I’ve been back home for mere months and I’ve been fully emerged into the life of studying. It has been strange being back. I am working on great projects like helping a company address a contamination and writing an article about multi-resistant bacteria. It is all interesting but does not compete with the research in New Zealand. And here, everything is the same. Although the supermarket has been upgraded and there is a liquor store next to it now (a proper upgrade if you ask me). I feel different while everything looks the same and feels the same. My room, my house, the square I live at remains unchanged. I walk around like: oh my, I’ve been in New Zealand. I have been at the other side of the world. But life goes on and nothing changes. Everyone around you is still the same, but there’s an added sentence or two about having been away.
There is this thing, I was quite homesick at the end of the trip. I wanted to be home and everything to be normal and known. It is really nice to have everything you know, the shops, the items, a piano, the sewing machine. Finally being able to express all those hobbies. But there is this charm to being away as well.
To be honest, it has been kind of hard settling down again and I really need another big change, a new step in life. That’s why this week has been amazing, because a new adventure awaits: Bas and I found a stunning apartment in a little town next to Eindhoven. We are moving in February and we are both so excited. I am looking so forward to rebuilding the feeling of home with the person I love.
Also a few things that happened over the last couple of months:
In the mean time: Bas and I have also been rowing with a Danish friend, we saw Glow (a light festival) in Eindhoven (where I forgot to bring my camera, woops) , my mum has turned 60, we had a lovely Sinterklaas (Christmas for Dutchies) celebration with my mum and also with Bas’ family and so much more. This weekend we are going skiing; life in the Netherlands is hectic, alive and vibrant.
In the last couple of days we have learnt how to batik and how to weave using bamboo. We have also visited the silver crafting area and met Slamet’s family; Slamet has been our driver during the last couple of days and he has been very kind and welcoming. We also went fishing so my mom and I could have something to eat we weren’t allergic to. We turned out to be pretty bad ass in fishing and it was incredibly awesome to eat the fish we caught. In the evening we saw a traditional wayang show; majestic. It were a wonderful few days. Tomorrow we are going to Bandung with the train. It is supposed to be a stunning train ride and it better be because it is 7 hours long (!).
We are staying in a lovely hotel in the middle of Yogyakarta after we decided to leave the apartment we were staying in. The beautiful mansion turned out to be infested with insects; making it impossible to cook in the outside kitchen [beetles kept falling into the food], to sleep [wild animals were crawling on our bedroom doors] and to read a book [as everything was open and the house covered in mosquitos]. When we noticed active nests with red paper wasps (a very protective type of wasp… well to be honest, wasps are never nice), we decided it was enough. We are now situated in the most luxurious and relaxing hotel ever. The hotel has a swimming pool, a wellness centre and a gym. I’ve already made use of the gym this morning, this was lovely after not being able to exercise for 5 weeks. Yogyakarta itself has been okay, but not our cup of tea, although the Kraton, the Sultan’s palace, was very nice. We to also went to Borobudur (a Buddhist temple) and Prambanan (a Hindu temple); the famous temples of Java and both UNESCO world heritage sites. Today we are having a ‘relax’ day, which is lovely.
The day began with going to the Minimart to get something to drink. The Minimart also had an ATM machine, this came in handy. After one and two transactions, we wanted to do a third (we could only pin a minimal amount at the time). My card went in, I pressed ‘confirm’, my card came out… And powercut. The whole neighbourhood experienced a powercut. My online banking said the transaction had gone through; meaning we had lost the money. Arif was working hard to get the back-up generator started, while three people were begging us for money (please, please…). Arif and I ended up going to the bank in all the chaos, they told us they could not help me and that I had to call my NZ bank. We had to wait 45 minutes for nothing. Calling NZ would be more expensive than the money we’ve lost, so we decided to ‘let it be’. A bit frustrated, we went to the Butterfly park. There all our worries dissapeared when the money was put back in my account and we were surrounded by the most beautiful butterflies. We had the pleasure of letting different animals climb all over us; this included a rhinoceros beetle and a stick insect of 30 cm big!!!! After that we were decorated with the most stunning butterflies.
After this marvelous experience, we went on to Tanah Lot. Tanah Lot is beautiful, but packed (and I mean properly packed) with tourists. I know we are part of that group; but it spoiled the view tremendously. In the mean time, the sun was burning our skin and we decided to go back to the apartment. There we packed our suitcases and I just about managed to get mine below 30 kg. Living out of a suitcase is hard and I am fully adapted to the ‘Marie Kondo’ method; the life-changing magic of tidying. Everything that ‘does not make me happy’ goes in the discard-pile. Thusfar I’ve been categorizing everything from ‘decorating’, ‘basics’, ‘special’ to the ‘replaceable’, ‘cheap’, ‘unimportant’. I am looking forward to being home again, to be able to tidy up because I want to; instead of have to every f- day.
Today we flew to Yogyakarta with Garuda. If you are ever in Indonesia and need to fly somewhere, I highly recommend them. In the 1,5 hour it took to fly from Denpasar to Yogya, we got two drinks and a lunch box. That is as much as we got for our 12 hour flight from Christchurch to Denpasar (thanks Virgin Australia). We had the most comfy seats and an in-flight movie system that worked. I did not watch movies, instead I spent my time reading the book Wild Pork and Watercress, where ‘The Hunt for the Wilderpeople’; the best New Zealand movie is based on. It is an amazing book that one. Four pages to go and I will be on to reading ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’.
Yesterday we had a long day in the car to visit Batur, a stunning volcano in Bali. We also took the opportunity to visit the temple near Batur. After borrowing a sarong, we were guided through the temple and were explained extensively which is which representation of God. The statues were impressive, some of them were all dressed up ‘because the Gods also need an umbrella against the rain and they need clothes’; I find this beautiful. Some people were very busy in preparation to a big ceremony and others were building more to expand the temple. On the way back we went to a coffee plantation where we got to taste Luwak coffee. This is the kind of coffee here a Paradoxurus (to be precise the subspecies Asian Palm Civet) eats the beans, poops it out and then they clean the beans and after some more processing steps is made into coffee powder, supposedly the best coffee in the world. My mom and I did not like the catpoopcoffee as much as we were expected to, but the tea they made at the plantation was delicious and we bought some to take home. Many paradoxurus’ are captured to make Luwak coffee, decreasing the amount of wild populations rapidly. Luckily, on this coffee plantation they are treated well and are free to roam around. One of the paradoxurus’ were captured each day to ‘showcase’ to visitors. However, they made sure that none are captured two days in a row and they are only in a cage for a limited amount of hours. As best as things can be around here I guess. The drive back was long and we saw a lot of sick dogs on our way. This made me sad. We also had a lot of rain yesterday. Today it cleared up a bit so we spent the day in Kuta, we got a Balinese massage and wandered around. The whole culture of Indonesia is completely different from New Zealand and the Netherlands. I miss home more and more. Luckily the people are very kind here and the atmosphere (minus the sick dogs) is good. Tomorrow we’ve got some other tourist-y things planned and Sunday we are flying to Yogyakarta.
I am lying on a half-inflated waterbed; surrounded by the sounds of the wind in the palm trees: a crisping noise, the birds sing as they fly over. Keeping my eyes closed as the sun is exposed by the moving clouds; the warmth slightly burning my skin. That was the start of the day. Perfectly calm. After booking our flight from Denpasar to Yogyakarta, finding an apartment to our wishes proved to be challenging. At 4 pm we made our way to Denpasar. Arif explained to us that the main market building was burned down a few weeks ago with the immediate effect that the market-size decreased massively. This was very noticeable. The Denpasar gardens were filled with people though; some trying to sell memorabilia or candy, others minding their own business by practising yoga. We had dinner at Mykonos where I enjoyed the first good feta in seven months. Tomorrow we are going to one of Bali’s volcanoes and to the Turtle Sanctuary.
On another note; we were quite surprised to find out that rabies is a significant problem here. Our healthcare practitioners told us it was ‘a waste of money’ to get vaccinated, but I’m glad that we insisted. We would rather pay the price of the expensive vaccines than the price of being un-vaccinated with no help available. Arif told us that regularly people die of rabies here in Bali and we see dead dogs being burned on the sides of the street due to rabies risk. The vaccinated dogs wear a collar; but 99% of the dogs are not vaccinated and roam the streets. Occasionally you see a dog completely out of his mind and acting crazy; clearly infected. Vaccines are often unavailable when most needed. It is worrisome and we will enlighten our healthcare practitioners of this local knowledge when we are back home.
After a good night’s sleep, Arif picked us up to take us to Ubud. Ubud is famous for its temple and in the surroundings there are rice fields as far as the eye can see. The temple in Ubud was unmaintained, but a lovely sight. The statues are very well-made and again, the whole ambience was nice. Another popularity in Ubud is the Monkey Forest. As the name suggests; it is a forest filled with monkeys and it is awesome! The monkeys are very keen on being fed by the silly tourists buying way too much food. It’s a wonder that the monkeys had not exploded yet by the amount of food that was given to them. Human nature can be very selfish; the well-being of an animal being placed second, because the perfect selfie must be taken. Horrible. In the bathroom there was a note from a biologist from the University of Washington saying “Please do not let the monkeys take your water bottles, because they store the caps in their mouth, they get stuck and have to be surgically removed”. Reading this after we saw various monkeys with several water bottles; “just playing” was what a monkey-guard told me. It makes you wonder how much those monkey-guards know or care about. Ubud has definitely been “discovered” and is running on tourism. It’s markets filled with the sound of “please look inside”, “please buy from my shop” combined with Dutch-, English-, French- and German-speaking tourists chatting away about what they can bring in their suitcase or what is a good present for the niece of the friend of their brother. The rice fields near Ubud were stunning and with reason filled with tourists. It was an exhausting day with 32 degrees (and still in need of acclimatising), so I am going to sit back and relax. Enjoy the pictures!