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Babysitting Bali style

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Each hour has been busy and each day has been full. We find ourselves so busy and relish the times when we relax by the pool with nothing but chilling to accomplish. How does that happen? We haven’t wasted time, and have been wise and efficient in our choices – yet at the end of the day there are still unchecked items on my to do list. Becoming a full time sailor gave us more time at home, for sure, even if it was working on projects together at home on the sea – the important part being that we were together. Now, Danny has been gone for almost a month and has signed up for another month at the BBJ owner’s request, and the kids and I find ourselves busy in Bali!
It’s not easy babysitting a monkey! Meet Hanna. She’s a bundle of energy filled with curiosity, mischief, orneriness, and all that monkey sort of stuff! She insisted on pruning me…I think she recognizes the African in me – we are kindred spirits. She wanted to climb everything, ride Aidan’s skateboard,

drink the pool water, take Emma’s glasses, and cuddle up to Jude (who is afraid of monkey’s).

When reprimanding her she gave me the stink eye, and looked at me as if I were the inferior species, then immediately made kissing sounds with her lips to apologize and groom me once again.

Any locals we meet that are in their early twenties or younger, call me Mom. We have adopted a sweet 22 year old named Widhi, who loves to hang out with us. With Google translate, we can have long conversations. She Whatsapp’d me a few nights ago saying she wants to introduce us to a Balinese dish called ‘Tipat Santok.’ She said her friend makes it to sell and she’d like to bring us some. Tofu is dipped into egg and then a tempera powder of some sort, then fried and mixed with spices, peanuts and bean sprouts.

The salad that came with it consisted of sliced pineapple, jicama and green mango, which you dip into a sweet and spicy sauce. It was all delicious.

Stanley, our sweet ‘foster’ dog, is as sweet as ever. She comes and hangs out with us a lot now. Several mornings I’ve walked into the dining area where Emma is working on her school work, and Stanley is laying at her feet under the table.

She is so skinny! I’ve given her a couple doses of deworming medication and I realize it’ll take time to put meat on her bones, but I long to see her fat and healthy.

We gave her her first shampoo this morning. Emma picked her up and brought her over to me where I had the hose running, and she never tried running or snapping, but stood there as we shampoo her coat, then dried her off with a towel. What a wonderfully natured pup! She wags her tail a lot when she greets us, and responds to her name.

For those who know me well, you know that I’m not much of a shopper. If I need something I’m a woman on a mission – get in and get out. Mycah needed a pair of jeans, so today her and I jumped on the scooter and rode over to find some for her. It was painful.

Of the 300 pairs she tried on, all but 2 reached below her calf muscle in length. We’d walk into a store and the Balinese people working were so friendly and sweet, and would look down at her feet then start to glance up, up , up, all the way to her waist – which is about 4” above their heads, and nervously smile knowing they had nothing to fit legs THAT long, but were going to try anyway! They brought out XXXL inseam pants from the very top shelf that’s never approached since giants no longer walk the earth, and they’d still be too short. She eventually tried on mens jeans that sort of worked, and finally after we’d both broken out into a cold sweat, she found some at the ‘Lee’ store.

The cool air that moved over our drenched, exhausted bodies on the scooter ride home, felt so good!

There has been lots of talk concerning volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunami’s, here in Bali. The creatures and I had a family council meeting and looked at a map together.

Mount Agung, which is the worrisome volcano, is in the Karangasem region in the North East. We are clear down close to where it says Denpasar, in the South. Our plan is that if we are exploring and the volcano erupts, we’ll head for the beach. If there’s a tsunami, we’ll head for the volcano. If both happen at the same time, we’ll head to the center somewhere around the BALI text. If we have no cell service and can’t come home and get separated we’ll meet at the monkey forest and wait for Danny to show up in a stolen helicopter. When I asked Danny his advice on what to do if a tsunami hit and a volcano erupted simultaneously, he said…”go sideways!” (Let’s hope he flies better than he gives advice.)

It’s been so hard for us to sit here, knowing that so many people we care about are in hurricane damaged areas and we aren’t there to help them. It makes us want to hot wire a big Coast Guard boat from around here and head out to help…not that we would EVER think about really doing that…

Our son, Jordan, who lives in Florida with his mom, will be arriving tomorrow, and we are so excited to see him! I have a feeling he’s going to love the chaotic scooter rides!

Sailboats and monkey’s

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Max has unfortunately returned to New Zealand. We would have kept him longer if we could have, but classes have resumed and he’s responsible enough to return for them. Before he left we had to do a couple things with him – one of them was to show him the Monkey Temple in Ubud. The monkeys took a liking to him.

They were as cute as ever, and the best part for me was to watch the newborns learn to use their little hands with great concentration and curious minds.

Emma had a visitor too. She always has to be careful with her glasses because they like to run off with them.

Another youngster noticed something interesting in the mesh side pocket to Emma’s backpack, and REALLY wanted it! I’m pretty sure it was just a hair tie.

I love to look at the various interesting statues around Bali, and found this one to be fascinating… I’m not quite sure what’s going on here. I don’t think they are throwing up hairballs, but you never know!

On Thursday evening, we played Futsal with a group from church. Max was amazing! I rugby tackled, which I have not doubt is not allowed, but no one dared challenge me on it either.

Futsal is when soccer is played indoors, which is nice because the field is smaller and you don’t have to worry about losing the ball.

We will be playing again this week.

The other activity we wanted to do with Max, was to rent Hobie cats and sail. Since his parents own a sailboat, he is also used to sailing, so he, Aidan and Emma took one and Jude, Mycah and our friend, Brandon, took another.

This was the first time the creatures had handled a boat on their own since Tanda Malaika, and even though it was a much smaller scale, they still felt a small degree of anxiety. It was good for them to get back out there.

It was wonderful to find a beach that was clean, with water that wasn’t brown!

We decided that we’d have to return to snorkel out a ways to see what we could find.
After about an hour sail, the creatures returned with big smiles on their faces.

They spent a few minutes cooling off before ice cream and a scooter ride back to our home.

What a great group of creatures. I love hanging out with them!

Danny has now landed in Japan, and will be there for about a week before flying the owner to his next destination. On Saturday, our son, Jordan, who lives in Florida, will be joining us for a month. We are excited to have him with us!
We are grateful to be sharing these Balinese experiences as a family.

Trying to make a difference

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It’s no surprise to hear that I am an animal lover. I’ve been a mother to dogs, horses, goats, sugar gliders, chinchillas, fish, salamanders, hamsters, chameleons, pygmy chameleons, hissing cockroaches, chongalolos, a pot belly pig, regular squirrels, llamas, an African rock python, an eel and a hedgehog – to name a few.
As we have traveled, a couple things that REALLY bother me and keep me awake at night, are suffering animals, and suffering elderly people.
Bali certainly has its fair share of both of these, and it just really breaks my heart. In the mornings if I’m running an errand on the scooter, sometimes I’ll see women that have to be in their 80’s with a rope tied around their waists, the other end of the rope tied to a basket woven from palm leaves, and they are walking down the street, dragging the basket, picking up garbage – sweeping and dumping everything into the basket.

These sweet Angels should be sitting reading to a grandchild on their laps, and enjoying their last few years of life in a peaceful, restful manner. Sometimes I see them with a towel on their heads to protect their skin from baskets full of bricks that hey are carrying to construction sites. I love these dear people and want to help them all. I want to know their names and their life stories.
I’ve seen an overwhelming number of thin, weak and wound covered dogs roaming the streets. I carry a small bag of dog food with me on the scooter, so if I see a dog in need I can try feed it. I posted a question on the Bali expat site, asking if anyone had considered opening a sanctuary for Bali dogs. I received several replies stating that the better route is to educate the Balinese on how to take care of pets, and offer free sterilization and vaccinations. A woman by the name of Rhonda Lepsch contacted me, and told me about a program she’d started, (balijetsetpetz.com), and said that on the 15th of every month they have a place where people from the poor communities can bring their dogs and cats to be spayed, neutered and vaccinated for free. Everything they use is donated and the vets that come to operated, donate their time. I told her that the creatures and I would be there on the 15th to help. It was an hour ride on our scooters to the location, so we gassed up at the fancy hand crack gas stations and set out on the days adventure.

When we arrived, Rhonda assigned Mycah to help with check ins and organizing which pet goes in next for surgery.

Jude had to stand by in the operations,

then wash instruments and get them ready for the next surgery,

Max, Aidan and Emma had to take care of pets in recovery,

which included medicating their eyes before they woke completely.

I was the floater between stations to assist in any area that needed it. I’m quite confident that I could neuter a dog if I needed to at this point, but I’d need to watch a few more times to be able to spay them.

I was fascinated with how tiny the ovaries and uterus are on a dog!

We cuddled so many dogs.

We played with puppies,

and tried to be of best help we could with our limited knowledge.

Aidan and I managed to run to a local cafe down the road and bring some food back. I love the way food is placed on a sheet of brown paper then stapled together. No utensils are provided because it is to be eaten with you’re hands.

By the end of the day we smelled like dog, and had been peed on or had blood on us and were ready for outdoor showers and then a dip in the pool.

Ever since we moved in to our villa, a skinny little dog has been stopping by and has not allowed us to come close to it. I has a collar on so I think it’s owned by someone in the neighborhood, but they obviously don’t feed it much or ever pet it. We named it Stanley and have been putting food out for it, and last night he let me pet him for a while and when I rubbed his tummy I realized he was a she. This morning she was asleep by the pool and wagged her tail a couple times to greet us.

Even though we don’t do much, we hope that by the time we leave, all the little actions will have made a big difference. We have so much to be thankful for!

Helmet hair and incense sneezes

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I am a giant. A large woman with constant helmet hair who towers over those around her (aside from her kids). I look around as I walk through a crowd, and at eye level see the creatures. At chest height all around us bob a million little people – like the Oompa Loompa’s in Charle and the chocolate factory. The only difference is that these ones are petite. I feel like my new name should be Helga.

When venturing to the store to purchase clothes hangers, we couldn’t help but notice how tiny they were…for tiny shoulders, and our clothes just fall off them! Kitchen countertops in most homes are at Oompa Loompa height, clothing and shoes come in skinny midget sizes, and seats arranged in waiting areas are small and extremely close together. I’ve noticed that all gazillion times we’ve been pulled over by cops because they see we are white people and tag us as tourists that most likely don’t have Indonesian drivers licenses, they have had us sit down to talk to us so they can ‘tower’ over us and come across as tough. The end result is always the same – slip the a bribe and off you go. Jude, Mycah and I, do finally have 1 year Indonesian driver licenses now though. One policeman told us if we paid him 2 500 000 IDR he would get us 5 year licenses. Luckily we didn’t take his bribe because we found out that on our visas we can only have a 1 year license. In order to get a drivers license here one must take a written test which is only in Indonesian and of course a translator is not permitted, as well as a road test. But, on our visas we cannot get licenses so after a friend from church made a little arrangement for us which involved a 1 000 000 IDR bribe, we simply walked into the police station, paid the bribes, sat and smiled for the camera and walked out with licenses.

Update on Tanda Malaika…she is still sitting on the reef. As far as we know, the person who wants to take her, is still planning on it but we haven’t been updated on when. The GoFundMe money brought in $30 000, and we are so incredibly grateful for your help. $25 000 of it is for her removal from the reef, and the remaining $5000 went to airfares getting us from Bora Bora to New Zealand and then New Zealand to Bali. We cannot thank you enough for your generosity, and please know that as a family we will always be ready to help you in any way we possibly can.

Danny is still gone. He has flown the BBJ from Singapore to Beijing back and forth and may fly the owner to Hong Kong this week. He is doing well and we miss him very much.

We decided that our pool needed a rubber ducky, so we found one at the grocery store, and have been having fun with it! Since we miss marine life, a whale seems to have joined the family too. Our realtors little girl, Mikol, came and swam with the creatures. She’s so cute.

Max is still with us until the 17th, and has been so fun to have around. When we set out on the scooters, he rides on the back of mine with my phone in hand and is the perfect navigator.

For about $5 a person, we can rent surf boards for the day.

The creatures are having blast and a half learning to surf – using the information taught to them in their lesson a couple weeks ago.

They are doing quite well. Here’s Emma!

Aidan…

Jude…

Mycah…

And max, who towers over everyone…

As usual, they got goofy and crashed.

They had so much fun being back in the water. The twins even surfed hand in hand!

On the beach there were all sorts of vendors selling peanuts, which I found fascinating.

And also fruit.

Today we will be joining a woman who once a months gets together with a veterinarian and vaccinates, medicates, spays and neuters dogs. It will be an interesting day as we learn and participate. I’m sure it will be heart breaking, since there are so many homeless and incredibly skinny dogs on this island. I have chatted with people about opening a sanctuary for them but the problem is that when we leave, there will be no one to run it. After talking to many people, including the one we are helping today, we’ve decided that the best approach is to educate people on taking care of dogs and to neuter and spay them to stop the constant birth of litters.
Life is good, and we are so grateful to be able to help where we can, learning constantly as we go along.

Tirta Empul, Tampaksiring, Bali

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A couple of young girls from the Philippines were visiting Bali for few days, and wanted to visit Tirta Empul before leaving – so we did. This Hindu Balinese water temple contains a bathing structure which is famous for its holy spring water.

Apon entering the temple grounds we were given sarongs to wear to keep with the Hindu requirement of keeping our legs covered below the knee.

Emma received a little help tying hers on.

We’ve been so pleasantly surprised to find the men in Bali to be very respectful of women. There’s little to no flirting and absolutely no cat calls. The other day our landlord was over and referred to his wife (in her absence), as the most beautiful woman in the world. It made me so happy to hear.

At the main entrance to the temple, stands a huge statue of Vishnu, a Hindu God named for the supreme consciousness Narayana.

The temple is divided into 3 yards, Jaba Pura (front), Jaba Tengah (central), and Jeroan (inner). Tengah contains 2 pools which are fed from the natural springs, and in this place one is able to wear the appropriate clothing and enter to stand beneath each spout and wash in the healing powers of the holy waters.

It is beautiful to watch, understanding the faith that those participating have. On either side of the main pool, are statues – one of an elephant and one of a dragon.

Several places throughout the temple are altars where sacrifices and offering to the Gods can be made.

We loved quietly walking around, admiring the amazing craftsmanship involved in building the structures.

Some men were re – thatching a roof…

In other areas, men lounged around without a care in the world.

I love their posh lounging areas.

A large, picturesque koi pond provided a beautiful foreground for some of the temple structures.

There were so many places to sit quietly and think for a while.

Our driver’s wife and little girl were fun to watch as they lovingly rubbed noses and cuddled.

It’s easy to feel peace in places like these.
We were told that in the area is a famous restaurant among the local people, and for about $12 we fed all 6 of us a delicious meal

All seated around a beautiful table.

I thought about our sailing friends who recently lost a loved one, and of those out there losing boats and other property to Irma. So much destruction everywhere and it’s not over yet. This is the BVI, where Leopard catamarans like Tanda Malaika were securely stored – one of the safest hurricane holes in the area.

I’m filled with so much gratitude for the road we have walked, the trials we have endured and the lessons we have learned. What we have gained in friendships and knowledge is irreplaceable. I have found peace with it all. I am so grateful for it all. Every bit of it. On a daily basis I have written back and forth to so many who have lost boats and are feeling so lost. I feel their pain. I cry with them. I let them talk about the rollercoaster of emotions they are feeling and in the end they feel better…until they need to talk once again. It’s my turn now – to give back some TLC to sailors in distress, and I humbly take my place with immense love from the safety of Bali. How is it, that I am so blessed?

Blangsinga Waterfall, Gianyar, Bali

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Our excursion to Blangsinga Falls in Gianyar was a wonderful adventure. The Falls are about 13 meters tall (40ft), and are fed in part by the Petanu River.

We entered from the top of the falls, where a small cemetery lies.

A few locals were meandering through tiny towers of balanced rocks, where they had come to pray.

The area is sacred and the water is believed to be healing. A friendly yoga master smiled as we approached and loved knowing that we had a couple yoga enthusiasts in our group. He looked wise and left me wanting to know his entire life story.

Before descending the vast amount of stairs to the base of the falls, we were greeted by a friendly young man. He insisted on showing us his yoga moves!

Altars with offerings to the Gods were all through the hike down, each with umbrellas, incense and flowers.

At the base many people gathered in swimsuits to walk into the water and stand for a moment, and the spray from the falls moved across the scene as if in slow motion. The cool moisture covered our sweaty faces and dampened our hair.

Off to one side, moss gathered in the wetness and a genius maze made from bamboo carried water from small trickles and tiny waterfalls on the mountain side, directing the flow to an area which dumped into a stream running toward the main waterfall.

Umbrellas marked areas of worship and a small sign stated that the water was for healing and should be used and shared.

We stayed for a while and watched those that were entering the coolness of the water, noticing that some were tourists that made light of the experience and were simply there for selfies, while others had much on their minds and sought after the healing and peace offered from their surroundings. I thought about my brother, wishing he were there…realizing that he was. If only I could reach out and touch his face.

The river flowed through where we stood and turned then disappeared beyond a curve in the dense foliage. All through the area I could see small monuments standing proudly, marking the way.

After a group photo at a goofy sign, we returned to the concrete stairs that lead all the way to the top again. Our muscles ached, especially when watching Aidan and Max run past, leaping up the stairs as if on springs.

The yoga master was there once again and this time wanted photos with some of the creatures.

Max found his balance immediately,

and Aidan did after a moment, but I had to take the photo very quickly!

We passed by freshly laid offerings, pausing in respect, then continued on to where the cars were.

It’s so interesting to see how people relax in various countries. In places we’ve been thus far, hammocks are the lounging place of choice, and here in Bali, flat raised wooden structures are built where people sit cross legged.

While waiting in an area before setting off on our excursion, we noticed an older woman carrying heavy bags of padi (rice with the husk still on). Mycah helped her carry the bags, and we watched as she picked up a couple tarps. I motioned to her that I wanted to help, so she nodded and together we lay the tarps out and the creatures and I started emptying the bags onto the tarp and spreading the padi.

We had to spread it thin so it could dry in the sun in preparation to be husked. The drier the padi, the easier it is to husk.

Once we were done, she took her rake and smoothed it all out a little more.

The woman’s name is Made, and as I watched her with mud on her face to keep away mosquitos, a towel on her head to soften the loads she carries there, and thought about her having to carry the heavy bags, I just wanted to take her in my arms and hold her. Tell her she’s loved. Help her. She is someones child…someones mother…I love her.

The rice fields always catch my eye.

I noticed an old bicycle along side of one of the fields, and could imagine the many trips that had been made on it – back and forth to work day after day.

In Bali, people work so hard, then use most of their meager earnings in worship. Their hearts are pure, they live with great peace, and so much love. Nothing is wasted. We have much to learn from this culture and these beautiful people.

Exploring the outer islands

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I have to admit that we have been so disappointed in the beaches of Bali. If you google images of Bali, you’re sure to find photos of beautiful clear water, turquoise ocean, white sand beaches….well, reality is, not so much! The beaches we’ve seen thus far are covered in trash and the water is a grayish brown color with floating cups and bottles, and even if one decided to swim, the riptides and undertow are a huge issue. I see many surfers out there but red flags are posted everywhere to warn people about dangerous water. Along with this disappointment, there are no sailboats because it’s not a great destination place when it comes to the water. Those two things left us sailors feeling rather perplexed when we first arrived, but we figured we’d embrace the island itself while here – and there’s plenty to embrace!Our friend, Max, has flown in from New Zealand to visit us, and given him being here as well as the fact that little miss Mycah will be 18 on Friday, I thought it’d be fun to surprise the creatures with a ride out to the outer islands.

Nusa Lembongan is about 8 km squared and the smallest of the three outer islands. Nusa Penida is the largest, then Nusa Ceningan. They are separated from Bali by the Badung Strait. We had been told by several locals that those islands are the place to go if we want to be in the water, so that’s just what we did.
You know you’re in Bali when doubled up yoga mats are used as fenders on a boat!

It took about 30 minutes to motor out to Nusa Lembongan, and all of us commented at various times how we each felt an aching for Tanda Malaika as we could feel our bodies sway to the movement of the oceanl. It felt so good. So free. So like home. Many small homes line the shores of Nusa Lembongan, and the wonderful texture of coconut palms were their backdrop.

When the sun shone on the water, that familiar calypso blue color stretched parallel to the shore as far as we could see.

The first place we were taken to was Manta Point, and it’s obvious how it got it’s name…

At one point I swam belly to belly with one.

Their wing span is so huge, reaching up to 22 ft and weighing 3000 lbs.

It was so fun to see the creatures back in the water.

Our second stop was Crystal Bay. The reef there is so healthy, filled with soft corals and copious amounts of reef fish.

Clarke’s Anemone fish played hide and seek with us as we watched them dart in and out of the anemones.

Some anemones were long and stringy while others were short and stubby.

I love watching them!

In Crystal Bay we saw hard corals in colors we hadn’t seen anywhere else.

Our next stop was Gamat Bay. On the way there we passed closely by some rock walls that Aidan was dying to cliff jump off of. We’ll have to do that on another trip!

Gamat Bay had several pinnacles of hard coral with overhangs where fish love to hide.

Large open areas with acre after acre of healthy coral and abundant life. It felt like heaven.

Each time the boat stopped the 6 of us were the first in the water and last back on board. We loved being out in the open at the stern, rather than sitting inside the cabin. At one point one of the other guests dropped a fin and the staff tried to dive down to retrieve it but it was too deep. They were floored to watch Mycah effortlessly free dive down and return to its owner.

Our last stop was called ‘The Wall’, and was named that because of the rapid drop off from fairly shallow to extremely deep. The water there had some current so we drifted down quite a ways and met up with the boat farther down. In this area the water was either freezing cold from natural springs seeping up through the ocean floor, or it was lovely and warm. The reef was especially healthy and the reef fish in even greater abundance.

It was like being inside an IMAX movie! When the sun peeked through the clouds, life brightened up even more.

I could have stayed down there for hours! Each time I turned my head, another exquisite scene lay before me.

This, is my happy place.

We are so grateful to have eyes to see the beauties below the surface. By the end of the day we were all tired but completely filled!

Aidan’s hair was a topic of discussion among some of the girls on the boat. They loved it and were so envious. He really stands out in a country with straight black haired people.

I have no doubt that tonight we will all be swimming with mantas and reef fish in our dreams, suspended over fields of soft corals swaying gently from side to side.

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