Saturday, 23 October 2010

This week all thoughts are with Petra, who had to go back home for a short time...looking forward to having you back soon Petra! X
It’s been another hard week at school. I am continuing to practice with local’s, who, as our vocabulary grows, take it upon themselves to develop our speaking skills - in other words, everyone is a teacher! I think this is really cool because it means they are proud of their language and they are happy for foreigners to become more a part of their community. I hope I pick up the same vibe on Flores, and my colleagues at work want to talk to me as much!
I have started a list of interesting things I have seen people on motorbikes carry. I wish i had pictures but I only see these people when I am travelling on my bike so never get to my camera quickly enough. You can get whole shops on bikes, we have even seen one with a frame attached to the back dangling little bags of water with fish in them going around! But to make the list, it requires one handed driving - one driver, and something in their hand. So, the last one I saw was a guy pulling a wheelie bin along beside him. Before that it was a guy with a steel pipe and my favourite, and the one that inspired the list was a guy, already in a wetsuit travelling up a street near where I stay carrying a harpoon! How do they change gear? Or accelerate?!?!?! Are they riding automatics to be able to do this? And in the traffic?? I never fail to be surprised here!
We attended a music event showcasing young alternative talent which was interesting. IT was organised by a friend of the manager at VSO, who set up a charity to help kids find opportunities in music. There was no lack of talent, some good voices and guitarists, however there was a shortage of originality...think Jack Johnston or his female equivalent. They all looked the part, with very cool haircuts, skinny jeans, lumberjack shirts!
Yesterday, Paul, Sarah and I took a boat trip to neighbouring Lombogan Island. Unfortunately, our rainy season has started (hope this helps those in Aberdeen surprised by snow earlier in the week feel a bit consoled!) so the sea was a little choppy and most people got pretty sea sick. Disaster! Glad to say I didn’t have the problem of puking my way across the Indian Ocean however, it made it a bit of a quiet affair. When we got there we did a bit of snorkelling, watched some surfing, played in a pool with the fastest slide ever and took a glass bottom boat. It was a really nice day and nice to see another place. Exploring my new home and its culture really is one of the reasons I came here so I’m squeezing in as much as I can..... (does looking at fish count as culture?)
And I’ve started my yoga, which is brilliant. I brought my Bikram yoga book and when I’ve had a bit of time on my hands I do that. No need for a heated room here as I sweat like crazy even when its evening here so it’s ideal to get the best out of that yoga! It takes an hour and a half and I’m planning to do it regularly in Flores.  
We are over the half way mark in Bali and my thoughts are turning to work. I am really excited about starting up, especially after a really positive meeting with VSO to get an update on my role. But for now, I will channel this motivation for language school!!!
A baby monkey at the Monkey Temple, Ubud

Me deep in the jungle....or rather in the Monkey Temple

Some girls getting dressed in traditional Balinese costume for their equivalent of Guiness World Records. They were part of the 1,500 who gathered to take the top spot for most Balinese Women in tradional dress at the same place. Makes me remember how much I wanted to be in that Glasgow can can!

Cute wee dancers on stage at the Nusa Dua festival

2 seconds before a baby was lying underneath the raised foot - too slow!

Nusa Dua beach, so gorgeous I didnt notice until we walked back the way there was another beach to my right!

The stairs to a Hindu monument...I ran all the way up!

The prize at the top, a pretty huge statue!

Our yaht for the day, ah bliss!

Can you make out the coral through the window of the glass bottomed boat? AMAaaaaazing!

You really need to click on this one to make it big, but its one of the beaches on Lombogan Island

All aboard! My shipmates for the trip to Lombongan
Til next posting, take care! xx

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer....this is what might come to mind if you were to see me today after cycling in the midday sun yesterday! But don't worry mam, I'm using my sunscreen! 
Ive nearly been in Bali for three weeks and they have gone in a flash! I have acclimatised enough to not drip with sweat after a 30 minute cycle to the office, my bites have calmed down and new ones seem less intense, I’m building up the level of heat I can cope with in my food nicely and I’m relaxed enough to blast my ipod when cycling on those busy streets. Infact, cycling to school at 7:30 am in the glow of the morning sun, listening to ‘The Blinding’ was just one of those moments where I was like, wow, this is pretty amazing! Even though my journey to school involves a stretch on the dual carriageway by-pass every morning, people don’t really drive that fast in Sanur, so it’s not too scary when they overtake.
The thing I like best about cycling is that you get to explore a lot, more than if you were wandering around on foot. I still have to try to curb my western enthusiasm for speeding and slip into Bali’s ‘rubber time’ so as to soak up more of what is going on!
We had our motorbike training, which was to help us adapt from driving on beautifully paved roads (actually the potholes in Aberdeen could rival some of the roads here!), to Bali traffic and conditions. I can’t say I truly enjoyed the motorbike training; it was hot, we had tons of clothes on, the bikes were heavy (165 litre engines) and well, the volume of other motorists is just a bit intense but I will be glad of it when I come to tackle the mountainous conditions of Flores! I had my shoulders up to my ears and elbows sticking out because I was so tense! I guess it just takes practice. I had no real trouble with bike control, just lacking a little confidence on the road.
It was the boss of our office’s birthday on the Saturday we started the bike training, so we chipped in and got him a cake and made a card, which he seemed really pleased about, so that was nice. He has introduced us to a few of his friends who work and live on Bali which I enjoy because it is nice to meet people outside VSO and they very often have interesting histories!
In other news, I am pleased to report that I have seen a reasonable variety of wildlife....starting with a LOT of bats! It’s not horror movie scary seeing a bat as I imagined, they have always been fairly small lone bats, not like a whole flock...or whatever it is bats fly in! Its quite cool to see a bat actually because they move silently and are erratic in direction! I’ve only seen one cockroach and I seriously hope it stays that way! I’ve seen TONS of gekos, but they are very cute, with their pink little toes. Just yesterday I saw men starting a cock fight, which was pretty grim. My friend Paul told me that they were just practising with them and in real, they put razor blades on their feet and give them steroids and stuff, so that was a bit horrible. There are a lot of dogs going around. They are flea ridden and have patchy fur, and one in my street has no hair at all, its quite sad to see, but we walk around them with caution for fear of a rabid bite! They don’t appear to want to bite all that often though and its more likely to see someone passing on a motorbike giving them a kick! A lot of the cats around don’t have tails, though Ive yet to discover why that is.
At school during one of our 30 minute lunch breaks (vive le France and 1 hour lunches!), Sarah and I went to check out some live music we could hear being played from another part of the school. The kids were delighted to see us and invited us up onto the patio to dance with them! They were playing traditional music. The instruments were wooden, tin or skin, generally percussion and it sounded pretty improvised. I enjoyed the kids’ enthusiasm more than I enjoyed the music; the rhythm was meditative, but at the same time angular so I can never quite get into it. Its jerky, like nothing I have heard before, although I’m acquiring an appreciation for it! They invited us to watch a show when they next perform in exchange for some English help...sounds like a good deal to me!

I’m coming on a little with the language a little - I even managed to have a few short conversations without Sarah! She is brilliant at chatting to locals, in Bahasa Indonesia. Everyone here seems to want to say hello so if you take the time they will let you share a few sentences, which is fun. It helps with confidence and vocabulary memorisation! My family help me with homework and we chat in the morning and evening if I am home in time so I definitely have lots of opportunity to practice.

There are some words that make me laugh. In Indonesian, letters rarely change their sound. The alphabet is a bit differently pronounced to English, but basically you say it as you see it. For example, (read these out loud)
Es crem

...more to follow when I remember my notes!

Our teacher told us that in 1972 the Minister of Education replaced some letters of the alphabet like ty and gy with t and j in order to simplify the language. This meant people had to change their names if these letters were a part of the spelling and therefore change education certificates, driving licences and all sorts...sounds like pandemonium! However, its done and now the old letters are all but forgotten, so it was a change successfully managed. And yet rules on the road are rarely adhered to. It makes me wonder about what changes I will assist with during placement will last.
One of our teachers invited us to an art exhibition he was a curator. We decided to go as a class, and hired a VW van for the day. It was gorgeous, with blue and white paint outside and read leather interior, it was just so happy! Our new friend Smor drove us to Ubud and we got there with enough time to visit the sacred monkey temple and the big art market. Wwhen we got to the gallery we couldn’t believe our eyes, it was a beautiful building with I think over 1000 paintings. We were shown around by our teacher, introduced to a lot of people who were managing it and some of the artists. We ate a traditional meal at round tables set as if for a wedding, and then went to watch the speeches. After that we went outside to a seating area to watch music and dance performance. It was incredible because it was so lavish, and unexpected! The artist who is the favourite of my home family was playing along with other favourite local faces and one guest from Brazil, which pleased me a lot since I like Brazilian music and he played songs I knew.
I’ve met a couple of the current volunteers who have been out on Flores. One of them, a lovely Dutch girl Anauk, shared some real practical knowledge of living there, integrating, things to do in order to make a success of the placement, things to avoid and things that have happened in the past. It was really informative and reminded me how Bali still feels a little like limbo. I wonder if I will remember how to work when I finally start again!
So, plenty going on, just the way I like it!

Pictures below are a bit jumbled up but I hope you like them!

Some pretty flowers

Nervous faces before motorcycle practice! Why torture us by making us wear thermal clothes in hot hot weather! :)

My Bali family! - Faiz, Ardi, Raya, Asih and me

Awwww, I like this photo!

My classmates and friend Smor (pronounce, Seymour) and the VW

My pink power ranger helmet doing its job...and me falling off the plank

Tiny bananas!!!!!

Sanur beach...on a rainy day

My street in Bali

Our motorcycle trainers, no really!!!

Monday, 4 October 2010


I got another chance to get to the wifi cafe, the internet was down at the school today so we cycled here, getting lost and taking 1 hour rather than 20 minutes, so Im still sweating! (sorry!).  So, my home family is quite a change from the homestay/hotel we were in before. It is a lovely building, its really big but there are some things that are unusual to me. The living room only has three walls, one is open to the outside which was quite something to get my head around. There are some pillars and wooden slats, but generally its exposed to mother nature. My room has open bits above the windows too, with wooden poles and slats stopping them being just rectangle holes, but they are holes to the outside none the less!

Its quite nice because you can hear the crickets – and a big geko, which Im assured lives in trees and wont climb into my room! It does mean the mosquitoes can get in, so I put my net up and will be sleeping under that for the next five weeks.

Another major change is the toilet. It is hard to know how to negotiate it because it is up on a step from the rest of the bathroom. It looks to me like it is side on but then that means that you have to stand over it with one foot on the step and the other off or I’m missing something! It’s a none flusher, so you have to take a scoop of water to pour down it, which is no big deal, however, there is no shower so I need to use the bucket and scoop to wash me. This is no big deal either, however, I don’t know how to do it without soaking the whole room, and the walls are wooden so Im worried about it!
Its funny to learn these things. There are no sofas in the house, and the floor is tiled so I was sitting cross legged, but then I remembered about the thing about the soles of your feet so I tried to sit and face them away from Ardi, my host father, but found myself shuffling around a lot because it was not really comfortable!
Assi, my host mother, was surprised to learn my dislike of cheese, apparently thats what most volunteers miss the most, but Im pretty happy with the food here in Bali, lots of noodles, veg, chicken, rice, prawn crackers....its tasty! Don’t think there is any fear of me losing weight here! When I get to Ende though, it will be another story! They eat dog and pig a lot, so I will be saying Harem, which means forbidden...I reckon it is illegal to eat dog in the UK?
Yeah, I do like rice, but I’ve never tried it for breakfast. Assi has suggested she will make her regular breakfasts, which varies from cake and bread to noodles and we will see how I go with it! She’s very kindly said she will put out fruit too so if I don’t like it I can take it as a snack to the language school! I’m sure the others will be jealous!!!
Which brings me to language school; Where we go to study Bahasa Indonesian, is in a vocational college for teens who want to enter hospitality or beauty. They were so excited to talk to us, practice their English and just laugh at how funny we looked...perhaps because we were oldies at school! They looked so young and innocent, however there was some graffiti in the car park and on some school chairs so I’m sure they are like kids everywhere else!
Our teacher, Bund, is a very nice man, very funny and very interesting. He is a curator for an art gallery who worked for some time for the UN travelling and is also a budding artist and photographer himself.
So my next five weeks will be spent at school and practising Bahasa, except on Wednesday’s when we have a day at the VSO office to do more induction sessions. We have no classes at the weekend either, but we will spend a lot of this time with our host families to practice Bahasa and learn about local customs (another thing I have to learn from the family nanny is how to do my washing by hand!) so we are prepared for entering our placements as these are very remote and not used to tourists so have very little, if nothing, in the way of western amenities.
I shared an initial apprehension with my co volunteers about staying with a family, but we are all settling into it in our own way, and I feel pretty happy and very lucky to be staying with such fun and nice people. I know Sarah is living with a family that have four dogs and a monkey! We have no pets, but there are two kids, one six, Faiz and the other, Raya, just under one. Im looking forward to being able to talk with the son, we already have a common enjoyment of Nemo, Toy Story and Madagascar so I think he can soon become my third and favourite teacher in the house!
We are scatterd around Sanur however on Sunday we got together to welcome the 7th volunteer who is late on joining us due to an ear infection which prevented him from travelling to join us at the beginning of the week. As a bonus, Michelle who is staying in my town was over so we met for dinner and he had a lot of great stories to tell us. I think we will have fun together in Ende, and he will keep me right!

So, a week in and still only just scratched the surface! The serious work of learning the language begins properly on Monday so it will be head down and practice practice practice!

Oh and a parting note, I am sleeping on Manchester United sheets!!! Ha, ha ha!
The breakfast at Yulia homestay, so pretty!

At the office -

My bed, I am shaking my head!

My bathroom...that bucket is the water I use to wash..Ive got the hang of it now, and quite like it!

my room

the view from my room

Me doing my washing...Bali styleee!

A rice field

On the way to proud ibu wanted to take a photo to mark the moment! I felts happy she is accepting me into her family :)))))

Thanks for reading!!!!