Interlude – In Bali
Me: Of course, after a long hard week teaching, what do I need? A vacation. Although, to be honest, it was planned several months ago in the last days of PST. Something for us all to look forward to after being at site and dealing with being shut in all the time. So after a final couple days early in the week, I headed on up to the big city, met up with my group of fellow volunteers either that night or the next morning, and flew out.
(from the plane, as we fly over the island, at first you can see green everywhere, with small bunches of villages; we ascend above the cloud level, and nothing is visible except for when there is a break in the clouds; as we near our destination, a huge peak peeks above the clouds, and then…)
Me: We arrive in the late afternoon/early evening. We hang around the airport for a bit attempting to find a taxi driver that won’t cheat us too much and Inge decides to get her first whopper since coming to this country. I am told it was quite excellent. Eventually we persevere and head out, arriving to the villa where most of our friends have already arrived. It is an excellent meeting and we drop off our luggage, ready for the night ahead. Well, at least dinner. It doesn’t take us long to decide what we want to eat, something that is as rare to find here as it is common at home: Mexican food.
(walking from the villa to the street is an interesting experience; tucked away as it is, there is none of the noise and light and life that surrounds as we move onto one of the busiest streets; it is a little hard to keep track of as there is so much to see: restaurants, clubs, hotels; people renting other various services; the buildings all show some influence from either western culture or the religion that dominates this island – Hinduism – which is a nice change from what has been the norm back at site; eventually we turn down a side street and pass stalls and small shops before arriving at the restaurant)
Me: Sadly, not everyone made it. At least at the same time. Some got a little lost along the way, though we were quick to call and help them navigate to the place, which gave them enough time to arrange seating for such a large group of us. The food was pretty delicious. Having not eaten anything comparable in about 5 months probably helped, but I would like to think that it could stand on its own merits anyway. It was a good time and after, people discussed what to do. I was tired enough that I just wanted to go back and chat and hang out, but of course, everyone else had other plans, so after briefly returning they all, or most of them, headed out as I headed to bed.
(cue waking up several times throughout the night as various people pass in and out of the place where I am staying, their uninhibited voices carrying to where I rest; sleep returns all but the final time, a little after 4 in the morning, when the final group comes back to go to bed)
Me: This final time I am pushed enough towards wakefulness that sleep completely eludes me. Giving in, I rise, grab my things, and take a wonderful hot shower. It is still early as I finish, get dressed, and leave. As I make my way to the main road, there some similarities with the scene of last night, but it is quieter, more peaceful. Still lit, but the sun has yet to rise, and in this place I hear no call to prayer. I ask a few people I see on the street, and eventually make my way to the beach. It is a nice beach, nicer than mine, with a long, gentle slope into the water. There are benches scatter here and there, and I take a seat, just in time to watch the sunrise. Or rather, the reflection of the sunrise on the water, as I am facing west and have no unobstructed view. But, honestly, it may even be better this way. I see the colors play on the water, changing, reflecting the sky but adding new tones. It moves through the colors before settling on a beautiful green that I have not seen before, the sky streaked with orange, red, and a few remaining hints of lavender and indigo. It is around 6:30 and some people have started coming to the beach: joggers, foreigners, some people like me, just content to sit and enjoy the view. I decide it is a good time to head back and get something to eat, but sadly, everything seems to be closed. As I return to the villa I encounter Siong, that magnificent man, who has also set off in search of breakfast. After asking around, we find that all of the more western restaurants are close for some time yet, but if we head to a small parallel street we will find some local food. We do so, and pass the time chatting about this and that as we find a small warung (food stall place), where he buys breakfast. I decide to hold out and get a western-style breakfast because it has been some time since I have had one, but after getting back, that changes. We run into Laura and she promptly invites me to the tour she, Siong, and a few others were going on. Someone else had originally been going with them, but dropped out so there was an empty spot for me, if I wanted it. I did.
(quick run to the convenience store to grab a snack of a meal, returning, leaving; we drive for a while, talking a bit before arriving at our first destination )
Me: Our first stop was a theater to see a traditional Balinese dance done during the day. It told a story, and was quite interesting, though a little difficult to follow. It was also kind of expensive to get in, so while we agreed that it as interesting, perhaps we could have skipped it. After a brief stop at an ATM, we continued our tour.
(the next part of the journey takes a while; we drive through various types of countryside, eventually going up a mountain; we stop by a temple by a huge lake)
Me: This place was pretty fantastic. I forget the name of it, but it was huge and beautiful, right on the lake. Excellent gardens, the temple was nice, and was just a good time. We spent a good amount of time there before leaving, having lunch at a place on the way back. Our next stop was nice, though a little disappointing for something called the royal temple. Our final stop made up for it though, as we went a temple on the coast, where we walked around and watched the sunset, before eventually returning to the villa. I grabbed a small dinner and met up with some people on my way back where we hung out for a bit before I headed to bed.
Me: The next morning I repeated on purpose what I had done not by choice the previous day: I got up at 4 to go watch the sunrise. I showered and got ready, but this time I did not go alone. I had mentioned doing this the previous day and Alex thought it sounded like a good idea, so she joined me. This time we stopped and grabbed water and a snack and made it to the beach in time to watch the moon set, and then the sunrise. It was just as beautiful as before, but nicer because I could share it. We returned to the villa where she went to sleep. I sat out by the pool to read as I didn’t want to bother anyone, which worked out well as I encountered Dean and Marjie as they finally arrived to the party. After dropping of his stuff, Dean and I went out to find some breakfast, which was pretty good, and came back to greet people as they finally woke up. We went out again after, just walking and chatting, keeping an eye out for any interesting places to eat lunch or dinner. I made a wide circuit, starting north, then going west the beach. We found a pretty nice mall where we made contact (by phone) with some people interested in having lunch together, so we headed back to the main road and after a bit, made it.
(a small café boasting an Italian(ish) menu, a comfortable place along the road to stop)
Me: It was a nice lunch and I had a pretty good lasagna. After, I joined the ladies (Stephanie, Amanda, Alex) as they wanted to do a little shopping before the wedding later that evening. I was already good friends with Alex, she having been in my village back during PST, but I hadn’t spoken much to the other two. Though after haggling to get shoes for Stephanie, I felt like we were friends. We went to a few stores then, looking for something for Amanda, and spent a long time convincing her not to get some hideous shorts. Eventually, she found something, and we all returned to the villa so people could prep. Maybe 30 minutes later, it was time. Thai and Lou wanted their wedding to be a beach, so I led everyone down the path I had found, faster than the one they had all been using, and we were there.
(we arrived just before sunset, a large group of foreigners clearly all traveling together; we attracted quite a bit of attention for what we were doing, though less than we would just walking around our sites in Java; different cultures, different expectations I guess)
Me: Sadly, I didn’t get to see the wedding itself. After a round of picture taking I went out to gather some people running late, and though one group was pretty quick, the second took a little while so that by the time we had met up, everyone was already at a restaurant for dinner. It was a pretty good time, I got to know some more people better and had an excellent discussion about philosophy and the philosophy of words. I also had an apple pie, which while not what I had expected, was still good. I said my goodbyes at that point, as I was ready to return though most people were still eating, and made my way back. It actually turned out to be a good time, as there were people at the villa who had been doing other things and hadn’t actually been able to make it to the wedding or even known when it was happening and thus just hung out. I joined them for a bit, but after an hour or so, I went to bed.
Me: As had become my custom, I arose around 4, got ready, and headed out to see the sunrise. I was supposed to have company again, but sleep was a little more tempting that getting up early, which I cannot fault. After getting snacks, I watched the sunrise reflected, and headed back around 6:30. I started to get a little dizzy on the way back, which while not completely unusual, kind of sucked. So I took another shower and tried to rest before giving it up and deciding to go for a swim. I had done so the previous day with Dean, and invited him out again. Most people were up and heading out to do stuff by this time, so in addition to Dean, Stephanie joined us and I attempted to teach her how to swim, which was fun. After, we showered and changed, and since Dean hadn’t had any yet, we went to get Mexican for lunch. For fun, Dean allowed me to choose his meal for him after deciding that he wanted a special that included multiple courses to choose from. My friends back home know I enjoy this sort of thing, so I had fun with it, and he was pleased by the result. We went walking for a bit after and got some sunglasses for Dean, though he didn’t let me really haggle for them. After getting some gelato, which was pretty good, we returned to the villa and met up with other people. The previous day I had noticed a tapas place at the mall and told a number of people about it, all of whom seemed interested, and since some people wanted to do a little shopping in addition, we went there next.
(cut to the mall, situated across the street from the beach; it had a lot to offer, various stores and places to eat; first stop, Cold Stone)
Me: Others had gotten there before us, so we met them and talked, walked, and had a good time. A couple more people joined us, and we decided it would be more fun to go to the beach for a bit before returning for dinner. We staked out a nice spot and relaxed, a couple people going to the water. After watching the sunset, we were all pretty hungry, so decided to head back for food. Unfortunately, there was a bit of dissent as the tapas place I found was judged too expensive. I was open to suggestions, and we walked around for a bit, many places turned down before half our party left to go somewhere else. Those of us left went to the food court, where everyone but myself and Stephanie had some dinner. We had already discussed it and wanted to go back to the tapas restaurant, which we did once they were all finished. Now sated, they had no problems joining us, with two of them ordering drinks while Stephanie and I chose what we wanted. Well, she chose to get paella and told me I could choose everything else, so I had a good time doing so. The food came out eventually and though the tapas were delicious, the paella was…disappointing. But there was good company and we had a good time, so it wasn’t a waste. We bagged the rest of the paella and figured someone else could have it if they could stand it and headed back to the villa. It was a little late by this point, though still early by most people’s standards. I had been planning on playing pool with a couple people earlier on in the day, but it didn’t happen so I resigned myself to not playing at all. However, those people were up for going as soon as I got back, so I played one game at a place down the street before returning and going to bed.
Me: I rose early, as usual, the next day. I was supposed to again have a companion to watch the sunrise but was again informed that it wouldn’t be happening. A little disappointing, but I didn’t actually make it out there either. This was our last day in Bali, and some people were leaving early so I decided to stay and bid them farewell. After they left, I managed to go back to bed and had a nice relaxing morning hanging with everyone. The next group of people headed back around 9 or 10, and I made my farewells and hung out for a bit longer. Had some lunch, went to beach, chilled with some friends before meeting up either all of us who were left for dinner. Returned to the villa, caught a cab and headed to the airport. I was exhausted by this time, which was unfortunate for me, though everyone enjoyed the comments I made. We eventually made it back to the big city, where we spent the…morning? having arrived around 1. Margaux and I left later that day to return back to site, and I think that was an excellent and needed vacation.