Hello Bali

Dealing with lots of zeros after being awake for over 24 hours is a challenge. Unable to find Indonesian rupees in either Honolulu or my quick dash through the Seoul airport, I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to pay for a taxi ride to my guest house when I landed. I needn’t have worried. There were at least a dozen money changers at the airport here, all calling out to me and it was almost 1 a.m. I chose the one that had an offering with burning incense and flowers by his stand. I was supposed to meet my friend Thomas, who was arriving at the same time from Jakarta but somehow we missed each other and I ended up with one of the many taxi drivers jockeying for my attention. The cost was 100,000 rupees, which sounds like a lot but is only about $10.00. When I put the bills together from my wad in the back seat, I realized I was missing a few zeros but I figured it out in time.

The driver had some trouble finding this place in the narrow jungly streets of Sanur. As we got close, I spotted Sylvia under an umbrella in the pouring rain, concerned that I hadn’t found Thomas. It is a gift to have friendly faces in such a different place. Tom worked with them in Vermont many years ago in their spice business and I knew them from teaching at the school that their children attended. They have long and deep connections in Bali which became even more clear as I shared breakfast with them at their nearby house this morning. We had two fruits that were delicious, rice and vegetables and sipped both ant’s nest tea, which is supposed to cure anything but AIDS, and a tumeric drink. Sylvia has piles of information of places to visit and see here and they seem to have friends doing all kinds of interesting things. I’m glad I have 3 weeks!

I spent yesterday flying Korean Air. Penny brought me to the airport early to avoid the traffic, under a beautiful full moon. As soon as I stood in the longest and slowest ever security line, I realized I was one of only a handful of white people. Planes were leaving for Japan and Korean at that early hour. Once onboard the huge plane, I looked around and saw I was the only white person. Most, I think, were vacationers returning to Korea after holidays in Hawaii. Announcements were made in Korean first and then heavily accented English. When they brought my lunch, (meals still being served on international flights along with free headsets, drinks and paper slippers), the flight attendant gave me an instructional sheet. Add rice to the bowl (with bean sprouts, meat and some other things), add chili paste, add sesame oil, stir. My seat mates laughed at me trying to mix things with a spoon. They took my bowl and worked it with a fork for several minutes. They spoke no English but we shared bits of our stories with sign language. When I took the instruction sheet as a souvenir, they laughed again and we took pictures of this crazy American. I better get used to being the odd one out.

I watched 3 full movies in the inflight system as well as a documentary about the volcanoes of Hawaii. It was almost 20 hours in the air during the two flights with a quick dash through the airport in Seoul, just making my connection. I spotted a quartet of young classical musicians in the airport there. Everything was clean and slick with a heavy preponderance of “fancy” stores like Gucci and fine jewelry.

My room here is perfect. It has a canopy bed with fresh flower petals on it, a little chair and clothes armoire, a basic bathroom (with hot water) and a beautiful carved wooden door. Outside, there are fountains running, a courtyard and a tiny kitchen where I can make tea. All this for about $30.00.

I’m off for a bike ride around the town with Sylvia in a few minutes so I’ll end here for now. I’m taking advantage of the sunshine during this rainy season. Apparently it rains for an hour or two each day and it was pouring when I arrived last night. No complaints here though. Muggy humidity and sunshine in February is fine with me!




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  1. jan bee

     /  February 8, 2012

    Thanks for the travelog – I am enjoying your adventures.

  2. Phyllis Biegun

     /  February 8, 2012

    I am amazed at the people you know in far flung places and how many have been able to coordinate with you – wonderful!

  3. pam perkins

     /  February 8, 2012

    I have no doubt that this is how your entire around-the-world trip is going to be — everything will fall into place and when it doesn’t, you’ll figure it out! Sounds wonderful.

  4. pam perkins

     /  February 8, 2012

    PS Of all the trips I’ve taken to Asia, I’ve never had instructions on how to deal with unusual plane food. And trust me, there’s been some pretty weird plane food. Amazing!

  5. I don’t have a map of Bali, so you are flying west off my bulletin board in the pic above with sticky note wings. Good to hear you voice yesterday and we got your postcard too. Thanks for taking us with you on your adventure. Marlboro regards to Sylvia & Thomas.

    The fruit looks delicious but what is that dry stuff in the shape of Africa?

  6. That would be the ants nest used to make the tea. And yes, there were real ants living in them!

  7. Kate

     /  February 8, 2012

    Finally linking to your amazing blog. Of course – amazing woman/amazing journey. I feel transported. Will have a conversation w my new supervisor next week, but sadly think Thailand falls during “recognition season” which would result in immediate dismissal. I’ll know more soon. In the meantime, I, too, wake up in Bali. Thanks to you. Lovelove.

  8. Anne Cowan

     /  February 8, 2012

    Ellen, you are keeping all of us “ellen junkies” going each day (and we know it won’t be EVERY day). I am envious of your three weeks in Bali. I would be broke buying fabric if I went there!!! Several local quilt shops have trips there this spring. I am going cycling, so no Bali for me!!! Save travels!

  9. Ellen, I’ll be thinking of you while I spend the next two days skate-skiing in Jackson, NH. No ant’s nests sold at the J-Town Deli, but they do have Doritos. Love from the Heinrichs.

  10. Penny

     /  February 9, 2012

    It all sounds so wonderful!!!! Thanks for bringing us all along with you!

  11. Jane Rosser

     /  February 9, 2012

    We are really enjoying your blog. And the picture of the mangosteen (what a delicious fruit) makes my mouth water. Please send our love to Thomas and Sylvia. It all sounds glorious.

  12. Peggy Kehew

     /  February 13, 2012

    I love the photo on the plane, and am just enjoying the great tales, and the way you tell them. Keep on enjoying, and be careful out there. Also, happy Valentines Day!!


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