Archive for June, 2011

Dear Reader,

For those of you who know me well, know that I’m not often caught with a light schedule… but I am starting to get used to a very uneventful lifestyle. My lungs are still having trouble, although I am doing truly, everything possible to get better so that I can sing again. I think part of the problem is the air quality here. Garbage is burned at a dedicated rate, mold lives everywhere you do, and rats live among the gardens, the streets and the rooftops, kicking down their dirt through the bamboo ceilings.

Today I contemplated for a long time about whether I should write something or not. I thought, what can I tell you that will be interesting? What can I tell you during my placidity that will keep you coming back to read my musings? After much contemplation, and a scattered attempt at coming up with something for you, (and for me, of course), there was one event that I realized was a much bigger thing than I first made it to be while writing.

It started by me telling you the uneventful day I had when I posted the pictures of my delicious breakfast. That day, I ventured out with Lisa -on what started as a hot day- to “Mingle”, the internet cafe that I frequently frequent. We sat out on the patio for hours not doing much at all except drink coffee and watch the weather turn as clouds came in with a chilly breeze. After a few hours of unspecified pensiveness, we decided to wander down the street to another cafe (Tutmak) for lunch. After some homemade yogourt and muesli, and a beautiful cup of chai, it started to pour, and we talked very genuinely between moments of that same pensive mood, looking out at the sky, intrigued at when this downpour would lighten up so that we could walk home (oh, and also intrigued by the boys playing soccer or flying kites in the field beside us, on such a stormy day).

I remembered our walk there, and my enjoyment of just being, even in gloomy weather. The fact that I could just sit there and not worry. Moreover, the fact that even amidst this uneventful period of travel, that I am still able to find joy. That I am still able to learn and grow through my interactions with the culture and the beautiful people surrounding me.

It was then that I realized what important things were right there, waiting to be written about.

One of the most beautiful things I have discovered about Bali, is the smallness of it. The people remember your name. Even after a brief interaction or small sale. They are always interested where you are going, they are always reaching out with a smile and a warm heart. When I walk down the road where I live, I greet the small warung (inexpensive restaurant, eatery). The first one is owned and operated by two men named Nyoman and Putu. Right now, they are just selling juices because they can’t afford to sell food yet. So every day, Lisa and I go to get a juice. I order a fresh young coconut water and Lisa orders the watermelon juice (or bravely, avocado juice garnished with chocolate around the glass). We think we may be the only customers there, as Nyoman doesn’t have a sign or anything on the business. Before I stopped to talk to him I wasn’t quite sure they were selling anything to the public…

Next door is a small mechanic shop for motorbikes run by Komang and Gde, two younger boys who don’t speak much English. We always smile and say hi, and have managed to get through some formalities through broken Indonesian and English, but sometimes we get stuck, break out in laughter and I continue my walk as we are left without much to say.

Across the street are two young men running a laundry service (the one I use for the laundry I don’t do by hand), Wayan and Komang. (PS – you will start to learn as I name new friends that many people have the same name here). Wayan speaks English fairly well and Komang just smiles. I usually prepare my Indonesian phrases before going there so that we can communicate… although laundry is fairly straightforward… main vocabulary needed: separate.

Then I pass Leslie’s homestay where they know my face and smile and wave.

This is my 3 minute walk down the street. And that’s not counting the walk through the family compound where Pasek, Wayan – their parents and their children always greet with enormous smiles. Or the construction workers finishing the new building in the front – the construction workers that work for nothing, yet have the biggest smiles I have ever seen in my life.

Then there is the places we go, like Mingle, where it is our Balinese “Cheers” (please replace beer with coffee)… where the staff is like family, and when we come in they greet us with hugs, kisses and handshakes. Where we often spend hours on the upstairs patio, while periodically being visited by rotating staff. Even the Australian owner comes in at times unfazed by our continued presence. We often joke that we will just move the building, the staff and everything about this place back to Vancouver when we leave… they have become friends and a staple to our lives here.

I suppose seeing the same tourist/foreigner for more than a week or two is less usual, and of course, as smiley as we are, we have made many friends, in many places. And I am fortunate enough to be here, passing those places every day.

I realize now that I have much more to write, but I have been back and forth between the internet and must sign off on this entry. I will go home to sleep, with a rat trap (finally) above me, so there might be less chatter found tonight when I go to sleep. Perhaps I can just sing my cat and mouse song again. Juk meng, juk bikul, juk meng, juk bikul! (hopefully this will be so funny and adorable to you when you can hear it!) Actually, one of these days I will post some recordings so you can listen to the wonderful, interesting and awesome music I am discovering on this side of the planet. Even on days that I am not doing much, I still discover much about this place, the people and their culture.

Many hugs to everyone… miss your smiling faces too! XO

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Remembered to take a picture this morning!

Yum Yum Yum


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An Ode to Bubur

Dear Reader,

Thanks for your patience, your good thoughts, and your loyalty in reading my adventures. I am now back in business, roaming around (carefully) and ready to experience Bali again. Unfortunately my lungs are still affected and are still undergoing some healing, but they are also getting better every day. Typhoid is really a strange thing. It must be different for everyone because I am not sure if everyone has a lung infection quite as bad as I did as a result of the fever. I am not singing yet – and it’s not because I don’t have a voice, I do… but the air power is limited. Now at least I can get through a whole phrase without choking on it, unlike last week, as I tried patriotically to sing the anthem for each of the Canucks’ games; it was really quite pathetic. Barely made it through a word without running out of breath (that’s how dedicated I am, my dear Vancouver!). My prediction now is that I will be singing within a few days again. Wahoo! (although I did predict that a week ago too… oops)

As for what I’ve been up to, really it’s been quite bland. Bed bed bed. Bed. Internet a few times. Eating rice porridge (a.k.a. bubur) Oh I guess that’s worth mentioning. The family that I am staying with has been wonderful to me. Leslie had moved down the road to stay with her favourite Ebu and I was feeling rather alone (even though she was here to visit and came once at midnight after a phone call when I was really scared! Thanks Lele!) and the family took it upon themselves to be my caretakers. They checked in on me morning, noon and night, bringing me bubur and a boiled egg to eat three times a day. It is THE cure for typhoid… apparently. Who in their right mind would deem watery rice to be any percentage of appealing? Well, it might just be an insane woman named Chelsea. A strange phenomenon of a strong bond has occurred between myself and this infamous rice gruel.

The first time they gave it to me I dumped it down the toilet. I saw a big bowl of white, watery rice and thought: bleck. empty calories. fruitless carbs. no taste. I couldn’t bring myself to eat more than a few bites. In rebellion, I tried to eat somewhat regularly – some chicken soup, eggs and toast, fruit… I thought this would be ok, but it just sat in my stomach, like an equally rebellious lump, somehow giving me the dreaded feeling that I was moving in the wrong direction. This is how I gave in to bubur. After a week of eating it, morning noon and night, I was feeling a bit better. My stomach never gave me any grief during this time and I have come to believe in the power of this rice gruel …grueling rice…? one of the two!

Anyways, I’m sure you are much more tired of bubur at this point than I should be. I am now down to once a day… in the mornings. Am gradually introducing other food to my diet which is also exciting and promising news. However, I may just stick to this dish in the mornings for my remaining time here, so I will be sure to take a picture for you one of these days.

As of other news, I have been taking care of myself by getting massages and have recently discovered the power of infrared sauna. I sweat so much I couldn’t believe it. After my first treatment, people were telling me how fresh and healthy I looked so I am pretty much convinced of its magic. Don’t worry, I haven’t completely lost my mind. I do realize how odd I am after professing my new crush on rice , to now disclose this secret affair with a sauna in tropical village.

I know I have a lot of catching up to do in this blog, so watch out for many new entries to pop up soon, and frequently. One of my news items is my new neighbour, Lisa – who moved in around the same time Leslie moved out and sweetly came to introduce herself while I was sweeping my porch. Turns out she is an anthropologist who is interested in the musical aspect of culture! She is doing her undergrad in Delaware and received some funding (due to severe intelligence) to come here for two months so that she could check out the music scene and learn some gamelan. She also has a blog you can check out at  http://lisasmusicalbali.tumblr.com/. While I am unable to take lessons, we have been roaming around a lot together while Leslie is drumming away!

Three days ago, Leslie and I went to meet our friend Sudi’s mom and dad, finally! I am eventually going to study some singing with him but have obviously had a bit of a kink in my plans… so we were a little later going there to meet them. Sudi’s mom invited to a women’s gamelan rehearsal the following day… and I ended up going with Lisa and we met up with Leslie afterwards for dinner. I thought we were just going to watch the rehearsal, but when we arrived, she invited us to play! I was very excited about this since I haven’t played gamelan in over a year and although my left fingers were sore from the damping afterwards, I was very happy to have played again.

Yesterday we decided to hire a driver, and a new friend – introduced by Leslie – named Agus. He is really adorable and fun to hang out with. I am still unable to drive my motorbike because of my lungs but cars are ok for me to travel in. I love to explore and although there are places I would definitely like to see here, I thought I would just get him to decide what would be worth seeing in an afternoon. Our first stop was some rice terraces that Leslie and I had been to one evening – but unfortunately I had been without camera. This time I was able to take some pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Our second stop was to a coffee plantation. Very interesting place! They harvest a very special coffee made out of a berry (will post a picture of this). They also are a home for an animal called a Luwak, which eats the berries, digests and expels the berries appropriately, after which point, this delightful substance is then cleaned, processed and sold for $500 a pound. Apparently it makes a coffee that tastes like no other. No kidding?

Anyways, after making our way through a path surrounded by coffee berries, pineapples, bananas, salaks (special Balinese fruit), passionfruit and chocolate pods in the trees, we sat down at a table where we were poured several flavours and varieties of coffee and tea (minus the really expensive one). Ginseng coffee, Bali coffee, Lemon tea, Ginger tea, Ginger Cocoa, Cocoa… that’s all I can remember at the moment. We drank this as we looked over a view of garden and jungle-ish terrain. We met a chicken with a perm, two large bats and some sort of local eagle – unfortunately chained to a tree for visitors to see. Definitely not a good feeling in my stomach witnessing this ignorant attitude towards wildlife, but it is an unfortunate reality in many places around the world – including where we think it doesn’t happen, like in our own country.

Besides that detail, it was a wonderful experience and a beautiful place to relax for a few minutes. We then made our way towards one of the local volcanoes, Mount Batur. We were so lucky with the weather! Apparently it can be completely invisible at times because of the cloud coverage but as you will see below, we were able to see gloriously! We then went to a restaurant (buffet) where I learned that you can also barter for food prices. We sat on a balcony overlooking the volcano and surrounding area. This made the price worth it! When we were on our way out, the clouds started coming in at a fast and steady pace, and looking back, we were barely able to see a thing. Such great timing; so lucky!

On our way back, we passed by some more beautiful scenery, and a children’s birthday party! It was just brief, but not too quick for Agus to pick up the sounds of a familiar children’s song that he started singing. Of course my ears piped up ambitiously and I inquired. It is a song about a cat and mouse. A fat mouse that the cat eventually catches. He sang the whole thing and I sang along after a couple repetitions, and because we were on the subject he taught me another one about a fisherman. When we got back, we hung out on the porch for a while and I was able to record the songs he was teaching me and learn them a bit better. Leslie then came over with the guitar and the four of us sat on the porch well after it got dark singing about cats, mice and then also some ridiculous songs from the 80’s. A Balinese specialty.

Now I have spent the majority of the day here at a little cafe that has wireless internet, writing this blog and trying to figure out how to insert pictures better but am still not sure. For now I will leave you with an album of photos that go along with this blog entry, and I will be updating soon again, more healthy and happy than ever!

Thanks again for your notes and good thoughts. They have definitely been with me the whole time.


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Dearest Reader,

You haven’t heard from me because I am still sick… and I didn’t have anything much to tell you besides that. I just confirmed yesterday that it is a case of Typhoid – not the most pleasant thing in the world. After I last wrote, I decided stubbornly to go to my lesson the next morning but just tell Bu Candri that I wasn’t all that well. I had a good lesson, but half way through, I definitely knew I wasn’t well yet. I was feeling very weak and not much like driving home. When we got back to Ubud, we went to eat and after that, I wasn’t sure if I could make it around the corner to get home. Thankfully we did, and I went straight into bed and realized I had a bad fever.

[PS – Dad, if you do not feel like reading about this experience, you are not obligated… I know you have a hard time imagining me in pain! But it doesn’t go into much detail, so it might not be so bad… it’s just a general overview with some good outcomes at the end]

After that, I spent three days barely leaving my bed with that fever. Leslie was beside me much of that time reading stories and helping me unscrew water caps – ordering me to drink regularly (such a sergeant!).

After three days, we both thought it would be wise to get checked out at the doctor – have my blood taken and the like. I didn’t really understand the results but knew that I tested positive for three different types of salmonella poisoning and knew that wasn’t so great. After that first day taking medicine, I didn’t sleep for two nights because my breathing was constricted due to the deep congestion and snore-like sounds coming from the lungs, and I was nervous to fall asleep. Yesterday I decided to go to a different doctor to get a second opinion and with my results he confirmed that it was indeed Typhoid Fever. He said it is quite common here but for some reason they had given me a very general antibiotic that wasn’t specific to Typhoid. He gave me another prescription that after I bought it, I realized there were no instructions on how to take it. Thank GOD because when I looked it up, I found out it was quite a harsh treatment of antibiotic that wasn’t approved by the FDA and included some really weird side effects and possible permanent reactions.

I have decided NOT to take it, and continue with my “lighter” antibiotic. My fever HAS gone down, and Leslie reports that I am a lot better than yesterday and the day before. I have written to a couple specialists and will find out a bit more.

These are all good things to experience in some ways because if I was traveling by myself, I would want to know how to handle these situations: to research medications, to bring a thermometer (luckily Leslie had one that I used sometimes every five minutes for entertainment), to scope out pharmacies, hospitals and doctors nearby… all of those important things that could make a big difference when it comes to something serious.

Needless to say, I haven’t been doing a lot of music research. I will probably be taking another week to recover. Thank goodness I am staying until July 21st (oh right, haven’t had a chance to tell very many of you this yet) to make up for lost time. My mom just drafted me a bit of extra cash so that I can go and get some massages while I’m recovering. Thank you mom!!! I have such a great family.

Well, going to go get one of those massages now. Then another good night’s sleep, hopefully waking up tomorrow with a little more light in my step.

Love to all. Oh, and don’t think I don’t have anything to say about the Canucks or the disgrace of the city afterwards. I will be writing about this when I am better.


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Sick Day

Dear Reader,

Sorry to keep you hanging for  a few days. I was planning to write this morning because I had some time to myself… but instead, I woke up feeling very sick, unable to move at the fear of having to do the most horrible thing when you’re sick… and I managed. For 2 hours. The rest of the morning, I’ll leave to your imagination (or if you choose not to, I won’t be offended). I ended up finally falling asleep at noon, waking again at 4. Found a sweet note on my bed from Lele explaining she had gone to her lesson and that if there was ANYTHING I needed, to call. I called when I woke up to see where she was and she then took an “almost doctor Tilley’s” order for some crackers and gatorade for me. Thankfully it was just what I needed. I then rested for another hour or so and got up. She then also decided it would be a brilliant idea (and it was) to read me a story… so my whole day was mostly laying down. Now I am at the internet out of my own stubbornness to check email, write something to you and drink some wonderful ginger tea to soothe my tummy even more.

Leslie did say this happens to everyone here at some point… and I don’t think it was one particular thing I ate, but a culmination of things I ate eventually catching up with me. “Bali Belly” is the alleged name.

It has been another wonderful few days of learning, exploring and dancing! Although, the dancing is damn hard, and hurts! I would like to write about it more in detail as today I don’t have much time here and albeit my stubbornness, I will be going to bed sometime soon. For now, I will finish publishing the entry below, filled with pictures for your viewing delight.

Love always,

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Dear Reader,

Thanks for coming back. It’s been a couple days now and I can’t figure out how to condense all the things that have happened, but I’ll try to make it work for the sake of both your eyes, and my fingers. In fact, I may choose to write a more elaborate entry later and talk about some lighter stuff, as well as include some pictures for your viewing pleasure!

First of all, due to the high curiousity rate of my readers, here is a picture of my banana pancakes and delicious fruit salad that accompanies my every morning.

Banana Pancakes... mmm mmmm delicious!

The beautiful lady who makes them is named Wayan. She is always smiling and I managed to capture one of her signature moments here to share with you…

Beautiful Wayan, enjoying life as usual!












Another beautiful woman that we are graced with is the grandmother of the family. She visits the back of the family compound several times a day to deliver the offerings to various temples and structures in the yard. These are the same offerings and purpose as those of the temple experience. Beautiful flowers and food is offered to the Gods, and the rotting goods are delivered to the demons. Here are a couple pictures of her praying at one of the statues.

A daily commitment to quiet and devoted moments...












Here is a more detailed view of the offerings themselves. One on the street in front of a store, the others culminating into a huge pile at the market.

Encased in hand crafted boxes, an offering to the Gods

Often incense accompanies these offerings





















Speaking of the market, here are a couple pictures that will give you an idea of the richness of colour and business that exists there.

There's so much to look at, it's hard to walk through!

As you can see, parking here has become an art.



















And here are some updated “home” photos.

Much better, don't you think?

My favourite neighbour to the right!

My lovely bedroom!

Another neighbour!








































Ok, time for me to go, will update soon!


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Biking to Bangli

Dear Reader,

Ok! Officially here with you watching the game!

Yesterday was another full day. There were several factors that made us leave a bit later, but in the late afternoon, we headed over to Bangli to make some progress on leads we had been given by Bu Candri. There was one drummer we had the name of but weren’t sure if he was dead or not, and then the other names we had no idea what part of town they lived in. So we set out with an adventurous mindset, ready to face a bit of asking around.

Bangli for some reason seemed rather difficult to get to. There was a river separating some of the roads and for whatever reason, they paralleled each other with no way across the river for a long time. Not a big river, either. We first thought we would take some back roads but then ended up driving up and down a very steep hill only to realize we had gone in a loop back to the main road. When we finally arrived to Bangli, we had to find the smaller village that we were told about, but this also proved to be difficult to find. We may have spent double the time getting there just to stop and ask or look at the map every few miles (or blocks…)

But really, this is no complaint. The drive was absolutely gorgeous. I was cursing to not have the camera with me but then Leslie pointed out that I was in fact, driving… and taking pictures might not work out very well like that. Thanks Lele for being the practical one at times. Because Bangli is higher up in the mountainous areas, the temperature was very mild and the smell of the air fresher and more fragrant. The other benefit to this longer route is all the adorable children we came across.

I should mention that most of the areas we are traveling (outside of Ubud) are small villages where white people are a novelty. So generally speaking, we are stared at by everyone as if we might possibly be aliens, or superstars. I think it might be the latter, because as we drive by, groups of boys holler, and the sweetest little girls run out to the side of the road to blow kisses and yell “hello” in the most excited tones. Very, very heartwarming.

When we finally made it to the village we were looking for. Apuan, we stopped to ask someone if they knew of this famous drummer and where he lived. Unfortunately we were told that he had just passed away five months ago, which was very disappointing to Leslie as these drumming techniques are oral traditions and not noted in any book. She’s the one that will be doing that work! The fellow was kind enough to note the direction of the late man’s son’s house.

Directions are funny: go straight up this road for a while until you see a tall building on the right and it will be across the road… or …after the second big tree… etc.

Anyways, we drove up the road for a while and couldn’t see a tall building on the right, but there were some guys that I thought we should stop and ask. We pulled over and Leslie inquired only to receive a response that he was one of the guys where we stopped, walking out of his driveway! He invited us in, showed us -with pride- some pictures of his famous dad and talked a bit to us about the arja scene in Bangli. Once again, we were in the right place at the right time and found out his grandmother is a well known arja singer, still performing in the local arja group… and she lives right across the road!

He took us over and we waited as she was just taking a shower when we arrived. We were brought tea (in a bottle) and some chocolate buns. Kids gathered around and people peeked in from the neighbourhood to see what we were doing as we chatted. My first sight of the grandmother was topless but she kindly changed before joining us on the tile porch (aka, the living room).

We sat for a while and then they decided to test us. This is night time, outside, an audience gathered and they would like to hear me sing arja music before she commits to taking me on as a student. This is now a moment where I feel very shy and nervous as I just started learning this style – three days ago now? and I do not have my sheets with me with all the lyrics or any other memory helpers. After a bit of coaxing and encouragement (thanks Les), I conjured up the first few lines of one of the songs I had been taught by Bu Candri. After my first note, she gave me a thumbs up so that was helpful too. They seemed to like my voice quite well, and apparently mentioned it again later – and asked me to sing again. They were quite puzzled however, that I did not dance and wondered why I wouldn’t be dancing when learning this music. Once again, body and the voice are one entity. I believe I am going to take some dance while I am here since they are tied so closely together. Fun! Then, she sang for me to teach me a new song with a structure she feels I should learn before any other song – called a durma.

Leslie was also tested, by more than one person. The son of the late drummer made some phone calls to former students of his father to see who would feel comfortable teaching some lessons… but he was having a hard time finding someone who felt like they knew enough to teach. Finally, he went to find someone in the neighbourhood and came back with a lively man who is not the best drummer, but is eager to share all his information. With the help of Waranda (the famous man’s son), he can play patterns for Leslie and teach her the arja drumming style of Bangli. They drummed for quite a while, while I sat with the women and learned how to do some craft work with coconut leaves, using their spines as staples.

One thing I’ll have to get used to here is the horking and spitting and blowing the nose into the left hand, wiping it on the clothing. Not exactly an aesthetic a westerner would find ideal, but I’m not exactly in a place where my ideals matter a great deal. Deal deal deal.

Finally, dark and getting late at 9pm, we set up lessons for the following day (today) and headed back. Funny story about the trip home. We were doing pretty well at getting back (trust me, maps are different here without road names and strange perceptions of distance)… when we turned up the wrong way. We stopped and asked and a woman sent us down a back road that we didn’t feel so right about. We figured we’d check it out a bit but then drove down a street with lots of potholes, turned down a street with many barking dogs only to find it was a dead end… WITH A BOARDWALK! Leslie and I will probably laugh about this more than any reader could since the imagination only takes you so far – but imagine feeling like you’d gotten strange directions and ended up at a dead end where there was a boardwalk off the side of the cliff of a road into the garbage-laden forest… oh yes, only after passing a dog disguised as a watermelon! (he was in a pile of garbage and because he was quite pink, he really did look like one)… oh the horror. I turned around quickly and though Leslie asked if I needed her to get off in order to do so, I definitively answered no and motored back up the street, honking in order to ward off the protective dogs. We laughed and laughed all the way home.

Now it is morning and I am at the internet cafe listening to the first period of the game, checking email and the like… hoping that all my readers have all had an excellent day. At 9:30, we’ll head over to Singapadu for our morning lesson, then back to the Cudimani residence to set up some other lessons (another drumming teacher for Leslie and a dance teacher for me), back to Ubud for lunch with Leslie’s Balinese mom, then a short rest before we head back to Bangli for another adventuresome evening – first lessons with new teachers of different styles.

I’ll do my best to write again soon, but may skip a day depending on how much time I have before I go to bed. That seems to be the easiest time for me to write these and then posting them in the mornings when I can get to a cafe.

Signing off as the Canucks have a five minute power play against them. Ugh. Sounded like a really nasty hit. Will wish the best for the rest of the game… I’ll be singing away under the coconut trees! 🙂


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