Monday, October 01, 2012

Bali-ball

It took us four months, but Al and I finally took our honeymoon, and it was fantastic. 

Our honeymoon in Indonesia was preceded by a week-long business trip for me in the Philippines and Singapore.  Highlights can be summarized thusly: 1) unlimited mango; 2) cheap pearls; 3) Laksa curry. The end.  So, with that out of the way, let's discuss Indonesia, shall we?

Nusa Dua, Bali

The first leg of our two-week Indonesian adventure was in Nusa Dua, Bali.  I got there a couple days before Al and so spent the first couple days of my honeymoon all alone in a gorgeous, romantic resort full of lovey-dovey, smug couples holding hands and shooting me pitying glances.  The first night, I defiantly ate by myself in the hotel restaurant, nursing a glass of grassy Sauvignon Banc and reading a book, but even I felt sorry for myself, so the next night I embraced the solitude and ate fried noodles in bed while watching reruns of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

That night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I heard my gchat ping, so I got up to see a message from my dad telling me that there had been a big earthquake in the Philippines and that there was a tsunami warning for Eastern Indonesia. Ruh roh.  Being me, I immediately panicked and put my passport, iPhone, and newly purchased string of freshwater pearls into a plastic bag and prepared to climb to higher ground, luggage and pants be damned, but my parents somehow talked me off the (almost literal!) ledge and, within an hour, the tsunami warning was cancelled.  I still stayed awake until 2 am, straining my ears for sounds of particularly menacing waves, but, thanks at least in part to my vigilance, I think, nothing happened.

Al showed up, finally, and we spent our first few days together swilling tropical fruit based cocktails, eating noodles, and sleeping by the pool.  We also went on a field trip to Ubud, an inland town that was the setting for Elizabeth Gilbert's self-indulgent Balinese lovefest and is the current home to many malevolent monkeys. 


(This monkey was on Lombok, but same idea).

After two days in Bali, we boarded a plane for Lombok.

Sengiggi, Lombok

Lombok is an island next to Bali that also has nice beaches and noodles but, unlike Bali, is predominantly Muslim (rather than Hindu) and has a less well-developed tourism infrastructure.  This was evident from the difference between our lovely, well-oiled resort in Nusa Dua (The Laguna) and our somewhat shabby Sheraton in Sengiggi, which, while nice enough, was rough around the edges (literally -- I got some splinters in that bizz).  The service there was pleasant but confused.  Simple requests (e.g., "Our doorknob fell off, can someone fix it so that we can get in and out of our door?") were met with puzzled smiles and vigorous nodding, but little action. Oh, well.  Al and I are pretty low-maintenance.  All we require is booze, food, and a shady place to nap, so we did just fine.



After a few lazy days in Sengiggi, we headed off for our next destination, the Rinjani crater.

Rinjani

Rinjani is an active volcano in the north of Lombok.  We were to understand that the trek up to its crater rim, which looks out over a stunning crater lake, was "challenging" but doable.  Actually, when we were planning the trip, I read the description of it and said to Al, "This sounds kinda hard," and he reassured me that, in fact, the crater hike was for "fat tourists" and we could do it with our eyes closed.  I trusted my husband.  And that was my first mistake. 

No, no, it wasn't that bad.

... But it was pretty bad. 

The thing is, to get to the crater rim, you have to ascend over 6,000 feet.  And we did the hike in seven hours, including rest (which took up about two hours).  So that means that we ascended 6,000+ feet in five hours.  For those of you who don't hike, let me put it this way: that shizz be steep.  And sandy.  And hot.  So you're basically climbing uphill in sand for five hours, which is not high on my list of Things I Want To Be Doing.  But we got there (Al and I and our guide were the first group to the top, huzzah!) and it was pretty. 



We took pictures, ate a hearty meal involving noodles, hardboiled eggs, and cookies, and then went to sleep in our tent.  It took me a while to fall asleep because I kept hearing things outside of our tent (turns out there are wild dogs who live up there, fun!) and also because I had to pee but the "toilet tent" was up a rocky hill and I had no flashlight.  This resulted in me just holding it until 5 am, when I was ready to be awake anyway, because turns out camping with no flashlight is really boring. 



The next day, we tromped down the mountain we had slogged up, and by the end of it, our legs were quivering, we were covered in dirt and grime, and I was fantasizing about hour-long showers.  We went directly from the mountain to a ferry, which took us to our next port of call, Gili Air.

Gili Air

Gili Air is a magical place.  I think that if Al and I had known how much we'd love it, we might have just booked our entire two-week trip there, because it's pretty much paradise.  It's this tiny, white sand island surrounded by crystal clear water striped green and blue.  The island is dotted by palm trees, beachside bars, and little open air huts called berugaks.  You can do lots of activities there -- diving, snorkeling, etc. -- or you can do nothing.  I tended more towards the latter option.



We stayed in a lovely little inn called Casa Mio, which consists of several stand-alone cottages with outdoor showers (with hot water) and air conditioning, plus a freshwater pool and a restaurant/bar facing the beach.  We ate breakfast every day sitting in a berugak looking out over the calm sea. 



Pretty frickin' idyllic. 

We spent four days there drinking Bintang beer, eating excellent food (including some incredible home-made pasta -- tagliatelli with mussels and clams, mmm), walking a lot, and doing yoga.  Well, I did yoga and Al dived.  It was perfect.  Now that I'm describing it, I guess it doesn't make for a great blog post, because nothing exciting or weird happened to us there (which is weird in itself). 



The only downside to the entire stay in Gili was that we were absolutely crippled from our Rinjani trek.  I think people assumed Al and I were a nice, mildly disabled couple on our honeymoon, as we hobbled and winced our way around the island.  Stepping down even the smallest of steps was murder on my quads and calves.  Al and I would "help" (slash torture) each other by doing
improvisational Shiatsu massage on each other's legs at inopportune times (while ordering dinner, for example), which was fun/awful.  On our last day on Gili, I scheduled us a foot massage, which I figured was a safe option for two gimps like us -- except "foot massage" apparently means "leg massage," and so I spent a half hour cringing and gritting my teeth as a husky Indonesian woman ground her fists into my tender muscles.  You know what, though?  The next day my legs felt 1000% better.

Seminyak, Bali

From Gili Air, we boarded a "fast boat" back to Bali.  Have you ever taken a fast boat? Here's a tip: don't.  When I first heard the term "fast boat," I pictured some sort of semi-luxury yacht that glides smoothly through waves and turbulence to deliver its passengers, well-rested and most definitely not-nauseated, to their destination.  I pictured myself spending the 90 minute ride reading, perhaps gazing out the window once in a while to see the ocean, perhaps sipping a daiquiri brought to me by a yacht attendant. 

This was dumb.  I realize that now.

Turns out, a fast boat is just a shitty boat with no ventilation that powers its way through rough seas with little regard for its passengers' comfort or nausea levels, resulting in a most unpleasant boating experience. 

Let's just say this: no reading happened on the fast boat. Barf bags were distributed (and used, by some passengers). Tears were shed. Not by me! No, I chose to stare stoicly out the window, listening to a podcast while inwardly reassuring myself that we probably wouldn't capsize. Probably. Al and I did not talk for the entire 90 minute ride, mostly because I was afraid to open my mouth lest I toss my proverbial cookies and also because I was annoyed at him for not telling me that fast boat = terror boat.

Anyway, after the longest, choppiest boat ride of my life (never again, seriously), we made it to Bali and bundled into a van with a sullen French couple for a three-hour ride to our hotel, the W in Seminyak. 

Our fabulous hotel made up for all of the crappiness of the day of travel. Here's a picture of the view from our balcony:



Not. Too. Shabby.

We spent the last couple days of the honeymoon eating, reading, shopping, and sleeping, and it was glorious.

I will definitely miss Indonesia and all of its many delights, but I'm happy to be back in the U.S. for my last few weeks before we pack up and leave for South Africa. Stay tuned...

Friday, September 21, 2012

Catsup

It's been, what, seven months since I posted anything here? Ugh. I'm the worst. To make it up to you, I'm going to write a lil' catchup post! Incidentally, I, like all good Americans, always assumed the word "catsup" was a Canadian bastardization of the word "ketchup." I mean, it makes sense. These people say "A to Zed" and spell color with a 'u' and don't even get me started on how they pronounce "pasta." Who knows what they're capable of, am I right? But my Canadian husband informs me that all Canadians assume that "catsup" is what dumb Americans call "ketchup." Which is an outrage. Except I just googled it and turns out "catsup" is used in the Southern United States. Dammit.

Anyway. I'm getting off track here. Let me bring you all up to speed on what's happening in these here parts:

1. Al and I got married in May. NBD. For those who are interested, see: http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/08/planning-stressing-letting-go-and-getting-married/

2. I handed in my notice at work - my last day is October 17.

  3. We're moving to Johannesburg for 9 months, followed by London for 9 months, for Al's job.

4. I am going to leave lawyering to try to write professionally.

5. I finally finished all five books in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.

So. That's the deal. Expect to see this space being updated much more regularly post-October 17 as we embark on our international adventure.  In the meantime, I'll be posting about our honeymoon in Indonesia and perhaps a few assorted other goodies.

Missed you guys.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I don't like surfing and that's okay.

Hello dear readers -- I have just returned from a brief but lovely trip to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua and am a bit sunburnt, a lot exhausted, and quite content. Our five-day Nicaraguan vacation consisted of the following elements, in no particular order: surfing, eating whole fried fish, swatting away mosquitos, being woken at odd hours by howler monkeys, boogie boarding, getting sunburnt, swatting away moths, being startled by praying mantises while eating, swatting away wasps, and swilling rum.

All in all, it was a good trip and it helped me come to terms with something about myself that I've been denying for a long time: I don't just dislike bugs, I HATE bugs. Before this trip, if one had asked me if I were an insectophobe, I probably would have said something to the effect of, "oh, bugs are all God's creatures and they serve a purpose and really I just don't like fluttery things but the rest are okay." This would be a lie. I mean, yes, bugs are God's creatures, but they are by far God's creepiest creatures, and it seems to me that many of them only serve the purpose of being gross. And now I can admit that I don't just dislike fluttery things like moths and butterflies - I also dislike crawly things and hoppy things and all things that wear their skeletons on the outside of their bodies.

I came to this important realization because our first three nights in Nicaragua were spent at an eco lodge called Buena Vista Surf Club, which consists of a series of treehouse-like bungalows set in the middle of a forest overlooking a pristine beach. Lovely and romantic during daylight. Horrible at night. As soon as the lights went out, our bungalow transformed, for me, anyway, into a dark, noisy, buggy hell. I would shoot upright in the middle of the night, convinced that a tarantula had laid eggs in my hair or that a praying mantis had taken up residence in my ear. I was almost right some of the time - all manner of bugs found ways of creeping past our mosquito nets and bedding down with us, with alarming results. The creep factor was compounded by the fact that our neighbors were a particularly vocal family of howler monkeys who, by the way, don't so much howl as groan and grunt, creating a noise somewhere between an angry warthog and a freight train. It's pretty unsettling.

But, despite the bugs and the lack of hot water and air conditioning, I'd still recommend the BVSC - it was a really neat place. Check out their site: http://www.buenavistasurfclub.com/ It's run by a cool Dutch couple who serve breakfast and dinner to the guests every day, family-style, which means you get to meet a lot of interesting people and eat home-cooked food. Despite the occasional uninvited dinner guest (I'm looking at you, horrible huge dragonfly), it's a really great experience.

Now, regarding surfing: I don't love it. Al and I originally took this vacation because we both wanted to try surfing, but as soon as I dragged my board down to the beach and practiced "popping up" onto it on the sand, I knew that surfing would not be for me. This suspicion was confirmed after about 20 minutes of flailing in the water and reconfirmed when, after said flailing, I accidentally stepped on a sting-ray's tail. As visions of Steve Irwin flashed through my head, I got the hell out of the water and, after collecting myself, figured I'd return to my old love, boogie-boarding. Let's face it, it's pretty hard not to love boogie-boarding. It requires no balance, no upper body strength, and no skills other than being able to lie on one's stomach, which I excel at. So I stuck with boogie-boarding and Al stuck with surfing and it all worked out well for everyone.

And now I'm back to reality, ready to restart my life as a non-surfing, bug-hating, self-actualized person. Thank you, Nicaragua - you've taught me so much.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Cleaning house

This weekend, Al and I embarked on a huge decluttering project. I had read part of a book on hoarding and was immediately scared straight. The little piles of unopened mail and the clothes scattered all over my bedroom were, to me, the early signs of an impending hoardpocalpyse that would end with Al and I sleeping on a bed littered with stained pizza boxes, cat feces, and antique dolls. Even though we don't eat pizza. Or have cats. Or collect dolls.

Anyway, they say that a clean home leads to a clean mind. Decluttering is supposed to reduce stress and boost happiness. So we did it.

We spent all day Saturday slogging through our closets and ended up throwing out six large trash bags full of crap, and collecting six huge moving boxes full of clothes to donate to charity. We had NO idea that we had so much stuff lying around. We were amazed to find that after the purge, our drawers actually shut and we could see the floors of our closets. Imagine! It felt great.

As we celebrated with leftovers and beer, I ruminated on the whole cleaning idea and started thinking that the same principles that apply to decluttering one's living space could apply to decluttering one's physical being. I don't mean to get all Zen on you guys, but I really feel that my body could use some major decluttering. After an indulgent couple of months full of friends, family, food and booze, I'm feeling fuzzy and soft and slow. Too much goes in to my body and sits around, like the many pairs of tattered old shoes that I found lying in the back of my closet. Those shoes weren't being used - they were just taking up space, creating an eyesore, and preventing me from finding stuff I actually need.

So, in the spirit of decluttering, I'm embarking on a cleaner living program starting now. The first step will be drinking less alcohol, because God knows I don't need that clutter in my liver (or my fat cells, for that matter) and eating fewer processed foods, if I can. Part of the motivation behind this is the fact that I am getting married in four months and want to look my best in an extremely form-fitting Vera Wang. Another part of it is that I'm tired of sleeping poorly and feeling stressed out from overeating, and want 2012 to be a fresh start, with clean closets, a clean mind and a clean body.

So here we go! Decluttering starts now.