Bali: Part Tiga

I will admit that it has been so long since my last post, that I forgot my password for WordPress.  Again.  I have had this final installment of my trip to Bali on my mind, and more specifically, on my to do list for a long time.  Recently, a friend texted, “I am still waiting for Part 3 of your Bali blog.”  Good thing she wasn’t holding her breath!  Thanks for the reminder, D.R.!  I apologize that this is not as well written as I would like, and there are probably errors.  Please tell me!  Ok.  Enough stalling. 

March 27

There was another wonderful send off from our hotel in Pemutaren.  On our way to Ubud, we stopped at Pura Ulun Danu Temple which is dedicated to/for Rivers and Lakes.  We also stopped at a market so that we could practice our bargaining skills.  We were given a lesson in bargaining, which was quite entertaining.  The whole idea was that you will probably not pay the full asking price for anything.  First, we were supposed to ask how much the item cost.  Then, when the sales person/owner/employee told us the price we were to respond by saying in a shocked voice, “Mahal!?!” Which roughly translates to, “Get out of here!”  That was my favorite part.  I did not have much interest in the bargaining (or shopping), but I helped a fellow traveler out, and it was quite entertaining (I experienced it first hand a few days later).  Later that afternoon, we arrived at our hotel, Alam Indah.  We had time for afternoon yoga, and after yoga we selected our temple clothes.  Each women had to find a sarong (as a skirt), kabayeh (the shirt), and a selendang (sash).  These clothes are required if you want to enter a temple.  The men have to wear two sarongs, a special hat, and a plain shirt.  The sarongs and shirts can be representative of the village one lives in.  I remember seeing lots of Harley Davidson on the shirts that the men/boys wore. 

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Market

Market

Alam Indah (the hotel in Ubud) is owned by Ibu Wayan who is one of James’ friends.  James met her when he first came to Bali about 25 years ago.  They have maintained a friendship, and Ibu Wayan is now the owner of several hotels and restaurants in Ubud.  Ubud has a population of approximately 30,000 people. 

 

March 28  Melasti Festival Day

After our morning routine of tea/coffee, yoga, and breakfast, we prepared to go to temple. We went to Tampaksiring Temple, where there are special healing springs. We wore bathing suits underneath our temple clothes, so that we could go into the springs for purification rites.  It was very interesting.  We got into a pool of water that was about 3 or 4 feet deep, and we walked up to each faucet and splashed water on our heads three times, then three drinks, then three splashes to the face. I think there were three faucets that we had to skip because those were for the Balinese.  After we were purified, we went into the temple to pray and get blessed. In this ceremony, women sit on their knees (yikes!) throughout.  Men can sit cross-legged.  We followed along with what the priest was doing.  Every few people had a little basket that had flower petals that are used during the service.  You also place incense in the ground in front of you and use the smoke from the incense to kind of wash your hands at certain points.  There is a specific way to hold the petals between your fingers and hold them up.  You also have to follow the priest so you know which color petal to hold up at the appropriate time.  When that part is finished, then the priest blesses each person.  This involves some water being sprinkled on each person, and then you place rice on your forehead and sometimes behind the ears, or at the top of your clavicle.  At that point, the blessing ceremony was over.  We changed out of our wet temple clothes, and into dry temple clothes.  We had the option to see a temple from the 11th century.  This was optional because it was approximately 300 steps down, and you know what that means!

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After lunch in Ubud, we drove to Sanur to join a processional to the sea for purification rites.  This was so amazing.  At first, we watched as villages walked by with their offerings.

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         IMG_1773We were complimented by the adults, who appreciated our efforts in dressing in temple clothes.  Many people would approach us, flash a beautiful smile, and tell us how nice we looked.  The younger people (mainly kids) laughed at us, but I am sure we looked quite out of place.  At one point, we joined in with a village.  This was really quite an experience to walk along with the sound of the gamelan.  Once everyone arrived, and each village made their offerings, the blessing ceremony began.  It was much like the ceremony that we took part in at the temple that morning.  However, there were hundreds (maybe more?) of people sitting on the beach.  It was really nice because the people sitting near us would pass incense and flower petals to us, noticing that we were empty handed. 

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After that, we headed back to Ubud for dinner at Laka Leke.  This restaurant was just down the road from our hotel, and owned by the same person, Ibu Wayan. On this night, we celebrated James’ birthday. James is a celebrity there, so it was quite an event to end such a memorable day.

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March 29
After yoga and breakfast, we started our day by taking a walk through Monkey Forest.  This is much like a park, but a ticket is needed to go through.  It was a short cut to our hotel, so we used it frequently.  As the name Monkey Forest suggests, it is a forest where there are monkeys EVERYWHERE!  There are people selling bananas for the tourists to buy to feed the monkeys, so the monkeys were certainly not scared.  We were warned ahead of time not to wear anything shiny, and to remain calm should a monkey jump on you.  One monkey did jump on a member of our group.  Just hopped right on her shoulder.  Apparently there are a few tribes of monkeys in the forest. They are fascinating to watch, and it was quite something to be so close, and without the glass between me and the monkey. 

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The rest of the day was spent walking around Ubud, shopping, and doing whatever we wanted to.  In the late afternoon, we went to a spa for an herbal body treatment followed by a massage.  That was quite something.  We were taken into a private room that was outside.  There was a table for massage, and a bathtub that was filled with flower petals.  After we were sufficiently scrubbed and massaged, we went to see a Kechak dance.  I have borrowed a description from Wikipedia for further explanation:  Also known as the Ramayana Monkey Chant, the piece, performed by a circle of 150 or more performers wearing checked cloth around their waists, percussively chanting “cak” and throwing up their arms, depicts a battle from the Ramayana. The monkey-like Vanara helped Prince Rama fight the evil King Ravana. Kecak has roots in sanghyang, a trance-inducing exorcism dance.

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March 30    Mecaru Festival Day
This day is the before the Day of Silence (Nyepi).  I will attempt to describe what I understood and experienced.  For some time before this day, the villages work on creating statues called Ogoh Ogohs.  The idea is that you create the scariest, ugliest, most deranged statue (sometimes X-rated) that will scare away the evil spirits.  These statues are paraded through the streets on this night.  It is also important to make a lot of noise.  If you make a lot of noise and parade the Ogoh Ogohs around, you are sure to scare away the evil spirits.  Then, the following day (Nyepi) it is imperative to be silent all day so when the evil spirits fly back over Bali, they cannot find you.  We ended our day at the Football (Soccer) Field to watch the Ogoh Ogohs gather. At sunset, the procession of Ogoh Ogohs begins. The Ogoh Ogohs are carried by the youth (boys) of each village.  This was quite a sight. 

Here is one that was waiting to be completed:

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The smallest Ogoh Ogoh carried by the smallest children:

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A collection of Ogoh Ogohs:

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As the sun set, the special effects became evident…

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Many of the Ogoh Ogohs were also accompanied by the village gamelan. 

 

March 31  Day of Silence (Hari Raya Nyepi)

The whole island is silent.  There are to be no fires lighted, no cooking done, no travel, no work…complete and total silence.  This worked pretty well until I smelled gas in our room, and felt it was necessary to report that to the hotel staff. It turns out we just needed a new propane tank.  I spent most of the day at the pool.  That is when I was entertained by one of the monkeys from the Monkey Forest.  I noticed that the monkeys would eat the offerings that were left out daily, and this monkey was no different. He (?) even drank out of the pool when he was finished eating the offerings. 

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It was quite interesting and enjoyable to spend a day in silence. It is nice to settle the mind that way.  In fact, several of us discussed the idea of the United States having a Day of Silence.  Wouldn’t that be something?

April 1

Today we took a drive to see the Mother Temple, Besakih, which is located at the base of the sacred volcano (Gunung Agung).  We hiked up the steps to pray and be blessed:

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After we were blessed, we enjoyed the view.

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The little cutie to the right was working at the Mother Temple selling post cards.  She was encouraged to say things like, “You are very beautiful.  You buy postcard?” Our local guide, Kari, told her that he would give her some money, but only if she answered his math questions!  I loved it.  She followed us all the way to the top, and walked down with us, too. She did a great job with her math facts. 

 

After we left Besakih, we stopped at the Palace of Justice (Klungkung).  The ceiling is painted with all of the punishments available in the after life at the time (17th century), all of which were the result of karma. This was for those who were waiting to be sentenced. Some of the punishments were quite graphic. 

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Laurie and James.

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James and Kari outside of Klungkung.

April 2

On this morning, we took a class on how to make the very ornate offerings that are put out each morning. Every day, the women (all over) create offerings which usually include food and flowers.  I can assure you that there was no stapler or scotch tape involved.  Very small pieces of wood were used as a way to keep everything in place.

IMG_1851The rest of the day we were free to explore.  That evening after dinner, I had the opportunity to ride on the back of James’ moped through the Monkey Forest.  According to local legend, if you want to ride through the Monkey Forest at night, you have to ask permission from the spirits (“permisi”).  That was a fun ride!  I was not attacked by monkeys (I was assured they were sleeping).

April 3

This was our last full day as a group.  We started the morning with an early morning walk through a rice field.

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What a unique experience.  It required a bit of flexibility and athleticism as we navigated our way through the rice fields.  It was a good thing we had been doing yoga twice a day. 

That afternoon, several us went to the spa at another hotel (same owner).  This time I opted for reflexology and a cream rinse.  Both were fabulous, but the cream rinse was great because it left my hair so soft. To be clear, the spas were very affordable.  I think I had a massage that was $25 for 90 minutes.  That evening, we had a farewell dinner and dance at Laka Leke (which means Hideaway). Here were some of the highlights:

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April 4
Almost everyone left on this day.  Some of us who remained, went back to the spa. This time I went for a facial, and a neck and shoulders massage. That evening, a few of us went to a cooking class. We made some local favorites (black rice pudding – yum!), and the best part was eating what we made. Here was our menu:

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April 5

This is the day we left Bali.  Next stop…Hong Kong! We got to the hotel late that night, so it was right to bed. 

April 6

We essentially only had one full day in Hong Kong.  The first order of business was to purchase an Octopus pass which allowed us to take many modes of transportation.  We took the ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island.  From there, we got on a bus that took us up a long and winding road to The Peak.  Althought it was raining, it was still an amazing view.

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Selfie at The Peak.

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Look at all of those tall buildings!

We took the tram back down, and then just spent some time walking around.  That night we had dinner in the restaurant that is on the top floor of the Sheraton Kowloon.  There is a light show, which was pretty cool to see from that height (the 17th floor, I believe).*   There is a lot of shopping in Hong Kong.  I was less than interested in that, but I was amazed at how many Louis Vuitton stores could be within 1 mile of each other. 

*A big thank you to my high school classmates, Mark N. and Maggie S., who gave me excellent suggestions for 36 hours in Hong Kong! 

April 7
The last day of my journey, which also happened to be my birthday. The best part about it was getting to celebrate for 36 hours!   Before we had to leave for the airport, I walked along the water.  Here I came across the Avenue of Stars.  and the Hong Kong Museum of Art. There was not time to go into the museum, so it was nice that they had lots of pieces outside. 

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We arrived in Los Angeles at about 2pm. We had a nice dinner out in Santa Monica, followed by approximately 15 hours of sleep!  Before I headed back to Oregon, I stopped at Shutters (one of my favorite places in Santa Monica) for a drink and a bite before departing.That is the Cliff Notes version of the rest of the trip to Bali.  It was a trip for the mind, body, and soul.  What an adventure!

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Bali: Part Dua

Only 5 weeks after my return from Bali, and I am finally getting to the second part of my blog.  Ah well…you know what they say (insert your favorite cliche here).

March 24

After morning yoga, and a lovely send off from the hotel in Munduk, we were off to Pemutaren.  This was about a 2 hour drive from Munduk, taking us to the beach.  We arrived at our hotel, and were given freedom to lounge.

ImageWe stayed in little cottages that lined either side of the above image.  Each cottage had a lovely front porch, and wonderful outside bathrooms.  Every bathroom should be outside.  However, as mentioned in a previous blog entry, I find it extremely important to put glasses on before I go to the bathroom in an unfamiliar location.  James warned us to hide our soap because something (we weren’t told what) may try to eat it.  Julie and I decided to put our soap in a zip lock bag at night.  I was very curious as to what (or WHO!) might want to eat soap.  Every night there was a different creature in the bathroom.  One night I tripped over a snail (with my glasses on – it blended in with the floor), another night there was a lizard, another night I saw a frog, and who knows what else.  After a leisurely first day at the beach (and yoga), we were prepped for the following day’s adventure:  snorkeling!  I have been snorkeling…once.  I went snorkeling in 1994 in the Florida Keys with my college roommate, Katie.  My memories of that experience were that I practically hyperventilated when I jumped in the water until Katie shouted (repeatedly), “Mary! Put your face in the water!  Just put your face in the water!”  When I finally did what Katie said, and put my face in the water, I remember being so impressed by the silence and the beauty of what was beneath me.  I was in for a treat.

March 25

Our morning started as all others did: coffee/tea, yoga, breakfast.  Then we were off to West Bali National Park.  We got our gear, and then divided up onto 3 boats, and made our way to the park.

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I liked the start of this snorkeling experience better than my first, because we walked into the water.  It was a good way for me to ease in.  I did request a “buddy,” because I really do not like it when I cannot see what is underneath me.  I thought it was beautiful.  The colors were wonderful, and the variety of creatures was interesting.  Everyone raved about it after we were done, but I am not a seasoned snorkeler, so I asked our Hawaiian (Cha) to tell me what she thought about it.  Here is what Cha said:

“The reefs we saw off the coast of Pemuteran were totally pristine. They did not reflect human impact at all, i.e.,siltation, toxic chemicals, or even bleaching (a climate change impact on many reefs). They are comparable to wild/unspoiled reefs in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands monument (Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument) and to Australia’s Great Barrier Reefs.Some of the reefs here in the main Hawaiian Islands, while beautiful and somewhat varied, cannot compare to the level of diversity and vibrance of the reef life we were treated to in Bali.”

Thanks, Cha.  I think that sums it up quite nicely.

 March 26
James offered us the option of going on a 5:30 (AM!) boat ride to watch the sun rise. I thought it was a nice idea, but again, I had no idea what I was in for.  We took three fishing boats out into the water.  We were instructed that this adventure was to be a silent one. No questions, no comments, no talking at all.  We rode out in to the water…way out…probably a 30 minute boat ride.

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At that point, the motors were shut off. We watched the sun rise.  It was amazing – just a big ball of fire slowly sliding up the the sky.

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Kari (our Balinese guide) said it was the best sunrise he has ever seen. That was a wonderful sight, but the best was yet to come.  The boat driver asked if we wanted to go a bit further to see dolphins. He said that they like the sun (matahari), and we just needed to go out about another 20 or 30 minutes.  James and the boat drivers were texting back and forth to coordinate this, and it was a go.  Wouldn’t you know it…a school/herd/pod/team of dolphins began jumping along side of us and following us. Kari clapped and said, “Bagus!” (very good), and the dolphins kept it up.

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How’s this for timing?

That was quite something.  The rest of the day was ours to adventure on our own.  Some of the group went snorkeling, some went on a hike to temple, and I decided to sit by the water and flip around in the pool like an 8 year old.  You know what they say…(I prefer the “When in Rome” cliche here).  This was our last day at the beach.  That evening we were treated to a lovely feast and puppet show.

This was shadow puppet show, and it to call it that really doesn’t do the art form justice.  The puppeteer is a very respected job, and it is getting harder to find someone who knows this art.  The puppets are carved out of wood, and they are extremely intricate.  A moral or lesson is acted out in old Javanese (a language few people speak).  I had a hard time following along, but it was fun to listen to and watch.
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Behind the scenes.

When the puppet show was over, we were invited to stay to watch the puppeteer give the offering.  We were also permitted to take part in the blessings and purification.  We approached the puppeteer (who is a priest as I understand it) and we had to take water to our head 11 times, drink the water (put it to our lips) 11 times, then wash our face (splash the water on our face)11 times.  This was an introduction of what was to come when we went to temple later that week.  It was very interesting to take part in the ceremony, and so wonderful that we were allowed to participate.  Even the Australian (who sort of crashed our party) joined in.  He (the Australian) reported to me the next day (after he told me that he was sorry he couldn’t join our yoga class), that he might have gotten our drivers drunk on the alcohol he brought.  There are lots of Australians who come to Bali.  Lots.  It is very close, and easy to fly to.  The Australian told me that Australian men go to Bali to marry a Balinese woman so they can buy property in Bali.  I am fairly certain that was his goal that trip.  We left after yoga that morning.  Next stop…Ubud.

My Journey Westward Continues: Bali 2014 (an adventure in three parts)

Part I

In the fall, I decided to go on a trip to Bali with an organization called Yoga Out There. My boss (Julie) went on the trip 10 years ago, and wanted to go again.  I invited myself, and at the end of October (after my 4th yoga class), it was official.  The gist of the trip is yoga twice a day, and an introduction to the Balinese culture.  As you will find, this trip was so much more than that.  On Tuesday, March 18, the journey began.

IMG_1679We flew from Bend/Redmond to Portland…Portland to Vancouver…Vancouver to Hong Kong.  We spent the night (March 19) in Hong Kong to avoid a long layover. The only sightseeing that night included the inside of the hotel room, and the inside of my eyelids.  We left Hong Kong the morning of March 20, and arrived in Denpasar, Bali that afternoon.  We went through customs, and found a cab to our hotel (a centrally located, clean hotel for $28!). I told Julie I was going to take a short rest, and woke up 5 hours later!

March 21

The next morning, we walked to beach, around town, and found an inexpensive ($25) 1.5 hr massage/body scrub.  The rest of our group (details to follow) met at our hotel, and then we left for our first destination.

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Breakfast in Bali. The green stuff was good.

Our fearless yoga leader was James Murphy (NYC), accompanied by Ann Arbor’s own Laurie Blakeney.  7 of us met at the hotel, the other 4 would arrive that night.  We drove to our first destination, Munduk.  The cottages we stayed in are built in the style of traditional rice barns.

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On the balcony in our cottage (Munduk).

We started with restorative yoga, then had our first official taste of Balinese cuisine.

March 22

As I mentioned, we had 2 yoga teachers, James and Laurie.  There were 11 of us from all over the country: 3 from New York, 3 from Michigan, 2 from Chicago, 2 from Oregon, and 1 from Hawaii.  10 women and 1 man.  People ranging in age from 32 to 67, with a variety of careers, and a variety of yoga experience.  We were in good hands:  one physician’s assistant, one lawyer, 2 psychologists, one medical administrator, one retired teacher, one university professor, one environmental activist, one nurse, one orthodontist, and me.  The first morning we learned what drove each of us to come onto this trip.  We went around the circle, and people talked about their yoga experience, careers, and reasons for being there.  Then it was my turn.  I think I said something like, “I am in the “Why Not” stage of my life.  I moved cross country, started yoga in January, and now I’m in Bali.  WHY NOT?”

We started our day with coffee/tea, followed by yoga.  Breakfast followed and included: black sticky rice (complete with gravel), rice cakes (not like the Quaker ones – more like little pancakes) with fresh coconut and palm sugar, amazing fresh fruit like papaya and pineapple.  That morning we hiked through the forest to a waterfall. We learned about the native plants and trees including: clove, nutmeg, bananas, teak, bamboo, coffee (arabica and robusti), limes, and more!  There were chickens at most homes (just when I thought I would get a break from hearing roosters…).  We knew we were going to a waterfall, but it was a surprise for me when we got there.  It was a fantastic waterfall.

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After the waterfall, as we walked back through the forest, we saw a mother and daughter making an offering – beautiful flowers and ornate offerings. This was just the beginning of our exposure and experience with offerings.  On our way back to the cottages, we stopped at a local coffee producing business.  A lovely 80 year old man showed us the coffee making process, and afterwards, he gave us samples. He did propose marriage to a few of us, but, unless they other ladies went back, I think we all said no.

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The afternoon consisted of yoga and culture lesson (introduction to the language).

March 23

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Morning in the mountains

 

The morning routine continued…coffee/tea, yoga, breakfast.  Today’s breakfast featured new fruits and other treats (fried bananas, mangosteens, hairy fruit).

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Hairy fruit

Today’s adventure was to drive to an entrance of a rain forest, then take a walk in silence, through the rain forest.

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We walked up, up, up (although James promised a “flat walk”) to a temple.

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We rested for a few minutes, then it was down, down, down…IMG_1704At the bottom, there was another temple – temple of the Blacksmith people.

IMG_1705From there, we took double canoes (not sure of the official name) across a lake.  We rowed our boats across, and in my boat Kari (our Balinese guide) sang Beatles songs to us as we crossed the lake.

         

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Kari (checkered shirt), James (orange shirt)

    

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Once we arrived, we ate lunch by a fishing village, and another temple. When we returned to the cottages, we had yoga and our culture lesson (birth order and names).
That night was our last night at Puri Lumbung.  They had a special dinner for us, and then there was a performance: gamelan and dance.   The music was wonderful, and the dancing was captivating.  These young women (and one young man) performed with no teeth showing, and their eyes communicating in amazing ways.  It was beautiful.

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Gamelan

 

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The Prince (blurry, but I had to include it)

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Laurie struts her stuff

 

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James charms the young woman in the Joged Dance

Watching the dances was a wonderful way to end our time in Munduk.  The next morning we left for the beach.  Stay tuned for Part 2…

A New Year

It has been just over 2 months since my last post.  What can I say?  I have been working!  The first big event occurred when my cousin Leslie and her family came for Thanksgiving.  This included her husband John, and the adorable Emmett.  They arrived from Salt Lake City two nights before Thanksgiving.  We had a great time exploring Bend and the surrounding areas.  We spent one afternoon at Smith Rock which is quite beautiful.  We had great weather, and more importantly, we had a lot of fun.  On Thanksgiving, John was able to find a way to watch the Detroit Lions even though there is no TV at the ranch.  The beauty of the internet!  We made too much food, and at the end of it all, the turkey was not done.  Oh well…we had lots of other things to eat.  On Saturday, we ventured to Sisters to see the Christmas parade.  It was an adorable parade.  I think I thought it was as charming as non-locals feel about the Granville 4th of July parade.  It was a great visit!  It is so nice that Salt Lake City is one of the few places that flies direct to Bend/Redmond.  I look forward to their return!

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Smith Rock

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John and Emmett, Smith Rock

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Emmett exploring the house

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Emmett

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MC, Smith Rock

Winter arrived shortly after my guests left.  I was so excited to see the snow!  However, the snow was accompanied by serious cold (much like what most of you are experiencing now!).  On Friday, December 6, we got about 6 inches of snow.  I decided to go into Bend that day.  I was so impressed with how many people were out and about!  These mountain people don’t mess around.  When there isn’t snow on the ground, you can hear studded tires on the pavement.  The roads are covered with cinder, not salt.  I actually think it may work better.  The snow was lovely.

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Bend, OR

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The Cabin at The River Place (Redmond, OR)

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The Ranch aka The River Place (Redmond, OR)

The cabin was cold, but I have become so good at splitting wood and starting fires (in appropriate places), that I wasn’t worried about heating it up.  However, on Sunday, December 8, this was the forecast:

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“Feels like -31!”

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Waiting for the fire to warm the cabin…

I decided to sleep in the big house that night, thinking that I would be warmer.  If I have a fire in the cabin, I am always warm when I sleep, because I sleep in the loft.  I didn’t really think the whole plan through…hindsight is 20/20.  I decided to leave a radiator-like space heater on low (while I stayed in the big house), so that the pipes wouldn’t freeze.  There was heat tape around the main pipe, and an electrician just installed an outlet under the cabin, so that I could plug the heat tape in more easily.  I wasn’t too worried.  However, none of that proved to be enough.  When I went into the cabin the next morning, there was no water.  I know what you are thinking…Didn’t you leave the faucets open?  Didn’t you shut the water off?  The answer is no.  Sunday I opened the faucets, and really got the place cooking – I think it was up to 90 degrees by the time I went to bed (TOO HOT! But I’m sure that sounds good to many of you now).  Monday when I came home from work…no water.  That was when I noticed that the electrician had in fact plugged the heat tape in, but the outlet had reset.  So, I don’t think it was working!  Tuesday when I came home from work…there was water!  ALL OVER THE FLOOR!  My poor dog was cowering behind the door as the water gushed out from under the sink.  I panicked for about 5 minutes.  I immediately called Julie (property owner/boss), I shut the water off, and cleared out all of the rugs that were soaking wet.  Then I mopped up the water – it didn’t seem that bad or so I thought…the plumber estimates that 2400 gallons of water went through the cabin!  I spent the next several nights in the big house.  I had it on good authority that plumbers all over the area were slammed with calls of burst pipes, so it made sense to wait until it warmed up.  (It turns out that the pipes did not burst, a cap came off – or something like that (I am relaying this second hand).

On December 20, I left for North Carolina!  We had a great holiday.  It began with Cirque de la Symphonie in Raleigh.  This was fabulous!  Strong men, contortionists, aerialists and a clown performing on stage with the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra.  It was really something.  Ella liked it a lot.  We sat 3 rows back, so we could really see all the details.  It was particularly intense when a woman in the front row decided to walk back to her seat (with her child in her arms) right as one of the aerialists was running off of the stage!  He almost kicked her in the head.  That would have made for a different kind of story.  Kind of like last Christmas when David (brother), Ella (niece), and I saw a guy get hit by a car.

The most impressive act!

That night, Ella stayed with a babysitter, while the adults went to a concert.  Dave, Kate and I met some of their friends at the Haw River Ballroom to hear Chatham County Line.  What a great band!  It was a packed concert, and I loved it.  Such a cool venue, too.

The holiday season was in full force!  We had several more social engagements, and then it was Christmas!  Ella was a little overwhelmed by it all.  She even said, “Christmas is just too much for me!”  I think we all understand that feeling.  She woke up extremely early on Christmas.  4:45am to be exact.  YIKES!  Needless to say, we all took naps (not Ella!) later in the day.  We had a lot of fun while I was there.  Ella and I had a slumber party a few days after Christmas.  We had a great time – she even lost a tooth!  Before her parents left, we made a list of all of the things we could do.  The list included reading, watch a show, go to the playground, and Ella put “fiddling with my loose tooth” on the list.  Singing was also on the list, which made me happy.  In fact, it was really cute when Ella declared, “I want to sing like MC.  I want to be a rock singer like MC!” That made me laugh.  It is always nice to be a rock star in someone’s eyes!  The next day we went to IHOP for breakfast (an annual event), and had a great time at the neighborhood park doing “underdogs.” I forgot all about those, but I am quite good at them as it turns out.

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The queen of the swings

 

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Ella’s idea for the “picture within the picture”

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“MC…now let’s do sad faces”

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It was almost a good picture…silly little girl!

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Nail polish…one of her most favorite gifts. I was her 2nd customer.

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Does the Tooth Fairy come when your parents are gone? YES! She even leaves a note on tooth shaped paper.

It is always hard to leave, but at some point we all have to try to get back to normal, right?  I left on New Year’s Eve, connecting in Atlanta and Salt Lake City.  We left Atlanta about 40 minutes late.  While en route, I was on-line, because it distracts me from my adult-onset fear of flying.  I checked the Delta app to see where we were, and there was a notice that because my flight was delayed they had other options for me (I am summarizing).  I clicked to look at their proposal and it didn’t look any different than my planned departure, so I accepted the changes, because I didn’t think there were any.  The flight was, in fact, leaving Salt Lake City at the exact same time.  As it turns out, the pilot made up a lot of time – I think we were only 5 minutes late.  When I checked the app again, I noticed that it said my flight from Salt Lake City to Bend/Redmond was not until JANUARY 1!  I panicked for about 30 seconds, then decided I would just go with the adventure (I could hear my mom’s voice in my head, “Think of it as an adventure!”).  I contacted my cousin Leslie, hoping they were free. Lucky for me it was New Year’s in Salt Lake City!  We had a great evening, just hanging out and eating good cheese.  Seriously!  Oh, and some delicious treat that my cousin made involving graham crackers, peanut butter and chocolate.  Of course, I am always happy to see Emmett who is now 1!  My flight did not leave Salt Lake until about 5pm on New Year’s Day, so we had all day together as well.

I was anxious to get back and see how the chickens were doing.  As soon as it got cold (about the end of October), the 5 eggs/day dwindled to 1.  It was my mission to increase egg production.  We decided to install a light in the coop.  The only down fall to that is that the rooster sometimes gets confused, and I hear that big boy cock-a-doodling all night (very faintly).  When the cold weather arrived, their water kept freezing.  So I found a product that is essentially a hot plate for the water.  It is perfect.  It only comes on when the temperature drops below freezing.  I also like to give them meal worms in the morning.  They go crazy for the meal worms.  Now they all jump out of the coop when they see me getting the container out.  One day I was pouring a few meal worms out, and one of the hens flew up and landed on my arm (Falconer!).  I think they are happy, because before I left for North Carolina, I was getting 4 eggs/day!  I have asked that the chicken’s happiness be part of my performance review (I assume they lay eggs when they are happy).  Yesterday I had a little scare with one of the hens.  I was taking fresh water to the coop, and I noticed something black hanging from the back of the coop. It was one of the hens!  Raven got her claw caught on the back of the coop, and she was dangling by her foot.  Poor chicken.  She is hobbling a bit, but she is moving around, so I am hopeful.  Here is a funny video starring Big Red (the GIANT rooster):

http://youtu.be/XkKVOQEMbcc

Overall, things are going very well.  I really enjoy living here, and I am looking forward to more adventures.  Visitors are welcome!

*Shannon (the dog) is still doing very well. I found a great kennel for her (through a friend at work), and she enjoyed it. She promptly took her spot on the couch (No! Not my dog! Ha!). It was difficult to find someone as great as Leith (where Shannon went for 10 years), but I think this will do. It is a lot cheaper than sending her to Ohio or to my Aunt Mary in Michigan.

**Do I miss teaching? I miss the kids. I do get to see kids at the orthodontic office, but it isn’t quite the same. I miss the kids, then I am reminded of the many times I found milk in their lockers. That is a smell that is hard to forget. Why would you put milk in your locker? One year, when I had lunch duty, I had a kid who wanted to take his milk. I had to remind him that the lockers weren’t refrigerated, and that milk really should be refrigerated. Oh my.

Alive and Well in the Wild West

It has been just over a month since I arrived in Oregon.  Everything is going really well.  I am so glad that I decided to take this huge leap of faith.  I am settled in, and loving it.  The first Monday I was here, I got my license (well, I don’t have it yet – Ohio definitely does that better), registered my car, got a post office box, etc.  It is official.

ImageWhat do you think the GMB could stand for?  Good move, babe?  Or perhaps, Great move…Bend?

Doggie Heaven

Shannon (my dog) is loving life on the ranch.  She has found plenty of things to roll in.  One morning she was focused on a particular spot, so I walked closer.  I found part of a deer leg, with some fur still on it.  She finds lots of bones.  Clearly, the coyotes are getting enough to eat.  Shannon gets to roam off leash all over the ranch.  We built up to that, so that I could make sure she listened.  Mostly she goes right towards the river.  When I let her out, no matter when, the first thing she does is a nose dive onto the grass, and she rolls around on her back.  I have never seen her do this so much.  I attribute it to her happiness.  She loves to swim in the river.  I am so impressed by how well she does for an old girl.  She can go to work with me, which she did twice this week.  I can also work from home, so she loves that, too.  I mean, I think she does.  She doesn’t ever tell me anything.  However, I think her actions speak volumes.  Interesting fact:  Bend has one of the highest per capita dog populations (PUPulations?) anywhere in the world.

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Cougars, Coyotes, and Scorpions…OH MY!

Coming from Ohio, I am familiar with deer.  However, I don’t think I have ever seen so many at once.  One morning, I was driving down the road, and there were 30 (maybe more) deer.  As I approached, they were like deer in…well, needless to say they behave the same in Oregon as they do in Ohio.

Speaking of wildlife, the second Saturday I was here, I dozed off for a bit right before sunset.  I was awakened by the hooting of an owl.  I sat straight up, because I thought about the chickens.  I grabbed the flashlight, and ran out of the door to get to the chickens.  I spotted not one, but TWO, great horned owls.  They were hooting back and forth, and I am sure they were talking about the 8 chickens that might be their dinner.  I found several chickens huddled under a tree, so I desperately tried to coax them out from underneath, but they were terrified.  I turned my back and heard the “WHOOSH!” of the owl.  Then I heard the chickens making all sorts of noise.  I escorted them, one by one, to the coop, until finally, all of the chickens were in the coop.  The owls were not having chicken…that night.  I texted one of my former colleagues to see if he would ask Maverick (one of my former students) if owls would eat chickens.  Maverick is a bird expert.  In fact, the first time I meet him he hooted like an owl and made his head move the way a bird would.  He is a character.  Anyway, Maverick happened to be in my friend’s class at that moment, and said that I should protect the chickens, because an owl would most definitely eat the chickens.  Unfortunately, 2 or 3 days later, I found one chicken with its head almost completely severed.  I assume it was an owl, but it could have been a coyote.

The dead chicken was not a pleasant sight, but it wasn’t scary.  Just last week, I was checking the shower as I do every day because my vision is so poor.  I do that because I like to make sure I’m the only one in there.  This day… I was not.  This is what I found.

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This is a scorpion.  Not the kind that will kill you.  It will sting and leave a mark for awhile.  I quickly texted Juliana and asked how to “take care of” this unwanted visitor.  She suggested stepping on it – with shoes on, of course.  So, I put a piece of toilet paper down on top of it, and then took my tennis shoe, and squashed it.  Mouse Man (the guy who takes care of pest issues at the ranch) told me that he (the scorpion) was likely looking for a source of food.  It did not move very fast because it was cold.

How Much Wood…

I am still splitting wood.  Lots, and lots, of wood.  Let’s talk more about that…after lots of wood splitting, I have found the technique that works for me.  At first, I started with what I will call the “over the shoulder” technique.  I was positioning the ax over my right shoulder, and then swinging.  The wood that I split (not sure what kind it is – my sources tell me pine) is VERY hard.  I wasn’t having much success with the OTS method, so I moved on to “behind the back.”  This has proven to be much more effective.  I carefully put the ax behind my back and between my shoulders, I put one leg ahead of the other, find the correct distance from the log, and “WHACK!”  Actually, it usually starts as a “THUD!” because the wood is so hard.  Then I reposition, and try again.  Once I get the right angle, I am able to successfully split the wood.  Sometimes, the ax gets stuck in the wood.  When that happens, I cheat.  I lift the whole thing up (the wood with the ax stuck in it), and just pound the &^%$ out of it on the chopping block (Is that really what it is called?  Must be.) until the wood splits.  It is so incredibly satisfying when the wood finally splits.  I find myself saying, “YES!!!” almost every time it happens.  This may wear off when it is 20 degrees.  I will try to stay ahead of it.  Evidence…

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She Works Hard For Her Money

Work is going very well.  I am doing something different almost every day.  I work with Juliana (Dr. Panchura) in the Orthodontic office about 4 or 5 days a month.  Recently, I have been working hard to find volunteer opportunities for patients who live in the Warm Springs and Madras areas.  It is very cool to be selling a product (so to speak) that people want to buy.  I made lots of phone calls, and talked to people about their willingness to use volunteers.  Ideally, they will sign up on the Kahoot.org website.  In the meantime,  I created a handout for patients who live in those areas.  This is such a great program, and I really enjoy talking to the patients about what they are doing to volunteer in their community.

I have been doing some fun things outside of work as well.  I volunteered for the Bend Film Festival the second weekend in October.  That was very cool.  The first night, I worked the door at a film maker’s party.  I was the one who had to say, “And you are?” Not really, but I had to verify who they were and the name of their film (this is where I saw an actor from the show “Bones” – I was excited!).  The second day I sold tickets and worked as line control at one of the film venues.  That got to be a sticky situation, because it was sold out, and we had to turn people away.  Luckily, I could say, “Well, I’m only a volunteer, but…”  The third day I worked ticket sales at “The Hub.”  I really liked that a lot, because it was where the filmmakers came to chat and kind of check in.

One night, we went to see Greg Brown in Sisters.  I had no idea who he was, but I like music, so I was excited to check it out.  We didn’t have tickets, but were hoping to buy them at the door.  No such luck.  The Belfry was sold out.  So we stood outside with one other guy, and asked people if they had extra tickets.  After about an hour, one person finally had one ticket.  We told the other guy he should take it since he had been standing there longer.  Then another guy walked by.  Julie asked, “Do you have any extra tickets?” In a booming voice, the man replied, “I have a guest list.” It became clear that this was the artist himself.  Whoops!  Fortunately, he asked our names, and put us on his list.  We were able to watch the show after all.  It was great!

Two weeks ago, I drove up to Mount Bachelor to see it up close.  What a beautiful mountain!  It was a great drive.  There are several places to cross country ski all around Mount Bachelor.  I look forward to skiing again.  It has been 13 years!!!

Here are some general scenery pictures…

ImageLast weekend, I went to a Halloween party at a dentist’s office.  There was no laughing gas involved.   I haven’t been to a Halloween party in a long time.  Yes, I dressed up, but I don’t want to offend anyone by revealing my costume.  I will give you a hint…Mary Clare.

A question that I get a lot is, “Do you miss teaching?”  I miss the kids.  It is nice that I get to interact with them at the Orthodontic office.  I keep in touch with my teacher friends, and all I can say is, I am glad I am doing what I am doing.  Like digging potatoes, and talking to a couple of jack asses…

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Life on the Ranch

Yesterday was a big day.  I went into Redmond again to get a few more items, and then it was back to the cleaning project.  When I got back to the ranch, Patrick, the man who was fixing the window, showed up to put the new window in.  Patrick used to live in the cabin, so he was able to tell me about the cabin, the land, and the spiders (YIKES!).  I have got to look up images of Black Widows.  I need to be prepared.  Actually, I am more concerned about running into the rattlesnake that has been spotted on the ranch (double YIKES!!).   Patrick finished the window and was about to leave when I said, “Ummm….Patrick…do you think you can show me how to start a fire in the woodburning stove?”  He was very willing to help out.  He asked if there was any fire wood, and I did not know…he asked me if the ax was still there…and I did not know.  So, we hopped into one of the transport vehicles in order to haul some wood back from the big house (not to be confused with the University of Michigan football stadium!).

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After we brought the wood back, he started chopping some of the bigger pieces in order to make kindling.  I said, “Can I try?” So, he gave me some good pointers, and away I went.  I took the ax in both hands, pulled it over my right shoulder, and “THUD!” The ax got stuck in the wood.  Patient Patrick gave me a few more pointers, and again, I pulled the ax over my right shoulder, and “CRACK!” This time, the wood actually split.  Many of you received texts about my new wood chopping skill.  I was so proud of myself. It didn’t seem to matter that it took me about 10 times as long as it took Patrick.

The next task was to actually start a fire.  Here is a photo of the stove.

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The fire is made on the far left, underneath the left burners.  I have to use the special tool (a lid lifter, I think) to take the burner covers off of the stove.  Patrick told me to put in some newspaper (of course I didn’t have any of that either!), then the kindling on top of that, listen for the crackle, then add the wood.  I had that thing going all day!

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I think that worked pretty well!  Once the cabin heated up, it was easier to do the cleaning and unpacking that was on my to-do list.  One of the first things that I did was climb the ladder so I could make my bed.

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And…voila!

Shannon (my dog) arrived at about 10pm last night.  I was very happy to see her, and yes, you guessed it, she was happy to see me.  She sniffed around a little bit outside, then she came inside and gave every square inch a good sniff.  Shannon is very used to sleeping near me (or the person she is staying with – thanks Aunt Mary and Mo!).  If she can, she likes to get under the bed.  However, as you probably figured out, there was no way she was going up that ladder.  I did think about it for a minute, but quickly realized that even if she could get up the ladder, there was no chance she could get down (a dog waiter prototype is in the works).  She whined a bit, but then she dug into her nest of blankets, and she was snoring in no time.  I did not sleep very well, but I am sure that will change.

Today was my first day of work.  Well, it was only a couple of hours, but it was my first assignment.  I have been remiss in explaining to you, the reader, what it is that I will be doing here.  I will be working for a family friend named, Dr. Juliana Panchura.  She is an orthodontist who treats patients in Bend, Redmond, and the surrounding areas.  Juliana also spends one week a month in Los Angeles doing orthodontics for cleft palate patients.  I will be doing some work for her non-profit, Kahoot.

Juliana established a program where her patients could volunteer in the community in exchange for up to half off the price of braces.  The whole family can volunteer, and each our spent volunteering is equivalent to $10.  The patients have vouchers signed by the non-profit (or other organization), and then bring those into the office.  A few years ago, Juliana started Kahoot (www.kahoot.org).  Kahoot expands the volunteer idea to include other professionals and services.  The website allows volunteers, business affiliates, and non-profits to sign up, and there is a search component as well.

This morning I spent a couple of hours at Project Connect looking for volunteer opportunities for Kahoot.  Held at the Deschutes County Expo Center/Fairgrounds, Project Connect, “…is a one day event that offers free services to those who are struggling to make ends meet or experiencing homelessness in Central Oregon” (www.projectconnectco.org).  This was really amazing.  They were providing vision screenings, dental services (pulling teeth and filling cavities!), acupuncture, and haircuts (and many other wonderful services!).  This whole event was run by volunteers, and I was able to make contact with many organizations who need volunteers.  What a great introduction to Central Oregon!

When I got home, I continued Project Unpack and Get Organized when I returned.  I have already given one tour via FaceTime, and I am available for more!  Book your appointments now. Better yet, book your tickets to fly into the Bend/Redmond Airport.  The airport is only 15 minute from the ranch, and I already know how to get there.  There are direct flights from Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco.  Come one, come all!

For those who are concerned, Shannon is adjusting well.  She had some great walks around the ranch today.  I started her on the leash (especially as we neared the chickens and deer), and then let her off leash to run a bit.  For an 11 year old girl, she is pretty spry.  I love that about her, but I do not love that she still thoroughly enjoys rolling in deer poop.  She barked when Juliana knocked on the door, but she was won over by the big dog bone that Juliana brought.  A happy girl…photo

Thanks for reading!