Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Planning new adventures!

As we say in Dutch ‘the bullet is through the church’ we have booked our journey out of Bali. Of course we still have three months on Bali left to enjoy paradise, but flight tickets get expensive quickly so we had to make some plans for our trip. Our flight back to Belanda, I mean the Netherlands, is on the 28th of July from Bangkok and Rino’s internship finishes on the 1st of July. We look forward to travel south-east Asia, so we decided to hit the road already a few hours after Rino finishes his last day. We will also celebrate our second anniversary on the 2nd of July and we would like to do something special of course. We now have booked two flights, one from Bali to Kuala Lumpur and one 12 days later from Phuket (Thailand) to Udon Thani (Thailand) near the border of Laos. So we have planned to travel parts of Malaysia, south Thailand, Laos and finishing with Bangkok and its surroundings.

But first we still have lots to look forward to in the coming months with many visits and hopefully loads of trips around the island. At the moment we are in a quieter period with Iris her dengue fever and we are saving money for the visits. So it has been nice for us to talk and plan about our trip in July. Especially Rino is looking forward to that time as he then finally finishes his internship and hopefully graduates. ‘The last mile is the longest’, this definitely counts for his internship.

Iris is making good progress in recovering from dengue fever and is feeling better every day. The energy is slowly coming back and the blood levels are back to normal. She only has to come back to the hospital to check her liver functions. She slowly builds up energy as the virus really cuts into your immune system. We are using more of the mosquito spray nowadays, as we now know what a terrible virus this is.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Dengue Fever

The fun
It has been a while since our last blog post. The weekend after Iris returned from Singapore we stayed at home and on Sunday we went to the Waterbom Park in Kuta, which is a very touristic but fun park with many water slides. We like these kind of parks, because you can act as a child again, especially the CLIMAX water slide, where you are standing on a ledge that at a certain moment just disappears under your foot, was a huge adrenaline kick. On the Friday before, Iris had an extended lunch with Carla, an Indonesian friend we once met at one of the concerts of Ronaldgang. Together with her boyfriend we had diner in Cafe Bali, one of the better and restaurants in this area (see here Rino’s review). We had a great evening with Carla and Vincent and look forward to spend some more time with them.

The next Thursday we gat to see how small the world can be. In Singapore Iris was hanging out with a group op different travellers, also Monaliza, a Swedish girl. By crazy coincidence we were eating at the same tiny, cheap warung in a unknown back alley here in Bali. After some chit-chat Iris and Mona-Liza exchanged phone numbers and we met again the day after for a party at La Planche, a very cool beach bar/lounge in front of Rino’s hotel. Together we had a good time this evening and we enjoyed going out partying again for once, we don’t do that so often.

No more fun
The next morning Iris woke-up with a huge headache and soon she also got a fever. This day we had planned to go to a yogathon and another full moon celebratioin organized by Desa Seni, the village resort Iris does her yoga. But unfortunately Iris was not getting any better and we stayed at home. The yogathon was also a pre-party to a big yoga festival, which is in Ubud at the moment, the Bali Spirit festival. Iris had applied as a volunteer and was looking forward to work there. The next day the fever unfortunately rose up to 39 degrees. We soon thought of going to the doctor, but the Balinese doctors are not always really to be trusted, so Iris wanted to wait a little while.

After a couple of days with changing temperatures we finally decided to go and see a doctor on Wednesday. We were advised to go to one of the international hospital, as they have international service. The doctor Iris saw was very professional and he did a thorough examination. He concluded that Iris her blood needed to be tested against several diseases, including Dengue fever and Malaria. Yesterday evening Iris already got the results back and unfortunately Iris has Dengue fever.

Dengue fever is a virus which is spread by the infected dengue mosquito. The virus has four levels and luckily Iris has one of the milder levels. Until now there is no cure or medicine for dengue fever, you just have to rest and wait until it gets over. At the moment Iris still has a low fever (around the 38 degrees) and is very weak. She sleeps most parts of the day and is hardly able to do anything else than laying down on the bed or couch. She also is supposed to only rest and do nothing more, drink a lot and wait till it gets better. The doctor says dengue can take 7-10 days, but how long you will be weak is not sure. She is really ‘sick’ of it, as she would be volunteering at the Bali Spirit Festival. Tomorrow we are going back to the hospital and they will do more blood tests. As far as we know Iris can stay at home as long as it doesn’t get any worse. Every other day we have to go to the hospital for new blood checks. Tomorrow is also Iris her 7th day, so we hope she will improve from that moment.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I (Iris) went to Singapore for 3 days this week. 9 March I had been here for 180 days (time flies!!!), which is the max for my visa. I have to go outside the country to be able to come back with a new visa an stay here legally again. This time I fix my visa through other people then Sjaki, because I don’t work there anymore. This is not a big deal now that we live and know people here. I was able to get a new sponsor and gat a phone number to an agent in Singapore that was going to fix everything for me. Relaxed, so I could enjoy Singapore even more! ;-)

My days in the Asian Big Apple were wonderful, it was nice to see something new again and Singapore is such an impressive city. Unbelievably clean, high-tech and hip. We were here already 1 day in September, but it was nice to be able to explore more of the city now. Rino doesn’t have to go for his visa and therefore the trip would have been too expensive, although he would have liked to see Singapore again too.

Wednesday I met with the agent for 2 minutes. It felt really weird to give a guy I never saw before my passport and 170 S. dollars…. But in the afternoon he came to my hostel with my passport and the social visa inside. Just perfect and I could enjoy the rest of my time in Singapore knowing that my way back to Bali for the next months was safe! :-)

I slept in the hostel Rucksack Inn that we discovered last time. We LOVE this hostel; it really must be the nicest and coolest hostel in the world. It has a fantastic atmosphere and you feel like home immediately, which is a very good thing for backpackers who travel all the time. Fun and genuine staff who are backpackers themselves, homey, cozy and clean.
I talked to a couple of the other people sleeping in the dorm with me and I joined an English couple sightseeing the city. Later we went out eating and drinking beer with other travelers in the hostel. I love Singapore, it is a must see and perfect place to hang out a couple of days when you do South-East Asia. Shopping heaven, fun, hip and impressive!

I am safely back in my little paradise Bali and I am very very happy to be able to mingle in this relaxing atmosphere a while more. On the other hand I for a second there recognized the urge and nice feeling again of traveling and discovering more of the world.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Balinese New Year, part II Ogoh Ogoh & Nyepi

Selamat Hari Raya Nyepi Tahun Baru Saka 1933!!! Happy Balinese New Year!!!

Yesterday we experienced Nyepi the day of silence. Everything on Bali is about balance between: good & bad, yin & yang, black & white etc. This symbolism is shown in all rituals, so also during Nyepi. Nyepi symbolizes good, silence and self-reflection and this is balanced with Ogoh-Ogoh the day before.

Ogoh-Ogoh’s are statues built for the Ngrupuk parade, which takes place on the eve before Nyepi day. Ogoh-Ogoh’s have the form of mythological beings, mostly demons. The main purpose of the making of Ogoh-Ogoh is the purification of the natural environment of any spiritual poisons released from the activities of living beings (especially humans). They are made from wood and bamboo, covered with papier-mâché and Styrofoam. They are then painted with garish colours. Every Banjar (sub village) makes their own Ogoh-Ogoh and we saw them building the statues already 4 weeks ago everywhere along the streets. In the slide show below we show the Ogoh-Ogoh’s we found the most impressive.

We heard a couple of stories about the symbolism of Ogoh-Ogoh and Nyepi. One entails that the people during Ogoh-Ogoh make a big show with a lot of noise from the gamelan, firecrackers and the performance with the statues. This is to please the bad and dark spirits. Before the performance the men also drink arak, the Balinese wine/spirit. Nyepi – the day of silence – is for the people to please the good spirits through silence and meditation.
The second version of the symbolism is that with the performance, music and firecrackers during Ogoh-Ogoh, the bad and dark spirits are scarred away and leave the island. When they return on Nyepi day they will think the island is completely abandoned, because of the silence and empty streets.

For the Ogoh-Ogoh we also joined Janur in her village, like we did with the Melasti ceremony. There were 13 Banjars celebrating together. The statues were first carried in one big parade to a central place within the village, where the Ogoh-Ogoh performances were performed. At the intersections each statue had to be rotated 3 times to confuse the bad spirits. After arriving at the central place the performance started. Each Banjar had chosen a story out of the Balinese mythology. The Ogoh-Ogoh was also built by inspiration of the chosen story. The video below gives an impression of the performances. Each performance was around 20 minutes, meaning we were watching 13 times 20 minutes. The complete evening was impressive, but a bit long for our legs and tummy. Luckily after the performances each Banjar goes back to their own central building to enjoy traditional Balinese food, and we loved it.

Pictures from the Ogoh-Ogoh evening :-)

On our way home from the Ogoh-Ogoh we were sometimes hold up by other Ogoh-Ogoh’s still performing in villages. By the time we came home it was already 1am and we could see and feel that the day of silence was already starting. We almost didn’t recognize our way back home, because everything was totally dark: no traffic lights, no streetlights, no shop signs or headlights were on and it was already silent in our neighbourhood. Very fascinating. But staying outside too long is illegal and can get cost you a fine, so we went inside and stayed the next 30 hours.

The next morning we couldn’t set an alarm, because hey, that makes noise of course, so we could do nothing else but sleep ;-). We love the idea of a day in complete silence, but still I guess our day looked a little bit different than for a Balinese family. Out of respect for the culture and our neighbours we kept to the rituals as much as possible. Although we also made our own special day out of it, which entailed that we didn’t keep all the ‘don’ts’ of the day. We watched several movies on the laptop with earplugs, we used some lights after dark and we used fire to cook our dinner.
Because we never cook our own dinner here (because of the high prices for food compared to eat outside), we enjoyed the fact that we were forced to eat inside. We opened a bottle of red wine left from when we had our families over and we had a nice candlelight dinner ;-)

We unfortunately still kept on to many lights for a while in the evening without really being aware of it. It disturbed our neighbours and they knocked on our door to ask us to turn of the light (Sorry!!). When there is NO light and sound whatsoever on the whole island, you are very sensitive for any light or sound. We were told the stars would be magnificent in the evening and luckily after raining almost the complete day, it dried up and we could see the stars from our small garden.

We are very happy to be able to experience Nyepi here on Bali and all that came with it. Bali has got worldwide recognition for this day of silence, as they want to have a day of silence in the complete world. This is because it saves a lot of energy, which is a great way to make us aware of the environment. And it gives people time and possibility to self-reflection. We would love to see this happen. We think that this is a great signal to all of us wherever we are and no matter how we fill in the day. Just to be aware and use 1 day a year to pull the breaks and do nothing :-)

Here you see the kids in Janur's village with their own selfmade Ogoh Ogoh. They carried it themselves and danced around just like the grownups to the gamelan orchestra before the big parade started. It's a bit similar to the carnival back home, the kids of course LOVE it :-)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Balinese New Year, part I Melasti ceremony

Balinese New Year is called Nyepi and is celebrated every March or April according to the Balinese Saka calendar. It includes several rituals and ends with Nyepi day, a day of silence, fasting and meditation. On Nyepi Day total silence prevails. The airport and harbors shut down, shops close, traffic is forbidden and nobody leaves their compound. It is forbidden to turn on electricity, cook or light fires. Balinese radio and television stop. The Balinese people fast for 24 hours. There are 4 basic restrictions: no fire, no working, no travelling, and no leisure activities. More about Nyepi and how we experienced it in our next blog post.

Melasti ceremony
The Melasti ceremony is performed 3-4 days before Nyepi. Every village in Bali will go to closest temple at preferably the ocean or otherwise a lake. Here they will pay respect to the gods of land and sea by sprinkling water over status (sacred objects) from each family and village temple.

We were invited to join this ceremony with Janur (a colleague of Rino) in her village close to Tabanan. During this ceremony everybody is supposed to wear a white shirt (for men)/kebaya (for women), so we also dressed up as we were supposed to. The ceremony included a 1 hour walk to the beach (Tanah Lot Temple) were all the status were blessed. Several villages joined this parade and in total it included up to 2000 people. We joined the parade to the beach. After taking some pictures Janur already asked us to walk back to her village temple to wait for all the status to come back. After the blessing at the beach the gods are present and will take place inside the bodies of several people she told us. The statues and people have to get back to the village temple as quick as possible. They actually run all the way back!

While waiting for the status to come back a group of young girls danced Legong to welcome the status. Priests were sitting on the street at the entrance of the village temple praying and we were holding our breaths while waiting for what to come. When the status came it all went very fast. Before they entered the temple they were hold up for another offering done by the priests at the entrance. The gods also need food and therefore a small pig was offered and killed. After the final offer it all went very quickly, everybody hurried inside the temple with the status, barongs and the people taken by the gods. Especially the people that were taken over by the gods really made an impression on us. We could see different people suddenly change in appearance and behavior, in different ways. Some looked very peaceful and happy while dancing like in a trance and others had big scary eyes and strange chaotic behavior. All these people were closely watched and guided by others. Janur could tell us that this was because their mind was not in control over their bodies. After receiving holy water this people will become themselves and back to normal again.

It was an impressive, beautiful and sometimes a bit scary experience for us. Hopefully our explanation and the movie and pictures below can give you an idea of what we have experienced.

This video gives an impression of the ceremony when the statues came back and some people that were taken by the gods. (sorry for the quality, we have no edit experience ;-) )

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Weekend visit

Last weekend we had Anders (Iris’ brother), Aina and Tonje over for a 3-day visit. They came from Perth, which makes it possible to come for only 3 days, its about 4 hours flight. Now they are hopefully back safely in Norway.
The weekend was great, although the weather did not spoil us that much, like the last couple of weeks. But still we had enough sun and almost no rain and of course we had fun just hanging out together! Especially for Iris it was really nice to see Anders again, not seeing him since the wedding. Really cool coincidence that he could visit us here on Bali through Aina and Tonjes stay in Perth.
Friday and Sunday we spent time seeing the area, walking and sunbathing at the beach, talking and catching up.

Saturday we had booked a car, driver and guide to take a Bali tour from morning till evening. Sounds really expensive, but here on Bali you can get a driver/guide for only Rp 4000.000. We were lucky to find this guide, which took a driver with him so he had all the time to explain the Balinese culture. We were picked up at home 8.30 and first went off to see a Balinese dance/theatre show, it was a story about a fight and the balance between good and bad, told with Barong and Keris dance. It was beautiful but difficult to follow the story. The Keris dance was very very impressive, this is a trance like dance with men using a keris (kind of sword) to stab into their chest and stomach, screaming and stabbing. But no wounds and no blood.

We continued to see a temple we didn’t see yet, Pura Batuan, it was beautiful as all the Balinese temples are. Most interesting was that our guide was explaining and telling a lot about things inside the temple. Mostly we don’t have guides when we enter temples and most important, our guide Nyoman Gede is really dedicated and professional and has much knowledge.
We went through Ubud to the stunning rice fields in the village Tegallalang. Just when you think there are no more new rice fields that can blow you away, we arrive at one that again is too beautiful to capture on photo. All of us were just taking in the view and trying to avoid all the vendors selling everything for "1 dollar".

We left further north and up to Danau (lake) Batur at the volcano Gunung Batur. We look forward to hiking the volcano one day. But for now we were satisfied with having lunch at the lake and seeing the hot springs. We were a bit disappointed about the hot springs; it is just luxury swimming pools with hot water, Rino said. We maybe had expected more like a wild hot spring like pictures from Island. We enjoyed lunch with fresh caught fish and kept dry because swimming would cost us Rp 80.000, which we find a bit too expensive.
On the way home we visited a Balinese family compound and had a look around with a friendly local girl.
After this is was already evening and we were ready for dinner and our beds.

We had a great weekend! Sunday night we already waved them goodbye.

Until next time :-)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

So Iris, what are you going to do…?

I get this question a lot and I guess I will have to answer it a lot more. What are you doing every day, the whole day? Aren’t you getting bored? Are you going to look for a new foundation or something?

No, I’m not going to look for something new, just looking what is coming on my path. This is the island of the flowing river, and I am trying to learn to be aware of my own river while I’m here.
No, I’m not getting bored and my days will be filled in some way until the day we leave Bali that is for sure. At this point I am very happy to have found the opportunity to use the second half of our period here just to- and for myself. Like mentioned before I am very happy to have been at Sjaki and learned to know different people, volunteers, locals, children and teenagers. It has given me and us a fantastic opportunity to come inside the culture differently than when you are a tourist. We both feel we are settled more here and that’s a good feeling. The days of excitement of that everything is new and interesting is replaced with excitement of feeling home. Knowing more people, our favourite beach boy giving us cheap sunbeds, knowing all the cheap, good eating-places in the area, good markets. We have some kind of routine in our adventure, which feels good! I read, walk on the beach and enjoy life.

Since we decided to go to Bali I knew I wanted to do yoga. I tried it a few times back home, but here is the perfect opportunity to take classes for less money, with great teachers and the perfect environment. Meditation has drawn my attention as well already for many years, but just like many things, I never had the discipline to really try to learn it. Now I do! It already interested me, it would be crazy to not explore this on THE island of spirituality! I am not only lucky to be here, but also lucky to have the opportunity to spend time only on myself and what I would like to do. I am well aware of my fortune and opportunities! And I AM STIFF, unbelievable! So that alone is a great reason to do yoga, to loosen up some muscles before they start getting too old!

I also found a centre for holistic care L’Ayurveda, I had already read books by the founder of the centre and I could relate very much to his thinking and ways of looking at life. His name is Anand Krishna, he has (luckily for me and other foreigners) also some books translated to English. I am doing some treatments at this centre, one of the things I learn is different meditation techniques. I was right…this is good for me!

In the truthful and authentic surroundings of Bali, were respect of nature and spirit is the most important, I am slowly able to find my own peace of mind. This is where I come from, this is what I learned as a child in school and from my parents and its what I always believed in. And on Bali I am finding back to these insights and giving it some focus. Together with yoga and spending afternoons and weekends with Rino this all makes my life complete.

Sometimes I feel like Elizabeth Gilbert from “Eat Pray Love”, if you didn’t read it yet, you should! The movie just came out, it is good and shows nice shots from Bali, but the book is 10 times better! The book inspired me absolutely, in many ways I don’t recognise myself in her at all. But on the way to find peace within herself and how she feels on Bali I can relate A LOT.

But here it’s easy. The challenge will be to come home and maintain and keep this state of mind and meditation back in the fast, western culture… But I will! I am also thinking of how I can take the holistic view into my work as a nurse. The view of course already is there and was already along time ago. But I more and more want to be able to really use holistic nursing in my work. A good goal and dream to stretch out to when I come home!

So this is what I do and why I don’t have the time to get bored, life is too wonderful to be bored at all.