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| Skip to content Menu Home About Contact Me Search for: Los Angeles/Volunteering Hollywood Short Film Festival Posted on January 11, 2016 by Janet I volunteered at the Hollywood Short Film Festival this past weekend because why the hell not? It was something different and potentially interesting, a way to meet new people and see some films I wouldn’t see otherwise. Besides, it might even be fun. I knew from the get-go that this was going to be an…experience. The volunteer page consisted only of a webform to submit your name, email address and resume (resume? I wondered whether there was competition for these volunteer positions from aspiring filmmakers) to become a volunteer – there was no information about how many volunteers were needed, the work we would be doing, the hours we work, nothing. No biggie, right? There’s probably some volunteer guide they’ll email me once I’m accepted as a volunteer. After I submitted my volunteer application by clicking on the Become a Volunteer link, the first email I received from the volunteer coordinator was to let me know that this was a “volunteer (no pay)” opportunity – was I still interested? That was the entirety of his response. No “hey, glad to hear you’re interested…” No “here’s what’s expected of a volunteer…” No “here’s the help we need and here are the shifts that are available – let me know what suits you…” I was very confused. Clearly, this was not a well organized event. “Oh, God,” I thought. “Here we go…” Over a subsequent series of emails, I was able to extract the basic details – what type of work I would be expected to perform, where and when to meet, and attire (“nice, neat, black-ish”). When I showed up to the playhouse on Saturday, it became immediately clear why everything seemed so disorganized. The volunteer coordinator wasn’t just the volunteer coordinator – he was the event organizer and the sole staff-member of the one-man show that is the Hollywood Short Film Festival. This one-man show thing really took me aback. I didn’t know you could run a film festival on a shoestring budge with one staff member and a handful of volunteers the day of the event itself. There were dozens of films included in the festival, plus however many dozens more that were submitted and not included. All these films had to be screened and judged for inclusion in the festival. Communications with the filmmakers had to be managed, logistics had to be managed, facilities had to be procured, judges and presenters had to be recruited… For all the quirks and issues the festival may have, you got to respect a guy who’s willing to put on a film festival by himself. I was impressed by what he was able to pull off in putting this thing on. The organizer is a filmmaker himself and, as far as I could tell, his festival is not associated with or backed by any of the larger festivals. In other words, this is his festival which he puts on by himself because he wants to. I don’t honestly know why he does it, though. I mean, it’s not a huge money maker, that was clear. There wasn’t any press there covering the event. And, I don’t see how putting on a film festival would boost his bona fides as a film-maker (or vice versa). Maybe it gives him inspiration and a chance to meet others he would like to work with? I don’t know why he does it, but he does. Whatever his reason, I got to be there to see the magic happen. The work was simple: greet and check-in guests and show them to the theater. Other duties included showing guests the bathroom and guarding the bathroom key, helping with set up and take down for Q&A’s between film blocks, Macgyvering self-locking doors to stay open, and whatever else the organizer needed help with. What the duties apparently did not entail were answering questions about the festival itself since the organizer gave us no information to prepare us in advance and was sometimes unable to answer the questions himself. For example: Q: Are the films suitable for children? A: I dunno. You’ll have to ask the organizer. Q: What are the award categories? A: I dunno. You’ll have to ask the organizer. Q: Are there separate awards for each block (e.g. comedy, drama, documentary, etc.)? A: I dunno. You’ll have to ask the organizer. Q: How are the winners determined? A: I dunno. You’ll have to ask the organizer. The awards were a special point of interest for the filmmakers, obviously, and we volunteers were curious, too, how the winners were decided. There were 5.5 to 6 hours of video across 32 films in the festival. Who would watch and judge these films? It didn’t seem to me that there was money to actually compensate anyone to do this work. Some of the award results were…curious. For example, more than half the nominees for “Best Screenplay” were documentaries, and it was a documentary that won in that category. You can watch that film here, if you wish. Another inexplicable result was the “Best Actress” awardee, Carolyn Meyer for her role in Sweet Caroline, a mocku-mentary about a southern hillbilly stereotype, Sweet Caroline, who becomes internet famous for her self-recorded job interview videos and then moves to Hollywood with her hillbilly family to film their own reality series. It strikes me as a poor modernization of the Beverly Hillbillies. This film has won a few small festival awards and was talked up by the organizer as being terribly funny, but it was really just…terrible. The hillbilly bit is farcical; the show is like a parody of itself. I included the link above, but view at your own risk. When Carolyn Meyer was announced as the Best Actress awardee, audible gasps could be heard in the theater among polite applause. So, how were the awardees determined? According to the festival website, there were 4 judges. I only saw one of them at the event and, while she presented one of the awards, I never heard her identified as a judge. After asking the organizer about it, it turns out that, well…the judges were a little too slow and, while they contributed their opinions in some capacity…really, the decisions came down to him. … Okay, so it’s not the most professionally run film festival in the world. It still had its perks. For example, I had a reason to dress up. After keeping it farm chic and tropi-cool for the last few months, dressing up was fun. I haven’t put on make-up base in almost a year – I was afraid I’d forgotten how to do it! Also, I got to see some of the films. Some of them were pretty good. I saw almost the entire documentary block, which had a great short on The Last Bookstore in downtown L.A., an okay film about child kidnap and sacrifice in Uganda, a really excellent film on a grassroots movement to take back Pakistan from the Taliban, The Tip of the Iceberg mentioned above, and a light, amusing story about a man with a dress collection 55,000 strong (find the trailer here). Unfortunately, I missed most of the comedy block, but I did manage to see the very funny The Mooch (watch the teaser for it here) and the aforementioned “Sweet Caroline.” Meeting the filmmakers and actors was hit or miss, though hearing them talk about their films during the Q&As was interesting. And, of course, I got to meet some cool people in the other volunteers. We had lots of time to sit around and chat, so it was nice to have the company of other smart, funny, engaging women (no male volunteers for whatever reason). If nothing else, I now have something to list under “experience” on my film festival volunteer resume (wah wah). Sundance, here I come! TL;DR: Shook babies and kissed hands at the Hollywood Short Film Festival. Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Spiritual Staying Conscious of What Serves Me Posted on December 27, 2015 by Janet You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance. -Khalil Gibran, The Prophet Prayer is easy when you’re in distress and in need. When you’ve reached the end of your rope, when you’ve thrown everything you’ve got at a problem and it’s still not enough, all that’s left is to pray. Prayer comes as naturally to us in our utter hopelessness and despair as does eating in our hunger, or drinking in our thirst. But, praying “in the fullness of [our] joy”? If you’re like me, praying is the last thing on your mind when you’re feeling joyous. On the contrary, the light of happy times seems to cast its halo over the dark times, as well, and I’m prone to think that perhaps it wasn’t as bad then as I thought it was. Perhaps the resolution that seemed so miraculous in its unfolding at the time was merely a fortunate coincidence, mistaken for “God” in the depth of my despair and hopelessness. Perhaps I’d better get my shit together in case I’m not so lucky next time. And, for Christ’s sake, get all this God talk out of my head! I can’t tell you all how happy I am to be home right now. To be staying with family who I love. To be surrounded by people who love and support me. To be back on the gorgeous southern California coast with its superb sunsets (sorry, Tahiti, but I’m taking the prize back – nothing beats a hot pink Malibu sunset). It’s easy to forget just how miserable I was only a few months ago. How despairing. How miraculous the resolution that unfolded. It’s easy to rationalize the past. To put “God” on the back burner. To forget to pray. I’ve followed that path more than once before, though, all the way to it’s miserable conclusion. And it’s always a miserable conclusion. I’m not doing it again. So, that’s my challenge these days: making room for “God” and for my spiritual practice in the midst of being pretty darn satisfied with my life in this moment. Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Uncategorized Home for the Holidays Posted on December 22, 2015 by Janet I arrived home yesterday, putting an end (for now) to my travels and to this whirlwind chapter of my life. My international travels lasted just shy of half a year, almost from solstice to solstice. Today, the Winter Solstice, is my first full day home. From today, and for the next six months, the days will get longer, the nights shorter. I find the allegory inspiring. I’m both curious and excited to see what the future holds for me now that I’m back while trying to not peer too far into the future, to stay present in this moment. Being home presents a unique challenge for me – how to establish a new life, and a new self, among familiar faces and places; how to keep from my past that which still serves me while not allowing that which doesn’t to drag me down and hold me back. How to not slip back into the same old life that made me miserable, basically. It’s not such a unique challenge, really. Every morning, every moment, brings every one of us the chance to be new, if we want to be. To see the world as new and full of possibilities, if we want to see that. To clear out what makes us miserable and make room for something new and wonderful to come into our lives. I wasn’t able to do any of that before. I tried, but I wasn’t strong enough. I wasn’t able to keep my negative thoughts and emotions and my outsized fears from overriding my will to be new, to see the world as new, to clear out what didn’t serve me to make room for what would. Paramahansa Yogananda has said that environment is greater than will, and that was definitely true for me. My will wasn’t strong enough to overcome the environmental pressures I felt around me. So, I bailed, subconsciously seeking an environment that would support my will to see the world as new, and to see myself as new. Solo traveling the world – where literally everything is new – makes seeing and becoming new not just easy, but practically inevitable. But, I’m home now. Everything seems familiar, known. Have I gained the strength to see the world as new every day? To see myself as new every moment? Time will tell. I’ve been slowly plodding through A Course in Miracles over the last several months. From time to time, the chapter I happen to be reading speaks so directly to what I’m going through at that moment as to seem miraculous, like divine guidance coming to me through the pages of the book. This happened again while reading the following text as my plane taxied the last few feet to my gate at LAX, leaving me feeling blessed and with a renewed optimism for what lay ahead: …all of time is but the mad belief that what is over is still here and now. Forgive the past and let it go, for it is gone…There is no hindrance to the Will of God nor any need that you repeat again a journey that was over long ago. TL;DR: I’m home. Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Ashram/Hawaii/Travelogue Communal Living Posted on December 18, 2015 by Janet Writing is a very solitary activity for me. In order for me to write, I need solitude and I need quiet. I am most motivated to write and write best when I am completely alone and surrounded by silence. Probably, this is true for anyone who writes, so my observation that writing is a solitary activity for me is neither unique nor profound, but that’s not the point. The point is… I’ve found it really difficult to write here in this communal living environment. Surely, you’ve noticed my unusual radio silence these past couple weeks. Partially, I’ve been silent because I simply can’t be alone to write. I don’t have a power outlet in my tent, so the only place I can plug in and let my thoughts flow is the common areas. It’s impossible for me to stay focused on my writing with all the activity going on non-stop around me and demanding my attention. Even more challenging for me, though, is that my thoughts can’t flow in common areas. They’re constantly running up against a variety of barriers, like the clank of dishes, a conversation just on the periphery of my awareness, or someone speaking directly to me. So, even if I could block out the distractions to write, my vagrant thoughts can’t seem to make their way home. Even now, as I’ve squirreled myself away in an unused guest room to finally sit down and WRITE, I’m not sure where to start with this last week here at Polestar. Perhaps I’ll start with my challenges here – namely, the other people. First, there’s the general challenges of sharing one space with so many other people. For instance, if someone isn’t in my way right this second, then that means I’m in someone else’s way, and sometimes both at the same time. This is always true at mealtimes and almost any other time you’re in the kitchen. It’s very stressful not to simply be able to be somewhere – waiting for the water to boil or to get into a drawer or something – to be constantly having to move out of someone else’s way. Some of the people here move really slowly, and all you can do is wait for them to finish what they’re doing and slowly shuffle out of your way. Other people commandeer space and things without caring or perhaps even seeing that others’ may be waiting for what they’ve just taken. Then, there’s the more specific personal conflicts that irk me and which are impossible to escape from: passive, indirect speech; taking things without asking; “helping” when help is not needed and has not been requested; presuming omniscience for oneself and omni-ignorance for everyone else; doing someone else’s assigned task for the day or telling them how they should do it (instead of doing your own assigned task, usually). Here’s a list of specific irking events I have endured over the last couple of weeks: Being assigned tasks by another apprentice/intern who had no authority to do so. Without my posing any question or inquiry, being explained to by random other intern what needed to be done as if we weren’t both staring at the exact same checklist of things to be done. While walking through the common area from one task to the next, random other intern, who is standing around not doing anything at all, passively announces to no one in particular that X task needs to be done, with the clear expectation that I would then jump to it. Having a folding table literally ripped out of my hands by an intern who assumed, but never bothered to ask me, that I did not know how to fold it and need him to do so for me. Immediately after the morning circle meeting in which I was assigned to help someone else prepare lunch, three other people who were NOT assigned to prepare lunch start pulling things out of the fridge to be used for…lunch. I pulled a container out of the fridge intending to serve myself some of what was inside. I turned around to grab a fork, at which point someone else serves themselves out of said container and then offers it to another person. So, this experience has provided lots of opportunity to practice patience and acceptance and to suspend judgment and expectation of how things should be, how others should interact with me, etc. And I need the practice, believe me. I find it quite ironic to have so much fuel for my literary fire here, and to have so much value to be gained from writing about my experiences, yet to be without my critical outlet, unable to vent the mixture of thoughts and emotions building up inside of me. Perhaps this experience will serve as a catalyst for helping to find that outlet in a different, more effective, form – meditation. This past weekend was quite pleasant and relaxing. Saturday, I went with a small group to Volcanoes National Park. It was fun for the social aspect, and the volcanoes themselves are really awe inspiring. Sunday, I went with a small group to the local farmer’s market. When I was in Hawaii last year, I bought myself a ring that I greatly admired from an artsy boutique near the volcanoes. I was wearing it on Sunday when I came across the stand of the artist who actually made my ring. That was an unexpected and pleasant meeting. I was excited to get some poke from local grocery store; it didn’t hold a candle to Kona’s Da Poke Shack, but it was still pretty satisfying. I guess I haven’t got much else to talk about, really. This week has been dull for work. A couple days of lunch preparation, a couple days of house cleaning, a little bit of landscaping… Wednesday was the regular weekly kirtan as well as the Polestar Christmas party. I was a total recluse during the party, sitting outside and avoiding small talk of any kind. Random party goer found me outside with another intern and sprayed me with small talk while completely ignoring the person I was already in conversation with, causing them to depart quietly. I still haven’t learned how to gracefully circumnavigate that party pitfall yet. Fridays, we only work until noon, so most of the interns have taken off to one of the local swimming spots. I’m taking advantage of the relative peace and quiet to be alone, to collect my scattered thoughts, and to write. I already feel so much more at peace. Here are a few pics of the property, as promised: Lotus flower in the lotus pond. Smoke plume from the Kilauea crater. Lotus pond with Temple in the background. Yogananda statue along the entrance to the Great House. I’m not sure what this is actually called. It’s not a greenhouse. It’s the not-greenhouse. They grow stuff in there. This is a panorama inside one of the gardens. The gardens here look like jungles. One of the cute little cabins hidden among the ample foliage. Polestar Gardens. Oh yeah…I made a basket from a palm frond. Lots of volleyball around here. This shot was taken from the back lanai. There’s a lovely, if small, view of the ocean from here. Polestar Christmas tree. TL;DR: Communal living, while offering its own rewards, proves to be no place for a writer. Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Ashram/Hawaii/Travelogue Glamping for God Posted on December 10, 2015 by Janet Glamping! Okay…I’m a little embarrassed by the title of this post. I mean, it’s funny, but… It’s crass. It’s a bit of a cheap laugh. It invokes a certain image that conflicts all the way around with my persona, which is perhaps why I find it so amusing. And it’s a laugh at the expense of something that is actually quite near to my heart – my spirituality. It feels a bit like selling out, and that’s embarrassing. Obviously not embarrassing enough to change it, though. Besides, the alliteration was just too good to pass up. Right. So, what am I up to then? I left Tahiti on Saturday night and arrived on the Big Island of Hawaii on Sunday morning. I’m staying at Polestar Gardens, an “intentional spiritual community” south of Hilo on the eastern side of the island run by devotees of the late yogi Paramahamsa Yogananda, largely considered the father of yoga and eastern spirituality in the West. I made the decision to come to Polestar to bolster my own personal spiritual practice. I’ve been a casual meditater for years, learning meditation techniques through various spiritual texts I’ve read and putting them into practice as best I could. But, I’ve never received any formal instruction in meditation. After struggling with my meditation somewhat while in Bali, I thought perhaps now would be a good time to work on making my meditation as effective as possible. Polestar’s vision and apprentice program spoke to my heart, and the finances spoke to my pocketbook, so here I am. I don’t have a lot of pictures for you yet. I’ll spend some time this weekend on that. It’s just been pretty much go go go since I got here on Sunday. My flight was a red eye from Pape’ete, just 5.5 hours, so I spent most of Sunday afternoon napping. However, many people in the community worked late into the afternoon finishing up a house that had just been built on the property. A yoga instructor and his wife and two kids were coming to live at Polestar on Tuesday and this house was intended for them, but it wasn’t quite finished yet. I joined in the melee on Monday and spent all day Monday and Tuesday putting finishing touches on the place along with the rest of the crew. Wednesday was spent in preparation for the weekly kirtan and community potluck dinner. This meant cleaning all the common areas and setting up the temple for kirtan and the living and dining rooms in the main house for dinner. Kirtan basically means “chanting,” and I was expecting a sort of monotone, repetitious uttering of words and sounds of which I didn’t know the meaning. Instead, it was more like a church singalong, replete with ukulele, guitar, small lap harp, and a harmonium (a small, hand-pumped organ; kinda sounds like an accordion). Kirtan lasted for an hour and a quarter followed by dinner. Today was my first real day of normal work here on the property, and I got to get out into the garden. With all the rain and warm weather to facilitate growth, the garden looks almost like a jungle. Three other people and I spent at least 30 minutes weeding a garden bed before I realized there was an actual bed there, maybe 10’x10′, demarcated by thick tree branches easily 10 inches high! Besides that, we cut all the budding branches of a hibiscus plant off to harvest the buds for tea and other things before hacking the entire plant down and returning it to the bed for mulch. The rest of the morning was spent cutting the hibiscus buds from their branches while someone else separated the wine-colored bud husks (the usable bit) from the flower buds (the not usable bit). Aside from the work, there’s the daily spiritual rituals to take part in. Mornings start at 6am (unless you’re an early bird and attend 5:15am mediation) with 15-minute energization, a technique developed and promoted by Yogananda for drawing energy into the body and strengthening one’s will, followed by an hour-long meditation, which includes a bit of chanting (singing) at beginning and end and an affirmation at the beginning, as well. There’s also a brief 15-minute meditation at lunch and a longer 45-60 minute meditation before dinner, usually preceded by energization. On weekends, there’s 3-hour meditation in the mornings with chanting breaks every 30-60 minutes. After breakfast, during weekdays, there’s what’s called “circle,” which is basically a daily meeting. Circle always ends with a song and a reading or affirmation. I’m digging the group spiritual practice. I’ve never done group meditation before, and certainly no chanting. It definitely steps up your spiritual game to be surrounded by people who not only support you in your spiritual practice, but who share it, as well. And, yes, and I am actually (kind of) glamping. I’m staying in a tent by myself with an actual bed, a couple plastic shelves, and a solar lamp. The tents are set up on a wooden platform, off the ground, and are covered by a tarp overhead, so the rain doesn’t fall directly on the tents and you have some overhead shelter when stepping into or out of the tent. Where Coqui frogs and falling rain serenade me to sleep every night. TL;DR: Getting my God fix glamping in a Hawaiian ahsram. Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Tahiti/Travelogue Tahiti Posted on December 7, 2015 by Janet I arrived back on Tahiti from Mo’orea on Tuesday and spent four lovely nights in a studio apartment overlooking Mo’orea to the west. I have to give it to Tahiti for having the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. Clouds perpetually stretch across the sky to catch the colors as the sun slips behind the horizon and beyond. I’m not one to be moved to try to capture nature’s beauty in paint and canvas, but even I can see how the beauty of a Tahitian sunset would ignite a painter’s passion for recreating the subtle and nuanced colors that streak and smudge the twilight sky. As the sun sets, pastels of red, orange, yellow, and even green can be seen on the horizon; clouds above are a peach orange, while a deep rose lags behind in the eastern clouds. Orange and rose race across the clouds, chasing the sun as it sinks further below the horizon. Do you see the streak of green on the horizon? Orange gives way to rose with night hot on its heels. About 40 minutes after sunset, the entire horizon catches fire. The last of the colors fade as night descends on the South Pacific. Thursday, I rented a car and drove around the entire northern part of the island and much of the southern peninsula. I got a kick out of this little stripped-down car inside the apartment complex I stayed at. On the back is a sticker that reads “Tahiti Life.” Seemed about right. I started out driving east from my apartment through the capital of Pape’ete and its eastern suburbs. Like any big city, the rush hour traffic was a nightmare. I was discouraged early on in my endeavor as I wasn’t able to locate any of the historical sites that are said to lie just outside Pape’ete to the east. Once past the city, though, I was able to enjoy the beautiful scenery as the road ran along the ocean to the east and mountains to the west, sometimes climbing up hills that opened up onto gorgeous coastline views as they crested and descended back down. At a few places around the island, the road ran right along the water’s edge with nothing in between – just asphalt and then water with nothing to stop you driving straight in if you got distracted and slipped a tire off the road. One of the attractions I did manage to visit on the eastern coast were the blowholes. Where the mountain face meets the Pacific Ocean, holes in the cliff blow a high pressure mist of ocean water when the waves crash against the cliff face. It didn’t sound all that impressive on paper, but it was actually quite entertaining and enchanting to sit and watch as each new wave triggered a furious explosion of ocean mist from the cliff face. You can catch a couple of my short videos of the blowholes here. Adjacent to the blowholes are three waterfalls you can hike to. Unfortunately, the waterfalls were closed to the public while I was there due to construction in the area. I continued driving south, across the Isthmus of Taravao and into the southern peninsula of Tahiti Iti. View of the Isthmus of Taravao and Tahiti Nui – the northern and larger part of the island – from the Belvedere of Tahiti Iti, the southern peninsula. On the western coast of Tahiti Nui are the lovely Botanical Gardens and the Vaipahi Water Gardens. Giant lily pond at the Botanical Gardens. I was mesmerized by this copse of trees at the Botanical Garden – the trunks that stretched out in sheets and twisted and curled into roots; the shallow water in which the trees grew; the high, leafy ceiling that offered thick shade and an eerie peacefulness. It was stunning. One particularly intricate tree I admired. The Malaysian “Rose de Porcelaine,” aka “Torch Ginger,” seen at the gorgeous and peaceful Vaipahi Water Gardens. Also on the western side of the island are a few popular marae sites (ancient temples), as well as marae grottos – caves in which marae were erected. The grotto caves are full of water, however, so you can’t go into them to see the marae; you just stand at the edge and peer in. The largest cave was a popular swimming spot for children, however, despite the “no entry” signs posted there. One of the marae grotto caves. This eel greeted me right at the water’s edge as I approached one of the caves. I loved this tree, which stretched across the walking path at the marae grottos. While on Tahiti, I also had to take note of the street art I saw there. There seems to be both a big street art and a big tagging scene on Tahiti. Most of the art I saw was from behind the steering wheel, but here’s a few I managed to snap while walking around the city of Pape’ete: Tahitian street art. Tahitian street art. This was actually the external decoration for a pearl shop, so probably doesn’t count as street art, but I still thought it was pretty and worth snapping. I really love this one. Friday night, I treated myself to dinner and a Tahiti Ori dance performance at Le Meridien resort down the road. This was the highlight of my time in French Polynesia. Everything about the performance was arresting and beautiful. Talk about a soulful dance! It began with intense, rhythmic drum beats matched by hip gyrations by the female dancers that are the hallmark of the dance and by aggressive, angular movements by the male dancers suggestive of battle preparations. The dancers would whoop and holler when the music got especially intense. The costumes were stunning. I absolutely loved it. Word to the wise – most of the Tahiti Ori performances are at hotels, so scope out the venue before you make any reservations. At Le Meridien, for example, you can grab a drink at the foyer bar that sits above the dinning room and stage and watch the show from there, skipping the hefty dinner bill. The show ended early due to rain (the dinning room is covered, but the stage is open air) and I was about to leave when a few of the musicians returned to the foyer bar to start playing there. I decided to grab a drink and enjoy some of the local music before heading back to my apartment. The music had that chill island element to it and the singer had a sweet and almost sorrowful voice. It was extraordinarily pleasant. TL;DR: Enjoyed Tahiti’s natural beauty and incredible dancing; I’m starting to see a pattern here. Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Sailing/Tahiti/Travelogue Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained Posted on December 2, 2015 by Janet View of the north coast of Mo’orea from the Belvedere. Opunohu Bay is on the left and Cook’s Bay is on the right. And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy. – Khalil Gibran, The Prophet So, that sailing thing… …yeah… …that didn’t work out for me. Like, at all. I mean, the first few days weren’t horrible. But, after that… Just to give you a little catch up, I arranged to spend a few nights on a sailboat in French Polynesia through helpx.com. I flew to Tahiti from Bali last Monday, spent two nights in the capital Pape’ete, then caught the ferry to the nearby island of Mo’orea to meet my host at the marina there for a 6-night sailing expedition. My first night on the boat was the day before Thanksgiving. My host showed me around the boat and took me to the local grocery store for some last minute shopping before we set sail the next day. About the boat: The boat is a 30’ monohull – a small sailboat. I’m guessing the boat is no more than 10’ wide at its widest point. The living quarters consist of two rooms: the v-birth in the front, which contains the host’s bed, some storage space, and the toilet; and the main cabin, which contains the sink, oven and stove, control panel, benches, a table, and a refrigerator. My bed was the long bench between the table and the cabinets. It’s maybe 6’ long and as wide as my shoulders; if I lay straight on my back, one arm is pressed against the wall while the other has to be tucked under my leg lest it dangle over the edge. If I want to adjust my position, I have to rotate on an axis like a rotisserie chicken. Even so, I was constantly banging against the cabinets on one side or the table on the other. Besides the cabin, there’s a small, square cockpit with a tiller (basically a long pole you push side to side) instead of a wheel for steering the boat and a small forward deck that was really only useful if you needed to be up front for some reason, like dropping or picking up anchor. The cabin. My bed. So, that’s the boat. On Thursday, we left the marina and my host taught me how to sail in the safe waters of the lagoon, which is formed by a natural coral reef ringing most of the island. I’m told the island of Mo’orea is a dormant volcano, and the coral reef that surrounds it was the ring of the volcano (feel free to fact check). This reef acts as a natural break water to keep the Pacific Ocean at bay, creating many peaceful lagoons and protected bays around the island. We sailed across the lagoon a couple times as I got used to steering and learned some of the sailing techniques and lingo. This boat has two sails: the main sail and the jib. The main sail is attached to the mast in the middle of the boat and the jib is in the very front. The sails are most efficient when the wind is hitting them at about 45°. What you don’t want is to have the wind coming directly at you or from directly behind you. This renders the sails essentially useless, flapping limply in the breeze, and can be dangerous if the main sail picks up the wind on the opposite side, causing the boom to swing precariously across the cockpit. There’s an arrow at the top of the mast to indicate the direction the wind is blowing, along with markers to tell you when the wind is coming too directly from the front or back. Because the wind is hitting you at an angle, you basically have to zig zag your way to wherever your destination is. There’s special terms for cutting across the wind if you’re going against the wind (tacking) or with it (jibing). Whether you’re tacking or jibing, the main sail is catching the wind from the opposite side, which causes the boom to swing back and forth. The boom is at about head height and could either knock you out, knock you out of the boat, or both, so you really have to be careful not to get in its way. After the sailing lesson, we dropped anchor and commenced relaxation sequence. A little bit of snorkeling and a lot of being lazy layabouts was the order of the afternoon. So far, so good. The next day, we hit the open waters of the Pacific Ocean to sail to the north side of the island to Opunohu Bay. Apparently, sailing in open waters is referred to as “being in the shaker,” and the description is apt. My host said the swells were normal, and I believe him, but they seemed huge in that tiny boat as we rocked side to side, up and down, among swells that rose higher than the boat deck. We weren’t very lucky with the wind that morning, either. It kept changing directions and dying on us. At one point, we put on the motor just make a little headway as we were listing about out there among the swells and getting nowhere. I started to get sea sick. I never get sea sick. The fumes from the motor didn’t help with that, either. My host told me to keep my eyes on the horizon, which worked, and the sea sickness passed. After a while, we finally picked up some wind and sailed through the pass and into the bay. I’m guessing the entire trip took 4-5 hours, though I didn’t check times. We dropped anchor in the western part of the lagoon and recommenced relaxation sequence. The snorkeling in Tahiti is okay. A local told me the coral used to be big and beautiful, but it’s died off over the years due to all the boats and other human activity in the water. It’s the same thing in Hawaii – still beautiful, but nothing like it used to be. Snorkeling in Tahiti doesn’t hold a candle to Bali, which was just spectacular. Still, there’s lots of different fish to look at and even some rays (though I didn’t see any when I was out there). The coolest fish I saw out there was a big puffer fish with two pointy bits darting out over each eye. It was digging in the ocean bed looking for food. The next morning, we motored eastward across the lagoon and anchored just off a beach there. That’s where we would stay for the next three nights. Winds of up to 50 kilometers/hour were forecasted over the next several days, which was apparently unsafe for sailing, even in the lagoon. So, we stayed anchored. As far as passing the time goes, being anchored in the lagoon means either finding something to do on the boat, finding something to do in the water, or going ashore and find something to do there. It was certainly a pretty view. What’s there to do on an anchored 30’ sailboat? Not much at all, actually. Stare at the island. Stare at the waves breaking over the coral reef. You could read, I suppose. Except…the boat isn’t all that comfortable or conducive to reading. There’s somewhat comfortable seating inside the cabin, except the cabin is confining and usually hot. I didn’t really want to sit inside the cabin all day long. Outside, the only place to really sit without being in direct sunlight is the cockpit. But, the cockpit isn’t comfortable. The seats are hard, they sit at an angle, and there’s no backrests. So, reading in the cockpit wasn’t an option, either. Writing? Maybe. I did do a little bit of writing while I was there. Of course, you have the same problems with writing that you do with reading, with the added difficulty of having little electricity on such a small boat. All the electricity on the boat was supplied by small solar panels, enough to charge small electronics, but nothing else. The cockpit. Also, the shower. What about in the water? Well, there’s snorkeling. All the snorkeling your heart desires, provided you don’t mind being in the sun that long (which I do, even with sunblock on). Besides snorkeling, you could go to shore and find jet skis, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, you-name-it. Assuming you wanted to spend the money, that is. French Polynesia is expensive, folks. Really, really expensive. And I didn’t come here to drop cash on touristy entertainment. Then, there’s going ashore. When you’re anchored, you use a small, inflatable dinghy to get to shore. I’m going to go out on a limb and say most sailboats have motorized dinghies. There were a few sailboats anchored near us and they all had motorized dinghies. Ours was not motorized, which meant that if we wanted to get to shore, we had to row or paddle there and back. Aside from being laborious, this just didn’t seem safe to me. I’m guessing the distance from the boat to the beach was between 100-125 meters. It rained off and on the entire time we were there, along with strong winds and strong currents in the lagoon. Going ashore with a paddle boat meant potentially getting stuck there if it was raining or blowing too hard or the current was very strong. We got stuck maybe 2/5 of the way back to the boat once because the current was so strong; my host actually told me if I didn’t paddle harder the current would sweep us out to sea. We weren’t wearing life vests, by the way. Didn’t even have them in the dinghy. We ended up getting rescued by one of the other sailors who happened to be at the beach, saw us struggling against the current, and towed us to the boat using his own motorized dinghy. And what’s on shore that makes paddling across 100m of unpredictable water, wind, and rain so appealing? Once again, not very much, at least if you’re on foot. There’s a stretch of public beach with picnic tables, coconut trees, grass, and a couple open-air fresh water showers for rinsing off the salt water. There’s a tiny grocery store. A little further away, you can find bungalow rentals, a small café or two, or walk to the Hilton for an expensive cocktail or meal. We actually tried to go to the Hilton one night but were not allowed in because of a private event – the Miss France competition was apparently going on there that night. Still further away is a small local fruit stand. But, there’s no car rental nearby. There’s no water sports rentals nearby. There’s other things to see and do there, but they’re really too far to walk. In that case, you either catch the bus (which runs unpredictably) or you hitchhike. Readers, I don’t like leaving that much to chance. Going ashore without any assurance whether or when I would be able to get back on the boat to wait endlessly for a bus or hitchhike an unknown distance to an unfamiliar location through unknown terrain in unpredictable weather under the intense tropical sun for an unknown period of time is pretty much my personal hell. My host was genuinely dumbfounded that this did not appeal to me. So, I didn’t get off the boat very much. I spent my days trying to find a comfortable place to lounge in the cockpit without sitting directly in the sun. Meals were necessarily simple and consisted mostly of dried and canned foods and local fruits, along with cheese, eggs, and dried sausage. Fresh veggies were out after a day or two since the boat didn’t generate enough electricity to power a refrigerator and fresh veggies are scarce and poor quality here in any case. If you had to use the bathroom there were two options: the ocean and the on-board toilet. The toilet is not a normal flush toilet, but some kind of pump toilet. Basically, I guess you have to pump sea water into the basin when you want to use it and then you have to pump it all out again. But then there’s some other stuff you have to do that, if you do it wrong, you’ll end up flooding the entire boat with ocean water, so I wasn’t allowed to use to the toilet by myself. If I needed to use the toilet, my host had to set it up for me and then do whatever he had to do once I was done to, you know, finish off the flushing process. Also, no toilet paper down the pipes – you had to carry it through the cabin and throw it overboard. Also, the door to the toilet was a sarong. When the forward hatch was open and the wind was blowing, the sarong just flapped, flapped, flapped in the breeze with wild abandon. *********** TMI ALERT *********** This is a TMI Alert. You are about to receive Too Much Information about female bodily functions. If you do not wish to receive Too Much Information about female bodily functions, avert your eyes and scroll below to safety. I got my period on the boat. So, you know, that was fun. *********** TMI ALERT *********** It was all just too much for me. Having never sailed before, I didn’t realize I had expectations about what it would be like or how miserable I could get. Not that my host didn’t warn me about some of this stuff. He did. But there’s only so much you can think of in advance. For example, I had the erroneous assumption that sailing was a daytime activity and that nights would be spent in a marina somewhere. It never occurred to me that we would spend our nights anchored away from land. I figured people sailed from marina to marina and only anchored out of necessity if the distance between marinas was really far or you got caught in bad weather and had to seek shelter. Those of you who know better may laugh at my naiveté, but I just didn’t know. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know to ask. Especially on such a small boat with so little space and so few amenities. A bigger, more comfortable boat I could understand, but not this boat. Even knowing we would be anchoring, I would have never guessed I would be rowing or paddling to get to land. There was so much about this experience that seemed unnecessarily difficult and risky to me. I was quite miserable. I was bored and restless and I felt stuck. I wasn’t actually stuck – I could have gotten off the boat at any time. But, that would have meant spending even more money on overpriced accommodations. And, afterall, this was what I had come to Tahiti for – to spend 6 nights on this sailboat. It’s the only reason I came here and I wouldn’t have come here otherwise. So, even though I was miserable, I didn’t want to get off the boat. It seemed that everything that could go wrong on this adventure did go wrong. I was reminded of Khalil Gibran’s words above and I was determined to stick it out and learn what this experience had to teach me. I thought I was doing a pretty good job of handling it, too. I wasn’t angry and I wasn’t desperate to change it. I was trying to quietly accept that this moment sucks right now and that’s okay. I was taciturn and sullen and quiet. I wasn’t entertaining and I wasn’t much fun to be around. There were two instances when I was asked and expected to do something I didn’t feel I was physically capable of doing and I did throw some mini-tantrums as a result. But, otherwise, I kept it to myself. I may not have been very good company, but I didn’t blame my host for my circumstances and I didn’t take my frustrations out on him. My bad mood weighed on my host all the same. He kept trying to offer up things that might cheer me up (like paddling to shore to spend an unknown amount of time hitchhiking an unknown distance across unknown terrain in unpredictable weather to an unfamiliar location under the intense tropical sun without any assurance when or whether I would be able to get back to the boat) which only made me feel worse. And each failed attempt to move me left him all the more frustrated. I thought about it a little later and wondered if perhaps my problem was that I was resisting the present moment. I was certainly resisting my host’s suggestions to hand my day over to chance and hope that kind strangers would materialize to transport me around the island and that the weather and current wouldn’t strand me on the beach overnight. I don’t know what the answer is. I wasn’t resisting my misery, after all. I was fine to sit there and let it be. I was resisting up and getting off the boat, though. For some reason, my known misery seemed to me a safer bet than whatever lie “out there.” Does that sound familiar? It should – it’s how I started this entire bloody thing to begin with. Honestly, have I learned nothing in the last 6 months?! My host and I had an ugly row yesterday morning, the day before I was supposed to get off the boat, and I ended up leaving that morning. I had my purse, a backpack, and an overstuffed tote bag that was difficult to lug around, so the last thing I wanted to do was go blindly walking around, you know, unknown terrain for an unknown distance blah blah blah under the intense tropical sun hoping to find a vacancy for the night and that it wouldn’t be too expensive. But, I didn’t want to stay any longer. The atmosphere was toxic at this point. Something would work itself out. Something always does. So, into the dinghy with all my stuff for one last row across the lagoon. We hit the beach and I was off, lugging my backpack and my overstuffed tote down the road which, by the way, didn’t have a sidewalk. To add insult to injury, I got slapped in the face by a thorny leaf the wind happened to pick up just as I was walking past it and ended up with small bloody cut across the top of my lip. Many of the vacation rentals on Mo’orea are small open air bungalows called “fares.” The first fare I came to had vacancies but they only took cash. I didn’t have enough cash and I had no idea where the nearest atm was (it turns out it was a good 10-minute drive away). So, I kept walking. I turned into something that looked like maybe it was a fare, but I couldn’t really tell and so I started to walk out again. A local happened to be driving out of the same driveway as I was walking out and asked if I needed help. I told him I needed a place to stay but that I didn’t have enough cash. He offered to drive me to the nearest atm. I hopped in and off we went. The primary languages of French Polynesia are French and Tahitian. Even in the service industry, most people only speak a little bit of English. Romy, however, actually spoke a decent amount of English. He drove me to the atm and then insisted I take his car for the afternoon while he was at work. He just gave me his car and told me to pick him up at 5pm. It was like heaven had sent me an angel. I dropped him off at work, checked into a fare, then drove. I drove west across the northern lip of the island, past the beach where I’d walked away from the inflatable dinghy and its insufferable paddles for the last time, past the sailboat anchored in the lagoon, around Opunohu Bay, and then south along the western edge of the island for a spell. It was getting on in the afternoon at this point and I was getting hungry. I found a French restaurant that was open (most places on the island seem to be open only during mealtimes, and it was already after 2pm) and treated myself to a very expensive lunch. I drove a little ways further to the south before turning around and heading back. I picked up Romy and he drove me back to my fare. We agreed to meet later for happy hour and dinner. My cute ‘lil fare. I loved the snowman coffee mugs. Where did these even come from? Romy picked me up and greeted me with one of those flower necklaces made from the Tiare Tahiti flower that smells so amazing. We headed to the Mo’orea Pearl hotel for cocktails. This is one of those fancy hotels with the bungalows on stilts over the water that you pay upwards of $500/night or more to stay in. The hotel was beautiful and the drinks were served with ornate, flowery decorations. We headed to a popular restaurant for dinner where we had Chinese food and something Romy called round fish. The round fish was prepared a bit like ceviche but with some coconut milk added in and was absolutely delicious. Lei made from the Tiare Tahiti flower, fruity Maitai, sunburned skin…must be a tourist! Romy brought me breakfast this morning, then insisted I take his car while he was at work again. This time, I drove to the Belvedere, which is a fancy word for a look out point. From about the southern edge of Opunohu Bay, you drive south along a narrow road that winds its way up a mountain. As you approach the vista point, the switchbacks get tighter, and I ended up climbing the last kilometer or so in 1st gear. The view was stunning, of course (see above). I drove back down the winding road and stopped along the way at some ruins of old marae, temples devoted to various deities. One of the several marae at this site. I loved the way the trees trunks had thin sheets stretching out. Walking through this area, I heard only insects, running water, and sweet birdsong – I can see how Tahiti must have seemed magical to the early explorers. This was one of the places my boat host was trying to get me to hitchhike to. The Belvedere is about 7 km, nearly 4.5 miles, from the beach. There’s an agricultural high school maybe half way to the Belvedere from the main road and then nothing after that. I didn’t see any cars on the road on my way to the Belvedere once I got past the high school and only 2 or 3 on my way back down. It was great with a car, but the thought of hitchhiking there, or partway there and walking the rest, and then potentially being stuck and having to walk that whole way back…it was unfathomable to me. Anyway…after that, I went back to the bungalow to grab my stuff before picking Romy up at work. Romy was kind enough to drive me to the ferry terminal. He gave me a beautiful lacquered shell and then stopped along the way to buy me a shell necklace, too. He’s an incredibly generous and giving and kind man. A true angel. I was very lucky to have met him. Leaving Mo’orea. And now, here I sit, in my AirBnB outside Pape’ete looking out on Mo’orea Island. Here’s the sunset view: Sunset in Tahiti. I gave it a shot, readers. I gave sailing a shot. I tried something new and it didn’t work for me. Them’s the breaks. But that’s life, right? If you never try, you never know. TL;DR: Sailing not my jam; feeling pretty blessed and so thankful for the Romys of the world. Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Uncategorized Happy Thanksgiving! Posted on November 26, 2015 by Janet Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! This is where I’ll be spending it: Internet spotty, so you won’t hear from me for a bit. See you in a week! Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Bali/Travelogue Mt. Agung Posted on November 25, 2015 by Janet Mt. Agung and the temple where the trek starts. I hiked Mt. Agung on Sunday, folks. Mt. Agung is the highest mountain on the island of Bali – just over 3,000 meters, or nearly 10,000 feet. You’d think I would have put a little effort into investigating this hike before deciding to do it or actually heading out for the mountain, but nope! I was totally stupid about it. For starters, Bali is hot. All the time, day or night, hot. When my hotel manager Putu told me the hike begins in the middle of the night so you can catch the sunrise from the top, I thought “Great! At least it won’t be so hot climbing up the mountain.” I headed out the door at midnight in my tights, tank top, and a thin long-sleeved shirt to protect against the sun on the way down. Putu told me to bring a jacket, which I assumed was in case it rained, so I grabbed my rain slicker last minute before heading out. I don’t have hiking boots with me, so my tennies would have to do. I forgot that it gets cold at high altitudes, even on tropical islands. I forgot there’s snow on a volcano in Hawaii. I forgot about wind. As the car wound up the mountain to the starting point, the air started to to get cooler and the vegetation changed from tropical trees to more alpine-type firs and such. By the time we got to the starting point, it was cool enough for me to want to put on my long-sleeved shirt. When my guide, Made, walked up, she was decked out in hiking boots, at least two pairs of pants, two jackets and a couple shirts, and a scarf wrapped round her head and neck. “Oh my God, I’m going to freeze up there,” I thought. The starting point was at about 1500 meters with about 1500 meters to climb. The planned hiking time is 4 hours to get to the top in time for the sunrise. From the starting point, you hike up a bunch of stairs to a temple where the guide makes a traditional sacrifice to God before heading up the mountain. The first stretch of the climb is a well worn dirt trail, pretty easy to see and follow. The trail is covered in this fine, soft, silty dirt, though, so it was like tromping through ash or baby powder or something. Your feet would sink in, you would loose a couple inches with each step, and you would kick up a cloud of fine dust as you went along. The second stretch of the hike, once we were out of the tree line, was course and rough rock with scree-like pebbles and sand along the worn down flat depressions in the rock. The trail was much less obvious now. The wind really picked up at this point with gusts so strong I thought I would get knocked over. Several times I had to stop just to secure my footing and wait for the gust to blow by before I could get started again. The last stretch of the hike wasn’t a hike at all but basically free mountain climbing. I’m guessing the slope at this point was about 60 degrees. The sky was beginning to get light now. We were well above the clouds at this point and a thick blanket of billowy white clouds stretched out practically as far as we could see. The wide expanse of brightening sky and clouds below us juxtaposed against the steep, dark slope of the mountain was magnificently beautiful, but I couldn’t help but think how easy it would be to slip or pitch yourself right off the mountain anytime I looked anywhere but where my next hand or foothold was. We took several long breaks along the way. My guide explained it was very cold at the top and we didn’t want to get there too early, so we took breaks to slow ourselves down. Even before we summitted, though, the wind and cold air were brutal. I was thankful to have my rain jacket to block the wind. I wouldn’t have been able to make it up otherwise. Even so, it was still quite cold. At the top, my hands got so cold the skin was completely numb in places. I blew on my hands to warm them up and they began to sting. I was worried I had frostbite. When we arrived at the top (not the tippy top – everyone stops about 100m from the summit), deep red and orange light outlined the tops of the clouds on the eastern horizon. Sunrise from Mt. Agung. Other people continued to summit and groups would take pictures with some flag or other. Along the way, Made and I had joined up with two other guides – friends of Made’s – and their 3 other climbers. At the top, we all sat together and drank the coffee and tea and ate the food – bananas, fried bananas, Balinesian pastries, passion fruit – the guides had brought up and enjoyed the view. Agung is actually a volcano. It last erupted about 50 years ago. That high point is the actual summit. The temple at the top of the mountain where the Balinesians offer sacrifices to God. There was a group of men trekking up the mountain that night in traditional sarong and headwear, flip flops (!!!), and one of them was carrying a live goose in a woven basket. I didn’t see these guys at the top, but the goose was presumably an offering. There were ceremonies going on all the time in Bali, always someone in ceremony attire going to or coming from a ceremony. Sunrise at Agung. Sunrise at Agung. The heat is on! The first stretch of the way down was easier than I anticipated. The rock face is very course, so even though it was steep, it was easy to keep traction walking down. Once we reached the flatter rock with the scree, though, I ran into trouble. I couldn’t seem to keep from slipping. I hit every loose rock and every slippery patch on the way down. No one else seemed to have this problem, even the other climbers wearing tennis shoes (although they did have hiking sticks with them), so there must be something wrong with my technique. Anyway, my guide and I basically climbed down the mountain holding hands, oftentimes both hands so she could keep me from falling, and we progressed slowly, slowly down the mountain. The soft, powdery silt at the treeline was just as bad. It was agonizingly slow and uncomfortable. As usual, the down was worse than the up. I did get to see some wild monkeys, though. There was a whole family of maybe 6-10 of them across this ditch from us to the left, and they were just climbing around and lazing in the sun. They were big, too – easily waist height just sitting upright on the ground. We saw another couple monkeys in the trees to our right just a little way further down. Wild monkeys! My legs were so mad at me after that climb. And they let me know it, too, every time I took a step, especially walking down stairs. Today is the first day I can walk around without acute pain in my legs, especially the part just above the knee. I survived, thank God. And may you learn from my foolishness – don’t climb Mt. Agung unless you are well prepared. Me and my amazing guide, Made, without whom I would not have made it up or down the mountain. TL;DR: Was not prepared to climb Mt. Agung; miraculously didn’t die while doing so Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Bali/Travelogue Bali Posted on November 20, 2015 by Janet I spotted this red dragonfly at Tirta Ganga, the water temple, here on the island of Bali. He was kind enough to let me close and wait while I took loads of pictures of him (her?). How can you know whether you chose the stairs to heaven or the way to hell? Quite easily. How do you feel? Is peace in your awareness? –A Course in Miracles I’m getting more and more comfortable with letting my feelings – whether I have an internal sense of peace or conflict – determine whether I’m on the right path. I’ve spent years – my entire adulthood, really – ignoring how I felt about things and following the paths laid down for me by others. How I felt about a particular decision just didn’t come into play. I sacrificed my peace to please my husband, for social validation, and for financial security, and this left me angry, confused, and resentful. Closed off and judgmental. Conflicted. Not at peace. And it drove me crazy. Twice. At least, that’s how I felt at the time. Crazy. Like the world just didn’t make sense anymore. I’m no longer angry, confused, and resentful. I mean, I still feel these things occasionally; I am human, after all. But they are no longer fundamental aspects of my personality. I’m still more closed than I’d like to be, and I’m still more judgmental than I’d like to be. I berate myself when these traits burst out of me unbidden. And then I berate myself for not having more self-compassion. And then I give a great huff when I think how much more I have to learn, how much further I have to go. Still, I’m more open than I was. I’m less judgmental than I was. And when I do have those outbursts, my neuroticism eventually burns itself out and I’m able to let it go; I seem to move through the stages of this cycle more quickly with time. In short, I’m more at peace. Internal struggles aside, it’s hard not be at peace in Bali. At least, as a tourist. True, the heat can be a bit oppressive and the locals sometimes treat you like a walking cash dispenser, but…the water is blue, and cool, and clear, and the snorkeling is second to none with the abundance and diversity of the sea life here; no one’s fighting rush hour traffic to get a to job they hate, so everyone’s pretty chill; and being surrounded by so many different trees and flowers and animals and water as opposed to buildings and concrete makes finding a shady spot to sit and watch the world go by a pleasant way to pass the time. Here’re some shots of this lovely island: Another gorgeous Bali sunrise. One of the coconut trees at the villa. They also have mango trees and lots of plumeria and other beautiful flowers. One of the many temples at the villa where sacrifices are made to God (a sacrifice being a small basket of flowers and some burning incense). This guy sits at the front entrance to the villa along with his twin (perhaps blessing and guarding the place?). As seen in the small, beach-side town of Amed. Tirta Ganga, the water temple. Seen at Tirta Ganga. These are human-sized statues with a normal man in the middle, three demons(?) to his right, and three representations of God(?) to his left. There are also yin-and-yang symbols in the tiles on the ground. It seems to signify the duality of good and evil. The detailing on the statues was magnificent – the demons all have big, googly eyes and long, thin, pointy fingernails, among other visually stunning features. One of the funnier statues I saw at Tirta Ganga. This pool at Tirta Ganga, with rows of statues just like this guy and these stones to walk across on. The walking stones gave the illusion of floating on the water. This, and the distance between them, gave me jelly-legs to walk on them. Walking on water (sort of) at Tirta Ganga. These women are making intricate silver jewelry by hand. The woman pictured is soldering small rods of silver onto silver beads to create detailing. This woman is creating an intricate silver chain by hand. This woman is making another chain by hand. Taken at Besakih, the Mother Temple. Besakih is the largest temple on Bali. It is also old – at least 2000 years old. This is probably the oldest historical site I’ve ever seen. Besakih. The temple looks out over a huge swath of the Bali coastline. You can maybe make it out if you zoom in. The clouds may obscure the photo, but the view was quite grand in person. One of a few Balinese ceremonies I stumbled across. I’m told this ceremony was to bring rain to the region, but communication is a real problem here, so I’m not 100% on that. It’s the rainy season for Bali, but the eastern side of the island hasn’t rain in 6 months. Balinese ceremony. Balinese ceremony. Balinese ceremony. I love the Hard Rock shirt. My tour guide at Besakih that day was wearing a Jack Daniels t-shirt. Balinese ceremony. The Balinese people really are quite friendly. The rice terraces here are very bucolic and picturesque. Bought some jackfruit by the side of the road. TL;DR: Reflections on stumbling across peace; photos of stumbling across eastern Bali. Share this: Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window) Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window) Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window) Posts navigation 1 2 … 11 Next ? Subscribe to Oh Hello Universe via Email Enter your email address to receive notifications of new Oh Hello Universe posts by email. 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ohhellouniverse.com Whois

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  Registrar: LAUNCHPAD.COM, INC.
  Sponsoring Registrar IANA ID: 955
  Whois Server: whois.launchpad.com
  Referral URL: http://www.launchpad.com
  Name Server: NS8397.HOSTGATOR.COM
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  Updated Date: 24-apr-2016
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