Last night, I found out that one member of our group, Linne, had arrived before me. She’d flown in early to give herself time to recover from the long journey. So I wasn’t as alone here as I thought. Linne and I had dinner together, comparing notes about travel while getting acquainted with each other. And I found out that another member of our group, Tawnya, is arriving today. So my dilemma of what to do with my final days of solo travel has become moot. At 7 AM this morning, I was safely tucked in my beachside room at the Lotus Bungalows two days before the rest of the group was due to arrive. Unfortunately, I was facing two major problems. My squirrelly stomach continued to bother me, and without going into the gross details, let’s just say, things were not coming out the way they ... [Continue Reading]
After a lonely night sleeping in the clinic in my sundress, with a grungy mouth and no toothbrush in sight, I woke at 4:30 AM, still hooked up to my IV, to the sound of roosters. I couldn’t get the wifi to work, I had finished reading my 400-page novel, so I took some time to go over my teaching notes for the retreat, to review our itinerary, and otherwise put my teaching hat on. I prayed that I’d get sprung from the clinic first thing in the morning. I felt good, just stiff and sore from lying in bed for 24 hours. I no longer had stomach cramps or diarrhea. If anything, I had the opposite problem. With all the plug-up drugs they gave me, now nothing was coming out and I had that uncomfortably full feeling in my belly. I hoped this wasn’t going to be like hospitalizations after surgery ... [Continue Reading]
I woke up at 5:30 and came out to the endless couch to watch the sky grow light over the Indian Ocean. Tomorrow morning there will be sixteen jetlagged travelers getting up at all kinds of strange early hours, getting their first glimpse of these magnificent surroundings. Most of them will be arriving long after dark so they won’t see anything on their drive from the airport to the hotel. As I sat there listening to the small waves touch down on the beach, one upon another, I found myself missing my son, Eli, who’s twenty, and thinking about the close family bonds the Balinese people have. Here, you stay integrally connected to your family; you live with your extended family. Children honor, support and care for their parents; it’s the way family is woven. People here are shocked I’m ... [Continue Reading]
Before I went to bed last night, I decided to email Dr. Wayan and invite her to be a part of the online Roadmap community since she’s so enthusiastic about writing. This is what I sent her:
Dear Dr. Wayan, It was such a pleasure to meet you. I felt so cared for and also, I loved your spirit and your energy—and your smile. You were so warm and welcoming. I send out by email writing prompts (suggestions for writing) every week, and there’s an online community where people can post their writing if they like. In any case, I thought you might enjoy the writing prompts. If you want to get them every Tuesday morning (might be Wednesday morning in Bali), all you have to do is sign up in the top right corner. It’s all free. Here’s the link: [Continue Reading]
Today, everyone on the trip had a free day until our 3:00 PM writing group. People were going off on scooter adventures, to tour a Balinese chocolate factory, and to see the silversmithing village. Someone told me she was getting another two-hour massage. I’m sure there were other plans afoot that I wasn’t privy to. But I’ll hear all about it later: they’ll be writing about their adventures, and a thing of beauty they saw, in writing group this afternoon. My risk for the day was to do none of these things, but to stay home (re: our air-conditioned room), to rest and relax and read with Karyn. I needed a break from adventure, activity and taking in more stimulation. So I gave myself a time out from exploring today. And if you’ve been following my adventures, you know that hasn’t been my ... [Continue Reading]
In preparation for our visit to Tenganan Village today, where we’d be seeing the coming of age ritual and visiting some of Bali’s greatest artisans, Judy gave us a dramatic lesson in the art of bargaining. She began by saying, “Some of you may already be very good at bargaining from yard sales and flea markets. Others are terrified of bargaining, and think, ‘I’ll just pay the first price," but bargaining is expected in Bali. The basis of bargaining is not who wins. It’s getting to know the person you’re buying from and letting them get to know you, so that they decide to give you a good price. In between talking about price, you talk about your families and where you came from. Bargaining isn’t about a sale; it’s a way to make a new friend. Bargaining is a game; and it’s an above ... [Continue Reading]
We moved to Ubud yesterday. As we drove into town, the constant juxtaposition of the ancient and modern worlds of Bali increased exponentially. To my left, out the car window, I saw the “ice cream woman.” She was on a scooter with a cooler full of ice cream strapped to the back of her seat with plastic tie cords. Hanging from the cooler were individually wrapped ice cream wafer cones dangling in vertical rows from the top. We were passing through a village famous for wood carving. There were many shops full of beautiful handmade wooden objects and furniture. I watched a man sitting on the ground, honing a wooden sculpture, all with hand tools. Next door was an auto repair machine shop, and two blocks down the road, a tattoo parlor, advertising tattoos in angular black and white letters. A ... [Continue Reading]
One of the things I love about using Judy and Surya as our tour guides is that they everything they show us and teach us is deeply grounded in their love and respect for Balinese people and culture. The other day over lunch, Judy taught us how to avoid insulting or alienating the Balinese by doing something they would find offensive. Judy said the Balinese are incredibly forgiving, and that most Westerners visiting Bali and continually making social or cultural faux pas. In order to avoid some of the most glaring, Judy advised:
- Don’t express anger in public.
- No public displays of affections between couples in public
- Don’t call out in public when you want to get someone’s attention; clap instead.
- Don’t blow your nose in public. Bali is a ... [Continue Reading]
Today was our free day in Ubud. Everyone was free to choose whatever activities they wanted for the day. Choices included: time to write and wander, time to shop, bike trips down from the top of a mountain, white water rafting, cooking classes, visiting a healer (a real one, not one of the Eat, Pray, Love hype healers), salon or spa treatments, body work, going to the art museum, and a number of other suggestions handed out yesterday. Karyn and I (and two others in our group—Abby and Mary) opted for the bike excursion. We were picked up at 8:00. On the way up to Mount Batur and our drop off point for biking, we stopped at a little tourist farm that demonstrated how Luwak coffee was made. We saw what the beans look like when they come out of the civet cat: [Continue Reading]
This morning, I had one hour before I had to be back in the lobby of my hotel to get in the vans to head to Munduk, up north in the mountain country, the final stop of our three-part tour of Bali. I set out, walking fast and determined, knowing exactly where I wanted to go. I’d heard about an exhibit at the Agung Rai Museum of Art, just five minutes down the street from our hotel. “Irony in Paradise” is a temporary exhibit by 65 contemporary Balinese artists about the invasion of outside corporations, the impact of first-world development, and the impact modernization and tourism are having on the ancient culture of the ... [Continue Reading]