A summary…. And a plan!

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A summary…. And a plan!

I have been in Bali – Island Of The Gods – for 59 days… Tomorrow is day sixty and I fly back to New Zealand. I must admit to feeling a little apprehensive. I feel like so much has changed… what if no one recognises me upon my return? What if my own mother walks past me in the street with nary a blink of the eye? Obviously that is not going to happen!!  the changes, such as they are, are internal, not external. But, what if the changes change once I am back in Aotearoa?? I don’t want them to. What if I return to my wise-cracking, cynical self, quick with a disparaging remark and sharp, sometimes acid, tongue?? I want to retain the calm and sense of karma that I feel I have found during my time here. At least a little of it!
It is oh-so-easy to be philosophical and zen-like while on your own in a place like this but, what about when faced with the stress and time-pressures inherent with our western life?? Arrrrgggghhh!!! I feel anxious already!!

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I have had so many wonderful experiences; met some interesting people, seen some interesting sights. Most of them amazing, some not so great. The good, the bad and the ugly are everywhere in this world. I have learnt painting skills and techniques as well as a drop of philosophy and patience from Nyoman Suarsa, my art teacher and friend. I have learnt that I am kinder than I thought I was. I have learnt that I have more to offer than I thought I did. I don’t say this in a proud way, honestly, it humbles me! I have learnt that I am not the hard bitch I thought I was, either! Surprise, surprise! Although, don’t mess with me without being prepared for the consequences either! 🙂

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I was blessed to spend a week with my favourite daughter – too brief – and a fortnight with my current-ex-husband – a bit too long (semi joking!! 🙂 )

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I have made some extraordinary friendships that will continue long into the years ahead.

And now – back to the future…..
Well, I genuinely feel my life direction has changed. At 49 I feel that my priorities have finally settled and my vision cleared. Thanks, in no small way, to my aforementioned decision to  stop guzzling alcohol on a daily and copious basis. Eight and a half months I have now been teetotal…. Almost the gestation time for a human baby. Speaking of which…
My favourite son, Jesse, and his lovely Lucy, have informed me that they are expecting their second little bundle of gorgeousness in March. I plan to join them early in the new year for mandatory Nana duties and help ‘down on the farm’. Feeling blessed and excited about this!
Also, a good friend is about to open a funky and amazing antique and collectable store in Whangarei; CowboyJunkies and I am going to help out there and get a quirky, gorgeous Cafe open to complement his shop… Keep your eyes peeled for Sweet Jane Cafe, coming soon!
I will continue to paint… I feel that I have found my style and a good degree of confidence which I will continue to build on, maybe that joint exhibition we spoke about soon, Margaret Wright??
Come July/August next year, my intention is to head back to Ubud, rent a villa for four – six months, maybe on a shared basis (open to offers!) Paint and gather some beautiful clothing pieces to sell in NZ. I have made a great contact with a lovely woman who will sew garments from samples for me. She works from home while juggling the needs of a busy family (she has three young girls (husband wants a boy!) . This is an opportunity to make a difference in their lives (and mine).

So, you see Ali Wilford, I really may become the next female nomad!!! Thanks for your encouragement and belief… Can’t wait to catch up!x

Ooohhhh, feeling so much better at the end of this blog post than I was at the beginning!

OK, I gotta go, the sun is out and I have some exploring  to do!

Talk soon xx

Ahhhh… Back in Ubud!

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Ahhhh… Back in Ubud!

After 7 nights away – 6 of those spent in the tropical paradise that is Gili Air, Lombok – we are back in Ubud. It was familiar and comforting falling asleep to the raucous calls of the small brown frogs (punctuated by the loud and laughable ‘farting’ sound of a fat toad!) in the garden pond. Cracks me up how such small creatures can make such large noise!

Highlights of staying on Gili Air:
**snorkelling trip around the three main islands – although, getting a sudden bout of diarrhea  (made it to the toilet, phew) and then violently spewing up my lunch (didn’t make it to the toilet – thank the gods for unpaved dirt roads!) definitely wasn’t included as a highlight!! The coral wasn’t as spectacular as I have seen on Great Barrier Reef or Samoa but the fish were beautiful and abundant. Saw several turtles. One of which I reached out and touched – back-flippering frantically when it turned and snapped at me! That’ll teach me for taking liberties! Such beautiful, graceful creatures. After being mesmerised by one in particular and following it at close proximity for a while I struck out towards our boat, realising that I had been swimming on my own, engrossed in my turtle experience, but congratulating myself that I had not strayed too far from base. Only when I got close did I realise that none of the other snorkellers were familiar and, indeed, it was the wrong boat!! Whoops, quite a swim back to mine. All on a still queezy stomach from my recent hurl! Part of the fun, baby, part of the fun. We all got stung  by some kind of sea creatures whenever we were in the water. Nothing major but certainly noticeable and uncomfortable. Reminded me of swimming at Phu Quoc, at the bottom of Vietnam, same critters stinging us then. Not jellyfish and not visible to the naked eye. Very audible ‘snap, crackle, pop’ in your ears in the water … Like being in a bowl of freshly poured rice-bubbles!
** Early morning SUP (stand up paddle) looking through incredibly clear water to the marine life below. Saw a turtle then, too.
**  Blissing out one evening on, very mild, very legal, Magic Mushrooms! I know! Felt like we really should give it a go, so we did. Much, much better than drinking alcohol…. Absolutely, deliciously, euphoric but in a very mild and gentle manner. Nice way to spend our last evening there!
** Experiencing the most beautiful sunsets while listening to excellent, live & local Reggae, sipping cold juice and eating delicious Mexican food at The Mexican Kitchen.

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Reggae rhythms and sublime sunsets

** just generally relaxing, reading two great Balinese books, swimming in the ocean, people watching (and there was a lot to watch!) Meeting some interesting and lovely people… locals as well as fellow travellers…. and swapping stories with each other.

On our second to last day, while out swimming, I stood on a Bulu Babi (spelling may be incorrect but is phonetically accurate) directly translated this apparently means ‘pigs whiskers’. They are the rather beautiful, but painful, sea urchins with long black spikes (3 of which are now broken off and embedded in my right foot!) I went to a clinic and a young man tried to remove them, with partial success, and then wanted to charge me the equivalent of NZ$95 for the pleasure!! I think not! I paid him the 300,000 ($30) rupiah I had on me and said I would have to check with my husband for the rest (!!) Further investigation confirmed that, while medical care is expensive, they will fleece unwary travellers when-ever possible. Needless to say, I never went back with the rest of the money! I shudder to think what the asking price would have been had I taken the pills and plasters etc he was also keen to push my way! You picked the wrong woman, buddy!

By the time we got on the boat and headed off on the rather wild and bumpy trip back to Pedang Bai on the Bali mainland, I must admit that I was well and truely ready. I get restless and edgy doing too much of nothing, whereas Fish (currently-x-hubby) revels in it!

I don’t know exactly what it is, have been trying to pin-point it, but there is a subtle difference between Balinese and Indonesian people. Not sure if it the religion thing (Hindu vs muslim) or what but there is definitely something that my soul responds to in Bali.

We found an awesome little eating place not far from home, ‘Tulsi’, selling delicious Indian food, for our dinner last night and then wandered down to the local, open air, gathering place or village hall to listen to a group of boys practising Gamelon music. What a cacophony!!! 4 young mean played a mean game of Badminton while we sat for a bit and soaked in the atmosphere!

Fish has woken this morning with severe stomach cramps and hot and cold shivers…. I had something similar about four weeks ago which lasted about four days. This could put paid to our plans for the next week. Dammit.

Now counting down to my departure from this beautiful and beguiling ‘Island of the Gods’. I admit to feelings of apprehension at getting back to real life (whatever the hell that is) but am also busy formulating plans for the future. A future far, far removed from my preceding years, I hope. So much to think about. So many options. Maybe I will tell you about that next time…..

Gili Air, Indonesia

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My last six weeks or so in Ubud,Bali, have seemed like a snatch of special time out of my regular life, but still like real life (does that make any sense?). For the past few days I have been on Gili Air, one of the three larger Gili Islands at the bottom of Bali, near Lombok. They are not part of Bali, they are Indonesia. It is just so very beautiful and quiet. Laid back and friendly. I really feel like I am on a vacation in a tropical paradise.

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This is the view I just snapped as I sit here on the beach and write. Couldn’t get much better than this!
My (I like to refer to him as “currently ex”) husband, arrived in Bali on 26th and we met up to spend some time on Gili Air. I am not going to go into a convoluted explanation of our relationship. It is what it is. I like my independence and so does he. We also like each other. A lot.
We got off the fast boat’ which had taken us and, I would estimate a couple of hundy, other holiday makers from Bali to the Gillies. We stopped to unload the first writhing mass of suntanned, lightly clad, mostly young, bodies on Gili Trawangan (known as the party Gili). We all disembarked and waited for the next boat to Air. Trawangan was bustling and busy but still a world away from downtown Ubud! Gili Air is known for its water sports and dining… Perfect for couples and the odd young family or two. In between the two is Gili Meno – definitely the quietest and least developed of this small group. You would only choose to stay here if you REALLY wanted to get away from it all.
When we clambered ashore at Gili Air, we immediately spotted a great little coffee kiosk called ‘Coffee & Thyme’. What an awesome setup! Attached to a swanky hotel complex, this is simple and stylish and the ever smiling young men calmly produce excellent, milk based espresso for the constant stream of travellers who recognise a familiar taste of home in this otherwise basic and unfamiliar island paradise. They also have an excellent range of counter food consisting of freshly made on-site cakes and brownies. You could be forgiven for thinking you were at any beach resort in the west.
After fortifying ourselves, we hoisted our backpacks and started walking up the track, calling it at home stays and bungalows to see where we would spend the next six nights. Some were very swanky with swimming pools and lush gardens, some were quaint with bright paintwork and quirky individual huts and some where very simple… Carefully swept bare dirt ‘landscaping’ and not a swimming pool in sight. We soon realised that prices per night would set us back anywhere from about NZ$1000 – NZ$35 per night.   We opted to forgo a swimming pool and took the lower bracket.
We are staying at Lia Bungalows, it is very simple accommodation – one bedroom bungalow room with bathroom. Cold, saltwater shower, fan and breakfast included. Perfect! You should see my hair though…. Like an ad for ‘that fresh from the ocean’ look. Ha!
We have been very lazy, walking, lying in the sun (with sunscreen of course), sipping cold drinks and fresh coffee, enjoying local food. We walked the entire circumference of the island on our second morning…. At an amble it took us about 1 1/2 hours.
We have met a lovely Aussie couple, Bernie and Jo, they have lived on Lombok for the past three years and run a clothing manufacturing business from there. Also made friends with Hong and Lyna, a Malaysian couple who have lived for the past 20 years in Melbourne. I love the instant and brief, although sometimes enduring, friendships you strike up while travelling.
The beach is white sand strewn with broken coral. The water is clear and shades of turquoise. I am booked to leave on a snorkelling day trip today which will stop off at all three Gili Islands. Glenn’s ears are playing up and he will just be a grumpy fucker in the water so I am going solo. Really looking forward to this. Will hopefully get some half decent photos although, in a moment of distraction, I managed to dip my camera in the ocean the other day so, technically speaking, it is now f*#@¿d. Managed to save the SD card though so we will see how we get on.
Most of the cafes have signs advertising fresh magic mushrooms… Apparently they are legal on the islands… Even saw a ‘Mushroom Colada’ advertised….. Have always been a bit partial to a good Pina Colada so I just may have to try out this local variation…. Alcohol free of course!
No motorised vehicles on the island, just push bikes and quaint little pony-drawn carts (cidomo). The jangling of bells (reminiscent of Santa’s reindeer) alert you to their approach as you walk along the sandy track which serves as the main drag. Other things that are conspicuous by their absence are dogs and pigs … this is an almost exclusively Muslim community after all! Also, mosquitoes! Not that that this has anything to do with the Muslim belief, more, I suspect, due to the fact that there is no water sitting around anywhere on the island so they simply have nowhere to breed!

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There are sandy walking/biking tracks criss crossing the inland areas and a wander up these reveals little warungs and local houses as well as tucked away homestays and bungalows.

That is not a great photo but I am running out of time and this one is parked nearby, you get the gist though.
Right, I better go take a quick ablution stop (a little too much info?) so that I am ready for pick up.
Will report back in a few days!

Zoe’s visit and a bit of what we did…

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Zoe’s visit and a bit of what we did…

So much has happened in the past couple of weeks. If I don’t stop procrastinating and actually get this blog written, the things I have seen and done will fade into the mists of time (so to speak) and I won’t be able to recall a thing.
After several false starts, Zoe arrived in Bali on Friday 14th August. I arranged a driver to collect her from the airport and deliver her to my bungalow…. Was so amazing to see her and hold her and know that we had 8 days together, a world away from New Zealand’s miserable winter cold and damp. Our time went so quickly but, I know one thing for sure, Zoe loved Bali almost as much as I do and I am sure the past week is just the beginning of many fantastic times together here in ‘the island of the gods’.
I am not going to try and keep things in chronological order because, well, I simply can’t remember what we did when!
One day we teamed up with a new kiwi friend, Rini (a mutual friend in NZ put us in touch with each other as she knew we were both going to be in Ubud about the same time and we have really hit it off; the beginning of an enduring friendship, I am sure) and paid Nyuman (my artist friend) to be our tour driver.

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Rini, me and Zoe at the Elephant Cave temple

He took us to see a Luwak Coffee Plantation where we sampled the famous coffee that is produced from beans that have been eating by these weasel like critters and then pood out. Nice. Of course they are well washed before being roasted and ground etc. The taste really is worth the hype…. Smooth and rich (incidentally, just how i like my men!) Then on to Goa Gajah, literally meaning ‘Elephant Cave ‘ which is a holy temple and meditation cave ( though it was interesting to visit it was a little disappointing… You forget how many other tourists will be there when you set out for a trip like this) and also to Tampak Siring where there is – yet another – temple  but this one is built around a sacred spring. After looking around the temple, we donned sarongs, stowed our bags in lockers, and joined the throngs  climbing into the pools and washed ourselves in the holy water that gushed from the mouths of stone gods. Locals and bulee, parents carrying children, old and young, we were all there for a blessing. For a cleansing from our transgressions, large and small, real and imagined…. Wash them away and make me

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Washing away our sins in holy water

There were two fonts almost at the end of the row that we were told to avoid. I am not sure why but, not wanting to risk a curse instead of a blessing we, and everyone else, bypassed them and finished with one that would ‘take away all our bad dreams’ . well, the guy in front of us missed this one out also…. Maybe he LIKED bad dreams… Who knows.
Itwas actually quite a spiritual experience. We all felt quite moved by it and agreed that we felt calm, serene even, and as if our bodies were totally relaxed and rested. A physical manifestation of a spiritual experience maybe….

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Another day we joined a downhill bike tour through rice-fields and villages. There are many such tours but we went with Bali Breeze and our tour guide was Stone (not a traditional Balinese name!) We had an amazing time and Stone was witty, informative and entertaining. The group consisted of us three kiwi women, a  fit and friendly Aussie couple, two lovely teenage girls from Germany and a couple of incredibly self absorbed and arrogant Italians…. Ahh well, you can’t win them all! We were all picked up from our hotels in a van and then driven for about two hours to a village at the base of Mt Batur, a still active volcano in the northern part of Bali, with Lake Batur (Bali’s largest Iake) at its base. Mt Agung, the highest peak in Bali and the islands biggest trekking challenge, was also in the near distance.

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The scenery was breathtaking and the ride exhilarating. Certainly a tourist attraction worth doing. My bum and inner thighs were so sore I could barely walk for the next several days but it was worth it.
One morning we attended a ‘morning flow’ Yoga class (bloody hell, I am no yogi and I just about killed myself! Zoe is a semi-regular yoga-ista and she found it challenging also. We then continued the physical challenge by walking the Campuhan (pronounced CHARMPUHAN) Ridge. I have done parts of this walk before on my own but we decided to take the long way. The walk probably took us about 6 hours. We really enjoyed the scenery, the people we met, some of the buildings and art shops we called in to as we re-entered Ubud at the tail end of our mission and, definitely the fresh mango lassey at Karma Kafe on the ridge!!

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Ha! ‘Secret receipt’ ! Had to include that shot for a laugh 🙂

Among other things we attended a Tibetian Bowl and Gong Therapy Meditation at The Yoga Barn. It was truely an amazing experience. I really suck at meditating but, with the expertly guided use of sound I found it a moving, and again, spiritual, experience to lie on the floor in a large circle with about 40 others, in a darkened room and let myself go with the flow. Admittedly, I woke myself up by snoring (shame!) and had to wake Zoe up also so we could leave but, we weren’t alone in that!!

We also moved from the place I had been staying for the past month to much more affordable and, quite frankly ADORABLE accommodation on the property of a lovely new friend I have made while attending life drawing classes here.

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My new digs, complete with open air bathroom... So great!

Kristy is an ex-pat Scot who has lived in Bali for the past 8 years. She has generously let me rent the detached and self-contained accommodation that shares her beautiful tropical garden space in which her own house is nestled. We are in a walled garden which is safe, secure and quiet. Quiet,that is, except for the frogs that are flirting outrageously, and noisily, in the pond outside! Better than motorbikes and car horns! I am now in the area of Ubud known as Nyu Kuning and I like it very much.

I have just ploughed my way through a couple of Excellent books, if anyone is interested:
A YEAR OF MARVELLOUS WAYS by Sarah Winman (Marvelous Ways is the name of the main character… How fab is that?)
TALES OF A FEMALE NOMAD by Rita Golden Gelman (thanx for the recommendation, Ali, perfect!)

I have started another couple of paintings also. Only a couple more weeks left of my stay. Trying not to think about that. Just trying to be mindful and enjoy each day and each experience. Starting to feel like a local though, and I like it, I like it a lot! 🙂

Catch you again soon xx

Old news

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Old news

I woke early this morning to the sound of heavy rain and, as I sit writing this, the irrigation channels feeding the rice fields are full and overflowing noisily into the channels below. The ancient system is working well, as it has done for hundreds of years and, even here amidst the hustle and bustle of urban Ubud, they continue to do so, cos that’s just how it is!
My, currently ex, husband has always teased me about my penchant for water features but, I love the sound of running water, as many of us do. I must get one some day soon.

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Being very zen

So, my daughter was due to arrive on a flight from New Zealand two days ago. Due to the misbehaving volcano(es?) flights have been cancelled in and out of Denpasar but they are now back on track and she is arriving on Thursday. Disappointing as this has been for both of us, it sure gave me a chance to practice my new ‘everything happens for a reason’ philosophy and, it’s OK. No real dramas. A few inconveniences for both of us but nothing major. I am certainly counting down the sleeps till her arrival though (2!) and have a few things lined up to do together.

Spent about half an hour one day last week watching a gang of men hacking branches off a huge tree that was obviously threatening power lines. So entertaining! This was happening in peak hour traffic, midday, on a very busy road through Ubud. There were several men up the tree (no harnesses of course) several men on the ground, chainsaws being brandished with gay abandoned, traffic backed up for kilometres, horns being tooted, cigarettes being smoked, tourists and locals alike milling around and squeezing through any gap they could find. When a limb was lopped it crashed to the ground thunderously, sometimes taking out another on the way and adding to the pile that blocked the road as guys quickly jumped in and sawed away with terribly blunt chainsaws to make a through passage, first for scooters and then for larger cars.

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Chaos seemed to rule but, the job got done with no apparent loss of life or limb (except, obviously, for the tree!) OSH In NZ would have had a cardiac arrest on the spot! The guys in top left photo asked me to pose with a couple of them for photos (obviously because I am just so sexy) so I snapped one of them in return. Hilarious!

I was wandering the other day, aimlessly exploring as I tend to do, when I was approached by a rather charming, quite well spoken, ELDERLY, Balinese man. He started a conversation and  showed me his paintings that he, of course, wanted me to purchase. While they were rather lovely, I explained (inexplicably to his way of thinking) that I didn’t want to buy any. To cut a long story short, after chatting for a while, I eventually accepted his invitation to accompany him to his village – an art village – to view more art and also his rice fields; I am trying to live in the moment and be open to opportunities to see out-of-the-way things. Well, after a taxi ride to this village (miscommunication meaning I thought it was about 40 mins away when it was actually about 15 and I had been there before!) He showed me around his family compound, (he was obviously a reasonably wealthy man), introduced me to his even more elderly wife – who had borne him 10 children -as she swept up around him and then, at my request, walked me to view his rice fields. It was becoming increasingly obvious (subtlety does not appear to be a Balinese trait) that he would like me to be his girlfriend…. Wtf!!?? I made a couple of pertinent suggestions and beat a hasty retreat. He was probably stunned that I didn’t immediately drop to my knees and take him up on his offer. I felt really pissed off for the rest of the day. In no way did I feel unsafe or threatened, I was just offended, as a woman and as a visitor, that this old dude genuinely thought I would be interested!! When I relayed this story to a young Balinese man I have become friendly with he just smiled and said “he is a player”. Quite frankly, his playing days have well and truely up and gone and he should seriously stick to painting!!

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Matahari Lumbung's Bungalows

Anyhoo…. Moving quickly along…. Look at these gorgeous images above! I had been walking in the hot sun for what seemed like hours (actually, it WAS hours!!) On one of my ‘explore the tracks and rice fields and see where I end up’ adventures. All of a sudden I come across a couple of houses and some men constructing a new dwelling and THIS!!! Well,what would you do if you were hot and tired and there, in front of you, like a mythical apparition, was a sign (literally, a sign) that said ‘homemade chocolate cake’? EXACTLY! I like the way you think! I veered of the beaten track and found myself seated on a raised platform under a thatched roof, in a beautifully crafted tropical garden with super cute bungalows dotted throughout, eating…. Chocolate cake!! Sooo good!! Run by a Balinese woman married to a German man. An absolute treasure tucked away in the rice fields. If you are looking for somewhere romantic and quiet to stay in Ubud, it would be worth a google.; Matahati Lumbung’s Bungalows.

Right, I’m going to post this blog and then try and write an update of recent events. My daughter has actually been and gone and I have been out of action for a while. This particular post has been sitting as a draft for a couple of weeks now!

Talk again soon!

Bebek in the rice field and coconut tea for breakfast

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Just a short blog before I head away to a morning of creativity with Nyoman. When I walked outside this morning I saw a farmer herding a flock of bebek (ducks) into the rice fields in front of me. He must have bought them here in cages on the back of a truck, surely. There are about 40 odd of these comical, busy little birds and I have been enjoying the simple pleasure of watching them forage madly amongst the plants, happily talking away in bebek speak to each other, while eating my scrambled egg jaffle and fresh fruit breakfast (mmmm) I hope they are here for a few days.

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There is something comforting and infinitely entertaining about a flock of brown and white ducks in such close vicinity. Omg…. My life has slowed down this much?! Steaming cup of coconut tea in hand, bebek entertainment in front,  book on the table and the anticipation of a morning painting and an afternoon attending the  Ubud Jazz Festival being held just a few doors away. Wonderful; beyond wonderful…. and the icing on the cake? Only 2 more sleeps till my daughter, Zoe, is here for a week!
My new friend, ex-pat kiwi Sophie, took me to the sublime cafe ‘Soma’  in Jalan Goutama last night….. Such a great vibe! Can’t wait to bring Zoe there….. Amazing fresh, predominantly raw, food and a beautiful mixture of people eating, chatting, jamming on musical instruments and singing together…. I may be turning into a tree-hugging hippy!

Selamat tinggal 🙂

Canvasses and coffee

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Canvasses and coffee

Here are two canvasses I have just completed. Usually I am very critical of my work, to the point that I am never completely happy with the outcome but these two, particularly the face, I am really stoked with. I am learning so much. The environment here in Ubud is very conducive to being creative and ‘getting my arty groove on’ which is what I have been banging on about! What do you think? I have used pallet knife and brush work over a base of rice paper on canvas.

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Lava and Lace

Am having a bit of a love affair with the lace used for kebaya over here and a friendly tailor has let me swipe some remnants off his workshop floor.

Jumped on the back of a scooter today and allowed the Cheeky and Charming ,Wayan Ari (‘hold tight, make like honeymoon’!), take me for an exhilarating ride to check out a coffee plantation specialising in lewak coffee….

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You’ve heard of it, the stuff the civets eat and poop out. I have always scoffed at this whole concept but, you know what? It was the most amazingly smooth black coffee I have ever had…. Wonder if it would catch on in NZ…. Could we feed raw coffee berries to possums maybe and kind of go from there?

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Roasting, grinding and serving.... Luwak coffee, Ubud style

Just being on the back of a scooter with no helmet (naughty, I know!) Being teased and flirted with outrageously by a cute, young Balinese guy,with the warm Breeze blowing in my face was such a treat…. A lifetime away from the cold winter temperatures back home at the moment. I can see why many, shall we say, mature, western women succumb to the Balinese charm. Not that I ever would, of course. Much to sensible for THAT!

Inspiration and talent everywhere I look!

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Inspiration and talent everywhere I look!
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Wish I could fit this in my luggage!

This is quite some coffee table, huh? Unsurprisingly, it caught my eye as I viewed a shop full of amazing, hand carved items for sale. Yep, that sure would break the ice and help get the conversation flowing when you invited new neighbours around for a cuppa!
I was kindly chauffeured me around a few art spots yesterday. We visited Sema Kuning;an Artist Co-operative, a Silversmith retail store

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Some talented craftsmen at work and me, showing off my jewellery!

and a wood carving store also. Each of these had craftsmen at work and a charming, English speaking assistant guided you through, answering questions and hoping like hell that you would make a purchase or three. My budget restricted me to only a purchase of this stunning, handcrafted, Stirling silver ‘tree-of-life’ pendant, chain and earrings. I will probably have to share with my daughter as we both love the symbolism of this tree.

I did also purchase two beautiful kites (one for my gorgeous grandson, Marley, and one for his Nana, aka ME, to fly with him!) from this lovely young man, Ketut, (below)who hand makes

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Ketut and his amazing creations

and hand paints every single one. The Balinese are not alone, I am sure, in being masters of reproduction but, boy, talk about labour intensive. Very little, if any, automation involved in the production of many of their crafts. I really do take my hat off to them…. Very industrious and exceptionally talented.

It was a day of inspiration and just what I needed after an unexpectedly flat day previously.  I finished it off by participating in a Kirtan class at the Yoga Barn. This was a totally new experience for me but, rather than being freaked out, I really enjoyed it. Thanks probably to my years of indoctrination in a Pentecostal Christian church (no longer a believer, for the record) …. I’m kinda used to weirdness and it takes a fair bit to faze me! Kirtan is a form of devotional chanting whose roots go back to India. The singing is accompanied by musical instruments and rythmic drumming and the audience are encouraged to participate by chanting, clapping and dancing. There was no dancing in this session but I found it very meditative…. Even when I found myself chanting ‘hare krishna’ like George Harrison!! On my walk home I stopped in to a nearby bar and enjoyed a fresh young coconut to drink and some really entertaining live !music.

My cup runneth over.

I have been creating some diverse and satisfying artwork. Will take some photos and include in my next post.
Went and applied for my visa extension today so I can stay an extra month… You can only get an initial 30 days. My flight home is booked for 11th September… Don’t even want to think about that just yet!
In less than a week my favourite daughter (fortunately I have one son and one daughter so it makes statements such as these quite safe!) Will be arriving to spend just over a week with me…. So looking forward to that. Will do several ‘touristy’ things that I have resisted up until now.
Right, time to drift off to the land of nod as they say (who the hell are ‘they’ anyway?!)
Talk again soon x

Here, there and everywhere

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Here, there and everywhere

Went for an amazing walk along the Campuhan ridge yesterday. Don’t know how long I was walking…. Haven’t really been checking the time lately and I don’t wear a watch. At least 4 hours I would say. Absolutely, stunningly, beautiful, lush landscape.

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Local villagers would have been treading this same path, albeit previously unpaved, for several hundred years. Now they share it with tourists; from the fit and wirey adventure seekers to the overweight and pasty  luxury travellers trying to add a bit of roughage to their travelling diet. And, of course, everyone in between – which includes me! Plenty of evidence of encroaching ‘progress’ though in the hills on one side of the ridge scarred by earthworks making way for luxury villas and hotels. Ubud has, apparently, changed SO MUCH in the past ten years, and not for the better. While you don’t have to look hard to see and experience the ‘old Ubud’ the onslaught of westerners wanting their own slice of paradise is, at times, almost obscene. Why can’t we work within the confines of the simplicity of a place? It is this simplicity, surely, that we crave. There is no need for rampant, selfish, exclusivity at the cost of the environment and a traditional way of life. I see and hear of several Eco-tourism ventures and building practices but the majority seems to be all about me/me/me. Short term visions. I would love to find a way of dividing my life – 6 months here, 6 months in NZ – I’m brainstorming as we speak – but all I would require is a simple bungalow (with a garden and a flushing, western style toilet!!)

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Do you think this top photo is a sign??!! 😉

After all my walking, I treated myself to a greedily anticipated facial at Adiguna Spa. It was amazing. For approximately NZ$15 I had an hour of luxury which included a relaxing head, neck and shoulder massage.

I have been looking out for some ‘resort wear’ style clothing with the intention of bringing some home to sell. Have been marginally successful, not as cheap as I had hoped but, it is alla learning process and I have a tailor making me up some kimono style short ‘throw jackets’  from a garment I bought in NZ. It’s a start.

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Have made a handful of friends in the past couple of weeks. Went out for dinner a couple of times with some and am about to go meet Lina at her shop…. She wants to pick my brains for some display ides! Then we will make plans to go to  Nusa Lembongan for the weekend. She has been invited to a swanky party and I am going to tag along. Will no doubt blow my meagre budget but, hey, you only live once! (Or do you….)

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Bali dogs and ducks

Couldn’t resist a parting collage with these intriguing animals…. Growing to love the aloof Bali dog.
Next time, Helen x

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The internet connection where I am staying in Ubud, is temperamental, to say the least. I will type away with bated breath, hoping that at the end I can post successfully. Trying to align pictures is tricky too but, Bear with me avid reader and we will see how we get on!

Hard to believe that I have been in Bali for 2 weeks. That means only 6 more to go! I feel like I am only now getting a handle on, and scratching the surface of, the way life flows here. It certainly flows a lot more gently then back home. Even the traffic. Situation, which is crazy, is fluid, seems to work, people (generally) are going reasonably slowly and give way reasonably happily to others merging, turning, backing or otherwise ‘getting in the way’ I am sure it happens but I haven’t witnessed any road-rage in situations which would have caused more than a blood-rush in NZ!

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So, here are some photos (of me, sans make-up in this heat!) and of Nyoman Suarsa, an amazingly talented and gentle young man who runs an art shop/gallery and teaching studio here in Ubud. He was recommended to me by a friend and I had my first class with him yesterday. Check out his Facebook page here. SOS, so glad to have found him. He has been so kind and helpful since meeting me on arrival …. And now, the painting journey really begins!

The photos show some of a consignment he is shipping to a gallery in France. He teaches not only some great techniques but also the need to just sit quietly and allow the inspiration, or ‘feeling’ to flow. I guess we would call it being mindful or being present. I also learnt how to stretch my own canvas. I started a painting which I will finish today… Photo to follow!

I have been busily taking photos of the (abundant) picturesque scenes I am presented with constantly so thought, as a balance, that I would post some of the ever present rubbish. The Recycle bins are there… Mainly for tourists it would appear. Only a decade or so ago, Balinese were wrapping their food in

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banana leaves and such-like, which they then, legitimately, threw on the ground to rapidly decompose in this tropical climate. Now, of course, most things come in the ubiquitous plastic. I think there is a definite movement afoot to address this but, most people simply continue to discard their rubbish willy-nilly. And then there are all the little offering baskets!!! Omg…. So many. Everywhere! But they are made from woven leaves so they will, eventually decompose. Unfortunately they are now ‘sewn’ together with staples so there will be a massive pile of rusted staples to contend with in the very near future!

I am intrigued by the reality that, as you walk up a busy street and enter an unprepossessing shop, just behind is often a lush, subtropical scene. Either a busy and rather beautiful family compound where extended family live communally around their own temple or, as these photos show, a lush rice filed. This collage shows the shop front, in the shop, out the back door and…. Voila!!! Just amazing!

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As I sat on my balcony last night reading, I watched a small brown, pot-bellied frog hop out of the rice paddy and onto the path in front of me. It observed me with a rather uninterested gaze in between lazy hops along the concrete. It was not hurrying. It had all the time in the world. I guess it had a plan. Or not. I liked that, it made me smile. I feel a little like that brown frog at the moment (without the pot belly!!) Just making my way, no hurry, being present, seeing what happens. I say a grateful THANKYOU to the universe when I wake in the morning and when my head hits the pillow (soberly) at night. I still give myself a little shake sometimes to find myself here in this beautiful country, doing what I am doing. So amazed at the turn my life has/is taking.

Until next time….. Selamat tinggal x