Saturday, 21 March 2009

Life Sucks Without Friends

I realize that the older I get, the more I value relationships. Yesterday after Nong flew back to Bangkok, I felt this emptiness in my heart. I booked my ticket to Jakarta this Sunday with the hope that after Nong left, Dame would come to spend a few days with me in Bali. Anyway, that plan fell through and Dame couldn't make it. So I felt like I was left stranded here in this tourist paradise. All in all, yesterday was a sad day for me. I made it back to the beach but couldn't even bring myself to surf even though the waves were, once again, perfect.

I thought surfing means a lot to me. Well, it does. But not more than relationships. Yesterday was a day of reflection, and I was reminded of a couple truths. The first one is that most of life is about waiting. If I can get that fact established in my heart, then I won't suffer so much from waiting. The second is life sucks without friends. No matter how much you enjoy doing something, it doesn't mean much if you can't share your joy with other human beings.

But Nong had to go back and Dame couldn't come, so what could I do?

Well, I got hooked up with the disciples in Bali. That's one of the benefits of being a Christian in The International Churches of Christ. We're everywhere. After Nong left, I moved in with Peichen and her family. They welcomed me with open arms. And today, I got to hang out with Sendy. I'll tell ya there are many kinds of traveling, and I like most of them except organized tours. I love exploring new places with a great friend, like I did with Nong on this trip. I also love being shown around by the locals. Today Sendy picked me up at my place and took me on an open-air motorcycle ride around Denpasar. It sure heightens your sensations than being in a car. More on the edge type of sightseeing where you get the smell factor as well as the hot wind blowing in your face while you body's covered up in a jacket and long pants/trousers (in case any Brit's reading here) since this is how Indonesians travel around on a motorbike. They certainly don't want to get dark. She also took me to this dirt cheap arts/crafts market called Erlangga2. A must-go if you don't wanna get ripped off. I bought a pack of surfboard key chains for 7500 rupiah (less than a dollar) while I'd have to pay 7 bucks at a store in Kuta. What a bargain! Moreover, I got to buy some cheap abstract paintings for 1.5 USD a piece, which would easily cost more than $10 at Mervyn's. I love bargains! Murah, murah, ya...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

A Room With a View

Today is a Hindu holiday in Bali, and it was difficult to rent a car. There are no automatic cars for rent here, so I had to get a manual Toyota Avanza for 25 USD/day. Nong and I said a prayer once I got behind the wheel. I can drive manual but it's certainly not up my alley. Anyhow, we were tempted to just stay in Kuta cos the people kept saying that most car rental places are closed and Balinese are on holiday. But I won't take no for an answer. I felt like today, we should get out of the familiar Kuta and go on a road trip, somewhere both of us had never been before, even though I love the beach so much.

It was a bit scary at first exploring the island on a manual Toyota Avanza. I'd rather have Jimmy, my Indonesian friend, drive us around like last time. I freaked out in the beginning trying to find my way around the city. Poor Nong, she had to put up with me. Later I told her how much I appreciated her patience.

So I paid a bit more for a guesthouse in Ubud. Rp 350,000/night. About 35 USD. I could have got a cheaper room but the view at this guesthouse is worth it, overlooking an Indonesian rice terrace. Although I prefer a beachfront property, but a hill/rice terrace view in inland Bali is not a bad offer, considering there aren't many attractions here for me in Ubud. I'm more of a beach person. The ocean makes me way more excited than the forest.

Anyway, we had a great afternoon nap.

But I hope to spend a quiet evening and tomorrow morning, reading and praying. In a way, it's a good room with a peaceful view, good for meditation.

I think I'm going to ask Nong if we can head back to the beach tomorrow. A day inland is more than enough.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Back in the Surf '09

So I'm back again in Bali after 9 months. Thanks to Air Asia new route, BKK-Bali, for a dirt cheap price. It rained last night, so there was urban runoff in the the water. But I could careless, I was back in the surf. I'm here with my dear friend, Nong. We love each other, but we don't always agree on every thing. For instance, she said Kuta looks just like Pattaya, but I strongly disagree. Pattaya ain't got any surf and is full of--excuse my French--dirty, old, mostly big-bellied European men walking around with Thai girls. Kuta's crowd is young and vibrant. An atmosphere similar to Huntington or Newport Beach in terms of surf culture. That's what I'm after anyway. I can understand how some people may find Bali mundane. But not for me. I admit, surfing is an addiction. Anyhow this time around, my body is much stronger than it was last year, as a result of prior swim training. My body's still sore from yesterday, mind you, but my form in the water was way better. I didn't bang my knees. My arms were strong enough to do several pop-ups.

Another thing I like about surfing is how my mind works in the water. Nothing else matters but the waves and everything that goes into the process of catching and riding waves. I was focused and clear-minded. Lately I've been distracted with some thoughts that I can't seem to shake off. Surfing helps me let go of some junk in my head and to realize that when I'm focused on something sublime like surfing, I'm much happier and more productive. And the sensation of riding a wave, always, makes me feel liberated.

I think I'm going to apply this principle more to other aspects of my life.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Bali the Beautiful

I probably explored about 5% of Bali in ten days. Mind you, it's a big island, so beautiful, so mystical. I'd love to explore more, but that wasn't what this trip was strictly about. The goal was to rest, finding rest for my soul. Mission was accomplished. And like they say, every day in Bali is a holiday. It's true.

To keep it brief. Many tourist sights in Bali were beauty overloaded. I got to witness just a few places: Tanah Lot, a hindu temple off the coast; a dinner on the beach in the famous Jimbaran of which reminded me of Laguna Beach but more dream-like; and the mystical structure of GWK at night where I felt like stepping into a scene in the movie Indiana Jones.

However, I spent the majority of my time on Pantai Kuta, or Kuta Beach. You could leave me in Kuta everyday for weeks with great company and a good book, and I won't get bored. I just couldn't have enough of it. I drank a lot of fresh juices--papaya, pineapple, and orange--the thing to do when on an island. It really helped with my digestive system;) And then surfing during sunset was just sublime! For a moment, nothing else mattered. It was like seeing something so beautiful, you can't utter a word. Such sight reminds me how romantic my God is.

Also my upper body got stronger in one week and my skin got so dark, making me look even more Indonesian. One guy was surprised after he asked me a question in Indonesian and I answered back in English. It was as if the people here didn't want to accept that I'm not Indonesian. After 5 days in a guesthouse, I rotated my stay to different brothers' and sisters' houses in Bali: 1 night with Jose and Marsel with their 6 week old baby girl Naomi, 2 nights with Wiwin a single sister, and 3 nights with Peichen, David, little Vivian and Vania. Franky and Erly, the Bali church leaders, also took me to dinner on my last night and we had a great conversation. It was amazing to be looked after just because I'm a disciple. I was a total stranger to them 2 weeks ago and now we are friends and family in Christ. What can I say? I'm incredibly grateful for the kingdom.

My only regret is that I wish I had more time in Bali.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Back in the Surf

The first thing I did in Bali was telling the cab driver to take me to a cheap Balinese guesthouse, $15/night, near Kuta Beach and went surfing. It's been 2 years since I last surfed. It was like seeing my long lost lover again. My heart was beating fast and a jittery feeling swept over me when my eyes beheld the waves. What a sight! Reef breaks could be seen miles from the shore, but sand breaks were closer and the cuddling whitewater was drawing me in. Then I realized that my passion for surfing had never died.

I rented a 6'7'' board for $3/ hour. Can't beat that! Yopi, the surfboard dude, was going to give me a discount for $7/three hours but after one hour, my body was beat. Certain muscles hadn't been used for two years and were undergoing some kind of shock. Standing up on the board and riding the wave again was a glorious feeling.

Kuta Beach has everything to offer everyone. For me, the one thing that matters most is the surf. For others, lots of shopping stalls selling all kinds of trinkets, foods, amazing paintings, cheap massages, pedicures, manicures, hair braiding, and more. Across the small road that runs along the beach are stores catered to westerners like MacDonald's, restaurants selling burgers and fries, and a near by Discover Mall that pretty much has everything except a movie theater. I guess if you want the convenience of a city life coupled with an exotic beach with great surf, come to Kuta.

After a year in Jakarta, my bahasa Indonesia is good enough to bargain for great prices. I love it! That I can speak a third language, although broken, is exciting.

Today is my shopping day. I can't go out surfing again because I need to rest my aching muscles, but I'm hopeful that I'll recover by tomorrow.