Friday, March 21, 2008

Happy Birthday James: Day Three

James turned One on day three of our trip, March 6th. His birthday is part of the reason we took this trip. I thought it would be cool for him to tell people when he was older that he spent his first birthday in Bali. One of those things you say when you are asked what is one thing we do not know about you. Our fellow guests at Klub Kokos consisted of two Dutch families both with small children. We had all learned about each other while sitting at dinner and around the pool. Our day began with our Dutch friends singing Happy Birthday to James in English and then in Dutch. Then we were packed up and headed off to our hotel at the beach in Nusa Dua. Now today was Balinese New Year's Eve, so we were told we would need to have our travel done early so that we would not be caught in traffic jams caused by the Oooga Oooga parades. What is an Oooga Oooga you ask, well it is a monster type things made to scare and entice the evil spirits of the island out of hiding and into the open. Balinese New Year has some very significant rituals intertwined into the Hindu religion. They begin by cleaning their temples, homes and villages. Every village will construct several Oooga Ooogas and they will march them from various points in the village to the cross roads of the town. Here they meet and bring the evil spirits together. The Balinese believe that once they have brought all the evil spirits out of hiding with the Oooga Ooogas, loud noises of drums, gongs and fireworks, that if they go into hiding for twenty-four hours and the evil spirits will find the island deserted and they will leave the island. All of the parades must be completed by sundown so we had to start our journey early in the day. We passed through many towns and saw Oooga Ooogas at every turn. We began our journey south by heading back into Ubud to see the palace. It is a beautiful place built in traditional Balinese style, but exceptionally decorated. Each Family group will have a compound that is usually surrounded by a wall. Within the wall, you will find several members of the same extended family living together. You can also find the family temple, livestock and sometimes livelihood inside as well. The palace is still inhabited today by the royal family of Ubud and some parts of it are not open to the public. It is hard to see in this picture but on this low table int eh second picture you can see the remains of morning tea. We imagined this is a type of sitting room.After leaving the palace, we walked next door to look at the main temple of Ubud. Here we found hundreds of people all dressed in their best clothes waiting for their turn to enter the temple and make their offering to the gods inside. Many of the women were holding small flat baskets full of rice, flowers, incense and other items of food. It is said that 70 percent of a woman's time in Bali can be spent preparing and performing religious duties. It is part of their daily lives.
Inside the temple we saw lots of chanting, drums and prayers could be heard. We took some time to take in all that was going on around us before moving on. After leaving Ubud our driver took us to Mas which is the village where most of the wood carving is done. We stopped and looked at one shop and it was amazing what you can make out of wood. They had the traditional wooden screens, animals of every shape and size. Many looking quite life like. Hindu goddesses and huge pieces of furniture. There was so much to choose from we decided that we would have to think about it and come back another time. On the way out we did see a huge old gong hanging on a wooden frame. Brian and I worked with a family through Young Life that had lived in Asia for a time and they had one of these huge gongs in their home and we thought it was very cool. We did not purchase this one but our driver told us he could take us to the village where they make the gongs and we could pick one out. Needless to say there is a gong in the future of the Head household.

Next we drove on to the village famous for silver smiths. Now for those of you who know me well I was in heaven, silver jewelery as far as the eye could see. I managed to control myself and only bought two bracelets, but James Avery has nothing on these people. We could not shop as long as I would have liked and we had to cut some stops out of our trip in order to get to our destination. We finally arrived at the Westin Nusa Dua Around 1:30. This is an amazing hotel. It is where they held the summit on global warming a few months ago. Security was a high priority, and Everything was perfect from the lobby to the beach. We had a beautiful suite with two rooms over looking the garden and the pool.

After naps and a snack it was off to see the Nusa Dua Oooga Oooga parade. I am afraid that it was not very authentic and put on mostly for the tourists, but all they same it was very exciting and the kids really seemed to enjoy it.
After a late dinner at an open air restaurant by the water it was back to the room so James could finally open his presents and then off to bed. We had a great day and I can not believe that it has been a year since James was welcomed into the world by our family. He is my precious baby boy, still laid back and always ready with a laugh and a smile. Our family has changed alot and traveled near and wide, but I know we will all remember this day with happy hearts. Blessing to all. We love you and miss you.

Where was I: Bali Day Two

Our second day in Bali began with a really nice breakfast and then we went on a tour of the small town of Ubud. Ubud is a town in the interior of Bali whose name means healing or medicine. (We can not remember) This name comes from the spot that is considered a place of healing where two rivers converge in the town. It is a town of artists. Lots of shops and things to buy. First we went to the Monkey forest. We saw lots of monkeys there doing everything you can imagine from grooming each other, playing, one was rolling a round stone around like a ball and lots of sleeping. These monkeys by no means were tame, but they were not scared of people either. If you had a banana and held it up in the air they would climb you like a tree and take it from you. We watched several different tourists do this. Carley was not amused when a monkey got close to her. She did not want to be a tree. There were several temples in the monkey forest (this is one pictured above) and a sacred bath that was surrounded by the coolest tree. I can not explain how tall it was but it towered over the river below and sent branches and roots cascading down. We spent quite awhile wandering around the monkey forest and watching the monkeys play. After we left we went to the Drum Factory a store that had all kinds of drums and percussion instruments. Carley had a great time drumming and shaking and pounding with out once being told no. We did manage to leave with out purchasing a drum. How I am not sure. After this we headed over to the market, I am disappointed that I do not have a picture to share with you. However this market is like many in Bali open air with many stalls. You can buy all kinds of Balinese handicrafts and you can bargain until your hearts content. I have gotten pretty good at bargaining in KL and I did okay in Bali. We purchased several nice things. After a nice lunch overlooking the rice padi, it was back to Klub KoKos for a swim and a nap. That afternoon as the kids took turns napping, we took a walk and found a trail that leads back to town. It was a beautiful walk. This piece of land is in between the two rivers and on one side you see beautiful rice padis and coconut trees. It is the greenest landscape I have ever seen. On our walk we passed several homes that had galleries in the front. Artists would be working right in front of you and have lots of things to choose from. I got two pretty water colors to frame and help us remember our trip. The artist was this older man with hair past his shoulders and just a sarong on. He was nice and interesting to talk to. Once again it started to rain. The rain went on and on. Carley really wanted to swim but they close the pool in the rain. So finally we just let her dance in the rain. She had a great time and even James sat on the steps and kicked in the puddles.At one point we lost power and instead of heading back into town we decided to stay in and have a candle lit dinner. The power can back on before we were done and then it was off to bed. It was a quite night full of frog sounds, crickets and rain.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bad Blogger

Well I am really sorry about my lack of blogging and it is not because of lack of topics. I have so much to share. I want to finish telling you about my Bali trip, James first birthday, smoking and other things. But today we had another forray into the wonderful healthcare system of Malaysia. This morning while trying to be a helpful husband, Brian accidentally did not get a set of glass nesting bowls all the way up on the shelf. They crashed down about 28 inches and shattered the biggest two bowls. When I tell you glass was everywhere you just have to believe me, it was like the bowls had exploded. After removing both children who happened to be standing in the kitchen and checking to see they had not a scratch on them. I went in to deal with Brain. He was bleeding from his foot and after getting it to stop I decided he needed stitches. After calling some friends to come and watch the kids, and changing I came down stairs and Brian announced that he could not move his big toe. After having a look he was right it seems that the glass landed directly on top of his extensor tendon and sliced it in half. We went to the ER and that was confirmed by the surgeon. Brian went into surgery at about four. I just left the hospital everything went fine and he was ready for some sleep. Amazing I have four orthopedic surgeons on speed dial for over seven years and we never once had to call them. And in the last two months we have both needed to see one. Dr. Rechter you are truly missed. Well I am off to bed. I will do my best to catch up on my blogging soon. Blessings to all.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Video of Gamelan Orchestra at the Water Palace

I finally figured out where my video was of the Gamelan Orchestra performance that we saw on our first evening in Bali. I hope you enjoy this short video.

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Bali Millionaire

So I am not feeling very well tonight, just really tired and needing an early bedtime So my blog will be short and I will tell you more about our trip to Bali tomorrow. One of the craziest things about going to Bali is that you become an instant millionaire. We cashed in $300 US dollars and in return got 2,865, 000 rupi. Pretty crazy. Here is a picture of the money all laid out. You can not see very well but the bright red bills are 100 000, the blue are 50, 000. They have 20, 10, 5, and 1 thousand rupi bills as well. Their coins are really odd because they feel like fake money you would find in Carley's play cash register, but they are legal tender One US dollar is worth about 9200 Rupi. Now when you shop for things and eat out you really have to be good with your math since one buffet dinner we had was 300, 000 rupi which is a little more than $30 US dollars. Not bad for an amazing seafood grill with all the trimmings. But a little intimidating when you first begin to scope things out. Yes Mrs. Darnell was right you will always need to know how to divide and you do use long division in the real world.
Good Night.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Back From Bali

Well we made it back from our trip to Bali and I can tell you that it was amazing. I will have several days of posting to share about the trip, but I know that my words and pictures will not be able to do the island justice. Bali is a beautiful island rich with tradition, amazing food, and fascinating people. It was unlike any place I have ever been, you are on sensory overload when you are there. The colors are deep and vibrant. You hear music and sounds that you are unaccustomed to and the smell of incense and delicious food is every where. We arrived in Bali and took a car to Ubud a small town in the central part of the island.

On our way there we ran into several different processions. Unknowingly I planned our trip to Bali during Balinese New Year. Several days of rituals and offerings surround this holiday. On Tuesday we found members of a village parading down the street toward the sea. They take all the holy items out of there temples and take them to the sea for a ritual cleansing. Each village in Bali has no less than three temples, so you can imagine it is quite a task to clean the temples. We passed four different parades on he road and one was in trucks. Our driver explained that the village must be far from the sea so they drive instead of walk. The Procession includes people carrying flags, umbrellas, offerings and the holy items. It is led by a group of men playing gongs. This was a wonderful way to be welcomed to the island.

Our drive to Ubud took about an hour and half. Bali is a small island that is covered with two lane roads that wind through rice paddies and villages. As we neared our hotel the roads got smaller and the views got more incredible. The road got so small in fact that we actually ran an man off the road. Our driver is the man in the back trying to figure out how we could help get the car back under way.

Here is the view from the car as we neared the hotel. We were truly in the Balinese country side surrounded by rice paddies. The green was so deep and vibrant and the air smelled sweet and clean.

Our first two nights were spent at Klub Kokos. We stayed in one of seven villas. Now don't get excited it was a little more rustic than I expected. There was a beautiful pool surrounded by tranquil gardens full of palms and orchids and the biggest elephant ear plants I have ever seen. We had a two room villa with a garden bathroom and if you are like me you do not know what that means.

Basically you go outside to use the bathroom, you have your own garden planted against a wall which gives you privacy, but you can see the sky and the stars and yes nature can come in and visit. So we had birds, and other critters in our bathroom at night that would scurry away when you turned on the lights. We had no air conditioning and that made the nights sticky, but the ceiling fans worked well. The sheets were musty so I felt as though we were at camp. But the food was delicious and the staff was so kind.

After dinner we went into Ubud to see a Balinese Dance. Our host a Klub Kokos suggested we go to the Water Palace which is a temple and see The Ladies Gamelan Orchestra and dance troupe. We were not disappointed. The setting itself was breathtaking. This temple is set in the middle of a huge pond full of Lotus plants and water lilies. The stage was just in front of the doors to the temple. You must be Hindu to go inside the temple but you can visit the courtyards on the outside. The gamelan orchestra is made up of the the Gamelan which is similar to a xylophone, gongs, drums and cymbals. Below is some video of the opening number.

We were entertained by several different groups of dancers all dressed in traditional costumes including some very small dancers that were 6-8 years old. Carley loved the dancing and got up several times to try and imitate what was being done on stage. She had a very good time entertaining the crowd in between dances. We had a beautiful day and this was perfect end.

Stay tuned tomorrow to hear about the Monkey Forest and Oooga Oooga.

It is off to bed for me. Love to all.

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