Thursday, July 17, 2014

Go Have an Adventure!

Well, we're home. Well, not home. We're back in Chilliwack. And EXHAUSTED.
I just thought that before I get back to being busy with family and friends that I'd do a quick last thought of the trip.

Here are the positive things that came out of this trip for me, for Joey, for Stuart, and for our family.

Well, actually, I don't want to get too personal or too touchy-feely, so I'll just say a few cool things.

Firstly - and most importantly - this trip was great for our family.  It made us grow so much closer than we already were.  We ate all of our meals together, Stuart and I changed diapers together, put Joey to sleep together, and spent time in the morning and afternoons walking around exploring together and experiencing things for the first time together.  I do believe that's the new record for the amount of times together has been used in a single sentence.  And guess what? We loved every minute of it.  Stuart and Joey bonded so much on this trip.  Seeing the two of them playing, reading, and daddy explaining things to Joey made me fall more in love with Stuart.. and more in love with Joey!

Next up is how much I loved this trip.  My favorite part about going on a trip is exploring by myself. Getting exhausted. Walking in the heat. Running in the hills.  Being pushed physically and observing the things going on around me.  I am fortunate enough to have an awesome husband who was more than happy to hold down the fort on a daily basis while I got to go out and walk and hike and run on my own.  It gave me a lot of time to just be Vanessa.   Not to be a doting wife or mother. Just to feel independent for long enough to recharge, go back to my favorite 2 guys, and realize how lucky I am to have the role of wife and mother.

Seeing people in Bali loving Joey and being so sweet to him just reinforced to me how special and wonderful babies are. So new. So innocent.  So loving.  You have to love and be in awe of a baby.  This love knows no cultural or racial limits.  Them loving Joey and Joey loving all of them filled my heart.

Lastly, the challenge of it all.  The trip itself was actually surprisingly easy and wonderful.  The challenges were in our long journeys to Bali with long layovers in Kuala Lumpur and Narita, the journey of navigating our way to and through Tokyo after very little sleep (this was on the way home and I didn't blog about it), and the epic (and I say epic to mean long... not epic the way people say it these days to mean 'awesome') journey from Bali back home to Vancouver: two overnight flights and a day long layover... with almost no sleep in 48 hours while having to take care of a very distraught baby boy. And Joey wasn't too happy either. Ha. Ha.

These challenges would've been tough and exhausting enough without adding Joey to the mix, and with him they proved to be a stretching time in my and Stuart's relationship that involved plenty of laughter, anger, apologies, encouragement, discouragement, and creative problem solving and decision making. Oh, and major team work.  Through these experiences we learned a lot about how we take care of Joey in times of frustration and how important encouraging words and unconditional love and sacrifice are in times when every inch of you wants to scream or turn away in your seat and selfishly bury your head in a book or a pillow while your spouse struggles with a screaming, overtired child.

If you've never gone traveling with your spouse, I highly encourage it if for nothing else than to grow closer with each other.  Put yourself in an uncomfortable situation together and deal with things head on as a team.  You will make lasting memories and your bond will only strengthen.

Go have an adventure!


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ethical Dilemma

Stuart and I ran out of IDR. I thought we'd had enough to last us until the last minute of our trip, but didn't account for the shopping that I did.
Joey is now sleeping after a nice relaxing morning of early rising, going for a walk, and having fluffy pancakes with daddy at our FAVORITE bakery, Kakiang Bakery and Cafe.
I went out of the hotel room with 20 USD, hoping to exchange it and do a little last minute shopping. There are plenty of things I'd love to buy, but I have to remember that we have lots of things already, and accumulating 'things' is not exactly something we want to start making a habit of. Especially since, back home in California, we have no real place to put anything new.
I walked down the steep hill toward monkey forest to a small money changing shop. 11,500 IDR/1 USD. A pretty decent exchange rate.  I walked into the shop which was full of small wooden jewlery items and some carvings.  A large, short, older lady wearing baggy clothes and messy hair walked out from behind the small room past the counter in the back of the store.
"Yes?" she asked quietly.
"Money exchange, please." I answered, showing her my 20 dollar bill.
She punched numbers into the calculator and began handing me 100, 000 IDR bills. Five of them.  And then 75, 000 more.
I walked out of the store not really sure if I had really seen what I'd seen.  When I entered my favorite furniture and decor store after that, I saw large, beautiful items costing around 400, 000 IDR.  "Wait a second..." I thought.  I then realized that to her calculation, she had actually given me 50 USD worth of money instead of 20.
My mind started to race.  Now I could buy anything I wanted! Maybe I should exchange MORE money because her calculations were off. But, wait, she probably really needs that money.  That 30 USD worth means practically nothing to me, where as for her it could be a month wages.  But, it was her mistake! Why should I care? But, what if she realizes her mistake? Isn't she bound to? What if it's not her shop (which it likely isn't) and she gets punished for not giving me back the right amount? But... but... now I can buy anything I want from the home decor store and it will be like it was free! ... but....
I decided to go back to the hotel room and tell Stuart of my good fortune and have him help me calculate how much the woman should have actually given me so that I could go back and talk to her.
"Well, is your integrity worth a few hundred thousand Indonesian dollars?" Stuart asked me. I knew it wasn't.
I went back to the money changer, who was once again huddled in a small, dark back room by herself in the shop full of wooden jewlery.  She winced as she got up from her plastic chair.
"Yes?" she asked in a quiet voice.
"You gave me too much money." I said.
She didn't quite understand at first.
"You want exchange more money?" she asked.
"No, no. I gave you 20 dollars. You gave me too much." I said and began handing her back hundreds of thousands of IDR.
Her face dropped and her hands were quickly on top of her head.
"Oh, no!" she said.
"It's okay!" I responded. "Here."
I took out the calculator and helped her calculate what I was actually due.
She took 300, 000 IDR and said it was okay if I kept the other extra.  I handed back to her the amount she was rightfully due and told her I didn't need the extra.
"Thank-you. Oh, thank-you." She replied.
Then she wrapped her arms tightly around me with tears in her eyes.
Such a small thing for me was such a big deal for her.

Moral of the story: do the right thing even when you can easily get away with doing the wrong thing.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hangin out

Tonight we went out for dinner with a European couple (Marcel and Heike) and their 11 month old baby, Tom.  Tom is actually only three days younger than Joey and looks a lot like him! Well, maybe not that much like him, but he is likewise afflicted with baby baldness

Here is a blurry picture of the two of them playing

Can you tell who's who?

Anyway - how we met the three of them was earlier at an internet cafe when we were drinking our cocoa banana drink (banana, soy milk, coconut milk, and a hint of cocoa... so...gooood...) They came in with Tom on their back in a hiking backpack for babies and we quickly struck up a conversation that ended with them inviting us to dine with them.

When six o'clock rolled around pretty much the last thing we wanted to do was go out with these strangers. It seemed a lot easier to just go out and eat when we were hungry and put Joey to bed at 7:30 as we did every night previous.  However, we had made a commitment and we didn't want to go back on it... especially since they were to be meeting us at our hotel.

We were a bit nervous that they were going to take us to some expensive restaurant that we didn't want to spend a bunch of money on and decided that we'd just suck it up and go wherever they recommended.   It turned out that they took us to exactly our favorite restaurant when we were staying at Tegal Sari :Warung Semesta - a great vegetarian, organic restaurant that was also, as luck would have it, cheap.  

The two and a half hours that followed were of course spent talking about our travels and theirs, and about our two little boys and what life is like with them.

It was a nice evening.

Here is Heike, Tom, Joey, and me after dinner:

A nice end to a lovely day full of walking, eating, and shopping around Ubud.
Today I actually bought a few things to bring home.

I met a woman in a wooden jewelry shop, sitting in the back corner crocheting a beautiful pattern. When I asked her what she was working on, she held it up.  It was a shirt! She told me she had been working on it for the past ten days.  We talked for a while and I found out that she had recently married and was hoping to be pregnant soon .We talked about marriage and babies and our husbands.  I tried on the shirt she was almost finished making and bought it for around 17 USD.  I'll pay that for ten days of work. 

Stuart and I bought some nice salad tongs, also. Not much else, though. I bought a wooden ring and some wooden earrings.  I almost got Joey some overalls with lizards on them and another pair with monkeys eating bananas, but maybe I'll buy them tomorrow. My bartering skills weren't great today.

This afternoon a monkey came onto our porch and we got some awesome footage of us standing behind a giant glass window in our hotel room. Joey pressed his hand against the glass and the monkey pressed his hand to the glass where Joeys hand was! It was sooo precious.


Here are some pictures from the last two days. They're not in any particular order

The three of us at one of our favorite restaurants enjoying some Gado-Gado. - Yes, those are real flowers in my hair! I get to put beautiful flowers in my hair every day here. They're all over the sidewalk!

Daddy and Joey after a long walk through town after visiting the Champuan Hotel and walking through its award winning gardens in the middle of the afternoon.

Mommy and Joey reunited after my hour-long Balinese massage.

Little Jungle baby dries off after an afternoon swim.

The three of us enjoying our rice terrace view at a nearby restaurant at lunch time on a warm day.

In front of a temple

This tree has a crochet cover around it and I thought it looked pretty.

Daddy takes a picture of mommy and Joey at our favorite restaurant after lunch today.

Peaking over a booth at a nice lady playing 'peek-a-boo'.

Good night!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hello, Massage?

Hello, Massage

Stuart and I have been talking about getting massages for … well, since we got here.  We decided not to get them in Kuta because we felt that knowledgeable 'healing' hands would more likely be found in Ubud.  Every day we have talked about the idea and every day we have put it off.  An hour away from Joey after being with him pretty much 24/7 sounded  bit tricky and I doubted I'd be able to fully 'relax' what with all the monkeys potentially dragging him and daddy away. Just kidding. Mostly.
Yesterday, I decided it was finally time to bite the bullet.  It was the perfect opportunity: our first rainy afternoon. 
I trudged through the pothole-y sidewalks down to '3Pointe Spa'.  I had grabbed a handful of brochures a few nights before from girls sitting on the sidewalk so that I could do my tripadvisor research before deciding on a place to go. 
I'm sure that there are beautiful, world class spas elsewhere, but I was curious to see what this 60, 000 IDR (less than $6) 1 hour 'Balinese Massage' was all about.
3Pointe had got a 4.5 on tripadvisor, which sounded good to me.
"Hello, Massage?" A girl yelled to me as I almost passed right by. 
"Oh! Actually yes, Balinese massage please." I said to her as she raised her arm up, pointing her hand down a gravel path.
I walked in the warm rain to a small room with three beds and curtains separating them. 
"Please take off all clothes except underwear." She said, quickly closing the curtain.
Never before have I felt so vulnerable. Actually, that's a lie…. having my pap test while nursing Joey probably takes the cake, but I digress…
As I stripped down to my skivvys, thankful that I chose not to wear… a certain type of underwear…. this afternoon, I spotted a rolled up sarong on my massage table. 
Was I supposed to drape it over myself? Was it for me? Was it left here? So many questions.
I decided to leave it where it was as I put my clothes under the table and prayed that my body wouldn't think it was time to feed Joey while I was there and squirt my massure with cream. 
Maybe this was a mistake.
I layed down on my stomach and rested my face in the face hole which had three face towels wrapped around it that I believe at one time may have been white. As long as my mouth didn't touch them I felt I would be ok to just grin and bear it.

The same girl said "Ready?" a couple of minutes later and I replied yes.
I think I heard her laugh when she entered the room… but, I could have been imagining it. 
I soon felt the sarong draped over me.
And then someone on the massage table with me.  Before I spazzed out, I breathed and thought 'this is probably just part of the massage'… and it was.  She dug into some pressure points with her palms and it felt so good.
The next hour was full of reflexology and rubbing with essential oils. It. was. awesome. And also a little weird because about a quarter of the way through, I heard a mans voice and realized that I was no longer the only person in the room getting a massage.  It felt extra weird knowing there was a man, practically naked, not 5 feet away from me, lying down… and divided only by a thin curtain.
Also, she massaged too much of my butt for my liking.

Other than the awkward feeling of those things, WAIT actually there was one more awkward thing.
She flipped me onto my back and took the sarong off of me to my waist.  I don’t know if that's normal when you're getting a massage… but I felt VERY exposed.  But the massage on my shoulders, sides, and arms from this position was AMAZING.

She had a blindfold cloth over my eyes for this part.  It was just a folded up wash cloth. Again, I'm assuming that at one point in its life it had been white.

Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder. 

"Excuse me?" She said, as I removed my blind fold. "Massage over."

She gave me some privacy as I hurriedly put on my clothes in case the man behind the next curtain could somehow see me.

She was very sweet as she led me back out into the pouring rain.

 "It was okay?" she asked in a quiet voice. 

I told her it was wonderful. A very pregnant lady then appeared and took my money.

I walked back down the pot hole-y gravel path back home and thought,

'that was definitely worth at least six dollars.'

Friday, July 11, 2014

Eat. Pray. Lose Perspective.

This morning I met Elizabeth Gilbert.
Not actually.

As I was sitting and drinking my morning coffee with Joey eating a crumbly bun beside me, I saw a woman sitting in the other corner of the couch I was on, playing on her phone.
She asked me how old Joey was after Joey made it very clear, by yelling at her, that he was desperate for her attention.  My boy is such a social guy!!
We struck up a conversation and I found out that she was from LA.
Recently laid off from her job.
Recently divorced with a recently sold house.
Came to Ubud to soul search and figure out 'what's next'.
Sound familiar?

As I listened to her talk about her life back home and how coming here was a peaceful retreat, I found myself agreeing with her.  Of course a vacation is a peaceful retreat. You can have a peaceful retreat anywhere. Granted - Ubud is an awesome place to have it.  With the jungle comes a symphony of sounds, colours, and animals. There are beautiful things to buy, healthy, cheap food to eat, raw juices and brightly coloured fruit.  Not to mention the weather, which remains a bearable temperature all day with just the right amount of breeze.

But, as I listened to her, I realized she was starting to get delusional in her 'retreat', which I'm positive happens to many westerners visiting Ubud or other places in SE Asia.
"I think about my life in LA and I think why? I'm paying thousands for my apartment and for what? I pay 20 dollars for a meal at a restaurant and I think 'what for?' Here I can spend $5 and eat all I want.  I can stay here for $30 a night. It's so peaceful here. What are we doing wrong in LA?"

It kind of made me cringe hearing her think like that.

First off, you're on a vacation. You're not living here.  If you were living here, you'd be working. Just the same as you'd do back home. You would probably feel the same way here as you do there while you're working. This sucks. I'd rather be doing ____.  Except for, if you were working here, you'd probably get cranky because where you're working probably won't have AC.

Secondly, yes. It's cheap. It's amazing. Coming from one of the wealthiest countries in the world, the sky really is the limit here in Ubud.  But, you're forgetting something.  The majority of local people here in Bali are dirt poor, making next to no money. Why do you think things cost so little? Because most people here are living in poverty.

Do the locals look relaxed? Like they're wandering around in a zen trance? Did they recently get a hot stone massage and a flower petal bath? No.

Here's what the locals are doing:
Crouching on the sidewalks in the blazing sun, wearing dirty clothes and practically begging you to take a taxi ride. Or get a massage.  Or come into their store.  Or cooking your cheap meals over flaming, steaming stove tops in an unairconditioned kitchen. Some of them are old ladies. Some of them are pregnant girls.  Some of them are very young.  Their children are running around the restaurant or in the kitchen with them while you sit at a table and get the food presented to you and marvel about how cheap everything is.

Of course Ubud is great for you. and me. and people that aren't locals. It's getting better for people that are locals, too, with all the tourism.  But don't forget why it's cheap and why you feel so peaceful.

You're not working.
You're not in poverty.

The end.

Dance Show

When traveling to Bali with a baby - may I suggest the possibility of sitting out the ever popular Balinese dance show in Ubud.
There are many dance shows here, performed by men and women in elaborate costumes and an orchestra playing some instrument I don't know, but it looks really beautiful.  They tell different stories about nature, kings, and good and evil.
What they don't tell you is that you'll be watching the performance in the most mosquito-y place ever and that the performance will be never ending.
After watching a dragon dance in a doorway for about ten minutes before even entering, we knew we were in for a slow show. Outside .Past Joey's bedtime.
It definitely had its entertaining moments: the girls in beautiful costumes, the man dressed as a monkey, but alas, Joey was not having it and was beginning to get overtired. We tried to avoid this by catching a six o'clock show. But, like I said, the shows never end.  I think we likely would have been there for a good 2.5/3 hours had we stayed for the whole thing, but we had a bit of a hike to get home and it was already past seven and dark outside, so it was time to call 'er quits.

We did our little hike back home, some of it in the (almost) pitch black, hoping we wouldn't run into any monkeys. Success! We were home, and VERY tired, before eight o'clock and plunked Joey down into a bathtub for a quick rinse, then into bed.

The end. Here's Joey and I before the dance show:

Monkey Business

Guys, I'm dead tired. That's why there was no post yesterday. I fell asleep before I could write it!

Yesterday we spent the morning hanging out before our big move to Brata Inn (A small hotel in the town center).

I tried to scope it out before we left Tegal Sari (our amazing place), to find out what time we could check in.  The streets here are bustling all the time and the sidewalks are sketchy at best.  Not to mention, Ubud itself is full of giant hills.

I searched, to no avail, for our new place.  Most of the guesthouses, and there are many, are down alleys just off of Monkey Forest Road.  Yes, there is a monkey forest. And yes, the name for it is fitting.  There are hundreds of monkeys going mental in there, jumping on tourists that are holding their bananas bought by Balinese women just outside of the main entrance.

Monkeys scare me.  I like them from far away. Or behind a cage. But not right up in my grill in the wild. That's a little different. Also, they're so sneaky!

Monkeying around:

Anyway - I found our new place after my second time going out and looking for it and before we knew it, it was check in time.

We got a driver from Tegal Sari to help us with our luggage and he attempted to drop us off there.  it was impossible for him to do it on the first go because Brata Inn is on a steep and giant hill on a one way, one lane street with no parking.   Since the traffic in Ubud is so horrific on the main streets during the day, it took us literally about half an hour to get back to the entrance (about a 1.5km drive).

Joey did well on the drive, and we had AC in the hot part of the day, so we didn't really mind at all.

Our new Inn looked good to us upon arrival, and even has a large balcony with no hazards for Joey and the perfect size ledge that he can stand up but not fall off.  I thought it would be a good place for us to hang out in the mornings.

Right? WRONG.

First thing this morning, Joey and I went out on the patio and looked at the tin roofs around us and all the telephone wires dangling down when I realized something.... we were smack dab in the middle of a monkey morning paradise! They were everywhere.  When I least suspected it (our balcony has a large blind spot) a giant monkey leaped onto our balcony ledge and was staring right at us! I SCREAMED and ran inside with Joey.  hahaha oh my goodness.  It was crazy/hysterical.

I'm getting ahead of myself though.

After we got situated and had lunch, Joey, Stuart, and I went for a swim.  Our place is new and small and doesn't have a swimming pool, but they share a swimming pool with a hotel that shares a little garden with ours.

It was a nice time and Joey met a baby that was 11 months old, too!

Here's a picture of Joey and mama after the swim:

And Joey and dada just chillin:

I don't know if I mentioned that while we're traveling Joey is sleeping in the bathroom, but he is... and I recommend it to anyone traveling with a small child.  It allows for the room to be dark and allows mom and dad from going nuts tip toeing around and trying not to make a peep.  The only downside is that if you have to go to the bathroom after baby goes to sleep you're pretty much screwed.  It was fine at the last place because the reception area had a 'western' bathroom.  No such luck here.  It's do your business and hose off your butt (likely soaking your entire outfit if you're anything like me...)  Alas, it's still better than the alternative of Joey sleeping in our room and us getting no free time.

Last night the fam went out to Tropical View Restaurant for some famous Ubud Crispy Duck.  It was delish!  Here's a silly picture of mommy feeding a puff to her baby bird.  Oh, at the Tropical View restaurant we got to sit on some  bamboo floor on pillows. It was great for Joey to crawl around and fun for us!

The three of us at the restaurant

 Today we hung out and ate at some internet cafe with AC (nowhere really has AC so it was awesome).  My food of choice these days is Gado Gado .. without the tofu and tempe because I think that's grosss. It's basically just boiled vegetables with peanut sauce and an egg. It's soooo good.
The dude running the internet cafe/restaurant was awesome and held Joey while Stuart and I scarfed down lunch.
The rest of the afternoon was spent attempting to shop with no luck because it's impossible to try on clothes with a baby attached to you... I dont think I'll get a chance to do shopping here, really...
Joey didn't have a nap this afternoon. We tried, but I think he was too overtired by the time we finally plunked him down. We need to be back at the hotel around 2:30 from now on. Lesson learned.

Tonight we walked and walked and walked all the way to a Balinese Dance Show!

At $7.25/person, this is the most expensive thing we've done on our trip.  It was fun! But wayyyy too long for Joey.  We stayed for the first hour and then took off. Maybe I'll write more about the show later, but right now I'm way too tired to write anything properly.

Blah Blah Blah, this blog is over for now.

Good night!