Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

And Some Other Parts of Bali

Blue waves at Gili Meno

The quality of the beach ranges from stony shore, but great waves at Uluwatu (Ooloo-wahtoo), to sandy but with corals at Gili Meno,

to perfect in Kuta. 

It is alive with tourists and locals alike. They gather around sunset, buy street food, eat on the beach, drink a beer, play soccer, surf the last waves of the day. We even saw a contest for the lifeguards. 

We almost needed one. The waves here are coming in series: the sea is calm, then some small waves, and then four or five big ones, curl their lip, sending a frenzy into surf people.

Ioan, after his surf lesson, was trying to take some pictures of the inside of the wave. He realized the danger and sunk, got up for a breath, sunk again before the second wave, bobbed a little concerned, he couldn’t touch the bottom and the waves were taking him in the open, tried to swim, but had to sink again, so the wave won’t tumble him. 

Mihai vs Wave

The lifeguard started running, but Mihai was closer, caught his hand, and calmly helped him out. I was watching intently from the shore, Ioan seemed confident and in control, but minutes before this, Mihai was sucked upwards by a wave and lost some skin at the impact with the wet sand! Afterwards my boy was sad that the pictures in the water were completely dark.

Bali is the first place where I branched out into experiencing some classes of cooking and painting batik. 
Desak (Deh-suck), a young woman in her late twenties, took us through the market, stoping to show us the vegetables that we’re going to use: ginger, another kind of ginger, bigger and rougher, white and yellow turmeric, sweet and hot chili. We move on, between the clothes vendors who are just setting their wares, to the spices: white and black pepper, coriander seeds, candle nuts (they look similar to macadamia nuts), saffron, whole seeds or grinded. All around us are women who are selling food wrapped in banana leaves: sticky rice with palm sugar, cassava balls with shredded coconuts, plain rice or with a meat dish. Here you can find fresh fish, dried fish, fish paste. Further on the tofu section, in buckets, you choose the one that you like. 

The class meant to chop the vegetables very fine and transform them into a paste (they were already cleaned and portioned). The balinese food has two main ingredients: the saffron sauce (which doesn’t have a single stamin of saffron in it) and the balinese one (same ingredients plus fermented fish paste and seeds). If you want a soup, boil water, add balinese sauce, some greens, some rice noodles, done. Maybe you want yellow rice: mix steam rice with saffron sauce, done. A green bean salad? Steamed green beans mixed with balinese sauce, done. The sauce will keep for one week in the fridge, longer in the freezer.

The painting of the batik wasn’t in the traditional Indonesian way (that is more related to pisanka eggs: make a design, cover with wax, color, remove the wax, cover with a new wax in a different design, and so on). What I did was more of a mix of watercolor style with painting in successive layers with wax and color, removing the wax just once. It was demanding in concentration and I had to know from the beginning how I wanted it to look in the end.

The batik studio

The wet final product

The most demanding thing that we did was Tree Top Adventure. A very touristic, entertaining thing. In the Botanical Garden, an extensive park featuring the regional flora, there is a small section with stainless steel cables. After paying the admission fee (no refunds) we were harnessed and given a 5 minute training session. Where we see one red tape, we click one carabiner, where we see two tapes, two carabiners, and blue tape is for the pulley that will help us slide on the zip line. We have to have all the time at least one carabiner clicked on a wire and we had to learn to do it in order and to pay attention. The security guy would tell us if we didn’t do it correctly. We chose to go crescendo, from the Green Circuit to Orange, Blue, Red and Black, the most difficult one. We would move from close to the ground to the top of the trees, from simple walking on the wire, to stepping blocks, to balancing beams, to climb on nets, to zip line, to the most difficult for me: jumping Tarzan-like. We started together, children first, climb, secure, unclip, clip again, hold onto the wire, step on whatever there is there, get onto the platform, secure onto the platform, unclip from the course, move on.

I am afraid of heights, so much that sometimes I have to walk on all four if I want to see. Not here. The thought that I have a harness around my body, two aluminum carabiners, cables 1 cm in diameter, from weaved stainless steel wires gave me a giddy confidence. The growing distance from my soles to the ground didn’t bother me. We were waiting each other to tackle one line and to move to the other one. We didn’t hurry. Mihai was the first one to get out. He had a taste of what it means and he wanted to document our experience. Ileana was next. For her the height was a challenge. She climbed down in the middle of the course and I congratulated her for knowing when to give up.  

Maria, Ioan and myself continued on. The challenges were variants of the ones from the beginning, only at more height and moving more. We enjoyed zip lining, flying through air, seated secure in our harnesses. After the red circuit the security guy stopped Ioan to move onto the black circuit because he was not big enough, his weight not sufficient to carry him through inertia. I was tired, thought that I had enough and decided not to continue. Maria, my girl who didn’t want to get up that morning and couldn’t see the fun in such an adventure, wanted to finish. And though my body was telling me that I didn’t have enough energy, I changed my mind and decided to give it my all. I knew it was a game, no rewards, no loses, just a challenge to myself, and an example for my children to try their best. My stumbling block: jumping in void clipped onto a bunjee line that will thrust me onto a net. In front of us it was a Vietnamese guy who was gathering knowledge and courage. He helped Maria and held the line for her so she could clip on. Then he let go, she jumped on the rope, and the next thing she was holding onto the net, forgetting to scream. The guy was speechless, couldn’t believe that she did it from the first try. 

Ioan worked his charm and obtained the permission to try the black circuit with the condition to step down after the swing. He was helped by the same guy and was carried down more by the weight of the line. He had his back turned to the net and he couldn’t grab it, but he was happy anyway.

Waiting for my turn I had time to notice how far was the ground. Even as I am writing I can feel those pangs of fear. In short, I couldn’t make myself jump. It didn’t seem self preserving. But jump I did, trying to face the net, to grab it with both my hands, to hold it. I couldn’t. I had one foot hooked on, made my way back, started to climb up... the line was now a short dead weight that was pulling me down, the net curved with me and my arms had no response. I couldn’t climb. I let go and started swinging to a stop. I was happy because I tried and had no regrets that I couldn’t finish. Still trembling I walked on the ground, following Maria’s progress. When she finished she kind of crumbled in my arms, too tired to celebrate. The smile, the pride, that look of accomplishment came minutes later, reliving the tough moments and ending with that long zip line over a carpet of flowers.

Adding black circuit to her black belt.

Growing up in communist Romania when the only countries that we could visit had the same political regime, going to school and learning about so many things, never have I imagined that I would get to travel to see them. After moving to the States, one place seemed, in my mind, impossible to visit: the Borobudur temple. Set on the Java island it isn’t on a major touristic route. 
Stars above Borobudur

We started with the end, watching the sunrise from the perfection level. 

We were supposed to work our way up, going around each level twice, looking at the bas-reliefs first on the left side, and then on the right side, “reading” the previous lives of Buddha,

Buddha as a tortoise

A big fish sinks a ship.

The people are saved by the tortoise

and because they were hungry she offered himself as food.

 the one as a human, the conflicts that made him choose a new way of life,

As a man, he leaves the palace for a walk and meets a poor man

a sick man

detail sick man

a dead man

and a monk.

 his trials, his attaining nirvana, the challenges that face the boddhisatvas, every person that tries to follow his steps. Above the stories are three levels of “inhabited” stupas (with statues of Buddha inside) in concentrical circles, first one with 32, then 24, then 16, with the center occupied by the biggest, empty, stupa (two reasons are given: the statue was too big and couldn’t bring it up here, or it was supposed to be empty, as a sign of perfection).

 While we were making our way down, we were mobbed by the school girls, all with their heads covered, wanting to take a picture with our girls. A woman dressed in punjabi, I presume an Indian, thrust her camera in Ileana’s hand, asking for a picture with me. I was a towering giant between them, even the girls were tall. It was extraordinary to be there, not just because we were able to enter it before opening time and witness the sunrise, or because we saw a movie the night before, explaining the temple and it’s importance. The people...the visitors...

While I was taking this picture...

they took the opportunity!

Bali was recharging in a different way. Remember Bottle Beach? We met the Going Anyway family and we had the opportunity to meet them again, here. We’ve spent wonderful days and evenings together, in Gili Meno (a tiny island that you can circle it in two hours of slow walk) and Ubud, children playing with trees, shells and beach trash, us talking over a wide range of subjects and ... heart, we’re not the only people who think the way we think.

We did many other things: Ioan finished his fourth dive, without problems, and now he is the fourth diver in this family. I joined Maria for a dive and while she discovered that it could be fun, I counted the minutes, deciding in the end that this is not my sport. I tried my hand at gambelan music. We marveled at a bottle of Sprite being more expensive then a pack of cigarettes. We caught the 10 o’clock ferry at five minutes to eleven. We ate balinese spicy duck, pig roasted on a spit, green pancakes. 

Trying my hand at gambelan music

We had a very active vacation. 
Terima kasi! (Terry-mah-kah-see) Thank you! 
Selamat tinggal Bali! Good bye Bali!

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