Category Archives: nature

a bouquet of flowers

From the Washington DC, National Botanical Garden Rose Garden.

To all of you lovely moms, from me.

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the one with all the monkeys, a birthday, and lots of photos

The day of my birthday we hired a driver for 10 hours, for less than $50 USD by the way, to take us to Ubud which is about an hour north of where we were staying in Canggu.  The drive was pretty, we got to see a lot of the country side and how the citizens outside of tourists villages live and work.  Our driver was very nice, he talked… a lot – but was very informative of Bali life in his conversation.

We made a plan to see the Monkey Forest, Rice Terraces, Luwak Coffee Plantation, and shopping.  I also wanted to go to the famous Yoga Barn and the popular temple up there – but they weren’t available/we didn’t have enough time but we got to see a lot and it was an overall wonderful day.

Our driver recommended we stop at a “traditional balinese housing complex” on our way to see the monkeys.  Walking through it was fascinating, the complex is for one family, and the traditional western home that we all know and feel comforted by was broken apart into segmented rooms.  Each room is separate: of course the temple, but also the kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, etc etc etc.

Here is the entrance into the complex:

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And then the kitchen, where the lady of the home was cooking you can see the clay pots she was using over the legit fire and stone stove:

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An actual water well…

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This is where/how they kept their chickens.  These are for eating eventually…

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Look how skinny, poor things.  To get myself past it, I had to keep reminding myself that its more sad that how fat and overstuffed our chickens are.

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And these are for fighting… which was quintuply times more sad.  Everyone is open about their cockfighting and breeding.  My heart breaks even in the most magical of places.

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You’ll recognize the hat, I know that is probably not what it is called, but they were wearing them all over the place there.  Also, this hat, as I so disrespectfully keep calling it, was sitting in one of the open aired bedrooms.

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We weren’t given a full tour, so I can’t tell you what these next couple of rooms were for, but aren’t they so colorful?

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This is the family’s temple… every family has one.

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How cute is this mini Ogoh Ogoh?  Two boys were running around playing with it acting like they were carrying it in a parade.  Unfortunately, those photos were too whitewashed to edit.  If you missed the conversation about the Ogoh Ogohs, see post one.

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Poor pup, it was hot.  He did have a water dish, I don’t know if was full or when it was last changed.  He was chained to this tree, at least he had shade.  As you can tell – I have a definite super soft spot for the babies.

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Another colorful, mysterious room.

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So this was extremely fascinating to see.  But then I started wondering if this traditional family complex may have actually been a tourist spot.  Not that that is a negative point, but not only did we donate 20,000 IDR to the elderly gentleman of the home, but then an entire bus load of tourists started coming through.  That and the fact that our driver recommended it, combined with the point that we were in the middle of a village where I didn’t see too many other homes… I just felt like perhaps this tradition wasn’t as well kept as the driver made it seem.  It was beautiful none the less.

Enter Monkeys in the Monkey Forest:

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First, a few rules.

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And then we feed them…

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I definitely got monkey butt in my face, thankfully I didn’t contract any diseases… that I know of, and look at the other monkeys just sitting around, munching their bananas, watching the show.

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And then we walk through the forest, 2.5 hours of getting the absolute pleasure of being with these beauties.  It was so amazing.  There were mommy monkeys, baby monkeys, daddy monkeys just all playing, jumping, eating, grooming, fighting, snuggling, swinging etc etc etc just being monkeys.

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This was the closest we got into a Temple the whole time, and it was closed, and it was in the Monkey Forest.

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So the baby here had found a little snack, and he was getting ruthlessly picked on by the older monkeys.  (Note the gigantic daddy laying and just watching.)  It got to the point they wouldn’t leave the baby alone, so the daddy got up, RAN right in front of me making a bunch of noise, broke up the fight, grabbed the baby, gave him back his snack, and carried him to safety.  It was intense.  I would not be one to cross that daddy at all.

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This guy was HUGE, the photo does him absolutely no justice.

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He was cute, by himself, hanging out, and let me take lots of photos of him.

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I don’t know if he was making fun of me or not – but I had no idea he was eating.

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This is one of the forest employees.  He was messing with him quite a while.  They were playing, I am pretty sure this wasn’t a violent exchange.  At least I don’t think so…

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… because then they parted ways with just a smile and a treat…

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…and he was happy with that.

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We walked all the way down to the bottom of the forest at the same time all of the monkeys were headed that way too.  Looked like it was feeding time or some kind of ritual taking place, because one after one they just walked the railing all headed the same way.

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This is my favorite moment from the time spent with them.  She’s just a momma feeding her baby.

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And this is my second favorite moment – this guy seemed so young, and he was all by himself, and just sitting there.

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There are little shops inside the forest for snacks, drinks, and souvenirs.  Apparently there are monkeys who will go snag the merchandise.  But also – some monkeys who just visit for some social interaction.  This was so sweet.  The man was just sitting there playing with him… the moment was not short lived, making me think it was not the first this interaction had taken place.  It was like they knew each other.

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Before anyone gets offended that they turned a forest into a tourist attraction – these monkeys were in no way being kept for entertainment.  They were able to leave the forest, and often did in the mornings when they would nag the local village markets for breakfast or try to snag their merchandise.  They keep the forest super clean, they are all supervised by the employees for the reason of the tourists to prevent abuse, they all seemed to enjoy their life and they were all comfortable being around us.  Everyone respected their space (all but one guy, who definitely got what was coming to him as the daddy monkey tried to snag his camera, swat it out of his face, and yelled at him).  The entry fee was not much, but went towards the upkeep.  AND they monitored them, they knew exactly how many monkeys they had, how many families there were, where those families lived, and the breakdown of adults, teenagers, and babies.

Anyway….

Moving on, sadly.

We had Forest Cat Poop Coffee at the Luwak Coffee Plantation.  It is the most expensive coffee in the world.  It was okay, strong black coffee, not worth $50 USD per pound.  I didn’t buy any and actually preferred their flavored, non poop, coffee.  But, we did see the process – Forest cats do eat the coffee beans, poop them out, and they are roasted, ground, and brewed.  It was an experience and it came with a nice view of the rice fields.

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Rice Fields.  I was under impressed… other photos I’ve seen were much more impressive and got me wondering where the “better” view was they were hiding from me.  I think it was just the quick stop view.  Still pretty, and we saw a tourist tempt fate, walk too close to the edge, and fall down one level.  That was not cool.  She screamed, her family screamed… She was okay in case anyone is wondering.  Just a couple of knee scratches.  But she won’t be walking the edge of anything any time soon.

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This photo is iconic because is memorializes a moment when a little boy followed me all the way back to the car from the rice terrace view.  He was begging me to buy post cards from him.  Post cards I already bought from another little boy to help their school funding.  He insisted they were different post cards and that I needed ten more post cards in my life.  I must have told him “no thank you,” 50 times in that 5 minute walk back to the car.  The heat and humidity building, and my blood sugar continuing to fall (it had been over five hours since I’d eaten) and I began to get somewhat agitated.  So I looked at him, “how do you say ‘no’ in balinese?”

Bali boy: “yes.”

Me: “no, how do you say the word “no” in your language.”

Bali boy: “yes, you say it like ‘yes.”   He continued to beg.

Granted he got me to laugh and like him a little more and be a little less agitated.  He was persistent, and would one day make a very aggravating salesman.  The driver told me, once we got back to the car, the funds were definitely not going to school funding.

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This was a poster we saw while eating lunch.  We hunted down the store that sold the shirts for Ariel.  It is pretty awesome.

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We got fish pedicures.  It felt like sticking your feet in really aggressive carbonated water.  It tickled.  Majorly.  And was super awesome.

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Then we shopped, we haggled, we bartered in the market and made it back to Canggu just in time for dinner and a birthday surprise from the hubby and The Chillhouse staff.

 

Catch up if you’ve missed any of these bali posts: post one, post two, post three.  Catch up before we wrap things up with a couple more posts: a tour of The Chillhouse, last trip to the beach, and an ongoing maternity shoot.

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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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London England – Day 3… Very Belated

So I’ve had computer issues.  I’ve had work issues.  I’ve had health issues.  But I couldn’t let this trip go unshared, the stories untold, or the pictures undone.  So lets just pretend I’m still there, blogging from a tiny hotel room in Europe, sharing all of this loveliness with you…

We spent most of our last full day in London at the Tower of London.  Google the history and you’ll be amazed.  Basically a tiny city within the city surrounded by stone walls, self sufficient, and the ability to protect itself.  The architecture was gorgeous, the history was mind blowing, and yes, we got to walk into each of those towers because the preservation over hundreds of years old was near pristine.  The jewels of the royal family is also held here – no cameras allowed – but the biggest diamonds I’ve ever seen, most of it way too gawdy for me… not saying I wouldn’t indulge if I was royalty.

There is even a story behind the ravens of London.  Mostly just legend, but none the less, they’ve been raised at the tower for hundreds of years and are seen to protect the crown.  Legend says should the crows ever leave, the crown will fall and London will follow.  That’s a lot of pressure for some birds.

But!  Let me tell you, these birds are no joke.  They no doubt walk around within the tower walls like they own the place, with all the confidence a raven could have.  They are the largest ravens I’ve ever seen, and smart too.  This little kid must have been munching on crisps or something before he stuck his hand back into his mitten before losing it… whatever was in it the raven was going at it with ease and diligence.

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Within the castle walls…

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Everyone wants me to carry the camera kit and take the pictures… but its like pulling teeth trying to get anyone to cooperate when it comes to them being in the photos…

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I’m pretty sure I tripped, tucked, rolled, and got right back up on my feet right after taking this photo (camera unharmed!).  I can only laugh about my clumsiness, though slightly embarrassing.  Week ankles, unsupportive shoes, small feet, I just really don’t know.  I’d like to blame it on the uneven cobblestone ground that is everywhere in Europe.

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Changing of the guard was fun, and loud, and a bit abrasive…   Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.15.30 PM

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I’m a little bit weird when it comes to history and torture chambers and such.  Don’t judge.  I can’t explain it… but this was on of the towers they kept prisoners.  Messages were etched into the stone and still stand in that condition.  You can read some of the confessions or confirmations of the innocence.  Of course we ran out of time before I got to see all of the good stuff… like the actual devices used.

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The London Bridge stands outside the walls, but the view is phenomenal.  Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.16.27 PM

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There were a few cheesy re-enactors for tourists amusement.  But this guy was good at playing…

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Ever wonder how many times you show up in other people’s photos?

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A very ominous and mysterious photo of B.

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So we ate at The Swan which is one of Hubby’s favorite places to go in London.  Fun Fact: way back when, pubs, restaurants, etc were named after animals because the animals could be drawn.  The photo would identify the establishment and would be easily identifiable to the illiterate.  I hope you can read the sign (not a illiterate joke – more of a photo in web-quality)… again with the history.

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continue: operation Europe mind blown… watch for more posts soon (sooner than the soonest, I promise).

i interrupted some nookie this morning; arachnophobia sufferers: Do Not Proceed…

But, really… is anyone honestly afraid of Daddy Long Legs?  They can’t bite you, they don’t bother you, and really they protect you from other spiders (or so my mother has told me since I was old enough to be afraid of all creepy crawlies in general).  I don’t consider them real spiders, even though my heart still falls a bit every time I see one; but then my rational brain kicks in and ignores them.  In fact I saw one in my house the other day, I just pretended I didn’t notice him and went about my afternoon.

By no means do I claim to be a nature photographer.  But I saw these two on my porch and just had to capture the moment.  So ignore the fact that the focus is slightly (mostly) off the insects (but look at the weave of the grill cover… perfection!!) and just get in a little nature channel type education for your morning entertainment.

Let me just say: this was difficult.  Lets go back to the point that I do not like spiders.  That being said, I will kill them if they are in my house, even with my hands if I can’t find anything to crush them with fast enough to get them before the escape, (the trick is to be quick, swift, fearless, and have a fierce landing).  So I can’t say I am an arachnophobe, by any means, but I had a 100mm macro lens on my camera body and it took me about 50 photos and about 15 minutes to get close enough to get these shots, and they still aren’t perfect.  (I’m really sorry to all who are cringing and hating on me because I just admitted to killing “other living beings”… it’s just bugs, not even all of them – mostly just the ones in my home and the harmful ones, I promise.)

Secondly, I was under the impression my lens had captured the insects perfectly.  Uploading them I see it mostly captured the grill cover.  It’s okay.  It’ll do.  People… animals… trees all much easier… most of the time.

I knew by the way they were spinning that 16 legged web that something was going down, but I had no idea what I was looking at until I uploaded the photos and imported them to my software.  It’s pretty amazing. I’m not going to try to narrate because the photos tell a good storyline, but just the fact that I was looking at them through the camera and had no idea the details until I actually looked at the photos is pretty incredible.

I think about the nature/science of this and I’m proud of these shots.  Then I really think about it and I kinda feel like a Peeping Tom.

*Photo quality degraded for social media use.

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