Arriving in Bali

Jan 30, 2024

I arrived in Bali one week ago to an excited driver who was holding a sign with my name on it.  When we got to his car, I asked, “Do I sit in the front seat or that back?”  “You’re preference, madam.”  He gives me a huge smile.  “Ok, I prefer the front seat.”  I open the passenger door and find myself looking at the steering wheel.  “Oh!  Only, other side!” We have a big laugh at my ignorance.  


He has lots of questions for me on the 90 minute drive.  The best question was, “You like kopi?”  This is the Indonesian word for coffee.  “Yes, I love it!”  “I take you to best kopi.”  So we stopped at a totally unexpected place.  I was immediately swept up by a local woman in a colorful sarong who was showing me a variety of plants along a trail… ginger, turmeric, mangosteen, she showed me a cinnamon tree.  She broke off a leaf and mashed it between her fingers then offered it to me to smell.  Cinnamon!  She said, “We get the cinnamon from the bark but the leaves smell same.”  Then she introduced me to the resident lewak… an untethered animal walking back and forth on a platform.  This is all happening so fast, and with the heavy accents and broken English , I can tell I’m missing a lot.  I thought I was coming here for coffee!  She’s explaining something about the lewak and then she’s running her hands through a tray of coffee beans, and slowly I begin to understand.  I ask her, “So, the lewak eats the beans and poops them out and you make coffee from that?”  “Yes, but totally clean because  shell of bean stay and we take off after drying in the sun, roasting, totally clean.  Because of time in lewak belly, kopi more smooth, very little caffeine. Most delicious kopi in the world.  Expensive kopi because we peel beans by hand after drying.”  AH.  Ok, so it’s like the coffee in the that Bucket List movie with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.  


My guide brings me to a table overlooking a rice paddy and asks if I’d like to try the lewak kopi?  It’s $3 a cup.  “Yes, I’ll try.”  She brings the cup along with a tray of 15 samples of many other types of drinks.  This tray is free for every guest.  What in the world?  She also gives Komang a cup of Arabica coffee as thanks for bringing me here.  She stays with me as I taste everything.  The lewak coffee is absolutely delicious.  It is so smooth and so tasty, it needs nothing added.  I want to just enjoy this cup, but I also feel pressured to begin the tasting board as my hostess is standing there waiting.  There are teas, blended coffees, juices… it’s really incredible.  Everything is so good.  One was a bright blue or deep purple color that she said was pea flower.  Each tea has healing powers.  She told me what they were remedies for.  I sipped until I couldn’t take anymore.  It was a $3 experience that was worth so much more.  I had the opportunity to buy any of the teas and coffees, but since my hotel won’t have a kitchen I only bought one box of mangosteen tea.  


On the continued drive, Komang pointed out temples, Ubud Palace, and he explained that every house has a temple at the entrance.  “Every house?”  “Yes!  You will see them everywhere.”  He was right.  There are gorgeous doors and gates and elaborate entrances to the compounds where families live.  It’s nothing like homes in the US.  These living spaces have a courtyard, a bathroom, maybe a kitchen outside, sometime lush gardens, sometimes motorcycles and junk and laundry on the line.  Some homes have a business at the front.  A shop or a fruit stand or a cafe or a warung restaurant.  warung is a type of small family-owned business — small retail, eatery, or cafe.  I learned about this from some young people at the hotel pool.  They were from Croatia? Romania? Estonia? and they pronounced it like ‘vah-dung.’  The next time I saw them I asked for them to spell it and I realized I was seeing the word all over town.  I tried a warung place they recommended.  I ordered chicken satay and nasi goreng which is fried rice with a fried egg on top.  I met a young woman there who was also solo traveling and she was drinking a big coconut.  “How is it?”  I asked her.  “It’s good. Not too sweet”. Her name is Romane.  She has a heavy French accent but she is from Belgium.  She tells me that coconut water is good for Bali belly, and they can cut open the coconut for you after you drink the water and there is a jelly inside that is very good cure.  I will be grateful for this information in the near future.


My first few days in Bali are a bit overwhelming as all my senses adjust to this wildly new environment.  Mostly, my eyes can’t take it all in.  I’m not gifted with a strong sense of direction, so, thank goodness for google maps.  I’ve got to figure out if my phone plan covers all my roaming or do I need to buy a sim card here?  Can I drink the water?  (The answer is definitely not).  Where is the healthy food?  Are there long stretches of sidewalk where I can exercise?  (Again, the answer is no!). Where is the Yoga Barn?  Can I walk there easily from here? (Nope). Walking here is not easy at all.  There are hardly any sidewalks and the narrow streets are filled with motorbikes and minivans traveling fast in each others lanes.  Some bikes even roll up onto the sidewalks to go around cars.  


My friends from the pool teach me about Grab which is like Uber… and they said I can hire a bike to take me most places.  A ride from here to the Yoga Barn is $1.25!  They also taught me about a currency exchange app so I can easily figure out how much everything costs… because one US dollar = 15 rupiah… and that math is really hard for my brain.  When someone tells you something costs 75,000… you panic a little… but that is only $4.74!  I had a massage on my first day and went ahead and had my toes painted afterward.  The whole experience with tip cost me $20.  There is something so fun about paying for things with ease here.  I feel so rich!  It seems like having the experience of riches… not having to think about a purchase… just see it, want it, get it… might be really good therapy for cultivating a healthy money mindset.  We’ll see if it works on me.


I admit, I have had to fight the feeling of fear as I settle in.  I’m going to be here for 2 months.  That’s a long time.  What if it’s a mistake.  What if I get too lonely?  What if I get sick or hurt?  I keep reminding myself to be right here right now.  Breathe in, breathe out.  I talk to myself with a lot of encouragement.  "You’ll figure it out.  You are safe.  You have a place to stay.  You know how to ask questions.  You have google in the palm of your hand.  Relax.  Look around.  Sip some poo coffee!  You are HERE.  You’re finally here… after wishing to for so long.  Float in the pool, listen to the birds, talk to the other travelers, rest, get another massage, buy some bottled water.  It’s all gonna work out, Sunshine."  

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