Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Volunteering in Bali - Q & A, Part 2

What do you do there when you aren't teaching?
Every Sunday, photos of volunteers enjoying
Bali are posted to the Facebook page.
As teachers everywhere know, there is a lot of prep time required outside of class, so I'll likely be preparing lessons.  I also hope to be taking lots of classes myself on topics like batik, silversmithing, local cooking, yoga, snorkeling, etc. that are offered in Ubud. Bali is a worldwide tourist destination with amazing natural beauty and wonderful things to do, and volunteers have the opportunity to travel around the island on the weekends.  From my research, Bali seems similar to Hawaii, and I loved visiting there.  (Even though I was only there for 4 nights!) I also hope to visit and learn from local schools through Katie who just began teaching in Bali and is a friend of Scott Foster, my friend who taught at Waverly High School before he left to teach in Cairo, Egypt for the past 5 years. Scott has already been a great help to me as I plan the travel portions of the trip, and Katie has sent me a note that she is located about 45 minutes from Ubud, and when I arrive she would love to go explore the island with me. Patsy (the past volunteer I have chatted with via Facebook) recommends hanging out in a rooster-free hotel with hot water on the weekends, too. 

What if you get sick there?
It turns out that there are four Blue Cross/Blue Shield preferred providers on Bali. Huh. Never would have thought that! So, not only do they have healthcare available, it's even in-network. And I bought travel insurance to cover any additional costs, or other travel emergencies such as lost luggage, theft, travel delays, etc.

What will you eat there?
Patsy told me the fruits and juices are amazing. From the program web site, here is a run down of other food:  

* Breakfast is provided each day as part of your home stay

  • eg. Breakfast option :
  • Pancake
  • Tomato or vegetable omelet
  • Toast bread
  • Scramble egg
  • eg. Drink option :
  • Fruit juice
  • Fresh fruit
  • Tea or coffee 

* Lunch and dinner can been purchased for Rp 20,000 (approx $2.00 or 1.50 euros) per meal with drinks from your home stay or nearby balinese eateries. Lunch consists: fried rice or fried noodle or gado gado (vegetarian) or noodle soup + juice (depending on the season) 
* Dinner consists: rice + saté chicken or deep fried chicken / rice + deep fried fish or fish saté or gado gado

Yum! That gado gado salad looks wonderful!

What immunizations do you need to travel there?
Once I bought my plane ticket, I called my doctor to schedule a visit to plan ahead for this trip and she referred me to the UNL health center where they have a travel medicine clinic  (Who knew?!) I met with Szuhua, the main care provider there, in July. She ran a report for me of the potential diseases I could encounter in Bali, and we set up a schedule for me to receive all of the suggested vaccines to prevent getting any of the major illnesses. So far, I've had a tetanus (Tdap) booster, two doses Hepatitis A and B and one dose of Japanese Encephalitis. Also on the list are Thyphoid fever, more Japanese Encephalitis and Pre-rabies (dang those rabid monkeys!). With the travel medicine clinic housed in a University health center, I think I have set a new record for coming in to see Szuhua before a trip as she blinked a few extra times when I told her I wouldn't be leaving for 8 months from the first visit. I don't think most UNL students who visit her plan quite that far ahead. 
Even with the challenges of the culture, volunteers post 
often about their love of the program and the plac
Mosquitos carry the most potential for spreading disease while I'm there, and Szuhua has both a lotion mosquito repellent and a substance to treat your clothing that she keeps on display on her desk because she recommends them so commonly. I'll be buying several of bottles of both. Dengue Fever, carried by mosquitos, is probably my biggest concern. You can't be immunized against it, and it's not uncommon. While it can make you very ill, it is not considered life threatening as long as you seek medical care, and I will have the 4 BCBS providers addresses memorized by the time I leave. I will also take along whatever treatment my doctor here recommends.

How does this impact your work at ESU 6?
Have I mentioned that I have one of the best jobs in the world?  Toby and the leadership team at ESU 6 believe this project has great potential to positively impact our teachers and school leaders, and they have supported the project from its inception. I am so grateful to work at such a great place, with wonderful colleagues. I will still be on contract with ESU 6 while I am in Bali, and I will be staying in touch with our schools via email, and assisting them with their tech professional development needs the best I can from afar. I will be available via email and video conference. I will also be blogging to share the experience with anyone who is interested in it, and I will be speaking at our schools about the project as requested.

Typically, I have about 2-3 weeks of non-contract days each year that I don't take due to the demands of the work at ESU 6 and the volunteer work I do for ed tech groups and conferences. This year, I may also use some of those days while in Bali to travel and experience the culture there.

Will you still be teaching your online UNL grad courses that you teach each spring?
At this point, I still plan to teach those two courses in the spring semester, but that has not been finalized.

What do your friends and family think about this trip?
So far, the few who know about it have been supportive despite their own fears about me traveling alone to a far away place. They know I love adventure and learning, and think it's a great opportunity to do both. I imagine they share my concerns over getting to and from Bali, but agree that those concerns aren't reason enough not to go.

Is it safe there?
I have researched this issue extensively and believe it is very safe there. The only concern I ever see mentioned centers around drinking some weird local alcohol that can poison you or make you vulnerable for crimes, so I plan to stick with those juices that Patsy assured me are amazing. You can read more about the safety of the region on the Lonely Planet site.

Will you be able to stay in touch with people at home while there?
Apparently hot showers aren't widespread where I'll be staying, but wi-fi is. Imagine that! I will have wifi at my home stay, and at school. I can also visit internet cafes for web access. There is a 13-hour time difference, so you might get to hear from me right after dinner, while I am just getting up and ready for my day.

How are you getting to Bali?  
There is no US airline that flies all the way from the US to Bali, so I am choosing to fly on Qatar Airways. I fly from Omaha to Dallas on American Airlines, then on Qatar Airways from Dallas to Doha, Qatar, where I will stay overnight near the airport due to a long layover. Then Doha to Bali.  Nearly 40 hours of travel time and crossing the international date line. Qatar is a small country in the middle east, and it is also the richest country in the world. It has one of a handful of 5 star rated airlines in the world for safety, reliability and service. 

Since this is the Brave Project afterall, and I don't like to fly and tend to get quite airsick, why not include a flight that is ranked as the 6th longest flight in the world? Sigh. Let's just hope they have more than one of those tiny bottles of wine on board. (This article from US News uses Houston as the US point, but I'll be flying into and out of Dallas.)  

6. Doha to Houston on Qatar Airways (Tie)

  • Miles: 8,047
  • Scheduled Duration: 16 Hours 15 Minutes
Qatar Airways operates a marathon flight route between sunny Doha, Qatar, and humid Houston, Texas. Flying westward to the United States, the journey usually takes just over 16 hours. Economy passengers receive an amenity kit with an eye mask, toothbrush, and even socks to make them feel more at home. They can also follow the "Fly Healthy, Fly Fit" guide and perform some relaxation techniques onboard, such as deep breathing and stretching. While they're not sleeping or dining, travelers can view hundreds of films on their personal 10.6-inch TV screen.

You are flying through the Middle East?  On a Middle Eastern airline? Are you sure that's a good idea? 

Okay.  Deep breath here.

For what it's worth, I did not choose Qatar Airways because it would be the scariest option I could find. The cost was most reasonable, the reviews of the airline are stellar, and there are 3 extra inches of leg room in coach. If you aren't 6 feet tall, you might not realize how important leg room is on flights. 16 hour flights. I have spent a lot of flights with someone who insists on fully reclining their seat in front of me, even when there is nowhere I can move my knees.  Each coach seat also has both electrical and USB plugs at each seat. I consulted with family friend Andy, a pilot who has also lived in the Middle East, and he assures me it will be a fabulous experience and that he would not hesitate to travel to Bali on Qatar with his family. I also chatted with Shawn and Scott, both Americans who live in Cairo, and posted a question about Qatar Airlines on the VP Bali Volunteer FB page, where a young woman who also plans to volunteer consulted her dad who is a pilot, and all recommended Qatar as an outstanding airline. 

Qatar Airways also offers a great option for passengers with a layover longer than 8 hours that includes entry visa, transportation, meals and accommodation at a nearby hotel to allow you to get some reset.  I plan to take advantage of that option as well since I will have likely been up for about 24 hours or more once I land in Doha. (And I gotta tell you, the service I've had over the years on Delta and United doesn't compare to what I've seen offered by Qatar Airlines. If they follow through with everything promised, and I believe they will, you'll probably want to sign up for your Qatar Airways frequent flier card too!)

I checked with Andy again after the Malaysian passenger jet was shot down when I saw that the flight path for my Dallas to Doha segment was scheduled to fly over the Ukraine. Andy again reassured me that it would be safe. He knows my parents and how sad they would be if I get blown up, so I believe him. Also, the web site for Qatar Airways has added a statement that they will no longer be flying over the Ukraine.  

I am also paying close attention to the ebola outbreaks in the world. As you see via the travel alert link on Qatar Airways' web site, they are also closely monitoring the ebola virus situation. Also, ebola is not transferred through air. 

I have also been continuously monitoring travel alerts through the US Department of State, and would absolutely follow any warnings posted there.

I know this travel plan portion of the trip feels a bit risky. But during the week the Malaysian aircraft was destroyed, 2 people, in separate accidents, died on a freeway I drive every time I go into the office in Milford. As Kevin says, if it's your time, it's your time. 

WHAT?  You aren't even scared?
Yes, I'm scared. A little bit. And sometimes a lot. Remember that this whole project is about being brave, though. To me, part of being brave is to make informed decisions based on the most accurate, logical information you can find, rather than on all of the what ifs you can think of.  (And trust me, I've thought of them all!) 

To be fair, at the time I booked the flight, the world was a bit calmer. No planes had recently been shot out of the sky, no new explosion of violence had flared up enroute to Bali. So I have been paying very close attention to everything.  And sending lots of "please reassure me" texts to my friends who knew about this part of the Brave Project from the start. They don't want anything to happen to me either, and they trust my decision making skills even if they aren't comfortable with international travel. They still think this is a good idea - okay, in full disclosure one sent me a text assuring me I can still find adventure and fun in the good ol' USA and a few others have gently asked if I am paying attention to world events as I move forward with this project. And I am. Kevin is confident that it is safe for me to travel. I also have mighty prayer warriors through this whole project, and that helps calm my fears.

Bottom line:  While I have purchased my ticket, it is mostly refundable right up until the scheduled departure date. I also have travel insurance to cover other costs I would incur if I need to cancel the trip. I will not go if there are valid reasons to stay home. And I will change airlines if I believe it is warranted. To be honest, flying across those large expanses of ocean scares me as much as flying into the middle east via the Ukraine. I have always been afraid of flying, especially over oceans. But I do it anyway, because I know it is not a rational fear.

If you have questions or concerns that I haven't addressed here, please let me know and I will add them.  


  1. No questions or concerns...just let me say again, I'm so excited for you. This is going to be a wonderful experience you'll be talking about forever. You're a'll be in God's hands!

  2. Lynne, would guess the spray for the clothes (that is supposed to last quite a while) is the same one I purchased several of and ended up not using for Kenya trip. Maybe I was not patient enough. You might buy one and see what you think of it before buying multiples like I did.

    You have researched and re-researched, so I think you will have a fabulous adventure!

  3. Have I told you lately how much I admire and respect you? Wow! When I take a trip I want you to be my travel advisor. Stay brave, stay safe, keep sharing.