So far my experience here reminds me of two things. The meditation retreat I went on, and Burning Man. Realistically it’s not like either, but I have a long running inside joke with a friend of mine, that everything reminds me of Burning Man. This stems from when I was a kid- well, my early twenties, but that’s still kind of a kid, right? This friend of mine used to get so irritated because I was constantly saying “oh my god, that totally reminds me of Burning Man! …that totally reminds me of Burning Man! …THAT totally reminds me of Burning Man!”
In hindsight, Burning Man was the only thing outside of my normal life/comfort zone that I had ever really experienced at the time. It was the only thing I had to compare to. So anything that was reminiscent of my experience there or evoked a similar feeling “totally reminded me of Burning Man.”
Here are the ways in which I find my experience in Bali similar to my experience of Burning Man:
-Walking around in a disoriented state of awe, taking in the mass amounts of stimulation and newness.
-Wandering around confusing back pathways trying to figure out where my “camp” is.
-Finding little restaurants (“theme camps”) hidden way back in the middle of nowhere along these confusing back pathways.
-Roofs but no walls.
-Dodging unruly motorbike traffic (at burning man it was non-motor bikes)
-Making sure to carry water with me everywhere.
-Being glad I brought a headlamp
-Showering outside (open air bathrooms)
-Brushing my teeth with bottled water
As for the meditation retreat connection, that is simply because I haven’t really met anyone yet, so I’m really alone with my thoughts- and having a lot of them! I’ve been journaling a ton! Thank God Truth I love, and am well versed in, the experience of “thought watching” and really being comfortable with riding my internal experience. Also, thank God Truth for my journal/writing. It’s a great way to unload and process my thoughts and experience, then transferring it to this forum allows me to take you all with me on this journey!
So here’s where I’m at today. I am getting ready to move to another homestay. A lot of the places I was looking at with pools were already booked for these next few days. But there was a place that a friend of mine recommended, when I first started planning my trip, which had openings for the next couple of nights. The place has a lot of rooms, which means more likely to meet other people and it also seems closer to some of the popular yoga studios.
There is a couple of yoga studios that I have read and heard a lot about in my whole trip planning process. I’m not that into yoga. I have my little morning routine, but other than that I have little interest in the yoga scene. And I really was feeling put off by the idea of traveling across the world only to be surrounded by more white yogis. But I have to say, I wouldn’t mind finding some white yogis now. Just to feel a sense of familiarity to give me some more grounding.
There are lots of white people/westerners here, but they are clearly tourists passing through. And seems like mostly couples. This is a great place for a single woman traveling alone. Not such a great place for a single woman not wanting to have ‘being single’ rubbed in my face. Which just proves the old adage- wherever you go, there you are. I have to say though, I have been amused at the amount of couples I have walked past, who were in mid-argument. I guess the stresses of being strangers in a strange land have gotten to them.
Anyway, I have to admit, I think I have not ventured away from the most touristy areas yet, so that is likely part of the issue. I find myself seeking two kinds of people right now. The expats, and the gays.
This isn’t a place where you can go waving a rainbow flag or same-sex couples can walk around openly being a couple, but I have good gaydar, and I’m keeping my eyes open. In most of the experiences in my life where I have taken big leaps outside of my comfort zone, it was the gay folks who really greeted me on the other side. They were my first friends when moving to a new place, my first clients when starting a new business, my cheerleaders and supporters. I have so much love, respect, and gratitude for the gay community. So I’m looking out for my gays.
Yesterday I did finally branch off the beaten path a little bit, and finally started to find some areas that felt a little more along the lines of what I expected Bali to be like. So far, in this particular area, here in Ubud, there is a lot of hustle and bustle. I find myself craving open spaces. All of the houses are cramped together and the streets are buzzing with motorbikes, taxis, and tour busses. So it was nice to find some more quite side roads.
Aside from finally branching out a little bit, I experienced a few milestones in that last couple of days. My first blisters. My first rip off. My first bargaining. My first encounter with a street dog. All of which were bound to happen at some point.
So let’s break it down…
I mentioned how badly my feet swelled from the plane ride. I have yet to tighten the straps on my sandals. They are not as bad as when they were on the plane, and they are better when I first wake up (especially if I sleep with them elevated) but this heat has definitely caused my feet to swell a little and therefore I’ve gotten my first blisters. Fascinating, I know.
Next, I did my research, I know that you are supposed to bargain here- which was one of the many fears that arose in the trip planning process. I hate bargaining. Some people totally get off on it. I fucking hate it. But I also realized in that process that it would probably be really good for me to get comfortable and confident with it. There is an undeniable and inextricable connection between money and fear in my life. And those fears have arisen a lot, not only in the planning process, but since I’ve been here as well. I’ll get more into that later.
So I know you have to bargain, but from what I’ve read, you bargain with the street vendors, but inside the shops you do not bargain. Some of these “shops” are in a grey area. I’m still getting the hang of it all. And I really wanted to try to find a place where I could buy a SIM card for my phone and get my Balinese phone number set up. I wasn’t seeing anyplace, until finally I happened upon a little shop that had a giant rock outside with gold letters etched into it “SIM card”. I asked him how much and paid the price he asked. It was roughly $15 USD. When I got back later I did some googling only to find that I could have easily gotten it for about $5 USD. It felt shitty when I realized, but my first rip off could have been much worse, so I lived and learned.
After that, while booking my next homestay, I asked if they could send a driver to pick me up. I asked the cost and they quoted the equivalent of about $7. It’s a short drive, which I could easily walk if I didn’t have heavy bags to carry, plus I still find getting around very confusing so I just wanted someone to take me exactly where I needed to go. But even for that, I know that $7 is ridiculous. Again, I’m still not totally clear on which situations you are supposed to bargain, and which not. I’m paranoid about offending their culture here (that’s just one of my many fears I am being confronted with). But bargaining is part of their culture and I thought to myself, I have spent way too much of my life worried what other people might think of me, and not wanting to offend anyone. What’s the worst that can happen if I just ask if they can bring the price down? Like I said, this is a difficult, yet important, practice for me to gain confidence in, here, and in my everyday life. I bargained the price down to $5 which, after the fact, still seemed like a rip off, but it’s a start. Baby steps.
Later is when I finally decided to branch off the main drag and found some charming little streets. There were lots of beautiful doorways with statues in them- I couldn’t tell if these were doorways to temples, houses, or businesses.
Whilst making my way down these streets there were many more street dogs than on the main road (there were plenty on the main road as well). I had assumed that it would be a struggle for me, as an animal lover and particularly a dog lover, to try to ignore them, but I have had no problem at all. These dogs are scrappy. And savvy. I made the mistake of making eye contact with one, and he proceeded to start growling and barking, and my heart started racing. Another fear: rabies. Or, rather, rabies in a foreign country. But it was fine, I looked away and kept walking while making a note to self: do not make eye contact with the street dogs- they know what’s up.
I’m realizing on a whole new level just how much this trip is about confronting the mass amounts of fear in my life. I think that’s why the first half of this year was a little rough for me. I was stuck in a state of fear and I was letting that fear control me. Just deciding to take this trip was an act of facing my fears. Even before I decided to do it, just contemplating it was facing a fear.
I remember the fear I had around simply spending the money on buying a Lonely Planet book on Bali. Because deep down, I knew that it wasn’t just a book, it was a step. And if Neil Armstrong has taught us anything it’s that one small step can actually be a giant leap.
I leapt and I’m here. And now I am being confronted by my fears on a whole new level. Especially my money fears- getting robbed/pick-pocketed, getting ripped off- by vendors, by money changers, spending money, which could lead to running out of money. But I have to remind myself that here, I am literally a millionaire!
Yesterday I looked around for a legitimate place to get my money changed, but I’m still having trouble figuring out what is considered hole in the wall here. I think I’m starting to spot the difference. I ended up just going to an ATM, but I can’t avoid it forever. I also can’t avoid the vendors and the bargaining. Because I definitely need to buy a few things. My hippy messenger bag that I love, especially because my nephew gave it to me, the zipper broke. Thank God Truth it made it through the trip over here. I also need to buy some clothes. I didn’t pack a lot and what I did pack was pretty light, but not light enough. My leggings and tank tops feel like sweaters here, so it’s time to pick up some of those flowy Balinese dresses.
I will be happy to have clothing more suited for this weather. It has been especially hot the last couple of days, which I will also note, has made the water in the “bum gun” hot. “Bum gun” is a term, I think coined by the Aussies, for the water sprayers used to clean yourself, instead of toilet paper. TP is only used for drying purposes here and is not to be flushed. So anyway, hot water on the bum was a little startling.
On that note, I’m off to find some more suitable clothing.