Six months ago today I had just taken off from Chicago on my way to Denpasar, Bali by way of Doha, Qatar. Half a year ago already. Cindy Lange-Kubick wrote a great article for today's Lincoln Journal Star lamenting that summer gets shorter every year, and citing research about why we perceive time differently as we age. So while it might seem like a long time since I've posted to the blog, let's all pretend it wasn't. And I'll catch you up the best I can.
While most of you know everything I'll write about in this post and have likely forgotten it by now (memory seems to fade as quickly as summer the older we get), I am reminded periodically when I meet one of you in the grocery store and you ask if you missed all of my Bali blog posts, that not all of you have ventured into Facebook, which was one of the few online services I had decent access to while in Bali. So, while you didn't miss Bali blog posts - there was only one - you did miss links to photos from my 3 hour visit to Doha and from the amazing month I spent in Bali. You'll find links to the photos and video on a web site I created for a conference presentation on the Brave Project for those of you who missed them.
So why one post from a whole month in Bali?
Well, three things happened.
1) Six months ago today, while I was in the air to Doha, Qatar, my dad passed away unexpectedly. Kevin reached me via Google chat to let me know just before I was headed from Doha's Souq Waqif night market back to the airport to catch my 10 hour flight to Denpasar in Bali. After discussion over airport wifi with friends and family, it was decided I should continue on with the trip. So while I anticipated the challenges of adjusting to a new climate and culture, not to mention being so far away from friends and family, I didn't anticipate the extra challenge of experiencing a major life transition during that time as well. But my hosts and fellow volunteers were exceptionally kind and gracious to me (not to mention all of you back at home who sent encouraging texts and Facebook messages), and I was still able to learn and grow even more than I'd hoped during the next month. My hosts, Ketut and Nyomen, shared their cultural traditions around death, including leading me through a prayer ceremony in their family temple, encouraging me to participate in a cremation ceremony for a local priest who passed away, and teaching me how to participate in the holy water rituals at the fascinating Tirta Empul temple. Once I got home in late March, I took on all of the paperwork and things that need to happen following a death since my sister handled the funeral and associated tasks that needed to be done while I was in Bali. The two of us interred dad's ashes at Mt. Vernon Cemetary in Peru, NE, a couple of weeks ago and are nearly finished with settling the estate.
2) Despite going to Bali specifically to teach technology skills at a local Yaysan (after school program), internet access in Bali is weak at best and awful at worst. I knew lots of friends and family here at home were concerned about me traveling alone to a place most of us knew so little about, so I did my best to create a post right after I arrived that let folks know via photos, sounds and words that all was well with me in my little village. When I look back at that post now, I think it does a great job of describing my life near Ubud over the next few weeks, despite writing it on only my 3rd day there. I was also able to post a 5 minute video to Youtube that I took with my iphone while traveling back from the local market on the back of Nyomen's motorbike one morning to allow folks here to see what it was like outside of my homestay. For perspective, it took about an hour to upload each minute of video - when it actually worked. So I took pages and pages of offline notes and thousands of photos that I hope to begin crafting into some sort of a book soon. Stay tuned on that one. :)
3) From my pre-trip research I crafted a list of things I wanted to do while I was in Bali - take a silversmithing class, take Balinese cooking lessons, visit a local elementary school, visit my students at their home, participate in local religious and cultural ceremonies, take a yoga class, take a batik class, visit a local market, get a massage, take a flower petal bath, visit the beach . . .and riding a bicycle through the rice fields. All of which I was able to do, in addition to so many more experiences as well. Thankfully the bike tour came just a few days before I flew home because it also resulted in something I hadn't included on my travel to-do list - a trip to the local medical clinic. Not far into a beautiful ride down from Mt. Batur on a bike that could be described as "well worn," my brake cable snapped and I took a tumble that ultimately resulted in a fractured arm and a fractured rib, although neither was diagnosed until a couple of weeks after I got home.
I was impressed with the efficiency of the local clinic, and I left with multiple prescriptions for muscle relaxers and pain meds that allowed me to move well enough to experience one more item on my pre-trip list: visit the sacred monkey forest. (Man, was that a memorable experience, and yes my eyes are slightly TERRIFIED in this photo! As you walk through the forest, the monkeys just leap onto you! You can see the pucker on my shirt where he grabbed on to climb up! Holy monkeys! Yay for pre-rabies shots before I left!)
So returning home, jumping back into work, adjusting back to the local time zone (Bali is 14 hours ahead of us, so night and day are reversed there compared with here) and allowing my body to heal took priority over blog posts.
So that brings us to now. While Bali was certainly a culminating part of the initial phase of the Brave Project, that project is not over! I've been on local adventures since returning home, both planned and unplanned, and the next post will catch you up on those as well.
For now . . .get your own brave on and get out there tonight or tomorrow night to catch some of those perseid meteors! Bonus points if you remember how to know they are perseids based on what we learned at Star Camp last summer!
It's good to be back to the blog.
PS: I have spoken to several classrooms and groups about my experiences in Bali, and I have some great local items I brought home to share with people. If you're part of a group that would like to know more about Balinese culture, let me know!