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!!!

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