Friday, May 21, 2010


Once again I'm behind the eight ball and Chris has gone ahead of me and given an amazing account of our travels in Indonesia. (Do we suck up to each other too much?) Here goes the color commentary again.


Bali was interesting. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, deserted beautiful beaches, gorgeous sunsets, and lots of culture. Instead, as Chris described, it was overly touristy which ruined some of the vibe. One thing that was unique and interesting to Bali that I noticed almost immediatly was their obsession with picnic table clothes. Yes, that's right picnic table clothes. On every single statue and tree they put black and white checked picnic table clothes. On the streets, in the hotels and yes, in the temples. I was wondering why they did this and finally found out when we went to the Mother of all Temples, better known as the Mother Temple. Apparently, the Mother Temple is the most holy of all Hindu temples in Bali. It is located approximately three hours to the north of the main tourist areas close to the volcanos that most recently exploded in the 1900's. Because it is so holy, everyone must wear a sarong when they go to the temple regardless of whether they are wearing pants, shorts, or a skirt. This includes Mr. Chris Barela, as you can see in the pictures he posted on Indonesia. At the Mother Temple all of the statues have on the black and white checkered sarong (picnic table clothes). At the MT these sarongs are sacred and somehow this has translated all throughout the island and although it is sacred at the MT, it is just decoration everywhere else. I never got a good answer as to why the sarongs are sacred or symoblic or anything else.

When Chris and I went to see the Mother Temple, we also went to see the Water Temple, a beautiful temple that is on a lake, and the Monkey forest with lots of monkeys as you would imagine and even bats that people (Chris) could hold and feed. I chose just to take pictures. The monkeys were a little aggressive and stole a woman's shopping bag that was right next to me. Finally, we went to visit Tanah Lot, another temple right on the ocean. It was beautiful scenery and I got lost in it and fell on some slippery moss covered rocks. I cut my knee and it was bleeding pretty seriously. Luckily, just at the base of the temple there was a spring with two holy men that for a small fee blessed my knee and let me use their 'holy' water to clean it. They gave me a jasmine flower and a bindi like dot on my head. It's cliche, but if I hadn't fallen down, I wouldn't have had that interesting experience. You never know what any experience will bring you.

My very favorite part of Bali was going to visit Git Git waterfall. It was a torrential rainfall and Chris and I had to walk through slippery stairs and walkways with rivers running through them to get to the falls. We had umbrellas, but by the time we got there we were pretty much drenched. The falls were thunderous and it was fun just to get even more soaked enjoying the spray. See the video below.


Indonesia was one of the highlights of the trip for me, mainly as Chris explained because I totally fell in love with surfing. The people were so nice in the town, Batu Karas that we were in it made the trip even more enjoyable. This included Anry our instructor, fellow surfer Eda and some fellow Americans, Cindy and Sandy that we hung out with. I couldn't get enough out of just going and sitting and waiting for the waves, much less how exciting it was once I finally caught one. Luckily, the waves were really long because each time I caught a wave it would take me a full five seconds to realize that I actually caught the wave, freak out a bit because I was so excited and then realize, hey, I have to stand up now. I'm really hoping that we can do some more surfing in South Africa and hopefully continue it once I get back to California. I find it hilarious that I've been living in California for the past six years and had to go to Indonesia to pick up surfing. Better late than never.

Besides the wonderful week of surfing, I also enjoyed meeting the people in Indonesia. They were so kind, from the people giving us directions on how to get around, to families giving us a ride to our hotel from the train station and all of the Indonesia children wanting to practive English with us. Chris mentioned the kids at the top of the Mt. Bromo, but we also ran into a class of 2nd or 3rd graders at another temple outside of Yogyakarta called Borobodur that wanted to talk to us. They all had their scripts ready and asked us the usual questions, such as where are you from. After our 'interviews' they presented us with an award and we took all kinds of pictures. Of course once the english speaking class was done taking pictures, we had about five random families ask to take pictures with us. It was pretty funny, but most of all charming that they are so excited to interact with people from other cultures.

Also as Chris mentioned, we had a slight detour when we tried to go to Kalimantan and into Indonesian Borneo to see the orangotangs. I got an ear infection while surfing and it just got worse and worse. The doctor in Yogyakarta said I was fine to travel to Borneo and gave me hard core antibiotics and ear drops. We got to this divey town, Benjarmasin, on Kalimantan and stayed in a horrible roach motel because there weren't any other options. Unfortunately, my ear kept getting worse so we had to go to another hospital there. The office hours for doctors is bizarre in Indonesia, so while it was a 24 hour hospital, they had no ear doctors on staff. They directed us to a small clinic and there we met Dr. Strange. I just wanted someone to look in my ear and was feel pretty bad, so I didn't notice as much as Chris did all of the 1920's style equipment. The doctor had a flashlight that was literally taped to a band on his head and he kept hitting it into my head while trying to look into my ear. At the same time, his assistant was holding my head still. I wish I had a picture of this.

Dr. Strange proceeded to use some crazy cotton and long sharp stick to pull black stuff out of my ear. He said that I was allergic to whatever drops the other doctor gave me. Then before I could say anything he put a TON of cotton into my ear and drenched it with his special potion, a clear bottle with a bandaid closing the top. He said that I needed to keep the cotton moist all night and come back in the morning for him to remove it. What could I do at that point? I smelled the special potion and it just smelled like ammonioum. I did as instructed and went back in the morning for him to take a look. Apparently, he said it was looking better.

At that point Chris and I made the hard decision to go back to Yogyakarta and lay low for a week so that I could get better. Chris was so gracious to give up that jungle trek and truly he was the one that convinced me that we need to be healthy for our trip to Africa, as that was coming up soon. We spent the next week hanging out in Yogya, me mostly resting and getting all of our ducks in a row for Africa. One interesting thing that I did while in Yogya with all the downtime was to take an all day batik class. It was such an intricate process with drawing and outlining with wax and painting. There's a short video at the end of this post showing one of the most interesting steps where the cloth was turned from white to blue with special chemicals. It gave me a huge appreciation for the handmade batik in Malaysia and Indonesia.


After our time in Bali, Batu Karas, and Yogyakarta our one month visa for Indonesia expired and we were basically kicked out. We headed to Malaysia for a week to relax on the east coast in a beach town called Cherating. It was a really relaxed place which during the rainy season has very good surfing. It wasn't the rainy season and they were actually experiencing a 10 year record heat wave. Most of the time we were just trying to stay cool by laying in front of fans and putting freezing soda bottles on our neck, but there were two major highlights. First, one of the first nights there we went on an evening canoe ride up the river and saw thousands of fireflies. It was magical. Second, we were on a waiting list for days to go see green turtles laying eggs on a nearby beach, but nothing happened for awhile. On the VERY LAST NIGHT in Cherating we were called out right before midnight to go out to see the turtles laying eggs. It in an amazing hidden cove with tons of stars out that we saw three green turtles laying their eggs. Also, the country has some headstarting programs and not only were we able to see the turtles laying the eggs, we also had the opportunity to release some hatchlings into the wild. It was amazing to see these healthy strong babies going out into the water. It was the perfect end to one of our last nights in SE Asia to finally see the illusive turtles. Really, we'd had a room called the turtle room in Batu Karas and lots of other times that turtles were everywhere after the time volunteering with the turtles.


Overall, Southeast Asia didn't hit me as hard with an instant impression like India did. It is a much more subtle culture. What I've taken from the area mainly is the dignity with which people act and their overall kindness. Throw in the natural beauty and it is a wonderful place to spend three months.


Ryan Ray May 29, 2010 at 3:38 PM  


You're looking so great! And so tanned! I haven't checked in on you guys in a long time so I'm glad I did. I was laughing an smiling when I read about your ear infection. Glad you guys got that all cleared up. Can't wait to see posts from Africa!! Yee haaaww! Keep on livin' it up out there :-)

Sending positive energy,

Margie May 29, 2010 at 10:07 PM  

Wow! Between bats and green turtles, surfing etc it sounds wonderful. I loved the pictures and videos. Ain't technology grand!!


Anonymous,  June 6, 2010 at 12:01 AM  

Loving the videos. It's good to see you guys and hear your voice :) My uncle was in Bali in February and suddenly and unexpectedly passed it was good to read a bit about where he was and his surroundings.

Miss you guys! Still so excited that you had such a great opportunity in life to do this!!!


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