Been awhile since I posted! That’s mostly because I’ve mainly been plugging away at my writing (yay!)
As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to make a major thematic change to my book (still untitled, but I’ve been saving it under the placeholder: “Trip”). The redrafting process has taken a TON of time and very much slowed new progress on the book.
Admittedly I am a little concerned I won’t have enough time to finish it before I’d need to make a call around applying or not applying to graduate school. To be honest it would be wonderful to just permanently be a writer (even if I have to live modestly). AH! I need more time and it’s stressing me out (also supplemented by the fact that for about 2.5 weeks starting in early July I’ll be traveling and/or hosting someone which I am excited about, but I know will slow the writing further).
No, but seriously, I’ve never been more sure in my life that I am an introvert until I moved out here and took control of my own schedule.
Small happenings and musings
+ If you ever get a chance, take a breathwork class. As many of you know, I am not super into the whole hippy dippy spirituality stuff. I think it is great if that improves your life or makes you more mindful or a better person, but it just doesn’t do those things for me personally and so I tend to stay away (hard to do in Ubud!). BUT, I was convinced to take a breathwork class and man that shiz is cray. First 20 minutes of the session there was a lot of meditation / normal breathing stuff happening and I was a bit worried I had signed myself up for 1.5 hours of nothing, but then we started the actual breathwork. You basically lie on your back and take full breaths for 45 minutes without stopping. I kid you not, my whole body started tingling and about 20 minutes in, my arms and stomach tightened (it was almost painful) and I was pretty much locked in this twisted position until we started breathing normally again. It was intense. So …. yeah … unexpected ….
+ I know I said I was going to do this 3 peak / 1 day hike thing with Joel. But I got food poisoning the day before and was totally out-of-commission for the trek. Joel said it was awful and painful, but I am still pretty bummed I missed it 🙁 Advice for travelers: Bring Pepto Bismol. Everyone was swearing high and low that Imodium was the medicine to use in case of stomach issues so I exclusively took that the first 16 hours or so of misery. Yeah, no, did pretty much nothing. The moment, I switched to Pepto I felt better (not 100%, but …. yeah I’ll just spare you the gory details).
+ I got tickets to XOXO in Portland! I am pretty bummed that Joel and Dylan haven’t gotten tickets (yet … I am still VERY much holding out hope), but it will still be a great experience. This of course (+ family Bar Mitzvah) means I’ll actually be in the US for a bit come end of August.
+ Joel and I are moving to Koh Lanta in Thailand (him at the end of August, me in early September). We have heard great things about the area, we’ll finally (FINALLY) be on a beach, and there is crossfit (okay okay I guess I do actually like crossfit-esque exercise after all …. this is new for me guys, give me a break)
+ If you are ever at a restaurant with a vegan & raw menu and the waiter recommends the “lasagna,” make sure you ask if said “lasagna” is on that vegan & raw menu. I am sorry Yogabarn cafe, two slices of raw zucchini with three slices of tomato, cashew “cheese,” and marinara sauce is NOT lasagna.
+ Rent + Telephone line + Utilities cost about ~$180 a person
+ One of the showers has hot water
+ I went to the store and bought a fan (maybe don’t take a motorcycle taxi through downtown Ubud while carrying a massive box with a fan in it — life lessons by Sydney)
+ Actually cooked in the kitchen!
+ Gilles left us this weird scaley fruit that was really tasty!
The less good
+ When Gilles said “has wifi” what he meant was the house is capable of having wifi (Gilles c’mon: having wifi and being capable of having wifi are VASTLY different things) — I spent 2 days trying to get the telecom company to come out and resolve this, but after three phone calls, a whole day of missed appointments (by them), and failed conversation with our landlord, still no wifi. Admittedly, I was a little annoyed because of the above AND because I am the only one in the house that doesn’t actually need wifi. After some awkward back-and-forth, I finally got Shea (I’ve been spelling his name wrong :/) to agree to take this on since Joel and I were about to leave on a 6 day vacation. I have yet to return home, but I’d bet we still don’t have wifi.
+ There are quite a few ants (okay — a lot of ants) and even though Gilles said he brought in a cleaner (which we paid Gilles to do), the house is dirty
+ The beds are pretty uncomfortable (but, maybe tonight I’ll feel differently after spending so much time truly roughing it)
Basically tl;dr – move was good, but I spent two days before our vacation pretty stressed out. The move, the problems, the frustration with taking in basically all the logistical stuff for the house, realizing how big a burden applying to bschool would be, stressing about not having enough time to write before taking a trip ALL were freaking me out.
But, turns out, even though I was not thrilled about heading out on vacation, it turned out to be just what I needed …
Day 16 – 21 / June 10 – 15: Two groups, one boat
Joel and I began our adventure with a flight to Lombok. If you’re going to fly Garuda in Indonesia, save yourself the hassle and buy tickets through Expedia or the like. At least as of this writing, their English site is pretty poor and will charge you without confirming your ticket (problemo!). Use the workaround.
Even though the flight was 45 minutes, they fed us! Tuna roll (meh) and yellow spongey rice cake thing (++).
We got in pretty late and headed to the Sheraton in Senggigi (an hour from the Lombok airport). Yay for consulting SPG points still being useful!
After a glorious night of sleeping in a real bed, Joel and I awaited our bus to our boating adventure with Lombok Travel Agent a boating company I ultimately would not recommend (it’s passable and cheap, but operationally an ex-consultant’s nightmare).
The bus dropped us off at a random building in the middle of nowhere where we and the other boat passengers spent FOUR hours (not an exaggeration) waiting while LTA made sure everyone had paid and argued with this massive group of French college students. It was fun to talk to so many new folks, but pretty bad to feel like we paid for a day of sitting in a hot, concrete building.
The problem basically was LTA worked with a bunch of street vendors throughout Indonesia that sold tickets to the boating trip at different price points. Many groups had been told their tickets covered all costs and then came to find that 1) that wasn’t true and 2) they would not be allowed on the boat if they didn’t pay these extra fees (think: admission to Komodo National Park)
After several long arguments and failed negotiations, everyone paid what they were told and we all (finally) headed to the boat around 1p.
The boat was pretty small (and the mattresses smaller), but the food was good, the scenery was amazing, the komodo dragons were great, snorkeling was A+, and the group of people we hung out with were awesome.
The boat basically split into French and non-French. I think the French group was too large and so really weren’t motivated to socialize outside their group. Later in the trip, when we were dropped off at Labuan Bajo on Flores, we caught up with 2 from the group in a smaller-group setting and they were super cool.
Still, our crowd was pretty international and we spent most of the trip calling each other (lovingly) by each person’s country and (at least for me) really reconfirming that, fuck-it, for as different as our nations might be, we are just people and ultimately the same. Also, there is nothing like playing hours of Bullshit with two decks of cards and:
+ 1 Ukranian
+ 2 Germans
+ 1 Brit
+ 1 Australian
+ 1 Italian and
+ 1 American (me)
Sorry I suck at remembering to take lots of pictures
Of course, I’d be lying if I said Joel and I were extremely social. We spent a lot of time reading and going to bed early. Yay for being cool!
As icing on the cake, when we got dropped off at Labuan Bajo, Joel and I spent about one hour exploring and the rest of 2 days working, which we like 🙂
I actually spent a fair amount of time on the boat digging into The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson (no one warned me the book was >1000 pages … and unfortunately the last book I read that was this long was The Wise Man’s Fear and Rothfuss is probably an actual wizard so not who you want to be compared to).
One note on The Wise Man’s Fear: Doesn’t this title kind of make you think of Wise Man from Sailor Moon? Or do I need to finally let go of Toonami and middle school?
Anyway, Sanderson reminded me how fun it can be to totally create worlds so, pretty haphazardly, I’ve decided to throw all sense to the wind (highstorm?) and rewrite the 90 pages I have already written and totally invent my own setting. Yay for redoing a ton of work! But actually I am excited. Seriously, I am so grateful to Sanderson for giving me the confidence to do this: you are a genious world-builder even if I tend to prefer The Kingkiller Chronicle to The Stormlight Archive (but hey it’s not really a competition, everyone can be grade A beef!).
So hopefully that’s it for awhile. I am eager to buckle down and grind on my writing over the next few weeks before Singapore come July. Will keep y’all posted!
After a quick (and hard, but not as hard as last week’s sprint-themed workout) Wild Health class in the morning, I quickly showered and headed to the Arma Gallery and Resort where the first Food Festival event I was attending was being held.
Arma is beautiful. No idea how much it costs to stay here, but you get your own private villa tucked away in a private, wondrous, secret garden, that feels as large as central Ubud.
Just walking to the Food Festival event was stellar:
After arriving (on time at 12) to the event: No Discount on Local Taste, we were told that lunch would be served at 1 and first we had to sit through a talk:
Needless to say I was not pleased. Joel seemed a little upset too that we had to wait for food and listen to a talk in the overpowering midday sun of Ubud.
BUT, to (at least) my surprise, the talk was excellent:
Kevin Cherkas, the head chef and owner of Cuca in Ubud AND a former chef of several well-known Michelin-starred restaurants (e.g., Spain’s El Bulli and Daniel in NYC), spoke about his passion for local cooking and how he developed Cuca, a high-end restaurant in Bali that only uses locally sourced ingredients. He also makes his own salts (aka my favorite food for those that know me well):
Anyway, by the time Kevin was done talking, we were ready to eat some all-local cuisine. Here was the space:
I took pictures of all the dishes except the pork, which was my favorite of all the dishes. I’m sorry, but I just got too excited when that was put in front of Joel and me.
We also met a nice couple who moved to Indonesia from Santa Monica ~3 years ago. They had some great tips for things to explore in the country. Joel also mentioned afterwards he might be excited to stay in Bali / Indonesia longer (SCORE, will continue to work on this now that I know this is a possibility muwahahaha).
After lunch we decided to explore the gardens and the art museum (which would normally cost money to view, but we were in the area already for the event). There was some really cool stuff:
There was even a picture of Goku going Super Saiyen:
There was a cool night market that night, but I was in the writer’s flow and didn’t want to stop (killed off my first character — well sort-of).
June 6: Friends and daddy issues
Okay, I am done with bananas for breakfast. Banana Homestay has been really stretching with their recipes lately and today was the final straw.
Let me recap the evolution of breakfast at Banana:
+ Banana pancakes (okay, seems like a clear thing to do)
+ Banana crepe (okay, again, I can dig)
+ Banana grilled cheese sandwich (yeah that was weird)
So today, I went to Bali Buda for breakfast and got their Breakfast Monster (eggs, bagel, baked beans, sausage, beef bacon, tomato, kombucha – 61.000 IDR or ~$4.88 — yes, please).
I had intended to peacefully work and watch the morning rain (mind you, that I had walked through to get to Bali Buda), but, after I sat down in the lounge area, a bunch of Kuta surfer dudes took over the seating and started talking about “all the shrooms they did last night,” “swappin’ chicks,” and “finding mute ladies to mack on.” At best it was distracting, at worst it was disgusting. Even some of the staff seemed bothered. Sigh.
Went home to finish working and napped instead. Woke up a few hours later (after some pretty vivid dreams…), got a some writing done, and then walked to the Food Festival’s Night Market.
Walk took me longer than expected (~1 hour), but saw some cool sights:
AND didn’t get lost:
The market had a pretty packed entertainment schedule:
And overall was very cool. When I arrived a DJ was playing. Literally everyone was just chilling on bean bags watching the poor guy play some club sets. Weird, but certainly my type of people:
Then a seemingly well known acoustic guitarist named Nanoe Biroe took over the stage:
He was actually pretty good I thought! I meant to video one of his songs, but didn’t actually press record (oops :/). So here is a song of his from YouTube instead:
Joel arrived and we went through the food-part of the market:
He ended up finding a pretty decent rice dish for 15.000 IDR (~$1.20) that was good but spicy. I had to wash it down with tons of milk tea.
We then found another one of our new friends, Lisa, in the film screening area of the festival. The festival was screening a new Indonesian film called Filosofi Kopi. The movie is about a coffee shop owned by two best friends, one who is more focused on the business side of the store (and getting themselves out of debt) and one who is more focused on the art of making coffee (and won’t sacrifice integrity for profit).
The star of the film was there to introduce the movie (and was also not bad to look at):
He said the movie was about “friendship and daddy issues.” Boy, was he not lying. The first half of the movie was good, but then, somewhere in the middle, all the characters meet at a coffee plantation and share some crazy left-field family drama stories that come out of nowhere. Hmmmm … let’s recap:
+ Character 1: Dad died leaving him responsible for millions of rupiahs worth of debt
+ Character 2: Dad may or may not be responsible for killing his mother, but either way becomes abusive after mom dies
+ Character 3: Dad ignored her her whole life, doesn’t show up to her 18th birthday party, she yells at him, he immediately dies in a plane crash
+ Characters 4/5: Couple who had a daughter that asked them not to move to the coffee plantation, they do anyway, she catches disease there and dies
Yeah. So that was a bit of a downer and felt really random. Movie took a bit of a turn from there and probably was 30m – 60m too long.
Here’s the trailer though:
Trailer has no subtitles, but the movie did …. Don’t know what to tell you!
Anyway, afterwards, it was late and dark and I really didn’t want to walk home. So I hitched a ride with Joel who had rented a scooter bike for the festival. He is really good on a bike! Totally lane-splitting like a champ! At one point, I even pretended I had some sort of nun-chuck weaponry and we were in a biker gang. A+ riding! And those things are small (even for two people). Record we’ve seen so far is four on one.
Although, I am glad he waited until we got to Banana to tell me he was really worried about the drive home once I asked to hitch a ride (he’d never biked with two on a scooter). Next up, I’ll need to learn to motor bike!
Day 13 / June 7: Oh God Essays
Stayed up late last night finishing a Neil Gaiman book (“The Ocean at the End of the Lane”) so ended up sleeping in.
Decided to skip breakfast and write instead (I have a new favorite character!) and then headed to Semestra for lunch (except they still had the breakfast menu available so I got an omelette).
While there, I had a brilliant idea. Oh Sydney, feeling good? No stress? Now is probably a great time to start thinking about applying to graduate school and looking up what materials are needed to apply, right? Ugh. Not surprisingly, now I am super stressed about applying to grad school. I guess the good news there is I spent the afternoon writing out my first essay and redoing my resume (so actually making some progress?). I’m such a loser.
Janice Wong is a dessert beast (and she was named Asia’s Best Pastry Chef by San Pellgrino Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2013 AND 2014):
The event was awesome! Tons of dessert, sandwich, and quiche finger food (all top-notch) and bottomless champagne. PLUS, because Joel didn’t come with me, I was forced to make new friends, which I did! Great company, great food, great setup!
The best item was the Pandan icecream (which I did not take a picture of — my new friends mentioned early how “uncool” it is to take pictures of food, hence the sparce photos — AH! Peer pressure!). But actually that was the best icecream I’ve ever had.
Now I am horribly full though and think I will skip the party tonight (unless Joel says it’s good) and instead go home to edit what I wrote this morning and pack. Tomorrow we move into the villa!
This morning I said goodbye to Adi House and moved right next door to Banana Homestay.
As if to honor my new location, my last “breakfast” at Adi House was deep-fried banana and then immediately upon moving to Banana Homestay, I received four mini bananas as a welcome gift. Okay then.
Rooms, pricing, breakfast, etc. are apparently exactly the same. I can dig! And Buda, my new landlord, is Koming’s cousin. Old room / new room below:
I spent most of the morning trying to find a place that would sell me a local SIM card for my phone, but, as it’s Sunday, everywhere was closed. So I went to Hubud, where I was 100% unproductive. Joel discovered there is a major Food Festival in Ubud in a week or so, thus I spent the late-morning looking at all the events, picking which ones I wanted to attend, and buying tickets. We then went to lunch at Seniman Coffee (one of Joel’s favs) where we had breakfast for lunch (yay!)
We then sat and planned a vacation. We want to go to Komodo National Park, but need to balance awesome and cheap. We think we found a great 3day / 2night deal (but more on this later if it comes through).
Afterwards we split, Joel heading back to Hubud, and me going to pick up my laundry. The laundry place was closed and on the walk back I decided to not do yoga today in favor of a more productive afternoon.
Ran into an OPEN SIM card store on the way home and decided to try my luck at getting a local phone. Unfortunately the SIM card didn’t work in my phone (AT&T must not have unlocked it EVEN. THOUGH. THEY. PROMISED. THEY. HAD. UGH!) Anyway, the guy offered to actually just sell me a cheap phone + local SIM for 350.000 IDR or ~$28 USD. Didn’t seem like a bad deal (was going to pay ~$12 for the SIM alone anyway) so I said yes. Meet Phoney:
And before you say, “not cool,” check out this old friend:
My snake score is already >3000. Try not to be too jealous. AND, if you are in Indonesia, call me at 0812-3791-2698 (country code +62).
June 1 – 4: Tra-la-la
So nothing too exciting to report the next few days. Basically my days have been going:
+ Breakfast at Banana House (every breakfast is bananas T_T)
+ Exercise (Wild Health or Yoga) + shower
+ Writing (tra-la-la)
+ Lunch break
+ More writing
+ Editing what I’ve written
+ Taking pleasure in the pure elation of NOT EATING DINNER
Food festival starts tomorrow though so maybe I’ll have more to report? Joel and I are also taking a 5 day vacation to Lombok and Komodo Island next week followed by (literally 2 days after we get back) a 3 Bali Volcanos in 24 hours overnight excursion. So hopefully more exciting things to come.
In the mean time, things on my mind:
+ I am 95% sure I want to stay in Bali past August. Joel is 95% sure he wants to leave and go to Japan in August. This makes me sad, but I promised I would make this year about me and be selfish. Following Joel to Japan just because he is my friend and I want to hang out with him might not be a compelling enough reason. The last few days my routine has been excellent and if every day were basically like these, I think my year would be ++. Also not too thrilled to figure out living in a new place so soon. I suppose August is still a ways away so I have time to think on this more. I will also need to communicate the above to Joel at some point ….
+ Writing every day is hard stuff. I didn’t realize how difficult it is to be creative so much each day. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but it isn’t a breeze. So far I have been having no trouble hitting my daily minimum word count goal (2000 words / day). In fact, so far the fewest words I’ve written in a single day are 2500. But, MAN, writers who have the stamina to do significantly more than this AND edit what they’ve written AND keep their creative juices high AND read a lot (actually, I think, a pretty important thing to do if you are writing) must not sleep at all. I love sleep. Man I hope my book is not shit :/
+ No matter what you do, no matter how many notifications you send, emails you write, calls you make, your bank will NOT remember you are traveling and freeze your account the moment you do anything abroad. Just be prepared to spend hours (HOURS) dealing with your bank and your credit card company and paypal and AT&T and just about everyone. This piece of the travel experience has seriously made me question whether or not “going off the grid” is such a bad idea. Seriously team, get with it!