You did what?!

The frogs kept me awake last night. When the sky brightened, hinting at morning, I got up, groggy, thinking maybe I would skip yoga. But force of habit had me dressed in racer bra and thigh-hugging bottoms before my logical mind kicked in. At that point it was easier to do the routine than to change clothes.

Afterwards, clear, focused, I made a list.

But first, a bit of historical data to bring you up to date…

I’m the one who sold everything and moved to Bali.
I’m the one who preaches ‘simplify’ as a way of life.
I’m the one who moves at least once every two to four months.

So, back to the list. It was short:

Olive oil

Perhaps you’ve noted that the first three are consumable. All of my lists to date have been items I can eat, wear, or burn. So what, might you ask, and rightly so, is DESK doing on the list?

It’s complicated. Actually, it’s embarrassingly simple. I love furniture. I’m renting a house that is fully furnished but has no desk. I wanted a desk. I could picture it and the more space it took up in my head the more I wanted to own it.

I spoke to Ketut. He offered to have his brother make one. That’s my life here. It’s like having a magic lamp with a genie that grants my every wish. And that would have been fine, but the newer pieces of furniture in the house have a whitewashed finish. I’m fond of that finish. Ketut’s brother only does brown. I asked Ketut if he knew where this furniture came from. “Andong,” he said, and off we went.

The first three shops had nice stuff but no desks. The 4th place had two, one with a carved top that was oh-so-cute, but completely impractical. Then Ketut saw the second one; no carving, but two handy drawers in the front, perfect size, adorable!




There was a sticker with the price on it. “Old price,” the shop owner said. “Now 150,000 rph.” I mentally did the math. That’s $14. The old price was $11. We negotiated and I got it for the old price. I know, I know…a solid wood, adorable desk with 2 drawers in a whitewashed finish for $11. Don’t hate me.

While I was gearing up my best Indonesian to negotiate a delivery, Ketut picked up the desk, carried it out to the motorbike, and said, “Take now.” I must have had that “You’ve got to be you-know-whating me” look on my face because he gave me his biggest, thoothiest grin, and said, “In middle possible.”

I just want you to know that I have now, officially, crossed over. I have transported a fairly large piece of furniture through central Ubud, riding across my lap, hanging out perilously on both sides, on the back of a motorbike. And the scariest of all…it seemed like the logical thing to do!

Paradise Found

I’m not one for crowds. I like my people in controlled portions, ceremonies and festivals excepted. In those situations crowd energy is essential. So when Ketut and I sit down with the map to find a new coastline to explore, he knows I don’t have Kuta or Canggu in mind. I want something pristine, deserted, remote. There’s a little dot on the map called Soka. It isn’t connected by road to the crazy tourist beaches. Something about it speaks to me.

This morning at 8:30 with thunderheads warm and dark in the west, we straddle the motorbike and head…west. “Maybe big rain,” Ketut astutely observes. “Maybe,” I agree hoping he’s right. A big rain when you’re on a motorbike is a great excuse to stop for a cup of Balinese coffee at a roadside warung to let it pass. There is nothing negative about that possibility for me.

Rice fields with mountains in the distance

After about an hour and three raindrops on my nose, the clouds are behind us. Soka is an eyeblink with a restaurant overlooking the distant ocean. Pretty, quiet, and no surfboard rental shops in sight. Good sign. We continue on. The ocean disappears. It has to be there but we can’t see it. A few more miles and Ketut pulls off the road. After a brief conversation with a local, he translates for me, “Small road,” he says, and we turn around and head back toward Soka.

Small road to the beach

When he turns off on said ‘small road’ I am feeling really happy. There are no guards demanding an entrance fee. There are no motorbikes parked alongside. There are no hoards of people. “Is it private?” I ask, thinking we may be trespassing on some exclusive beachfront property. “No very,” his tone reassures me even if his words leave me a bit muddled as to the exact meaning. We round the corner and, oh bliss! There it is! My beach! The one I have envisioned, longed for, believed in, and needed to find.

Ethereal mist softens the outcroppings of black lava

Breakers just keep rolling in

There are holes in the lava where tepid pools of water are trapped when the waves overflow. Nature’s hot tubs!

Ketut points out that the design on the edge of one pool looks like a snake is coiled there.

I am pretty proud of myself climbing up, but have to enlist help to get back down!

And this is what someone may have seen landing on this same beach centuries ago

There’s a downside to all magical moments. Leaving. At some point, knowing it’s going to take just as long to get home as it did to get here, the decision to leave must be made. We slowly pick our way back to the motorbike noting that the only tracks on the beach belong to us and a cow. Hmmm. A cow?

Back on the highway mid-afternoon hunger sets in. Rounding a curve, there it is, a tidy little warung. Water, soft drinks, bottled fruit juice and assorted Balinese snacks in pink bins line the counter.

Roadside warung

Hidden behind the display in her baseball cap and gorgeous smile, ibu chops the chilis for the mei goreng she is preparing for us. We wait, happily sipping steaming cups of delicious black sludge.

Chopping the chilis

Hunger satisfied, I resume my position behind Ketut when down the road in front of us comes…


And why not? This is Bali after all. Motorbikes, trucks, tourist buses, and a cow. It all seems perfectly normal after a few months here.

Kamikaze Maniacs!

I should have stopped with the first cup. I shouldn’t have drained the whole pot. Coffee. It gives me the jitters, and I did not need a panic attack perched on the back of Ketut’s motorbike in the midst of a traffic jam on Jalan Raya, the busy main street of Ubud central.

Days ago I had mentioned that sometime I would like to explore the area of Ubud that lies south of the palace. I’ve walked the village for a couple of miles in all directions, but I know there is more to see. Touring the streets by motorbike seemed a good idea. This morning when Ketut brought my breakfast he inquired, as he always does, “What is program for today?” I told him I was going to work hard, write-write, all day. “Oh…no program?” he asked. Obviously writing does not qualify for program status in his world. In the next moment he was making a circular gesture with his arm saying, “Go look Ubud?”

A few hours later I climbed on behind Ketut, fastened a death-grip around his waist, and we were off. Okay, this is why I am determined to learn Indonesian. I pictured a leisurely weaving back and forth through narrow streets just south of the palace, up one, down the other, and getting a general lay of the land. I had also mentioned finding the large Delta Dewata Supermarket and the Seniwati Art Gallery, all well within the general area of my frame of reference.

As we pulled into the congested flow on Monkey Forest Road Ketut hollered something about did I want to see Bintang Supermarket too…big big? “Sure!” I hollered back. A big big supermarket would be fun…right? We rounded the corner onto Jalan Raya and were absorbed into the teeming sea of motorbikes, tourist buses, mini-vans, bicycles, and clueless tourist pedestrians. It isn’t a total free-for-all like the kamikaze maniac drivers in Sicily, but it is cause for hyperventilation if you’ve had too much coffee.

For what seemed like hours we squeezed through openings that I would have sworn on my life were impassable. We challenged tour buses for our right to the road…I would have slunk, cowering behind them, sucking up the noxious fumes, grateful to be alive. Not so Ketut! Then, suddenly we were free, speeding along an open road, breathing great gulps of clean air. And on we went, and on, and on…. After several more miles I asked Ketut, “Are we still in Ubud?” “Yes, yes, very good area,” he assured me. And on…and on….

The landscape began to look rural, and as we rounded a tight curve I gasped…”Stop!” Before us were rice terraces, those ethereal masterpieces of agriculture that seared their beauty into my memory when I first beheld them in Bali three years ago. “I take pictures, Ketut!” I explained as I clambered off the motorbike fishing for my camera.

My heartbeat triples its cadence whenever I see the terraces. I don’t know what it is about them but to me they are the essence of prayers.

Ketut and my chariot patiently waited. Then I resumed my perch and off we went. Bintang Supermarket is huge compared to CoCo’s and small compared to Sam’s Club or Costco in the U.S. I took a quick swing through, didn’t see anything I couldn’t live without, and was back in the saddle in no time, still headed farther away. Then, without explanation or apology, the road made a giant loop and, yes! We were going back toward Ubud!

Upon re-entering the part of the city I recognize (I used to call it a village…it has today, in my mind, graduated to city status) we finally began the weaving process I had originally imagined. But it wasn’t easy. There are north-south streets but very, very few east-west connectors. And sometimes what begins innocently enough as a road, ends as a trail through the rice paddies.

The road above with no warning became the trail below.

We turned down a street. It became a bumpy lane, then a cart path, then the trail you see here, and then…we turned around. With expert maneuvering Ketut got us to Delta Dewata, but today Seniwati Gallery was nowhere to be found. It was totally my fault for not having an address.

Our adventure had taken two hours. Where were we? I have no idea. But I saw new sights, took some great photos, bonded with Ketut and the motorbike, and made it, once again, safely home. What could possibly be better than that?

Holy motorbikes!

As adventures go, today gets a perfect 10. It had all the required elements: suspense, terror, discovery, delight. To say that I have an uneasy relationship with motorbikes would be, well, a lie. I am white-knuckle-clench-jaw terrified of riding on any motorized vehicle with only two wheels. So when Wayan invited me to visit their home I was thrilled until she said she would pick me up on her motorbike. My big smile did an instant melt-down. “Motorbike?” I squeaked. “Yes,” she flashed her own lovely smile, “you ride on the back. I will take you.” Face it. An opportunity to visit this Balinese family in a village about 30 minutes away, to experience first-hand how these beautiful people live, just doesn’t come along every day. There was no way I was not going.

Suspense. Wayan was coming at 4:00. By 2:00 I was feeling knots in my stomach. At 3:00 my palms were sweaty. By the time I heard the sound of a motor approaching at 3:55 I was hyperventilating. Taking a deep, cleansing breath I grabbed my bag and went out to meet her. She strapped me into a helmet, popped the back foot rests down and I climbed on. My grip on her rib-cage probably permanently rearranged her vital organs. Terror!  Then off we went. Traffic on the streets in Bali is frightening enough when I’m walking on the sidewalk. But to be weaving in and out between tour buses and hundreds of other bikes similar to hers, horns blaring, without anything protecting my fragile body, put me in a catatonic state. I clung to Wayan’s tiny middle for dear life.

After a few miles we left Ubud. The air was fresh, traffic was light, and in spite of myself I began to enjoy the ride. I don’t believe I said that! But its true. Upon arrival at her home I was introduced to her husband, Komang, and their adorable son. Komang works at the reception desk of a high-end resort spa. Both Komang and Wayan speak very good English.

My tour of their home commenced. I followed Komang to the family temple area. As he explained the function of each of the structures and what they represent I was struck anew by the dailiness of their beliefs. There is no separation between the secular and the holy. They are interwoven so seamlessly that one is unrecognizable without the other.

Komang explained that each of the small buildings in the temple area has a purpose. One is for making offerings to honor the ancestors. One receives offerings for safety. Another, offerings for prosperity. One that struck me with particular impact was the edifice that represented caring about doing good work. They make offerings and prayers, daily, for caring about doing good work. With all these prayers, setting the intention for such goodness, its little wonder that Bali is a very special place.

Did I mention that I was an instant celebrity here. Upon arrival children began to gather around me. No matter what I did or said they found it hilariously funny. They have mastered the words, ‘Hello’ and ‘Bye.’ But they mostly like Hello, so every few minutes one of them would blurt out, “Hello!” and wait expectantly for my answering, “Hello!” Then they would all laugh uproariously.



The Balinese lifestyle is completely different from ours in the West in other ways too. They have a house for sleeping, a separate house for cooking, a place for the ceremonies of marriage and death, and the temple area. All of these are surrounded by a wall, maybe 8 feet high. The buildings are small by Western standards, but most of life is lived outside. And why wouldn’t it be in this climate where as the saying goes, “Even a rock, if planted, will grow.”

There is a stream that runs a little distance from the house. Earlier Wayan had pointed to it saying that this is where she does her laundry. Huh? Sometimes I have to catch myself so that my shock and disbelief don’t offend. A few moments later she added that this is also where the women bathe every morning at 6 a.m. “Men too?” I asked. “No, men go somewhere else.” As I said, much of life is lived outside.

When we returned from our walk through the neighborhood, Wayan disappeared into the kitchen building and emerged a few minutes later with a treat. It was fresh coconut milk, straight from the coconut, which was harvested from one of the three coconut palms on their property. Then Komang’s mother joined us. She takes care of their mischievous three-year-old while Wayan and Komang work six days a week.


After refreshments Wayan and Komang offered to take me to the night market. Even though it meant another motorbike ride, my curiosity triumphed and off we went. There were no tourists there tonight, and we strolled through the isles, Komang carrying his son and Wayan holding my arm. I saw many Balinese women walking arm in arm and I felt much love for this little family that has so warmly welcomed me into their lives.



There were food vendors everywhere and the knawing in my stomach reminded me that Wayan and Komang had come straight from work and were probably hungry too. Komang pointed out the various dishes naming them. “And this one is bubur ayam…” he had barely gotten the words out of his mouth and I interjected, “Oh! Can we stop and have some? I will buy your dinner. I love bubur ayam!” My gracious host and hostess agreed. Three heaping bowls of the savory dish were presented and what a delicious treat it was. Three bowls of bubur ayam and beverages set me back a whopping $2.00.

As we finished our meal the sky looked like it may be working up to another twilight downpour. We quickly returned to the motorbikes and straddling the trusty machine, I once again wrapped my arms around Wayan’s waist. Waving goodby and thanks to Komang, we set off to beat the rain. What a spectacular day. And, thanks to Wayan, I think I may have overcome a major phobia involving two-wheeled, motorized vehicles!


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