Sunday, June 3, 2012

Praya Market

The Indonesians said that it couldn't be done, but we wanted to have a BBQ. Everything they grill is satay style- on a skewer, so when we wanted to grill directly on the fire, the locals thought we were out of our mind.

We had to drive about an hour and a half to the bigger town of Praya to get supplies for our beach BBQ. We were going to construct our own BBQ grill since they obviously didn't have those on Lombok. As we approached Praya market, the Muslim faith became more and more prevalent- women were covered head to toe in 90+ degree weather. I immediately felt uncomfortable as locals stared us down. We were unwelcome guests there.

We decided to split up to maximize time getting all our food and wares together- we would meet up in 45 minutes. Sandra and I went to find the veggies and spices, Paul and Dom to look for meats and Ky off to the hardware store to construct our grill. Everything was open and subject to flies. It's no wonder Westerners suffer when they travel- Our food is so sterile compared to foreign countries, especially poor ones.

As Sandra and I wound through the food and spice stalls, women glared at us, wagged their fingers and even pinched us! I thought I was appropriately dressed in long cargo shorts and a T-shirt, but obviously not. One woman even yanked on my hoop earring and told me "Go home!" It was the first time in my life that I had received such ill treatment from a complete stranger. We hustled to get everything we needed and returned to the meet-up spot.

The boys eventually showed-up and we learned they received similar but not nearly as aggressive treatment. Dom and I both wanted to find a pirang, a machete. So the four of us went to the knife dealer before heading to the hardware store to grab Ky. He constructed the most clever grill rack for our chicken for under five bucks.

As we trudged back to the Kijang with our groceries, I felt thankful that I had the freedom to leave this place of hostility.

This is the only way Indonesians know how to grill- satay
Fresh Vegetables at Praya Market

Meat, raw and open. It's a miracle that I'm still alive.

Miniature haters in training

Monday, April 30, 2012

Deeper Indo

The days to follow on Lombok comprised of riding along in the Kijang to new surf spots and unchartered territory on the island. The boys were on the hunt for good waves and Sandra and I were up for the adventure. We'd drive along for what seemed like hours on unpaved, dirt roads to finally end up on beautiful, desolate beaches. At a spot called Mawi, we joined in on a local jam session. At another spot, Air Guling, I made friends with Maya, a four-year old who I attempted to speak Indonesian with. She was perfectly at my comprehension level.

I felt like I was finally falling into the rhythms of the island and it's people...

When we arrived back at the hotel, there Sedi was, holding Dadi, waiting for us to return. She wanted to know if she could do our laundry, sew our clothes or get us anything from her warung. She really wanted to have us over for dinner and insisted that she cook gado-gado for us. We obliged as to be polite and made arrangements for the next evening.

The following night Sedi arrived to escort us to her house, walking through thick overgrowth into undeveloped lots of land. As we walked, she explained that she was the third wife of a man, the father of her two sons, but that he didn't give her much to live on. He owned the warung that she ran and he took a majority of the earnings for his other and apparently more favorable wives. As we finally came upon a small, run-down, wooden shack, Sedi's home, I couldn't help but feel really sad for this woman. I sucked up my reservations about the situation and went inside to at least be this woman's company for the night.

There was no furniture in the two-room shack, just some woven mats on the floor. She invited us to sit down as she went to the other room, the kitchen, to finish the food. We sat down and surveyed the place- a combination living room and bedroom. Her two young boys were already in bed, next to us on the floor covered in a thin blanket. This was the first time I had been to a home with very little, and "very little" is an understatement. I don't even think parts of the walls were solid wood.

Sedi brought us all bowls of rice and sat the rest of the dishes in the middle for all of us to share. She made a fish, curried vegetables and squid gado-gado. We ate with our hands for lack of utensils and enough to be polite. I was really nervous because the home lacked running water, and I imagined us all fighting for the toilet upon our return to the hotel room. Ky and Dom took it for the team and ate up the majority of dinner. I prayed not only for our health but for this woman. At the end of the night, we each gave her some money for her hospitality and went on our way. 

Somehow we made it home in the darkness by ourselves. We were all a little quieter on the way back, maybe humbled by what we just experienced or maybe we were just processing that we ate some dangerously prepared food. I was at that moment so grateful for what I was born into, a life that enabled me freedom, comfort and the ability to travel and see and exchange with other people of varied backgrounds.

Not one of us got sick from the dinner.

The Kijang in the middle of somewhere                                                                    

Joining in on a locals jam session at Mawi
The boys in their Sasak sarongs, eating dinner at Sedi's
Maya, who was my level of Bahasa Indonesian

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Venturing Eastward

I awoke hot and sticky in the small cabin on the ferry to Lombok. I must have passed out from drinking Bintangs and feeling a little queasy from the sway of the ocean and the overpowering stench of gasoline from the boat motor. We still had a little over an hour left so I found a seat on the deck where I could take in the sea and fresh air. The boys threw out their fishing lines and trolled from the upper deck of the boat as we neared the tiny undeveloped harbor of Lembar. The contrast of Lembar against Padangbai reflected the difference between Bali and Lombok; we were about to get super ruralized. We made our way back down to the Kijang, where we loaded in and disembarked the ferry.

Kuta, a village on the south shore was our destination due to it's laid-back vibe in comparison to the rest of the island. As we made our way through the countryside, the Islam faith become more and more prevalent. Every few minutes we passed a mosque, and village after village we saw the ominous dome structure with loud speakers blaring, women covered head to toe, men and boys wearing prayer caps. Along the way, we stopped for young coconuts from an ibu, old woman, who skillfully cracked them open with her machete. After about another hour of driving, we made a stop for an early dinner at a roadside cafe. Here was the first (and last) time I had Lombok kopi (coffee). Simply hot water mixed with grounds to create a caffeinated sludge- I imagined it was what drinking mud was like. During this meal, I had another introduction- to my first real Indonesian toilet. The previous week in Bali afforded me the luxury of Western toilets but here in rural Lombok, it was a whole different story. I walked into the bathroom, a tiled room with what looked similar to a toilet bowl set in the floor and a bucket of water. I figured out that I had to squat over the toilet and after finishing, use a scoop of water to "flush." The poured water created enough pressure to open a trap in the bottom of the bowl and into the ground. Pretty archaic stuff but I had to go before we hopped in the car again.

After maybe another forty minutes in the Kijang, we arrived in Kuta, a little, quiet coastal village with chickens and goats meandering through the streets. The four of us decided to share a two-bed room where Dom kindly volunteered to sleep on the floor. The next morning the guys headed off to check the surf while Sandra and I decided to check out the shops across the street. This is where we met our local charity-case. After walking the beach, we stopped to buy some water from a warung, a family-run shop selling snacks and such. Sedi, the woman running it seemed nice enough, running the business while cradling her baby boy, Dadi. But in typical Indonesian fashion, our casual conversation turned into us buying more water, then food and finally sarongs. Considering we were paying mere pennies for these items, we went along with Sedi's coaxing. The fabric, locally woven songkets, were made with silver and gold thread and sewn end to end so that one could wear it in Sasak fashion, folded to fit ones waist and tucked over on top. Sedi asked us where we were staying and later that afternoon found us in the hotel parking lot asking if she could get us anything else. She had mini pineapples that she carved up so that holding the stalk we could eat them like an ice cream cone. At seven cents a pop, I could eat ten of these a day! This would be the first of many dozen times Sedi would show up wherever we were, hawking us anything she could.

Later in the evening, Sandra and I decided to go horseback riding on the beach as the boys chartered a boat to take them to an outer swell. We hopped a couple scooter taxis and rode to a horse ranch a few miles outside Kuta. Our ride took us through a huge all-inclusive resort complete with beach-front dinner and dance performance. The hotel seemed so removed from the reality and culture of the island, in fact, it reminded me so much of Hawaii. Staged "cultural" entertainment for the "haole" tourists. It made me kind of sad, that a place so remote was still tainted by tourism but I also understood that it was a way to stimulate local economy. 'Tis the double-edged sword of tourism. I never really got into that all-inclusive style of traveling, I always tried to experience other cultures more authentically. Riding on the beach, we saw villagers in the distance harvesting seaweed and as the sun set, I felt truly blessed for this experience.

Disembarking the island ferry

One of many mosques on the island

Ibu whacking open a young coconut

Lombok kopi (coffee)

I would pay so much more for this mini pineapple, but it only cost me seven cents- SCORE!

Riding horses on the beach with Sandra

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Pretty sad how that blogging thing worked in Asia, huh? What a total FAIL- not a complete fail but my expectations by far exceeded reality yet again. Damn expectations, they always get the best of me. I should have known it wasn't going to be this glorious "Eat, Pray, Love" experience. I should have never read that book... it's part of the reason I refuse to watch the movie. I hate disappointment.

I'm going to attempt to move backwards and recount my experiences in Asia, then pick up right here, right now and move forward. I will affirm that my Southeast Asia trip was a pivotal moment in my life... that tiny spark of bohemianism with in that led me to Asia has grown only stronger upon my return here to California. I would have never imagined before I left that I would never go back to San Diego, or to my mortgage banking job and that I'd continue my life as an artist living off the land in Northern California. All the struture and routine that I had lived with while in Southern California is a distant memory. I am the happiest I have ever been; I am free.

Let's now rewind to April 2009 where I am stuck between two Chinese male passengers on a fifteen hour flight to Hong Kong. Neither speak much English, both fall asleep for the majority of the flight... FML. This is how the trip began, and should have been a sign that my entire adventure would be far from comfortable. After changing planes in Hong Kong and making it through the extremely intimidating customs line in Bali I exited the airport to the choking humid air... ahhhh, he we go, island life. My friend, Dom met me at arrivals, of course shirt-less and drinking a Bintang. My luggage couldn't fit on his scooter so I hopped a cab and had him follow Dom to our hotel in the heart of Kuta. I had no idea that I was entering the SE Asian version of Tijuana. It was crazy; it was OVERWHELMING. Walking the streets of Kuta you are bombarded by hawkers shouting left and right while scooters and cars are weaving between people down narrow alleyways. We rented an SUV, a Kijang to drive around and to eventually drive on the ferry to the next island over. I had to follow Dom on the scooter driving the Kijang, a manual with a left driver's side. WTF!? I successfully caught a scooter handle under my left wheelwell and drug the thing down the alley upon my first try. The entire restuarant in which it happened in front of all "OOOOOHHHHHH"ed in unison. I wanted to shrivel up and die. What the hell had I signed up for? Thankfully, nothing is legit in Bali and some locals untangled the scooter from under my car and told me to take off. Dom was no where to be seen. I had to catch up and find him!

About 35 minutes later we arrived in the southern part of Bali at Bingin Beach to stay at "Sticky's Place," a cliff side surf hostel overlooking the ocean. Immediately, the women approached me asking if I wanted massage or my bag carried or food or water. Basically, anything to give them a buck. Made (mah-deh), the sister of Sticky lived at a house near the "parking lot" so we paid her to "watch" our car, a surfboard and one of my bags. Upon descending the eroding cliff side stairs that plunged to the beach below, I was overcome with relief that I decided to leave that bag back at Made's. There's no way in hell that I was hauling it UP, and to be quite honest, I was already a little anxious about how I was going to make it back up MYSELF. The local women hauled milk crates full of bottled drinks on their heads, among other commodities like it was nothing. This is why they are so skinny, I thought... Awesome, I'm going to shed some lbs! Boy, did I, but not from the stairs, but I'll get to that eventually.

Upon arrival at Sticky's, about two-thirds down the cliff, we checked into one of two larger rooms since it had it's own bathroom with a toilet and shower. It was a cute bungalow perched above the rest of the rooms with a view of the ocean. The deck "living room" outside of our bedroom was my place to nap, sketch, journal, assess my bounty from beach combing or where Dom and I would listen to music and play "Pass the Pigs "with Kanish, a Balinese local and friend of Sticky's who worked as a tour guide. This was a perfect slice of paradise and at $10/night each between Dom and I, it was where I could spend my entire trip. However, Dom was on the move and wanted to chase the swell further east, so our stay was contained to three nights. I was up for the adventure, this was the reason I was here, right? Besides, I figured that chances of me going THAT far out into the Indo wilderness by myself was highly unlikely.

While hanging in the common area at Sticky's we met an Australian couple, Ky and Sandra, who were game for going with us in the Kijang to Lombok. The next morning, we were up and on the road early to catch the noon ferry from Padangbai Harbor a couple of hours drive from Bingin. We stopped for breakfast of chicken satay (skewers) from a roadside stand and fresh cut pineapple. Ah, the island fruit, I was so happy. Rice fields and countryside whizzed by as we made our way to the inter-island ferry. I couldn't help but think to myself "this is the REAL Bali," devoid of the cheap tourist vibe. At the Harbor we bought our tickets for the passage to Lombok and drove the Kijang into the queue for the boat. The guys went to a nearby tackle store to purchase some line and lures to help the four-hour ferry ride pass while Sandra and I waited in the Kijang. Of course the usual hawkers were present with anything from sodas and candy to homemade rice and chicken packets wrapped in banana leaf. We each purchased something to tide us over for the long journey ahead and drove on board the old beast that was our ferry. I had never driven onto a boat, so I was pretty excited to be riding in this manner. Passengers boarded by foot as we parked our car, gathered our items and headed upstairs to the main area. A small cabin was offered to us for a ridiculously low sum, so the four of us piled in, thankful for the privacy, small fan, bed and table that it offered. As the ferry embarked into the vast Indian Ocean, we cracked open our Bintang beers and relaxed for the four-hour passage.

My Bingin Beach Bounty

The view from our bungalow at Sticky's

Padangbai Harbor as seen aboard the ferry

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


i'm finally getting all my last minute details squared away before i head out of this reality for a few months... one of them being a blog.

i'm prone to dropping off the face of the communication world for long periods of time, so this is my attempt at keeping the few that care updated on my big world adventure. i'll hopefully have enough internet access over there to keep this properly posted with photos and stories. soooo although i'll royally SUCK at sending personal e-mails (apologies in advance), you can still share in my adventures throughout indonesia... cambodia... vietnam... and wherever else life ends up leading me.

i can't believe i'm FINALLY leaving... it's about freaking time.

selamat jalan!