Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bumming Around in Bali

I have arrived in Bali! My plane landed late on Friday afternoon and I made it relatively easily through the hustle and bustle of customs before finding my driver as we headed off to Ubud (he had a sign for me!). The drive did scare me a bit as I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I had flown into the capital city, Denpasar, and the town of Ubud which isn't that far away but with the hectic motorbike traffic took about an hour and a half. Bali is a small island nation but Ubud is about an hour north from the nearest coast As we drove between the cities, the side of the roads were littered with workers, food stands, stray dogs, and roosters.  

As I stared seeing signs for Ubud and realized we were on the outskirts of town a little relief passed through me as the surroundings improved. We drove onto Monkey Forest road noted by the Monkey Forest Sanctuary where my homestay is located. The driver stopped the car and informed me that this was it! A young boy came out to take my excessively heavy bag as we headed down a long alleyway. We passed many homestays and Ubud Dream was located almost at the end of the alleyway. He led me up some narrow stairs carrying the suitcase atop his head and showed me to my room. It is a simple basic room with high ceilings, a big bed, a hot shower, and fans. Most importantly it was clean, I can live here for a month! 

A homestay is a very popular place to stay in Bali. What exactly is it? It's basically the family compound with extra rooms that are rented out to travelers. I would place it in between a hostel and a hotel almost a bed and breakfast. You can hear the sounds of the family everyday and everyone helps out except for the little little ones. Breakfast is also provided. I am waiting for my second breakfast right now. There is also a little temple located on the compound and offerings are placed there everyday. Everyone makes these offerings. As you walk down the street every shop has these outside their door. Yesterday as I got a massage, I saw a girl craft the straw offerings for over an hour. Imagine Americans putting this much dedication into daily religious rituals! I can barely set aside then minutes a day to meditate.

As you can guess, it's pretty different here. Most people speak minimal English, enough to serve or sell you what they can to get by. As I walk down the street I am continually asked if I need a taxi or if I want spa services. Spa services are INSANELY cheap. I cluelessly had no idea about this hidden gem of Bail. We are talking one hour massages for about $10. I got a mani/pedi for $14. Food is also cheap. Yesterday I ate some fried rice, a couple of beers all for about $5. Last night I ate at what is probably one of the nicer restaurants and it was only $22 with a couple of drinks and a nice tuna steak. I am a millionaire here which basically means I took out $100 of the ATM as the conversion is slightly under 10,000 rupiah to an American dollar. It's led to some awkward math at cash registers to say the least. I am getting more used to the ridiculous conversion though. 

Another thing I immediately noticed are all the stray dogs which is recognized as a national issue. Given my love for dogs and especially Miss Lila, I was taken aback by how many there are. They usually look scraggly but some I thought were pets. They don't seem mean either and just go about their business frolicking along motorbikes and hanging outside their favorite shops. Yesterday, I saw the animal shelter rescue unit and I will probably stop in over the next month to see what I can do to help. I wonder how difficult it would be to adopt while I am here... I can only imagine what Lila would think if after being gone for two months I brought home another dog! 

The Balinese people are very sweet and good natured always greeting you with a smile. Sometimes conversations are hard to come by with the language barrier but I have had a few good ones already. The first restaurant I ate at the host who was tasked with inviting in passerbys sat at my table to chat for awhile. He shared with me his secret to health which is eating spicy food.. gets all the bad stuff out. I shared with him that I was staying for a month and he said that was good, I could follow my heart while I was here. He stated that so many visitors come to the island hoping to do everything in just a few days and miss out on the beauty of Bali, just relaxing! Another waitress asked me about my kindle and if it was a book I was reading. I let her look it over and she got excited when she realized we had read a lot of the same books and especially loves Twilight and the Hunger Games

The first two days here have been good, really just trying to get my bearings together and figure out the ways of Ubud without getting run over by a motorbike. I have have been so busy on this trip I haven't had a lot of time to be sad or reflect on the past year. Last night it hit me. As a vacation spot there are a lot of couples here and as I was eating dinner last night I was lonely. I missed Matt so much.  It's odd to miss someone in a country that you have never been to before (and so so different than your own) and one that you never planned to go together too but I guess Matt is just a part of me so I miss him all over the world. Matt would have loved it here... all the culture... the cheap food and drink... me letting go and becoming one with this place. I look at my little room and he would be so proud of me for staying here especially for putting away the makeup bag because really I would just sweat it off in a few minutes anyways. He would have loved trying to see me get around town on my push bike. I wish he were here with me, this place reminds me of our honeymoon to Aruba and all the fun we had there. 

I am looking forward to the start of my Teacher Training tomorrow. I am sure this will take away some of the lonely feeling and of course looking forward to seeing what the next month will bring. 

daily offerings in front of my homestay

my new friend from the monkey forest

rice fields just a few steps out of town

my homestay... Ubud Dream

ganesha guarding the door at Ubud Dream

I have WiFi at my place and it's at a lot of cafes but it's just not as fast so it's very timely to upload pictures, we shall see how much more of it I can wait through. Be sure to check out my instagram pics which can be uploaded more easily. Just use the little camera link at the top right hand of the page. Off to see Legong, a traditional Balinese dance at the community center!



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