Work hard, play harder

Oh blog. Hello again. In the past it was easier to keep you updated.  Really the first couple months in Bali were pretty mellow, of course with some exciting weekend adventures or a volcano trek thrown in here and there.  But I would find time between tasks at work to spend with you, or an evening after work to write a bit.  However the last couple weeks have been so activity filled I’ve hardly had time to gather my thoughts let alone blog! So this post will probably get long, but it’s going to be nice to write it all out. Ok, here we go.

The game changer: having close friends. I’ve been spending a whole lot of time with the Agung crew. And these girls, and Brandon too, are always busy with the best things. Oh, and they’re always dancing.  I think I’ve danced more in the past two weeks than I have in the past year.  Which is maybe an exaggeration, but also probably not. Last week was the Ubud Writers and Reader’s Festival.

LOGO UWRF 13_516x0 The actual festival brought in a number of authors, poets, musicians and all types of other interesting people.  I attended a number of free events.  First was a “London Speakeasy” with spoken word and fantastic jazz music.  This was followed by a street party which we just hit the end of a jammin’ Reggae band. The street parties here are quite excellent because they really go all out, blocking everything off and decorating the narrow streets with beautiful lanterns.  And everyone’s there and dancing.  Almira brought the hula hoop, because she always brings the hula hoop. There was also a poetry slam which was pretty good, still not as good as Wesleyans best, but still interesting to hear poetry from people from such varied backgrounds and situations. Most were in English but some were in other languages which was also interesting to hear poetry in bahasa Indonesia or bahasa Malaysia. Also a story telling session where we all shared stories.  Mine was the one from last year in Bali where I got lost and ended up diving and doing other funny things.  It wasn’t a very good story but I was wildly unprepared and didn’t know this even was going to be listening to and telling stories. One night there was a screening of the new documentary Jalanan.  The venue, the backyard of this museum, was packed with hundreds of people. “It takes a town like Ubud to have people turn out to a documentary like it’s a rock concert.”  The movie was an absolutely beautifully shot story following three street musicians in Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia.  It was super inspirational to see people who are living with what we might consider so little- surviving off a dollar or two a day, living under bridges-but living free, happy, satisfied lives fueled by their passion for music. Definitely check it out if you get a chance.

After the movie it did turn into a rock concert! The three stars came and played music which was just great. Then there was a punk-metal band who rocked out. A closing was a killer reggae, Afrobeat kind of band with an awesome sexy lead singer/ dancer woman and a crazy saxophone player who at one point climbed up the scaffolding and was playing absurd one-handed sax like twenty feet above the stage.  We danced and danced and danced.

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The following night was the closing party for the festival which was also in the courtyard of the Blanco museum.  First these guys were playing really interesting instruments from some small Indonesian island.  Like this crazy one made out of palm leaves.

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Finally a guy closed the show called Afro Moses who’s this musician from Ghanna. His show was super fun playing lots of great original music mixed with some classic Bob Marley and also some interesting reggae versions of pop music like Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” and closing with some Shakira.  Also at the height of one of the songs he dramatically ripped off the head wrap he was wearing to expose the longest dreads I’ve ever seen.  If I stood next to them they would definitely be taller (longer?).

Can dreads be tall? Can a person be long? The more time I spend here learning  bits of the very simple Indonesian language the more frustrated I get with English.  Here “C” is pronounced CH. So the other day I passed a sign selling CIKEN (chicken). At first I kind of giggled at the misspelling, but then I was just amazed by how much more sense that makes.  Why do we have two separate letters, c and k, that can make the same sound? And why throw in that extra c? Chi-ken. KEN Chi-ken is just the more obvious spelling.

Post Ubud Writers fest events we almost always ended our nights at the CP lounge.  A few weeks ago I learned it’s called CP because the place before it used to be Casa Pasta and they didn’t want to switch over the name on the liquor license.  So CP.  It’s pretty much 1/3 places in Ubud that have any kind of night life.  And of the three it keeps the people out the latest.  The outside is a large area, big tables and loungey cushioned areas. Plus a dance floor with live music every night until midnight(ish). I’ve been to CP a good number of times, but until last week I didn’t know about the secret hidden club! Behind the front area is a door to a very sound proof room which is actually huge. It has another full bar and pool table on plus a huge dance floor with a stage on the other.  The music is typical club-dance-techno-electro-pop music, but it’s always fun with my friends because they dance, hard. That first Saturday night we really didn’t stop dancing until about 4 am when they kicked us out.  But then we simply moved our party to the beautiful villa of our Spanish friends where the dancing continued as well as some swimming, and dancing, and nonsense in the pool.  The Spanish guys are really great, they’re all programmers working on some start up internet venture I don’t really understand.  But they’re just best friends, living in a villa and partying like Spaniards do.

Work has also been keeping me busy.  Last week the survey I’ve been designing went into its first test run with some cacao farmers in East Bali. Most of the questions worked very well, some didn’t work at all.  The hardest part has been trying to figure out ways to ask the farmers income.  Usually the farmers don’t keep financial records and have a very hard time reporting their monthly, let alone annual income. They are all paid in cash and usually don’t have bank accounts. Plus the cash they earn immediately goes to pay for food, gas, and to pay of their loans so by the end of the day they have a really hard time reporting what they’ve earned.

However since the goal of Big Tree is to increase income by value addition through organic, small scale supply chains, it is very important we find a way to measure the farmers income to see if it is actually increasing. So I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to find round about ways to figure out how much money they make.  Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 9.09.10 AM

Also I’ve moved all of  the questions from excel into this online survey platform called Qualtrics.  It’s pretty fun but definitely time-consuming to learn a new program.  Oh, and also translating back and forth between English and Bahasa.  Lots of time.

Other activities have included spending one day underwater diving with some more Spanish guys.

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The wet suit they gave me made me look a bit like that chick from kill bill.  Except not as hot.

But we did three dives in the Padangbai area.  The first was along this beautiful coral wall near the Blue Lagoon. The second dive was along the jetty and is supposed to be very beautiful because you can see all the columns.  Oh, I’ll find some photos.Beautifully atmospheric shot (jetty outside Padangbai, Bali's east coast) - Picture of AquaMarine Diving - Bali, Kuta

This photo of AquaMarine Diving – Bali is courtesy of TripAdvisor

However the visibility here was awful and the surge was very strong so this dive was very difficult.  You had to get really close to the columns to see much.

The third dive was definitely the best.  I wasn’t really paying attention to the boys talking in Spanish so I was completely surprised when we came upon this little ship wreck!

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This photo courtesy of  gjbenji- http://scubasg.com/index.php?topic=7621.

This dive also had a bunch of Buddha statues which were really cool. We spent a bit of time with them doing underwater meditation.  It’s pretty funny to try to get into lotus position with flippers on! But once buoyant I found weightless underwater meditation to be one of the most peaceful, amazing experiences.  But there’s too much to see to stay in one place, so off we went.

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A short list of other cool things we saw while diving:
-A jellyfish the size of a basketball with lots of little fish hanging out inside of it.
-Big green starfish
-Mantis shrimp (aka the craziest crustacean ever)
-Big school of jack fish
-An octopus who curled up and hid in a rock. He looked kind of yummy.
-Colorful parrot fish
-Moray eel
-Intricate and colorful feather looking plants? coral? Don’t know what they are but really beautiful.

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-A huge grouper hanging out in the wreck

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Photo courtesy of http://www.dawnsbrain.com/

-Clown fish hanging out in anemone
-Lion fish
-Camouflaged rock fish
-Puffer fish
-Lots of other little things I can’t remember right now

Other than diving I spent another day waking up early to go surfing.  I’m finally starting to get the hang of it. I caught one really good wave, a couple pretty good ones, a lot of ok ones, and a ton that pummeled me and sent me flying.  But that’s all part of the game.  Although I’m still using the beginner big floaty board; maybe next time I’ll use a real surf board and see how that goes.

Oh, and more dancing/ partying.  On Friday I went to something at the Yoga Barn called ecstatic dance.  Pretty much it was a bunch of people in a room with one rule: dance and don’t talk.  The DJ/ instructor dude played great music with heavy beats that definitely got people moving.  At points it got pretty weird, at points it was really beautiful.  People really let go of everything and just moved.  Think hippy Bluegrass dancing but more electronic music and more yoga clothing/ flowy pants and skirts. I was sweaty and exhausted by the end.

Also, on Sunday some  friends and I, plus two of the new Big Tree interns (they’re actually so entertaining, definitely enough to get their own post later on) all took a car down to Seminyak for Bali beach parties.  The first was in a beach club called Cocoon. It was the kind of party where girls had huge fake tits, tiny bikinis and tall heels and the guys were  90% Australian, tattooed, chest shaven, baseball cap wearing and drunk.

This party was weird. The worst part was definitely the group of local Balinese guys sitting across the road watching the party happen and taking photos.  I’m sure their thoughts were “look at these dumb bule girls dancing on the side of the pool.” Also there were four girls hired as dancers in the strangest costumes ever.  Two were on stilts, all were in little bathing suits.  But the first costume had two girls with Katy Perryesque inflatable boob cones while the other two had dolphin stuffed animals as a bra.  The costumes changed about five times throughout the night, from beach ball outfits to the weirdest one with skirts covered in little croc sandals.  And of course wigs and lots and lots of makeup.

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But still we danced.

Eventually we left this party and started to walk towards the other one. We were told it was only 15 minutes away but after walking along highways for about 45 minutes we decided to get a cab. A bit later we were pulling into the fanciest hotel I’ve ever seen. The taxi drove us through a big mystical fairy land looking tunnel of ivy plants into the front with a huge lobby. We followed the music downstairs past about twenty swimming pools. The bar area was huge and glamorous.

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Photo courtesy of DA MAN Magazine

There were people in nice clothing lounging around sipping fancy cocktails and smoking crazy glass color changing, spaceship looking shisha pipes. We were definitely a bit underdressed, but who cares. The DJ was playing really good music, much better than the standard club/pop/house music at the last party. The worst thing at this point was how tired I was. But still I spent some time exploring the amazing space and, of course, dancing. Especially Almira, she stole the show in her beautiful blue dress, hula hoop and excellent dance moves.

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Oh, and we ended up buying our own spaceship shisha which was the smoothest and yummiest I’d ever had. Also the hotel was right on the beach so we spent some time hanging out there. It was just beautiful watching the full moon shine through the palm trees above the dance floor. Eventually the DJ ended his set and it was time to find our driver and head home. It took a long time to get everyone together and organized but finally we were all in the car and heading home. Needless to say we all slept the entire drive home.

Mt. Agung and the Mother Temple

This past weekend I went with some friends on another volcano trekking adventure. We met up in the morning and made sure we had enough supplies to get us through a couple days and then off we drove into the hills of inland Bali. We got to Besakih, the little village at the base of Mt. Agung where we hung out for a while trying to figure out the whole guide situation.

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It’s a really unfortunate situation but there seems to be a Mt. Agung mafia situation going on. The trail is definitely not difficult, and while it is possible to get lost, it’s very unlikely. All you would really need is a topo map and you’d be good for sure. But these guys have made it their business to make sure nobody goes up the mountain without a guide. They will really harass you into paying.

I even heard a story of a Balinese dude and his girl friend who went up sin guide only to have someone follow them up the mountain for hours verbally abusing them and yelling insults the whole way. What a way to ruin a nice hike!DSC_0002

While my friend Ari, god bless her, worked out the whole situation with the company and the guides, I snuck off to the Besakih temple. Basakih is the “Bali Mother temple” and the most important, holiest temple in Bali. I guess it was built in the 14th century and while I only took photos of the main temple, there a many other smaller temples all around on the hills behind the main event. It was absolutely beautiful with all the people coming and going with their offerings.

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There were a bunch of guys right outside the temple selling corn and chicken sate. The smell was just wonderful.  Also we got a nice laugh from the real fashionable lady who ended up in the background of this photo.

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We were waiting around next to some real cute little girls.

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And they seem to be learning pretty quickly how to ask for money from the tourists.  Or perhaps their mothers have just taught them well. I had a fun time putting my hands out and asking them for money. They giggled and thought this was really silly.

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And then our group was finally ready to go! Good lookin’ group of people if you ask me.  From left to right, Ari, Brandon, Emy, Elmira, and Gilbert.

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But once we got up to the area we were supposed to leave we had more waiting around to do.  Luckily this time we had a super cute little creature to keep up entertained.

Also we played with the hula hoop Elmira had brought. It was a really fun hoop that could be separated into two small hoops or put back together into a bigger hoop. And the colors are really fun.

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And bubble gum.

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Ari had some fun taking photos of everyone with my camera.  I guess this is a nice time to introduce the cast.

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Brandon: from Dallas, Texas. Landscape architect, studying and hanging out in Bali about a year. (Oh and me being a weirdo in the background).

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Emy: From East Timor, singing, yoga and fitness teacher of tiny kids at a local Bali school. Been here for seven years.  Super sweet heart and amazing singer.

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Elmira: Bali badass. She hadn’t been hiking before but absolutely killed this hike beating everyone down the mountain. And doing it all in rainboots! Also her hiking outfit was just outstanding, the hula hoop included.  Also an amazing dancer and singer!

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Gilbert: Those green eyes! Our super model and entertaining friend from Austria. Also here studying, what, I don’t know if I ever got or simply forgot…oops sorry Gilbert!

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And me.  Also Ari. Unfortunately one of the only portrait type photos of her is from the top. She’s kissing the sun.

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But Ari is a  beautiful lady that made the whole trip happen.  Young, spunky and ready to explore the world.  She’s one of the friendliest people I know and the reason I ended up hiking and meeting all these people. So thank you, thank you, thank you!

And we’re finally off! We got a guide name Circu who came along with us. The climb began heading straight into the clouds.

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But soon enough we got into the deep jungle where we found all kinds of crazy plants.

I thought this one was especially beautiful, I guess Gilbert did too.

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Also this plant was absolutely incredible.  New leaves would grow out of the top, and then they became too large they would break off and die, turning into these root looking extensions of the plant. Some of these were small, maybe just a little bigger than me.  But some of them were HUGE! Like 70 foot tall palm tree status.

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Here you can see the new leaves popping out of the top. Dude, nature, it’s so wild.  But really, these jungles just grow like you couldn’t believe.  Vines and branches reaching anywhere and everywhere they can trying to get a bit of sun light.

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The path up was very, very steep. So we took a good number of breaks.

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Also the path had a good amount of loose, dusty, sandy slopes that were very difficult to climb up. Very tiring.

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But soon enough we were above the clouds.  And what a spectacular view it was.  This was called the America Photo.

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Buddy pic

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Sunset was absolutely spectacular.

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You could even see the mountains of Central-Eastern Bali poking out of the clouds.  Although sometimes it was hard to distinguish distinguish between the two!

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After about 6 hours of hiking we reached our camp for the night. We played around, took some silly photos and then took care of our needs, mainly food and warmth.  DSC_0199 DSC_0207

We built a nice fire and then set up the little stove Brandon had brought along. He was so prepared with pots and even a special little pot for tea. We made some noodles, kind of a ramen but a little better. And much tastier considering how hungry we all were.  But we shared all of the random food things we had brought along.  I had made some tortillas, we had a pumpkin bread, some other bread with jam. Peanut butter and cookies galore.  Oh, and some cherry tomatoes that went into the noodle soup. Yum.

Soon enough Venus decide to join us as well.

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We sang all kinds of songs for what seemed like hours before all laying down next to each other to “sleep”. While Gilbert carried one large pad we all fit on, it was pretty thin which mixed with the lack of space and other people all moving around meant none of us had a very good nights sleep. Somehow I wasn’t cold even though I just had a blanket and not a sleeping bag, but it was definitely a little nippy which kept some people awake.

3 am my alarm goes off.  It speaks in a funny female robot voice, “It’s time to get up, the time is three o’clock. It’s time to get up, the time is three o’clock.” Oh boy.  We made some tea and coffee, ate some food and up we went.

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Hiking in the night like this was spectacular.  You could see all the lights of Bali highways and cities below and even the line of the coast and the outline of lake Batur. And above all the stars were equally bright twinkling away.  These photos didn’t turn out great due to a lack of a tripod, but you get the general idea.

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It was cold on the way up. We stopped only a few times, once in this nice alcove where we could hide from the wind.

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And then the sun began to rise.  Luckily, much unlike Rinjani, the top had a real nice path.  Unluckily, the wind was out of control and made me feel like I was going to be picked up and blown off the edge.

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Here are the fields where they grow the flowers for offerings.

The worst part of the trip was definitely once we got down. We all laid on the ground feeling exhausted and ready to get moving to places with more food and water. However we started to notice something wrong with our motorbikes. First one had a flat tire, then we realized three of our four bikes had flat tires. We were pissed off about this for a while. Could it have been leaving them in the sun? Or maybe some people took the air out so we’d pay them to fill them again. After a while we also became aware that our mirrors were missing! Three of the four bikes each had a mirror that had been stolen. And finally Ari realized the foot plate of her bike had been taken off or vandalized, especially horrible since it was a rental bike which she had to return the next day. We were pissed off and also very confused. Who would do such a thing!

Our guide helped us find a pump to put air back in the tires and in the mean time we talked to some of the young people hanging around at the bottom. It seems like the area we parked is just a local teen hang out spot and some young kids decided to fuck with our bikes. Maybe they were drunk, maybe they were just obnoxious, who really knows.

Luckily Ari wasn’t going to put up with it and had a long conversation with the head of the tour organization who told us to park up there. After more hours of waiting and negotiating (we ate some yummy chicken soup in the mean time) the head honcho guy said he’d go along with us to the repair shop and buy us the missing mirrors. This also took a very, very long time. At this point we were all exhausted and ready for our massages. But we had to stop at three different stores to find all the right supplies. Oh, except my mirror which we never found. So they gave me some money to buy it later in Ubud.
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It was an ordeal. But eventually we were on our way to drive the couple of hours back home. Gilbert went back home and the rest of us stopped in the Gianyar night market which was a really fun happening place to buy REAL cheap REAL delicious Indonesian food. I’ll definitely go back and take some photos too. Then, back to Ubud where we left Brandon and Elmira before Ari, Emy and I collapsed onto massage tables. We enjoyed every second of our strong $7 hour long massages. And then crawled our way back home and into bed.

The Good, the Bad and the Bizarre

So this is the first post I’ve put up in quite a while. Honestly, this blog has always been a pretty weird thing for me.  My feelings about it change pretty much every day.

Sometimes it’s like

      “Wow! What a neat experience I can’t wait to post it to my blog. Then everyone can read it and see the photos and get a really great picture of what I’ve been up to. This is like journaling but better because I can share!”

But some days it’s like

“Why the hell am I still blogging? It’s such a self centered, egotistical way to explain what I’m learning about the world. It takes up so much time and will still never capture the reality of these experiences.”

It’s a real blogging angel, devil on my shoulders kind of situation.

The biggest problem with the blog is when I’m busy and doing lots of interesting things, as I have been the past couple weeks, I have so much material to write about but no time to actually write it. And then as time passes the things I thought about posing become old and uninteresting to me and so they’re never put up.

But that’s the end of my rant because I really do enjoy posting , if and when I finally get around to it. This post is going to be a quick update with some things I’ve been up to categorized into good, bad, and bizarre.  Perhaps the next few posts will be a little bit more profound….

1)  NEKA Museum- GOOD

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I (finally) went to the NEKA art museum where I spent a really, really long afternoon looking at traditional and contemporary Balinese paintings.

Painting at Neka Art Museum Ubud Bali

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I read all of the little descriptions and actually learned a lot about this beautiful island’s culture, life and some really neat things about the practices of the Balinese Hinduism.

2) Traditional Balinese puppet show. GOOD

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Unfortunately because the only light was the little fire behind the screen, the show was very hard to photograph.  Also I didn’t want to be disrespectful, but I got this one shot which gives you the general idea.  The puppets were beautiful detailed and moved in all kinds of ways.

3) Going out- GOOD, BIZARRE

I stayed out until past 4am with some really interesting old(er) men who’ve been expats in Bali for pretty much as long as I’ve been alive.  One guy, a good friend of my boss was my official caretaker/ tour guide and took me out to some bars, introduced me to some characters and also brought me to late night Javanese street food.  There we a whole smorgasbord of food including delicious beef rangdan, these little crispy fried fish with heads and big eyes that stare at you and of course, rice. However they were out of the fried eels by the time we got there.  It was fun drunk food although probably the exact opposite of the fried comfort food you get at the Whey Station, falafal or late night. But while drunk is a great time to try new things.

Also, something to talk about. The cheap beer here is called Bintang and I think it’s great, at least better than PBR, Keystone or any other cheap beer we drink.  Also it comes in two bottle sizes, small and large.  Or as I like to think of it, normal size and YES! perfect beer size.

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Oh my gawd, beer you’re so big.

4) Cooking and fruit- GOOD

I’ve been cooking a lot. Probably my most exciting (or ok, the only dish I have a photo of) was spicy garlic orange shrimp.  It was delicious.

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Oh, also I’ve been buying lots of fresh tropical fruit which is really great for smoothies and juices.  Also, I bought this mystery fruit completely unsure what to expect.

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I waited more than the number of days they told me, but still it was unripe and not great to eat. I eventually found out it is Sour Sop.  Which is a delicious fruit, but difficult to get to the perfect ripeness. Apparently it’s hard, hard, hard and then very quickly gets mushy and so it is often used for juices.  Maybe I’ll try again with this guy.

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5) Awaken Your Healing Powers- GOOD, BIZARRE

I went to a lecture by a man named John Wong who had become ill with a serious and supposedly untreatable nervous system disease which left him blind and paralyzed.  The doctors said there was nothing they could do, however by using the power of his mind he was able to completely cure himself.  His talk didn’t go too far into his method of healing, but instead got into some pretty esoteric material about human life, the universe, our bodies and beyond.  He shared other “miracle” healing stories and also a good number of clips from the documentary Thrive which I will get around to watching sometime soon.  It was very out there and left me feeling amazed, confused and still a bit skeptical. But anyway at the talk they were giving away free tickets worth $300 to some weekend symposium where I guess lots of people were talking about healing or similar topics.  So without knowing much about it I got a ticket thinking what the hell, I might go.

6) Déjà Vu Beach Experience. GOOD, BAD, BIZARRE.

This ended up being way too long of a story and will (perhaps) be a post of its own.  But preview- there was grilled corn, uncomfortable photos and babies.

7) Spa life- GOOD

I’ve gotten a Balinese massage and traditional body scrub of rice and nice other nice smelling exfoliating things.  And some foot reflexology, and I had my toes painted a wonderful orange color which I later realized matched the bean bag in my room.

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Spa treatments here are ridiculously cheap; you can get really good hour long massages for about ten bucks.  So while I’m not a particular spa type of girl, sometimes it’s fun to be pampered.

8) Asia’s First Bio-Physical and Complementary Medicine Symposium- GOOD, (a little tiny itty bit) BAD, (but super) BIZARRE

I spent Sunday at  Asia’s First Bio-Physical and Complementary Medicine Symposium.  So the whole event took place in the fancy ball room of a fancy hotel. The room was set up with lots of round tables in the middle and tables along two walls with coffee, tea and little food things and a lunch buffet.  The other wall had tables with people selling products and handing out information brochures on essential oils or  bio feedback 3D imaging services etc. etc.

The presentations started out on a pretty weird note, literally.  A guy named Dr. Todd Ovokaitys began by having the whole crowd sing “Pineal Tones” some sort of ancient vocal harmonies that help connect us with higher vibrations? God? Our innate spirituality? I kind of missed that part.

Anyway I’m thinking this guy is pretty weird.  But then he gets on stage and goes through a presentation that is so scientific going into the small detailed workings of molecules of DNA and talking about this electromagnetic resonance laser he created.  From what I understand it can recognize different resonances between normal cells and virus cells and so he’s been using this laser technology to cure HIV and cerebral palsy with great success.  At this point I’m just pretty confused and amazed.

I was also feeling upset that I don’t have a better understanding of biology. Well and quantum mechanics and complex math and all of that because then I could better understand what he was talking about, and help discern whether or not it’s real. I think when I get back to school I might try and take a bio class (! whoa).

The conference continued with many more speakers and presentations.  Some were boring, some were super interesting.  Some made me feel skeptical and I could tell they were just trying to sell products.  But some were very genuine and great.  There were presentations with names like “New Generation Bio field and 3D Imaging” and “Enhancing Biochemical Pathways and Clinical Results Through the Use of the QI (Quantum Information) Laser” (This was Todd’s).  One I liked a lot was “Astral Travel: The Out of Body Experience”.

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But my favorite speaker had a very simple presentation about the importance of presence in healing and how you have to be present to be able to correctly diagnose a patient, or begin to heal yourself. It was very Buddhist. The rest of the symposium had a lot of talk about energy and a good number of people with cancer or other very serious diseases who managed to cure themselves with the power of their mind, meditation and pure love. And on, and on.

I left feeling mostly hopeful, even if some of it might be cock-a-doodle-do-as my dad might say-some of the stuff is really making a difference.  It’s an exciting thing, but also somewhat frightening.  If all of this is true, within my lifetime we will have a cure for most disease and a way to nearly double, or triple (as Dr. Todd was saying) our life span.  If nobody’s dying until 300 and we’re still reproducing at the same rate, that seems like it will be much more of a problem than a solution! But I guess we’ll see.

8) The Security Guard

Nearly everyday for the past two months (yes, I’ve been here two months!) I pass by a security guard at work who has these dark blue marks, really lines, spiderwebbing all across his cheeks.  It seemed like he had a strange disease or was in some horrible accident that damaged his skin and left the veins in his face very visible.  However, I just realized the marks are not a disease, but rather tattooos! (Tattoos are a very big thing here). What a strange, strange choice, or maybe it wasn’t a choice? Who knows how that happened.

But this got me thinking a lot about appearances and how we judge people.  I’m very glad my small relationship with the man hasn’t changed at all since this discovery, we still smile and say “pagi!” every morning. But it’s still strange when you don’t know someone very well and they go from being the guy with the face disease to the guy with the face tattoos. I wonder if I would have thought about him the same way if I knew him as the tattooed face guy from the beginning.

GOOD- he doesn’t have a disease BAD- his tattoos look like a disease BIZARRE- uh ya

9) Chocolate Bananas! SO GOOD

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One night I stayed up making chocolate covered mini bananas. It was really fun and I was so hyped up because I got to lick my fingers, the spoon and the pan all by myself.

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Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!

Also, probably the best thing about them is they look just like poop.

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I mean look at them! Try to tell me you haven’t seen that in the toilet before.

They’re just so gross looking, but so yummy.  They look like shit, literally, but taste like THE shit. Hilarious and delicious.

I put them in the freezer and have been eating them for dessert, in the morning with my smoothies, and even in crepes which were mmmm mmmm good.

10) Work  GOOD, BAD

Part of the reason I’ve been too busy to blog is I’ve been very, very busy with work.  My current project is a social impact measurement survey that is going to be given to the farmers working in the cacao and coconut supply chains of Big Tree Farms.  The work can be fascinating and boring all at the same time.  Mostly it’s just incredibly time consuming.  I’ll work on one draft for many days just to discover I’m not doing the right thing at all.  So it’s back to the drawing board and back to the excel formatting.

However, sometime in the very, very near future (this week if all the translating goes as planned…) I will be heading into the field and actually giving out the survey in the first test run.  I absolutely can not wait to see what happens.

11) Surfing- GOOD, BAD, BIZARRE

I mean it’s me, surfing. Of course it was bizarre. I had some nice wipe outs but also by the end was getting up on most of the waves.  This is a work in progress.

12) Failing miserably to go clubbing  BAD, BIZARRE

Clubbing is very overwhelming when you’re by yourself.  I’d perhaps rather go home and read.

13) So much reading GOOD

So far I’ve worked my way through Brewing Justice (a book Professor Long gave me due to my interests in farmers, fair trade etc. etc.) 1984, On the Road, Fahrenheit 451, Brain Rules (another very interesting book I assigned for class that I never got around to reading) and I’m nearly finished with Monkey Wrench Gang, picking up Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace when I feel like I need some inspiration and just part way through the 38429732948732 page Infinite Jest.
Which is great because that’s a lot of books, but bad because I’m very quickly reducing the size of my library. I’ll figure something out.

Photo on 9-18-13 at 7.36 AM #3

What’s In a Name?

In pretty much the entire world a name is something your parents choose for you at birth and you live with for the rest of your life.  However in Bali there is an entirely different system for naming children.

When I first got here last year I was pretty confused, I couldn’t understand why everyone I met seemed to be named either Wayan or Nyoman or Made.  Were people playing a joke on me? There’s no way all these people could have the same name!

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Nyoman? Nyoman?

However not too long after I discovered that people here are named after their birth order.  So you can really only have one of four names- 1st born, 2nd born, 3rd born or 4th born- Wayan, Made, Nyoman and Ketut respectively.  This system works for both males and females, I’ve stayed at a homestay where both the mother and the father were named Nyoman.

So I began to understand the system but quickly became confused when I continued hearing other common names. So I started asking about this and hearing different stories and lists of names every time I asked.  I knew that the fifth born child is also named Wayan and then the cycle starts again.  I was confused, if there’s only four names how can there be so many people named Putu? And then I found out, each caste has it’s own naming system!

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So the first born child will be named with Wayan, Putu or Gede depending on their caste, the second child can be either Made or Kadek, the third child Nyoman or Komang and the fourth born is just always named Ketut.

This is my understanding of the system anyway, I hope this information is all correct!

You may be thinking, what?! How the hell do you differentiate between people if everyone has the same ten names.  And it’s true, it can get very confusing very fast.  Luckily people are very keen on nicknames and many will have a second name, like the son at my old homestay, Putu Adi.

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I’d imagine almost everyone must have a nickname which they are called by their friends and family. However when they introduce themselves they’ll still use their given name.  So you simply learn to describe people in other ways than just their name; Wayan from the wood carving shop or Nyoman from the restaurant.  I’ve managed to get by without too much confusion, however I’m still interested how the people here manage all the time.  For instance I only have a small group of Indonesian friends who I call by name. But imagine being a teacher with a classroom full of Wayans! Or trying to communicate during a soccer game when you’re trying to pass the ball to Made, no, the other Made, no! the other Made.  I’ve seen some pretty hilarious cellphone contact lists anyway.

But it’s also a nice reminder, a name is not everything.  I love the name Nina, it’s great.  Especially nice here because apparently Nina is also an Indonesian name so people understand it and can pronounce it.  More complicated Western names often get lost in translation.  So thanks mom! But also it’s nice to remember that no matter what you are called, it’s really not all that important, after all it’s just a name.

Mt. Rinjani Photo Adventure Madness

So Monday night I got back from the island of Lombok where I spent almost a week doing an adventure photography course.  The trip was spectacular and some of my photos came out pretty well so I’m excited to share.

I arrived on the first day and after the boat ride over met up with Kylor, the dude leading the trip, and his French friend from high school, Margaux (pronounced Margo).  We drove up to the town at the bottom of Mt. Rinjani, put our stuff in the hotel room, had a bite to eat and then it was time for the adventures to start!

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We began by hiking out though the jungle to these beautiful waterfalls.  We skipped the first one to head out to the second waterfall which was more of an off the path kind of adventuring.  These really funny little kids were playing tour guides and leading us along.

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The waterfall was super powerful.  Even from far away you could feel the spray and see the water churning at the point of impact.  But that didn’t stop us from swimming! The cold water was a nice change after getting all hot and sweaty from the trip.  But it was also pretty intense, the water was just flying everywhere and it was hard to see straight through the spray. I laughed a lot and even managed to swim below the falls into the little cave area behind.  Also Kylor brought the GoPro with us so we should have some really fun footage of us playing around.  (I’ll put up some links once he posts his photos and videos).

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Margaux checkin out the falls

We back tracked to the first waterfall but this time Margo and I took a real adventure by following the little kids through this drainage irrigation tunnel.  It was super dark with water rushing all around our feet and knees.  But there was a little ledge on one side to hold on and the kids were super cute and helpful telling us “hati hati” when we had to watch out for a step down or some other obstacle.

Every once and a while there would be a cut out window to the outside world that just peered out into the greenest jungle. Except also the windows were also guarded by giant spider webs complete with pretty giant spiders. So that was a little bit…. let’s just say it was nice that it was dark so we didn’t have to see most of them hahah.

But then we made it to the second falls which was also beautiful.  It split in two and fell through the canopy of the forrest to the bottom where there was beautiful rainbows and a guy meditating.  He must have been well practiced because I imagine it would be difficult to clear the mind when you are being pounded by the sound and pressure of the cascade.  But also what a perfect photo! Also all these waterfall photos were just taken from my iPhone so I think they turned out pretty well.

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We got back and I spent some time playing around with my camera.  Just before I left for Bali I bought a Nikon d3100 as my summer splurge.  And it’s really fantastic, but I had yet to really learn how to use it.

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But with a good camera and the right skills you can take some nice photos.  These were some real photogenic ants.

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I spent a good amount of time on the roof checking out our destination looming dark and covered in clouds in the background.  The roof was nice because you could watch sunset and the clouds moving across the sky.

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It was a great sunset.

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And then we set up our tripods and Ky brought out the gear for fire dancing.  He’s really good and this was super fun to photograph because each shot was a surprise to see how it turned out.

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Some of the more complicated moves looked crazy, in real life and captured in a long exposure photo.

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And then I took a turn.  I’d never spun fire before but I did pretty well.  It wasn’t nearly as hot or as scary as I thought it might be.

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Just spinning around and around and around.

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It’s interesting how usually the last few seconds of fire usually turn out the best.

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Then Kylor spun with me for a while and we were able to get some pretty neat moves going.

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But he was obviously wayyyyyyyy way way more experienced and had so many cool tricks. DSC_0574

And then even Marg, who was pretty hesitant to try, gave it a shot.

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And she ended up doing some pretty cool things! Sometimes the more simple moves turn into really wonderful photos.

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Then Kylor shrank a few feet and spun with Margaux.

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And then he spun some more.

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But then we had to go to bed because we had to wake up pretty early for a full day of trekking.

We had a guide, Luna (the dude in the black shirt) and three porters who came with us.  The porters were absolutely incredible, carrying at least twice what we were carrying tied onto bamboo poles which they expertly balanced across their shoulder.  Also most of them hiked the whole trail in nothing more than flip flops.  I don’t know how they do it.  My feet were tired and I had thick socks and hiking shoes!!

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But after a kilometer and a half, right where the official trailhead starts with the big sign and all that there was this adorable kitten.  So I knew it was going to be a good trip.  Oh my god it was so cuddly and small.

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We made our way up through the thick forrest with the bright green canopy keeping us cool. The roots of the trees stretched across the trail leading the way up and up.  Birds called all around us and a couple of times we stopped to watch monkeys jumping between trees far above our heads.

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Sometimes we found things we didn’t recognize.  Pretty sure this wasn’t a mushroom, but possibly a fruit? Who knows.  Bright mysterious jungle objects.

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The porters carried all the food and supplies to cook us three hot meals every day.  Before we were too tired we stopped and had soup sayur with nasi, vegetable soup with rice.  Oh, and pineapple and tea.  Lots and lots of pineapple and lots and lots of tea.

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Kylor played with a puppy and did some back flips while we waited for the food.

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After a few more hours in the jungle the trail opened up a little bit. But with the clearing came our first real introduction to the Mt. Rinjani clouds. It was very surreal walking for so long with such a limited range of vision.  It very much felt like moving through a dream, or perhaps a mystical movie.  Whatever it was it felt very unreal and out of this world.

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There was about a last hour or two the first day which was real steep and tiring.  But eventually we all made it to camp on the crater rim.  You could see out to the lake, but Rinjani, the baby volcano and the blue of the lake were all covered by clouds pushing their way towards our camp.

We had some dinner, and before it was even 7:30 the starts started to come out.  By 8:00, maybe 8:30 the sky looked like this.

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It was an amazing sight with our tents glowing orange against the hill side.

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And RInjani was there the whole time, a strong dark sillouhete against the starry night sky.

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We played with some cool light painting shots, but most of them weren’t on my camera.  So this is the only one I have.  But at this point I was realizing my battery was already running low which was real unfortunate.  So I stopped taking photos to save them for later.

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But the morning was too beautiful and I couldn’t resist joining the photo shoot.

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The clouds which had cleared out over night were starting again to make their way up the hill side towards camp.  We left before they had cleared again.

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It was exciting to see Mt. Rinjani from here and know that the next morning we would be working our way to the summit.

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We left camp to hike down towards the lake when the clouds finally cleared out and left us with some nice opportunities for photos.  The colors were amazing and I think I probably said “wow” about a hundred times on the way down.

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This baby volcano formed at some point when Rinjani erupted.  But it’s just so cute! I love it.

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This was the easy part of the day. At the bottom we left the porters cooking lunch and took a side trip to the hot springs. I didn’t bring my camera due to lack of battery and I didn’t want it to get wet.  But the hot springs had not one, but two waterfalls and a cliff to jump off. The water was perfectly warm and felt amazing on my legs and shoulders and back.  But we got some neat shots with the go pro jumping into the water and hanging out under the water.

Then we ate lunch, took a quick cat nap in the sun and then did maybe three or four more hours up some steep slopes.  It was still cloudy and crazy the whole way.  The last bit before camp was especially crazy because it was all steep up the side of the volcano but you couldn’t tell how far up you had gone because anything further than maybe twenty feet below was just thick grey and white.

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We set up camp, watched the sunset, hung around, ate dinner, played with some more light photos and star shots and night before heading off to bed.  Sometime around 2 am we woke up to start the trek.  It was still pitch black out so we were just hiking using headlamps and flashlights.  I’ve been fighting a little bit of a cold and it was back full force and not happy with my lack of sleep.  I woke up feeling nauseous and awful. I really thought I might throw up but knew that was not a good idea and I had a volcano summit to reach.

We ended up leaving a good bit later than most groups, we didn’t actually head out until maybe 2:45 or 3.  But we were still somewhere near the rest of the people because there was a large line of lights in front and behind us snaking all the way up the mountain.  It was very beautiful how the matched the stars in the sky.  We had something like three hours up and it was much more difficult than any of the other hiking.  The trail was less of a trail than just sand and small volcanic stones, so every step up came with half a step back.  If you stayed in one spot too long your foot would slip downhill, taking you back two steps just to catch your breath.

At some point I was feeling pretty awful and stopped for a few minutes under a rock ledge to eat an apple and drink some water.  This made me feel a whole lot better.  But I was still tired and my legs were burning like they hadn’t the entire trip.

But it quickly became a race against time.  All around us the sky was beginning to light up and the clouds turning brighter and more orange and then pink.  I was still struggling to keep moving upwards but I knew I would be bummed if I missed the sunrise from the top.  So I kept pushing, keeping steady yoga breath and as steady a pace as I could on the sand.  Two steps, breath in, two steps breath out.  All the while I keep saying to myself, “the sun doesn’t stop to catch his breath so neither can you”.

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On the way down Marg poses for a shot on the last hill of death.

(P.S.) for anyone who didn’t see this before I’m sorry, my computer died mid blog pose…..

But finally, finally, finally I made it to the top! I set down my bag, took a few breaths and about ten seconds later the sun peeked out from beneath the clouds.  My timing could not have been more perfect.  And god the sunrise was unreal. The sun just filled the sky with warmth and colors illuminating all the clouds below.  I was able to take just a couple photos before my camera died.

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There were probably about fifty other people at the top, all huddling together trying to keep warm.  It was very cold and windy up there, which is reasonable because it was about 6 am and 12,200 some feet (3,726 meters).  Which compared to Telluride doesn’t seem too high, but also rather than starting around 9 or 10,000 feet this hike started from maybe 500 feet above sea level.

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I waited for a while for the rest of the group to catch up. Kylor had to stop to take photos before the sun came up because it was just too beautiful.  And Margaux, who isn’t one to exercise or hike ever, was just making her way up.  It was awesome that she made it to the top, a lot of people don’t. We took a lot of photos of our group and with different Indonesian guys at the top. And then we started the 7 hour trip down.

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The steep sandy slope was crazy to walk down because it wasn’t really walking.  It was much more just an unstoppable running sliding motion. We got back to camp, ate some breakfast. Passed out for a few minutes.  A monkey stole my toast and jam while I shut my eyes.  And then we packed up our stuff and headed down.

Once we reached the road we were picked up by a truck and driven all the way back to the hotel.  It felt so amazing to sit after walking for so long.  We sat in the back waving to all the kids feeling exhausted in the most wonderful way.

Home sweet home

Ok, I lied. I am blogging before I leave for Lombok.

I just took a few photos so I decided why the hell not put them up.  None of them are too exciting except a few nice ones of the garden.  The bathroom one looks funny because I just got out of the shower and all the rocks were wet. It’s funny taking photos of a place that’s just your space and home.  Also I have a giant orange bean bag in my room which didn’t really show up in any of the photos.  But it’s great.

Here you go!

 

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Epic adventures to come

So this week is going to be very short for me because on Wednesday I’m leaving Bali to head over to another Indonesian island called Lombok.

It’s kind of a strange week to leave because work really just picked up and I have a lot to do and even more to think about.  The social metrics project is moving forward and I’m finally starting to figure everything out here, again.

BUT this is an adventure of a life time and so it can not, and will not wait!

Pretty much I think you should just watch this video.


Hahahah also Kylor’s a riot, he’s actually as excited as he is in the video in real life.  All the time.  It’s a great peronality trait for a leader of an epic trekking adventure to have.

But pretty much I think the first two days are about 5 hr of hiking each, combined with some photo sessions, breaks for food etc.  And then the third day we wake up stupidly early, hike to the summit for sunrise,  take a bunch of photos and then hike another 10 or 12 hours down. Something along those lines.

I’m realizing my packing for this trip was pretty subpar.  I’m just going to wear my tennis shoes and hope I’ll be ok.  There could be some really lovely blister photos in the next couple days. I also need warm clothing but I think I’m going to be able to pull together and borrow enough stuff that I’ll be ok.

BUT ALSO SUCH EPIC PHOTOS!

I definitely won’t be blogging until after I get back.  So until then just get excited for some sweet Mt. Rinjani photos.

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