Saturday, January 19, 2013

Why Bali? Part One

Okay, so you might say this is really corny but after reading the book “Eat, Pray, Love” and seeing the movie, yes I wanted to go to Bali. Just the name “Bali” had lured me even before that. Being on this side of the planet, so close, when was I ever going to get another chance?
Right after getting off the plane the first thing I thought was “thank God I am in the Peace Corps and in the Philippines” because the culture shock was intense but SO much less because of experiencing PC and especially the Philippines. I arranged an airport pick up to my hotel, they drive on the right side of the road and he drove like the crazy guys in Manila drive…weaving through hundreds of motorbikes…past architecture that was in many ways similar to Philippines but different. 
My private bungalow

On the ride from the airport

My hotel was this charming place in the town of Sanur that I learned meant “Quiet Plentiful Water”….my bathroom was in the back of my own private bungalow, open air….
Breakfast served every morning…
The first night I walked to “town” and randomly ate at an Italian restaurant (the absolutely best Italian food I have had in years) and later in the week realized that what a coincidence – the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” went to Italy first!
The first morning I took a long walk towards the beach. Along the way here are some things I saw….

Statues everywhere

Lady selling morning offerings to the Gods

Fancy cock  houses in Bali

Sanur beach

So that was Christmas Eve day and since I was REALLY stressed out from worrying if our school got the grant we applied for and plus, trying not to miss my family so much over the holidays, I did something I have never ever done…I went to a Spa for the entire day!!!! And so my Bali peace began…I was massaged and scrubbed and rubbed and fed and pampered from 10am-6pm….I sort of slithered out of there so relaxed, like jello or something. OMG it was wonderful…a bathtub full of rose petals for me???
The Spa

Morning offering 

For Christmas Day I hired a driver to take me sight seeing, first so I could visit some places on the island I really wanted to see and second, so I would be busy all day and not succumb to the “I am alone on Christmas and not with any family…” pity party.
What a day! It began at the Orchid garden, I am not sure what I enjoyed most, the tour guide or the flowers! This young man was SO funny, took crazy photos and made jokes about the names of the flowers, it was so much fun!

Hanging Birds of Paradise

Spider orchid

Then off to the morning session of a Balinese dance performance, The Barong and Kris Dance – my first introduction to the Balinese “good and evil” phenomena.

The good one

The evil one

The musicians

Bali and Indonesia are famous for their batik fabrics and my driver took me to a place where the women were actually drawing on the fabric with wax. I went a little crazy in the store, but how many times are you in Bali???
Batik process using wax

Gorgeous things, original batik art

Next stop, silver and goldsmiths, another thing Bali is know for.…..the place was a little touristy, they demo the silver making and then of course, have a lot to sell. Went to two places and bought a gorgeous pair of earrings.
Little ity bitty silver dots

Our journey was ultimately heading towards a Hindu temple I wanted to visit outside the town of Ubud but along the way we spotted some kind of celebration at another temple. This was my first intro to Bali temples, everyone must wear a sarong and sash to enter (they rent them..) my guide was great and explained what we saw.
My driver/guide

Those poles are handmade woven palms

Temple entrance

You see this everywhere, the umbrella is to remind us that God covers all and protects us, the black and white patterns are symbols for good and evil, together they are harmony

This is the town alarm, a large bamboo piece that is rung

Me and my sarong

More temple gods

Umbrellas for ceremonies

Entrances usually have two little statues to scare away evil spirits

Along the road we saw this woman carrying her family temple offering on her head, something I DON”T see in the Philippines, then we made it to our destination – Tirta Empul, the Holy Springs. 
Elaborate offering

Finding Peace in Bali

I picked the titled for my blog for several reasons, as you get older you realize that you have “seasons” in your life – the season of being a young mother, the season of the empty nest, etc. – so this Peace Corps adventure was to be my season of peace – peace related to actually being in the Peace Corps but also a season of little responsibility, a time to reflect and figure out what comes next….
Periodically over the past 18 and a half months of service here in the Philippines I have asked myself “Well, have you experienced that season of peace you wanted?” and many times I have answered that “No, I don’t think I have …..”
People enter the Peace Corps with many visions of how they will save the world and make a difference and as volunteers we read that many times it is actually us, the volunteers, who experience a multitude of changes. Peace Corps can be a 27 month self discovery journey, so again, I ask myself “Where has the season of peace been?”
The past 18 months has gone by SO slowly at times and at others SO fast. I almost can’t remember last January, each day here is so full, we go to bed each night exhausted from just processing culture all day. When I slow down enough to think, I have glimpses of peace every day – when the children at school ask me to bless them and touch the top of their head (I must do this 50 times a day, minimum), when I first got here I was amazed at the lush greenery, flowers and fruits that by now just seem common….my life here is simple and so with that comes a kind of peace. I don’t think I will truly appreciate that until I am back in the rat race in America…taking cold bucket baths and living with no screens on your windows can be annoying but accepting that as my reality has its own sense of peace.
I titled this particular blog post “Finding Peace in Bali” because when I visited Bali, Indonesia this past Christmas I felt the most incredible deep inner soul soothing peace I have ever felt. The week after Bali I traveled to the island of Palawan with 6 other volunteers and when we encountered any challenges, I just claimed my “Bali High” and said that I was in such a good place right now and no one or anything was going to mess it up.
I went to Bali alone, originally a friend was going to meet me there but she couldn’t make it. So, either go alone or not go…the night before I left I actually panicked for about 3 min. and asked myself “Are you sure this is a good idea, really? Bali, Indonesia, alone?” but Peace Corps Indonesia knew where I was and that was a comfort in itself. If anything weird happened I had them as back up. So off I went with a few pre-made plans for adventure and for 7 days I never felt alone.
Eventually I will post photos of my adventure in North Luzon (previous blog post). To come Bali Part One, Bali Part Two and Feb.1st Grand Opening of Library and Reading Center!!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Teaching and Playing

A large group of volunteers trekked to Sagada, Philippines - up in the mountains of Luzon Island- for a traditional American Thanksgiving....a long trek for me, van then bus to Manila then bus to Bagio then bus to Sagada....yes very long...we all cooked different things, it was wonderful, a bonfire and seeing Lucy gut and cook the chickens in spite of being disappointed that no one would sell us their pet turkeys.....Yes, teaching and reading still goes on, my favorite book is Big, Bigger, Biggest which I dramatize to the max.....Christmas parties at school (and yes, once again 35 videoke machines blew out the electric at school....) faculty party then off to the most peaceful place I have visited- Bali, a subject for an entire post, then off to Palawan with other volunteers, yet another post....We work HARD and we PLAY hard, something I heard about volunteers before joining PC but now I totally understand it....TBC
Internet having problems.....after 1 hour of trying to upload photos, I quit for the day....To Be Continued...

Work and Play

Tutor Melba, Tchr Nilda, Sir Andal, Ma'm
Veron and Ma'm Lucille

Ma'm Veron inspects the Carbonera for Thanksgiving
Friends from Jesus Is Lord Church, Nov. Celebration
Much of the month of November was spent anxiously awaiting word about approval of our application for a large grant from a generous organization in the US - after months of writing, re-writing, editing, fine tuning, revising our very lengthy proposal.....ta....dah!!! We were approved for our project "Linking Tradition with 21st Century Literacy Skills" - more to come later, right now- what happened in Nov. while waiting, in Dec. while there was no school for two weeks....Please forgive the format of this blog today, pictures seem to pop up where they want to in no organized order......November brought a very emotional Veteran's Day celebration in the American Cemetery in Manila, I received an embossed invitation from the USEmbassy, I was impressed.....then this wonderful spirit filled church I have been attending celebrated it's 20th Anniversary....people are great and they preach the truth...a breath of fresh air...Then American Thanksgiving, my counterpart Veron surprised me with a home made dinner, very exciting, Tuna Carbonera, we held hands and went around the circle to say what we were thankful for. Next blog post....Volunteer Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years.....

Veteran's Day in American Cemetery Manila

SC Seal in American Cemetery Manila

American Cemetery in Manila
20th Anniversary of Jesus Is Lord ChurchAfter celebrating Veteran's Day and the 20th Anniversary, then came American Thanksgiving