Virtual Vacation: Goodbye Amed, Hello Candidasa! Day 12

I woke up this morning to the sound of the call to prayer and roosters. It is just starting to grow light. This is my last morning in Amed.

As I think about moving to Candidasa, I realize that I’m tired of being “a vacation consumer.” Five or six days of that is lovely—but now I want to do more than just consume experiences. It’s not like I have a lot of time to explore what that means—Karyn and our group of fellow travelers are arriving in three days—but I’m noticing that I’m hungry for something more engaged. Like work or study or otherwise being part of Bali, rather than being entertained by it.

In part, my contact with individuals here has shifted my perspective because I have more of a sense of what the people who are serving me are going through in their lives. My awareness of my incredible privilege as a US citizen and all that I own and have access to is palpable to me here on a daily basis. I know my tourist dollars are contributing to the Balinese economy, but I’d like to find ways to give more. And this morning, I had at least one small opportunity to do just that.

I woke up to an email from Nyoman, the man who runs the coffee collective I wrote about in Munduk, sending me the text he wanted me to smooth out for him in English. Here’s what he sent to me:

1. When the demand of Luwak Coffee (civet coffee) increases very sharply this five last years, most people tend to take ‘a short cut’, they prefer to cage the animals then fed with coffee berries. The local people also compete each other to catch those nocturnal animals massively, of course it is not easy to catch them, so they are trapped and shot.

A part from the quality of this ‘fake Luwak Kopi’ is much poorer, it is undeniable that they become the victims of gaining the world best coffee. The people of WARUNG LUWAK MUNDUK also act as animal rehabilitation center, takes care of the ‘injured animal’, then release to our pilot project, a 27 Ha of coffee plantation with 3 Ha of tropical rain forest in the middle. They deserve roam in the nature, so they produce Luwak coffee Naturally since the enzyme from the wild can proceed the biological fermentation.

We strongly recommend buyers/coffee lovers NOT to buy the product from the caged animal, otherwise the animal will get extinct

Please support our effort only to produce and sell natural genuine luwak coffee……

I loved the fact that I could use my skills as a writer and editor to give something back to this country I love. I just emailed back with the following questions:

Nyoman,

Here are some questions I’d like clarification on:

What is the ideal (best) way to treat the animals and harvest the beans from their poop? If they are in the wild, how is the poop actually gathered? It seems like it would be impossible to find it if the animals were just running free. How is it harvested in the wild?

How much is a Ha compared to an acre?

When the animals are in the wild, how do you ensure (make sure) that they eat the coffee beans?

Are the animals shot and killed when people are trying to make them captive? Or to harvest the poop out of their bodies?

If they’re trying to catch the animals so they can cage them and force feed them coffee beans, it doesn’t make any sense that they would shoot them. If they shoot them, they can’t use them to process the beans, since they’d be dead. Can you explain why they shoot them?

Aside from the cruelty to the animals, why is the coffee produced from caged animals inferior to the coffee produced when they’re wild?

I look forward to my continued exchange with Nyoman and to being able to write something that will help further his mission. I’m glad there is this one small thing I can do. A way I can participate and contribute. On my last morning in Amed, this made me happy.

Half an hour later, as I was eating my breakfast and preparing to leave, an Australian couple, David and Angelica, newly arrived from Sydney, asked if I wanted to join them renting a boat for snorkeling. I checked to see if I could change the time of my driver—and then delightedly said yes. It was finally sunny in Amed and getting in the water, at last, seemed like a great idea.

I went back to my room, finished packing. Then I wrote a note to my “Ketut,” who had greeted me so warmly as he brought out my breakfast. I told him in my note how much that trip to the holy waters had meant to me. I said that I would have paid 400,000 rupiah ($40) to go on the bike trip and that I wanted to give that money to him because his tour was so much better. And that I appreciated all he had shared with me. I put the bills in the envelope and hoped it was the right thing to do. I knew I was handing him the equivalent of a month’s salary. Was it really okay to do that? I wasn’t sure, but before I went snorkeling with the Aussies, I trusted my gut and gave him the envelope.

After two snorkeling sites and a lovely ride on a jukung (it’s always a good idea to see a place from the water if you can—it looks completely different)–for which my share was ten bucks–I showered and changed.

I was about to order my last lunch at the hotel when the worker at the front desk told me that he hadn’t been able to reach my driver, and that the man had been waiting for two hours, so I had to leave in a hurry. Once my things were in the car, I looked across the courtyard at Ketut and he looked at me. He came over and we hugged. Really hugged. Right there in the parking lot. I could see the same recognition of our connection in his eyes that I felt in mine. I felt so sad and so full leaving him behind. And we waved to each other until the van was out of sight.

On our way to Candidasa, my driver offered to stop to show me different sights, but all I wanted to do was sleep. But I did pull off a couple of times so I could  show you the magnificent view from the road:

As we made our way south, I felt exhausted. And when I arrived at the Lotus Bungalows, a haven as peaceful as I remembered, I immediately crawled into bed to sleep. Something felt off. And half an hour later, I awoke with diarrhea. Shit! Quite literally.

Perhaps my drink of holy waters had caught up to me.

I took the various herbal remedies I brought with me, and only hope that this passes quickly and doesn’t descend into body hell.

Still, I wanted to keep you up to date on where I am. Here’s the welcome sign at the Lotus Bungalows:

Here’s the view from the endless multicolored outdoor couch, a favorite poolside place to hang out and relax:

Right now, I’m lying on the outdoor couch. Everything in my view is perfect: the beautiful infinity pool, the waves of the Indian Ocean rolling up on the shore beside me, the perfectly manicured lawns and picture perfect lush tropical plants. The temperature is a comfortable 80 degrees, not too hot, not too humid. Everything telegraphs relaxation, peace and calm. But for me today, it feels too perfect. I feel as if I’m back in the fake Bali. The staff people are competent, capable, friendly, and polite. But all I get is the polite tourist smile. Now that I’ve left Amed and the special magic that happened there, the impenetrable wall between tourist and Balinese wait person/masseuse/groundskeeper has reaapeared, and that barrier no longer feels permeable. I can no longer cross it. The magic is gone and I am once again an outsider to be served. I feel so sad. In fact, I’m crying as I write this.

Last year at this time, I arrived here at Lotus Bungalows with my daughter, Lizzy. We were diving every day and sharing precious mother-daughter time. Now I am here alone and Lizzy is on her way to Morocco. Once again I have to face my solitude and what it means to “vacation” in Bali.

I have three days here before everyone arrives. How am I going to spend that time? Can I create something real?

Laura

P.S. Thank you for all your generous and warm responses. They keep me going. Thanks for being part of my journey. Your encouragement really helps. I’m winging it out here…and messages from home really make a difference.

Comments

  1. Kim Tyler says

    I’m so glad to read this post tonight. I was wondering if you would be able to send something out. I’ve gotten accustomed to reading your blog every day, sometimes even twice a day because of the time difference. You are having some extraordinary experiences, and doing the rare thing, trying to penetrate beneath the “tourist” veil and experience the world you are visiting in a human-to-human manner. Your story of the interaction with Ketut was very moving and I’m sure it changed his life. All you need is what you have – an open mind, an open heart, and the willingness to step outside your comfort zone. These beautiful qualities will guarantee that you continue to touch people and be touched! And you are certainly doing that every time you send out one of these posts! Thanks again and again for bringing us along on this amazing journey! Big hug!!

  2. Laurie M says

    I love your story, your sharing, your writing, your truth-telling of real experience.

    I’m reminded of 1998 when Doug and I went to Nepal for a month; our trekking group had such a bond with our guide Nawang Sherpa that us Americans shed our dollars and $300 REI down jackets and sleeping bags when we left, leaving them for him. It’s so hard to fathom life outside our first-world bubble at times; I applaud you allowing it all in and feeling it, even if the “what to DO” question remains unanswered. Sometimes seeing the question at all is the life-shifting thing.

  3. Eileene Tejada says

    Courageous Laura, all is as it should be. The Universe will bring what you need most- just like it did in Amed.

    Thank you for this post and the absolutely beautiful pictures. I can’t wait to hear what the Universe will reveal to you in these next few days. I hope the herbs have kicked in and that your intestinal distress has abated.

    Sending love.

  4. Julia says

    Hope you feel better…sucks to be sick on a trip…and away from creature comforts. Your story is compeling…and I will be asking many of the questions you ask myself…
    See you soon!
    Julia

  5. Debbie says

    Laura – you are very courageous and vulnerable at the same time. I have so enjoyed your posts and pictures. Thanks so much for sharing it all with us. This space you have allowed into your life has, quite possibly, already forever altered the lives of some of those you have met. I feel certain the journey is not ready to be over and that these next three days will prove enlightening and enjoyable! Much love to you…

  6. Polly says

    Laura, I can honestly say that this moved me. First of all, my heart went out to those animals and I applaud the people who are working to make their local coffee trade more cruelty-free – and you, for helping. The bond you formed with the people there is beautiful. I loved the gift you gave your new friend. Even though you’ve left Amed, you and the people you met there seem to have impacted each other equally; and the way I see it, a part of you will still be there. Thanks for continuing to share this adventure with all of us. And I hope your stomach issues get resolved soon :) Take care! P.

  7. Kat says

    Oh dear, Laura — so sorry to think of you feeling lonesome and ill. I hope both conditions will soon pass, leaving you restored and brimming with your usual deep pleasure in the loveliness in and around you. Perhaps, after all the intensity of the past few days, your body is demanding a little spell of pure rest? Please take the best possible care of yourself! No more holy waters, at least internally!
    Hugs
    Kat

  8. Annette Naber says

    Laura – one hectar (HA) equals about 2 acres. Good questions you prepared for Budi… I liked the picture of him in one of your recent posts. He looked happier and more relaxed than last year when he seemed to carry some heavy burden on his shoulders.
    Ah, and that impenetrable tourist/servant wall….now you recognize it for what it is because you have experienced more genuine connections. Of course, the people in these positions need a buffer, need a persona that they can meet all these strangers with. Maybe they fantasize about meeting that one person who will recognize their true potential and help them reach their dream a la “Eat, Pray, Love.” Maybe it’s the only way to bear the curse of invisibility as a person who serves others for a living…
    As for the loneliness…can you sit with it, feel into it, journal about it, give yourself permission to really feel it rather than hurry to another “experience” to get away from it? That’s the gift you’d give yourself….and then later to your students.

    • says

      Annette, I really appreciate what you said here about the experience from their point of view…how they need that mask to survive their life circumstances.

      And you’re right about the loneliness. Sitting with it is the best and hardest thing to do.

  9. kathleen says

    Greetings, Laura,
    Your adventure in Amed has kept me looking forward to each new post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and beautiful photos.Your generous heart enriches your connection with those around you and certainly will attract new and joyful experiences in Candidasa. Perhaps, your body and mind need time to focus inward for a bit to relish what your are leaving behind and prepare for the next phase of your adventure. Wishing you wellness and peace.

  10. Sunny says

    Laura,
    The pictures are lovely – thank you for posting your experience. I’ve written many responses to your “loneliness” guide – none sent. I have never felt like a tourist anywhere I’ve traveled – but according to the dictionary that is what you are when you visit somewhere you don’t live. No matter how you connect with people, you are transient; nevertheless, transient connections can forge life-long relationships. And hey, a beautiful hotel is often preferable to camping on the beach!

  11. Adrienne Drake says

    Dear Laura,
    I am continuing to enjoy very word of your posts, and all of your pictures. The wonderful energy you are spreading along your journey reminds me of the quotation to “be the change you want to see…”
    I am also very curious to know all of the answers to your civet coffee saga!
    You deserve to let yourself rest…
    Take good care,
    Adrienne

  12. Sheila McGinley says

    I loved your comments about tiring of being a vacation consumer. I have often felt that way travelling and yet it is hard to break through the wall and find the real place. I never last too long at a resort before I feel that wall around me. You were much braver than I am now at trying the new experiences, but I envied you the result. Bravo! And that restless lonely feeling, I totally understand it.
    Every summer, I have a little of the same feeling. I am disoriented and wanting to break through routine and have something different. It always takes awhile to get there, doesn’t it? Even at home.
    Thanks for your honesty. As much as I found the early comments fascinating and fun, the last few days have been so real.

  13. Bobbie Anne says

    Laura, I love your beautiful pictures! Your warmth and your giving of yourself and your generosity to your Ketut was heartwarming. You are showing the good side of the so called American tourist. That is a good thing and your genuine concern for the local people is wonderful.

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