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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
-Intricate and colorful feather looking plants? coral? Don’t know what they are but really beautiful.
-A huge grouper hanging out in the wreck
Photo courtesy of http://www.dawnsbrain.com/
-Clown fish hanging out in anemone
-Camouflaged rock 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.
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.
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.
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.