Art, Culture, and Ocean Conservation . . .

Archive for March, 2011

Bidadari Tales

Slipping away into Balinese life is quite easy and rewarding. Every day is an adventure as we uncover secret white sand beaches, black sparkly beaches, ancient temples, volcanoes and lakes, and artist communes deep in the jungle. Yes please!

I’m always amazed when driving down the road that at any moment 100s of people may go past by the busload flowing out and over the top, carrying offerings, dressed in matching outfits, playing instruments, or perhaps surrounding a 20 ft cow in transit decorated in a golden crown and neck piece or a huge beastly god or goddess with fake fur dripping from the bed of it’s fingernails fighting off some crazy demon. It’s a choose your own adventure book that you are reading over someones shoulder and they are picking all the right options you didn’t even know were possible.

One day we had a beach day even though we will be spending much of our remaining time here on epic beaches-we just needed a lil sand and sun. So we drove east and stopped along the coast and visited super black sparkly beaches and then snuck away to one of the few white sand beaches.


A lot of the southeastern part of the island is eroding away. The water has crazy rip tides and at one of the beaches the ocean came all the way in and through the the market and up to the main road at high tide- but then washes back out in a few hours. The lil white sand beach we found is in a protected cove and not so fierce. Perfect for flying kites (shaped like sailboats!!!) drinking coconuts, and jumping in the waves!

We have driven in every direction on this island and have gone to many Balinese ceremonies-and even attended one at the largest temple here, Pura Besakih, that goes on for 11 days so that all the people on the island find the time to pilgrimage there and pay their respects. Once in the temple complex which is nestled into the side of the largest mountain on the island- you move temple to temple -ceremony to ceremony- through the different colored areas until coming upon the final area where all the triple stacked parasols and flags are all the colors representing all the gods as a whole. Their was an all female gamelon playing at the last stop and they were INCREDIBLE!!! All their children were about and were very cute too-repeating every word I said in English at the top of their lungs in unison and then rolling to the ground in laughter. When you exit the temple you walk down the face of the mountain trolloping between beautiful fabrics blowing in the wind overlooking the whole island.

On our way back to Ubud we stopped at Pura Goa Lawah-which is an ancient bat temple. When you arrive it seems like any other temple-but once you step through the gate you hear the cluttered chirping of thousands of bats coming from the altar. Bats closest relative, rats, are also on hand- 9 or 10 deep snacking away on the evening offerings. I was a lil freaked out – but then put at ease they weren’t interested in leaving their evening dinner in the middle of the altar. As the sun goes down the bats chirping and flapping of their wings get louder and louder and they start flying small circles within the cave and then-right at dusk- all the bats fly out together. It was fascinating! In general there are a lot of bats in Bali, flying around your porch, over the rice paddies, visiting the restaurants at dinner time- but to see so many in one place for so many years that they had their own temple built for them- kind of takes the cake for my experience with these lil flying mammals.

Heavy machinery is not really present in Bali and the primary means to complete most projects here has a simple answer- just use your head! No, literally, they carry most things on their head. Offerings, sure, that didn’t really take me off guard, rice, okay, but then- you start to see large piles of earth laying around. . . Then you start to see people carrying baskets and shoveling the earth into the baskets- then all these baskets of earth- boxes of goods-bags of rock- they all get piled – on your head! Arms free- posture good- items balanced and transported successfully. I still haven’t gotten over it and I see it all day every day lol because it’s not 18 year old boys carrying baskets of rocks on there head in the middle of the hot hot day- it’s 40 and 50 year old ladies! They are buildings roads, building temples, tending rice fields, and making things happen. These ladies are super hard core! It’s inspiring.

Speaking of hardcore – I have been taking Balinese dance classes! Wowzer! That shit is difficult. Lolol despite the intricacy, combination of movements, and foreign postures -I have really been enjoying the classes. My teacher is amazing and has been teaching a balinese, odissi, tribal fusion mix of techniques in an open air studio on this amazing valley in the jungle on the otherside of the rice paddies.

Tonight the moon is glowing so bright. Even in it’s lil Cheshire moon crescent it lights up all the flower vines and all the roof tops in the neighborhood. I hear there have been 3 earthquakes on Bali while I’ve been here- which I very thankfully had no idea happened (as I’m not comfortable with them- tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding- I can deal with- earthquakes not so much) and 1000 Balinese people went to the top of the mountain to let the earth know it’s okay and bring her offerings and ask her to calm down. Trucks and trucks of people made there way to pay their respects and asked her not to be upset anymore.

Every day is blessing, and the people here give blessings every day. It’s something I hope to
incorporate into my everyday life upon my return. It’s easy to do when it surrounds you- and I hope to make it easier for others by surrounding them. I think a lot of it is about taking time for those around you. Society here is built around others, the greater good, the group collective accomplishing more- and that does exist in NYC- in a different way- but just like any other thought, idea, or vision you want to share- you first must take the time for yourself to be prepared, to be nourished, to be ready to carry and share that flame. Age old lessons we already know – but it’s the power of practice that allows us to achieve.

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Bali

Misty mornings layered with the waking roosters, wafting incense, and the distinct and whimsical sound of gamelan-floating village to village, east to west.

Every morning we are greeted with towering plates of fruit and amazing eggs and incredible pancakes (stuffed with banana and coated with fresh coconut and palm syrup) are brought to our garden porch overlooking the teracotta rooftops, house temples, and neighboring family stays. I watch the neighbors bring their offerings to each temple within their compound. The woman don their Kabaya and the men their sarongs and cool little hats, and pray and splash holy water with the little flowers they use in their offerings. Each day I shake the sugar bowl three times and the lil sugar ants run in a frenzy up and out of the dish and you know this would never happen back home and thankfully start to munch away on this amazing homemade gourmet breakfast.

Walking down the street in Ubud I’m constantly thinking-oh a temple! Only to realize, no, this elaborate stone work, carving, and flowers are another garden-likely harboring a “home temple” but not the full on complex. The Balinese believe that each pillar, each item, each piece of existence has a soul and is honored as thus throughout the day through intricate offerings. There are special days they honor the spirit of the machine and when we come outside there are offerings on our motorbike. 😉

People here are so lovely! They are so kind-even when you obviously don’t know what you are doing in certain religious and ceremonial situations. People here are inclusive, even when you don’t belong. It’s quite refreshing. they give impeccable directions through visual hand symbols even though you
Don’t speak their language and the food is cheap and so so so good!! Lots of vegetarian options, the home of Tempe, you can get it cooked everyway imaginable, fresh corn on the cob on the side of the street and nasi campur! Yum! One day when hiking through the rice paddies to the deep and misty river valley we found this amazing hobotech style man carrying around this blue box on his bicycle that was hooked up to a gas can he filled with water and converted into a steamer. We eagerly watched him put green rice flour into a little piece of PVC pipe, then some brown palm syrup, then more green rice-next he placed the PVC on the steamer and soon a whistle blew! Like a tea kettle! THen he wrapped up 8 lil rolls-kind of like sushi rolls into wax paper and handed them over for 2000 rupiah (about 20 cents) and Justin and I were happily surprised!!! It’s the best snack I’ve tasted my entire time here. Warm and sweet and light. Yum!!!

Driving in Bali is fucking wild. There’s no speed limit, no stop signs, no helmet law, and apparently no maximum occupancy for how many people you can fit on a moped or motorcycle. It is quite common to see the lil babies on the front, griping the mirrors standing infront of dad, and 1-2 children squished between mom
And dad, or side saddling moms thighs on the back-one on each leg if they are too big to fit between, many times the children are sleeping with their legs thrown whichever way lol. The lanes or direction of traffic in those lanes appears arbitrary and it’s always a surprise to watch two lanes of traffic magically merge into five within the same space. It is wild. There are places where the road itself has fallen away from it’s foundation leaving a gaping whole twenty feet deep, hairpin curves, steep ass hills and when it rains parts of the road wash away completely. But, somehow, it all works. You can never let your guard down though-you just never know when a dog or a chicken with it’s neck stuck way out is going to dart across the road or if when you turn the corner if there’s going to be a semi truck in your lane dodging the potholes on the other side. so we always drive “hati-hati” with caution.

It is a beautiful island though surrounded by the Indian ocean, complete with volcanoes, lakes, and temples. Full of geckos, chickens, bats, dogs, and ceremony. Accented with daily flower offerings at every doorstep, arch, and pillar. Ornate with ancient architecture, a light with modern art and classic styles and beaming with a vibrancy I’ve never seen anywhere else on earth.

Travel Time-Flux Capacitor Style


Travel Time-Flux Capacitor Style

Well the 4 flights it took to arrive on the other side of the world was moderately treacherous. I think it was the 7 hour layover in Doha that did us in. . . which p.s. Did not exist when I purchased the ticket- however 2 weeks before our flight I was sent an updated itienary from the airline. Doha is one of the younger and richest capitols in the world-capital of Qatar the Arabian peninsula in the middle east. The architecture of the city looks incredible built around a vibrant blue bay but only viewable by photos and Internet for everytime we inquired about leaving the airport we were met with the phrase, “Not Possible” although we hear the city is quite safe.

So we hung out in the most deluxe duty-free of all time selling cameras, Lap tops, and yes, luxury cars. At one point I went to the bathroom and it has this dressing room style mirrored corridor and about 30 Qatar stewardesses were all sitting on the counters with their burgundy hats, burgundy blouses, burgundy ascots, doing their charcoal make-up and all giggling like girls in high school. I wanted to take their photo so bad-but when I asked they said they are not allowed to be photographed in uniform-so may my mental photo serve you well.They were so cute!

We flew from
Doha to Singapore (and man oh man do I wish my layover was there instead). If you are ever flying on this part of the world I highly encourage you to spend some time at the Singapore Chaingi airport. Free leg massages, butterfly garden, cactus garden, movie theater, game station, Internet stations and if you have a layover longer then 5 hours they will even take you on a free tour of Singapore!! Sadly our 3 hour layover was shortened to a 30 minute layover on our updated itinerary but I hope we get some extra time there on our return flight.

From Singapore to Indonesia the flight is only 2.5 hours and we landed in the middle of an epic sunset onto the magickal island of Bali. Airport procedures went smoothly and Justin and I negotiated a cheap cab outside of the airport walls to Ubud-our final destination for the day. Initially we were to arrive at 1pm but that unexpected change in flight put us here at 7pm so by the time we got out of the airport it was already dark. Even then the city of Depensar was alight with totems, sculptures, and fountains as motor bikes came racing past us. The drive took a long time-like an hour and a half? Justin and I were both drifting in and out of sleep from our grand time zone tour and I barely even noticed it was pouring rain. Next time I opened my eyes there was moss and roots hanging from high off branches dripping with rain as we made twists and turns through this mountainous pass. Monkey pillars and hand laid brick roads were noted. We didn’t have a place to stay worked out but also thought we’d have daylight to deal with it- and neither of us expected to be so out of it-so we eventually just had the taxi driver pull over and started to look for a room. Each guest house had a sign, accompanied by a small alleyway that led deep back behind the street with gardens and ponds and frogs and sculptures and masks. I’ve had my fair share of turning up in cities in the middle of the night and it usually proves to be a pretty sketchy scenario- but. . . not here. The city had an ancient wisdom with it’s 2 ft tall curbs and sidewalks, and immediately, even in the dark and the rain, an intricate beauty seeped from every archway. Elegant details were etched in every stone. The second place we stopped at was good enough for me. I was so exhausted I didn’t even rally for dinner or a trip to the store for water and goods. Laying horizontal was my prime objective. Successful, i passed out cold and have now awoken in the middle of the night-which has allowed me to share this detailed account with you all* 😉 I have no idea what time it is but knowing me and my 6 hour sleep cycle I’m assuming it’s about 3 am. I stepped outside onto our huge porch overlooking hand made roof tiles that slide down to a beautiful water garden amongst an orchestra of frogs, gekos, bats, crickets, and dogs. Every now and them I hear a rooster, but know it must be confused. A bug dive bombed me when I walked outside and I quickly and delightfully realized it was a dragonfly-which happens to be my spirit animal and I always take as a sign that I’m in the right place and it has sat above me this whole time while I type this 😉 -I never really see them at night either-so today-it’s extra special. 😉

Okay well thanks for reading and I look forward to enchanting you with stories to come.

Tulum

Tulum

Following the epic wedding of Stefan and KJ a clown car of us piled in and headed south down to Tulum-a beautiful sea town with aqua waters and rich in Mayan history. The sand on the beaches is soft and white, shade is findable and the water is the most inviting temperature I have found yet. Crystal clear, fresh water or salt, your toes are always visible. Lizards and birds of every size, color, and style thrive here and make up the orchestra of your surroundings amongst the coconuts and the mangroves. Also in some parts of Mexico dogs out number humans 7 to 1!! So don’t be surprised by lots of roaming pooches.

We stayed at a lovely place called Yoga Shala. Our room was circular, open air, and tall with a thatched roof and a big cozy clean bed under the towering and dream like white mosquito net right across from the ocean. We could hear the waves from our bed. They offer over 20 yoga classes a week and have free wifi. Bicycles and breakfast are also available for an extra fee.

Karma Cafe opened during our stay here and became a quick favorite. It’s just in front of Yoga Shala and offers the best coffee I found during my entire stay in Mexico. Laura, the friendly and accommodating host at Karma Cafe has been combing the region for the best blend of local roasted beans and her hard work has definitely paid off- A triple bean blend offering rich and tasty medium bodied coffee that will put the other weak, charred, or nescafe coffee options up and down the coast to shame. Karma Cafe also offers delicious eggs, croissants, fresh fruit, and home made veggieburgers. Great for a yummy affordable morning treat or to take away and have a good snack at the beach. Her prices are appropriate and there is nothing else like this beautiful little grove with tree swing seating and mirrored sparkle decor floating in the trees around you anywhere else in Tulum. It was an inviting alternative, especially once you see that every menu around you offers food half as good for twice as much. I think they will do quite well and wish this lil outdoor cafe the best. If ever in Tulum pay them a visit!

Mexico is well known for it’s caves and Tulum, specifically, for its cenotes!! Cenotes ( pronounced si-note-ay’s) are cave systems full of water that you can swim in!!! We visited a few but the Gran Cenote was my favorite-again with this clear aqua water-but now under water with stalactites and stalagmites!! And turtles and fish. When you first see some of the cenotes it kind of just looks like a hole in the ground –but the real magick is under the surface, bring or rent some snorkel gear, and suddenly this shallow pond is actually a great deep wide expanse stretching well beneath the earth. Take a deep breath, dive down, and you are now in an underwater paradise. So amazing!!

Bus is a good way to get around Mexico-we got a first class bus (with a movie) straight from Tulum to the airport in cancun (2hrs) for 15 bucks-or you can arrange a private cab for $70 usd.

The prices in Tulum are definitely soaring. Most budget accommodation is around $40-50 bucks a night – and varies greatly from moist shacks and tents on the beach to comfortable bungalows. There are LOTS of higher end places available if you want to pay more. I personally, growing up in Texas, was amazed by how expensive Mexico has become- sure the area I was in is a bit touristy and yes decent and authentic tacos can be found for 2-3 bucks, but you really had to dig. Most restaurants dinner prices along the water start at $12-14 a plate and can go as high as $60. Our crew did find an amazing flautas restaurant in town where we were served straight up in someones house. It was good and cheap and almost all of us ordered seconds and thirds. I was appalled by the airport prices though-I’m usually prepared for the shock of the inflated airport situation but cancun airport was RIDICULOUS!! $16 usd for a burrito? $14usd for a subway sandwhich? $20 usd for nachos? Adios Mexico! I sucked it up and ate at my connection in the USA in route to Bali-my $6 loaded baked potato the size of my face was well worth the wait and the price. It was also such a treat to use an ATM and not have to pay an extra $5 to take money out too* Bless America! Lol But I’ll have to catch up with her in May cause this girl is headed off to Indonesia with my love to dive head first into Balinese culture, food, art, dance -and yes, of course, The Ocean!!!

Xo

¡Viva Mexico!

I left Cambodia and spoiled myself by returning to my favorite lil
Jungle beach island in the south of Thailand for a few days before enduring the cascade of transportation en route to Mexico. I took a taxi boat to a motor bike to a 4 hour ferry to a 9 hour bus to two hours in the airport and then proceeded to fly from Bangkok to Tokyo to LA to Cancun (26 hours). The last 4 hours were the longest, but it was all worth it for the amazing times I was ready to endure next.

Justin, my sweet and long lost boyfriend, and I were reunited in the Mexican baggage claim ¡Aye aye aye! ¡¡¡Yay!!! We stayed in this really nice mission jungle style old school hotel that was super beautiful and quaint in cancun and the Next day took a bus to the Valentin Maya Resort to attend our good friends KJ and Stefan’s wedding. It was $90 usd to take a cab there from the airport but Justin and I ended up staying right near the bus station and got tickets for $3 each (score)- I even nicely asked the driver to drop us as close to the hotel as possible and he stopped right at the front gate.

The very fancy all inclusive resort did not know what to think when their next two guests walked up from the main road-backpacks and hula hoops in tow. I think they thought we were in the wrong place but after a lot of smiles and bad Spanish they finally sent a car to drive us into the main section of the property.

We were greeted by bellboys and bubbling champagne as our friends from NYC slowly and steadily began to fill and take over this entire fancy shmancy resort. The arch ways were 100 ft in the air and every portion of the property was a great expanse. It was a super blast of a weekend and what a treat for me to see so many good friends after being away for two months time. Despite being on holiday it was no doubt a NYC weekend with a NYC pace. We had a Dia de Los Muertes Noche where we all dressed up,

Photo by Christopher Hardwick

including the families of the bride and the groom, we had a giant flotilla made of outrageous pool floats (swans, clams, tires, double headed serpents, couches) in the pool filled with all our friends festive faces as we motored around to the swim up bar and back again and again and again. One guest even confided i me that her float, not blown up, weighed 9 lbs!! We swum in the crystal aqua ocean, body boarded, I rode on the waves on a huge white swan float. Our room was I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E. With king sized bed, balcony, living room area, and bathroom with separate hot tub, bath, and a shower-and every day when room service made our bed fresh flowers were placed on our pillows. Afterhours at the honey moon sweet overlooked this nature preserve and these fairytale-esque deep blue birds with yellow beaks and yellow feet would hang out near us in the tree tops. Iguanas were EVERYWHERE too and are so well camouflaged-until they began reaching their sunning heads into the sky. There were lemurs too!

Photo by Rachel Moore

The ceremony itself was so touching and beautiful. KJ and Stefan were married by 8 of their friends representing the 8 pillars of marriage in place of an officient. Justin and I were the flower boy and flower girl. . . ON STILTS!!!!! Which was a surprise for all and went over really well. Plus, i have always secretly wanted to be a flower girl so i was genuinely stoked when they asked us. I finished my dress while traveling through Laos and it was super fun to wear! Total enjoyment and whimsy washed over me as Justin and I covered the ceremonial space and all the guests in fresh rose petals at sunset.

Photo by Jolly Norton

Cocktail hour and Dinner were lovely and each table got to light and send off the 3ft thai firelanterns into the sky -but only after we wrote our wishes on them. What a glorious sight.

The reception was rocking and went all night-which I expect nothing less from this group. So Fun!!!! And I was part of a two hour fire show that we all rocked out thanks to jewels finding gasoliña blanca. It was so rewarding to be reunited with my fire fans while smallchange dropped some whompy dubstep to rock out to and so fun to spin with so many of my friends. Super deluxe!!

Photo by Rachel Moore

The whole wedding weekend was beyond your wildest dreams-from epic beach and pool days to dancing well into the night and morning with 150 of your closest friends to celebrate the love, trust, respect, and honor the amazingness in the well deserving bride and groom, KJ and Stefan, but it was also a celebration of friends, friendships and the unique love and relationships between us all. All laughing together under the sun, piña colodas in hand, creating the important ripple of one good thing leading to another all weekend long. It was a total love fest that will be felt for years to come.

As you can imagine it was hard to leave this collective place in time but Jim got the “Mexican Limo” and we piled a whole clown crew into that bitch, luggage and all, and rode on down to Tulúm where we have spent the last week.

I don’t think the Valentin Maya quite knew what they were in for, but as we left the bellhop was inquiring about our globy look. The lil fiberoptic lights you can clip into your hair. He was so pleased as I gifted one onto his safari bell hop hat and at that moment we all knew this place had been changed forever.

Photo by Jan von Light