When the Journey is More Than Just a Trip
*Aside Title* All About Me - So You Know It Will be LONG. It also may take a bit to load as there are LOTS of pictures!!
So Tom and I split up. Wait! Before you panic it’s not permanent, just for the next eight days. Tom is going to Padang Bai to dive while I go to Ubud, Bali to do the things I need to do in Ubud. We’ll call it a spiritual journey on my side. *Aside* This is only complicated a little by the fact that I don’t actually know what I need to do in Ubud. Wait, I do know what I want to do in Ubud: visit the John Hardy Jewelry Compound; visit a healer; and . . . I’m sure there’s more but I can’t define it yet. Tom and I each use Grab Car to head our separate destinations. Tom’s car arrives; he gets in and is on his way with no problem. My car calls and says the trip will be three times the Grab quoted price. I say, “No.” The driver hangs up but doesn’t cancel the ride, leaving me to figure out how to do that so I can order another Grab. A taxi driver approaches me to ask if I want a ride? Where am I going? I say I have it taken care of. He sees my phone and tells me - somewhat aggressively - that Grab is illegal. *Aside* Grab is not illegal but it is a sore subject with taxi drivers. The money grubbing taxi drivers are mad that they can’t gouge the public (and especially the tourists) as much as they have in the past. At this point I’m forced to drag my suitcase back inside the hotel: A) to get away from the taxi driver and B) so I can see my phone to cancel the first Grab driver and get another. The next driver accepts, I walk out to the street and he cancels. I walk back in the hotel to order another Grab. *Aside*Tom texts me to see if I’ve gotten underway. No I haven’t, but I’m trying. I’ll let you know when I’m successful. My next driver, an older man, arrives and is good with the designated price for the ride.
*Aside*Actually the man’s age is of no significance. I only mention it to give context: once settled in the car, he feels the need to assure me he doesn’t “do bad with women” or “any bad at all.” I assume this is to reassure me: ostensibly a single women traveling alone. However his statement activates my “weirdo” radar. My driver then proceeds to sing love songs to me all the way to Ubud, first accompanied by an American CD and then by a Balinese CD. He smiles broadly into the rearview mirror which he has turned so he can see my face and I can see his. I smile hesitantly back when I’m not completely avoiding eye contact by looking at all the interesting sites and snapping pictures outside my car window . I tell him about my husband, Tom the scuba diver in Padang Bai. *Aside*I text Tom that I’m now on my way to Ubud, no worries. I do not mention the love songs or the smiling. Many songs later (with no “bad”) we arrive at Loka Pala Villa in Ubud. Well, we arrive at the lane that leads to Loka Pala: the car can go no farther. I take possession of my suitcase, although my driver seems intent on taking it up the lane for me. I assure my songbird that I can manage from here, sending him on his way. I drag my suitcase up the lane. At the top I find a sign for Loka Pala Villa that points to the left. I walk farther along the lane to find a sign that points to the right. This finally leads me to Loka Pala Villa reception.
*Aside* This lane cannot be traversed by cars, but it is used constantly by scooters and motor bikes. There is enough room for two bikes to pass each other but not enough for two bikes and a pedestrian. I always keep my ears peeled for sound of approaching motors in case I need to jump out of the way.
My room meets the romantic expectations that my brain created for a room in Bali. There is a huge, double sliding door with full-view side windows stretched across one side of the room. After a rain or early in the morning when it is cool, it is possible to open the door to the patio on the other side, turn off the air conditioning and turn up the fan to bask in the fresh air while eating breakfast. My bed has the requisite mosquito netting although I haven’t been bothered by mosquitoes much at all. Everywhere on the grounds are tropical plants growing in a profusion that I could never accomplish with poorly thriving house plants in America. There is a gorgeous pool - perfect for when I return from a long, hot walk. The view from my back patio is a rice field. Yup this is exactly what my heart was longing for.
*Aside* Every morning an offering appears in front of the door to my room. The Balinese people make offerings to the spirits every day asking for blessing and protection. Every morning all the offerings from the day before are swept up and new fresh ones are placed. They are EVERYWHERE in every home and business. Some are as simple as a bit of rice on a banana leaf and others are large baskets full of flowers and food and incense. *Aside 2*One morning I awake to not only the birds singing, (I like their song much better than my driver’s) but when I open the patio door I can hear (what sounds like) steel drum music playing in the distance, presumably at a Balinese temple. I settle in to make some CouchSurfing contacts in Ubud. One contact (who has lived here five years) sends me so much information I will never read it all! I make a date with this person for lunch. He knows a good place near my hotel and is willing to tell me what to eat. I need to verbally pick his brain because, thanks so very much, but I’ll never be able to wade through all this information. Sure enough the restaurant is super close. Although I’m not 100% sure where it is, I recognize Mark from his Couchsurfing picture as he gets off his bike, discovering I am right in front of the restaurant. He recommends the half chicken which is so much food for me that I don’t need dinner. He gives me advice on places to go, drivers to use, where to buy food, tipping and a bunch of little facts that help me throughout my wandering. Returning to my glorious room I try to deal with Verizon via the website chat on the topic of the new phone they are shipping us to replace Tom’s defective phone. We wanted them to ship it to us I Bali, but they said absolutely could not make that happen. Okay, so they will ship it to our house in Ohio and then Maleha will ship it to Brent, the boyfriend of my CouchSurfing friend, Mayan from Cebu, Philippines. *Aside* Brent is in the United States, going back to Cebu during the second week of December. Okay, no problem, we’ve got it figured out. Then Verizon sends me an email to inform me that they will not ship the phone because it looks like fraud. What?? Since we ASKED to have it shipped to us outside the continental United States, it flagged the fraud department. Now I must call them. I try the number. It doesn’t work from outside the United States. No my daughter cannot call, even though she is allowed to manage my account. At a minimum I must receive a text on my phone from Verizon Fraud and repeat it to them on the phone. Oh good, Verizon can call my daughter and she can repeat the number to them if I can get the code to her. *Heavy sigh* Okay we can do this. I turn on my other phone which still had the U.S. Sim card in it to send a test message to Maleha. It worked. I go out for some food. We must wait for Verizon Fraud business hours to do this. When I come back, my U.S. phone has gone insane. There is a message that will not go away no matter how many times or how quickly I hit “OK” - “Unfortunately, the process android.phone.com has stopped working.” Back to Verizon chat again for another four hour session which ends in a factory resent and recovery to get my phone back so I can text the code the Maleha. *Aside* Did I mention that we only have about 72 hours for this process before they completely cancel the order (which took us about four hours of Verizon chat to place)? And I wasted more than 24 of those hours not realizing the email was about a problem. I initially thought it was just the acknowledgement of the shipment. We won’t even talk about the panicked moment when my phone told me it could not be restored. With the help of a supervisor we got my phone working, received the text, forwarded the text to Maleha, and who repeated it to Version just in time. Thanks so much to Maleha!! *Aside* Each time the first contact person Verizon was no help at all and each time strongly resisted bringing in a supervisor. It was only the supervisor who was able to straighten things out for us. Now I can settle in a do some stuff. I go for a walk. I walk all the way to downtown Ubud, around downtown Ubud, have lunch and walk back for a total of about five miles. The best part of the walk is by the Monkey Forest coming and going.
You can buy a ticket to go inside the monkey forest and walk their paths, but the monkeys don’t’ know they are supposed to stay in the forest. So you see the monkeys on the motorcycle path that runs beside the forest, on the fence next to the forest and in the greenery on the other side of the motorcycle path. There is a small wall near the beginning of the path where one can sit to watch the monkeys climb out, sit, mingle and go. *Aside* Inside the forest people buy bananas to feed the monkeys, but I was strongly warned not to take any food with me as the monkeys can be competitive and aggressive in the presence of food. On my way back to my room I bought some food to put in the refrigerator, so I was worried. I read stories of people being attacked and monkeys trying to get into their backpacks to steal food. However I didn’t stop or dawdle on the way back and in general the monkeys totally ignored me. More irritating was the woman who wanted to sell me a trinket, following me way down the street after I said, “No” six times. Next day I visited Taksu Spa for a Gentle Yoga Class at 9:00 AM followed by a ninety minute Authentic Thai Massage. *Aside - Meaning of Taksu*According to the web, every artist in Bali strives for Taksu. The Balinese define it as the moment when the artist completely surrenders to the form of his or her craft and God appears. Nice name for a spa, huh? *Aside 2* Loka Pala’s Villa’s scooter driver delivered me to Taksu’s doorstep for free. It’s part of the service included with my room.
My yoga class also lasted ninety minutes but was much kinder to my body than my ninety minute massage. Nonetheless the massage works and stretches my body in ways I didn’t know my body could work and stretch. For each, my massage and my class, I received a free beverage from the café. First I had an orange juice with lime and spices. Then I had the strongest fresh ginger tea I’ve ever tasted. They also gave me a 10 % discount on lunch, so I partook of the delicious offerings from their upstairs restaurant “Fresh” while gazing at the beautiful gardens that surround the property. Forgive me. I don’t have pictures of the food. I left my phone in my locker and just reveled in the moment, the food, and what my body was able to tolerate. I walked back (about two miles) to Loka Pala and settled in to work on the blog, eating the goodies I bought at CocoMart the day before for dinner. Next day my driver came at 9:00 AM to take me to the John Hardy Jewelry Compound. I guess everyone thinks I was bitten by the “Eat, Pray, Love” bug. Indeed I loved the book and I’ve read it several times, but my desire to see Bali goes back farther than “Eat, Pray, Love.” Most people know I worked at the Diamond Cellar from 1999 through 2004. In about 2001 a representative came to the Diamond Cellar for a John Hardy Trunk Show bringing postcards for us picturing the John Hardy Compound in Bali where they manufacture the jewelry. They also showed us pictures of John Hardy’s home and explained how he has changed the lives of the people in Ubud, Bali who work for him. I held that postcard in my hands. I looked at it and said, “I want to go to Bali. I want see this place.” November 11, 2016 I made it there.
At the Compound I was greeted by Putu Jumiari who would be my tour guide and jewelry specialist. Putu and I talked and laughed. She is forty-one years old and has worked in the compound for fifteen years. She knew John Hardy personally before he sold the business. She reported he never wore shoes, but walked around barefoot, never acting like an employer but a friend. He spoke to everyone as if they were all on the same level. As Putu and I talked she asked my age and remarked that I could be her mother. Throughout our tour she held my hand and hugged me. I don’t know what affected me more: her kindness or the realization of my dream. I left with a little jewelry. This wasn’t about getting more stuff, although I was really tempted by the last ring left from when John Hardy owned the business. This was about fulfilling a promise to myself that one day I would see Bali. That post card was so far back in my memory that even I blamed it on “Eat, Pray, Love.” It was in the van on the way to the Compound that I remembered holding that postcard in my hands. I remembered the picture. The feelings were so profound that it’s a wonder I didn’t bawl like a baby. John Hardy doesn't own the business any more. It's owned by a corporation in New York and although it is still a great place to work the heart of the business has changed. *Aside*If you’re interested, John Hardy sold his jewelry business to build the Green School in Bali which focuses on sustainability. https://www.greenschool.org/about He is still working to improve Bali. Sometimes you hear that an employer made a difference to his employees but it's just lip service. However John Hardy was genuinely well loved by his employees and most certainly has impacted their lives. The rest of the day was less significant. We toured the Big Tree Chocolate Factory: a huge building made of bamboo. *Aside* I think this is the way the Longaberger Basket building would look if it was REALLY a basket. Big Tree manufactures chocolate and coconut sugar. My three dollar entrance fee gave me tastes of raw cacao beans, raw cacao nibs, drinking
chocolate, four different kinds of coconut sugar, two kinds of coconut syrup, and three kinds of completely delicious chocolate bars: 63% dark plain, 65% dark with salt, and 73% dark with salt and cacao nibs. I took home a chocolate bar for Tom. Next stop: the Bali Batik factory. The things I liked were really expensive or didn’t fit so no souvenirs from that stop. Next we visited the Coffee Plantation. They gave me free samples of six different coffees and six different teas. A cup of Luwak coffee would have been $3.75, but I passed: no decaf. *Aside* Yes Ladies and Gentlemen I have probably missed my very best, and least expensive, opportunity to taste Luwak Coffee. Yes, that is the coffee that is made out of beans that (to put it delicately) have passed through the digestive tract of the Civet. The Ginger tea and the Lemon tea are delicious so I bring home a packet of each.
*Aside* I thought I might be wide awake all night after sampling coffee at 4:00 PM, but I slept like a baby!!
I opted out of the silver factory (probably can’t top my John Hardy experience), the wood carving store and the art gallery so we called it a day. Saturday I visited a healer. *Aside* No, I didn’t visit Ketut Liyer from “Eat, Pray, Love.” I didn’t want to go to him, which is good as unfortunately he died earlier this year. I did some research narrowing the field to two names: first choice, Pak Man (Arya Dunung);
second choice, Tjokorda Gde Rai. When I called to make an appointment with Pak Man there were none available until a week after I leave Ubud. Second choice, Tjokorda, does not make appointments. The advice: go at 9:00 AM and wait, which is what I did. There was a group of three people ahead of me so it didn’t take long. I sat on the floor in front of Tjokorda while he prodded my head, neck, shoulders and arms and ran his hands and fingers back and forth over my head, face, neck, arms and shoulders. He tweaked my ears and elbows and found all kinds of places that hurt. He told me I was fine, nothing wrong in my body except my womb and my ovaries are shut down. *Aside* Well that’s not news, I’m way past menopause. He said my happiness is shut down also. He said he removed the blockages, gave me some oil to rub on my knee, hip and back and told me to go find my happiness. So I’m looking for it. It seems it’s everywhere here in Bali.
During my last days in Ubud I visited the Ubud Palace then took pictures of some of the things that caught my eye. Yes ladies and gentlemen among the souvenirs available are bottle openers and keychains in the shape of a penis. They come in every size from small (like these) to extra large (use your imagination).
*Aside* I will not be bringing anyone a penis bottle opener. I can’t even actually understand why you would want one? Maybe if I was twenty-something?? Actually I’m bringing back almost NO souvenirs even for myself. There’s no room in my suitcase! And Tom? Well Tom settled into his room near noisy barking dogs and an elementary school immediately across the street. Daytime he dove to his heart’s content. One of the high points was Manta Rays so close he could touch them (but he didn’t). The other high point was a rooster on the beach who crowed “Cockadoodle-ha-ha-ha-ha.” He literally sounded as though he was laughing. Here are some of his favorites from the week.
As seen on the street near my hotel:
As seen on my walks though Ubud: