Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thanksgiving in Bali

So, Thanksgiving Bali edition started out with just two little piglets, Andrew and Andrea. Two piglets became three, as Danielle, my older sister decided to jump on the band wagon. Then came Chris, Ma, Ayah, Ash and TADAAAA! - Riani. Wait that's not all - Martini and David decided to come along as the whole clan was only a hop and a skip away from Lombok! We had faces come from Vancouver, L.A, Seattle, Kuala Lumpur and Lombok.

The two weeks was filled with food, food, and more food! Ok, there might have been some dancing, beach time, singing, motorcycle rides and some laughs. It was just such an incredible feeling to have family here in Bali. 

As you can see from the photo below, we spent most of our time on bikes. Sometimes, when there wasn't enough bikes to go around, we managed to squish one more full sized adult onto the back of a pair! There was a morning where we had 5-6 bikes and had created our own motorcycle gang :) If you're wondering whether or not anyone got into an accident - it would be the one piglet wearing the white helmet below. Kurt and I were feeling so very proud that all of our friends who had visited - had left unscathed. Andy wasn't going to let that statistic slide - and so he crashed my bike. Although he will argue that my tires were bald, and the roads are bad (all of this is true) I have been riding my little scooter just fine for the past 6 months! As we were all ready to head to Ubud, poor little Roo came home all banged up as he had crashed the Ducati (or so he thought my scooter was, the way he was riding it!) and had ripped up his arms and legs :) I wish we had a photo of the back pocket of his shorts - as his wallet had LITERALLY saved his ass from getting devoured by the tarmac. We were just glad he was alive and secretly enjoyed that he was receiving his own punishment by being unable to swim for the rest of the trip!


(MAY OR MAY NOT BE THE SMARTEST IDEA, BUT THEY LOOK SO SNUGGLY!)

For those of you who don't know who Ma and Ayah are, don't ask - it's a long story! Let's just say that the Townshend girls have adopted a pair of Malaysian parents :) They and their son, Ash (who is a rock star by the way!) came to Bali for the Thanksgiving celebration. This photo taken below is actually a day after Thanksgiving - as I missed the real dinner due to an unfortunate case of food poisoning. This night was incredible. We ate, danced, ate and ate some more! Ayah graciously treated us all and Ash performed for the whole gang as well! Such a memorable night. Ma has an embarrassing video of us all dancing to Dangdut somewhere.

(A WONDERFUL DINNER THAT AYAH TREATED US ALL TO!)
It seemed like the whole trip was about food. OK - maybe it was. This is probably one of my favs. A little homemade coleslaw, gluten free bread - filled with chicken satay (OMG so delicious) and sweet potato chips! A complete Paleo meal and absolutely scrumptious! I cant even say how many restaurants we went to. If we weren't eating barbecue fish by the beach, we were eating tacos at a Mexican joint. The backdrops were amazing. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner wrapped in the arms of the rice fields.

(EVERYTHING WAS ABOUT FOOD. THIS WAS AMAZING SWEET POTATO CRISPS & A GLUTEN FREE SANDWICH, STUFFED WITH CHICKEN SATAY!)

Nothing like some romance on the beach ;) Kurt and I took Andrea and Andy to Uluwatu for the day. This place is spectacular. Cliff bars, white sand beaches and cool water. This is probably one of our favorite places to go. It is quite the haul on motorcycles though, which is why we don't make it out there very often. It takes about an hour from our house to get there - which can be quite sore on your bum ;) We spent the day splashing in the waves and eating delicious food along the way. Andrew, however had to suffer as he was not allowed to play in the water (still healing from motorcycle wounds!) sad panda.

(A VISIT TO ULUWATU WITH ANDY & ANDREA. IT IS OUR FAVORITE PLACE TO WATCH THE SUN DISAPPEAR INTO THE OCEAN)

Ladies night! The best kind of night. Danielle and Riani decided to take Arty and I out for dinner. What a nice treat. They took us to Metis, a beautiful restaurant that over looks a rice field. Arty and I have known each other for 16 years now and i feel so lucky that she is still a part of my life and my family's life too. I had the lamb, which if you were wondering was to die for. Riani picked out a nice wine for us and we had girl talk - the best kind of talk :) Was so nice for the "big sisters" to take out the little ones :) Thankful for big sisters with big bucks! :p
(BIG SISTERS DECIDED TO TREAT LITTLE SISTERS TO A GREAT DINNER!)

I don't really know what I did to deserve such good friends and such a wonderful family. Everyone flew across the world to be with each other. It is such a beautiful thing to witness so much love in your circle. The world never seems intimidating to me when i know that i can call one of them and they'd be on the next plane out.

Really though guys, thanks. Thanks for coming to see where I live. Thanks for loving me and for spending your Thanksgiving so far from home.

Love you guys and see you all in 2014!

Happy New Year!

Love,

Stel

Friday, December 20, 2013

One Year Anniversary Celebration!

Estelle and I recently reached a new milestone - the big 1 year mark in our relationship! Leading up to it, we went back and forth on how we wanted to celebrate it - but ultimately decided to split up the day.

I was responsible for planning the first half of the day and Estelle had the second half.

Easy enough; well, not really.. After "leaking" a few options, an unlikely front runner emerged for our destination. Instead of splitting up the day - we realized we both had the same idea anyway :) The Waterbom water park! I have to admit, I was very EXCITED that she wanted to do this and I really couldn't think of a better way to spend our anniversary. Water slides, good food and sunshine? AWESOME! Earlier on in our travels, we celebrated the 4th of July at the Sentosa Waterpark in Singapore [See Post], and we both had a great time! Guess we're just big kids after all.

Our BIG DAY. 


After I made a little anniversary breakfast (a delicious scramble in case you were wondering!) we packed up our backpack with the usual suspects: towels, books, sunglasses, and of course our sun block. We both had heard fairly good things about the park, but it sure didn't hurt that it was rated as Trip Advisor's number ONE thing to do in the area.

After we put our valuables in the locker, we were off! It was an overcast kinda-day, a Monday, and not peak season so the crowds were minimal - which was fantastic! We had our pick of any of the slides and promptly started off with a water slide called "Boogie Ride" -- it wasn't the fastest or tallest of rides but it had this double dip that made you air born! Whew! That was scary...

From that point we were on a mission to go on ALL of the slides...Here's a quick recap of our favorites!

  • Smash Down: A pretty standard water slide but you get to go side by side and race your partner (I kicked Estelle's butt BTW) on a foam board.
  • Boomerang: One of our favorites, that is usually featured on their commercials where you and a partner are in an inner tube and at first go down a steep water slide that then takes you to this nearly vertical wall that you of course go up....then go down backwards... not the best option for those who have motion sickness ;)
  • Pipeline: This one was the scariest of slides, where you go FAST and just pray for it to be over....Whew!
  • Climax: Okay, imagine walking into a plastic tube hatch, then having the door shut on you. Next, as you stand up right, the floor below you opens. So you are literally free falling for a while on this water slide...When you come out of it -- your body is literally shaking and you have to take a seat to regroup. So I guess the name is aptly named.

(HERE WE ARE GOING DOWN THE BOOMERANG...AND YES WE DID TAKE A PICTURE OF THE $15 PICTURE)
(TAKING A LIL' BREAK FROM THE SLIDES TO CATCH UP ON PRODUCTIVITY STRATEGY - NOTE: I DEFINITELY WAS UTILIZING SOME OF THESE STRATEGIES AT WATER BOM)

(CHEESING IT UP POOL SIDE!)

We had soooo muuuuccchh fun! And following up our madness at the water park we went and got 1 1/2 hour massages! :)

We had originally anticipated that we would go out and grab a nice dinner after, but were both so exhausted from playing in the sun all day! Luckily, we both felt the same way and decided to take some of our favorite Mexican food home. Popped open a bottle of wine and watched a great movie together :) Our kind of night.

What a perfect day and I am so thankful that I found someone that feels the same way!

Oh, and time for a little reflection...

As I've gotten older, I've realized a few things...

  1. Our time here is short...sometimes cruelly so.
  2. Protect your time...once spent there is nothing you can do to get it back.
  3. Be present in the moment...don't worry about what's happening tomorrow, next week, or what your FB news feed is saying; our life is only made up of "this moment" so make it count!
  4. Spend AS MUCH time as you can with those you genuinely care and love...you'll never regret it.
  5. And last, but not least, be extremely picky when you choose a partner.
These are some of the tenets that I try and live my life by -- and I will admit I have a long ways to go before I can say I practice all of them 100%. But, there is something that I can say I now practice and that of course is having chosen the best partner i could have ever dreamed of - Estelle. One of the things I love best most about her is the fact that she pushes me and always reminds me that there is so much more to life. I had always heard that cliche "she makes me better...yadda, yadda, yadda..." But really its true. It's incredible to think back on all of the things that we have done together, traveled here and there (and its been a lot!) in only one year -- but what I value most are those every day things that just embody who she is: her compassion, courage, intelligence, kindness, and adventurous spirit that have quite frankly changed my life for the better. Yep, I am one lucky dude.



Kurt

P.S. Here is a little collage I put together of some of my favorite photos of us from the past 1 year together...I guess we have been busy!
(FROM TOP LEFT TO RIGHT: TAKING A QUICK NAP BEFORE THE SUN ROSE IN HALEAKALA IN MAUI; MT RINJANI IN LOMBOK ISLAND; IN OUR PINK TAXI ON PANGKOR ISLAND, MALAYSIA; ROCKING OUR RIDING GLASSES IN SEMINYAK, BALI; ABOVE SEATTLE IN THE PIER FERRIS WHEEL; AND FINALLY, IN PORTLAND, OR AT WORLD FAMOUS POWELL'S BOOKS)




Sunday, December 1, 2013

Silly in Gilli!

Seems like we can't get enough of Martini and David! For those of you reading our blog for the first time, we were recently in Singapore with the newlyweds! It has been such a blessing that this couple is taking a year off as well! 

I really wanted to explore more of Indonesia this year. It seems like I have spent most of my time in Jakarta, Medan and Bali over the years. Seeing that most of my Indonesian family is in two of those cities, it made the most sense to visit them the most. Indonesia has over 17,000 islands for me to explore though... and my first new island of choice? Gilli Air.

The Gilli Islands sit right off of the coast of Lombok. There are a few ways to get there. Fast boat, sloooooow boat or a quick flight. Since Martini and David are living in Lombok for a few months, Kurt and I decided to fly into Lombok and see the new island they call home. After a quick visit to their current abode, we headed for Bangli. 

Bangli. How do I describe this horrid place? This was the port we had to set sail from on our last leg to Gilli Air. If any of you have ever been to a S.E Asian tourist town, you are familiar with street peddlers. They can be aggressive, tiresome and simply annoying. Imagine them... on steroids.

The second you set foot into this place, you are hounded. This hounding however, is different than the little old man trying to sell you scarves. This is where you become the puppet and you are subjected to the rules the puppeteer has made. We arrived and quickly scanned the perimeters for the least shady area we could find that was selling tickets. We were informed that the ferry only runs in the morning, and it being 3 PM - we had missed the "affordable boat". The difference in price for public transportation and private charter are mind blowing. 

Being half Indonesian, Martini and I take pride in protecting ourselves from being screwed over by "tourist prices". We also take pride in protecting our American beaus from the even "whiter" prices. We were quick to realize that we were being trapped in an endless game of "you'll never get a price any lower than this". Finally managing to negotiate with a young boy who wanted to help, we were smuggled onto a private charter boat for a reasonable price. Bargaining at this place was extremely taxing and we had all heard one too many "well then why don't you walk to Gilli Air if you don't like my price". All aboard! 

(HEADED STRAIGHT FOR GILI AIR)

The boat ride was just a jaunt from the coast of Lombok. It was so great to leave the madness behind at the port and land on white, sandy shores! We had been given some recommendations from a friend of mine of places to stay - so on we went to explore Gilli Air!

What's so great about this island is that there are ZERO cars or motorcycles! Everyone has to either use a bicycle, their own two feet or some hooves :) Horse and carriage are the main way to move heavy loads around the island. Lucky for us - we all packed light and set off on foot. After playing peek or boo with many hotels, we decided on a cute hotel on the main strip.

(BACKPACKERS SEARCHING FOR A HOME!)\

A friend of mine, Tash, had just opened a new restaurant/bar in the heart of the island and i promised her we would come check it out. What a place! Caballito de Mar had delicious food and was just a really comfortable place to go to and have a drink. We loved that we could play with sand between our toes whilst enjoying a cocktail. Tash went to middle school with Martini and I in Jakarta before moving away. Funny how the universe brings back certain people into your life. I am so glad that it did with her because she is a gem! We actually visited her place a few times because we loved the ambiance. Beachfront property with a real cool, laid back feel. I love places where you can dress up or show up in flip flops and still feel like you fit in? So great. If you ever visit Gilli Air - go check it out :)


(MARTINI, DAVID, TASH, ME & KURT AT CABALLITO DE MAR)

The rest of the time? What did we do? Sleep, eat, lounge, sunbathe, snorkel, swim - it is really a hard life but the four of us really don't mind taking one for the team ;) Me being me, I decided to run around the entire island for some exercise. How long does it take you ask? 32 minutes at a leisurely pace! That's just about 4 miles around the island - just a wee lil' thing! Here are some pictures of the trip:

(KURT TAKING A BREAK TO WRITE IN HIS CABANA!)


(IN ONE OF THE CABANA'S WE SPENT MUCH TIME LOUNGING IN!)
(BIKE RIDE AROUND THE ISLAND)

(MARTINI & KURT SOAKING UP THE RAYS!)


(CAUGHT IN A TROPICAL RAINSTORM ON OUR BIKE RIDE!)



Kurt and I decided to rent a bicycle to ride around the island on our last day. Figuring that it would only take 32 minutes or less - we hopped on and took off! You just never know when you're going to get caught in a tropical rainstorm. We had managed to make it half way around the island when it started to pour. Why didn't we just pull off into a cafe somewhere? We had to meet David and Martini to catch the ONLY ferry leaving the island back to Lombok in just 20 minutes. Have you ever tried to ride a bicycle through sand? And then through sand-paste when it starts to rain? You don't. It's not possible. We had to push our bikes most of the way till we found some beautiful gravel that allowed us to peddle again!

In proper Kurt & Estelle fashion, we made it in just the nick of time! We loved the Gillis and cant wait to explore the other two and so much more of Indonesia. 


My family and friends have just arrived in Bali for Thanksgiving! Will be posting lots about that soon!

All my love,

Estelle

Friday, November 22, 2013

Singapore... Round 2

It was that time again. We needed to leave Bali for yet another Visa run. Where to go? After relentless Google searches, we decided on Singapore because it was the cheapest option and we had a new friend that also happened to live there (Pam, if you read the last blog post!) It turned out that one of Estelle’s best friends, Martini and her husband were also in need of a visa run. And so, the four amigos set out for Singapohh (that's how they pronounce it there).



And So It Begins…

We had a SUPER early flight over, and before we knew it, we had arrived in Singapore with the full crew (Estelle, Martini, David and myself).

We were greeted by our friend Pamela, who Estelle had met at the Ubud Writers festival. Pam promised a few surprises for us as our tour guide, and she delivered!

Time to Eat

First things, first…we were hungry! Wanting to give us an authentic Singaporean experience, Pam took us to the world famous (Anthony Bourdain endorsed) Tian Tian that serves the unique Hainanese Chicken Rice. 

It was delicious, and proved that looks can be deceiving! There is a famous story, that Anthony Bourdain was booed off the stage of the Singapore Food Event, when he admitted that he had not had this famous dish…legend has it, he promptly came here and became an instant fan! We then made a quick pit stop at a famous kaya toast place where delicious pastries have been served by the same family for generations! 




(WITH THE BEST TOUR GUIDE IN SINGAPORE - PAMELA HO!)


More Food

On the way back to the car, us gluten eaters (David and I) made a little pit stop to try some of the other famous Singaporean food… Kaya Toast! Which is a toast with a spread consisting of eggs, sugar and coconut and a 100% deliciousness. Wow, great stuff! A very authentic experience…check out the receipt below??


(HOW THAT IS LEGIBLE - I DO NOT KNOW)

(DAVID AND I TRYING KAYA TOAST & JAM!)

Shopping Time

Next stop, Lulu Lemon. As you may well know, Estelle is a bit of a workout addict (working out twice a day sometimes!) and had been looking for new workout shorts since the day we arrived in Bali - to no avail. With no Lulu Lemon stores anywhere in Indonesia, she had heard that there was one in Singapore and couldn't stop talking about it :). After finding a pair that fit and looked right, she was a happy girl! Happy girl = happy boy!



(DAVID & I TRYING ON SOME LULU GEAR HAHA)

We decided to stay at a hostel this time around, we figured it couldn’t be any worse than the Hotel we stayed at last time we visited Singapore - in the red light district! The Bunc Hostel was quite simple but it had all that we needed; clean rooms, a good location, wifi and these really cool Japanese style pods. 



(MARTINI - EXCITED TO BE STAYING IN A 'POD')

Other Adventures

With only one night in Singapore, we wanted to make sure we got a well rounded experience. Some of our highlights (I don’t know how we fit it all in) included: 

  • Going to the uber nice Marina Bay Sands Casino! Since we are now more or less unemployed-backpackers, we didn't really gamble… I did however, manage to put a few bucks in the slots - but that was it. 
  • Enjoyed the street ice cream sandwich! For only $1.50 (about $0.50 USD) we got to enjoy an awesome slice of strawberry ice cream between two wafers… Best deal in Singapore and YUMMY! 
  • Lunch with Estelle's friend, Rohr-Junne and her daughter (they havent seen each other in over 5 years!)
  • Exploring the Raffles Hotel! Named after Sir Raffles, this hotel is the number one choice for all heads of states when they come to town! 
  • Enjoyed some great, diverse foods! Singapore features fine cuisine from all corners of the world… and it is ALL amazing. 
  • Smoking a hookah and drinking a cold one on the river walk! I’ve been wanting to do this for a while and finally had my chance!
  • Awesome reflexology massage! You can get some great “feel good” massages, but the reflexology massage we got in Singapore hurt so good – definitely felt the therapeutic effects. 

(CHECKING OUT THE FAMOUS RAFFLES HOTEL!)

(80 YEAR OLD MAN - STILL GOING STRONG!)

(ME AND MY LADY IN FRONT OF MARINA BAY SANDS)


But last and not least, my personal highlight was going to an authentic Chinese doctor. I really don’t know why exactly… but I REALLY wanted to try this “cupping therapy” treatment. Since I have been in Asia, I have been looking for a clinic that performs this therapy. And low and behold, we found a place that did it! Funny story… by time I had left the clinic I had received a foot massage (single foot) and I had about a quart of blood removed from that same foot - using this crazy suction contraption! Not exactly what I had initially expected, but I gotta say I enjoyed the adventure... and the fact that I had no idea what the staff were saying to one another during the whole time! AND… my foot that had an inflamed tendon did feel much better afterwards!



(MY VERY OWN CHINESE DOCTOR!)


We reunited with Pam on the last day and to ensure that we kept things interesting…we decided to watch “The Escape Plan” (awesome film by the way!). In order to make it work we would have to run to the theater and then promptly run to the car and speed to the airport -so we wouldn't miss our flight! MISSION SUCCESS!
Checking in we realized we actually had a little extra time to kill so we got food and leisurely walked to our gate. Hmmm….Where is everyone? OH SH%T! They had moved our gate to the other side of the airport and it was now “last call”… After running what seemed like 5K, we made it on our plane and off we were to Home Sweet Home… Bali!

More soon,

Kurt


Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Writers Festival and a Night at the Enchanted Mansion


One of the main reasons I decided to move to Bali, was to pursue my love of writing. To finally work on my screenplay - a project I have avoided as much as I avoid gluten. How many words of the screenplay have I written since I moved here? Zero. Not a single one. Feel free to give me a hard time about it whenever you'd like. Knowing that I would need inspiration along the way, I made a promise to myself that I would seek out writing events and other writers to get the ol' wheels turning. Browsing through the Bali Advertiser, a local newspaper here, I came across a print ad for the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Thank God - there might still be hope for me. I filled out the volunteer form faster than I can inhale a bar of chocolate. After a life-changing experience volunteering for, TEDx Rainer in Seattle, I wanted to continue to give my time to great organizations.

Lucky for me, the festival needed plenty of volunteers.

(MY OFFICIAL BADGE AND SHIRT!)

(AT THE POETRY SLAM EVENT WITH MY HIGH SCHOOL FRIEND, SIENARA)

My first volunteer assignment was at the panel, "Of Myths and Marriages" featuring Manju Kapur, Pallavi Aiyer and Amish Tripathi. A discussion of: "What it is like to be an Indian writer in this day" and "The difficulties of being boxed into a certain stereotype". Are you expected to only write about India because you're Indian? Should you spend all of your time and energy ensuring all Indians approve that you are Indian enoughI sipped on their conversation like a hearty merlot, letting their words take over my consciousness. What a magical night it was. Have you ever seen a venue so spectacular? Held at the Royal Suite at the Four Seasons, champagne flowed and hors d'oeurves rotated like clockwork. It was like having wine at an old friends house, warm and full of laughter. If you have the time, I encourage you to look up their work, as they are all incredible writers and just good people.


(THE ROYAL SUITE AT THE FOUR SEASONS IN UBUD)

(WITH MANJU KAPUR & PALLAVI AIYER)


At the end of the day, it is always the people that make the journey worthwhile. I met so many incredible people in such a short amount of time. Writers, readers, musicians, poets, artists and foodies, all brought together by the written word - how beautiful is that? Every volunteer that I worked with was so very humble and eager to make new friends and learn new things. Everyone was hungry to listen and to give feedback. I was lucky enough to work with Siska, Cheryl, Sue, Jacqueline, Sisilia, Inez, Regina, Barbara & Nancy - each who dedicated so much of their valuable time to this festival and who all continue to inspire me to give whenever I can. There were times when I was exhausted and hangry (hungry & angry - if you didn't know) but was always uplifted by the person beside me, who had decided that she wanted to be a part of something bigger than herself.


(WITH SISKA DIHADINATA - SUCH AN AWESOME PERSON TO WORK WITH!)

I was assigned to, "Special Events" which were always in such impressive venues. The photo below is of the view from Sari Organic, a restaurant wedged into the luscious paddy fields of Ubud. This event was to walk a group of over fifty people through the rice fields of Ubud. That is a lot of people to try and keep together, not to mention entertain, for a forty-five minute trek through the blazing heat. The universe has its way of bringing blessings into your life and boy was I not expecting this one! Due to several stragglers (who had made it quite clear that they were not timely individuals) I was asked to stay behind and rush the group of latecomers. Enter Pamela Ho.

In pure Singaporean fashion, she bounded in like a golden retriever - 30 minutes late. What ever happened to being just five minutes late? Ten? But how can you possibly be mad at a face that literally, has a grin from one ear to the other? Since she was the only dilly-dallier to show up, I was asked to take her on the walk myself. Great. A forty-five minute walk with a complete stranger. How more awkward could things get? It turned out to be one of the best walks I have ever experienced. I quickly learned that Pam was a writer herself and had recently published her first book! A mother of two children, she had decided to follow her dreams and travel the world for a year. Her first book, Adventures of 2 Girls, is of her adventurous year abroad with her best friend. I am so moved by her passion for the unknown and her positive vision of the world and  its infinite possibilities! She is a hilarious woman who exudes nothing but good energy - something I have grown to really appreciate over the years. This is her blog if you want to take a peak into her life: Pams Blog.


(A SPECTACULAR VIEW FROM  SARI ORGANIC)

(PAMELA HO - THE BEST THING TO COME OUT OF THAT FESTIVAL!)

(CHERYL, I AND INEZ AT THE SPECIAL EVENT "A TALE OF TWO CITIES")


After three full days of working at the festival, I was excited to have Kurt come up to Ubud to meet me! A few days before I had left for the festival, I realized that an old friend might be in town - so I gave him a jingle.

"Jerm. I'm volunteering at a writers festival in Ubud - you going to be in town? If so, do you have a couch that Kurt and I can crash on for a night?"
"Yeah, sure - no worries. Ill see you then!"

That is literally the conversation I had with Jeremy, a friend of over a decade, a few nights before the festival. I informed Kurt that we would be given a couch, or if we were lucky, a bed to sleep on for the night! Little did we know what Jeremy had in store for us.

The Mansion is exactly that - a MANSION. What I thought was going to be a villa, ended up being a five star hotel. That's right - A FIVE STAR HOTEL. This place was incredible. Quickly ushered into the dining area, wine began to pour and we quickly became hypnotized by a private fire dance that had been arranged for us. The jungle of Bali proved to be a stunning backdrop for the dance, as flames and screams erupted from the actors. Served by an entourage of Balinese waiters (holding umbrella's I might add) dinner was a magnificent feast. Roasted duck, sauteed sweet potatoes, an array of colorful vegetables and sambal (chili paste) that could kill someone. Sauces and spices for every taste bud! With full hearts and grateful bellies - we were ready for bed. Expecting our couch, we were told it was time to "pick our room".

Jeremy's mother, who owns the hotel, has spent years collecting inspiring pieces of art, that bring such a vibrant energy to each space. It was so moving to see each corner, each crevice, carefully sprinkled  by her own special touches.We were escorted to five different suites - all uniquely designed and magical in their own ways. I kept looking over at Sienara, mouthing "Is this really happening?" As we made our way through the grounds, we saw little tree houses and charming nooks that were tucked away into the night. One suite was so large, that I could literally use a go-cart to zoom about in - of course this is the room that Julia Robert's almost booked ;) Bath tubs that you could swim laps in, beds you only imagined in fairy-tales, Prussian-blue swimming pools, exotic outdoor showers and art you could spend hours getting lost in - a boutique hotel at its finest. It was a nice surprise to find out that Kurt and I, preferred the same villa, the most quaint of them all with a "cabin" feel to it.

I left my prince charming the next morning, to sleep the morning away in our private villa. As I made my way back to the festival for my last shift I couldn't help but think, "How awesome is my life?" I got to sleep next to the love of my life, I spent the last night laughing with old friends and new ones - and I was on my way to give my time to something I love. I couldn't help but smile to myself and think: Life doesn't get any better than this.


(KURT LOVING HIS LUXURY HOME FOR THE NIGHT!)
(KURT AT THE MOST EPIC DINNER WE'VE EVER EXPERIENCED!)

(GIGANTIC OUTDOOR BATHROOM AT 'THE MANSION')


I am thankful to be able to write. I am thankful for the opportunity to volunteer. I am thankful for such amazing friends (Jerm & Sienara - so glad I have you both). I am most thankful for my health, which gives me the ability to lead such a beautiful life.

All my love and light,

Estelle

(P.S) - Dad, if you're reading this, I miss you and love you so much. You're the first stop i'm making on my way home next year. xxx

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Getting Connected In Bali


Its been hard, okay it has been excruciatingly painful at times to not have internet here at home -- I’ll admit it! 

The idea of coming to Bali and being “unplugged” from the the constant flow of information (the internet at my fingertips) sounded fantastic! Connecting with real people and having real conversations void of my iPhone - a true minimalist at heart, right? Wrong. We all know how addicting it can be. I am probably one of the guiltiest when it comes to my daily addiction of the Huffington Post. For others, YouTube videos, Facebook, reddit.... the list can literally go on forever.

At first it was actually quite liberating; it was nice to not be overwhelmed with information 24x7 and I found that when I would need “internet” for work or research I would go down to the local café and I was more efficient at getting what I needed done because I knew I had a limited time frame.

However, what Estelle and I both realized is that the sexiness of being unplugged did not overcome the practicalities of having internet at our house. If living in Bali was truly just a year off (which would call for just traveling and beach bumming around Southeast Asia) we would had been fine with the occasional café trip for our wifi fix.

But that’s not why we are here… Because after 4 months here (YES, it has been that loonnnggg!) we realized that perhaps there is no other time in our lives that we will have this unique opportunity to work on WHAT WE WANT TO. This meaning spending our time on those projects that WE WANT.  As you can probably imagine, over those 4 months we must have come up with a few hundred business ideas…seriously. Uniquely we are in a position to actually take action on many of these ideas and in order to research and develop these we decided the internet is a must. Furthermore, I can't tell you how many Skype or Facetime conversations were cut short with friends and family due to internet connectivity challenges. So having a reliable connection in the privacy of your own home, to speak as long as we want with our friends and family alone is well worth it!
Oh, and we can’t forget the benefit of being able to watch YouTube… for all of the “how to videos” and of course those full episodes of my favorite show "Ancient Aliens"! Haha! (Estelle is not as amused as I!)

Getting Internet in Bali

So, finally we got wifi! Unlike back home where there is really only 1 major company, here in Bali there are 10 or more! And as hard as it was to find houses to rent, it was just as hard, or possibly harder, to find internet providers. Nothing is as simple as "looking it up online" in a third world country. So after contacting all of the companies by phone and getting quotes from 4 major companies (the other companies either didn't respond back or didn't serve my area) we chose the company Neuviz.

(SOME OF THE PROPOSALS I RECEIVED...THERE WERE A LOT OF OPTIONS!)

Internet Options

I actually got my reps number from my gym since they themselves had just installed wifi at their establishment. They also happened to offer the best connectivity and pricing. What I discovered here is that there are two options for getting internet. 

  1. Wifi: Where you literally get a big dish that they attached to your house, and/or they install an antenna pole on your house which as you can imagine is quite expensive. In addition to the cost, it is the least fast of internet solutions but is the most affordable as far as monthly fees go.
  2. Fiber Optic: Fiber optic is much faster and more reliable unless of course the line goes out - which I am told can happen occasionally. In addition to the speed, since it is literally a cable that they connect to your home, the installation is very reasonable. However, it is much more expensive as far as the monthly charges go. 

(FIBER OPTIC CABLE BEING RAN FROM THE POWER LINE TO THE HOUSE)


I chose the Fiber Optic option and was able to negotiate with my rep for a discount on the installation and within a week they were here and were able to get us online. Exciting! 
(THE CREW RUNNING THE CABLE TO THE HOUSE)

(OUR REP GEDDES DOING THE FINAL TOUCHES ON THE ROUTER)
So after being connected for just over a week, we have had a lot of FaceTime chats and must have watched over 400 YouTube clips of X-Factor (USA, UK, and Australia)! Haha

But both Estelle and I have made serious inroads on our business projects too - so its been well worth the investment of about $100 USD per month (which is a small fortune here in Bali)! Now there are no excuses for us to not be millionaires by the time we come back home ;)

Okay, gotta run!
Kurt



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Monkeying Around in Borneo

“Singapore or KL?” I asked Kurt as we sat down at a local coffee shop one evening. We were due for a visa run by October 11th and hadn’t even thought about buying tickets. What is a visa run? This is a common term for foreigners that have to leave a country in order to renew their ‘tourist visa’. In our case, we have to leave Indonesia every 30 days, unless we go ahead and renew our visa for an extra month (which gives you a total of 60 days per visa). This is what we have been doing and man is it a pain in the ass!
                Popular visa-run destinations are Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. They are both close and relatively cheap to get to. Airasia is definitely our “go to” airline, as it can be cheap as peanuts. Think Southwest but ten times cheaper. We actually have a flight from Bali to Perth in February that we paid $30. Yes, you read that right.
                Before I could click on Singapore, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to take a peek at flights to neighboring countries. Why not, right? We looked at East Timor, but I dare you to Google that country. More guns and dead bodies show up than photos of the country itself. Next!
                We had spoken about visiting Borneo at one point but hadn’t revisited the thought in a few months. It just happened that flights to Kota Kinabalu were cheaper than flights to Singapore or KL – so that was that!
                Everyone seems to be confused about Borneo. Is it a country? Area? City? The island of Borneo hosts three countries: Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. We visited Kota Kinabalu, a city in the Malaysian state of Sabah. This island boasts the most diverse eco-system in the world. Excited to visit a new place, we left Bali with absolutely no idea what we were going to do or see!
                On a “backpackers” budget – I decided it would be a good idea to book us into a hostel. This in itself was an adventure. Kurt hadn’t stayed in a hostel since he was studying abroad – over a decade ago. Let’s just say that he had to sleep diagonally in his single bed and still couldn’t fit!
                Unwilling to dive too far into the backpacker world, I booked us a private room. This allowed us to meet other travelers and socialize without having to sleep next to them J Masada Hostel was small but close to the heart of the city which meant that we were able to conveniently feed our tummies whenever need be. Soon after we checked in, we set off to see what this “night market” was all about. This place had everything. Hairy fruits, smelly fruits, bright colored fruits of every shape and size. Long vegetables, little stubby ones and huge bushels of dark greens! Fish heads, crawling lobsters, naked chickens and squid galore. Fried bananas, fried donuts, fried bread, fried veggies, fried soy and eventually your own heart attack! Chicken wings on skewers, grilled fish, baked crab, fresh jelly juice, fried rice and roasted corn. A party for your senses. Our taste buds danced with delight as we continued to shovel sweet, sour, salty, spicy and more into our mouths. It was like thanksgiving, without the holiday or any reasonable tradition to blame.

(THE CRAZINESS OF THE WET MARKET!)

(KURT WITH A BAG OF FRIED GOODIES!)
(GRILLED CHICKEN GALORE!)
                If you have read our blog before, you will have learned that Kurt is a monkey lover. Since we were on the island of Borneo (home of the largest Orangutan conservatory in the world) we couldn’t  not visit one. We chose the Rasa Ria rehabilitation center that sat around 45 minutes away from the city. This center works with the national park to rescue orphan baby Orangutans. These Orangutans will spend 4 years at this center before they are moved to the East Coast of Borneo where they finish their last 4 years at the next level of rehabilitation.




                It was incredible to be able to watch two baby Orangutans interact with each other in their natural element.  It wasn’t seeing them individually that was fascinating but watching them socialize that captured our attention.  They are such playful and cheeky little creatures who love to tease each other. One Orangutan refused to eat anything that he didn’t steal out of the hands/mouth of his fellow friend. I know many people who could attest to similar relationships with siblings at the same age!

(PRACTICING MY MONKEY SWING!)

                The center was strangely very close to a beach so we checked that out before heading back to the city. Kurt and I cant possibly live without a massage – so we had to stop for a quick foot reflexology. Hard life, we know.

(KURT WAS VERY EXCITED TO USE HIS PANTS THAT COULD ZIP OFF INTO SHORTS!)

                Our first stop was the City Mosque, that sits on a large bed of water. Spectacular. Due to poor planning and quite form fitting sports gear – we were not permitted to enter the mosque. However, we learned that it holds 9,000-12,000 people at one time to give you an idea of how huge this place was.

               One of the things that I love to do while we travel is visit other CrossFit gyms. I know that this must seem ridiculous to some, but as a coach and athlete myself, it is so much fun to see how other boxes run their gyms. Soon after we watched our cab drive away, we noticed that the gym was a little too dark for our liking. We soon learned from the shop next door that it was a public holiday :( Bummed and starving – we walked all the way back to the city as no cabs were anywhere to be found! Kurt and I seem to have our most meaningful conversations in these unexpected inconveniences – so i am thankful for the universe and its strange ways.


('"CITY MOSQUE" THAT HOLDS 9000+ PEOPLE!)

                We will be back to Borneo again some day as there is SO much to see but this was a great appetizer to start.

Love,


Stel

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Jakarta: Here We Come

As every day passes, I find myself getting more and more comfortable in my life here in Bali. So comfortable in fact, that I have began to feel that traveling outside of Bali is more of a nuisance than an exciting new adventure. 

So, when it was time for us to travel yet again to Jakarta… I had mixed feelings. It seemed that everyone I asked about Jakarta had the same response: “…the traffic is horrible” or “…be prepared to spend 5 or more hours in traffic”. Already not too eager to leave my beloved Bali and dreading the unavoidable Jakarta-traffic, left me less than thrilled to visit the concrete jungle.

Hearing all of the horror stories also has it's ups! I was able to find many reasons to be optimistic! Such as: Having the chance to see where Estelle grew up; being able to meet some of Estelle’s awesome friends; having the chance to attend one of her best friends weddings; and after all it was a NEW Adventure! I needed to remember the most basic rule of happiness: carry no expectations and be present in all life’s precious moments.

Okay, Jakarta… ready or not here I come!

We only had a few days in Jakarta but managed to cram in some great stuff. We flew in around midnight and took a cab to Estelle’s friends place where we would stay for our first couple of nights. What’s cool is that Jill is actually 
(get ready for this) Estelle’s teacher from middle school and high-school. They managed to become close friends and maintain their relationship 10 years after she graduated! (Note: I always find myself amazed at Estelle’s uncanny ability to not only make genuine friends – but to truly maintain strong friendships for many years even without seeing that person for years!)

What Did We Do In Jakarta?

Our first full day in Jakarta started by going to one of the one million shopping malls that the city has to offer. Estelle brought me to a salon to have my first Cream Bath. Okay, for my non-Indo friends - its not what you think! It’s really just getting an awesome head massage and having some natural ingredients rubbed into your scalp: in my case Aloe Vera! From what Estelle tells me... it is very common and many dudes get it done - so I haven't lost my man-card.

Afterward the relaxing head rub, we boarded a cab for my first experience of Jakarta's traffic! Estelle was sure to check that we had some food for the potentially long cab ride. A whirlwind of watching "The Intern" (a film we've been to see and a must watch), meeting Estelle’s friend for dinner and finally catching up with her cousin, Ersan for a late night coffee.



(EVENING COFFEE WITH ESTELLE'S COUSIN ERSAN)

Our last day before heading of to Puncak for her friend Martini’s Indonesian Wedding Reception, we connected with Estelle’s former boss for dinner and an adventure nonetheless! He is a dynamo of a guy – non stop energy – and 100% hilarious! I have no idea how many businesses he owns/runs but lets just say he is uber successful. After a most entertaining dinner – we had to grab our bags and then continue onward to more of Estelles’ close Jakarta friends for drinks. We took a Bajaj from Jill’s to the bar – what a rush!

(POST DINNER PHOTO WITH ESTELLE'S FORMER BOSS AND HIS GIRLFRIEND)

(ON ROUTE IN OUR BAJAJ!)
(TURNS OUT BAJAJ'S AREN'T ALL THAT ROOMY FOR 6' 4" GUYS!)

After hanging with the Jakarta crew for a bit we were off again! We got picked up and rode with the wedding party (Martini and David) for the 2+ hour drive to Puncak.

We stayed 2 nights at a resort on top of the mountain and it was great! The area is known for the tea which is grown EVERYWHERE. While there, we went on 2 “unofficial” Tea Tours and really just relaxed and hung with the awesome newly weds.



(DAVID, MARTINI, ESTELLE & I)


(PUNCHAK TEA FIELDS)

(GETTING A DEMO IN A HOLISTIC HEALING TECHNIQUE CALLED "TOUCH FOR LIFE" FROM THE BRIDE'S FATHER -- I AM A BELIEVER)

The resort had a pool table so we obviously made use of that and on our last night Estelle and I killed the Beatles song “Black Bird”.

We had heard the traffic was horrific and I must say until that Sunday when we were headed to the airport I really didn’t think much of the Jakarta traffic… Oh, but I was mistaken. Because our 2 hour car ride turned into 6 hours and we MISSED our flight! Errr…

But, it so happened that Estelle’s best friend Christina, who is a airmen for the U.S Navy was still in Jakarta for one more night. And so the universe realigned our route to allow the girls to get more bestie time in as i myself 
made a new furry friend! 

(I HAD TO MAKE AN EMERGENCY ATM STOP BEFORE WE LEFT FOR THE AIRPORT AND THIS FINE YOUNG MAN DROVE ME IN THE JAKARTA TRAFFIC ON HIS SCOOTER -- SOMEHOW IT WORKED)
(OH, AND I MADE A NEW FRIEND...CARAMEL)




 
(ESTELLE AND CHRISTINA SAYING THEIR GOODBYES AT THE AIRPORT)

Oh Jakarta, I had a GREAT TIME! Thank you!
Kurt