Writers and Coffee and Gays, Oh My!

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. Part of the reason, ironically, is because I attended a writer’s festival last weekend, and it really took a lot out of me.

When I first contemplated this trip, and bought my Lonely Planet guidebook, I was pondering what time of year to go. October was what felt right. So, I looked in the guide book to see if there were any special events happening in October, and lo and behold, there was an international writer’s festival happening. The Ubud Writer’s and Readers Festival.  That was a clear sign. So, I planned my trip for the month of October (which then became part of September and November as well).

Yet, I did not buy my ticket for the festival. I thought I might volunteer, because anyone who knows me knows I love to volunteer, plus it would save a chunk of money on the ticket. Yet, I did not apply to volunteer either. This is what I do. Or don’t do.

Actually, scratch that. Change the language. This is what I used to do. One of my forms of self-sabotage. I’d hem and haw, procrastinate (i.e. push things further away), and in the end, make it all much harder on myself.

So, I hemmed and hawed, and deliberated for five months– from the conception of this trip until a few days before the event. Then, finally, I had a moment with myself when I thought about how good the experience would probably be for me, and reminded myself of the fact that I decided to come in October because that festival showed up… and now I was really thinking about not going? Old patterns die hard, and before they do they can be quite cunning.

I looked into volunteering again, but I was too late. The application was closed. So, with loving support from the The Brit and The Other Brit, reminding me that this would be a gift to myself and an investment in myself, I charged the ticket to my visa card. As soon as I did that I realized how silly it was for me to consider not going.

And the theme was “Tat Tvam Asi”, Sanskrit for “I am you, you are me.” Which is so fitting for me

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I’m so glad I went. The funny thing about events like this is that I usually go into them looking for inspiration from others, waiting for someone to say something that pushes me in a certain direction, but often what I get out of it is not anything that anyone else says, but a yearning to be a part of the conversation. Hearing questions asked to the speakers and really wishing I could be up there chiming in my own answers. Because I have something to say. And I have valid responses to people’s questions. And that is a pretty clear indicator to me that I truly feel like I belong in that role. Not from a place of ego, but from a calling, deep inside me.

There were a lot of incredible Writers, Speakers, and change makers that I had the privilege of seeing. And a lot I missed because they conflicted with other panels I wanted to see. But there was nothing that anyone said that shifted anything for me. It was what I had to say, and the yearning to say it that brought me closer to my role as a Writer.

But I still must mention some of the highlights of the event. My absolute favorite was a guy named Mayank Austen Soofi. A gay Indian man with a personality akin to Sophia Grace from the Ellen show. I have not read a word of his work yet. I tried to buy his book at the festival, but it sold out (so happy for him!). That tells you how much people loved him. He was hard not to love. He had the most pure, raw, joyful, exuberant, and magnetic personality. I really wanted him to be my friend.  Readers, please check him out!! I plan to get his book when I get back. He is a special soul and he deserves support and success!

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I really wish I had gotten a better picture of him

 

Another favorite was the award winning writer, Mitchell S. Jackson, who wrote a novel based on his real life journey from crack dealer to Writer, and Professor at New York University and Columbia University. I swear my affinity had nothing to do with finding him attractive, and my weakness for brown skinned men. Of course not.

I absolutely love real stories of people transforming their lives.  And from the book excerpts he read, it seems as though there’s a rhythm, almost a beat, to his writing, which is quite intriguing to me as well. Plus, anyone who knows me knows that I find the brain to be the sexiest part of the body and intelligence is a huge turn on, but I swear my attraction to him (and based on the way he looked me up and down, I think it’s safe to say the attraction was mutual) was purely professional. Yeah, totally.

My one other favorite part of the festival actually had nothing to do with writing. It had to do with something very close to many writers. Coffee. There were many food booths there, and one coffee booth hidden way back in the corner. My first few days I wanted to caffeine up before I arrived. But on the last day I just wanted to go straight to the festival and decided to get coffee there. I am so glad I did, but so bummed I only discovered this place on the last day.

Coffeenatics is a coffee company out of Sumatra. These guys came from Sumatra to Bali just for the festival. And they were not only one of my favorite parts of the festival, but some of my favorite people I have met on this trip.

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They were the best!

I walked up to the booth and one of the guys immediately said, “You look good! I like your style.” Motioning his finger up and down in the air. Now, I’m a smart, intelligent woman, a deep thinker, a spiritual being. I believe I have a lot of wisdom and insight to offer the world. I also carefully picked out my flowy Balinese outfit that day. So, it made me really happy to have my efforts recognized. After all, fashion is still a creative process.

That was a nice way to begin our interaction. Then, as I waited for my coffee to be made, I walked into the grassy area to discover a lovely, peaceful hammock, just waiting to cradle me. When I imagined coming to Bali I was hoping there would be a hammock involved at some point, when I exclaimed about the hammock the Coffeenatics said, “Go lay in the hammock! We’ll bring the coffee to you!” As if they hadn’t already completely won me over! The only thing that could’ve topped that would’ve been if they started fanning me with a giant banana leaf. I officially loved them at that point.20161030_101659

I lay in the hammock for a few minutes, but at that point I actually was more interested in hanging with them then hanging in the hammock. So, I left the hammock and sat by them for a bit. They then offered to fill my water bottle with cold water, which is a big deal for a several reasons. Hydration. Hydration is important, especially for us whities who aren’t used to this heat and humidity. Trash is a big deal here on Bali. And it really sucks to have to keep buying plastic water bottles. (That was my one real complaint about the festival- they need water refilling stations). So, it was awesome to be able to get my water refilled and not waste another plastic bottle. And it was cold! Most refillable water is in big 5 gallon jugs that of course aren’t kept cold. So, cold water is a bit of a luxury. Oh, and there was lemon in it!

Did I mention the coffee was good too? I visited them again later in the day and had my lunch over by them. In the big scheme of things I only spent a short amount of time with them, but I felt like I instantly had new friends, and they made me want to go visit Sumatra, and of course stop by their café when I do. That’ll be the next time I come here.

As far as the rest of the festival, there was a slew of intriguing writers, and amazing activists. It felt really good to be in such an intelligent environment. Some other people to highlight:  Suki Kim, the investigative journalist who lived undercover in North Korea (for I think 2 years?). She is the only person to have ever lived undercover in North Korea. But, because she is a woman, her book is marketed as a memoir and given a pink cover. I’ll just leave it at that.

There was Shandra Woworunto, a survivor of human trafficking. And holy shit. That woman is amazing. After all of the horrific abuses she experienced, she has triumphed with a bright, beautiful, positive spirit.

There was Baz Dreisinger, a New Yorker who has worked in prisons all over the world and does a lot of prison-rights activism. She was so fucking intelligent I just enjoyed hearing her brain make words.

There were some really great auxiliary events, some free and some extra charge. There were workshops, children and youth programs, movie screenings, speaking engagements and poetry slams. I attended the main festival  poetry slam with The Handsome Indian.

The event opened with an Australian Muslim hip hop group. I was excited and had high hopes because I thought their mission was pretty cool (to spread awareness and break the shame and stigma of being Muslim). I had wanted to find some hip hop since I arrived. But unfortunately I didn’t think they were that great. I still give them credit for doing what they do.

The poets, however, were fantastic! It was so marvelous getting to hear people from all over the world bring all kinds of poetry to the stage.

Another highlight for me, which deserves honorable mention, was actually one festival speaker’s partner. I attended an evening event, which was advertised as something way different than it was (there were a few of those). The speaker was pretty boring, but at the end, when he introduced his partner, that was worth it. His partner was bold Balinese man wearing a plaid sarong, platform heals, a huge wide brimmed ladies hat, t-shirt, blazer, and fanning himself with a hand fan. God, I loved him. I wanted to take a picture, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful. Remember I said I wanted to find my gays? (By the way, The Brit turned me onto a spa run by a couple of flamboyant Balinese gays, so I’ve been getting my pedicures there. If there is anything better than just any Balinese person, it’s a flamboyantly gay Balinese person).

The festival ended with a big closing ceremony celebration. I was so tired and worn out from that festival, it was really hard to drag myself out to that last event. But I’m glad I did. That hip hop group performed again, a little better this time, because they had a more of a party crowd vibe to play off of (but still not great). There were fire dancers, more poets, the most adorable MC’s who made me feel like I was at something between a high school rally and an Asian variety show. And then, to close the night, they brought out a band called The Soul Brothers, which I knew would make me happy. I was so low energy I didn’t think I could get myself to dance, but then they played Cosmic Girl by Jamiroquai (my obsession band from 2001-2006) and I couldn’t not dance.

If I don’t like the music then I don’t really enjoy dancing that much. But with the right music, it’s one of the best feelings in the world. And I’m not sure if it’s physically possible for my body to not dance when Jamiroquai comes on. Plus, one of the things I really wanted to do on this trip was dance, and I managed to remind myself of that when I was thinking about how tired I was. Just dance, my soul whispered.

They played all kinds of other disco hits, a couple more Jamiroquai songs, and closed out the night with Jungle Boogie, which was probably the most fun song they played.

The second the music ended I was out of there though. I got a ride home on a motorbike taxi with the sweetest older man, named Wayan, who enthusiastically recognized me from the last time he gave me a ride home (I did not remember, which is rare, but he knew where I lived so I guess he was right). He exclaimed what a good arura I have and how I bring good energy to Bali. He gently held my hand to his heart when he dropped me off and I put his number in my phone for when I need another motorbike ride somewhere.

I’m really glad I bit the bullet and went to that festival. It was an investment, and not something I will ever regret spending the money on.

Next year I will apply to volunteer early though.

There is so much more I have to say about my experiences over the past couple weeks, but for now I’m keeping this post just about the festival.

Today is my last day here in Bali, and if I don’t get to a blog post before I leave, I’ll have plenty of time at airports and in flight to get some writing done.

But for now, I’m off to meet up with The Brit and The Mini Brit for one last Bali experience.

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There was also some incredible art as well.

Don’t forget, you can see more of my pics and video on my Instagram page.

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Environment Matters

My houseplant taught me something, right before I left for this trip to Bali. I was doing my final plant watering before leaving and I noticed how happy my fern is in its current spot. It gets just the right amount of filtered sunlight for it to flourish. And it dawned on me: environment matters.

A cactus cannot grow in a swamp, and a lotus cannot grow in the desert. Environment matters.

This was a bit of an aha moment for me, because until then I had been telling myself, for so long, that “wherever you go there you are,” -which is totally true, but… environment matters too.

And that thought has traveled with me across oceans and continents to accompany me here in Bali.

From the moment I arrived, I’ve wondered what’s going happen when I get back to California. All I could think and all I can think is that when I try to reach people, 90% of the people I talk to will be “too busy”.

And I simply do not have the energy to chase people around and beg for a timeslot in their schedule.

Many of these people I love deeply, and their circumstances are not solely on them. I mean, shit, with the OBSCENELY high cost of living in California (especially the Bay Area), everyone is swimming against the current. But I’ve worked too hard and spent too much time designing my life around having time and space for my loved ones. So, to still feel like I have to chase people in order to have a relationship with them is beyond my capacity at this point. And it’s taken me ‘til now, here, across oceans and continents, to get honest with myself about it.

I’m not thinking of any one person in particular, I’m just speaking generally. I carve out time in my schedule for what I call Relationship Building and Maintenance, and I can think of very few people who do the same. Most of the people I carve out time for- to check in on, to see how they’ve been or what they’ve been up to, I would easily go six months to a year or two without hearing from them, unless I contact them. Except, of course, for the percentage of those people who only contact me if they need something from me (even if all they need is to hear themselves talk to me).

And don’t get me wrong, I love being there for people! But there needs to be balance and mutuality. If all I am to someone is: there, for them– then what kind of a relationship can truly be had?

Different relationships require different levels of attention and energy. I have plenty of mutual friendships where the give and take is the same and we still only manage to see each other every few months. That’s fine, and it works. Then there are people who I put so much energy into, and still only see them every couple of months.

I’m not looking for constant contact, or for people to revolve their lives around me. And I’m certainly not interested in anyone feeling obligated to put energy into a relationship with me. That would probably feel just as shitty.

I know this is not something personal. This is not something that people are doing “to me“. It’s just that they don’t have the time and space for this person that is Me. So, I’d rather put my energy into people who do have the time and space and energy.

It’s unfair to both of us (whomever the ‘us’ may be) if I try to wedge myself into any little slot of someone’s time. Because really, in doing that, I’m lowering my own self-respect, which is not an authentic way to live and love, and it’s not bringing my Truth to the relationship. I’m putting more on their plates instead of looking towards people who have room on their plates, and invite me to their feast. Wedging myself into someone’s schedule, and therefore life, also enables The Other to continue taking people for granted. And do I really want to spend my energy wedging myself  into someone’s life? Wouldn’t it be better to simply open my arms and be met by another pair of opened arms?

I have cultivated a truly beautiful community of truly incredible people. I love my friends, just about as much one can love. But no matter how incredible they are, I can no longer carry the weight of my relationships. I have been down that road way too many times. I’ve cut out so many people from my past because of this very same issue (combined with them just being toxic people).

So, I am coming to terms with the fact that I may not have the same relationships when I return. This does not mean I am cutting people out, disowning, or closing the door. It just means that even the thought of how much energy I spent on people (especially in comparison to how little they spent on me), is exhausting.

So, I’m not going to do it. I will no longer work so hard to get a piece of other people’s time.

And this does not mean I don’t love them. In fact, it is going to be very difficult for me, because I love them. I love each and every one of my friends so, so much.

But I can no longer over-give and show up faster, further, and more available than others show up for me. I have to take a step back, and only give as much as has been given to me. Otherwise, I am just depleting what I have to give.

I will return to California with new boundaries and start looking elsewhere for people who can really understand and live this with me.

There is absolutely no love lost. The love is all still there, it just could not flourish in that space. So, the time and energy must be allocated elsewhere.

It’s time for this lotus to bloom.lotus

A Day In The Life

When I told people I was going to go to Bali for six weeks, I was often asked, “Are you going there for vacation? Or some other reason?”

I didn’t know how to answer that. I really don’t like the word “vacation.” I use it, just because I know that’s what people understand, but I still really do not like the word. It suggests the need to vacate, and I whole-heartedly believe in creating a life that I don’t need a vacation from. For the most part, I’ve been succeeding at doing that too.

So, my reason for coming to Bali for six weeks was simply: to live. To experience the world in new ways, to experience life in new ways, to experience myself in new ways. I didn’t know what I would do when I got here, where I might go, what I might see. I just knew that I wanted to get to know something completely new.

And that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been living. In Bali.

When I arrived, as a first time traveler, everything seemed so different and unfamiliar. The longer I am here the less different it appears and the more familiar it feels. I’ll admit, the town I am staying in is very westernized, so that lends itself to familiarity, but I also think I’m just settling into the flow of things here. And I really love it.

In California I felt frustrated a lot of the time because it seemed like everyone I talked to and everywhere I turned I would hear the words “too busy,” or some variation of that. Honestly, those words kind of make me cringe even thinking about it. I got so tired of hearing “I’m so busy!” Granted, a lot of people are busy with positive things, like building a fulfilling career for themselves or raising a beloved family, but too often I felt like too many people were too busy just being busy, and not actually Living. And too often “busy” can be a form of escapism.

Of course everyone has times where they have a lot going on and can be pretty busy, but when “busy” becomes a way of life, it seems like one is just begging for burnout, if not something much worse, like a terrible illness or a total meltdown .

And if it’s not being busy, the other thing that I got really tired of was alcohol consumption being such a major part of the lifestyle. I guess living in wine country (and now it’s beer country as well), one could only expect that routine alcohol consumption would be a part of the living there, but I got really fucking tired of it. I love a nice drink once in a while. Hell, I love having a few drinks once in a while, but when alcohol is accompanied by anything else you do, and is a part of everyday living. Every. Day. It really wore on me. Especially after spending so many years surrounded by so many raging alcoholics. I longed for a community that didn’t revolve around alcohol.

So, I am happy to say that sobriety and healthy living is more of the norm here than partying, or having a drink with every meal. Maybe that’s partially because alcohol is really expensive here. A weak, light beer might only be less than $1.50usd, but a cocktail costs more than a meal. Forget about hoppy microbrews, you won’t find any. And the wine is shite.

I mentioned in my first Bali blog post that as soon as I got here I wanted a cigarette and a drink. That faded pretty fast. The idea of smoking seems so gross in this humidity. Although I will admit, I wouldn’t mind having a couple of cold cocktails with some friends, but the irony of that is that a lot of the friends I’ve been making are focused on sobriety. And that is a welcomed change for me. I’ll usually choose the clarity of sobriety over inebriation any day. So even though a nice cold cocktail sounds good, I am perfectly happy staying sober if it means having more authentic connections with special people.

Along with sobriety and healthy living being a part of the norm here, a lot of people I meet are also working in or working towards similar ways of making a living as I’m working towards. Lots of entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, wellness practitioners, and people wanting to help others live happier, healthier lives.

I’m primarily talking about the western culture and expats, but even a lot of the Balinese folks I’ve talked to have the dream/goal of starting their own business.

So, it feels really good to be here. I’ve been meeting some beautiful people and having some wonderful experiences, but I’ve also just been in the flow of daily living, and that in itself has been special.

I’ve been developing a really great friendship with the Brit and the mini Brit, as well as with the Other Brit who lives in a different house. They are all special souls, and that’s really the only way I can think of describing them. Special souls, and I do not belive it to be a coincidence that we were all placed in each other’s lives like this. I am truly grateful to be getting to know each of them. We spend quite a bit of time together, whether it’s been swimming in the pool, meeting up for dinner and frozen yogurt, or going on some beautiful outing like the Full Moon ceremony I told you about, or visiting one of the water temples.

The Brit and the mini Brit are only here til the end of November, and the Other Brit lives here. But it’s hard for me to think of parting with any them. Thank God Truth for Facebook.

As much as I love the westerners that I’ve been meeting, I try to get to know Balinese people whenever I can. Last night I saw my friend Made at the tour company and hung out with him and his friend Wayan for about an hour or so, just talking and hearing about life and customs in Bali.

Bali is a very special place in many ways. The weather here is paradise, the tropical trees and flowers are heavenly, the food is delicious, the air smells like incense or flowers at most times, the scenery is breathtaking, very often a dove or a giant butterfly will just flutter across your frame of vision like magic. But, by far, my absolutely favorite thing about Bali is the people.

The Balinese people are extraordinary. You know that distinct feeling you get when you fall head over heels in love with a new lover? When a Balinese person smiles at you, it’s like getting a quick shot of that feeling, straight to the chest. Especially the older people. I swear they have Disney sparkles in their eyes! They are so magnificent!

It’s even more special because, in California, eye contact and smiling at a stranger is often perceived as either an invitation, or a threat.  I’ve really missed simply being able to smile at a stranger without feeling like I would then either get hit on, or receive the stink eye.

But just like everything and everywhere, there is a shadow side. There is a very interesting juxtaposition here in Bali. The air may smell like incense and flowers at almost all times… until you get a huge whiff of sewage or traffic fumes.

The people are gorgeous, but there is some corruption and you have to be careful that you don’t get taken advantage of. Most people won’t, but just like in the States, it could happen.  Like, remember the guy who sold me that incredible painting that came from his heart? Well, I started looking inside a lot of the many shops and market stalls selling art, and a lot of the art looks just like the stuff he sold me. So, either he didn’t at all paint them, or he did and it’s just replicating a style. It’s ok though, I still love it and think it’s beautiful, it just has less meaning, because it doesn’t feel like it authentically came from his imagination.

The traffic may be unruly, but there seems to be a system to it, and it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of accidents, relatively speaking. By the way, I’ve been learning how to navigate crossing the crazy traffic here pretty well. It’s like playing real-life Frogger. Though sometimes, if it’s especially bad, I may end up walking a block past where I’m trying to get to, until I feel it’s safe to cross. Then I’ll either turn around and go back to where I need to go, take a long walk around the block and make a lovely detour of it, or just decide to go someplace different than I had planned. More often than not I manage to get across just fine.

And when you get out of the bustling town centre, the scenery is like you’ve stepped inside of a dream, but if you look in the ditches, they are filled with trash. I’d thought about wanting do some clean up, or somehow be able to contribute more to the community here, because it’s all so beautiful- the land and the people- and even though tourism brings a lot of money into this area, I’m guessing, relatively speaking, of the total sum of money that comes in, a very low percentage actually makes it to the Balinese people.

So, I’d been brainstorming and journaling about wanting to do something to help out. Remember how I said you get to witness my synchronicities in real-time? Well, I never said a word about my yearning to help to anyone, but one of my other house-mates happened to send me a Facebook invite to a trash clean-up day! Every Wednesday evening at 5:00pm.

When Wednesday came along, there was that small part of me that wanted to talk myself out of doing the trash clean-up. Or at least put it off til next week (where I could easily put it off until the week after that, then not end up doing it at all).  I was feeling a little ungrounded that day anyway. I noticed that I was starting to get a little complacent in my routine of going to get coffee and breakfast at my favorite café, then just hanging out there for a couple of hours until I felt called to either wander around, or go back to the house for a swim. I wasn’t branching out much and I wanted to see a little more of Bali, besides Ubud center.

I kept reminding myself that I needed to continue practicing leaving my comfort zone and facing my fears, no matter how small and easy to sweep aside they may seem. Like when I finally got my money changed! Which I’ve done a few times now (and it was seriously no big deal, and totally legit).

Part of my apprehension came from needing to get a motorbike taxi to get out to where the trash clean-up was happening. I could’ve gotten a car, but it’d cost twice as much. I was nervous about another motorbike ride. I’d only been on one once, that night of the full moon. And that was with a woman whom I trusted because she was a friend of a friend (and little did I know she’d become a beloved friend of mine as well). Getting a taxi would mean having to hold onto some stranger and hope that they would drive safely.

But I did it, and I’m really glad that I did. I found a guy, negotiated a price, and he drove very safely. I must say, pretty much every Balinese person I’ve ridden with has been an excellent and safe driver, so I can see how the disorganized traffic works.

He was very nice and he knew where to take me. We drove down one of the city streets, leading out of the centre, and soon we were amidst those magnificent rice fields that I had only seen in the full moonlight. When I got to the trash clean-up meeting spot I paid him and parted ways, heading into this huge, beautiful café that was still a work in progress. I was early, because I figured better early than late. So I ordered a virgin pina colada and sat at a little table with the most incredible view of the rice fields.

When I arrived in Ubud, I expected a quaint, serene village. I did not expect a constant buzz of traffic and tourists. This place, about 10 minutes outside of town, was everything I’d ever imagined Bali to be. And I couldn’t believe it took me so long to see it!

I hung out in a state of awe until the rest of the crew arrived. There was a middle-aged Aussie woman, a handsome Indian man, a young Canadian woman, a Spaniard woman, a couple of young I think they were Japanese ladies, a couple of Balinese folks, a few Balinese children, and the most beautiful old Balinese farmer. He definitely had Disney sparkles in his eyes.

It was such a gorgeous experience! Wandering through these lush landscapes, picking up so much trash (yet not even close to enough), knowing that I am doing my small part to help preserve the beauty of this magnificent place, hearing the children laugh and chatter, seeing women in their finest ceremonial clothing wandering around the country roads with their heads stacked with trays of fruits or baskets of goodies of some sort,  getting little love shot after love shot from each of them as they blessed me with their incredible smiles.

Since the trash clean-up is every week, it’s only about an hour long each time, which is just enough to get some loads of trash, but not tired yourself out too much in the heat and humidity.

I had asked the Aussie and the handsome Indian earlier if either of them would be going back to Ubud and if I could get a ride. It worked out that the handsome Indian was going back through on his way to a friend’s house, so when it was time to go I hopped on the back of his motorbike and rode back through the rice fields right as the sun was starting to set.

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So dreamy!

 

Once again it was like a dream. With the warm wind blowing through my hair, the sky turning a soft shade of pink, palm trees lining the horizon of rice fields. There was nothing to feel but immense gratitude.

As we got closer to town the handsome Indian said that he was going to a gathering of expats for a game night and invited me to join. All I wanted was a shower. I felt so gross and sticky. I proudly wore one of the “Trash Hero” tee-shirts, but it was over my tank top, which means that I was wearing double layers on an especially hot and humid day. But I debated in my head- it’d be good to do something new and meet more people. But… SHOWER. Plus, the introvert in me wasn’t sure if I was up for any more social stimulation.

I eventually decided that I could take a shower any time, but I might not get to meet these people or have this experience and it’d be good for me to do something new. So I told him I was up for the game night. And again, I’m glad I did.

Yet another thing I’d craved (and lacked) at home- game nights! Game nights used to be a regular part of my life back when I was surrounded by raging alcoholics, but in the past few years, game nights have been few and far between, and I love a good game night.

We got to his friend’s house and hung out in his beautiful open air living room and had a lot of fun.

The next day (which was yesterday), I was feeling so good about the day before, and realized I wanted to see more of those beautiful country villages, and get out of Ubud a little more. But I wasn’t sure how I would go about it. Ask my housemates? Ask my new Indian friend? Grab a taxi? Or a shuttle to somewhere a little further away? Book a tour with my friend Made? I knew at some point I wanted to see one of the water temples, so that was on the list, but there are so many choices. I didn’t know, but I planned to spend the day at home hanging by the pool, relaxing, writing, and thinking of where I might want to go the next day.

Then, yet another synchronicity… I was hanging out in the pool with the Brit and the mini Brit, when the Brit asked what I was up to for the day, leading to the question of if I wanted to join them on their outing to the water temple. Well, there you go!

The Brit is here in Bali doing a personalized health program with a guy named Scott, who actually used to live in pretty much the same town in California where I live. So, the Brit and the mini Brit rode on their motorbike, and I rode on Scott’s motorbike, and we made our way to the temple through all kinds of beautiful little villages and rice fields. Scott even was able to give me some information and history about some of the villages, and because I already kind of knew him from the house, I felt more comfortable actually holding on to him. He also graciously offered me his helmet which I really appreciated.

It was yet another unplanned for, magical day of really experiencing Bali.

There are so many of those moments here. Like, a few days before the full moon, I turned down a normally busy street, but it had been blocked off for some ceremony, which involved some traditional dancing which I found incredibly beautiful. I was just on my way to coffee.

It really is a truly special place here. You think it, speak it, ask for it, and if you are in Truth with it, it appears. Even the Other Brit, just had a really wonderful job opportunity show up for her today which couldn’t have been better for her and couldn’t have shown up at a better time. It’s just as splendid getting to witness these moments when other people experience them as it is when I experience them.

And I absolutely love that the people who come here all seem to seek a certain way of life, and seem to truly being “doing the work” that I really relate to and seems so much harder to find in an authentic way in the States.

So, I’m putting my own questions out into the Universe, letting my Truth carry them to the Balinese winds, and asking for my own prayers to be answered. Like, y’know, getting paid to write, for one. Ahem!

In the meantime, I just try to bring myself back to the moment, check in with my Truth, and embrace the immense gratitude I feel every day here.

Here are some more sights and scenes from my life here. I am unable to upload video to this page, but you can see videos and other pictures on my instagram page.

Purnama

There’s quite a bit to fill you in on since my volcano hike, but I’ll have to backtrack in a future post, because I absolutely must tell you about my day yesterday.

Well, I’ll backtrack here a little bit too.

On Friday night I was having a lot of trouble staying asleep. I woke up at one point, around 4:00 a.m. and found myself in the midst of a little mini anxiety attack.

The fears that I arrived here with have greatly dissipated in the last couple of weeks. I have been slowly feeling myself soften and open. So to seemingly out of nowhere get struck with that level of anxiety was jarring. Like I said, it wasn’t an extreme situation. I managed to calm down and fall back asleep relatively quickly, but when I woke up the next morning, I was feeling tight, tense, foggy, and groggy.

I did my usual light stretching then headed to my favorite café for coffee and breakfast. As I journaled, and lingered, and thought about what I wanted to do with myself for the day, I decided that it’d be good for me to just have a mellow day. Just hang by the pool at the house, maybe even watch a movie on my computer. But as things work here in Bali, plans can change very quickly. So by the time I was walking home from the café I decided to stop by to see my “glam squad” and hopefully get a nice deep tissue massage. I planned to get one after the volcano trek, but I never got around to it and I could definitely feel that my body needed to work out some tension.

I walked in and they greeted me cheerfully, as usual. I asked Koma if she could do a deep tissue massage. She said, “yes, my friend here can do it.” There were only two of them there, so I think she needed to remain in the front. I hoped her friend had as strong hands as she did. Ketut was her friend’s name, and I was not disappointed. Ketut was wonderful and it was a really amazing massage. Just what I needed to let go of some of the tension.

When I left, I realized that the timing was just perfect for me to catch a meditation at Yoga Barn. I had been hearing about Yoga Barn from many people for months before I arrived. And I guess all the hype (and the exorbitant prices) turned me off, because every time I thought about going to check the place out, I felt an aversion to it. Plus, since I have my own yoga studio/meditation hall literally right outside my bedroom door, why go elsewhere?  But the elements aligned this time and I felt I could really use the collective meditative energy, so I headed there to check it out.

It really was a beautiful spot.  When I walked into the main hall (a bit early) the most gorgeous specimen of a human man was walking around. He was obviously one of the teachers. He looked like he was maybe Brazilian or something similar. I could then see the popularity of the place. I hoped that he wouldn’t be leading the meditation because it would’ve been way too distracting for me. I was lucky, it was some white guy, who was obviously a lovely, gentle soul, but he did not have the stupefying beauty of the other guy.

As we began the hour and a half session, he explained that there would be some gentle yoga moves to prepare our bodies for the sitting meditation. I was not planning on body movement, and not happy about it. I just wanted to sit. But the yoga was very gentle, a little yin and a little kundalini. It was actually just what my body needed on the especially hot day.

During the sit I actually had some nice moments of clarity come to me, and I really focused on letting go more and opening myself up further. I had a visual pop into my mind that was similar to parting curtains, only it took a lot of gentle, yet tough, work to get them open.

The meditation was wonderful and I was starting to feel much better. When I left the meditation hall I saw that I had missed a call and had a voicemail from one of my house mates. I’ve been getting to know the Brit and her mini Brit pretty well, and I really adore them both. Like me, they are temporary residents at the house as well. The message was from the mini Brit. How sweet it was to walk out of a meditation to hear the sound of an eight year old British boy, on my voicemail, asking me to join them for frozen yogurt. After a bit of phone tag, we managed to catch each other on the line and planned to meet up on a street corner a couple blocks away.

As I exited the Yoga Barn property, and got to the road, I walked straight into a crowded street- full of people. There was a huge procession to celebrate the Full Moon (Purnama, or Bulan Purnama). I love full moon rituals and celebrations.

In high school there used to be huge full moon drum circles around a big bonfire at the beach, all the time. I loved those parties. I’d go there and see everyone I knew from all the other high schools in the area. I think it was the only occasion to run into all my different friends from different parts of my life. I miss those parties. I wish there were more celebratory occasions like that in the States.

So, it was really wonderful to stumble upon this procession. Everyone was dressed up, in all white. Drums and music were being played in the distance. I could see people up ahead carrying big, colorful, decorative umbrellas. The energy was festive and happy. My heart was so incredibly happy, I started crying.

I was especially happy because a few days earlier I had really been starting to feel the magic of this place, but then I felt like it kind of left me.

Earlier in the week I met up with some friends of a friend who were in town. It was nice to get to hang out and be social after spending so much time alone with my thoughts. And even better that it was with some other Americans who know someone who I know. But they found Ubud a little too hustley-bustley after spending time in some serene beach towns, so they got out of Ubud and headed back to the beach. I can’t say I blame them, I’d probably feel the same had I gotten to experience that level of serenity first. It was definitely a lot for me when I got here, but I’ve settled in nicely at this point.

They were only here for about three days or so. But I guess my focus had shifted to being socially engaged, so when they left, I was surprised what an adjustment it was for me to get used to being on my own again. I think that adjustment may have partially had something to do with the anxiety.

I was worried that the magic of this place that I had settled into had gone on without me. So, walking amongst these truly beautiful humans, to honor the glorious full moon, I was so overcome with gratitude and joy. My heart was on fire!

The procession led to one of the temples where everyone either went inside or dispersed. So I just kept walking to meet the Brits.

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Stumbled upon this frizzy haired little guy on the way. “Me too, dude. Me too.”

I finally reached them and we wandered around for a little bit then headed towards the frozen yogurt shop. We got our treats then headed to the soccer field across the street so the mini Brit could kick the ball around and hopefully get a chance to play with some other kids. There were a couple of Japanese looking men throwing a really cool looking natural fiber, woven Frisbee around. Soon, some of the Balinese kids joined them. One of the men was especially silly and jovial and really fun to watch. Next thing you know, the Brits and I are in a giant circle with the two men and the Balinese children, tossing that Frisbee around to each other, as well as a second Frisbee the Brits brought. It was a really simple pleasure, but it made me so happy.

Some of the other kids playing soccer

Some of the other kids playing soccer. “100% LOVE IS THE GOAL”

Dusk began to fall, the game started to die down and the children began dispersing. So we went and got some food at a restaurant right next door. The Brit had mentioned earlier the possibility of going to a full moon ceremony at the holy water temple and invited me along. I was very excited to be a part of any full moon ceremony, but the way plans change from moment to moment here, I wasn’t sure what would happen. She ended up making plans to go to a ceremony at an ashram near her friend’s house, and since the Brit and mini Brit were on a motorbike, she got her friend (another Brit) to zip over on her motorbike to pick me up.

This was my first time ever on a motorbike. I was scared. Especially since there wasn’t an extra helmet. But tons of people go without helmets here, and this trip is all about facing my fears. It was definitely a “let go, let God” moment for me.

I have to say, for my first time on a motorbike, it doesn’t really get much better than riding through rice fields, under a big, bright, full moon, with the silhouette of palm trees tracing the nearby horizon, and the warm Balinese wind in my hair. (Especially since the feeling of warm wind on my skin and in my hair is one of my all-time favorite sensations). My fears dissipated, my grip on the sweet girl driving loosened, and I was able to take it all in. My heart was filled with gratitude.

We arrived at the ashram and were greeted by a very happy black and white dog. I told you about the dogs here. They are scrappy. Even the dogs people have for pets don’t really seem to give a shit, and the lines can be blurred between which ones are pets and which ones are street dogs. So I generally move to the other side of the road when I see any dog here. But this dog seemed just like any other dog we’d have in the States. It was jumpy and happy. I still kind of kept my distance though. Just in case.

We wandered past the entrance, which was under construction, and entered the grounds, where we removed our shoes and were greeted by two women who were renting sarongs. Everyone had to wear all white. But I only had a white top, so I rented a white sarong for about $1.50 USD.

The friend who gave me the motorbike ride had been to these ceremonies before, so we followed her lead.

As we got inside the grounds we were greeted by a different dog. A young, soft, clean, yellow lab looking dog. With everyone dressed in white, the dog seemed to fit right in. The mini Brit loved the dog, of course, as did I. This one I couldn’t resist. It had a magical presence. And this dog accompanied us through the grounds, like a gentle spirit animal guiding us.

We walked down a cement walkway, over a bridge that crossed a creek, and our first stop was at this fountain of holy water. Each person, one after the other did the ritual of  filling the cup that was there with water from the fountain, dipping one of the fragrant flowers at the water’s edge into it, using the flower to splash the water onto the top of the head (doing that three times). Then with the left hand we poured the water into the cupped right hand and were supposed to drink the water (three times). Supposedly it was totally safe to drink, but I only put my mouth to it, without really drinking. Then the head splashing again, then the feet.

As we stood in the short line (maybe just a couple of people before us) and waited for each person to do their ritual, a group of what I thought at first were monks, dressed in all white with sarongs wrapped around their heads, arrived at the scene. Later I realized that I think they might have actually just been regular guys, because everyone was dressed like that. We stood in the warm night air watching each person bow to the waters, doing their ritual, and the men started singing and chanting. We were surrounded by this beautiful chanting, all of us in white, the gentle souled dog at the side of the mini Brit. I had a hard time containing myself. I didn’t know if I wanted to cry, exclaim with glee, howl at the moon, squeal and jump up and down, or what, but again, overwhelmed with gratitude.

After that, we followed the walkway around to various other statues of deities, stopping at each one to bow and pray, one person at a time. There was an offering at each statue with various things like incense, flowers, rice, and candies, even a little box of milk at one. As we stopped at each statue to pray, the dog snatched up whatever offering was edible and would munch while we prayed. At one point the mini Brit pulled me aside to show me that the dog had even nabbed the little box of milk. I told him that in my opinion dogs are gods, just misspelled, and as far as I’m concerned the offerings went to the right place.

We continued the pathway of the gods, and at one point the stepping stones had- not quite jagged, but certainly protruding pebbles jabbing out of them. As you progressed down that part of the pathway, the pebbles on the stepping stones protruded less and became not as painful to walk on. This was supposed to represent the process of enlightenment.

Eventually we got to a little cave that you had to bend down a little to enter. Inside was a statue of Shiva on the right, and a beautiful “jewel” encrusted Ganesh on the left. We bowed and prayed to each one, then followed the narrow cave hallway back outside.

The final prayer stop was in a courtyard next to the open air meditation “hall”. There was a huge stone raised up on stairs, so I didn’t see what all was up there, but it looked like more offerings. It was centered in front of a  giant gold OM and some other beautiful writing that I couldn’t read. There was a fire on a platform next to it, and some men sitting in the courtyard meditating to the sounds of the singing and chanting that was happening in the big meditation hall/hut. We walked across the small courtyard and into the meditation hall/hut and sat down with everyone else, letting the sounds sink into our souls.

I perched myself in the back with the two Brits, and the mini Brit sat front and center where the dog laid down in front of him and went to sleep. Every now and then they’d do a chant that I could join in on, like “Om nama shiviya shiviya” But most of it sounded like devotional songs, that many of the Balinese people knew the words to and sang along with, but no way I could figure any of those songs out.

At one point, the people stood up and did some traditional dancing. I watched what others were doing and followed as best I could, sometimes I was right in the flow with everyone, and other times I felt like I was just flailing my hands around, but it was such a beautiful experience to participate in. The whole time there was a little bat that kept fluttering around above our heads, like it was rejoicing in the music (although realistically just probably finding a lot of good bugs for dinner)

It was getting late so the Brit and the mini Brit headed home. The other Brit lived right next to the ashram so she was not going back to Ubud, but an Irish friend of theirs was also there and heading back to Ubud, so I shared a taxi with her and headed home.

Every moment of the day and evening yesterday felt like a gift. When I got home, I thought to myself, this night can’t be over quite yet! So I went up to my room, threw my swimsuit on, and ended my night floating in the perfect temperature saltwater pool, with the warm night air and full moon glow all around me, savoring every second, and repeating in my head, over and over, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

I was planning just a mellow day at home. And lamenting over feeling disconnected from the magic I had started to feel here. I let Bali have Its way with me last night, and It took me on a beautiful journey that only Bali could.

Have I mentioned that I love it here?

Mt. Batur

Before I came to Bali, a good friend of mine was telling me about when she came here. She mentioned this sunrise volcano trek. I didn’t think much of it when she mentioned it, but when I thought about how I would be in Bali for my special 10/10, and contemplated how I would honor that day, it dawned on me (no pun intended) that a trip to the top of a volcano could not be more poetic or full circle. Add to it that it was a sunrise trek- the symbolism of that- and the fact that I love hiking, and that became one of the only plans I made for what I would do once I got here.

I did my research and found some tour companies online (this was still before I even left for Bali), most companies stopped at a coffee plantation on the way back, which I loved, but I found a couple of companies that stopped at a hot springs too. I knew I wanted that full package, but the places online that made both stops cost between $65 -$85 USD, which seemed pretty outrageous to me. So I figured I’d wait til I got here and hope for the best in finding a similar but cheaper package.

I told you about my new friend, Made, from the tour company, whom I have not seen since (although I did go by there a couple times, but he wasn’t there). He helped me specially arrange to have a driver take me to the coffee plantation, and for an extra charge the hot springs as well, totaling just under $30 USD.

Since this was a sunrise trek, we begin the journey in the dark. The driver was set to pick me up at 2:00 a.m., which meant I had to wake up at 1:30 to get myself together. From everything I read it gets pretty chilly once you get to the top, so it is recommended to wear long pants and a hoody. I brought special clothing with me on this trip just for the trek, because I get cold VERY easily. If someone says it gets “a little chilly” my feet will probably feel like frozen ice blocks. I did not want to be miserable up there, so I prepared myself. I brought my jeans that I often hike in, football style socks, a tee shirt and a hoody, even though we start at ground level where it’s still pretty warm.

When my driver finally arrived, I tried to be friendly right from the beginning, and started making conversation as soon as I got in the car. I figured it would be just the two of us for the couple of hours drive, so i was hoping I’d be making a new Balinese friend out of it. As we’re heading out on the road, and I’m asking him questions I notice something out of the corner of my eye. I turn my head just a bit to see, in the darkness, a man in the back. I jumped and startled loudly, at which point I realized there was also a woman in the back. It was then clear to me that this was going to be a group car ride. I could not stop laughing!

I knew that once I got to Mt. Batur there would be other trekking tours happening too, but I guess since the hot springs package was specially arranged, I figured it was going to be just me for ride out there. Once I pulled myself together I introduced myself to the other trekkers, a French couple, or, as I call them- the ghosts in the back. Seriously, that is an earie experience to see someone in the back of a dark car when you’re not expecting it, especially after only sleeping for 3- 4 hours.

Anyway, we then made our next stop to pick up a couple more trekkers. Two Austrian dudes, probably in their mid-twenties. The driver kind of sucked. He clearly did not give a shit and was not a good communicator. His English wasn’t great, which didn’t bother me, but he just didn’t communicate anything that was happening. We’d pull over to the side of the road, out in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, he’d get out and disappear. We had no idea what was going on. Eventually he came out, with two more trekkers, another French couple, probably in their sixties, which he crammed into our already cramped van. One of the only times being single is socially beneficial is when you are in a packed tour van and are given the front seat.

As soon as we got out of Ubud it started raining and rained the entire drive. In a tropical environment like this it’s a craps shoot anyway whether we’ll actually get to see the sunrise or not. So we were just hoping that the rain would let up by the time we got to the top.

After the last French couple, we continued on our way, until we pull over to some roadside coffee shack, still dark out, with tons of people crammed under the tiny roof. Part of the package was two breakfasts, one small one before we start the trek, and one small one once we get to the top (I brought granola bars with me just in case- and I’m so glad I did). Since there were so many people already crammed under the coffee shack roof, we were told we would get our coffee and breakfast in the car. We all just kind of shrugged our shoulders. Except for the Austrians. They were passed out.

A man comes to the car, holding an umbrellas and a tray of little espresso mugs and passes them around. We sip our little coffees in the car, giggling at the ridiculousness of it. Then, we are delivered, in the same fashion, a tray of banana pancakes (not the good ones I was telling you about before, these were more like how we would make in the states). With no serving utensils or anything, we each pick, with our hands, one tiny, lukewarm banana pancake from the pile, and pass it through the van until we’ve all gotten one. Again, we just giggle. After a few minutes of no driver in sight, he finally returns and we head to the mountain.

Like I said, I knew there would be other trekking tours happening, but what I had in my mind was a few handfuls of groups such as our own. When we arrived, there was a huge packed parking lot with probably about two hundred trekkers ready to set up this mountain. We were all given our second breakfasts to carry with us to the top- a little plastic lunch pack with some white bread, with a little packet of pineapple jam, a banana, an egg to cook in the volcano steam at the top, and a bottle of water. We were told we would be given flashlights as well, but I brought my own headlamp, and I’m glad because a lot of people had to share flashlights.

It was still raining. In fact, later, one of the guides said it had been raining non-stop all night, but about five after we started walking, the rain stopped! The Austrians and I walked together for quite a while, until we really started gaining altitude, then I had to slow down and take some water breaks. They were super cool and we got along well. When I told them where I was from, they referenced Arnold Schwarzenegger being governor, which I thought was funny.

Anyway, when we started the trek I had no idea who or where any of the guides were. There were so many damn people! In my research, they claimed that (I’m paraphrasing here) if you are in decent shape this trek should be fine. Being that I hike frequently, sometimes every day, I thought I’d be fine. But I have to be honest, it was pretty strenuous for me. It was good, but it was strenuous. I had to stop to catch my breath and drink water so many times. I regretted the damn jeans, socks, and tee shirt. I would’ve been fine in some flowy Balinese pants or light leggings, ankle socks, and a tank top under my hoody. Yes, it was a little chilly at the top. I needed my hoody for a few minutes, but for the duration of the experience I was drenched in sweat, and I don’t usually even sweat very much. On my frequent stops I met the loveliest Indian couple, who were also making frequent stops. We made our way up the rest of the mountain together.

Because there were so many people and our pace was determined by the crowd in line to get up the mountain, the sun started rising before we made it to the top. It was okay though because we still got to see a lot of the colors and view as we made our way up the last of the trail. The view was breathtaking. It looked over Lake Batur and some other small mountain.

I have a pretty good photographic eye, and can snap a good shot, but I was disappointed I wasn’t able to get better photos. There were too many people. Every time I’d get the angle or the lighting just right, an arm or a head would get in the way. It was also difficult to really take it all in because the crowds were so distracting. When we finally made it to the top, the sun had risen from the horizon, but it was still pink and beautiful. We got up there just in time, because about five minutes later the fog rolled in and covered up the view. It eventually cleared again, but we had already moved on from the viewing point… to the monkeys.

There were tons of monkeys at the top and I did manage to get some great shots of them. But, man, I could not believe how stupid people were being with those monkeys. It made me sad. Giving them candy bars, and taunting them, then surprised when the monkeys freaked out at them.

I enjoyed the monkeys a lot. After a while with them we eventually made our way back down. On the way down I finally met our guide and he was super cool. I also found myself walking alongside a group of Euros who seemed like a really fun bunch, and had me laughing with their conversations. I ended up running into them the next evening, but unfortunately it was their last night in Bali, which was a disappointment, because they would’ve been a lot of fun to have a few drinks with.

So, overall, as meaningful as it was for me to spend my 10/10 atop a volcano, the tour was a bit of a disappointment to me. It was great in a lot of ways, and I’m certainly glad I did it, but it would’ve been a more powerful experience (no matter the date), if there weren’t so many people.

What did make it all a powerful experience for me, was the hot springs. When we finally found our driver, the Austrians, and the older French couple were shuffled into other cars, and the younger French couple (a.k.a the ghosts) and I were taken to the hot springs.

It’s hard to think of what to say, other than: HEAVEN. The mineral pool was an infinity pool that edged along Lake Batur with that other little mountain  right across from us. SO MAJESTIC. That was when I really was able to sit with my thoughts and reflect on the power of the moment. How grateful I felt to be there, to have brought myself to that place, in every sense. Soaking in the warm mineral water, with elephant fountains shooting hot water from their trunks, after spending the morning on a volcano, thinking about how I would’ve never gotten to experience that, had my wedding actually happened. I can’t even imagine where I would be, nor do I want to. It actually makes me cringe to think about.

I spent the rest of the morning soaking in the warm waters and taking in every detail I could, knowing that as soon as I got back in that van, it would all be a memory.

When we did get back in the van, there were still more memories to be made. We stopped at the coffee plantation, which was a lot smaller than I expected, but it was a nice little tour. The French couple had already been there a couple times, so they waited in the car. My tour guide at the plantation, Putu, was awesome. At the end of the little tour, I was given a coffee (and tea) tasting. I barely had any though. Between our car ride coffee, and a couple of cups I had at the hot springs (I paid a little extra to get a breakfast buffet while I was there. I needed sustenance), I don’t think my stomach could’ve handled any more coffee.

After that, we made one more quick stop to check out the view of the rice terraces, which were so beautiful, and everything you would expect them to look like (but also lots of tourists).

Then we finally made our way back to Ubud, where traffic was especially bad, so my driver asked if he could just drop me off on the side of the road. I didn’t care, it was right at the corner of my street, which I walk all the time anyway, but I still thought it was a funny way to end things.

Full Circle

10/10

I was staring at the incredible view from the hot mineral pool. Elephant fountains shooting hot spring water from their trunks. Majestic. Absolutely majestic.

And all I could think was, “I did this.

I could thank God, The Universe, Truth… Oprah- whatever you want to call it. God, The Universe, Truth did not “do” this. God The Truth just is.

I did this.

I brought myself to this IS.

Our experiences are results of co-creating with The Universe Truth. We have to place ourselves into Truth.

My Truth is that seven years ago today I was supposed to get married. And it never happened.

The not happening, was one of the best things that ever happened to me. That marriage would’ve been the death of me. It almost was.

And in that almost death, I found my life… my light. And I decided to take back the date 10/10. It belongs to me now. And every year, instead of lamenting over what wasn’t and what isn’t, I celebrate what IS- the Great IS that came from it all… the Truth that was revealed.

Somehow, in my almost death, when there was nothing left of me, I managed (with some help) to find  myself atop a volcano. I was broken and scared, desperate and devastated. But that was the moment I began to heal, to become whole (something I never was).

It was a long road from that volcano top. And now, seven years later, on the day that I reclaimed, I am once again atop a volcano. The sun is rising and the light ascending. But this time I am whole and happy. I stand atop this volcano in all my glory, my power, my greatness, my love. The Earth’s core, and mine, alive inside. I have come here not to seek what I cannot find, but to know myself in this way.

God did not do this. The Truth did not orchestrate it. This existed. And I brought myself to this place. Here. And now.

I did this.

Slowing Down

What I love about getting to share my journey with you- besides feeling like I get to bring you all with me on my adventures- is that you also get to see, in real time, how synchronicities play out in my life. I’ve tried to explain to people before, but it’s hard to grasp unless you watch it unfold.

I’ve already shown you a photo in my last post, which showed Truth staring me in the face.20161005_195600

Well, here’s another awesome synchronicity relating to my last post. I ended the post with a story about Dirty Dancing- Havana Nights, stating how maybe Bali is courting me to just dance, which was just a metaphor for letting go. Well, as soon as I finished writing that post, I went to go get dinner.

The longer I’m here the more I do engage in this dance with Bali. I’ve been learning that the overwhelm I felt from all the decisions is easily remedied by not making a decision– but following the subtle draw, in this direction or that. To not think about it- that is the dance. And I’m learning how to sway with the rhythms.

So, I went to go find something to eat. I turned right when I felt pulled right, left when I felt pulled left, and sometimes I just stopped for a moment to check in with myself and my surroundings, to really see where I was feeling pulled. In one of those moments of stopping, I found myself standing across the street from, and staring straight at, a restaurant called Café Havana.

This is how the decisions make themselves. No need to think about it. This is Truth and Synchronicity dancing.

I hopped across the street and grabbed a table. I was just in time too, because shortly after I sat down, the placed flooded with people. They were showing up in groups. I genuinely thought it was a birthday party or a destination wedding reception. But I soon saw why the crowds poured in. Live Music. Live Cuban music. I literally almost started crying, I was so happy.

I know I’m in Bali, but in that moment, I was dancing in Havana.

Well, until the food came out. Then I was back in Bali.

Okay, so I said I would probably write a food focused post, so here it is. I need to talk about the food. I was really surprised with the selection of food available here. Basically, aside from traditional Balinese food, most of the food here I would be eating in the States anyway. And even the Balinese foods was nothing totally strange or out of the ordinary for me. Balinese food is mostly a lot of rice, veggies, tempeh, coconut, banana.  And let me talk about those banana pancakes again. They are really just a green crepe (green from the banana leaf) stuffed with caramelized banana, coconut, and some other sweet syrupy stuff. They are so damn good! Something about the caramelization mixed with the coconut and the syrupy stuff- they don’t taste very banana-y at all. I tried some raw banana, and still find them gross. So these pancakes are special.

Anyway, of course there are lots of other Asian foods here as well, there’s Indian, Thai, Chinese, Sushi, there’s a bunch of pizza places, even a Mexican restaurant… and a Cuban restaurant.

There’s burgers, sandwiches, vegan, gluten free, organic. There are lots of little coffee shops, and some not so little.

I’ve tried a lot of different things at this point. Obviously the Balinese food is so good. The Thai food was good too. Then I thought I’d give pizza a try. I really wasn’t expecting much, especially coming from Wine Country. And it was pretty much what I expected, but they tried, and it was cute.

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Pizza Margarita

Same with the Cuban restaurant. I was so giddy from the synchronicity, the awesome live music, and the overall Cuban vibe that they pretty much nailed (I assume. I’ve never actually been to Cuba), that I forgot to think about the fact that I was in Bali and they aren’t used to that kind of food. I ordered tacos, fried plantains, and chips with beans, guacamole, and “salsa”. I’ll start with that salsa. It was made with eggplant. It tasted like something between a salsa and a tapenade, although I will say it tasted more salsa-y than I would’ve expected, but it still wasn’t salsa. The plantains were of course good (they have those here). The beans were pureed white beans, served cold, and the guac was close enough to guac without really being guac. And then the tacos came out. I had a hard time not giggling out loud when they were placed in front of me. Coming from California, we are spoiled with probably the best Mexican food in the States,  and when we order a taco (or five) we have a very distinct idea of what we will be getting. While Cuba is not Mexico, a taco is a taco… except in Bali. Again, they tried and it was cute.

Balinese Cuban tacos

Balinese Cuban tacos

My favorite place so far is Atman Kafe. It’s a trendy expat place, which I did not expect to like so much. But I keep feeling myself being drawn there again and again. They have everything from eggs and toast for breakfast, soups, sandwiches, Balinese foods, Americanized foods. They have a bunch of different coffee drinks, health juices and elixirs, teas, Kombuchas. Definitely a vegan and gluten free haven. They have a bunch of desserts and gelato, fresh coconut juice, which is actually available a lot of places, but I’m always happy to see  it (this is where I mistakenly ordered a large- bigger than my head!).

I’ve been going there for coffee, and now that I’ve moved house (I’ll get to that later) it’s my new breakfast spot. Their Avo+feta Toast is off the charts! SO good. They say it’s served on ciabatta, but again, coming from wine country, I would not classify this as ciabatta. But personally I like it better. I’m a big fan of dough and doughy things in general. I love that doughy flavor and that doughy texture, and their bread nails it. The avocado and  feta flavors complement each other so well, and they serve it with a Sriracha type sauce. HEAVEN.

I’ve also been noticing something when I’m at these restaurants. Now that I am engaging in this dance, I can see how much I have slowed down. When I first got here I was all kinds of all out of sorts. I was desperately and frantically filling page after page of my journal. I was processing so much. When I found, and bargained, my first few flowy Balinese dresses, I saw so many other things I wanted to buy- for myself, and others.  There was so much I felt I needed to go get and go do!

And now I’m settling. Slowing down.

I’ll be here for a while. I can get stuff, when I feel pulled towards it. There’s no need to rush. Now, I barely fill a page in my journal at a time. Sometimes I don’t even open it. I just sit at my table and take in my surroundings, maybe read a little, exchange smiles with as many fellow diners or passersby as I can. And I just stay there. I linger. I’m not in a rush to get up and offer my seat/table to another. I spent so many years working in restaurants, I’m hyper conscious of being a good customer. But as much as I want to be respectful to others, I also need to be respectful to myself. Plus, it doesn’t really seem to matter here anyway. I’d be really surprised if one of the sweet Balinese girls or guys gave two shits about turning my table over to another customer. So I linger. I take my time.

Let me repeat that statement: I take… my time.

My time belongs to me and no other. And so I take it, and use it how I wish. Without guilt. Without obligation. Without worrying what anyone might think. And it seems that how I’ve wished to use it lately has been to just sit in these open air restaurants and cafes, looking at the surroundings, smelling the smells, hearing the sounds, feeling the breeze flow in and dance on my skin, watching the rain pour, hearing the thunder blast, and then the sun comes out again. All in a meal’s time. When I linger.

So, like I said, I found my new breakfast spot (unless I feel pulled in another direction), which is good because I no longer will be having breakfast served to me at my room. I left my third homestay and moved into my new digs.

Turns out Facebook is good for more than posting political rants, cute kitten videos, and stalking ex boyfriends/girlfriends. I am a member of a group on Facebook that posts rentals in this area. In that group, I found myself a room in a villa, home to a bunch of expats (remember I said I wanted to find expats?).  I haven’t met them all yet, but there is a Brit, and her mini brit, an Aussie, and two Americans. I think. I’ve only met the Brit and mini brit and one American.

Okay so get this. This villa has a salt water pool (the best kind), and it has a yoga studio right outside my bedroom door! As a resident I get to partake in yoga classes for free. There are not many classes in a week, so most of the time it is empty, and I can do my own stretching/yoga in there. Also, I mentioned I hadn’t been meditating since I’ve been here. Part of that is because, although you can really meditate anywhere, I felt starved for a peaceful environment more conducive to settling into the present moment better. Welp, another synchronicity. What better place to meditate than a yoga studio!

I will admit, I loved the central location of my last place, but it’s a worthy trade off. And once I get a better grasp of my sense of direction from my new place, I’m sure I’ll be just as happy with this location. It’s removed enough from the street sounds, but still walking distance to everything. Oh, and the guy whose room I’m taking over, gave me a sweet deal. I’m getting this place for $10 a night! Which really eliminates my money worries.

Not only that, But I have this place for three weeks. So I actually was able to unpack my suitcase! Which felt so good. I’m feeling more grounded in all kinds of ways.

My head cold is mostly gone. And I’m meeting more people!

Normally, I hate super touristy things, like guided tours, but there are a handful of experiences that I’m probably going to book guided tours of- because, when will I ever get another chance to see some of these things? Plus, it’s another great way to meet people. I have one special activity coming up. I’ll tell you about it after the experience, but for now, I’ll leave you wondering.

When I was booking this experience, the guy working at the tour company, Made (pronounced Mahday), was awesome. Seriously, I felt like I had an immediate friend. I was just hanging out talking with him for quite a while. The business we conducted was totally secondary. He might get scheduled to be my driver for this experience (I hope so!), but if not, I told him I’d come by and say hi.

I’ve also gotten several massage/spa treatments at this point (most of them cost less than a burrito!). I found a place I like, and there’s one girl in particular there, Koma, who has nice, strong hands, and she’s really sweet. So I go back there and they know me now. They greet me with a happy “HIII!” and we chat and laugh. I tell them how I find the men in Bali so attractive. They think it’s funny that I like brown skin, because they like light skin. I call them (in my head) my Balinese glam squad.

The last treatment I got was a spiced body scrub. Finished with a flower petal bath. As she gently rinsed the scrub off of my arms and back, I told her I felt like a princess. She giggled, continuing to poor bathwater over my arms, and said sweetly “just like a princhess.

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I. Am. Worthy.

Just before that, when I let Koma scrub away all of my dead skin, it felt  symbolic. I was shedding my skin.

And now I’m settling into my Balinese skin. I’m even starting to think my thoughts in a broken English Balinese accent!

~

 

More sights and scenes around Ubud: