Saturday, February 14, 2009

So, I went on vacation(ish)...

So, to begin with: Bali was amazing.

The first night after we flew into Denpasar, we stayed at a hotel called Puri Bebengan, in Ubud, Bali. We were all really tired, after 12 hours of flying and dealing with passports and new money. But that first night, driving to the hotel in the dark with the hot air blowing in through the windows of the van, Bali seemed magical. The unbelievable greenness of everything, the geckos on the walls and their strange clicks, the open rooms and damp gray sheets, and the stray cats and dogs that resided on the front stoop of almost every temple and store on the lane.

This is the bungalow that Becca and I shared on the first day of the trip. I woke up around 6 in the morning, when it was still pitch black outside. After the sun came up, I went out to the porch to see this:

At this point, I figured that if my backyard was this interesting, I might as well check out the rest of the place.

This pool was advertised on the front of the bungalows, but none of us were ever brave enough to actually jump in. When we returned to the hotel on the last day of our trip, I was sitting by the pool around midnight when I noticed an entire bush full of lightning bugs on the other side of the wall.

And this is the front lobby of the hotel. There's a little orange cat that came and hung out with us while we ate breakfast of banana pancakes and coffee. All of the animals on both Bali and Nusa Penida were not considered pets, so most of them were feral and mean. I noticed, though, that cats especially stay very small. This cat was the size of a normal 6-month old kitten, but I'm fairly sure it was full-grown.

After spending a day on Bali, we took a boat like this over to Nusa Penida. I'm not sure if this is the specific boat (probably not, since it's empty) but all of the boats we went on were about this size, fishing boats with big outriggers on the sides. The metal island out in the water is a diving station for Japanese tourists. It's slightly creepy-looking because every time we passed it, it was empty. As we learned, Nusa Penida is surrounded by coral reefs, sharks, and....

Oh hey, guys, dolphins! We got to see dolphins during a boat trip around the island, which was awesome. I've loved dolphins ever since I was a kid, so seeing a pod of bottlenoses made my inner five-year-old incredibly happy. But I'm jumping ahead.

We were picked up at the port on Nusa by a driver named Lindra and a guy named Maldi/Camang, who, along with a guy named Robet, ended up being our translators and guides for the rest of the trip. They drove us up to Mark's house, which was our kitchen and occasional medical facility for the rest of the trip.

The view from Mark's porch was pretty amazing.

The rain rolled in every morning around 10, although sometimes it held off until mid-afternoon. It usually only lasted a few hours, though, and then we could go swimming or go to the village. We soon learned that Bali time is heavily dependent on the weather.

One of the coolest things we got to do was go to temple ceremonies at the Hindu temples on the island. Although most of Indonesia is Muslim, Bali and Nusa Penida are Hindu, and there are many temple ceremonies to mark life and community events. We all bought sarongs and sashes at the market on Nusa, and got to participate in prayers. The community was very accepting of us, and one night we even toured the temples on the island with the young people from Tiagan, the village where we were staying.

Me in temple garments (minus sash - bad me!)

Starting on our third day on Nusa, we started staying with homestay families at night. I had a mixed experience, since I speak basically no Indonesian. I never felt as though I communicated very well, but it was incredibly interesting and humbling to sit, watch, and listen as families interacted and went about their daily chores. Every morning, my homestay mothers (we each stayed with 3 different families) would make me breakfast, usually consisting of mi (noodles) and break-your-face-sweet tea and some Bali cakes, which were little flower-shaped cakes filled with tapioca and chocolate and coffee flavoring. I settled into a routine where I went to bed around 9 pm every night and woke around 6 every morning.

Speaking of which, I should head to bed now, but I will have some more pictures and stories to share soon. Sorry for the delay, the semester just started and I'm still settling into my new responsibilities: 2 chemistry classes, 1 Japanese class, 10 hours of work, and teaching a knitting class - whew!

Hope everyone is doing well!

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