Sir, I have bad news for you!

Yesterday I started putting my things together to pack for my trip home. I had organized things a little every day, so there wasn’t much to do. I wanted all my souvenirs in one small carry-on, and the things I would need on the plane in my backpack. I had decided to check my small carry-on suitcase this time because I wanted travel ‘to be easy for me.’

I swam in the morning, and then went to have lunch. Since my flight left at 7 PM, I had arranged for my taxi to pick me up at the hotel at 3:30 which would allow 1.5 hours for the drive to the airport. I had everything perfectly planned, or so I thought.

The ride to the airport was uneventful, and I was anxious to get there. I must be yearning to get home, I thought to myself. When I arrived at the airport, I removed my small suitcase from the trunk of the car and I flung my backpack on my back. In two hours I would be on my way. Denpasar has a new airport that is modern and easy to navigate in. I found my way through security and to the Asian Air counter. My husband John was with me.

After waiting a short time in line, I handled the ticket agent my passport and itinerary. I watched the ticket agent, he typed some information into his computer and looked at his screen and then he looked at the passport. Then he looked at the itinerary. Then he opened Johns passport and itinerary and did the same thing, his eyes going back and forth, from the papers to the screen. I got an uneasy feeling that something was wrong. Maybe, the routing isn’t correct I thought to myself. This could be a possibility since my plane coming here was grounded and I left a day later?

After a few minutes of these ‘glances’ the ticket agent stopped, and looked up and said to my husband, “Sir, I have bad news for you, your flight is for tomorrow.” I had come to the airport a day early!!! Ha ha, I couldn’t believe it!

Now you have to understand that in Bali, there is no time. You just float through the day and do whatever you feel like doing, and after being here for five weeks I think I really GOT IT (the floating part). I must have adapted to the Bali way of life because apparently I didn’t even know what day it was … and no one else noticed either. The hotel didn’t notice I was checking out a day early. The security at the airport didn’t notice the date was wrong when they checked my itinerary at the airport, and even my husband didn’t realize that we were trying to go home on a the wrong day!! I mean this is really funny … I can’t stop laughing at myself.

In this situation I had to think quick. “Well”, I smiled at my husband. “You said you wanted to spend a day in Denpasar, didn’t you? Now we have our chance!”
I went down the elevator, heading for the taxi station … and in good Bali fashion I was immediately approached by a driver. “Taxi?”, he said. “Yes” I replied. “I would like a taxi to the closest hotel, how much?” I questioned. “$10000 rupiah.” He stated. “$10000 rupiah!” I exclaimed. “That is too much!” Then he went on about the cost of petrol, and that he would stop at a few hotels so I could pick the right one. I knew that I needed him, and I think he knew it … So I said, “okay.”

Since I really did plan on leaving the country I had already exchanged my rupiahs for American dollars, which meant a quick stop at the ATM. There are many of them at the airport, and within seconds I ‘had money’ and was ready to go again.

The evening in Denpasar has been a wonderful experience. I found a lovely hotel, better than where I was staying for the same price. I was five blocks from the ocean and so I walked with my husband to the beach where I photographed the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen. We ate a delicious dinner at a charming place by the ocean, and are ready to tuck ourselves into bed for the evening.

And tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 I will go to the airport again, this time for real.

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Too Many Zeros

After five weeks in Bali I finally mastered the financial system, well not exactly the financial system, but the money.  I can now pay for meals, massages and souvenirs from the shop vendors without having the clerk count it out for me or asking my friend.

Actually it was my friend that taught me about the money, and as much practice as I have had, I must say, I’ve finally got it!  I don’t think knowing this would classify me as a world traveler, because wherever I go they are going to change the look of the currency and how much their “dollar” means to me. Ha ha!
If you ever come to Indonesia, you will be using the rupiah, and it works like this (compared to the American dollar) $100000 means $10.00 and  $50000 means $5.00. They have many other bills and some coins, but they hardly matter, and you use mostly “tens and fives”.  I find for most meals I will pull out one of those two bills. It all depends on how hungry my tummy is and what I want to drink. Most drinks are $2.00 or $20000 rupiah.
When you first get to the country, it can be very confusing, and you could end up giving the street vendor five dollars when you only needed to give him fifty cents. Can you imagine how happy he would be if you did that?
If you ever come from America to Indonesia I have learned a simple trick that is fool safe. All you have to do is remove four zeros and the number that is left is the number of American dollars.  For example, when the currency is marked 10000, if I removed four zeros, then it would mean $1!
If you have a bill that says 2000, you can’t take off four zeros, because there isn’t four zeros, so instead you have to think of that number as “cents” and that is .20 cents, or 1000 is .10 cents. Simple, right?
Dinner last night for my husband and myself was 149.647, do you know how much I spent?
It only took me five weeks … Just kidding!
Oh, and one more thing. They list their prices with periods, instead of commas. So $10.00 would be listed as 100.000 IDR
Below is a photo of some bills, so you can practice.
I have been told that the government is working on revising the system and taking away some of the zeros … It would be a big job, but I think everyone in Indonesia would love it!
What is the value for the American from the picture  below? ……….  $13.30
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A Meditation in the Terraced Sawah

I stepped carefully over a cement barrier into a luminous sea of green, making sure I had good footing. I continued to walk, step by step in a focused meditation. I allowed space between my guide and myself, as I shared this field only with him and a few birds.  Sunshine and silence and the green sea enveloped me. Within my view were rows and rows of rice fields. I tracked along for almost an hour, in this silent communication with nature.  In the distance you could hear the repeating rhythmic sound of clank-clank, it reminded me of the man I had seen in a different field. The man had two large empty water bottles that he banged together. I imagine he was out there in the early morning scaring the birds from his field. This clank-clank sound was similar and automated by the wind. How clever, I thought to myself.

I noticed a large white bird in the distance, probably an egret. With quiet slow steps I came closer to the bird, and just as I raised my camera to capture its beauty, it took flight.
“Maybe later”, I said to myself. Smiling, seeing how I have become part of the culture. “Maybe later” is the phrase I have used over and over, as I am approached by taxi drivers, and shop owners. “No thank you” was never enough, as the taxi drivers and shop owners would push for a purchase. They would question, “maybe tomorrow”?
So my new phrase became, “no thank you, maybe later”, which I ended up saying every two minutes as I walked through the little “town of Ubud”. And now, the phrase has become a part of me.
My “Bali blog” wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t make note of the rice fields.
Rice is a very important aspect of Balinese life. These rice fields not only dominate the countryside but also the religion and culture. It is the major crop and the main diet of the Balinese people. I have enjoyed rice with every meal, including breakfast! A typical Balinese breakfast is called Nasi Goreng, and it contains fried rice, an egg and a piece of cucumber.
The growing and cultivation of the rice is a large factor in the strength of the Bali community life. As I understand there are four words for rice; Padi is the growing rice plant (hence paddy fields), Gabah is rice after harvesting,  Beras is uncooked grain and Nasi is cooked rice, as in my breakfast rice, Nasi goreng (fried rice) or nasi putih (plain rice).
They use the method of wet rice cultivation. The fields are organized by a Subak, which is made up of all the people that own the land, and each member from the community has a responsibility, such as guarding and cleaning the water canals, regulating the water flow, etc. The Subak dam may be divided into dozens and even hundreds of channels to irrigate to terraced sawah (Rice field).
The crop is harvested with the help of friends and relatives. I watched one morning as a line of people came out of a building with baskets on their heads, and went into the field. I asked Berut, my new Bali friend, “What are they doing”? “They are harvesting the rice,” he replied. “All by hand”? I questioned. “Yes”, he explained. “During the rice harvest a line of harvesters work their way across the field. They cut the rice this way because there is no so much loss of the rice”.  I nodded to Berut, indicating that I was following his broken English. he, continued, “and once all the rice is cut it is gathered into bundles”.
Then Berut got up and walked over to the end of the field and came back with a handful of golden yellow rice strands. “They hit the rice and open the, what the word?” “Shell?” I questioned. “Yes the outer shell, and inside is the rice”.  I watched as he demonstrates this with is beautiful brown hands. “Oh, I see!” I said with delight, for here in front of me, Berut had produced a piece of rice!
Yesterday during my travels, I did see a machine with a gasoline engine, similar to the shape of the grain thrashing machines of America, but much smaller, only shoulder height.
 After questioning Berut about the machine, I was assured that the machine was used to “get the rice”, after the entire field was cut by hand, in the 86 degree hot sun, I might add!
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image   My friend Berut Children playing Common Painitng
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Beauty

I am just fascinated by these little yellow flowers that fall willingly from the tree. I can be staring into space, and see one drop before me, soon the ground is littered with them. It is like Creator is saying to me, “I see you and I am with you.”  And my mind goes to thanks and gratefulness for the beauty all around me. I know that I could find this beauty in America, if I tried.  When I first arrived I noticed the little yellow flowers (a little smaller than your palm) adorning the sinks in the bathrooms, or on the inside edges of steps as I walked up the stairs to a shop or restaurant. It was a beautiful “welcome to Bali”. Where I am staying now, I have my own tree!  This is where I noticed where the flowers came from and how they are easily collected. Following tradition I have collected some to place on my bed, in my bathroom, and in my hair. There scent is amazing, full, sweet, graceful and strong.   Today, I captured a few of Bali flowers for you to enjoy. I hope you can feel their beauty, and then find your own beauty around you. Blessings!

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It’s all about ‘the food’!

If your wondering what I am eating here in Bali, imagine heaven, a healthy heaven.

I have come to love the “young green coconut”.  Recently I learned that you don’t just drink the juice …. You scrape the coconut meat from the inside of the coconut as well. So I have become a connoisseur of the coconut.  I read that it is very healthy for you.  Other drinks have included carrot, beet and fruit juices or other juices mixed with turmeric and other healthy things.  I have tried a few drinks called “the liver cleanse” or “the healthy heart” and all have been delicious.  Aside from drinking… I have sampled both indonesian food and everything in between.  I love food and I can’t help talking about it. Ha ha.  Pizza is a big thing here in Ubud and I have treated myself to pizza a few times. I now know the best place in town to order pizza. Yum. I have had salads, chicken prepared in many ways, in stir fries, poached, grilled, sliced, diced and barbecued.  I even had a hamburger, topped with cheese and avocado. Of course, it came with the traditional French fries.  Isn’t a vacation sometimes all about food?  I know there are tours, shopping, swimming, and sun bathing…. But really without your tummy satisfied, those other things aren’t quite as fun.

I have had my first Mangosteen.  It is a sweet delicious  tropical fruit and you an eat quite a few of them in one sitting because they are soooo good!  They have a thick outer peel. You enjoy them by breaking the skin with your fingernail and twisting them until they open. The inside contains white sections, like the sections of an orange. But unlike the orange the mangosteen is quite small so you only get a few tangy, juicy, and somewhat fibrous sections per piece of fruit.   Bon Appetit

 

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The Elephant Cave

There is a small cave here in Bali, they call Goa Gajah, which means Elephant Cave. It is in the calm village of Bedulu which is about 26 kilometers or 16 miles from Denpasar. In case you want to drop by.

When arriving, you first walk past the markets, where you become acquainted with the wood or ivory salesman. He holds out his wares to you and smiles, “good deal only one US dollar.”
It was a very good deal, but I didn’t buy. I am practicing restraint since i want to be able to close my suitcase at the end of the month.
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First I saw these large pools of water, with fountain statues of women pouring water. Some people walked down the steps and splashed a bit in the water. I did the tourist thing and just took pics!
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Climbing down the next small set of stairs, you find the elephant cave. The energy inside the cave was amazing to me.  Read: so strong, like vortex energy. The cave was small, with “offering stations” (my phrase), and it seemed like “not a big deal” to many, but I wanted to stay in there and meditate. I stayed as long as I dare, I didn’t want to lose my group and be wandering around the park for hours. Nix that thought, I will follow long.
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After you climb down the next stairway you feel the very soothing tropic air and you are surrounded by the beautiful plants, bridges, a beautiful tropical panorama. Following the paths leads you to the Petanu river and a little waterfall.
Guide Robert by falls

Guide Robert by falls

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In case you were thirsty, you could find a vendor here or there offering “fresh young coconut”.  He would whack the top of the coconut off with his big sharp knife, and hand the opened coconut to you with a straw. YUM!
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Near there was a three branching stupa (see pic with a man sitting on it), and other beautiful old statues, ponds and this beautiful old tree with its roots climbing out of the ground offering a bench for those that pass by.
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I must have lost myself in the mystery of the forest, for when I left, I climbed up and up and up so many stairs, not realizing that I had descended on them. I thought this was so special it deserved a blog space.

Warning, tie your sarong tightly

 Learning how to wear a sarong and fit it correctly around you can be an adventure. Last week my friend Robert demonstrated how to wear one. The men and women wear sarongs when they visit a temple or see a high priest. Apparently you wrap it around a few times and push the end of the top piece next to your skin so the pressure of your tummy against the sarong holds it in place. I tried it, and it seemed to work fine. It stayed in place when I visited the temple and stood for my blessing. Cool, I thought, got this down pat.

 
When I dressed for ceremony the other day, I decided to make a single knot with the two pieces, the one end I started with and the end I ended with. Safe and secure, right?  
 
Well, I was sitting in a busy outdoor restaurant, innocently eating my lunch and visiting with a friend.  When I got up to leave and visit the rest room, I noticed my sarong was dragging a little on the ground. LOL, my goodness, my dress was falling off!! Quickly I saved the day, grabbing the fabric around me, I sneaked off hoping the restaurant patrons would not notice.  In the little room, I “readjusted” myself, this time putting a tight double knot where the two pieces come together. My advice, double knots work best!