I decided to do a little solo exploring and was picked up at 7:30am by the Ocean Star shuttle that would deliver me and my over-packed backpack (mind you for only 3 nights) to Padang Bai. I am the worst when it comes to packing light- a lady needs her “stuff”! Again the driver was a very friendly fellow. We stopped by the beach to pick up a group of 4 French tourists who were also on the same path to the pristine Gili Islands. Hopped on the Ocean Star speed boat and joined my new French travel buddies on the rough 2 hour ride from Padang Bai to Gili Trawangan.
The anticipation of getting there was intense! I could not wait. We pull up to the shore and the water is crystal clear blue, lots of locals waiting to charm you so that you choose to stay at their bungalow or homestay, or encouraging you to try their magic mushroom shakes. I was there to do a little work on Mailbird in a new and extra peaceful environment. I also had plans to meet up with my Canadian friends who were also exploring the Indonesian islands, after an extended stay in Australia. Without any plans of where I would be staying once I got to Gili Trawangan, I wandered the sandy paved road where pony drawn carriages came charging through.
There are no motor vehicles on the island. I loved this. Just horses, carriages, bicycles and your own two feet. I wished my new friends from the boat ride good luck in finding a place to stay, knowing that I would be likely to run into them again since the island is rather small (approx. 2 hours to walk around the perimeter). I found my friends Christa and Bri, and they helped me try to locate a place to stay. As we made our way down the gorgeous beachfront, the local island boys would say things like “Ohhh reeeaally” in their best American accent. I guess this is to mimic how they think American girls sound when they talk!? I don’t know but it was hilarious. I’ve been sharing the idea of the Kuta Cowboy with my friends, just because it is the most ridiculous thing. So perhaps these local islanders could be called the “Gili Gigolos”.
I was trying to find a cheap place to stay around Rp. 80,000 ($8 usd) per night. Without putting much effort into in I found a place for Rp. 100,000 ($10 usd) per night. Another super friendly guy named Abdulah showed me the way to my room. And…..let’s just say it wasn’t exactly in the lap of luxury, but I thought I could tough it out. I noticed ants on the floor, and the shitty bed with no bed cover, just a sheet on a mattress, what looked to be a car seat placed in the room to serve as a couch, and a random splintery looking wooden cart. There was a hole that appeared to have been punched through the bathroom door, and a red light bulb in the bathroom that barely provided enough light, the toilet covered in black dirt and skid marks, and no sink. Still, I said no biggie. I can deal with this, it was a bed to sleep on.
Got ready to hit up the beach, little did I know that when I would return to my room all the monsters of the night would emerge…but we will get to that later. I slapped on some sunscreen and met up with Christa and Bri, found a nice spot on the beach in front of a cozy beach cafe called Gili Divers. A lot of the accommodations on Gili are for those who come to get their scuba diving certification, as they are supposed to have amazing reefs for exploring the underwater world, and the cutest sea turtles! I was happy to just be able to lounge on a bean bag chair on the stunning beach, grab a cold Bintang, listen to some good island tunes, while eating some Nasi Goreng. We made our way to the West side of the island to watch the sunset- so beautiful. It was a great day, and time to head back to my room to get ready for the night.
I walked into my room, and noticed a ton of little worms or centipedes crawling around on the floor. While stepping on them, giving me shivers up my spine, I found two cockroaches. Frantically stomping around killing bugs in my dodgy room, while still convincing myself to get over the bug infestation I nervously stepped into the bathroom to take a shower. When I shut the bathroom door, a very LARGE gecko starting scurrying up the wall and I jumped out of that bathroom as soon as possible screaming. I ran out to find Abdulah who showed me to my room, but he was nowhere to be found. I found a lady who was a spa worker trying to explain to her that there was a giant lizard in my bathroom. I didn’t know how to say lizard in Indonesian, so I described it to her by calling it a Komodo Dragon Kecil (small Komodo dragon). She helped manage to find one of the Creative Bungalow workers to “take care of the situation”.
This Indonesian guy dressed in the Canadian Tuxedo (denim on denim) arrives with a metal pipe, and I showed him the bug massacre in my room and the big ass gecko in the bathroom. I sat outside my room, but went back in to make sure I could see that the issue was taken care of. He was literally trying to stab and smash the gecko with the metal pipe he brought with him, instead of just freeing the gecko outside of my room. I told him not to kill the poor thing, so instead, he shoves the gecko down the drain and loosely covers it back up with the drain cover. I suggested that the gecko could still come out, considering his futile efforts to tightly seal the drain back up. That was it, I was NOT staying at this place.
I ended up setting up camp at Big Bubble Dive where Christa and Bri were staying, nice place, bug and gecko free. They had a nice terrace pillow lounger outside their room, so we grabbed the cushions and set up a rather comfy bed for me on the floor in their room. Relief. We got ready for the night, grabbed some cheap eats from the local food carts in the main center by the beach front. Satisfied, and ready to locate which bar the big island party would take place at. Gili is made up of 3 small islands, Air, Meno, and Trawangan (the party island). The Gili Trawangan island where we stayed is so small, that each night there is one bar that has a big party, so that is where the whole island ends up. Tonight was Rudy’s, the next night was Sama Sama (a reggae bar), the night after was Hardy’s where there was a nice beach bon fire.
Tried a Joss Shot which is some kind of crazy energy powder booster with ginseng that fizzes when mixed with water. You tip the sachet of this medicine citrus tasting powder back, then wash it down with a shot of vodka. That was quite an experience. My friend could barely stand the taste and fizzing effect once the Joss powder hit the back of her throat. Then we danced the night away to some Reggae, made our way back to Big Bubble Dive, only to get up in the morning and beach it all day and do it all over again. Another place we really liked was Tir Na Nog– an Irish but not so Irish bar that played really good music right by the ocean. Lot of fun on Gili! Back in Bali now…it is good to be home.
Now seeking Mailbird beta tester sign ups, and some inspiration for bird sounds.
So I made it to Bali in one piece…I arrived at 11ish at night and was to be picked up by a driver named Ketut. I was pretty excited about this because in the movie Eat Pray Love with Julia Roberts, she meets a shaman named Ketut too. Well, Pak (Mr.) Ketut was nowhere to be found, and my cell phone was not co-operating. I went to the information desk and another driver hassled me, saying he could take me to Gianyar for cheap. I said no no I am waiting for a driver who is picking me up. Paged Pak Ketut from the Informasi Desk. 30 minutes….still no Ketut. Shit.
The other driver noticed the concern on my face, and was joking, saying that my driver was not going to show up. In the end he was kind enough to use his own cell phone (because the lady at the information desk said she could not make outgoing calls to cell phones- what!?) to get in touch with Ketut. He was like “Yah, so many named Ketut here!”. This guy was actually pretty awesome to have helped me out.
Finally Ketut shows up! Relief. He was adorably short and very smiley, and loved to chat. He kept apologizing for the mix up with where he was supposed to pick me up…I did not care, I made it to Bali. Ketut spoke English well enough for us to understand each other. After chatting up a storm, he turned on his ipod shuffle and played a Rihanna song, among other American pop hits, and started singing his little heart out. I loved it! Made it to my new home, where I walked past a really nice garden in the center of the home (took the picture of it the next day when there was light). It is really beautiful here.
So I started nesting as soon as I got all my stuff into my room. It was about 12:30am, and I did not go to bed until 3am- I was WAY to excited for the next day, to meet my housemates and co-workers, and to start discovering Bali. Woke up to the ridiculously loud rooster crowing outside my window (my window overlooks a rice paddy field). It was 6am when the “alarm” went off, and I couldn’t do anything to turn it off (the roosters). On my street there are several stray dogs roaming around, and of course the roosters, and Indonesian women in rice hats hacking away at rice, while a guy pulls on a string to make clanking noises with cans to scare birds away from the rice crop. Everything is so interesting to look at… stimulus overload!
I woke up one of my Indonesian housemates, hopped on a scooter to head to the villa complex where we would have a nicely prepared breakfast and get to work! The diversity of my new work environment is fantastic, and everyone has been very welcoming. Getting used to pressured water attachments instead of toilet paper. It’s not bad, actually seems cleaner, and better for the environment. No more details needed here.
Sunday went to Kuta/Seminyak area to hit up the beach. Some of my colleagues wanted to go surfing, and I thought about it. Instead, I chose to relax on the beach and drink some Bintang (local Indonesian pilsner). Did a little window shopping in town with two of the European gals, and one of my Indonesian housemates, then went to the W hotel to watch the sunset. Sitting on over sized bean bag chairs at this gorgeous resort, staring at beach and Seminyak waves as the sun went down.
There are too many mini stories to share: Getting lost at the beach, Driving a Scooter for the first time in Bali and getting a flat tire, stomach problems, having a temporary stray 3-4 week old kitten, getting my ass kicked in crossfit, taking a 30 minute run through a field of rice, buying Korean body wash at a local side street store, searching for insulin from one pharmacy to another (where you don’t need a prescription to purchase), going to a traditional Indonesian wedding, eating sushi from a rotating belt, working through language barriers, huge kick ass stone sculptures, the giant canal lizzards that basically look like small alligators, swimming in the ocean whenever I want, the little colorful Hindu offerings with incense everywhere, the surrounding tropical plants/flowers…this is paradise!
Deciding to relocate out of the U.S. is very liberating. When googling jobs in Cincinnati (the longest place I’ve lived to date- 10 years), I kept spinning my wheels not getting anywhere, not really finding anything that I truly WANTED to do. After see-sawing back and forth and trying to come up with an answer to “what do you want to do in life?”, with the help of my wonderfully inspirational friends, I decided- Why limit myself to jobs in the U.S.?
The 2nd longest place I’ve lived before Cincinnati, the place where I actually grew up- Jakarta, Indonesia. As someone mega passionate about travelling (I’ve lived in 5 of the 7 world Continents now), I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to go back to a place that is incredibly rich in culture, where the people are so beautiful and welcoming, the food is fantastic, and the environment is absolutely stunning.
My friends always make fun of me because I am not much of a book worm…aka- I pretty much just don’t read. However I’ve found that the few books I’ve read that I truly enjoyed all have a common theme. They all have to do with survival and adventure- so yes I like to read “Island/Wilderness Fiction”: The Cay, Island of the Secret Love Nun, Lord of the Flies, My Side of the Mountain…So in taking on the initial idea of moving out of the country, I decided I wanted to be in my own “island fiction” story.
I found an amazing opportunity in the software industry that would have me relocate to Bali, Indonesia. The idea of this lit a fuse in me! Bali is a gorgeous island close to the equator, embedded within the awesome Indonesian archipelago. I started to dream about how amazing it would be to have the chance to go back to my home away from home. I figured the culture shock wouldn’t be too crazy since I was already familiar with life in Indonesia, I had been to Bali many years ago as a child, and the language would be relatively easy to pick back up.
So I did it. I submitted my application, and let the waiting game commence. Without going into too much detail, the application process was interesting. Had to submit a video screencast, had a lot of back and forth communication with the company, and 2 interviews via Skype which both went very well. I think I had very good, positive, raw, organic energy that the interviewers could clearly gather after speaking with me.
It took about half a year of correspondence, before the date was set. I would quit my job and leave Cincinnati on 4/28/12. The last 3 weeks prior to my departure were intense. Lots of sadness, all mixed up with a lot of love from the people that mean the most to me. From here I went to Chandler, AZ for about 11 days; a nice gradual way to process my separation from my home, family, and friends. Left AZ on 5/11/12 to head to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (I specifically stayed in a town called Putrajaya). I went from AZ to L.A. to Tokyo to Singapore to KL. My 7 hour layover in Singapore kept me entertained with tons of shops, gardens, koi ponds, butterfly gardens, a wide array of botanical gardens, free foot massagers, internet, people watching, a free 2 hour Singapore tour (that I got really excited about but could not make due to the boarding time of my next flight), and of course FOOD! I’ll share some photos of the delicious food and treats later.
It was refreshing to be immersed into the lush green empire of Malaysia, after seeing nothing but desert browns and reds in Arizona. I love the tropics, always have. The trees, the flowers, the birds, the cute little cicaks (lizzards) all made me so happy. This was the next gradual step in separating from the U.S. It is so easy to forget how amazing the rest of the world is until you step out of Western Culture. My parents have been so amazing in helping me through this transition, and I am so thankful that I’ve been able spend time with them, particularly my Madre. She is truly one badass lady, and great to have on your side =)
I’ve been spending time checking out the general attractions in Malaysia, visiting their monstrous shopping malls, getting a new hair cut, seeing a lot of women wearing beautiful fabrics as their head wraps (Malaysia is predominantly Muslim), adjusting to the tropical climate, and eating the local cuisine. It is Thursday 5/17/12, and one day before departure to my final destination to Bali. My Mom and I are getting massages today….YES!
Well, I must say- Thank gawd for the internet and Skype to keep me connected to the ones I love, as I welcome the journey ahead of me.
See you all in Bali! ❤ ❤