Quick Update, Thick Post

Greetings from Medan.

So, I haven’t been as persistent as I’ve been hoping to be, especially since Bali would have so much goodness packed into it. Get ready for a chunky post, people (if you’re going to shimmy through this, just jump to the last bullet point – that’s what I want you to read).

Bali:

  • Checked out the monkey forest near our accommodations. The little buggers stole Freya’s newly bought bunch of bananas, mistaken her for their mother (biting at her boob), and rubbed their poop on my pants. Splendid. But I guess you can really blame them: always being teased by tourists and all those unfortunate shenanigans.
  • Met some girls from Germany studying in England, who gave me that extra boost of confidence when they told me that travelling after finishing school is the best thing you can do. Especially when you’re as clueless about the future as myself.
  • Kaleem and I made our way to Kuta. Our taxi driver, Putu, gave us insight into Hinduism in Bali and how it differ than what is practiced in India. Mainly because the three major gods – Trimurti, Brahma and Vishnu – are all categorized into one, whereas in India, they are in different sects of some sort. What is right? That, I cannot tell you.
  • Went surfing in Kuta with Kaleem. Got some lessons from a super chill, very patient and all around friendly guy from Padang. “Horas”, my Batak brotha.
  • Overall, wasn’t a fan of Kuta. Not trying to sound like a self-absorbed traveler, but it was much preferred to mingle with the locals. I can tell you something that I know for sure, and that’s that the Balinese people rock. Always smiling, hospitable, and very bubbly. A majority of the foreigners there were drunk, shirtless and cruising the streets with their BINTANG wife-beaters being obnoxious.
  • However, one of the highlights of Kuta was a late night hunt for martabak with Kaleem, which consisted being guided down an alleyway and jumping on the back of a motorbike with a random dude to get to this little piece of heaven.
  • Met up with mama coming from northern Bali, and headed to Uluwatu. Although their were plenty of tourists here, they’re definitely the bunch I’d like to associate myself with. It’s a nice little town where a bunch of surfers go to catch some advanced waves. Myself? I’ll just watch. Still a rookie.
  • After two nights in Uluwatu, went back to Ubud to reunite with out family friends, and enjoy our last couple of days in Bali.
  • Oh, and some more random hitchings of motorcycle rides.

Jakarta:

  • Final days with friends and my little bro.
  • Discovered that my second eldest cousin is the coolest person ever. It’s different talking to a psychologist on a personal, more casual level as to discussions with your pals. They read you so well and essentially say all the things your words lack and what you struggle to explain. Kak Wita, you rock, my friend.

Medan:

  • Reunited with a majority of my mama’s side of the family. That needs a whole post to itself to get the gist of the different dynamics, personalities and all-around interest that I, and I’m sure many others, would find in observation of these 5 out of 7 sisters. Let’s just say that each one has their own cliché character: the drama queen, the free-spirited tomboy, the stubborn one, the cautious sister, the humble being, and the list goes on… slash, I don’t want to be disowned by my family.
  • Learning about my mama’s youth has also been one of the coolest experiences in my adventure. Staying in the house she grew up in really dawned on me how rich and dense her family history is. It’s not the first time that I’ve been here, but I guess with maturity (what are you talking about, Amira?), you develop a sense of appreciation for your roots. No matter how bizarre matters may be now.
  • Skyped my pops for the first time in a while. I know some readers may be looking at this section of the post and be skimming right through this. People, just take a moment to read this part
    Talking to him was awesome. In one word: enlightening. Before I continue, keep in mind that this is as personal as it will get, and also note, I’m not a fan, nor am I a veteran in pouring my heart out via internet. That being said… don’t hate.
    Okay, so as you may or may not know, I’m travelling. Travelling by myself. I have not yet reached the pinnacle of solo-venturing (I’m planning on starting that as of April in Laos), nonetheless, I’m still nervous. For what? Yes, I’m concerned for my safety and the customs that come as a female travelling alone, and yes, I worry that I won’t meet any companions along the way… but no.
    What I’m honestly nervous for is that this epiphany or inspirational moment that everyone speaks of when travelling won’t come along. And that challenge is even further escalated when it comes to who I can share these moments with. Meeting new people at this point, I’ve learned, is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. Sure, I’ve met people from corners from all over the globe and we’ve shared some pretty magnificent stories, but what poses as a challenge here is that all the folks I’ve met are either a.) a lot older than me and although I have no right to say this, my impression from the way they speak to me, especially at my ripe age, is that I come off as naive; or b.) if anywhere remotely close to my age, are already travelling in groups. This is just being very, VERY, general, but the encounters that I’ve had with group travelers, is that they weren’t willing to mingle. That’s cool though and I totally understand that some people want to share these experiences with those near and dear to their heart. HOLD ON THOUGH, FOLKS. Before you get pissed off and I get an inbox of hate mail saying of what an ungrateful bitch I am, let me give you the best lesson I’ve learned from this – epiphany courtesy of Michael Loosemore.
    I need to be less selfish. Travelling is not about me. It’s about the world about me. Don’t force anything. Although I may not be inspired now, it’ll slap me in the face when I return home. And above all, let things happen. Go with the flow. You never know what’ll happen next, and let it be that way. After all, I’m here to travel without claims of objectivity.
    Thanks, dadi.

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From the Togian Islands to Ubud

Hey hey from Ubud Bali!

After a couple weeks of venturing ’round Singapore and Jakarta, and a month of teaching and travelling in Sulawesi, I’m here in Ubud, Bali, reunited with my mama, brother and our long-time family friends. However, just to fill in the gaps between now and Tanjung Bira, here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • Spent more than a day travelling in order to get from Makassar to Bataluka Island which involved transportation via plane, night bus and ferry
  • Our accommodations on Bataluka Island (one of the many Togian Islands which we were set to explore), hosted a bunch of folks from all over the globe. Met some fellow Canadians (which – holy crap, small world – are the godparents of a girl I went to high school with), an Italian, Aussies, Swedes, Spaniards, Germans – you name it.
  • Played cards with the family who runs the business there and a drunk Quebecois.
  • Snorkelled the Togian Islands. The highlight of the spots were a sea garden which had an incredible variety of marine life and a psychedelic array of colours, and swimming with a perfectly coordinated school of fish which would form a donut around you and always managed to avoid contact no matter how sly you were.
  • The trip back to Makassar was not in our favour: arrived early`at the Wakai ferry terminal, only to board a late boat to Ampana; there, we were suppose to catch a bus at 5:00 pmto Palu… whoops, late ferry means late arrival – missed that ride; luckily, we found out there was a bus at 10:00 pm that we could catch; little did we know, this ride was over-crowded, sweaty and loud (3 infants and some people who like to sing out loud); after 12 hours of cruising from Ampana to Palu, we finally catched our flight back to Makassar.
  • Nonetheless, the bus ride was quite eventful. Chilled in the back for a little while with some dudes from Palu and a fridge (I guess someone was moving?). One lad was a student studying ecnomical anthropology and does nature photography in his spare time. In fact, he got on the bus in Luwuk which is a hub for folks who do scuba diving or snorkelling around the Banggai Islands. There, he was doing some underwater photography of the damaged corals due to commercial fishermen.
  • Said my final goodbyes in Makassar, which was more mentally difficult than I thought it would be. How do you say bye to these amazing people you’ve only known for a month and probably won’t see for a solid few years? The hardest of those good byes were with the maid, the youngest son and the uncle of my home stay. Over the past month I’ve gotten really close to these genuine, humble and hilarious people, and the best way that I can describe our partings is that “it sucks”.
  • Got on a plane to Bali, where my mama picked me up at Denpasar airport. The taxi drivers and tour guides probably thought we were both on crack as this crazy gringo girl jumped into the arms of a hollering Indonesian lady. Met my ill brother back at the hotel where he was resting, and am currently bunking with a long-time friend from Nelson who I haven’t seen in nearly two years. Lots of catching up to do, and no place better to do it in than in the tranquillity of Ubud.
  • Had some mother-daughter bonding time over a trip to the market via cycling. We later took the back roads which took a toll on our asses but was all worth it just to get a glimpse of the rice paddies that Bali is so famous for.
  • Went to a night market outside of Ubud (finally, a place where Indonesians weren’t the minority) where we all indulged in Indonesian cuisine.

Oh, and here’s my story of the day:
When we were at the night market, I went to go get myself some martabak (I’m having an affair with this Middle Eastern pancake). While the lady was cookin’ up a storm, some child beggers were poking at me and holding out their hands saying “money, money, money”. Personally, I’d rather buy them food or water so I know where the change is destined to be used and not end up in the pockets of some hustler. So, I bought them martabak. While we were all waiting for their food to cook, I asked them how old they were. They didn’t know. The youngest girl said that she thinks she’s 12 even though she has a small body. After their martabak was ready, I wished them happy eatings and said my farewells. The ironic thing though, that even after buying them food, they still asked for money. Makes me wonder where it’s really all going to…

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Tanjung Bira and Beyond

Selamat pagi from Makassar, y’all…

It’s been a few days since I got back from Tanjung Bira, and what a cool place indeed. It had all the picturesque qualities of paradise minus the cluster of overcrowding visitors or the homogenized western culture. Excellent. Again, in classic and always convenient point form, here’s what went down:

  • On the eve of my birthday, me, the two sons of my home stay, their uncle and cousin, and a girl that I work with at the learning centre, packed our bags and embarked on a 7 hour drive to Tanjung Bira: the most southern point of Sulawesi.
  • We arrived there in the evening and set up base at a cottage that was slowly deteriorating and provided stupendous privacy courtesy of their door-less bathroom. Totally fine though and all part of the adventure.
  • The next day, we rented a boat from 3 guys who lived on an island which was just a 20 minute boat ride from Tanjung Bira.
  • Went snorkelling and explored some psychedelic corals. We also got to chill with some humongous turtles! Not Galapagos big, but you get the idea. I’ll also note that how they depict Crush and Squirt in Finding Nemo is exactly what turtles would behave like if they could talk.
  • Finished the day with a football (oh yes, I call it football now – not soccer. I’m clearly very authentic and very in touch with my multiculturalism) game with the guys we rented the boat off of.
  • Began the next day with a morning dip and checked out the pinisiq boats in Tanah Beru before heading on back to Makassar.

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So that wraps up Tanjung Bira, here’s other things that have been hip-hopitty-happenin’:

  • Watched the PSM football match – my first live football game. Very exciting and intense.
  • Got really sick for one day. Felt like a vegetable. However, with the help of rest, saraba (which I’m going to miss like crazy when I leave), and Sprite, I was able to get back to work in two days. Crazy miracle, I tell you.
  • Taught my last class at SD Pundarika! (Queue Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time”). Complete bummer. Despite the voice loss due to teaching 30 person classes 9 times a week, I’d just like to throw in that these kiddos rock. Super generous, eager to learn, intelligent, and hilarious (Bill Crosby, please host these students. Perfect candidates for Kids Say the Darndest Things).

And now, I’m off to the Togian Islands as of tomorrow! Woo hoo! Oh, and again, some photos to leave you with of the students… PS: please comment. Feedback is simply the best.

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