Monday, October 31, 2011

Winding Down...

We are enjoying our new temporary home and it’s so nice to have a lovely tropical garden complete with little plunge pool to relax in – talk about spoilt!!  We have had the place to ourselves for the past two weeks and are now sharing it with another two guests.  They have the room at the front and we have a room at the back both with separate bathrooms and sharing the kitchen.  It works well, there’s enough space that we don’t feel like we’re in each others hair and we’ve only got another 10 days and we’re outta here in any case.

Our room


We had a lovely weekend with the boys two weeks ago.  They loved the new place and frolicked in the pool for hours.   They have become the best of friends and get on so well together.

On the Sunday we hired a car, actually it was pretty rough and ready – no air con, no handbrake, no suspension. But with the windows wound down and hanging on tightly it got us from A to B – or Tulamben to Tirta Gangga to Tianyar and back so that was the main thing!  

Tirta Gangga was beautiful.  It used to be a Palace but it’s now public pools, restaurant and accommodation set in beautiful water filled grounds.  


We were there around five hours and the boys loved it.  They are like fish, they were in the water the whole time only stopping for half an hour to have some lunch and then back again.  There were little fish in the pools and they were having fun catching a few and putting them in an empty water bottle.  We made sure they went back in the water before we left.  They were dive bombing each other and Brent (the biggest kid of all) and we were pushing each other in and splashing around, it was great fun.

We managed to make it back to see “The Game” (for those of you who know not what I’m referring to, the Rugby World Cup Final between NZ and France of course!).  We were lucky to have Wayan’s Restaurant to ourselves and Wayan was happy to put the sports channel on for us.  We thought the boys would be bored as they are football (soccer) fans but they really enjoyed the game and Yogi in particular was enthralled by the size of the men and their muscles!  They loved watching the crashing tackles and kicking.  As we all know, it was a pretty average game for a final but we got the right result so that’s all that matters, isn’t it.  I suppose the NZ sports channels are still picking it to pieces as I write two weeks later…

Jeremiah and Sophie from my Writer’s Retreat came for a visit to the Yayasan last week.  It was so good to see them and show them in person what I had been talking about.  The children were great, they all came up to them and said “Hello, what is your name?  My name is…”  They spoke clearly and some asked where Jeremiah and Sophie were from as well, I was really proud of them.  Syda (also from the retreat) and her friend Pablo called in to see me as well but they unfortunately had to keep moving so didn’t manage to get to the Yayasan.  

With only two weekends left in Tulamben (for me) we went for a ride into the country side towards Mt Agung last weekend.  It’s so dry.  Actually, it’s beyond dry, it’s just dirt.  I don’t know how the people that live up that way survive, I really don’t.  There is no pumped water, they have to carry it, from god knows where, it’s harsh and hard and bloody hot!

I have one full week left of teaching and then I head inland to Desa Kurta (40mins from Ubud) to do a final three day Heart Mastery workshop with Rick.  Then I’m back on Monday 14th November to pick up Brent and say goodbye to the children.  I’m dreading it, I know I’ll be a mess, but that's ok.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Melting Moments...

My wonderful retreat week is over – too soon.  I’ve loved being at Kumara Sakti again, it’s a special place.  I’ve loved the massages, I’ve loved the food, I’ve loved the people – the staff and retreat participants, I’ve loved the time for me.  It’s been a special week in so many ways.  I’m now set to write my story,  I know how to go about it now.  I’m ready to start, I have started.

The people I’ve met on this retreat are amazing and I hope to cross paths with some of them again.
Even though I was one of two participants who hadn’t really written before, with most of the others being well into the groove of writing and two having published works out there, I never once felt out of my depth.  The richness of the teaching, the company of wonderful caring people and the beautiful surroundings I was in, have made this a very special week in my life and one I have grown and opened from.  The rich inner journey continues.
My time here is Bali is quickly coming to a close, the life I’ve been living for the past five months, so far removed from the one left in New Zealand.  I’m surrounded by life here, I’m surrounded by spirit, my heart has never felt more full and open.  

On my final day at Kumara Sakti I wrote:  I’m sitting here on my terrace in Ubud looking out at the emerald green rice fields.  Watching the rice farmer walking by in the distance.  Listening to the hollow tinker of the
rice chime as it moves in the breeze to scare the birds away.  The little squirrels are scampering up and down the trees and branches.  Every now and again there is a crash as one goes tumbling to the ground metres below, only to reappear minutes later on the climb to the top again.  The cycle of life, so far removed from my own.  I feel alive here.  I have no future.  I have no past.  I'm in my life, living it day by day.

Ganesh - remover of obstacles

There was an earthquake while I was at the retreat.  It's very disconcerting to be in another country when there's an earthquake as you aren't in familiar surroundings and don't automatically know the safest place to go.  We were sitting inside a pavilion type building with a block back wall having a discussion when it struck.  We sat there for maybe 30 seconds (it felt longer) and wondered how much bigger it was going to get. Jeramiah said "do you think we should move" and we all said "yes!".  Not that there was actually anywhere safer to go but we were in a building at the bottom of the property, above the swimming pool and that was above a long drop to the river.  The swimming pool was swishing over the side like a mini tsunami so we moved to the path and steps to the side of the building.  This didn't feel any safer as all the buildings above and beside us were stone, brick and mortar!  I must say my heart was racing and I was silently praying it wouldn't get any bigger as there just wasn't anywhere to go!  It was centered offshore at 6.8 magnitude but was around 6.0 in Ubud.  There were reports of some damage to buildings in town but everything where we were was fine.

Brent had a wonderful time on Bunaken Island and had 14 dives in 5 days.  He's especially proud of himself because he can now stay down 70 minutes and still have air left and he's been to 27 metres.  He saw heaps of fabulous fish, sea horses, turtles, sharks so was pretty wrapped with his week.

We are now back in Tulamben/Tianyar.  Actually we are now living in Rubia which is a small village about 5 minutes North of Tulamben in Jeff and Dawn's old house (they recently sold it and moved into their new one and the new owner doesn't come over until December).  We can walk to the market to get our fruit and veg now, although we have to take the motorbike to Tulamben if we want anything there or to eat out as it's too far to walk.

Since being back, we are really noticing the temperature here, we are literally melting!  It's so hot and humid even the locals are feeling it.  You can be standing making a coffee, brushing your teeth or just sitting and you feel the droplets of sweat running down your back.  My armpits feel like lakes and I'm continually mopping my face.  Sounds gross doesn't it!  Apparently it gets hotter here in October and then the rains start November/December. 

We were back at the Yayasan on Tuesday.  On the way there we stopped outside Yogi’s school and they were having morning break.  Some young boys were peering over the block fence at us and saying hello, we asked for Yogi so someone went and got him.  He came running out down the footpath to us with a huge smile from ear to ear.  He ran straight into my arms and held on tight, eyes closed, tears coming.  I held him tight and whispered in his ear, he whispered back.  It was a melting heart moment and I realised how much we have come to mean to each other.

The children at the Yayasan were pleased to see us.  They had a Mother and Daughter from England come and volunteer for three days while we were away.  It would have been nice for them to have some new teaching faces.

We are winding down the teaching now, having a bit more fun instead of slaving away.  I'm just going back over things I've already taught, just to cement it into their brains.  They have come so far, it's amazing and I don't want them to lose it all.  I will probably email them some lessons from time to time from NZ just to keep them onto it!

We are having Yogi and Budhi to stay for one last time on Saturday.  We will take them out for dinner and on Sunday go to Tirta Gangga, which are beautiful natural pools set in an old Palace property about 40 minutes away...

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Good Morning Vietnam!

Back to the hustle, bustle, colour and life of vibrant Vietnam - we love it!!!

There's so much to see every which way you turn, life is happening everywhere, it's fantastic!  We feel very much at home here and it is such a contrast to Bali. 

We were in Hanoi for 5 days staying in a nice hotel in a different area from last year so it took a while to get our bearings. For the first couple of days every time we went out we managed to get lost, especially at night where everything looks so different.  We walked miles and miles but it's all good, always so much to see.

Night time is the best.  We love going down little alley ways to see what's there.  The old buildings are beautiful and with the soft night lighting the colours and old textures are wonderful.

Eating on the street is the best.  You sit on little plastic chairs/stools at little plastic tables (bit like a children's tea party) and eat Pho (chicken or beef broth soup with lots of rice noodles and herbs, it's yummy).  The other night we cooked our own seafood hotpot on the street - they provide the broth in a pot on a gas cooker and the raw seafood and veg and you do the rest.  It's very tasty and very unique for us Westerners, but it's cheap and social for the Vietnamese so everyone does it.

Eating out
We caught up with our friend Giang and her family.  We had the most amazing day with them.  She has a Husband (Vinh) and two boys (Long 8yrs, and Huey 2months).  They took us to her Parents house which is semi-rural and we also met her Sister (Quyn) and her family.  They welcomed us like one of their own and we
had lunch and dinner there.  There was so much food and also beer and wine.  

We sat on the floor and ate, helping ourselves to everything (except the chicken feet!).  It was so yummy.  Giang, Vinh and Quyn were the only ones who could speak English but it didn't matter, her Mum and Dad could understand us through hand signals and head nodding.  Uncles and friends popped in from time to time for a quick visit and a look at the Kiwi's!

Giang's parents lease a piece of communal land at the back of their place where they grow veges to sell to the market.

There are many lot holders doing the same and it's hard work, everything done by hand, including watering the huge plot with two watering cans strapped to a piece of timber across your back.  Brent had a go at the watering, wading into the pond to fill the cans and then carrying the load to the plot to water the rows.  They all thought it was wonderful, everyone was laughing and nodding their heads, he was a hit!
Unfortunately I didn't get a photo as I didn't know he was out there and hadn't taken my camera with me.

Local grower filling the watering cans from the pond

It is a lovely spot.  Giang's Father was born there and they rebuilt the house around four years ago.  It looks very grand on the outside but is very simple inside.  As in Bali, they don't go in for nic naks or decoration like we do in the west.  It's simple and serves it's purpose.

After lunch they took us by motorbike to a beautiful old Pagoda (temple), about 1/2hour ride away.  It was fabulous.  It's the oldest Pagoda in Vietnam and was built in the 16th century.  It was amazing, beautiful old timber and huge carved and colourful Buddhas.  A very special place.

The ride there and back was great too, it was all on a concrete road which was raised like a stopbank so you got a great view of the farming and villages as you drove past.  It was awesome.

We got home around 10pm, very tired but what an amazing day.  We are very privileged to have had the opportunity to be invited into someone's home and it was a wonderful experience.

On Thursday 29th we flew to Hoi An to visit another dear young woman we befriended last year.  She calls us her NZ Parents so we get called Mother and Father :).  Dear Phuong (we call her Fo) is beautiful, both to look at and as a person and holds a special place in our hearts.  She works at the Hotel we stayed at last year in Hoi An and we stayed there again this time.
Phuong (Fo) and her Mum
Linh (middle) and her friends
She took us to Tam Ky (about 80 minutes by car) to meet her Mother, Sister (10) and older Brother (29).  Her Mother works every day buying and selling ducks (sort of like a dealer/agent for those that want to buy and sell).

Again, what a wonderful loving family.  Her Mother took time out from her busy day and made us lunch and then her Sister Linh (Lin) and her two friends did a little concert for us.  They were quite shy at first but soon came around.  We are the first Westerners they have seen so wern't too sure of us to start with.
We then took them all out for dinner at a local restaurant and had a bit of this and a bit of that.  It was wonderful.  We stayed the night in a Hotel and then made our way back to Hoi An the next day.

Hoi An is the best!  It's beautiful old buildings with lanterns hanging outside, river, bridges, boats, people, it's just stunning.  It has so much old world charm and character it's a photographer's paradise!!!  Yes, MORE photos!  I didn't think I'd take too many this visit as we took thousands last year, but no, just can't help myself, there's always something wonderful to take a photo of.

Beautiful lanterns at night

Also, the shopping in Hoi An is fantastic!  Lots of beautiful silk, scarves, clothes, leather and other souviners.  You can get clothes and shoes made if you want.  I can never make up my mind what I want so only got some travel trousers made this time and 3 pairs of summer sandles at $12ea - 2 of them leather so I was happy with that.

Wednesday 5th we went back to Thuan Tinh Island which we visited last year.  We enjoyed it so much the first time we decided to go again.  The man that runs it (Thai is his name), remembered us from last year and was very happy to see us, we are the first clients to do a return visit.  They do a cooking tour as part of the 1/2 day excursion so you go to the market first to buy all the ingredients and then take a 1/2hour boat ride to the island.  You then go by another little boat to a small village on the island and meet some of the locals and then back to the main part for the cooking school.  It's wonderful.  You make the yummiest food and it's very relaxed and informal (unlike some of the other larger cooking schools).  The staff are wonderful and the lovely cooking instructor (Mrs Thi) from last year remembered us too and gave us a big hug each, she was so happy to see us again.  We had a good group - 2 English guys, an American couple and us.  Once again it was a great day.

Our first 4 days in Vietnam were fine and very hot, a lot hotter than Bali but then a storm in the Philippines moved this way and it's been raining on and off ever since.  It doesn't matter, it's actually quite refreshing, it's the first rain we've seen in 4 months!  We just put on our coats and grab a brollie and off we go.

From Hoi An we were back to Hanoi for 2 full days and then back to Bali on Friday 7th.  Me to do my Writer's Retreat and Brent to go to Bunaken Island for Diving, then meeting up again to travel back to Tulamben on 16th and back to teaching in Tianyar on 17th for another month.  Time is going to go really fast now!

We love Vietnam and wish we could have stayed longer...we now have two more special families to visit so looks like Bali/Vietnam will be seeing much more of us in the future...