh seafood, and when I say fresh, I mean FRESH! You had to go up to the aquariums and handpick every shrimp, fish, or squid that you wanted to eat as they were swimming around in front of you! The concept is pretty cool, but I was actually quite disgusted, so I asked Dan to have the honors of selecting the individual specimens for me! The food was fantastic, but even better was the traveling entertainment. A group of local Balinese men carried their rudimentary instruments from table to table to sing for tips. The best part about it was the fact that they only sang American songs! They sang the Beatles and Elvis, the Rolling Stones and Cat Stevens. It was hilarious! They sang with their adorable little island accents and made up the words when they didn’t know them! Too precious. But the most endearing moment came when John turned to me and told me that he was going to ask them to play “Sway” for me. He had remembered how much I loved that song when he and I had danced to it back on the cruise at the end of our eight hour school day. And he did ask. John, who is normally too shy to do such things, just went straight up to them and asked. Sadly, they did not know the song, but the fact that John thought of me, remembered the song and requested it, sent my heart soaring. Somewhere in the future and somewhere out there, there is going to be a very lucky lady, but for now, I have the honor of knowing and dancing with young Master John.

Published in: on November 21, 2009 at 8:30 am  Comments (2)  

The Lazy Daze of Summers in Singapore

Dinner with Robert and Paul

Jackie Chan endorses Segways!

Luge races at Sentosa Island

At the sushi restaurant with Stephen and Joanne

In front of a Hindu temple with Tori

In the Arab Quarter with Stephen and Joanne

I want you, too!

The beach at Sentosa Island

Huts in the water off Sentosa Island

Christmas in Singapore

Days 97-107: Wednesday, November 4-14, 2009

Yes, I know, I know. I have been bad yet again. I tend to get very lazy and unmotivated to write when it’s buckle down and study time. Dan once again left for a business trip in Hong Kong, which meant catch-up time for schoolwork. This essentially translates to an average of six solid hours of study time or an eight hour work day. By the end of these long days, I always feel dogged and dragging. Add to that the super high level of humidity and heat, and you are in for yet another night indoors. Typically I would take little ten minutes walks up and down the river behind our hotel just to get the blood flowing a little, but other than that the days and nights were kept simple and predictable.

Except for a few highlights…

During lunch and in the evenings I had access to the internet. This whole trip I have had relatively little time to make use of it other than to pay bills, post pictures, post my journal, or call home. I checked my Facebook page for the first time in ages and happened to see that Taylor Higginbotham had just posted something to the effect that he would be playing poker at Lakewood Tavern that night (it being a Wednesday and all). Well, my heart was aching, aching I tell you! I miss my Wednesday night poker buddies like you wouldn’t believe. So I posted this on his page… “I am jealous in Singapore.” Shortly thereafter, a friend of his (whom I did not know) named Stephen wrote on Taylor’s wall that he was in Singapore. This initiated a series of e-mails between Stephen and me until I asked him, no, begged him to meet me for a drink! I figured that a friend who was good enough for Taylor was good enough for me! So that night I met Stephen and his girlfriend Joanne for drinks and sushi. They couldn’t have been nicer! Stephen was originally from Dallas, and Joanne was from Malaysia, so there was a lot to talk about. We ended up going out another night for drinks and dinner as well, but this time in the Arab quarter. We sat on pillows on the floor among hookah pipes and Persian décor. Tres chic! After dinner we strolled down the street and listened to local street performers play on native instruments. I couldn’t have met two nicer people, so thank you, Taylor, for hooking us up!

Dannie discovered a little day spa, and once again, treated me to a full body massage and separate foot massage. They were extraordinary. I have never felt so pampered before in my life. A girl can get spoiled with all the treats she has given me! After the massage I signed up for a little procedure called ear candling. I had never heard of this ancient Chinese practice before. But what it entails is deep massage of all the upper lymph nodes, which I know sounds incredibly strange, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! That particular massage was the most relaxing, amazing massage that I have ever had! And now for the strange part… After the massage, they put some kind of wick in your ear and light it! The only way that I can describe the experience is to say that it sounds like a firecracker fuse burning. It is supposed to draw out any impurities in your lymph nodes, which in turn, is supposed to help you sleep better. Whether it’s fact or fiction, I cannot say, but what I can say is that I have never felt so good than after it, and that for the next week, I slept like a bug in a rug! I have to look this up when I get back to Dallas.

After Dan returned from Hong Kong, he took us to Sentosa Island, which is a resort island off the coast of Singapore. We reached the island by an elevated monorail, which offered us a bird’s eye view of the working harbor. Once we arrived we headed for the luge ride. Helmets in place, the race was on downhill! I couldn’t believe how much fun the little rolling carts were! We all sped down the hill, and I managed to pass John near the end of the ride, but of course, Dan took first place. The family took a second turn on the ride while I walked along the beach.

After the luge we headed over to the Segways. Now I have seen these things time and time again, but I have never had the opportunity to actually ride one – until now, that is! We put on the safety gear and had a speedy course on how to manage them. I did alright during the test drive, but once I headed for the very curvy trail, I discovered that I was terrible when it came to turning! I ran into every tree and curb that existed! Tori laughed at me the whole time, and I was rather tickled, too, which didn’t help my steering skills (or lack there of) at all! I think, though, that all my mistakes and crashes made the run even more fun.

Afterwards, we headed for the beach, which was positively gorgeous! Fortunately, Dan had advised us to bring our swimsuits. The kids and I jumped in the ocean and went exploring. The water was beautiful and fairly clear, so much so that I could spot shells on the ocean floor, dive down for them, and bring them up for the kids to see. Most of the time they were devoid of sealife, but on a few occasions I found some that contained sea snails, and one of them hid a crab, upon which discovery, I screamed like a girl and threw it as far as I could! I can’t stand the feeling of those tiny pointed feet! They give me the weebie-jeebies every time! We swam across the inlet and played in the sand in a little cove. Sentosa Island could not have been more perfect or more fun!

The only other little adventure that I had was going to Chinatown by myself one night. I jumped on a bus and hoped that it would take me in the right direction, which luckily, it did! The streets in Chinatown were entirely magical. The smells, the sights, the sounds were from a different time and place altogether. They had red lanterns hanging everywhere above the streets between the buildings. Jewel-tone colored lights draped the streets like linear streamers. This place was utterly electric and buzzing with energy! Little food stands and little outdoor sidewalk stalls selling everything that you can imagine inhabited every square inch of space, and the shopping deals were extraordinary! If only I could pack up an extra suitcase, I would be queen of the shopping world. As it was, I had to restrain myself and only buy a Christmas present for my niece Lauren, but what a beautiful present it will be for her!

Overall, I would have to say that Singapore is a most unusual city. Other than the heat and humidity, it cannot be improved upon. The vegetation is lush, and the flowers are abundant. The streets are impeccably clean, organized, and orderly. Everyone I met was so kind and hospitable. There is an endless amount of things to see, do, and eat here: from the Arab quarter, to the Indian quarter, to the Chinese quarter and beyond. Given the chance, I would definitely return here and make the most of my time.

Published in: on November 21, 2009 at 8:13 am  Comments (4)  

School and a Game of Pool!

Day 96: Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This morning Dan left for Hong Kong, and I was given the instructions to kick school into high gear. So we buckled down for a grueling six and a half hours of work. We only took two ten minute breaks! At lunch, however, we were needing to let off a little steam. I challenged the boys to a game of pool. Tori joined forces with me, and it got pretty tight there, but in the end the boys took the crown of glory. Win or lose, it was fun to get some playtime in. At dinner we played again, and then I taught them cutthroat. They really took that one to heart. Those boys are not good for me! They really draw out my competitive side! I am going to have to watch that!

School and pool. That pretty much took care of today!

Published in: on November 4, 2009 at 12:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Modern Promised Land!

Singapore2

Singapore by night

Day 95: November 2, 2009

As soon as we got off the plane, I knew that I had entered a different world! No smell of burning kerosene or tar, no clouds of smoke and soot. Instead, we were greeted by marble floors, modern facilities, and bright purple orchids potted throughout the airport. I am not usually one to pay attention to airports, but this one was off the charts! By the time we made it to the baggage claim, our luggage was already there! When does that ever happen? Bags in tow, we stepped outside and stepped into our Mercedes taxis! What? Where was I? The whole way to our hotel, I stared out the window with my mouth agape. The streets were immaculate! Flowers, vines, and trees grew everywhere. Hundreds of towering buildings loomed over us, but they were clean and pretty. I could actually see the blue of the sky for the first time in days! What a far cry from India. Singapore is by far the most beautiful, cleanest, and organized city that I have ever seen, and four and a half million people live here – but you would never know it! No graffiti, no trash, no homeless. It is positively amazing!

After we arrived at our apartment hotel, we freshened up and left to meet a former co-worker of Dannie’s. They had worked together long ago at a bank, and they had not seen each other in fourteen years! We went up to their highrise condo and had drinks and hor d’oeuvres. The views from their two patios were breathtaking (see one of them above). Next we hailed a taxi and went to an Asian restaurant for dinner. The food was fantastic, although I didn’t eat much because I had filled up with fresh fruit and cheese and crackers back at Paul and Robert’s apartment. All in all, it made for a lovely introduction to this city/country. And I am so thankful for that, because we will be here for a good ten days! No problem!

Published in: on November 4, 2009 at 12:41 pm  Comments (1)