Archive for January, 2012

Dear Reader,

How are you on this fine (and cold!) Saturday evening? I am currently enjoying some quiet time at home, still unpacking and doing some work for school. As a bit of a break from that, I decided it might be fun to write about food (although I think it’s much more fun consuming it!). Many people have asked me, “What’s the food like in Bali?”, “What do you eat there?”, so I figure this will be a more elaborate description for those who have inquired (or others who are interested). And also, I didn’t really write much yet about the end of my trip.

I think I shall start there. Diving in…

The last part of my trip was great. I got the rest of my tasks and research done, did a bit of relaxing, saw a few new places in Bali, and as I previously mentioned, visited my favourite place, Candidasa, and went swimming. Candidasa is also my favourite place to eat, not only because of the wonderful nasi campur (literally, “mixed rice”) but because of the wonderful conversations that always take place when I eat there, and the relaxing sound of the waves landing on the shore beside me. Nasi campur is not a dish of rice mixed with things, but rather a dish of several things that you can mix with the rice. Generally, there is one or two types of chicken, a boiled egg, Balinese style vegetables (often mixed with coconut meat), often sweet and crispy tempe and/or peanuts. Always very spicy.

The first time I went to Bali this summer, I actually really disliked the food. So much of it was oily, fried and not fresh, it was too spicy, and the flavours were so foreign to me that I just couldn’t get used to it. The funny thing was after I got home I looked in my fridge and had no appeal for western food either. I realized that this was partially due to the fact that Ubud has some of the most awesome western food I have ever eaten, in some of the loveliest restaurants! This time in Bali, however, I really enjoyed the local (Balinese) food too. I was given a much more careful tour of the local warungs (small restaurants), roadside and market food and I must say, it is delicious! Plus, you get to eat with your (right) hand!! Tonight I was really trying to avoid my fork at dinner with my grandmother (a little bit challenging, however). Nothing really tasted the same when I tried to eat from a metal utensil. In fact, I have been having a really hard time with the food here on this return. The first night I got home I looked in the fridge and cupboard and saw nothing appealing. I ended up eating toast my first 24 hours back!

Regardless of my new discovery, (or viewpoint, as it may be), there are still foods in Bali I do not intend to miss… I have included a picture of a dish of nasi campur from the ceremony at Bli Komang Sudewa’s house (Ketut’s brother) during their “housewarming” ceremony (which was delicious). They had a basket of deep fried water snakes, however… (not really sure what they are, but they had little teeth and fangs!). I ate the one on my place all the way until the head and then tossed it over to Ketut 🙂 … They also eat a lot of pork there. Not so fond of that.

And then there is a ceremonial (or, special occasion) food called LAWAR. Yes, I will capitalize it because it is huge. There should be a “how many people does it take” joke for this cooking process. I (not once, but twice) had a lesson scheduled with Bu Candri who then called me the day before to say that she had to cancel because they were making lawar. The neighbours had come over and the maids were there, her brother and other family members. Same with Ketut, when he prepares for his ceremonies, he goes to his village a day early so he can help make it. It can be seriously SPICY and most foreigners avoid it. But it is truly a Bali specialty similar to no other food I know in the world. I do enjoy it sometimes but I avoid the versions with fresh blood poured overtop. They even make dragonfly lawar! For those of you interested in the ingredients, here is an additional link: http://www.baliadvertiser.biz/articles/kulturekid/2004/16lawar.html

I have had many Balinese food adventures (including contracting Typhoid Fever), and I may not be chomping at the bit to eat Lawar or fighting anyone over deep-fried water snakes, but thankfully this last trip showed me a new, positive side to a food that I wasn’t so sure of at first. I think that’s good… although I am really missing Balinese food right now! Onto a new adventure we go!

Christmas was definitely different in Bali. There are Christmas lights in many stores and restaurants but I don’t know that I’ve ever been somewhere through December that doesn’t celebrate Christmas on the actual day. I decided I wouldn’t let that stop me, although it’s by no means my favourite holiday. I thought I would get through scot-free but when I woke up, I imagined my family and felt a bit homesick, and missed my annual stocking very much. The only Christmas I had ever spent away was in Mexico (many years ago now). I had already been there for six months and they celebrate Christmas with serious flair! so I was quite absorbed on that occasion.

Thankfully (coming back to the present) I was able to send messages to all of my family and my sister had sent me with a present to open 🙂 (I have the best sister), and Ketut bought me the most beautiful cut flowers I have ever seen in Bali (I have the best… fill in the blank 😉 ). Then I went back to Rendang to cook (for the first time in Bali, a challenge on its own given the differences in kitchen life) a big dinner for Ketut’s family on Christmas day. That was nerve-racking! They asked me what style of cooking I was going to do… I said it was “alla Chelsea” style. Not Canadian, not Mexican, not Indonesian, but Chelsea.

I must explain to you the kitchen differences, so you can fully understand the challenge. Western kitchens are seriously luxurious. In a typical Bali kitchen, you will find: two burners (without the stove), some pots and pans (although no typical western frying pans), a rice cooker (this should be first on the list), a knife or two, salt (no pepper) and a wooden block for cutting or grinding, and a couple big spoons/spatulas. Oh, also kecap manis (sweet ketchup), coffee, tea and sugar.

Given the lack of spices, I bought some whole black pepper that we ground with a rock, a garlic clove and some random Balinese spice-mixes to be even more improvisatory and insane. I bought a whole bunch of vegetables (mushrooms and zucchini to sautee with garlic, carrots, green-beans, red green and yellow peppers to julienne and flash-fry with a light peanut sauce, and tomatoes to roast with garlic, salt and pepper) and some chicken breast to cook with a random sauce to be created in the moment. (a meat they did not recognize later!)

Ketut, being his wonderful helpful self, asked how I would like the chicken cut. Being breasts, I said in half would be fine. He gave me a serious look. “REeally???” he asked. “Yeah, what’s wrong with that?” I replied, confused by his reaction. “Are you sure?” He asked, even more confused than me. It was then (or one round of “are you sure”, “yes I’m sure” later) that I remembered what utensils we would be using to eat… our hands! (or right hand, as it may be).

I suppose the cooking wasn’t that big of a challenge, but the idea of cooking in front of a Mom and Dad who had never tried this style of cooking before, and when I’d never cooked with this setup before was a little grating on the nerves. It was more difficult standing in the grocery store trying to imagine what I needed to get, or what they would like or what I could make that they would remember fondly. Luckily, everyone enjoyed it very much. Especially the mushroom-zucchini dish. Hooray! Unfortunately I forgot to include a sambal (hot sauce of some sort) and that was a bit embarrassing since they generally judge their food according to how spicy it is, but in some ways, that would have taken away from the Chelsea-ness of it all.

So there you have it.

After dinner, I had made up little stockings to give to the kids filled with Canadian paraphernalia and it was fun to see them enjoy their first “Christmas” traditions. Although I suppose it’s not very politically correct for me to call it that, is it. ??? Sigh. Oh, Canada.

The way home, was the perfect ending to a great day. I witnessed:

1. a brilliant sunset, along with a new naked boys bathing at the side of the road. Not so uncommon. But what was different was that I had yelped for stop on the motorbike so that I could take a picture of this sunset and as I got off the back, Ketut had a phone-call, so he stayed near the bike while I ventured off. With my camera in hand, I wandered past these two boys (in the ditch-river… don’t know how else to describe it), naked and looking straight at me. So I quickly turned my eyes as they tried getting my attention (did they want their picture taken???). I took a few pictures (OF THE SUNSET, come on!) pretending I couldn’t hear a thing, had a couple of cars honk (I’m sure they were wanting their picture taken also) and got back to the motorbike with a laugh.

2. Then, I attempted to eat a lot of bugs – or shall I say the wind-force on the bike attempted to feed them to me.

….and THEN, getting back into Ubud, we decided to venture out and eat again! Across the street from my Bali-home is a small vendor selling “pisang keju”. I asked the first time I saw it, “What on earth is pisang keju?” and my response was, “I’m not sure, I’ve never tried it”. Fair enough I suppose (even though I didn’t know how it could exist so close for so long and not be tried). Pisang means banana, but keju wasn’t in the dictionary, so I asked. “What is keju?” and the response was, “You don’t know keju? It’s really famous in Australia”. Thinking it’s some sort of style, I wait to see what it is. We bought some (picture attached below) and I must say it is the most delicious thing every. Keju is CHEESE! Why does my dictionary not have that entry!?!? I suppose it’s not a common thing in Bali. Ok, to explain fully, pisang keju is deep-fried, crispy bananas, drizzled with condensed milk, palm sugar and white cheese. I think we ate this every day after we discovered it.

I suppose I could make some of this stuff at home… but it’s always difficult when school comes. Everything else goes to the background. I won’t let that stop me completely though… I must make some of these things here! I am determined! I love food!!! 🙂

Well, thanks for coming out again to read my journal. I hoped you enjoyed these stories about eating, cooking and Christmas. I certainly enjoyed making the memories…

Hope to see you again soon!


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Dear Reader,

Thanks for visiting me again. I’m back at home now in Vancouver, although I’m beginning to feel more disoriented with the concept of “home” as my time is spent immersed in other cultures and places around the world. It can be very confusing to be such an adaptable person!

I want to start by saying… I am SO glad to be in 2012!!!!!! As many of you know, 2011 was both a year of severe challenge and triumph for me, and I managed to land in 2012 with the most positive, clear and peaceful mind I have felt in a long time. Bali was good to me and filled in the gaps for a lot of the work I have been doing to recover from some of those challenges. It was wonderful to connect with old friends and see those amazing smiles again. I felt like my smile had a place to go, and sometimes I feel that to be a difficult task in Vancouver. Nevertheless, I have brought peace back with me along with a new Rindik (grantang) to play and practice and I’m even thinking of doing a small performance this Friday at an open mic around the corner from where I live in Kitsilano.

Yesterday was my first full day back and I just spent it with my family. My sister picked me up from the airport the night before, waiting for me with the perfect hot coffee in hand and huge hug in her arms… her wonderful man carted all my luggage around… they drove me home and then hung around for a bit before taking off around 11 to get to a relative’s house for the midnight countdown.

You see, the amazing thing for me was that I had already had my countdown in Hong Kong. I had already BEEN to 2012 and seen how great it was! And then I got to do it all again in Vancouver because of the crazy time differences around the world. [to clarify, I left Bali at 4pm on the 31st, arrived in Hong Kong at 8:30pm through midnight waiting for my flight at 1am on January 1st, to arrive back to Vancouver at 8:30pm on December 31st again!] Both times going through the strike of twelve were quiet for me, with my eyes closed and positive thoughts in mind. I imagined the new world I wanted to create for myself and I must say without a doubt, it is already in creation. I spent January first having the best talk with my Mom over lunch, the best talk with my Dad and Grandma over dinner, and then a peaceful sleep in regular Vancouver hours! Even after having the most comfortable 8 hours sleep on the second plane here! Just amazing! Last night too, I slept from 11pm-9am. I think you remember me fully confused last time having took three weeks to get onto a regular sleeping and eating regimen here.

Things only got better today when I talked to one of my amazing friends, Jean Leggett, who is also my life-coach. Have you heard about life-coaching before? It has changed the way I look at life. As soon as I found out about this service, I knew it was for me. People have coaches for weight-lifting, running, olympic activities, singing, mental issues and academics… but what about our daily goals in life? Being such an ambitious person with so many interests and feeling like there’s never enough time, I knew it was crucial for me to collaborate with someone that could help direct all my energies and desires. I met Jean two years ago at a friend’s wedding and we hit it off immediately. We became friends that weekend and I found out she was a life-coach. I decided to have a session with her, and right away it was rewarding. I already had more direction – and not because she told me what to do, but because she asked me the right questions and was intuitive enough to know how to direct my insanity! Through the last two years I have accomplished more than I ever imagined possible, thanks to myself but thanks to Jean also for her guidance and most importantly, her sincere belief in me and my capacity.

Just as a taste of what that means:

I helped produce over 200 concerts in 17 days at the successful FHFN Aboriginal Pavilion during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, worked with artists from all around the world coordinating productions at venues all over Vancouver, including producing my own event at the Vancouver Trade and Convention center. I co-founded and co-directed a successful children’s choir, the Pacific Spirit Children’s Choir, out of West Vancouver which participated in many successful performances such as Andre Rieu’s annual Christmas special at GM Place with over 12,000 audience members. I finished my Undergraduate degree in Music and gave an hour an a half concert on my own after just having recovered from surgery on my larynx and not being able to sing until 3 weeks before the performance. I wrote and produced a theme song for VCC’s new promotional material. I wrote two award winning musical scores for two short films in the Montreal World Film Festival. I worked at a well-known recording studio out of North Van and learned some audio-engineering. I flew all over Canada to help with different speaking and musical engagements, went to Mexico for three weeks to visit old friends, I attended two vocal pedagogy workshops out of L.A. with Lisa Popeil and enhanced greatly my ability to teach many other western styles of singing. I flew to Arizona to work on my photography with an experienced friend, took a spontaneous flight to Ottawa by myself to see my favourite African singer, Salif Keita, lived in Bali for the summer, landed another conducting position with the Vancouver Bach Chidlren’s choir and started 3 new groups of a new level of choristers, the “piccolinis”. I started my Masters degree in Ethnomusicology. I taught my first two lectures at a post-secondary institution (VCC) on vocal pedagogy. And now I just came back – as you know – from spending December in Bali again. I can have conversations in Indonesian now. I can’t even list the rest because it would go on and on, but it gives an idea at how much I have been able to do in a short frame of TWO years only. I am thankful to Jean for much of this, because she helped me be brave enough to go for it all.

I love her to pieces. Today we had a call to catch up and then do a bit of coaching and I must say, 2012 is going to be a year you’re going to need to follow around here. 🙂 I would like to write more about these ideas but for now I can direct you to her website and NEW blog which she will be writing about many interesting coaching topics, for those of you intrigued… www.thecookiecoach.com AND BLOG: http://jeanleggett.blogspot.com/

One of the things we talked about was the amount of pressure there is in living in western societies. Life in third-world countries can be extremely difficult at times, but we have complicated our lives and forgotten so much of what is important. Part of my great difficulty last year was dealing with the long-time war I have had in my mind for the past several years, a war that many of us share: “What am I going to do with my life?” “What should I be doing?” “What is my destiny?” “Where do I see myself in 10 years?”… While that is important, it can also carry us away from the moment, and have us wasting away time, planning for things that could be completely null and void next week. So why not just BE. Why let anyone else tell you your destiny. Why allow yourself to get stuck in commitments and responsibilities that are not true to what you really want. And why not be open to contemplating visions we never imagined possible for us?

Sometimes I feel like my life is filled with those traps, and this year I plan to stand face-to-face with them and say: NO. It’s not the “things”, but the quality and essence of life that I want. I am not ready to share all those details on this site right now, many are possibly even too personal for me (gasp!) and also because many of them are unknown still (yet another gasp!)… but rest assured: as they unfold, so will I.

New Years is incredibly important to me, and perhaps one of my favourite holidays, not because it’s the right time to lose 10lbs, not because I’m going to play more piano, or write more songs, or accomplish more “things” but because it allows me to draw a tangible line in which I can leave old things behind that are not serving me anymore and take with me the things that are. It allows me to place new thoughts free of nets or weights in the forward side of the line. It is a formal time for me to re-evaluate and make new decisions about who I want to be. I don’t believe in waiting for things that are important, however, so this is not a “I’m going to wait until the 1st to start my goals”, but a place, a sign-post to arrive and think about myself. Winter-cleaning, perhaps.

To wrap this all up, I want to say THANK YOU. Thanks to all of you who have been following my writing, my thoughts, my experiences and my life. Thanks to all of you who believe in me and what I do. It means the world to me, and I will always appreciate your loyalty to who I am. In return, I leave you with a smile and enormous warmth in my heart.

I plan to keep updating you with more of life, more of living and more of ME.

Thanks for reading, as always,

PS – For those of you curious about this “Five Alive” reference, 2+0+1+2 = 5, and five is the number of positive change. It is also the number of several awesome words like, laugh, light, and alive. Hence, I decided to give my year a theme name: Five Alive 🙂 (yes, my cheese will go over the line with me, thank you very much.)

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