Something Happened in Bali

Offerings

Anyone who knows me knows that I looked forward to visiting Bali with such excitement that I could hardly contain it. If someone mentioned the word Bali or holiday to me, I broke into this Cheshire cat grin and couldn’t string a complete sentence together. I am not well traveled and my income lies somewhere between minimum wage and living wage so the fact that I had the opportunity to visit somewhere so exotic was the stuff that dreams are made of.

Did Bali live up to my expectations? In short, no it didn’t. Generally speaking if people have asked me if I had a good holiday, I have given a polite society response of “Yes, it was brilliant thanks” for most people, this is satisfying enough. The same applies if someone asks “How are you?” and you respond “Fine thanks”. The conversation then ends and everyone goes on with their business.

If my trip to New York in 2014 made me feel bold & brave then Bali has unsettled me to such a point that at times I feel like I have taken at least five steps back in the progress that I have made over the last eighteen months. The thoughts in my head ricochet like a game of pinball stopping me from concentrating on any one task for longer than a few fleeting moments. Although I know that writing down & organising my thoughts would help; I have done everything I can do avoid doing so, including ironing & washing my car!

The last thing that I should have encountered on this holiday was conflict and yet we did; not between our unit of three I hasten to add. It serves no purpose to share details with you here in much the same way that I haven’t shared details about my ex-husband. Some of you know the story and some of you do not, it’s best that way.

Out of the drama that unfolded I have learned that my daughter has picked up my ability to go into ‘emergency mode’ and by that I mean put emotions aside, find and execute practical solutions very quickly. Can someone please remind me of this when she wants to go travelling next year! Tell me that she is a strong & capable young woman who can handle herself well, with integrity and confidence no matter how scared and hurt she is feeling inside.

For while I saw my son retreat into his own autistic world again, non-communicative and withdrawn, having worked so hard on his social skills and his belief in himself, to see this destroyed by one person’s lack of awareness was heartbreaking. The single mother’s guilt and loneliness I felt for taking them almost to the other side of the world, just to face distress on what should have been an idyllic holiday, reappeared and made me vulnerable. I didn’t like feeling that way at all.

I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of a stranger; the relative of a friend who stepped in to help us. I felt gratitude for my family & friends for the offer of money to assist us, it came immediately and without question and in total trust (although I was too proud to accept). I also felt less alone in a foreign country with the daily messages from those in the know back home who wanted nothing else but to just keep me grounded.

I will have to come to terms with what happened and this is going to take far longer than the week that has passed since we returned. It’s not the worst thing that has happened to me, not by far, but it has left wounds and they need to heal. The process has started by being back home, feeling love from family and friends, being reassured, being hugged, and being told ‘not to be a dick’ when appropriate! Sleeping (or in my case, not sleeping) in your own bed also helps.

So what else happened in Bali?

I should probably start (BD – Before Drama) with Tirta Empul. Tirta Empul (to quote Wikipedia) is a Hindu Balinese water temple located near the town of Tampaksiring, famous for its holy spring water with curative powers.

Of all the temples that we saw or visited, the experience here will say with me forever. We traveled to Tirta Empul as part of a private tour with an English speaking Balinese driver called Ketut (Balinese names explained), we didn’t expect to stay very long but events overtook us. I don’t really know how but Putu, one of the Temple custodians sought us out. Was he skilled at ‘working’ the tourists or was there something else far more spiritual and unexplainable at work? I think the latter.

Water TempleBlimey could Putu talk! He guided Emma through the ablution & blessing process. He then sat and talked to me, he shared part of his life story at first I was extremely skeptical but he quickly (intuitively?) up on my past, mentioning specific things that he could never have known, it disturbed me and I was very guarded but emotion took hold and tears flowed; how can a stranger have such an effect on me?

He escorted us through the Temple explaining this & that (it’s a bit of a blur to me) but every so often he would turn his attention back to me. He was not going to give up on his mission! I am not a religious person, but I do have respect for faith, Putu explained the Hindu belief of Karma & Dharma to me. We think of Karma as someone getting what’s coming to them, but it’s nothing like that! Karma is the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds; and dharma, which has no single word western translation but simply put is the eternal law of the cosmos, inherent in the very nature of things – that we are all connected. At times during our visit Putu took my hand; towards the end of our visit he insisted that he could help me and he took my head in his hands, he spoke softly to me (a deeply personal message), and he applied very specific pressure to the back of my neck. I wish I could tell you what I felt; but I can’t even begin to understand it.

Anything else?

I completed two of the items on my bucket list! Whitewater rafting & having a cream tea! I have decided that a cream tea in Bali (lovely though it was) doesn’t count and I haven’t crossed it off yet- I’m looking for the fully English experience with that one, either in a pretty tea room or a house with a history.

Emma & Matt went Canyoning (with Adventure & Spirit)! I did not. They have balls of steel. I do not. I have seen the Go-Pro footage & that was enough adrenaline for me. This was the highlight of the trip for them and the company deserve their Trip Advisor rating.

Is there more? Hell yes!

I have had a massage on the beach overlooking the Indian Ocean! I have worn a bikini in the first time in…well about forever! I have seen Volcanoes, bathed in hot springs, cooled down in waterfalls. Stared in awe at rice field upon rice field, pondered the human endeavour in building the terraces, contemplated the success of the irrigation and water management vs the UK’s hopeless flood/drought methods and wondered why we cannot learn from a system that has worked for over a thousand years.

Rice Terraces

I have been disturbed by the gluttony, extravagance and overindulgence of some of the resorts vs the poverty experienced by many of the island inhabitants. I have felt guilty for enjoying some beautiful meals when others have nothing.

I have always been fascinated by creative people and Bali has more than its fair share of talented painters, woodcarvers, silversmiths, stone carvers, every imaginable style of textile work there could possibly be. Every single village that you pass through bears testament to this.

FlowersBali has many sides and many, many colours. It has a unique landscape and feel to it; grey volcanic ash, lush tropical forests, green paddy fields, golden beaches, blue skies, turquoise sea, vibrant ceremonial clothing, a black undertone of corruption, flowers, flags & kites everywhere. Oh and scooters…nothing can prepare you for the scooters and the ‘no rules’ traffic management! Bali also has a serious waste crisis. The Balinese traditionally used only organic materials, leaving no waste behind. With the introduction of plastics the island is covered in non-degradable waste from head to toe. The blame doesn’t lie entirely with the tourists either.

Catpooccino!
Catpooccino!

What about the coffee?

I don’t like coffee, thankfully! Just Google Kopi Luwak & you will see what I mean!

Final thought?

I am still in awe of the lovely Balinese people that we met on our visits, tours, outings, meals & excursions, many who guided us through our adventures, or who served us beautiful meals or spent time bartering with us when we bought our souvenirs. They are the happiest and kindest people that I have ever met.

Will I go back? I doubt it very much.

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Eat, Pray, Love, Hope

Someone told me yesterday that a blog post was well overdue. He’s a good friend, a wonderful friend and I have shared many secrets with him (and him me), late night conversations, tears and laughter.  Our pasts have included ex-partners with similar traits and we understand each other…

Eat, Pray, Love – one of my daughter’s favourite books and a go to film for restoring a good mood. It’s also responsible for her fascination with Bali. This feisty, young, feminist woman was seduced by a book about the pleasures of eating good food, about meeting people, about looking at yourself and learning, about using travel to heal and about finding love…I digress, but bear with me.

My friend lives in Bali (see the connection now?) and despite moving there in 2012 he makes more effort than people on my doorstep to keep our friendship alive. He’s asked me to go and visit him many times. The invitation has always been on the table. One day in October 2014 he told me that it was likely that he was returning to the UK and if I wanted to visit it had to be soon(ish). Oh shit! I hate being put under pressure to make expensive decisions AND I was in the middle of having work done on the house.

This is how the decision process went…

Oh shit.

Oh shit, how can I not go?

Oh shit, the daughter will hate me if I go to Bali without her.

Oh shit, the son won’t want to go!

Oh, bugger I can’t take one without the other and still enjoy myself.

How can I afford it? I could afford to take myself (just) but not three of us.

Bollocks- I can’t go.

Fuck it, I have to go! We’re all going. Decision made…

Steamed Duck
Steamed Duck

EAT – He constantly share photos of food with me. I wake up in the mornings to photos of what they had for dinner the previous night. The food looks incredible.

PRAY – I am praying that Mount Raung behaves itself. The ash cloud from the erupting volcano is playing havoc with flights in and out of Bali.

The Bali Squad
The Bali Squad

LOVE  – I will be with people who I love.

HOPE – We all long for genuine human connections and without it our lives can feel very empty. I have a beautiful family and I have lovely friends and I am grateful. Every.Single.Day. I know the trials and tribulations that my friend in Bali has been through and I know he has found the happiness that he deserves. I have shared my internet dating horrors with him, I have spared him some of the details, but this morning he said “There’s a normal one out there somewhere for you”. I hope he is right.

Finn’s Beach Club ~ Bali

“People tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you’re fortunate. But happiness is the result of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert

So that’s it…I am going to Eat, Pray, Love, Hope, and participate relentlessly.

The Bucket List

bucket listImpossible

noun

informal

noun: bucket list; plural noun: bucket lists

definition ~ a number of experiences or achievements that I hope to have or accomplish during my lifetime.

In no particular order to be added to, edited, and even deleted as and when the inclination takes me.

#1 Pay full ticket price to watch my daughter perform professionally: And I want to keep the ticket framed.

#2 Visit Scotland: This needs to happen for so many reasons some of them deeply personal. I’d also like to meet up with some special quines who have supported me, made me laugh, and generally been awesome friends.

#3 Sign up for that counselling course: It’s been on the bucket list in my head for a while now. To do this I need to have 3 hours free one evening per week. Not easy as a single mum, but I will get there.

#4 See the Northern Lights: I have actually done this, but out of a plane window on the way back from New York so I don’t think it really counts.

#5 Kiss *name unknown as yet* deeply and passionately on the beach at sunrise or sunset: Situation vacant.

#6 Visit Lake Como: It’s a George Clooney thing.

#7 Go white water rafting: My son didn’t believe me when I said I wanted to do this. I intend to show him that I mean business! Achieved August 2015

#8 Be taken out for Afternoon Tea: I feel that it is really unjust that I have wanted to do this for AGES and then my daughter goes and does it first. Without me *stamps feet in petulant fashion*.

#9 Visit Stonehenge: My Dad took me when I was a child, but we couldn’t afford to pay to go in so we had to look from afar. Achieved January 2016

Balancing_Land_Art_by_Michael_Grab_5#10 Have a go at Stone Balancing: For no particular reason. Most of all I would like to do this with the friend I refer to in Pebbles. Achieved January 2016

To be continued…

Joining the Dots

or 10 Things I Have Learned

1. I am more youthful in mind than I thought I was- it seems that so many people my age have grandchildren and I haven’t even finished bringing up my own children yet! What I am looking forward to now is finding opportunities to do more things for me.

2. I have regrets about my formal education- I wish I had taken it further. A road accident at 15, time in ICU, and lack support from teachers whist I was in recovery led to a heavy going final year of school. I achieved good results and left school on a Friday and started work the next Monday. I thought that was good at the time.

3. I still want to obtain some qualifications in counselling- This is something that I have wanted to do for a long time but other more important responsibilities have taken priority. I like teenagers (yes, I know, odd huh?) and would ideally like to find a role supporting them in some way. I’ve taken the first steps, just a short introductory course, but it’s a start.

4. Travel- I would like to do much more travelling. I do seem to feel pangs of jealousy when my daughter can just pack and go. I love hearing her stories and especially when she starts a sentence ‘You would have loved…’. So having travelled to New York last year our adventures continue to Bali later this year. I even catch myself thinking “Where next?”.

5. I have a strong lioness instinct- now this only surfaces when my children are threatened, hurting, in danger or ill. But it’s there and she roars from time to time. Don’t test this.

6. You can’t hold on to someone if they want to leave- and neither should you. There have been many drawbacks to becoming divorced, but there have been many pleasures too. I am grateful that my last and only partner since my divorce really showed me what it meant to be loved and I am very grateful for the close bond that I now have with my children.

7. I am introverted (INFJ)– being introverted is nothing to do with being shy and nothing to do with being anti-social. It does mean that I need time alone to recharge. Socially, for me, small groups of close friends are better. Small talk doesn’t interest me and I can become bored easily. I much prefer to discuss opinions, thoughts and feelings.

8. I don’t like cheese- I have never liked cheese, someone asked me recently “why don’t you like cheese?”. This falls into the small talk category above. I don’t know why! Does it even matter why? The smell of it makes me heave and I am old enough now to know my own mind about my likes and dislikes. I don’t need to keep trying things (or trying to do things) that I know I don’t like.

9. Things won’t change unless I make change- no matter how overwhelming the challenge is there is always something that I can do to effect change. I often feel so much more empowered if I can just make one small step towards how I would like things to be. Our outside world is a result of our collective consciousness and  it can feel overwhelming at times in a world full of evil and vile acts, but if you want things to change you have to start small. Really small.

10. You can’t always join the dots- sometimes it looks like there are dead ends. Start again on a different route. Or more accurately “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” ~Steve Jobs

Join the dots