Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Ulu Watu

Today we left Kuta to head down to the Bukit Peninsula in the south of Bali. We left our amazingly cheap but nice hotel and went off in search of a taxi. We found a man on the corner of our street who was shouting "transport" at anyone who walked past and so we asked him how much to Ulu Watu. He was umming and ahhing about it when another man came running over quoting 300 000rp. We haggled hard and got the taxi for 120 000rp which is just under £8 split between two of us for an hours taxi ride. We arrived at a hostel/hotel place called The Gong and managed to get a cheapish room. It's more expensive that we're used to paying but only by a couple of pounds and we're only here for 1 night. We considered trying other places but it was pretty remote so we though just to take what we could. The room was nice enough, despite being the same size as Harry Potter's under-the-stairs bedroom and had a balcony and a shower that is supposedly hot. The rooms are all surrounding a courtyard which has a pretty little pool in the centre.

After unloading our bags we headed to Pura Luhur Ulu Watu - a cliff top temple with views out across the Indian Ocean. We had to put a bright yellow sash on in order to enter but our baggy trousers meant that the clashing purple sarongs weren't necessary. Outside was a huge board which warned visitors to take out earrings, take off sunglasses and get rid of all food before going into the temple because of the vicious monkeys inside. When we got in they seemed a lot more timid than the ones in the Ubud Monkey Forest. The walkway was right on the edge of the cliffs and if you peer over the stone walls you can see the sheer cliff face beneath your feet. The views were incredible and it kind of felt like I was at the end of the world because you you could see was the sea and it stretched off forever in front of you and to either side. As we were walking along the cliff path we bumped into the 'vicious' monkey. One cheekily stole an old Balinese lady's bunch of bracelets that she was trying to sell to the tourists and climbed up on top of one of the turrets victoriously. She screamed at it and through lots of food at it but it was a bag of apples that eventually convinced the little guy to let go.

We decided that we wanted to head down to the Ulu Watu beach which was a bit of a walk so decided to try and rent a motorbike as the roads around here are virtually empty and pretty good quality. We trekked from guest house to cornershop to random people by the side of the road on to find ourselves already having walked the entire way to the beach. The path down was pretty terrifying. The stone steps were uneven and tall with no banister or sides to them they just fell away pretty deep either side (I slid down rather ungracefully on my bottom). You get onto the beach through a crevice between the cliffs to find hundreds of tide pools filled with fish and crabs. We saw a baby puffer fish, a hermit crab and a beautiful orange and brown fish with more fins than I think it knew what to do with. There was a very old Balinese man in the waters catching fish with his bare hands from the pools and putting them in a big bamboo basket. Other people were fishing too, but they were using long metal rods which they speared fish on the end of.

When we got back to our village we went to a tiny warung for our dinner. The lady who cooks there gave us a huge bowl of fried rice with vegetables and egg for only 10 000rp each which is about 70p so I splashed out and got a diet coke for 50p.

Tomorrow we head back up to mainland Bali to go to Sanur where there is meant to be a kite festival. I'm excited to see what they have. In Seminyak yesterday they had eagle shaped kites and pirate ship kites in the air so I'm hoping for some seriously creative kites tomorrow!

Monday, 8 July 2013

In Sleep

My time volunteering has officially ended and now the travelling part of my trip has begun. I loved working at the kindergarten and quite a big part of me wishes that I'd organised to stay there longer.

We taught in a group of three and would spend the mornings planning and the afternoons teaching. The organisation had a special building with supplies for us to use. The supplies weren't great, but there was lots of paper so we were able to make giant flashcards for the kids. I would have appreciated a photocopier, especially when drawing out a colouring sheet over and over again. 1 for each child plus spares. We covered quite a lot in our lessons and the children were brilliant at picking things up quickly. We taught them class rules (although it meant that everytime one of us would say quiet the entire claSs would repeat back "quiet!" and put their finger to their lips), colours, numbers, animals, fruit and clothes. The were great mostly but clothes proved a bit tricky for them! We got into a pretty good routine of recapping for a bit, then teaching them some new words, playing a game to help them learn the new words and then colouring based on the new vocab. It worked pretty well I think.

On our last day with them we decided to just play games with them because they're only little and they'd worked pretty hard the rest of the time. We played 'duck, duck, goose' but used words that we'd learnt like 'cat, cat, dog' and they loved it! They would scream and giggle so loudly as they ran round the circle. One kid was so fast that he always caught the other person and woukd marched back to his place in the circle with a triumphant look on his face. He was probably the most hard working kid in the class and had his hair with a side parting a greased to stay in place! Everytime we would give the kids a new activity to do, we would get him to come out to the front as an example because he would always pick things up quickly. We also played grandmothers footsteps. Watching them trying to step quietly was hilarious! They would pick their feet so ridiculously high off the ground. We tried to play bulldog as well but they couldn't really grasp it and I think it just descended into a game of tig with lots of people on.

I'm really sad that I've had to leave there as I was enjoying it so much but I'm excited about the travelling now! Today I'm off to see Pura Luhur Ulu Watu which is a temple right on a cliff edge and surrounded by amazing beaches. Can't believe how fast time has flown here - I have less than 2 weeks left already!

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Outside

Today was my first day at the kindergarten! Although I loved the orientation week I was ready for the volunteering. In true volunteering style everything was a bit of a confusing mess. Our car came to pick us up over an hour before we'd been told so the poor kids got quite a smelly Lottie today. When we arrived at the school all the kids ran into the kindergarten room ready for the lesson.

First, we got them to all make name tags for themselves which they decorated with stars, flowers and other pretty things (even the boys). We then took them outside and had them stand in a circle and we played a ball game which helped them to practice introducing themselves. At break Becky got out her bubbles that she'd brought from home and started blowing them. The kids went CRAZY for them. They were climbing over each other, screaming and jumping in the air to try and catch them. It was so lovely to see them so happy.

After break we went through basic classroom commands like look, listen, quiet so that they understand when we say them and know what to do. We played a simon says type game with them to help them learn what action went with each word. To finish off we just let them try drawing the stickers we'd given them for their hard work. At the end of the lesson the walked out one by one and took a hand and lifted it to their forehead which is the ultimate sign of respect. They were incredibly cute but also very clever for their age.

I'm not sure what we'll be teaching them tomorrow. There's a big ceremony on in the village tomorrow so I'm not sure how many kids will be there. I think we'll probably end up just playing games with them.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Things Go Up

I really wanted to write about this yesterday but I was way too tired to do anything other than just lounging about! Please bear in mind that I have done almost nothing sporty for at least 4 years..

Yesterday we woke up at 1.30am and in the dark and our confused state somehow managed to get dressed and pack our backpacks for our early morning hike to the top of Gunung Batur (an active volcano) to watch the sunrise. The beginning of the hike was about an hours drive away and during the drive to the volcano I began to worry about an eruption (last one was 2000). When we arrived at the start point we were introduced to our guides and torches were handed out as, because the sun hadn't risen, we were hiking in the pitch black. The first part of the hike was fine and I was pretty impressed with how I was doing. We walked through the lava fields (not that I was able to see anything in the dark) and climbed at quite a good pace up to the crater rim (also called Sunrise Point). It was quite crowded and our guide asked if we wanted to go straight up to the summit to watch the sunrise there, telling us that it took about 10 minutes. We said yes and after 10 minutes we realised that his estimation had been quite a bit off and that it would realistically take 45. The part of the trek between Sunrise Point and the summit was incredibly steep and very slippery with volcanic sand falling away beneath your feet. Sometimes we had to pull ourselves up onto rocks and sometimes our guide would pull us up. During this part I didn't know how I would ever reach the top. My thighs were burning!! When we reached the top it was still very dark but also windy and extremely cold. We huddled on a bench and waited for the sun. It was so beautiful. Suddenly we had a view of a beautiful mountain and a lake that had been completely hidden before. It was stunning. Clouds would come racing towards us, looking like steam (making me think the volcano was errupting for a brief moment).

After the sun was up we started our descent. The steep, sandy path was very difficult to get down. The best way (recommended by our guide) was to put your feet sideways and slide. Several people fell over and our guide was running about like a crazy person trying to catch us all before we fell! When we made it back to Sunrise Point the monkeys had woken up and were running round looking for breakfast. They jumped on top of anyone that held out any bread. I considered trying to feed them but their sharp teeth and grim fur (plus the risk of rabies) meant that I stayed well away. The next part of the walk was mostly rocky but that didn't mean it was more stable. The rocks would roll away as soon as you stepped on them and the guide would run down the mountain to grab you before you cut your face open on a rock. I definitely preferred going down to up. I liked seeing where I was going and being able to decide what the best place to put my foot was. I'm glad we did go up in the dark though. I think if I'd been able to see how steep the path was I never would have made it up. Also, I was sweating a lot doing it with no sun so I probably would have passed out doing it in the heat of day!

Today we're going to a place called Karamas to watch some surfing. There's the Oakley Pro Competition which we're going to see. The surf is probably not going to be good enough for the competition to be on but the pros should be out doing tricks on the waves. Apparently Kelly Slater is going to be there, not that I've ever heard of him, but apparently he's a big deal. Figured I should enjoy my final day before the REAL work begins..!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Since I've been here I've tried my hand at a couple of traditional Balinese art forms and realised that my lack of artistic skill in England translates to lack of artistic skill in Bali. Unfortunately I have not discovered a previously hidden talent.

I first tried Batik. You basically draw your design onto a sheet of cloth and then put wax over the lines. You mix fabric dye and water to create a shaded effect. It's actually really cool. First you get the material really wet then you put some of the paint on and move it around using your finger. It's pretty messy and I still have the dye covering my hands. The guy who was helping us out offered me "gold" fabric dye for the background which I painted ALL over, only to realise that it was poo brown. Not a good look next to my pretty pink lotus flower.

I also had a lesson in Balinese cooking. The amount of garlioc they use is insane. We easily used 20 cloves but I'd guess more. Some were chopped into chunks, others finely sliced and some grated. I had to take the skin off a coconut and grate the fleshy interior. It was much harder than it sounds! The food here does taste good but it's definitely a bit much for every meal. The overwhelming garlic and oil just makes you feel greasier and smellier than the humidity and heat of the place does.

Today we went to a water temple to get blessed. Earlier on in the week we made traditional flower offering (really fiddley and you have to use a bamboo stick as a needle/thread) and we took them to the temple to offer then to the Gods. We put on sarongs and sashes over our clothes and went down to the water. There is a big pool of holy water and 8 fountains. I had to go from fountain to fountain and pray. First you wash your hards in the fountain, then wash your face 3 times, then the crown of your head 3 times and then you submerge yourself in the water. It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The temple was beautiful and, despite the cold water, it was really enjoyable and quite moving. I apologise profusely for the corniness of that!

I also went to our family's temple on Wednesday for a ceremony they oput on for their granddaughter. Although I missed the sacrifice of a chicken and a pig I witnessed the sacrifice of a tiny baby chick. At first I didn't realise what was happening and was cooing away at the cute little chick in the old man's hands. Then I saw the knife. He cute quickly through the chicks neck and it's head fell to the floor. It's body didn't realise it didn't have its head for a little bit and ran around in a state of, I presume, confusion. It managed to run a considerable distance from its body. I left the ceremony quite quickly after that traumatic scene!

Bali is great though. It's incredibly relaxed and the people are so friendly. All the local people wave and say hello and the little kids run up to you so that you can stroke their new (flea ridden) puppy. This week has been great, but I can't wait to start my kindergarten teaching on Monday!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Everything is New

So I am safely in Bali! I am living in a family run volunteer house, sharing a room with 7 other girls. The living situation ios pretty good, despite having an outside bathroom. The shower water is freezing cold and you have to force yourself to stand under it. However, it's so hot and humid here that it's not so bad! We have a little kitchen to the side of our room which is outside again but means that we can boil water if we want tea or coffee. Usually if we want a drink we just head to the coffee shop out the front of the house. The people that run it are incredibly friendly. The local people all shout hello to us as we walk past.

This week is orientation, so we are just leaning about the culture etc. Yesterday we went for a walk into the nearest town (Ubud) and went round the markets. We decided to get some proper traveller trousers and so did a bit of haggling which was so much fun. We managed to get a shopkeeper to go from 1 pair for 150,000 to 4 pairs for 200,000. It feels like you're spending loads of money but in fact that's about £12. Not too bad for 4 pairs of trousers!

After we went to the monkey temple. The monkeys were CRAZY! They were grabbing one girls maxi skirt and hissing at each other. There were loads of cute, baby baby monkeys. Shame they grow up to be so ugly!! The temple was surrounded by greenery. It looked like it was in the middle of the rainforest. I have hundreds of monkey photos - found it pretty hard to restrict myself.

In the afternoon we had a culture class where we were told about local customs and what we should avoid doing. We managed to sit on a table which we thought was a bench and apparently that's a definite NO NO. Pretty embarrassing. That meeting didn't go on for too long so we went to explore the village pool. It was like a tropical paradise with palm trees and several pools for us to try! It was so nice because its very humid here so its hard to feel fresh. In the evening we went to a Balinese dance show. It was pretty crazy with people dressed up as monkeys with popping out eyes. After the show was done they made a fire using coconuts and petrol ansome guy dressed as a hobby horse (which is a symbol of trance out here) came out and danced around it before running straight into it and kicking the flaming coconut across the floor towards where we were sitting. He proceeded to do this several times until his feet were completely black and he had to lie down!!! By the time we got home I was so exhausted that I had to go straight to sleep after!

So then TODAY we were treated to banana pancakes and watermelon for breakfast before heading to our language class. On our way we walked into the wrong house for our lesson and everyone in the house just smiled, waved an said hello. Absolute not phased by the fact that 4 foreigners were traipsing through their house! When we finally realised we were lost the family's son took us to the right place. We were leaning Bahasa and it was so hard. He would put a load of phrases on the board, get us to memorise them them and then test us in front of the whole class!!! It was so embarrassing and my pronunciation was so bad. I reckon it was actually offensively bad. Tomorrow we have language class again and I think I should probably do some revision for it!

When we got back to the house there was a genuine cock fight going on behind the house!!! It was even worse than I thought it would be. Knives were attached to their feetto their feet and the men pulled out their feathers to get them all mad before setting them oneach other. I couldn't watch.

In the afternoon we went for a 3 hour walk across the rice paddies. Halfway through there was proper monsoon style rain and we had to find shelter under a tiny outcrop of roof! The paddies were beautiful and so tropical. It was like being in a real life butterfly garden! It was even more beautiful than it looks in the guidebooks.

The houses here are lovely. They all have family temples which take up most of their land. One of their Gods (Shiva I think) is believed to live in the south part of the house and it is the god of fire and so the kitchen is always in the south part of the house. Also, every morning families put offerings made of flowers and food outside their front doors which look lovely but it's almost impossible to walk down the street without treading on at least one (and yes, that's also disrespectful here!)

Saturday, 15 June 2013

State of Grace

Despite knowing that I needed to get up at 3.30am in order to get to the airport, I still left my packing until the night before.. and then realised that I didn't have a sleeping back to take so had to make an emergency trip to Tescos to pick one up (and some kettle chips - they were a necessity too). I finished packing just after midnight and then, of course, was too stressed/excited/nervous to sleep.

Check in at Heathrow was pretty uneventful. I had a horrible coffee from Costa which the barrista tried to charge me $4.50 for (I can't find the pound sign on this keyboard), but turns out she pressed the wrong button and it was only $2.30. The flight was pretty good, I started watching Argo but swapped for the slightly more light hearted Hunchback of Notre Dame - never disappoints.

I am now waiting out my 9 and a half hour layover in Doha airport which (apart from the free to use computers) doesn't offer much entertainment. Apparently Singapore Airport has a swimming pool and a butterfly garden which I will definitely be making use of on my return. I keep wandering past the Qatar Airways Lounge looking in longingly hoping they'll take pity on me. I'm not holding out much hope on that one though - don't think I'm dressed quite smartly enough.

Day 1