The move to Canggu
For those of you who are following the seemingly insignificant details of my little life journey, I unpacked my bowl!
Last time I wrote, I was well into my life living out of a suitcase, carrying around a box, which held my beautiful bowl from Lombok. And now after 2 countries, 3 islands and 85 days of grab-whatever-is-clean on the top, I have officially moved to Canggu. My hipster and Euro-filled, little beach town. I picked up my kitties, (AKA the critter hunters), and spent moving day with my family, loading and unloading boxes, looking for a recommended place to eat lunch and then spending an hour at Bounce, a huge trampoline space for kids, jumping around with my nephews, before finally separating. They turned right to drive an hour home to Sanur, and I turned left for my 10-minute scooter ride “home”. Sendiri – Just me (my response to the 2nd question most Indonesians ask me) – in a 2-bedroom villa with a pool, bale (essentially a Balinese resting hut, in case the chaise lounges and pool weren’t enough!) and rice field view out the kitchen window.
The panic zipped through me at electric speed. My old friends, fear and self-doubt were just waiting to come out of the gate and make me question what in the world I’m doing. All of my little successes at setting up life here in Bali and my bigger ones over the years were sucked out of my body in an instant. And suddenly it was hard to breathe. I randomly know 5 people here, have no job that takes me out into town to easily meet people, and I don’t have my favorite coffee place, yet!
So I went back to original advice…do homey things. Sweep. Market. Wash. And the afternoon of my first full day, I went to Fantasy, the local super market, to buy overly-perfumed cleaning supplies and a few grocery basics and peanuts. I had planned to meet Ketut, my new pembantu (cleaning woman) at the house at 1pm to set up cleaning tasks for her. Seemed like it was necessary for me to specify that giant spider webs draped above me on the high ceiling, an old Durian fruit in the refrigerator and a few tiny drops of someone else’s urine on one of the toilets was not my kind of clean…and yes, eew…!
The meeting went well, and once we find a long stick to attach to a long broom, she can clean the spider webs. All else was swished, scrubbed and thrown away.
On the way back from Fantasy, I stopped at Samadi (meaning Enlightment…are you following my blessed route??)…anyway, it’s a welcoming little yoga studio 300 meters down the dirt path from my house. And behind the counter stood a beautiful Indonesian man-boy. After the usual, Apa kabar (how are you) and baik, baik (I’m well), I asked him what the Hatha Tantra yoga class was. (Tantra can mean so very many things, and I didn’t want to get caught in the wrong place at the right time). He oh-so-sweetly apologized, saying he was new there and didn’t know, and also where was I from. Just as I was about to say Argentina, to mix it up a bit, my better self replied, America. “Amerrika!” beautiful man/boy exclaimed…”Bernie Sanders!” And at this, I burst out laughing. I must have responded to this question a thousand times since living in Bali. And almost Every Single Time, the questioner says, “Ah, Amerrika…Barack Obama,” followed by a huge, beautiful, Indonesian smile. Much like Barack’s, I might add, although his is Kenyan…!
So this guy…He caught my eye, you might say. This was a smart one. His name was Flavi… he’s from Flores…3 islands over, where I had just spent a few days snorkeling with manta rays and sidling up alongside snoozing Komodo dragons to take a picture.
I told Flavi I had just gotten back from his impressive, mountainous island, but that I found the people quite aggressive compared to Lombok or Bali. And you know what he said? “Yes, is true, but you need know intentions. Flores people fight to sea for food.” (he mimed mountains, as he stated this). And then they go back home (still mountainous miming). “On Bali, Lombok, Java…food comes easy. “(Mimes flat land). “No fight to get food. They smiles big, but cheat you. Life too easy.” And somehow, even though I had only spent 3 days there, I got it. I had felt what he described.
Under the pretense of picking up a yoga schedule, I dropped by Samadi again. Flavi was not working today. Maybe tomorrow I’ll go to a class.
Flores and Lombok mini-adventures
The week before I moved to Canggu (pronounced Changgu), I spent time in Flores and Lombok. I flew, taxied, bemo’d and boated between places.
The woman whom I sat next to on the plane from Labuan Bajo to Ende had a white, disposable face mask on. She was light-skinned and almost looked Chinese. Quite different from the curly-haired, very dark-skinned Indonesians I had just encountered in Komodo National Park.
As we walked off the tiny, 20-passenger plane onto the tarmac, she asked me if I needed a ride somewhere out of Ende. Well…I had had just enough internet access to know that Moni was on the way to Maumere (where she was headed), and it was the stopping point to go see the 3 gorgeous, blue-green crater lakes at the top of Kelimutu volcano. (No photos of this…phone charger had stopped working at this point.) I hustled after her out of the airport, maneuvering myself through a loose pack of 20-30 highly kinetic, dark-skinned men all shouting “scooter? you need driver? where you go?” I pulled my small carryon the 50 meters to the car that was strangely waiting for her/us outside of the airport (rather than inside with all the others). Lots of words were exchanged between my mask-wearing friend and the young driver, and I detected a tiny nod as he threw my luggage into the back, forgoing the niceties of name exchange, and suddenly we took off!
Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
We careened through this small town’s busy streets, horn honking every 5 meters, driver yelling out the open passenger window, as he swerved around food carts, guys sitting on their scooters, Italian-Indo style, and women pulling their kids along to get out of the way. I was certain we were not going in the direction of the mountains, but my stomach was gripped so tightly that my mouth and brain couldn’t work together to ask, “di mana pergi?” And then we zoomed into the parking lot of a small port, packed with travelers who had just descended from the ferry and other cars just like ours, and we stopped. I wanted to ask what we were doing there, because with an answer, I thought I could unclench my belly, but there was that aforementioned communication problem. And just as I was google translating the word “jemput” we had “picked up” our next passengers.
I got out of the middle van seat to let 3 slight, young Indonesians settle their bodies into the back seat where I’m sure only 1 1/2 Westerners with short legs could fit … and we continued on, with a new driver. There was less careening, but the first driver was now in the passenger seat, continuing to squawk out the window, as the driver slowed down, backed up and searched for any movement from the people standing on the side of the road. They wanted to squeeze a few more people in. Thankfully there were no takers.
So we zipped up the road, tailgating, avoiding, honking, and then we stopped. Again. Both driver and co-pilot got out of the car. I nervously looked around for an explanation, clearly questioning my decision to not take the 2 ½ hour ride on the back of a scooter with a friend I’d met on the plane, but my co-passengers were slack. One moment the same as the next. Just as one of them told me they were “rokok,” I looked in the side mirror only to see the 2 men casually pull out 2 chairs, sit down and have a “smoke”. Then the older one sauntered back to the car, and we left the younger one behind to find another van to zip around in and try to crazily cajole people into being their “trrasport!”
We left this small, dusty port town of Ende and drove up into the rainy mountains.
From Flores to Lombok to home
I was happy to leave Flores and head to Lombok, where my love affair with the island and its people continues. I exited the airport to find quadruple the amount of men outside this airport, many of them smilingly yelling to get my attention. I found myself surrounded by 10 to 15 of them as I fumbled around with my cell phone to call Ahmad, my driver and friend, all the while saying “I have driver” “I have phone number” “I have hotel” and then looked up and saw Ahmad’s bright, smiling face.
I saw an amazing beach, which will soon have a 15-story hotel on it built by a Dubai business man; squatted in an outhouse toilet up in a monkey forest where some of Ahmad’s friends lived; almost ate Durian fruit and even talked with villagers during a demonstration about who-knew-what, who were peacefully milling around watching the fully-fortified police, standing shoulder-to-shoulder across their main road.
And I swam in the pool of a waterfall.
There was no surf, so instead I hopped on a scooter with Dani as my guide, to a secret port, where a small wooden craft took me to a cluster of islands, and it started to pour. I snorkeled with head-scarved women and their men, hovering over coral gardens that have been planted to encourage the sea life, and I huddled with Indonesian men and boys under the only shelter on the island as the wind and rain picked up. I swam between islands, just because. Sendiri – Just me.
The following day, as I held myself up off the toilet seat in the Lombok airport, happy I wouldn’t have to squat down over a hole and then clean myself with a bucket of water that swims in a tub of water next to every Indo toilet, it occured to me that the one of the BEST things about going home after traveling is getting to sit down on your own toilet. ….such sweet familiarity…
Many travelers I met were hopping on the local bus or the back of a scooter for a several-hour trip in the rain; sleeping shoulder-to-shoulder for 4 nights on a boat with 25 other people snoring and farting; eating anything they were handed from the local market and staying in cheap homestays, despite the potentially unclean conditions, to squeeze out a few more days of travel. I was so happy to hear about their crazy adventures, and just as happy to arrive back at my comfy hotel.
As I linger back over the past few weeks, where I arrived at several new places on my own, and now I wake up to the pouring rain and kitties crying in my current new home, I am acutely aware that I am a cautious adventurer. Yes, I make change. Yes, I have moved countries, cities, neighborhoods and homes, and yes I have very often travelled on my own, sendiri. But, every time I venture out, EVERY TIME that first actual step needs to be taken to make an idea or a dream or a wish real, I meet fear. A big bubble that’s right in front of my heart and belly, pushing back at me so strongly. For so much of my life I pushed right back with all kinds of muscly, heady will. That simply doesn’t work here, and it didn’t work any longer for me in the States. Bali has taught me to ease in, just like the crazy, winding, fill-in-every-gap on the road scooter riders have taught me.
I take steps into fear. I do. But I’m still not “just doing it!” with triumph emanating from all of my body. Nope, I am cautious. I am nervous. Until I am not.
This morning, after my 3rd night of sleeping well in my new place, I get out of bed and notice how my feet don’t fully touch this new floor – they don’t yet know where there might be gecko poop, a tiny mountain of even tinier ants or that ever sleek and rapid centipede. But they will. With time. With time, I will learn. I will adapt into what is new and currently uncomfortable. I will become part of where I am and my feet will then naturally yield into this new ground. I will arrive.