Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Here's India soon after her orthodontic surgery, cheeks all swollen up, but doped up enough to be cheerful.
For some reason I really like this picture of her.
Quan Yin on a sunny spring morning.
The day after we attended a City Repair type meeting, Meredith and Steve re-did their front yard to include a bench for weary pedestrians. There's a sign on it saying something like 'come rest awhile'. I think this bench will be replaced by a groovy cob bench, once Steve and I take our workshop in July.
The white truck in their driveway is an electric truck, by the way. And note the solar panels up on the roof. These guys are really green! In fact, they got me to sign up for a biodiesel home brewing workshop in a few weeks. I think we're going to start making our own.
And tonight we're going to see the new film "Why We Fight".
The painting is based on an old sticker design and the updated sarong design she created last year in Bali. But this painting also includes elements from Amy's poem, relating to Hurricane Katrina.
We had just hung it up to take some photos and Krista was realizing that it wasn't quite finished.
It's a beautiful work and I think it may take center stage in our booth at OCF this year.
Self portrait by Eden.
Our last day bowling.
Eden finally came to bowling with India and I. She'd long sworn that she'd never ever go. I don't know why she was so opposed.
But this day Krista was working and she had to come. I didn't expect her to bowl at all, just sit and draw while we carried on. But she insisted and ended up bowling all three games! She actually did quite well.
Ironically, we found out that day that the bowling alley had been sold and was being closed at the end of March. Yesterday was the last homeschooler's day and we missed it. So this was Eden's first and our last time bowling there.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
His name is Koman and we met him last year at Tutmak. I think he's sort of the maitre'd there. When I was back, on my last night, we got to chatting and he asked me to help him find work in the US. Any kind of work he said. He told me that aside from resturaunt work he's also a woodcarver. He speaks fair to good english and I'm sure he'd quickly become excellant.
Anyhow, let me know if you could help hook him up somewhere.
I also want to recommend my driver Nyoman Raka, if anyone is heading off to Ubud anytime soon. His email is email@example.com. I spent many hours with him and he drove me clear across the island for my three day adventure. His recommendations were always great, his english is good and he always asked a fair price. Twice he helped lug my impossibly heavy sarongs down the long long alleyway. He also taught me some Balinese greetings, which made my stay especially warm.
Finally, if you want to try out scuba diving in Bali, head up to Tulamben and hire Ketut Kamar to teach you the ropes and guide you out to the US Liberty wreck (for a mere 200,000rp!). He was absolutely wonderful and I still feel grateful to the man. A note of warning though--if you are female or gay: this guy is frighteningly handsome.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
This morning Krista and I went for a walk over to the swanky McDonald Avenue neighborhood to see a recently uncovered mansion. I don't really know the full story, but I think some old fellow was living there for years and years and the place gradually got so overgrown you couldn't really see it at all from the sidewalk. I remember walking by and seeing wild pineapple guava hedges and it really looked like a spooky old haunted property. I guess the inside of the house was full of junk too. It must have been nasty.
So this morning we were just ambling down the sidewalk chatting and there it was...a huge hundred year old mansion we'd never seen, beautiful with all kinds of gingerbread trim, freshly painted with new grass and no brush at all. It was a weird feeling--something missing, something totally new, but the new thing so obviously old.
We also saw that one of my favorite houses is up for sale (the above photo) and got to see the inside on the real estate website. Check it out here! Really inspiring for me. Of course, the price was a bit of a shock.
Last night we watched yet another movie Just Like Heaven. It was sweet and funny and we all enjoyed it, but the reason I mention it is that one of the characters was Jon Heder (aka Napoleon Dynamite)!! I'd never seen him in any other film and it was intensely strange/shocking/wonderful to see him in such a different role.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Krista and I joined Steve for a movie last night, while Meredith hung out with the girls. Krista had been hearing about this film, so we decided to check it out.
It's billed as "an uncompromising vision of the future".
Maybe so, but it seemed very current to me. A polished mirror held up for the American public. Indeed, we were surprised that it could even be shown in an American corporate theater.
I hope that a great many people see this film!
Of course, it was violent. Not for the squeemish. But much food for thought.
Friday, March 17, 2006
In just eight days I got used to people smiling at me, being friendly, up for chatting. Here folks seem too scared to look up at a stranger or return a greeting. I'm not looking to win a beauty pageant or anything, but I don't think I look that scary or menacing.
People are scared. I don't like it.
I've been surprised twice this week by friends casually talking about leaving the US--'for a year or two'. Friends who I never thought would even consider such a thing.
What about you, dear reader? Thinking about a break? If so, leave a comment here (you can be annonymous) and let us know what country/countries might get your vote.
I've been thinking of Bali, no surprise. If it was just a year.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Meredith and Steve picked me up at the airport, greeted me warmly and listened to my non- stop stream of consciousness travelogue all the way home, foregoing a dinner stop to get me back to Krista and the girls asap. But for them I would have spent an extra two hours waiting for the bus! What friends! They braved heavy traffic and pelting rain to fetch me home.
Today I'm struggling just a bit with jet lag. I forgot to take melatonin last night and was up for some hours in the middle of the night (afternoon Bali time). But I ushered Krista off to her studio and have been tidying up all morning. The house was nice and clean when I arrived, but I brought so much junk with me it's taking some sorting.
Krista was pleased with the 150 sarongs (she was afraid to look at them at first). I think they are truly wonderful. We've decided to sell them for $40. It seems like just the right price.
In my happiest fantasy they sell so well we decide to order a bunch more and get to go back to Bali again.
I got home from the airport at 9pm and the next morning at 9:30am we had to drive down to San Francisco to take India to another orthodontic surgery appointment. Jeez.
The appointment was mercifully brief and positive and we decided to drive over to Coit Tower just for kicks. Didn't see the parrots though.
Back home I felt like Santa Claus unpacking little presents for the gals. But what a mess.
I've been working on organizing my photos and video so I can bore all my friends to tears. Beware!
I've posted a few photos below. A somewhat random selection.
love and hugs,
Mostly the Balinese children ignore the tourists, which makes sense to me, and is undoubtably a good thing. Still, I had a few delightful encounters.
It became very clear to me this trip that the reason the Balinese are such warm, friendly, mellow and kind hearted folk is because of the intensely loving way they raise their children.
When I was a little boy I loved to play store--setting up a card table with a bunch of oddments for sale.
In Bali there are little stores everywhere. These people have the entrepreneurial spirit in spades. The stores might sell everything from petrol to hot soup. Unfortunately the relatively recent and widespread distribution of western style packaging has led to appalling levels of litter.
(Traditonal 'packaging' was made of leaves and totally compostable.)
Main Street of the 'bamboo village'. You can see the temple at the far end. My friend said until recently there were no motorized vehicles at all, now there are scooters. Every little compound was almost identical. The original tract neighborhood.
Except each compound had a garden and jungle, growing everything from coffee to pigs. In a word--sustainable.
I got a strong impression that this was a very good place to live. A tight knit community.
Pronounced kacheck. My driver's temple puts this performance on twice a week. Instead of gamelan, it's human voice and very powerful. Lots of "taka taka taka taka" and chanting. It's a fragment of story from the Ramayana Hindu epic and featured great costumes and dancing along with the hundred man choir. It seemed more genuine than the Ubud Palace nightly performances. I found it very moving, although I didn't entirely follow the story line.
After the Kecak performance they set out wooden barricades (seen in the foreground) and assembled a big pile of coconut husks. They doused the pile with something (petrol, I assume) and the flames roared up almost to the canvas canopy above. Once they were glowing embers this fellow comes dancing and prancing out and begins kicking the flaming pile, sending sparks and husks flying! He trod right on the burning coals with his bare feet. Attendants would scoop the red hot husks back into a pile whilst he pranced about, then kick kick, they'd go flying again. A couple times he sent husks flying over the barricade into the (mostly Japanese) audience! Scary!
I have to say, what with the music going and the cool dancing and the great showers of sparks, this beats out any fire-walking I ever heard of.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
This morning I set out at 7am for a walk. Not much open so I kept walking. Remember the little street or big alley that goes left past Casa Luna resturaunt. We once walked down there lookng for a particular bungalow, but gave it up as it seemed too far removed? Well I walked down there this morning and kept on walking and it kept on going and going and going, turning into a rough dirt track surrounded by rice paddies. It was pretty cool. I was really out in the countryside.
I had already decided to move from the Gayatri. Remember how our last day or two we got stuck in a room we didn't like? Well I got stuck in the worst room in the place and it was still 100,000rp! It had termite shit falling from the ceiling! And lousy beds. Yuk, so anyway I found that guest house I'd been looking for with you last year and for the same 100,000 a gorgeous room with breakfast. Actually I decided to upgrade to 180,000 room (since it's just for one night) that has a loft with three walls just windows. Incredible views. And a really big unusual tub (no pool), big enough for two.
The only catch is that it's really only accessible by scooter (or car with a long walk) as it's set way back from Jl. Bisma and that's way the hell out of the way to begin with.
No problem. I had already decided to rent a scooter (automatic) and my driver's friend fixed me up. 24 hours for 70,000 (I could've found a much better deal but what the hell). So I left my big suitcases at Gayatri, packed up and zoomed off to the Hibiscus. The room is fantastic. Your folks would love it!! I unpacked, got back on my scooter, carefully negotiated the tiny walkways back to Jl Bisma, gunned it up the steep ramp onto the street, overshot and put it in a ditch. Shit.
All these Balinese folks came running out and helped pull it up and checked me for damage. I got a minor little cut on my leg somehow. Didn't even bleed. But I broke the fender off the bike! I drove all over Ubud to find the Yamaha dealer to see if I could get it fixed--I feel really bad about it, it's a new bike. No one there spoke english at all, but I was able to find out how much it would cost anyway. Are you sitting down? 80,000rp. a little over 8 dollars. No big deal except no part. So I'm hoping the rental guy doesn't try to ream me out of $100 US. At least I'm armed with the information.
In the meantime I decided to run up Tegallalang, that endlessly long road lined with endless wholesale shops. I stopped in to see "our" wood carver and bought a few little things. He gave you a gift, by the way. I recognized many of the same stores we'd gone to. It was weird. this is one area of Bali that's not really doing so bad. The wholesale business is still thriving. Or so I'm told.
I was going to go up the road and find that Buddha store, but finally realized that it's way the hell up the mountain side and gave up.
After the Yamaha dealer I ended up taking a wrong turn and going all the way to Mas! Jeezus. It really all looks the same when you're speeding by. I suppose eventually I'd get used to scooter driving, but I'm still too tense to enjoy it much. But I'm going to zip around a little more. There's a fancy spa on Hannoman, near the Kafe, called Bodyworks. They offer a 'sunburn treatment' with massage and I think I'm going to make an appointment. I'm a little tense and have a few nasty burns on my back, and the top of my head.
Last night I went to see a shadow puppet show--wayang kulit. It was fuckin' weird. Ocassionaly there'd be some english bit, and those parts were pretty funny. jokes about "transport? transport? how bout tomorrow?" I met this very nice English couple (sort of a couple I guess) and we had a nice chat before the show. She's from Edinburough (sp?) and is an unschooling mom!! Amazing.
I invited them back after the very weird show to skinny dip in the dark dark pool. They were very grateful. I was grateful to hear the mother tongue spoken by friendly folks. Travelling alone, I get tired of pidgin english.
Aside from the scooter crash, the worst thing today was seeing Made, our old driver. He'd come by when I was away and left his number and I called him. He came over to my room as I was getting ready to check out. He obviously recognized me but didn't really remember us. He said he didn't remember you guys. It was sad. I think he's had a hard year with his wife being ill. I think maybe a lot of Balinese women are getting fibroids or something. I'm not sure that's true. But if it is it might be from careless use of pesticides. Who knows. I gave him some gifts I'd brought, but since he clearly didn't remember us it was too weird.
It almost makes me think that all these Balinese folks who seem so very very friendly and interested, really aren't. But what I really believe is that they are--in the moment. Then the moment is gone. And a new 'friend' is there to be served. They really give of their hearts, but they don't hold on to much. And really, why should they?
I also think Made might not be so typical and I'll tell you why: did I already tell you about the frog chess piece? How the shopkeeper saved it and then gave instructions to the new shopgirl when she changed jobs? And how she still remembered my name (Mr. Rob)? She also remembered the girls. So I choose not to be cynical.
I'm pretty sure the scooter guy will remember me.
Well, it's my last day and I'd better go shopping.
When I get home I'll post some photos.
I'm back!!! I'm so sorry you were worried. I fully expected there to be internet in Amed, and indeed it was advertised, but for some (untranslatable) reason it was always broken (so sorry, maybe work later...)
I've been having a jam packed time of it. I can't even begin to describe all the amazing sites, sights and experiences in the last four days. But yesterday afternoon and this morning I went SCUBA DIVING!!!. Scuba diving down into the US Liberty, an american ship sunk off the coast by the japanese in 1942! At least I think that's the date and situation. No google in Amed. It was an incredible experience, so beyond snorkling it just doesn't compare. There were fish just swimming right up to us, big BIG tropical fish, a giant clam with irridescent blue lips, two clown fish playing in their anenomie! Tell the kids I saw 'little nemo'. It just went on and on. An hour of absolute bliss yesterday and then again this morning. I've got a roll of film I took with their underwater camera. I hope it comes out so I can show you. The little Balinese dive master was such a cool fellow. He didn't really talk me into doing it, but was just so encouraging. And he was so careful teaching me what to do and making sure I was safe and ok the whole time. And he must know every square meter of that wreck, he led me on two different tours and they were both just stunning. words really fail me. It was 200,000 rp for the experience. About $20.
So far my ears seem okay. If they even start to get funky I've got my perscription eardrops from new zealand.
So backing up a bit...four days ago the owner of the gayatri invited me to go to kintamani and lake batur with him, to visit some hotsprings. I went for it and had a most unusual day! he speaks excellant english (for a balinese) so I was able to ask him a million questions. and since he's travelled and lived in europe he has a more western perspective on things and that made it much easier to have a conversation. aside from the hotsprings, which were really disgusting!, we stopped off at two different rural families, people who work,or have worked for him. He's sort of like an honorary grandfather-benefactor. Really a nice man. I got to hear much of his life story over the course of the day, and had experiences no guide would provide. he took me to a place he called the bamboo village, which was like a little suburban track neighborhood, about 500 years old! all the houses and compounds were the same (until recently). I got to see coffee growing there. I'll have to show you pictures. We also went to rural temples and such. Really cool. And lake batur was worth going to see. how ironic that that asshole guide took us up there last year and we never even saw it (at least didn't) I didn't even know it was there to see. (It was raining very hard).
So the next morning I took off with my new driver Nyoman Raka, who is about my age, I think. It was hard at first, not having such an easy time conversing, but he took me to great places. The temple at Besakih (sp?) which is the mother temple for all bali, and then the goa lawah, the bat cave. I didn't see batman or robin, but there were tens of thousands (of the millions) of fruit bats right there to see. Apparently there are also giant black pythons that live up in the cave walls and come out to eat bats! I didn't get to see that happen, but I'll tell you, my inner child was doing cartwheels.
We then went to a great resturaunt in Candi Dasa he'd once been to with a client. He was very surprised when I offered to buy him lunch! I guess he wouldn't be invited if it were a group tour. It was the best meal I've had so far on bali. And then he took me to a really nice hotel in Amen. My 100,000rp room was the same price, but SO much nicer than the giyatri, and included breakfast, and had a pool and a beach with really good snorkling. Mmmm, banana pancakes. And Bali Kopi with slices of ginger in the bottom. That was actually really good.
The room was like a polynesian affair, with very high thatched roof and coconut wood.
I rented some snorkling gear and got very sunburned in the little places I couldn't reach with sunscreen. It was better than in Moorea (but a joke compared to scuba). The resturaunt was a big open air place much like the la joya, beautiful, right on the ocean, with decent food.
So I got to see a lot of rural bali. Little pigs, farmers plowing with oxen in rice paddies, people living in very primitive conditions, gorgeous rice terraces. It was wonderful, though the drive back today kind of stressed me out. it was really sunny and hot and it seemed that the route was much more urban and trafficy. yuk. also, the only room available at the gayatri was not such a good one. probably the worst room in the place, but I finally decided to take it because my million pound bags are there and I was too tired to go looking.
I finally weighed a sarong at the post office and it was just about 1/3 kilogram, so all 150 of them should weigh 50 kilograms which is about 110 pounds. Roughly 55 pounds per suitcase, which is actually under the 70 pound limit! They really feel heavy!!
I haven't been very good about bargaining. Especially out in the boonies there just weren't very many of us tourists. No one was aggressive at all, which was one of my worries before coming. If anything, there are fewer touters than last year.
Tonight I think I'll go see the shadow puppet show down the street. Nyoman tells me it's in english. And tomorrow morning I can go see the ubud kids learning dance at the palace. it's free so they can attract an audience for the kids. My driver's 7 year old will be there.
I think I'm going to face my fear and rent a scooter tomorrow. Maybe go up to Tegallalang and maybe even Celuk.
gotta go. Butt sore.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Really cute painter guy from the alley. He asked if I wanted to see his paintings and I did. Turned out it was quite a walk down little sub-alleys. More peaceful than where I'm staying.
I was relieved that there was no pressure to buy anything! We have too damn many paintings at home. But I was really impressed by his work.
It's people like him that make me glad I'm in Bali.
I really like Murni. Once again she pulled me into her shop to show me photos of her daughter the dancer, on tour to Japan!
Her son is not a cub scout, by the way. That's his school uniform. Different color every day. I gave him a colorful bouncy ball (from China) and his mom a jar of organic blackberry jam (which greatly puzzled her, I think).
Last year she was always giving the girls little bags of weird fried treats. Really nasty. I hope she likes the jam.
I ventured out fairly early this morning and encountered the 'real' market. I was the only white guy. Actually there was only one other tourist of any kind, a befuddled Japanese girl.
I'd never even seen some of the produce on offer. What a trip.
I actually had a mission. I bought some of those tiny little bananas that are so so good. I took 'em back to my patio and enjoyed them with Trader Joe's almonds for breakfast.
Way more than twice the volume I expected. I thought I'd have room left over in the black suitcase and then a whole 'nother one to fill up with goodies. Silly me.
But the good news is they look great. Hey, you could be the first to actually buy one! Assuming my plane doesn't explode or anything horrible.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Or my butt anyway.
I got here yesterday about 4pm and was able to stay up till 7:30! Today I've felt a bit weird all day, I guess it's jet lag. I ran into an unexpected hassle too. I brought $100 bills to change into rupiah, to pay for the sarongs. Turns out the Balinese don't take many (or most?) US $100 bills. I never could find out why. Any bill before 1999 is out. And a host of serial numbers for post 99 bills. I walked all over town, since the polite Balinese bank folks hated to just say "no". So they would direct me to another bank that might be able to take the bills. After four banks I called Ratna, our batiker, and she said no problem, she takes visa! Shit. Wish I'd asked. Now I'm carrying around all this cash. Not that I don't feel safe. Hindus believe in karma, thank god.
The other surprise was the sheer volume of the sarongs. Two BIG boxes. I had gotten the dimensions from Ratna a month or two ago. She totally screwed up somehow. I used her measurements and figured I could get the sarongs into half of one big suitcase. The other was for handicrafts. Well, forget that plan!!!
I stuffed my big suitcase chocked full of the things and have most of another box to deal with. Crazy. And they are much heavier somehow than I was led to believe. Oh well. I'll figure out something.
On the plus side, they look FANTASTIC!!!! I only opened one out all the way, but all the rest are wrapped in clear plastic sleeves. They're really stunning. I think we'll be able to sell alot of them at the OCF. Maybe enough to pay for this trip and the sarongs?
It's just 9pm (5 am Santa Rosa time) and there are little geckos running around the walls eating little gnats. I just had a pretty good massage. Not the best, but pretty good. And for $3.50 who's complaining.
People have been very friendly. They all ask where's my family. It must seem really weird to them, really really weird, that I left them home 'alone'. The taxi driver asked me why I wasn't going to stay longer. He wanted me to see Nyepi at the end of the month. I asked him if he would/could leave his children for 10 days and he got a very serious expression on his face. "No, this is not possible for Balinese".
I've given a few gifts so far. A jar of blackberry jam to the nice shopkeeper in the alley. A good saleable book for the bookseller. They recieved the gifts with some confusion. But my friend Putu who plays guitar in the alley, and sung us Hotel California last year, in his raspy voice--I gave him a pink guitar pick I'd bought at Stanroy's Music Center for .35 cents (I bought it just for him) and he was so happy you'd think I'd given him a motor bike. He promptly fetched his guitar and tried out the pick, playing Leaving on a jet plane in his amazingly raspy voice. I was able to record this on my spy camera, surreptitiously. I think it will be a treasure for Krista.
So Putu asked me if I'd like to go on a tour of Ubud tomorrow. I said 'sure, a walking tour?' He laughed and said 'no, on motor bike'. I'm going to go for it. After a morning massage.
I had a wonderful gourmet dinner at a gorgeous but deserted resturaunt. It was the kind of plate that arrives looking really beautiful, but rather small. But ends up doing the trick because it's just so damn good. I kept thinking of Jerry and Joyce. They would love it.
But there are other, less loveable aspects of Ubud. It's dirty and hectic, at least where I'm at. I'm actually staying in the room Joyce had last year. I'm not sure how many times it's been cleaned since. The floors are clean. And the bed. It's just a bit grungy around the edges.
The pool is still fabulous, although it has a new three story building right next door. It's a very attractive building. I took a swim last night, but it was a bit cold (amazingly). Without the kids though, I'm not sure how much I'll be using it. They really made it fun.
Now that business is mostly wrapped up and the jet lag is starting to wear off, I'm starting to think about heading off into parts unknown. See the 'real' Bali. I'll keep you posted.
One last thing. My driver today taught me how to say 'thank you' and 'how are you--fine' in Balinese. Not Bahasa (the official Indonesian language) but pre-bahasa Balinese, which he said is much better recieved, especially by the old folks and little kids. It was like receiving a secret key to unlock smiles. Big smiles and invitations to sit down and chat. I'm still struggling with the pronunciation of those two gems and the other bahasa phrases I'm trying to use.
Well, good morning and Selamat Pagi.