Sunday, July 31, 2011

Proud as punch...

I'm managing to squeeze in one more post before I head away tomorrow...

I'm not sure how it happened and the process was VERY painful for me but I'm now a qualified Padi Open Water Diver!

I have never had so many moments out of my comfort zone in my life as I have over the past 6 months or so and the Padi diving course has to be one of the biggest!

From day one, I didn't enjoy it and found it very stressful.  Our first exercises were in the pool underwater (like filling your mask up with water and then blowing it out through your nose; taking your Regulator out of your mouth, dropping it and putting it in again).  Doing all this underwater, sends the mind/body into fight or flight mode as it's unnatural.  I was fighting not to flee!!

Day 2 was our first dive at sea so I was crapping myself!  My problems started with getting water in my mask and up my nose, which is very uncomfortable because you want to blow or cough and you've got this damn big Regulator in your mouth and you're underwater!  The next major problem was my ears wouldn't equalise which meant they got more and more painful the deeper we went.  Needless to say when I finished that dive I was feeling like shit, didn't enjoy it at all and was very very stressed the whole time!  I ended up in tears, being a mixture of relief I was out of the water and still breathing and pain because I felt like crap.  It took my body 4-5 days to recover and I thought "this isn't for me" and didn't think I would carry on.

We had a week rest and by then I thought "I'll give it one more try".  My next dive was slightly better as Dawn had given me some special diving ear plugs which helped my ears but I still had problems with my mask.  First I was getting lots of water coming in so then had to surface to tighten it, but I tightened it too much and when I went down to 9-12 metres I got 'mask squeeze' with the pressure, which was actually more uncomfortable than getting water in as your mask sucks onto your face so tightly you can't see properly!
I wasn't in a good space mentally when I had to do my exercises underwater - taking out my regulator, dropping it, finding it and putting it back in again.  I said "no", I wasn't doing it  and indicated I wanted to go up.  So our Instructor swam with me to a shallower part which made my mask more comfortable and calmed me down enough to do the exercise and then we surfaced.  I still wasn't convinced this was for me and we were diving around the wreck of US Liberty but I was always so uncomfortable I couldn't appreciate it.

We did one more dive in the afternoon and Made (our Instructor) gave me a brand new mask to try.  OMG it made all the difference in the world!  I FINALLY enjoyed my dive as didn't have any mask problems and my ears were ok with the plugs.  I could enjoy what I was seeing and felt a lot more relaxed.  It was beautiful, some of the coral looks like little white flower buds like our blossom trees at home, and the hundreds of different fish - all shapes, sizes and beautiful colours, amazing!

I hadn't bothered to finish reading the diving book to study for the written exam but Brent was all set to do it so I thought "why not, I'll give it a go".  So I did and we both passed! 

So from the morning when I still thought "this isn't for me" to the afternoon when I was then qualified, it was pretty amazing.  It shows how much the mind gets in the way of our experiences. Having said that, when you're in a life and death situation, like being underwater 12 metres down, then it's only natural for your mind to want to flee - until you get used to it of course :-)

Anyway, I'm really proud of myself for keeping going and saying "I'll give it one more go" - because I got there!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


If you're vegetarian or squeemish you had better skip down to the Volcano bit......

I found out (to my dismay) that the Balinese sacrifice animals at ceremonies. I was very shocked by this actually because they are such loving people. However, this is their culture and their belief's are very deep rooted and unshakable.

My first experience with this was at the Cremation Ceremony we went to with Ketut's family a few weeks ago. One of the boys brought along a small duck and small chicken (they were just a few weeks old and very cute). They were stuffed into fully enclosed woven flax baskets and taken to the ceremony we had at the sea. I didn't think anything of it until later and I asked Ketut what happened to the duck and chicken in the were thrown into the sea, for the awful as it is, it's what they do here, you just have to turn a blind eye and forget it.

Carrying on with the sacrifice theme, last Saturday they had a follow-on ceremony from the Galungan one 10 days prior (their Christmas). This one is called Galungan and Kuningan. They go to the Temples and pray and cook lots of food and get together. In Tulamben they also sacrifice animals. Tulamben is the only village apparently to do this and no-one can really tell us why...

Anyway, our lovely neighbours (Nyoman and I Luh) had their big family celebration at home which included animal sacrifice. We just had to put out of our minds what they were doing behind us but we were wondering how on earth they were going to kill: 1 cow, 2 pigs, 1 dog, countless chickens and 1 goat without there being blood and guts everywhere!

Well, they did and apart from the squeeling pigs when they were caught, we didn't hear a thing and we certainly didn't go looking at what was going on!  It was all very clean, quick and tidy. We were amazed.

Offerings at our little temple...

There were offerings made at our 2 little temples in our yard, which included flowers, food and some dead birds (I think they were little chickens but I didn't look too hard).

It's all in the experience of life in Bali...mostly fascinating...sometimes disturbing...

The area where we live and teach (Tulamben-Tianyar) has a huge Volcano at its doorstep - mighty Gunung Agung which is around 3000 metres high. Gunung Agung last erupted in 1963-64. The locals say it's now dormant but the internet says it's still active...I'll side with the locals and hope it doesn't decide to wake up like the other 10 in Indonesia have!

The 1963-64 Eruption (from Wikipedia)
"On February 18, 1963, local residents heard loud explosions and saw clouds rising from the crater of Mount Agung. On February 24, lava began flowing down the northern slope of the mountain, eventually traveling 7 km in the next 20 days. On March 17, the volcano erupted, sending debris 8–10 km into the air and generating massive pyroclastic flows. These flows devastated numerous villages, killing approximately 1500 people. Cold lahars caused by heavy rainfall after the eruption killed an additional 200.

The lava flows missed, sometimes by mere yards, the Mother Temple of Besakih. The saving of the temple is regarded by the Balinese people as miraculous and a signal from the Gods that they wished to demonstrate their power but not destroy the monument the Balinese faithful had erected".

Reminders of the eruption are everywhere with huge lava boulders scattered throughout the countryside and right into the ocean at Tulamben where we live. Apparently Tulamben was a very big village back then, but not so anymore.

Anyway, onto brighter things...Brent had an idea
to get the children to make some 'Prayer Flags'
(like in Tibet) to hang around the school, so we
went shopping for fabric and pens and got them
to draw/write whatever they wanted onto the
squares and now they adorn the school - they look fantastic and certainly brighten things up.

Tianyar is a poor village with most families creating incomes from fishing or salt. The salt beds are interesting... They rake out the ground in front of the ocean into little earth 'boxes' then fill them with sea water and let the sun evaporate the water so then there is only salt left. They also use big conical containers that they have built out of bamboo to do the same job. So, this is where Sea Salt comes from!

Collecting sea water


Cutting Coconuts

There are some fascinating sights along the way.  The other day I was sitting having a coffee on our upstairs balcony and I heard a rustling in the trees and there was this guy motoring up the coconut tree like a monkey!  It is sooo high up there and they clamber around it like a jungle gym!  He cut off maybe 6 or so coconuts (watch out below!) and clambered down again.

Man at top of Coconut tree
Palm Trees
Collecting Palm Oil

 Then the other weekend we went for a ride to explore the area behind us and towards Mt Agung and came across this guy up a Palm Tree collecting Palm Oil.  It's amazing what the do and how they do it.

Brent and I are off on "holiday" on 2nd August.  Bet you're laughing at that - a holiday from the holiday!  We certainly aren't on holiday during our normal weeks here.  It's very much routine and work just like at home, except we don't get paid for it and we can be a bit more flexible with time and it's nice and warm (hehe!!).  We have been here 100% for the kids with the odd day off here and there when they have ceremonies and holidays themselves. 

We are both looking forward to seeing a different part of Bali and having a break from the routine. So, I won't be blogging for probably 3 weeks, until we're back.  On 2nd August we go to Singaraja to get our Visa's renewed and then will head away from there.  Our main problem at the moment is trying to get a rental car.  There are plenty of people who will rent you a car but there's no insurance which we aren't prepared to take the risk on, especially here!

Till next time, Namaste xx

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Special times...

Well, we haven’t been at the Yayasan all last week, hence the delay with this post.  Last week was the celebration of Galungan which is like their equivalent of Christmas Day/Boxing Day so the Market was huge and very busy on Monday.  On Tuesday everyone was preparing and Galungan was on Wednesday and then Thursday was like Boxing Day – everyone relaxing and taking it easy, some of the men drinking all day and telling stories (bull….) like they do!

On Friday Brent took the bus to Tianyar and picked up Yogi and Buddi and brought them back to stay with us for a few days.  OMG you should have seen them, they were like “pigs in shyte” and their eyes nearly popped out of their little heads when they arrived and saw the house.  This place is like staying at The Ritz for them. 

They arrived after lunch and we went down to the beach for a swim and snorkel.  They loved looking at all the fish underwater and the big school of fish that’s always at the drop off.  They hadn’t brought swimming shorts so swam in their undies.   


Then we came back and had showers.  OMG they were in heaven – hot water (which they don’t have at home), they were singing away and in there ages...

They are especially taken with the toilet!  Never seen anything like it in their lives so they were heading off to the loo all the time – hehe.  Brent had to show them how it worked and told them about lifting the seat and putting it down again for Paula :-)

Then we were all starving so went up town to a local restaurant for late lunch, early dinner.  Again they had never been to a restaurant or ordered from a menu.  They stuck with what they know – good ole Nasi Goring but they woofed it down and enjoyed it.

When we came back to the house they proceeded to water and sweep the yard of leaves, like they do at school.  It was spotless when they finished.  We didn’t ask them, they just did it.  

We made them fried bananas (banana fritters) with ice cream and chocolate on top for dessert and they sat on the balcony upstairs like Kings and ate merrily.

They were then tired and felt like heading to bed so we had to explain that they had one bed each and that you sleep between the sheets.  A far cry from the shared mattress on the floor at home!  They were going to sleep in their clothes but we said no, no, take off, sleep naked :-)

They had a big pillow fight for about 1/2hr and then weren’t tired anymore – that’s kids for ya!

We have no TV here so Brent showed them some games on his iTouch which kept them amused and then we all went to bed about 9.30pm.  We could hear them chattering away for a while and then all was quiet. 

They got up sometime during the night and came downstairs to the loo, peering through the stair railing with the torch into our room (there’s no door on our room) to check us out then scampering upstairs again :-)
It’s so lovely having them here and showing them another side of life and giving us all a very special experience.

On Saturday the boys woke us early (early for us), around 6.00am so we said to give us another 15min and we’d get up.  They were downstairs before we knew it and wanted to go outside so Brent got up and let them out.  They then proceeded to water and sweep the yard again, all of their own doing.  They are such good sweet boys.

We made fresh fruit juice and I Luh (pronounced Elu)  from next door brought us over some fried bananas (she’s always bringing food over for us).  We then went for a walk up the dry river bed and into the countryside up the back before it got too hot.  It was a lovely walk through little settlements with one or two thatch huts, kids looking after their goat herd, kids and women picking wild peas, boys carrying sticks of wood, men cutting grass for their cows.  It’s such a different world here.  It’s fantastic.  It's basic.  It's real. 


Home away from home...

Well, we now have a home of our own and it feels great!  It’s costing us around $16 per week more ($130 for the house per week) than where we were before but we can cook our own meals so will save a lot on food, rather than eating out at restaurants every meal.

It’s a lovely 2 storey, 2 bedroom house with a balcony upstairs and little courtyard/garden below.  We are loving having a place of our own, more space and doing our own thing at meal times.  It also means we can have people to stay, like Yogi and Buddi ...


It’s up a side road so we don’t get the main road noise we used to and there are lovely walks up the back through small settlements where you get to see the real Bali in action. 

We get our fruit and veg from the local market every 3 days and any other bits from Amlapura which is a large town about 1/2hour away that has a Supermarket of sorts.

Our first trip there a couple of weeks ago was fun.  The drive there is lovely and scenic and we leave the dryness of the coast and head more inland where the landscape changes to beautiful green rice fields and the flowing water feeding them.  It’s very pretty.

We were driving around Amlapura trying to find the Supermarket when we came across the traditional market and a guy selling little baby chicks caught our eye – you can see why!

Poor little darlings.  They cost 4000rupiah each (approx 70 cents) and come with a little colour matching cage if you pay extra. 

A little boy brought one while we were there, a little teal blue one but he didn’t get a cage, the chick got popped into a small plastic bag and off they went…