Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Volunteering in Bali - Q&A, Part 1

Why did you choose to travel somewhere internationally to volunteer as part of your Catalyst Grant?
I love to travel and experience new cultures, although most of my travel experiences over the past 20 years have been for work or trekking around with Olivia's Girl Scout troop. The catalyst grant is a rare opportunity, so it seemed like now is a good time to stretch into something new.  However, I am also happiest when I am both learning and teaching, so I wanted to find an experience where I could do both for this part of the project. 

Why are you going to Bali?  Couldn't you just go somewhere here in the US?
Hmmm.  Well....

I am going to Bali for a few practical reasons, and some that are more abstract. First, it's a reputable program with reasonable costs where I can use the skills and experience I have as an educator to perhaps contribute something worthwhile to children and teachers there. But also because it's got so many factors that make it out of my comfort zone. Many of those things are similar to the primitive camping concerns from when I went to the Star Party. Bugs, heat, rain, isolation, primitive facilities. But also the distance from home, being the same age as the parents of most other volunteers there, having to share my space with a room mate who is likely younger than my children and would probably prefer not to room with a mom while on adventure to Bali, language barriers, cultural differences, etc. It's just full of adventurous challenge! (See how I'm practicing how I frame things?  Listed things that worry me, called it all something more exciting and added an exclamation point.  And now we're got a whole list of awesome!  There's a life lesson there, my friends!)

Anyway, thanks in part to the Catalyst grant, I am embracing the challenge of taking on this sort of adventure at a time of life when most women in similar life circumstances to mine wouldn't consider it. When I would have never considered it even a year ago. (Ironically, the funds from the Catalyst grant have shown me that funding is not the reason I haven't done things like this.  The cost of this trip is much less than most vacations, and most people I know could easily save up for it in a fairly short time if they wanted to pursue something similar.) The project will no doubt bring challenges I haven't even thought about yet, and working through those challenges will help me continue to grow as a person, and encourage others to do so as well through posts about the experience to the blog.

Keep in mind, too, that while spending a month volunteering in another country seems like a major stretch to some of you (including me), many people reading this probably wonder why it even counts as a brave project. Those of you who work in education do understand how rare of an opportunity it is to be able to do something like this during the school year. It's also important to point out that the costs of this program were extremely reasonable compared with other programs I found elsewhere in the world.

Of course I am always thankful for friends like Kelly who assure me that should I change my mind and choose to just stay home and volunteer at Matt Talbott kitchen, that's fine too.  :)

Where is Bali?
Far away from here!  I had to look it up as I knew it was an island in Southeast Asia, but that's about all.  It's northwest of Australia, and southwest of the Philippine Islands.  My flight itinerary shows it to be over 12,000 miles, one way, from home. It's one of the most visited islands in the country of Indonesia and a popular vacation destination for Australians and people from all around the world. (Said the woman whose last vacation outside of the Star Party was to Omaha.)

How did you find out about this program?
Blame Google. Somehow searching for volunteer opportunities in Ireland (where I have always wanted to go, so I ruled it out as too comfortable for the Brave Project), led me to opportunities in South Africa, Morocco, Thailand, and eventually this one with Volunteer Programs-Bali, Indonesia.

Bali was only vaguely familiar to me.  Probably in part from reading the book Eat, Pray, Love a few years ago for book club. The only other reason I have ever even heard of Bali was from when I performed in the chorus of South Pacific in college and one featured number was "Bali High." But I didn't put that Bali together with this Bali until after I started researching everything this is to know about Bali. I did not specifically search out Bali volunteering options, as visiting southeast Asia has definitely never been on my radar. I am not a fan of tropical heat, long flights across oceans, or being 12,000 miles from home for so long. 

What will you do there?  
I will be teaching computer skills and English to students in a program near the city of Ubud, Bali called Program WG.  I will teach Monday - Thursday and be free to travel in Bali on the weekends. 

Volunteers teaching in a classroom at Program WG
Do you have a lot of travel experience?
Do 48 solo trips to various airports in Georgia and South Carolina to teach weekend grad courses over the past 15 years count? Probably not, but during those trips I've managed through myriad canceled flights, odd hotels, stolen wallets, food poisoning, and one tornado siren (near the Charlotte airport, just as I was checking in.  As the warnings went off I asked the front desk attendant what the tornado shelter plan was. His response:  "Duuuuck, M'am."  Hmmm.) I even drove through one forest fire in the middle of the night on the way to my first teaching assignment. I also travel a lot for conferences through my work at ESU 6, and I traveled to Canada with Kevin for our 20th anniversary.  After high school, I traveled to Germany and Sweden with my family, and later went to England with friends and family for a great trip.  So, while I have fairly extensive travel experience, not much of it is international experience.

What's involved with traveling to Bali?  (Do you need a passport?)
You need a passport with at least 6 months left on it to enter the country.  Mine has about 5 years.  You also need a special social visa that you get through the Indonesian Embassy in the US. You supply a list of credentials to the embassy that basically shows you have work to do there, and don't plan to stay long term, and you are granted a 60-day visa.  You can't apply for this until 90 days before you are to arrive, so I will have everything ready to submit on that day.  

I will also need a visa from Qatar just to leave the airport to stay overnight in a hotel vs. sitting in a chair for a 9 hour layover in the airport. Entering and exiting countries is a highly controlled process - even if you are just staying for a few hours.  You might be asking yourself why I would need to stay overnight in Qatar.  More info on that tomorrow.

When are you going? 
I am scheduled to leave on February 11 and I will be home on March 15.

Where will you stay?
I will be staying in a "home stay" which seems very similar to the living conditions of home-hosted exchange students here. (And I always wanted to be an exchange student when I was younger but didn't want to miss high school, and exchanges in college were fairly rare in the late '80s.) You can see images from the home stay location here.  Scroll down.  It's not the primitive looking hut in the page banner.  It has a western style bathroom right off my room, so it's a far cry above primitive camping, and I already survived that, right?  :)

How do you know this is a reputable program?
I look forward to exploring Bali and neighboring
islands during my free time.
I have investigated it through every way possible.  I follow both the public Facebook page for VP Bali, as well as the private one for accepted volunteers only. I have had many emails back and forth with the program director. I have researched them online. I have corresponded with a past volunteer Patsy, who I found through Facebook. She assures me it will be a fabulous experience except for the cold showers and the roosters that wander the home stay area. I decided I could deal with those two things for a month.

Up Next:  Q & A, Part 2 


  1. This is so interesting. Keep the info coming! :)

  2. you have done your Homework Doc..and always learning is who you are! Godspeed!

  3. This is exciting, Lynne! You have already learned so muchGuess what book I found today while unpacking boxes? Live Boldly by Maryanne Radmacher! You are Living BOLDLY, my friend!