Monthly Archives: March 2016

they scootered and surfed into the sunset

The day we scootered, surfed, and found the Balinese sunset.

Today was the day, the day Ariel woke up and said she would take on the waves; today was also the day I did not one but two things that scared me for personal growth, a humbling effect, and challenging experiences that should last a life time.

The more immediate concern was how to get to the ocean side.  Two miles to travel in the extreme humid heat, peddle bikes were newly out of the question, and taxi’s are an utter nuisance (mostly because one of my pet peeves is paying unreasonable prices for transportation and never being able to count on being able to find transportation back).

Let’s rent a moped.

Reception let us know the last moped was out, but should probably be back within the hour.  Well, it wasn’t.  We waited for almost two before I approached the desk again.  The young man told us the moped was not back but he would lend us his.  Because he has two and wouldn’t need the second one within the next 24 hours.  I hesitantly thanked him for his amazingly generous offer and then in all of my honesty I felt the obligation to inform him of my inexperience with the vehicle, “that is super nice of you and definitely appreciated, but I really feel the need to let you know that I’ve never driven a moped before and I wouldn’t want to put your personal bike at risk.  Are you still okay with me renting it?”

The hesitation was now reciprocated on his face and a multitude of excuses came flooding out to cover every reason or excuse I may come up with.  The bike is a really big one.  You have to have a license for a moped.  You can get into a lot of trouble with the police if you don’t have a license for the moped…

Just when I was about to give up and order a cab, Ariel steps in with a slightly agitated and slightly more forceful string of comments, “do you expect me to believe that every foreigner here is licensed in mopeds?  I find that very hard to believe.  We haven’t seen a police officer since we’ve been here.  How do people get to the beach around here?  Those bikes are awful, it is hot, I am pregnant, and I want to surf, today.”

Dani jumped right up, “I will learn you the moped.  Come.  I will learn you.”

“Are you sure, I don’t want to get you in trouble or cause any issues,”  very like me to try to change someone’s mind once they’ve already given me the answer that I want to hear.  Also, I started to notice the accidental good cop/bad cop scenario we were playing on the nice balinese man at the reception desk and felt doubly guilty.

But he insisted saying because she was pregnant this would be the easiest and safest way to get us to the beach (and I kind of felt like he was a little scared of that pregnant lady he was trying to protect).  He jumped on his black and white moped and patted the seat in front of him, “come, I will learn you the scooter.”  So I hopped on and for an entire 1 minute and 30 second demonstration and hands on learning experience I learned the bare minimum basics of the motor bike.

Putting that 90 second lesson into real time action was terrifying.  We started off on the wrong side of the road.  Turns are really hard to make.  Other vehicles honked at me, a lot.  I hit a top speed of 7mph ( I think ).  Parking is really difficult.  People were laughing at me the entire time, I must wear my fear on my face.  And it took us about 20 minutes to go two miles to the beach.  Each time I got off of that machine that day I was relieved 1. we didn’t crash 2. I didn’t hurt anyone and 3. the police didn’t get involved.  And each time getting back on it I thought we were testing fate and pushing buttons, like we had already made it once, why risk another ride?

But, we made it to the waves.  We found boards and immediately headed into the water.  Ariel made it safely over the breaking waves at the shore… I not so much.  I got hit once, twice, and almost a third time before a local surfer took pity on me, coached me on when to leave the sand, and gave me a little push.  I was already exhausted.  A string of turtle rolls under a few handfuls of breaking waves and paddling out any further became impossible.   A failed attempt at a wave and I headed in… not after getting plummeted by a set of crashing waves right at the sand as the undertow pulled me out each time for me to surface under another crest.

I managed to stand on solid, sinking, saturated ground, hoping my bathing suit was still in tact but too afraid to look and instead scanned the beach occupants only to find pity and worry in the eyes of everyone on the shore watching me and giving me the impression that had not been a pretty sight as I drug my 9 foot, foam, disaster of a board out of the water, stomping my feet, cursing under my breath.

Only thirty minutes of having the board and I walked up to the board stand sand-bathed, fin scratched, exhausted, and highly irritated,”Is everything okay,” they asked me as I walked up – legitimate concern in their eyes, on their face, and in their voice.  “No, everything is not alright.  This board doesn’t surf.”  I dropped off the board and walked away with as much pride as I could muster.

But the beauty that saved the afternoon was Ariel was successful.

So we surfed and then we found a bench seat in the shade at the beach bar, soaked in the experience, and I simultaneously found the bravery needed to get back on to the scooter to make it back to The Chillhouse.

I breathed a sigh of relief as we pulled up and parked, everyone at reception clapped and smiled in response to my victory of making it back unscathed.

We took the rest of the afternoon to clean up, rest, and cool off.  Knowing we had the scooter until the next morning prompted a spontaneous trip back to the beach to watch the sunset.

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I remember when I was young my parents took a trip to see one of their friends, they visited the beach and wrote, “Hi Sam” in the sand and took a picture of it to give to me when they came back home.  I don’t remember what inspired the photo or the details of the trip – but it is one of my favorites from my childhood.  And.  Well.  Recreating photos is all the rage right now.

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The second trip on the scooter was a little easier and a little more enjoyable.  The sunset was fantastic.  We made it back and ended another night around a community dinner table with France, Germany, Holland, Sweden, England, and Australia recounting our day and being just the way the day made us.

It’s a pattern – a chatty entry and a then picturey entry.  So that means you know what is next…  Come back for a recount of a definite day of highlights with a ten hour trip to Ubud that includes monkeys… lots of them.

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day after Nyepi

As promised, less chatter this time and more photos.

The day after Neypi we left the front gates of The Chillhouse for the first time in over 24 hours.  Nothing had changed, except we felt well rested and the small streets were littered with the aftermath of the Ogoh Ogoh creation and then their ultimate destruction.  Well, if you are Hindu, you could possibly say the air was cleaner and safer as the evil spirits had been frightened away and hopefully would not find their way back until… actually – that part was never described to us, just that offerings were given to Gods daily in order to keep their personal space, home, and temples evil-spirit-free for when they do eventually find their way back to the island.

If I haven’t mentioned how undeniably hot and humid this island is, now is a good time to – and it will probably be mentioned again.  The air is THICK.  I’ve been to many carribean locations and even Fiji.  It is nothing like Indonesia.  Taking a deep breath is hard because you’re breathing in water/air mixture.  This fact is important this day for two reasons, 1. my sister is half way through her third pregnancy, a pregnancy that she will admit is not treating her very well physically and 2. we peddle biked nearly two miles (1.7miles to be exact, I google mapped it) one way in that heat and humidity on free bikes that had not been serviced their entire life, were on their last leg as far as breaks go, and had exactly one (count it, one) gear to work with.

But we made it, and when we did, it was mid day, and we finally saw exactly why surfers from all over the world come here to conquer the waves.  It wasn’t like any beach I’ve ever visited (causally walk across the sand, looking for shells, catch a small wave or two, and maybe body board or skim).  The waves were rough and tall and I knew my skills were no match for them, but Ariel couldn’t wait to get out there.  She missed out that day, she wasn’t feeling well – being with child and all – but she was excited for the first morning she could.

The waves were crowded with surf students from every surf school in the area.

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It was really high tide so we were witness to run away surf boards and gear on not one but two occasions.

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So instead of surfing, we did the best we could with just being in the water without a board, people watched, bought some bracelets from a couple of ladies peddling hand made jewelry, and scoped out the beach side scene which just included some snacks, drinks, toys, and of course board rentals.

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After about an hour, we made our way back, slowly but surely in the even hotter heat.  Half way back we stopped at a Mexican restaurant for a break, a cold drink, and shade.  Effects of which didn’t last long once we got back on our bikes and muscled the rest of the way back to The Chillhouse.  The rest of the day we discovered a long needed nap, swim in the pool, cold drinks, and a very strange sun burn that I had obtained on the outside of my knees and the lower half of my forearms and tops of my hands.  The struggle is real for us pale skinned freckle faced sun burners.

 

Don’t stay away too long, next post: a girl who hasn’t ever ridden a scooter, scooters all over town (remember the traffic videos from post one?), and an unexpected low tide sunrise.  Hopefully my pregnant sister will give us some good guest writing material too, because while I was focused on not killing us in Balinese traffic on a scooter – she was passenger to it all.

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welcome to a silent bali

 

After 36 hours of travel, four airplanes, three layovers, three countries, many airplane movies, tv shows, games, and finally meeting my sister on the fourth leg of my trip, we left the states on March 6 and finally landed in Bali on Neypi Eve of March 8.

Seemingly not very exhausted at all, we were met by the humidity of the Indonesian Island along with a sea people and every grain of happiness and excitement one can possibly muster after traveling across the International Dateline.

Bali did not hesitate to begin to entertain us right away, as trying to find our designated taxi driver was a 20 minute hoot of a time.  More than 100 people held hand-written signs at the exit of customs all crammed behind one small gate that lined the pathway to the parking garage of the airport.

As we happily introduced ourselves to our cab driver two other men came up and grabbed our bags from us.  But instead of walking with us and talking pleasantries they ran up ahead and followed closely behind our fast-paced driver.  It was an odd mix of feeling like we had been robbed and thinking as long as we kept them in our sites we could believe they worked with the driver.  We learned the former was closer to the truth when we finally caught up to the three of them, retrieved our bags from the men, and then they started begging for a tip.  Stumbling through their broken english and half attempted hand gestures by showing us money in the palm of their hands, we finally got the gist and decided to hand over two American dollars, one to each of them, partly because we knew the value of those dollar bills – unlike the stacks and stacks of balinese money we had just exchanged of which we had no idea what even the smallest bill of 100,000 IDR was equivalent to.  To our surprise, our valuable $1 bills were highly rejected and the relentless bag delivery men insisted on no less than “a red one, give us a red bill”.  That red bill was in fact the aforementioned 100,000 IDR which we later learned was equal to almost $8 USD – $8 they were not going to leave without.

This was not the first time we were tripped up by their many currency zeros.

Seated inside the van we left the scene of the $8 robbery at the airport as we drove through the masses of peoples walking through the streets and weaving in and out of traffic on their scooters.  I’ve never felt more unsafe driving through a village, city, county, or state.  There are no street signs, if there were any they wouldn’t be followed anyway.   Not even staying in your lane will keep you safe because the lines on the road that in America that say “stay in your lane” are just decoration in Bali; two lane roads became three, and three lanes became four.  No blinkers.  A lot of horns – which didn’t indicate anger ironically, just an announcement that one was passing or trying to get over in front of another vehicle.  Scooters fit in, between, and around anywhere they could fit.   At one point we headed directly into oncoming traffic as we were passing three scooters and two cars on our left around a bend in the road no less.  We evaded a collision by nearly making it back into our lane… we successfully passed all five of those vehicles, just in case you were wondering.   This experience cannot be described in words.  I really wish I could have mustered the strength to let go of my door handle and sister’s forearm to grab my phone to record our journey from the airport to The Chillhouse but between the muttered curses and the louder gasps of air (followed by giggles from the driver) there was barely time to remember to breathe let alone begin documenting anything via any means.

I borrowed a couple of videos from youtube.com to demonstrate the roadway chaos.  Credit to the posters – and if you need to see more, just google “driving in bali” under the video category and there will be no end to the number of videos for your viewing pleasure.

driving in bali – by wizardair

traffic in bali – by marco pietz

But alas, we arrived safely to The Chillhouse and were immediately informed of Neypi practices.  We arrived on Neypi Eve the day of celebration and parades.  Each Village builds an Ogoh Ogoh to carry through the streets (pictured below).  These scary monsters are finely detailed, painted beautifully, and are used to scare away any evil spirits that may be occupying the island.  At the end of the night they burn the Ogoh Ogohs.

We didn’t get to see the parade or the burning, because no one knew where it would be happening.  But we did get to see one Ogoh Ogoh being carried and a crowd following it to find the meeting place of all the village Ogoh Ogohs.  Truth be told they were the prettiest scary monsters I’d ever seen.  The detail was amazing and made it sad to think about all of the hard work being burned at the end of the night.  But it just goes to prove the hard work isn’t tied to the material object but instead the meaning that drives motivation.

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Even though we didn’t see the parade, we got to see a bit of the village we were staying in.  The streets were lined with small shack stores, food, the occasional employee, and quite a few stray animals.  The dogs were everywhere, everyone claimed they have homes – but many of them were sleeping on the streets like these two sweets.  Made my heart break and want to take them all home with me.

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Ironically they were sleeping under the Superman emblem.  Which, if you know me, you know he’s not only the world’s hero – he is also mine.

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At the end of our short walk, we let it all soak in next to the pool.  A very pregnant, tired sister and myself sat in awe of where we were going to be spending the next week and a half and reveled in the possibilities.

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The next day is a day of rest and silence, where every one is required to stay in doors, stay off the streets, keep all noise to a minimum, and all shades drawn so no light can escape their houses at night.  These Neypi Day practices ensure that all of those evil spirits that were scared away the night before cannot find their way back by way of noise or light.  There are even Neypi police that patrol the streets all day and night to ensure these practices are followed – I know first hand, because our group was spoken to by said police because we were being too loud and emitting too much light.  Oops.

It was a welcomed day of rest, after so much travel and anticipation.  Yoga, massage, swimming, eating, napping.  It was definitely the most perfect day of Neypi Silence.

Don’t be gone too long, next entry: our first day off The Chillhouse premises and on the beach.  I promise there will be more photos and less chatter.

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a story from beginning to forever…

So I had the absolute pleasure of being a part of a HUGE day for two of my favorite people in the entire world.  Not only was I a part of their day in a HUGE way, but I’ve had the honor of being there all along.

My little cousin got married!  It is bittersweet watching your siblings and cousins grow up and become human adults.  You’ve been there all along for each other and all of sudden, in the blink of an eye, we are creating lives of our own.  It’s a bit scary, and not all too daunting, but it is also relieving too know… we made it.  We made it through being reckless teenagers (bwaha… I think Chas and I were the least reckless of our group during this time frame in our lives), we made it through school, and we are on really great paths to futures we have wanted for a long time.

I want to preface the next few photos by saying 1. I’m sorry for the quality and 2. I’m sorry these aren’t old enough, you know in this digital day it’s difficult to keep track of all of the older printed photos when you need them, and it’s a shame because the old ones are always the best ones.

Sometimes it is really hard to find the time to acknowledge anything other than the present and the future.  But the past existed and it was good… and it is even better to be all nostalgic and recollect just how great it really was.  Maybe one day I’ll tell you just how many times Chas and I watched the Lindsey Lohan version of The Parent Trap (while brushing our teeth), hint: the number is countless.  Or perhaps I’ll show you the obviously-parent-posed photo of all of us cousins on a tree limb arranged oldest to youngest from the year 1999 – of which I quite clearly remember rolling my eyes at before, during, and after the process.  (UPDATE: Oh Look… I found the picture, thanks everyone for helping me locate it.)

Cousins Tree

Top to Bottom: Sam (me), Ernie, Ariel, Charlie, Jimmie, Chas!, Chelsea, Tiffany, Nick, Krista

But I digress, lets get on to why you are really here.  The recap of her big day.

Chas first asked me to photograph her wedding far before the date was ever chosen – and I was just elated she put that kind of trust in my hands.  It was only appropriate we also worked together for her Engagement/Save-the-Date photos, which turned out quite amazing because Chas is unbelievably photogenic and Logan is so patient and flexible.  Also, their relationship is so unique and genuine their personalities really shine through on camera.

Chas and I also worked together on a specialty photoshoot right before the wedding – somewhat of a glamour shoot.  It was so much fun and she looked fantastic.

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The Wedding:  I first have to mention just how hard they worked on every single detail from beginning to end.  Chas worked tirelessly to make it exactly how she wanted, and being the creative she is – she designed and created most of it herself.  That kind of attention to detail is hard to come by these days, when in fact it is much easier, efficient, and less time consuming to hire someone else to do it for you.

She did have our cousin create her wedding cakes, whom also created all 20 of my wedding cakes, and has her own cake creation company she runs right out of her home in Michigan.  (Need a cake designer?  Contact me for her details).  As you can see in the photos, one cake rolled with the theme and the other, it is apparent, was strictly designed just for Logan.  Appropriate.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention two other extremely important family contributors to her wedding.  Dalene Bielat not only did all of the girl’s hair but anyone else who wanted to look all fancy with a gorgeous updo.  AND Tim Richards and Family did the catering and fed so many people that night… successfully.  Thank you for the reminders everyone – it is difficult to remember everyone who worked dedicatedly to make this event happen.

(Aunt Teresa – I’m not going to give you a special mention here just because you birthed the woman all those years ago.  Yeah yeah – you’re awesome… blah blah blah.  ❤ 🙂 )

The wedding was Nightmare Before Christmas themed.  But it wasn’t on Halloween or Christmas, it was in fact an early October day.

The attendance was miraculous.  Friends and family came from all over the country – and even our great grandma made it for the ceremony.  She’s a trooper and she completed (and extended) their generational photo – which are always fun and extremely valuable to family documentation.)

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The family rented a gigantic house in Northern Michigan instead of utilizing the hotel industry in the area.  When I say this house was gigantic, I mean… it was gigantic.  It had an indoor swimming pool and hot tub pool house attached to the house, a weight room, a squash and racket ball room, and something like 15 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms?  Insane.  It was quite amazing to have the majority of our closest family in one house all at one time and actually not be able to see (or even know where) everyone was all of the time.

My favorite part of the house though, the view.  It captured Michigan in one panoramic view and created an amazing backdrop for the Bride and her side of the bridal party in all of their photos.

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The house also provided a perfect space to for the getting ready process that takes ever so long, is time consuming, tedious, and also creates marvelous photo ops.

Another detail to this wedding is in fact, her dad (my uncle) officiated the wedding (he also officiated mine).  He’s retired from the Navy (ah, there’s the rationale for the strapping uniform), and is the best officiant I have ever seen conduct a wedding.  It proved to be  extra special because it was his daughter’s wedding.  The happy-tears were flowing all the way through the day.  He met her on the porch with a view for first looks, walked her down the aisle, gave her away, and also pronounced them man and wife – man of a couple hats and definitely a saint for being able to pull it off without breaking down every two minutes.

I guess I should mention Logan in here too, (but no one judge – everyone knows the wedding industry is heavily marketed towards the bride unfortunately).  He looked dashing as always and made for a very calm and collected groom at no surprise at all.

The ceremony was beautiful and sincere – filled with tears, so much laughter, and moments that I will certainly remember.  I will admit I had to hide my own couple of tear drops behind my camera a few times.  Uncle Ernie did say something I hope to remember for ever.  It involved the idea of what Chas and Logan had to go through to find each other in life… it certainly makes one think.  Chas and Logan also painted a canvas for their union part of the ceremony – instead of sand or candles or tying rope.  Fitting.

The wind was chilly, and the sky fluctuated between sunny and overcast, but the rain held out until we were all warm inside partying it up.   The Bride and Groom First Dance was done, the Mother-Son dance, and of course the Daddy-Daughter dance during which they didn’t even look at each other the whole time (I’m guessing to prevent more tears, but that’s just an assumption).

But THEN… about a minute into the Daddy-Daughter dance the song screeched to a halt and the bridal party broke into a flash mob on the dance floor to the song by Silento – Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).  Which was comical in and of itself, however the best part was the practice run through the night before (sadly, those photos are forbidden to be distributed in a public forum).

And of course, the camera went away, the photographer finally got to play, and we all partied well into the night.  It was a success!  The couple got married, the photos turned out pretty good, everyone had fun, and we can officially call Logan part of our family (officially I said – he’s been putting up with us for many years and earned that title a long time ago).  Sorry everyone, two more amazing people are off the market.  What more could you ask for (unless you’re single and pining over either Chas or Logan, well in that case you’d be asking for them to be single again).

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I got to sneak into a photo too… ironically I didn’t get one with the bride and groom.  But, it was fitting I was with two more amazing cousins that I get to watch grow (far too fast) and turn into amazing young men from an adult perspective.

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