I slept with him

And now that I have your attention…

It’s no secret that I adore Ketut. My blogs have been littered with his name since I met him three years ago. Clerks have asked me if he’s my husband. “No,” I say. “My son.” It amazes me that a man 35 years my junior is considered more likely to be my husband than my son. But here, a gaping difference in ages is not uncommon. And it’s not just ancient men with young, nubile women. In Bali, ancient women with hot-bodied young men is just as likely.

But I digress.

At 3:00 that afternoon my phone rang. It was a friend who had arrived a few days earlier and her voice was strained. “Sherry, I’m in the hospital in Denpasar and I’m really scared.” Nightmarish scenes flashed through my mind. A motorbike accident topped the list. But it turned out that a bite she’d gotten while still at home in California was infected. The doc in Ubud referred her to the hospital in Denpasar for surgery.

It’s one thing to go to the hospital in America. There are stringent laws governing everything from the hand sanitizer by the doors to hairnets for the kitchen staff. Not so here. Nowhere is developing country a truer label than as it applies to health care in Bali.

I asked her if she knew whether or not she would be put under for the surgery. She supposed so. That’s all I needed to hear. “Okay, I’m coming,” I said.

“Oh, you don’t have to…”

“Yes, I think I do!”

P1090582I located Ketut and told him the problem. He didn’t know that particular hospital but I pulled up the address online and in a matter of minutes we were on our way. At 4:30 we found her in an ice cold room the size of a shoebox. She was hooked to an antibiotic drip and so happy to see us. We were told that surgery was scheduled for 8 p.m. “Ketut, you can go back to Ubud,” I said when I realized that there was a long wait ahead.

“Oh, no. It’s okay,” he said.

“It’s many hours. You should go.”


Inscrutable man. So many times I’ve wished I could peek into his mind and understand what transpires there. The tone indicated it was no use to argue.  I scooted onto the back of her bed. Ketut perched on the edge and we chattered and joked until 7:00 when the surgical prep team arrived and rolled her away.

“Should be finished by ten,” one of the white lab coated attendants said as the gurney disappeared behind a pair of double doors that swung shut behind them.

The café in the lobby had an extensive menu and seemed like a good place to pass the time. Service was slow, a fact that I appreciated with hours of waiting looming before us. The food arrived and we dragged out the process of  eating as long as possible, then opting to escape the stuffy confines of the hospital, we strolled outside and sat on the curb, sucking in exhaust fumes and watching the guard direct traffic. Fatigue gathered between my shoulder blades. The long bike ride and worry for my friend were taking their toll. “Ketut, let’s see if we can find a comfortable place to sit.”

The open waiting area on the second floor had chairs, but comfort wasn’t the goal when they were designed. Ketut settled himself and didn’t move. I, on the other hand, squirmed, contorted, and flopped around like a fish on land but couldn’t find a position that worked. The hands on the clock crawled. At 10 p.m. bleary-eyed, I approached the women behind the desk and inquired about my friend. She punched a series of numbers into the phone, and rattled off a question in Indonesian then smiled and said, “She just begin surgery now.”

“Oh no!” I groaned which brought Ketut, frowning, to the desk.

“You okay? Problem?” he asked.

“They just started the operation. Still two hours more.” I could feel muscles seizing up in my lower back. A couple more hours in those chairs…but what other option did we have?

I lowered myself back into the cracked plastic covered seat, shifted to the right, the left, hooked a leg up over the sharp wooden arm, lowered it again, kicked off my flip-flops, pulled both legs up with my feet tucked close to my butt, and rested my head on my arms folded over my knees. I hadn’t expected to sleep, but thirty minutes later a sound startled me awake. Ketut, in the chair beside me, was out cold, snoring.

For about the zillionth time in my tenure as an ex-pat in Bali, an intense rush of gratitude careened through me for the man asleep beside me. Spending the night in a hospital in Denpasar is not part of his job description. It’s not even close. But he’s wired Balinese, and while the western mind is all about individuality and independence, the Balinese value community and interdependence. Those beliefs form the foundation for every selfless decision Ketut makes, and I am the direct beneficiary of that.

At midnight we got word that the operasi was finished. At that hour the hospital was shrouded in a tomblike silence. We approached the door to her room and slowly pushed it open. I expected, if not sleeping, at least a groggy face. “Hi Sherry!” she chirped, flashing a huge smile. After two hours in the operating room she looked far fresher than I felt.

“They didn’t put you under, did they?”

“I don’t think so,” she said, and I exhaled a long breath of relief.

“You look great, and, if you don’t mind, I think we’ll go home now!”

We bid her good sleeping and found our way to the parking lot. Sometime during our night vigil it had rained and the helmets hanging on the motorbike were soaked. “Oh good,” said Ketut. “Make head not hot.” Laughter erupted out of me.

“Really, Ketut? Is everything always good news?”

“Ya,” he said, and with that we headed for home.


The plane was boarding when I approached the gate at Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpasar. Snarly traffic stretched the drive from the usual one hour to an additional forty-five minutes. It was perfect. Engaged in Made’s gossipy prattle, I was spared the boring, clock-staring wait in the airport.

Jostling my way down the congested aisle to 28A, I saw that the seats beside mine were occupied by two women who appeared to be in their mid forties. Bridget and Lizbeth were just the right combination of reserved friendliness. A few pleasantries then they busied themselves and left me alone. Perfect.

Nine point five hours slid by with two Hindu vegetarian meals, wine, tea, four movies and a cat nap which landed us in Qatar for an eight point five hour layover. I hate long layovers. As the shuffling line of passengers departed the plane, I bid my new friends farewell, safe journey, happy life, and set out to find an internet kiosk where I could alert the world that, “Here I am in Qatar!” via Facebook. That done, I scoped out a lounge area where the barrel-shaped chairs upholstered in red faux suede were draped with sleeping bodies. As I passed, one form came to life, shook itself, and hurried off. I claimed the vacated space. It felt like a king-size bed compared to the cramp of the airplane seat and I dozed on and off through the relative quiet from one to five a.m.

But even at 5:00 it was still two hours to boarding. I walked through the glitz of fragrance laden retail surprised only by a shop selling high end hijabs. Until now I’d only seen basic black. The store was a feast for the eyes. Fabrics in bright colors, jeweled trims, embroidery and lace made it clear that the garments on display were not for the budget conscious. They fairly screamed wealth, excess, and Western values in this predominantly Muslim country.

I found my gate, not yet open, and an empty chair along the corridor. After a few minutes I kicked myself for not coming sooner. It was people-watching paradise. Arab men in white robes with billowing scarves arranged nomad fashion on their heads strode with pride and purpose, deep in conversation. Black shrouded mysteries whose eyes peered through small, rectangular slits, floated by. Petit Asian women with tight leather skirts, over-the-knee-sliver-studded boots, and swooping necklines giggled as they wobbled on stiletto heels. A granny wearing vintage Converse hightops, skin hugging violet leggings, and a bouffant, sheer blouse that ended at her waist exposing to full view the effects of time and gravity on her ancient buttocks, passed, stopped, turned, and retraced her steps. I felt terribly ordinary.

It was almost a disappointment when the boarding call tore me from the fascinating view.

For the second leg of the journey, a mere eight hours and thirty minutes, I would be on the largest passenger plane in the industry to date. With seats for 800 people on two levels and a wing span that could stretch across a small country, I settled into my seat with appropriate amounts of awe and trepidation. How does this work again? Air passing over the wings creates lift…? The laws of aerodynamics…ummm? I turned away from the window and there, sliding into the seats beside me were Bridget and Lizbeth.

“Seriously?” I said. They nodded, laughed, and just like that we bonded more intimately than best friends. “Did you choose these seats online?”

“No, we should have, but they were assigned to us at the ticket counter.”

“I selected mine online…what are the odds?!”

The rest of the journey passed in the comfortable presence of familiarity. Departing the plane at Charles DeGaulle in Paris I told my new bff’s that I expected them to meet me in five days for the flights back to Bali, that I really couldn’t bear to sit beside anyone else. They assured me that they’d be there. Liars!

As I traversed the long jetway, cleared immigration and then customs, my mind raggedly shifted gears. I mentally pulled up the map of the Paris subway system that I’d studied in great detail online: airport shuttle to terminal two, red line to Paris center, one transfer at Halle, then two stops…


“Joy! You’re here!” We threw our arms around each other, squeezing and swaying in the mother/daughter hug that is so familiar and so deeply missed.

“We got in an hour ago and waited for you….Kellen’s with the luggage right over there…”


So it began.


From the subway we trundled our bags to 36 Rue de Turbigo, an apartment in the center of Paris. Towering blue doors and wrought iron balconies dripping red geraniums, screamed charm.



Francesca met us with keys and instructions for the state-of-the-art appliances that occupied the glossy, red kitchen. With hardwood floors, an ornate Louis XIV fireplace surround, and soaring ceilings, the two bedroom apartment held a boggling mix of sleek modernity and historic charm.

Up to that moment, Kellen had been leading the charge, way-finding in the underground tunnels and navigating the twisted streets. But when the door closed behind Francesca, Joy assumed the role she was born to: Commander in Chief. Joy plans. Joy makes lists. Joy multi-tasks and organizes. Joy delegates. But mostly, Joy leads and others willingly follow. Such was the case the moment suitcases were stowed.

“Time to buy groceries! Who’s coming?”

Kellen and I snapped to attention stopping just shy of a heel-clicking salute. Fired by a tireless energy that thrives on over commitment, Joy had invited all ten of her wedding guests to a Thanksgiving dinner in our apartment that she planned to cook that night: herbed chicken, sweet potatoes, roasted vegetables, baguettes and a cheese plate served up with bounteous bottles of wine.

“There’s a market a few blocks away, and a cheese shop, I saw them on Google Earth,” she says as we follow like obedient ducklings. And she’s right.


An hour later, laden with produce, poultry, smelly cheeses and bread, we met Jessa, Dan, Jenny, and Kennen on the street. It was a fresh round of hugging and happiness. Then Joy lassoed her herd and ushered us into the wine shop.

“Everybody choose a bottle,” she said.

Kennen glanced at me, “I know what you want,” He pointed to a Maison Louis Jadot Pinot.

“I can’t believe you remembered…it’s my favorite!” Dimples creviced his cheeks as he gave me a knowing grin.

I don’t know how she did it, but when everyone arrived at seven p.m. a veritable feast lay steaming on the table.

P1080271 Jenny and Kennen added dessert to the mix, two tarts, one raspberry, one chocolate, so beautifully contrived that to cut into them took some measure of courage.

P1080266 P1080268Conversation hummed, animated, excited, expectant, until each one hit the jet-lag wall.  Another round of hugs and the group shrugged into their coats and left for their hotel two blocks away.

“Brunch back here in the morning…eleven o’clock…then home to dress for pictures!” Joy chirped to each one as they left. In spite of the wine, the overstimulation, the belly full of rich, unaccustomed food, I remember nothing from the moment my body found the bed.

Joy, ever the morning sprite, was mixing eggs for omelets when I peered into the kitchen the next morning, rubbing the grainy remnants of sleep from my eyes. P1080285The meaty salt smell of bacon accompanied the sizzle and pop as it rippled into crisp brown strips. The fairies, or gnomes, had come in the night and cleaned the kitchen. Joy said it was Kellen. My love for the man doubled in that moment.

The wedding party arrived, boisterous and rested, heaped their plates with buttery croissants, pancakes, omelet, bacon, yogurt, and strawberries, and ate until their eyes rolled back in their heads.

P1080289 P1080300

It was a good thing that the wedding festivities were planned for today. By tomorrow I might not be able to zip my dress. My diet of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and a little rice in Bali keeps me trim. Joy doesn’t consider that food. She made certain that we had our daily quota of bread, cheese, meat and unlimited quantities of wine. Nobody complained.

Stuffed to a fine stupor Joy issued the next set of instructions. Be dressed for photos and back at the apartment to catch taxis to the Pont Alexander Bridge at one o’clock.

There was no time to lose. My most important job was clearly ahead. I’d been entrusted with the task of lacing Joy into the corset part of her bridal ensemble and buttoning the bustle. In a flurry of frothy white she donned the gown and I commenced lacing and pulling until the perfect hourglass shape was achieved. I felt tears welling as I gazed at her. She was busy applying makeup so she didn’t notice, but memories washed over me in a churning stream of nostalgia and my throat constricted with remembering. It passed so quickly, childhood. Birth to graduation to marriage, a blur. Now, in the presence of this beautiful, accomplished woman, I felt the weight and the privilege of motherhood. All of my fumbling best intentions that fell so far short hadn’t ruined her.

“Can you bring my shoes, Mom?” Her request shook me out of the past and I hurried to do her bidding. The final result was ravishing and I caught her essence as she turned from the window and flashed one of her heart-stopping smiles.


The afternoon took us from the bridge, to Notre Dame, to obscure Parisian alleyways. Thousands of photos were taken, but these are some of mine:

We were lucky with the weather. Paris can be nasty in November, snow, sleet, rain. We had a mild day in the high 50’s. Perfect. But there was more to come…so much more…

A Wedding in Paris – Serious Bling!

Thanksgiving Day 2014, Joy and Kellen are getting married…in PARIS.

This is 14 months, almost to the day, of Jenny and Kennen’s wedding on the good ship Jeremiah O’Brien near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. In fact, Kellen informed me the night of that wedding that he was going to propose (with my permission) to Joy during their trip through Napa Valley the next day. (Actually, I lied. He didn’t ask permission. He knows I adore him. End of story.)

Joy’s gown is fabulous. I’ve seen pictures. And her accessories look like something out of a Hollywood set. Needless to say, we don’t have to ‘dress down’ for this wedding. Joy wants se camper, (tasteful of course) glitz and glam.

So here I am in Bali trying to prepare a wardrobe worthy of the occasion. November in Paris is cold, really cold compared to the tropics where the thermometer hovers around a cozy 85+ degrees F in November and rarely falls below 75 even in wintertime. So the first item on the list, before dress, shoes, or jewelry, is a coat. Right. Good luck finding a warm coat in Bali.

There’s a new shop across the street from my bank. I complete my transaction and wander over for a look. To my utter, joyful surprise there is a rack of down, thigh-length jackets, and not mere jackets, but jackets with a detachable down vest inside! I go faint. But ecstasy is short-lived. They are all size large and the sleeves reach past my fingertips by a good four inches. “Ohhhh,” I moan. “Do you have a small size?” The clerk is sympathetic but assures me that this particular coat comes only in large.

“You can try our store in Denpasar. Maybe they have small,” she says, slipping a flyer with the address into my hand.

Ketut gets directions to the shop and on a morning drenched in sunshine, we set out. All the main streets are one-way in Denpasar, so we do a few loops around the designated area where we’ve been assured we will find Toko Millennia stopping four or five times to seek additional guidance. At last we pull into a two-story strip mall parking area and ask once more. There are no signs anywhere to indicate what retail opportunities await. “Oh yes, that way,” says the parking attendant. The lot is empty. Ketut hooks the helmets to the bike and we enter the building. A guard points us to the escalator at the other end of an open area. We pass empty space after empty space in semi-gloom. It’s a mall burial ground and we are the lone living souls there to pay our last respects. At the top of the moving stairs, like a beacon from heaven, the glow of Toko Millennia welcomes us inside. “Creepy,” I say and Ketut agrees.

I hold my breath and skirt the perimeter of the large, well lit store. About 3/4 of the way around, there they are, a whole rack of the coat/vest combo I’d seen in Ubud. For just a heartbeat I wonder why they’re in the men’s section, but dismiss it as unimportant. I find the color combination I like, gray coat, gold vest, and try it on. Large. Okay, maybe black and silver. Large. A petite clerk eyes me. “Do you have small?” I ask.

“No Ibu. These for man. No small.” My heart thunders to my feet. Of course. “Maybe you like woman jacket?” she shyly asks.

“Oh! You have this for women?” It’s almost too good to be true. In the next breath I see that it isn’t true. The woman’s jacket is a completely different animal, streamlined, a dark slate color with detachable hood and detachable rabbit fur outlining the detachable hood. But it’s down-filled, and there’s only one. I slip it on and turn to the mirror. Hmmm. It fits me like an Italian leather glove. I twist to view the back. Nice! For the first and only time in my life I don’t even glance at the price tag. “Yes, I’ll take it,” I tell the smiling girl.


Back at home I review my list. Coat. Check!

It’s one thing to shop for an item when I know exactly what I want and where to go to get it. In such cases Ketut is a perfect escort. But I need shoes. There is no way I’m going shoe shopping with a Balinese man. I discuss my dilemma with Nina. “We need a girls’ day out!” she says and actually seems excited about the idea. We pick a date and she tells me the stores we’ll be visiting in the Mal Galeria. “So make a list of every girlie thing you want to get and we’ll do it all,” she says.

Yesterday at 9 a.m., helmeted and happy, I climb on the back of Nina’s red and white Scoopy and off we go. The miles fly by as we chatter about hypoglycemia,  the feng shui of color, and other topics that would never pass muster with Ketut. First stop, the food court. Over my Cap Cay and Nina’s Nasi Goreng Spesial, we plan the attack, a swing through shoe shops to see what’s available, then on to Hypermart, Ace Hardware, and back to shoes for the kill. As we browse footwear I’m surprised at the number of options I have and the images of spike heels, platforms, and wedges swirl in my head as we move on to Ace.

The display at the front of the store stops me cold in my tracks. Drills. I have plaster walls and stuff to hang on them. There’s one drill in the community and multiple building projects. Waiting for that tool to show up at my house could take weeks. As I finger the drill bits and marvel at the sale price two gentlemen join me at the display. The elderly one, a shock of white hair and cancerous purple lips in a liverspotted face, invades my personal space. “Where are you from?” he croaks.


“This won’t work in America unless you change the cord, I suppose you could change the cord, but it might not work anyway.”

“I live here.”

“Oh. In that case, this is a very good drill for you.”

Nina and I edge away from the display and the over-eager gent. “Someone should look at those lips,” she says. “Did you see how purple they were? I’ll bet he has cancer and nobody’s told him. He really should have those checked!”

“Nina!” I don’t usually bark at my hypochondriac friend, but she’s like a pit-bull on a rabbit when anything medical hit’s her radar. “Let it go!”

“Yes, but…”


“Okay, okay!”

She locates the bath area for me and I find the perfect shower caddy and adhesive hooks. As we’re checking out she says, “Did you want that drill?”

With a drill and shower caddy in tow, we head back to shoes. Now it’s time to get serious. We return to Matahari, the Macy’s of Bali. “Show me what you like so I can help you look,” she says, and I point out black, fully enclosed pumps with a little detailing.

We separate and I find myself face-to-face with a Peter Keiza display.  “Wow!” I breathe to no one in particular. The shoes are over-the-top show-stoppers, silver heels, rhinestones, studs, bling on top of bling. Dazzled, I turn away and find Nina who has a handful of possibilities.

“What size?” she asks.

“No idea.”

“38? 40? Let’s try 38.”

“How about 40, I say. I like that pair,” I indicate one of the choices she’s snagged for me. She hails a clerk and issues the command to fetch in her perfect, fluent, Indonesian. He scuttles away.

“Will you watch my bags for just a sec?”

“Sure,” she says and I’m off like a bullet lured by the Siren call of Peter Keiza. I grab several glittery choices and race back. “Oooh!” says Nina when she sees them. Bless her for not pointing out that what I have in my hand in no way resembles what I indicated to her that I wanted. I try them all, several different sizes in each style, and settle on one of Peter’s.

When I approach check-out the woman who is about to ring me up says, “Do you want 20% off these or a second pair free?” Huh? Does any self-respecting woman opt for 20% off when she can have two pair for the price of one? Not likely. The second time I appear at check-out with two brazen bling-y Keiza selections, the ringer says, “You qualify for 50,000 rupiah off your next purchase. Here’s the coupon but it must be used today.” I shoot Nina a disbelieving and apologetic grimace.

“You go ahead and look,” she tells me.”I’m going back to Hypermart to buy a CD player. Just come up and meet me when you’re finished.”

Somehow we manage to pack two shoeboxes, a drill, a CD player, a shower caddy, and 5 shirts that I didn’t mention, onto the bike along with our own tired bodies for the hour drive home. It isn’t comfortable, but it is an accomplishment. As we pull into Ubud around 5:30 the smell of wood fired pizza assails our noses. “Mama Mia’s! Limoncello! Beer!” we chortle in unison. Nina swerves the bike into a parking spot and moments later we’re wiping road grime off our faces while toasting an excellent end to a perfect girls’ day out.


Thank you, ace biker mama and patient friend, Nina! You’re the best!


Travel Guide Barbie

Few things are more terrifying than a trip to the hair salon. I can say with absolute honesty that I’ve never walked out of an appointment satisfied. I’m always convinced I could have done it better myself. (Overly confident? Narcissist? Confirmed do-it-yourselfer! Yes!) So for the past several years I’ve applied Nice-n-Easy #108 Natural Reddish Blond every couple of months with deeply satisfying results.

Fast forward…Bali.

I’ve been here for two years. When friends or family ask, “Can I bring you anything from the States?” I’ve begged them to load up on as much #108 as they can comfortably stow in their already overcommitted luggage. In exchange I play tour guide, help them find drivers and navigate the unwieldy currency exchanges. To date, my sassy hair has gotten by on the good graces of visitors. Then that thoughtless company discontinued #108. Trying creatively to meet my needs the last shipment via Jan’s suitcase held various alternatives. Bless her for trying.

Those events propelled me into panic. I’m not about to give up my vivacious strawberry blond-ness without a fight.

I began my search locally and realized in short order that a natural red-blond hair color could not be found in this village. Ubud is a thriving tourist center that caters to Asian women who all have dark hair. The products I found were in shades of mahogany, burgundy, pinky-purple, and brass.

I was three months into my last color job. Desperate, I got a lift with a friend to the upscale Mal Galeria in Denpasar, an hour’s drive from Ubud, and began the inquiry. Matahari had hair dye but nothing permissible. The apologetic clerk suggested Hypermart. The name, at least, sounded promising. Reality was a bit something else. Picture Walmart times ten and you’re close. The battalion of check-out counters with lines stretching to oblivion made me re-think going natural. As I did a No way! about-face my eyes caught sight of a small pharmacy tucked into a niche on the left. It’s worth a try, my ever optimistic self said.

I asked in pidgin Indonesian if they had hair color while pointing to my head. After a quick stop at shampoo and a few more meager attempts to communicate, I was led to the back of the shop. There, in a cluster of the usual sultry mahoganies and sables, I saw an incongruous label sporting a cartoonish red-head with enormous eyes. Her hair, Sweet Apricot, was the right color.

schwarzkopf-fresh-light-hair-color-sweet-apricot-L_p0018326099I blinked several times and she was still there. May I look? I said. The name on the box was in English but everything else was undecipherable. Is it for children? I asked. The question seemed reasonable enough to me. The imp on the box was a cartoon after all! What guru of marketing would put a video game type character on a box targeting…Asian teens and young adults? Didn’t they invent the gaming phenomenon? Of course! Brilliant!

The clerks were discussing me, looking at the box, then pointing to my head. This good for you, the older one said.

Now there was no way out. The 95,000 rph price tag translated to about $9 U.S. Shelling out a fist full of 10,000 rph notes I thanked the smiling clerks, tucked my tail, and left.

The box lay hidden in a drawer until last night. A glance in the mirror at my two-tone hairline, dishwater meets redhead, sent me digging under a bag of cotton balls, bandaids, and miscellaneous other supplies. I pulled out Sweet Apricot and was appalled anew by the image. It’ll be okay, I said, Relax! You can do this!

I opened the package and organized the contents in an array before me. The design of the applicator bottle seemed to have significantly superior engineering to the single aperture squeeze thing I was accustomed to. The hermetically sealed packet of plastic gloves weren’t the whisper thin, wrist length throw-aways that Miss Clairol sees fit to supply. They stretched all the way to my elbow and were textured for a non-slip-grip. Sweet Apricot was dead serious about protecting the delicate hands of it’s users.

A quick Google Translate provided instructions that sounded familiar. It’s just hair. As I thought it, I wondered how many times I had breathed out those same three words prior to a disaster of epic proportions.

I’d stalled long enough. With the picture directions spread out on the countertop, I noticed a punch-out circle in the box just the size of the applicator bottle. I was instructed to remove the circle, secure the bottle in the opening for stability, then pour in the color cream, cover securely, and scramble. (Google translate isn’t perfect.) I did as I was told.

You don’t need a blow-by-blow, but the experience was shocking. Once again my sub-grade expectations put me to shame. The solution didn’t singe the nostrils like the Nice-n-Easy brand. It smelled good. The comb-like applicator was 100 times better than the Clairol product and delivered the color cream in an even, perfect flow through its teeth. The goo stayed in my hair and didn’t dribble down the back of my neck or under my chin. Of course all that would be moot depending upon the final outcome.

When I finished, Ubud was experiencing one of its humid, evening rain showers so I knew my hair wouldn’t dry until morning. Final judgment would have to wait.

As the sound of roosters and a chorus of frogs heralded sunrise I stumbled to the bathroom mirror. Spikes of shiny plastic Barbie-doll-ish hair sprouted in all directions. But the color wasn’t a normal Barbie color. It was more like Roller Blade Barbie or Mud Wrestler Barbie. I found myself once again squinting and rubbing my eyes. Maybe after a cup of coffee…?

P1070235After coffee I loved it! No more imports of inferior products from America. No more impositions on the good will and big hearts of Bali bound travelers. I’ve found my color at last, Sweet Apricot!

When I skyped with daughter, Joy, this morning she thought for a minute then christened me, Travel Guide Barbie and I’m okay with that. I’ll still do the tours, arrange drivers, and help with currency exchanges. And I’ll do it with gratitude for my friends who are planning future trips to Bali, because I’ve yet to find a workable alternative to CoverGirl #210 Perfect Point Plus Espresso eyeliner pencil!



Fabric Shopping Extravaganza!

Fabric shopping…boring…I can hear you! But you don’t know that for high school graduation my parents gave me a sewing machine. My sister and I grew up with fabrics. She actually learned how to sew and continues to this day making beautifully crafted outfits, slipcovers, draperies. She even did a stint sewing leather backpacks and handbags for awhile. She’s gifted. Me? I just love fabrics, the colors, the textures and how they work together to create drama.

So when Nina mentioned that Denpasar had rows of shops full of beautiful fabrics and cheap prices, well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go!

There was just one problem…transportation. Nina is a motorbike pro, but even she was daunted by the idea of navigating the traffic of Denpasar with me on the back. And she wasn’t certain she could find the place. That’s when our excursion became a family affair. Sudi knows the way. It was decided that Ketut would take me and follow Sudi, Nina, and Dewi (who skipped school to come along). My protests at disrupting the whole family’s schedule were overruled. So this morning, bright an early, we set out.

Ketut, Sudi, Nina, and Dewi

Ketut, Sudi, Nina, and Dewi

It was a beautiful morning in Ubud, but Denpasar, on the coast, is hotter than our higher altitudes so we wanted to get an early start.

Wide open stretches of gold and green paddies under blue, blue sky

The path wound through rice paddies under a blue, blue sky

Sudi knows a shortcut that bypasses the construction snarls around the airport. It was a tranquil stretch of ‘motorbikes only’ paved pathway through the rice fields. I asked Ketut if he would remember how to get here if we wanted to come again. He laughed. I think that was a no.

If you’re wondering why I was keen to buy fabric when I already confessed that I am not a seamstress, here’s another secret. Balinese tailors can take a sketch of a design along with an article of clothing that fits well, and work absolute magic. To say that the labor is reasonable would be a gross understatement. I’ll just leave it at that.

After the rice fields the city came on full force. We were at a stop light and Nina pointed and shouted, “There’s KFC!”

There's KFC!

There’s KFC!

And sure enough, there it was, Kentucky Fried Chicken. In the next breath she had her other arm out pointing to the opposite side of the street. “And there’s McDonald’s!” I suddenly had a McFlurry craving, but it passed.

The Colonel in Bali

r The Colonel in Bali

In spite of many distractions, Sudi drove directly to the shops and Ketut was never more than a bike length behind him despite the insane traffic. That’s when we two gals parted company with the others. With intense focus we made a beeline for the shops. Whatever I might have imagined, my expectations fell far short of what Denpasar delivered. I’ve been in huge fabric warehouses, but nothing in my experience compares with the blocks and blocks of open storefronts with fabrics spilling out onto the streets!


This red Chinese silk was delicious!


The attendants don’t hound you, they are quiet, courteous, and just there to help


Nina goes into trance over magenta…anything magenta!


There are shops that are full of wool gabardines, twills, and lightweight shirt cottons


I think Nina spotted another magenta!


There are rows upon rows of color and pattern


It is endless


Most of these are a blend of Dacron and cotton. That combination seems to take the dyes and hold the color fast through many washings.


A view of the walkway past the shops

Shopping makes me hungry. We had gotten what we wanted and so much more. There was a warung 20 minutes away that featured Balinese fried chicken. It was a favorite spot for Sudi’s family. I told them, “My treat!” and we were off. There were 4 plates of fried chicken, rice, fresh vegetables, and a bowl of cooked greens with a spicy sambal sauce.  My plate had all of the above but  tofu instead of chicken. That and beverages came to $9.87 for five of us. Where I come from, that would buy coffee and a cookie for one, if the coffee wasn’t too fancy, that is.

As soon as I got home I spread out my fabrics and gazed for awhile, visualizing them as garments.  It’s probably a good thing those shops are in Denpasar. If I could walk there whenever I wanted, I think it would mean serious damage to my pocketbook!

It was a fabulous day. Big thanks to Ketut and my incredible neighbors. Could this possibly be real? Somebody pinch me…

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