Tag Archives: travel

Heart and Seoul

If memory serves, the bus ride from Goeje to Seoul took about 6 hours.  Upon arrival in the big and bustling city of Seoul, we wandered the streets, referred to our maps and eventually made it to our hotel room down a quiet alley.  We stayed in a room on the 2nd or 3rd floor, which was outfitted with a ‘descending life line’ kit for use in case we had to evacuate the room from the window… Definitely the first time I had ever encountered a need for such an item, but I guess in case of emergency (during an earthquake perhaps??) it could come in handy. (?)  In any event, we settled in for our first night, making plans for things to see and do in the following days.

Our ‘things to do and see’ list initially included visiting the N. Seoul Tower, the Namdaemun market and the darling and very quaint Bukchon Hanok Village.  Of course during our street wanders we came across other points of interest, such as the Sungnyemun Gate, Deoksugung Palace and the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

My sister (a shopping enthusiast) was told about the Namdaemun market by a friend of hers, and well, being a shopaholic, we just had to check it out!  Indeed, this market is a shoppers dream come true!  Absolutely anything you could ever imagine wanting could be found there.  Clothes, jewelry, household items, knick-knacks, food, souvenirs, beauty supplies… the list could go on forever!  And it wasn’t just street front shops along the main road of the market, but you could go in to many of them and find your way to a second floor where even more shops existed.  Seriously I think one could probably spend days alone just exploring the vast number of stores available in that market.  Now granted, there were several repetitious stores where similar or same items were sold, but still, it was impressive how many shops were in such a comparatively small space of the city.  We ended up visiting the market a couple of times.  Once to just check it out, and the second to get our souvenirs.

From the market, we headed over to the N. Seoul Tower, which offered lovely panoramic views of the city.  While views were a bit smoggy from a higher perspective, it was certainly the perfect spot to really get a feel for the expanse of Seoul.  It of course was a very touristy spot and seemed to be the main location for lovers or friends to add their love locks.  Hundreds of thousands of locks were attached to various places in the park surrounding the tower.  We hung around for a couple of hours and enjoyed some beers until night came so we could enjoy the lights of the city.

Bukchon village was our adventure destination for the next day.  The brochure for the village describes it as “a village frozen in time for ages” though it is right in the middle of modern Seoul.  That description could not be more accurate, as once we stepped foot into the village, it was as if we traveled back in time.  The homes were no longer modern and the noise from the city seemed to dissipate immediately.  The streets were pristinely clean and immaculately paved.  Lush greenery spilled from every wall giving the air a cleaner, crisper scent.  It was absolutely darling!

We spent several hours wandering the village streets, but once we left, we came upon a tiny local shop with some artwork (my sister purchased a couple pieces) and teeny tiny, itty bitty cactus plants for sale.  Literally, these cactus plants with their pot and all were maybe an inch in height at most!  They were so darn adorable, we just had to get some!  Very smartly, the amount of soil the plants were in, were within the legal limits for Customs, so they could be taken back to the States without any issues.  In the two years since I bought my cactus, it has travelled with me to Japan, lived with me in Hawaii, and now resides with me in New Orleans:)  And while it has grown quite a bit, it is still under 2 inches tall, lol!

We visited a couple of Palaces during our stay in Seoul as well.  What was particularly notable of each Palace at the entrance, was a little kiosk of sorts that rented out clothing designed after original or traditional Korean fashions.  For a price, men and women could rent these traditional clothes to wear while roaming the Palace grounds.  And let me tell you, those rental shops were always full with customers!  While at first it seemed a bit odd, really it added to the ambience of touring the Palaces as everywhere you looked, people in traditional attire roamed about.  And again it gave that feeling of being in Seoul hundreds of years ago.

What was particularly interesting about the way homes within the Palace grounds were built was how they had truly modern accessories.  Though built hundreds of years ago, they had features that even nowadays you would only find in very fine and upscale homes.  For example, homes were built several feet from the ground on top of rock.  The gap under the whole house would be mostly hollow and there would be only one “entrance” to the hollow space in one area of the wall.   In the winter, the “entrance” would be filled with wood and would be set on fire.  The heat from the fire would travel all through the under side of the house and the smoke from the fire would eventually make its way to a chimney on the opposite side of the house.  So essentially,  during the winter, residents had the luxury of heated floors!!  Pretty darn clever engineering if you ask me.

On our way to the Gyeongbokgung Palace, we came across an unexpected detour.  In the pedestrian passage between city traffic, Shoes of Hope had several tents set up.  We stopped to check it out and participated in their charity event.  They gave us a “passport” where each of the 8 stations had something educational about their program.  Once you visited each station you would receive a stamp of completion.  To be honest, we really had no idea what most of the stations were about, because well, they were all in Korean, however what was clear was the purpose of their mission.  While I don’t recall all the details, essentially Shoes of Hope is a charity program whos mission is to ensure every child has shoes, in every country around the world.  Their message was about spreading love, compassion, and making sure every child that needed shoes would have them.  Pretty cool!  One of the stations we visited allowed us to decorate a pair of shoes that would be donated and to add a message to that child that would receive it:)

One last point of interest that we enjoyed while visiting Seoul was to take in a show.  Nanta, a non-verbal comedy/musical, originated in South Korea.  It started in 1997, making it the longest-running show in Korean history (thanks Wiki!) and has earned worldwide fame.  It was indeed a delight to see!  Though no words were spoken, they weren’t needed as the highly entertaining actors, through their animation, were able to convey a joyously funny story of three cooks attempting to finish preps for a wedding party while given the challenge of having a clueless new chef added to their mix.  It was a delight to be able to see the show, especially in its country of origin:).

Back to South Korea

Advertisements

Southern South Korea

Heart and SeoulAs all great things come to an end, it was time to move on from friends and the grand times had in Australia and on to new adventures.  My next destination was particularly exciting for me because I had the chance to meet up with a family member I hadn’t seen in about a year and a half.

As luck would have it, my sister had to travel to South Korea for work, so I hoped on a plane to meet her.  Landing in Busan, a city in the South of South Korea, I grabbed a bus to get to an even more southern island called Geoje.  There I met up with my sister and lived the in the lap of luxury for the next several days in a very nice hotel.  Seriously, I’d never been to a hotel where the housekeepers would fold and organize anything that was out of place for you.  It was amazing to arrive back to the hotel to find literally every personal item organized, folded, hung, etc.  Simply awesome, yet I started to try to make more of an effort to not leave anything around willy-nilly so they wouldn’t have to take extra time cleaning our room because my stuff was everywhere, lol!  But I digress…

Honestly there wasn’t a lot to do necessarily in Geoje. It was obviously a modern city geared toward industry and business.  Hence while it did have restaurants with every cuisine possible (Indian, Italian, Irish, American and Korean of course) as well as several National Parks to potentially explore, there wasn’t necessarily THAT much to do, had I been on my own.

Luckily however, I wasn’t on my own.  In the company of my sister and her co-workers we had a grand time (once they were done with their work days) sampling cuisines from around the world, wandering through open street markets stuffed with every possible kind of sea creature known to man (and some perhaps not know, lol!) and then enjoying some drinks at a pub, laughing, playing darts and listening to my sisters Scottish coworker invent ways to remember how to say phrases in Korean.  For example, if memory serves, if you were to say “come up and see me dah” quickly and without pronouncing each word exactly, that was “thank you” in Korean.

While my sister was at work, I spent my days either relaxing in the hotel, wandering aimlessly on foot exploring around town, or visiting shops.  The most noticeably different style of the buildings and shops, if you will, from any other country that I’d been to so far was that none of the shops were single story.  You constantly had to look up at least to the second floor to see what shops or restaurants were available.  Most every building was at least two stories, and they just went higher up from there. Each level of the buildings had at least two or three businesses (restaurants, clothing shops, hair salons, etc) to explore, and in some buildings the stores (grocery) were located several stories BELOW ground!  Of course I never felt like I was below ground at any point in shopping, but it was interesting taking the escalator down two flights to find the groceries.

I was in Geoje (I wish I could provide a phonetic way of saying this city name but each person seriously seemed to pronounce it differently and I never got a firm grasp on how exactly to pronounce it) for only a few days, essentially waiting for my sister to finish up the work she needed.  But once her work was completed for good, she and I took off for the bustling and beautiful Seoul.

Back to South Korea

On to Heart and Seoul

Wildlife Park & Jenolan Caves

After leaving the farm I stopped by to see my friends ‘J’ and ‘A’ once more before departing Australia for good.  During that portion of my time with them we got our adventurous spirits on once again and visited the Featherdale Wildlife Park just about a 20 minute drive from Marsfield and the Jenolan caves nestled in the Blue Mountains.

For this post I will let the pictures do all the talking as my words won’t be able to give the proper justice to the beauty found at the Jenolan caves!  As for the Wildlife Park, it was both awesome and sometimes a bit nerve-wracking to be in such an open area with kangaroos and wallaby bouncing around!  Though they were all quite used to humans, I was still pretty nervous to pet them.  The variety of native birds, mammals and reptiles were quite impressive and was a wonderous way to spend the day!  Both would recommend both of these attractions for anyone visiting the area.

Back to Australia

Back to Homepage

Best Times on the Farm

In no particular order:

Playing I spy (and mostly winning, though another would disagree ;)) on the way to Victoria with horses in tow. Mind you it was a 12-14 hour drive each way, so we had lots of time to kill:)

Rudy: A rooster on the property that just one day showed up and staked his claim on the land was one of the many creatures that roamed around.  Though I had never really had an issue with him (I bribed him daily with food!) any time a new person came on the property, he would try to attack them.  He was rather sneaky at it too, even going so far as to attack unsuspecting people who had been on the property before from behind!  Many people had stories of their encounters with the rooster ending in bloodshed (on the humans part, not the rooster’s!) or very close calls.  Luckily I was never one of them, so from my perspective it was extra entertaining to hear about others close calls!

Rudy!
Rudy!

General wildlife on the property: goats (ham and cheese), burger the bull, bats, wallaby, kangaroo in the valley, snakes, huntsman, frogs, moths, bunnies, foxes, black cockatoos, parrots in the valley… the beauty of the wilderness that surrounded us daily was unbelievable and amazing!!

Dried bat:  I had been used to (somewhat) encountering many a huntsman spider while opening and closing gates around the property as the sneaky buggers loved to hide out in the wood.  They mostly stayed away from gates that were opened often, but ones that weren’t operated daily were havens for the gigantic arachnids.  So one day while very cautiously going to open a seldom used gate, as the wood plank slid back and a giant fuzzy THING dropped out from the gate, I couldn’t help but scream and run away!  Of course I was laughed at and for good reason that time… It turned out the furry thing that fell out wasn’t at all a huntsman, but a flattened dried, very dead little bat:(  Poor buddy!!!

Goodness snakes alive!!! I had about 6 close encounters of the slithery kind while on the farm.  Luckily though they were only encounters with the shy red-bellied black snakes!  While they are still quite poisonous to people and animals, thankfully their first line of attack was to simply slither away.  My two most harrowing encounters go as follows: one evening while enjoying a cocktail (or two) as I was sitting outside, one appeared from under the truck heading directly toward me.  I didn’t know whether to move or stay still!  Options raced through my drunken mind as it got closer and closer.  Finally I made my move and very slowly lifted my legs off the ground to the chair.  Thankfully that was enough to alert the snake to my presence and it abruptly lifted its head, flipped 180 degrees in the opposite direction and scurried away!  My closest encounter however was while I was walking across the lawn (again a wee bit intoxicated, though a different day).  I was taking confident strides to my destination until I noticed a coiled red-bellied black snake not three feet in front of me sunning itself in the afternoon sun.  We literally didn’t notice each other until we noticed each other!  I stopped and squealed and it uncoiled at warp speed and hauled away from me as quick as it could, lol!!

A wallaby sighting: in the valley around sunset it was a common sight to see several dozen kangaroos in the fields just off the main road.  But never had I seen any ‘roos’ or their smaller counterparts in the mountains until one early morning while collecting one of the horses from their field.  Normally this horse was always calm and relaxed as we walked out of her field, but on this day as we exited she startled quite abruptly and stared in wonderment behind her.  While wondering what was wrong with her, I followed her gaze behind us only to spot a little wallaby at the entrance to her field staring back at us.  We all stood frozen for a few moments checking each other out until the little guy hopped away.  Very cool!

Watching My Kitchen Rules with ‘S’ and getting drunk: I had discovered the TV reality show My Kitchen Rules while in Thailand and it quickly became one of my favorite evening shows to watch and relax to.  I introduced my house mate ‘S’ to the show and it wasn’t long before we started making nightly ‘dates’ to enjoy our meals and company while watching the show together.  Often times we would get (or already be) a bit tipsy on our drinks of choice and would laugh hysterically throughout the show with our added commentaries.  Loved it!

T’s account of Rudy’s beating by the farrier:  Just the visual of this one still makes me laugh!  T, a French rider at the farm, while very good at speaking and understanding the English language still had a few things here and there that he was learning along the way.  The phrase “beat the $h!t out of…” was one phrase he was introduced to.  It came about as the farrier told ‘T’ about how Rudy had attacked him relentlessly one day, forcing him to retaliate in self-defense.  As the rooster continuously attacked the farrier, he defended himself by striking the rooster until one particular blow ended up knocking the rooster unconscious.  Hence, the phrase “he beat the $h!t out of Rudy” became a new phrase in T’s repertoire, and his recounting of the story the farrier told him was simply hilarious, lol!!  And don’t worry readers- Rudy is just fine!!  He is alive and well and still attacks who and when he pleases!

Listening to music on the front porch and talking for hours with A: ‘A’ was another groom I had the pleasure of working with.  We had so much in common that I called him my male twin.  Evening after evening we would sit on the front porch after a long day with drinks in hand and conversations for hours while listening to music from all ages and genres.  One particularly fantastic night, ‘A’ put a blanket on the front lawn and we just lay there listening to music while watching a gloriously beautiful night sky, sparkling bright with every star from the heavens.  Absolutely gorgeous!

Jumping over jumps drunk: ok, so I’m noticing that many of my stories here involve drinking… But hey, there really wasn’t much else to do on the property after finishing with the horses and drinking just brings out the fun in myself and my company!  On this particular night, it was myself, ‘S’ and the Australian ‘T’ who got our drinks on thought it would be a great idea to try to jump over the jumps set up for the horses!  In all reality however, it was mainly ‘T’ who was doing the jumping while ‘S’ and I simply laughed our rears off while running around the arena.  Good times!!

Sunsets on the bench:  Self explanatory

Smokes falling asleep on my hands: One of the shows I had the privilege of being a part of was down near Melbourne and unlike previous shows, it was 4 days long.  All our horses were doing really well and one in particular, Smokes (my nickname for him) made it to the final round as a contender for Champion of Champions.  After his jumping round I stood on the sidelines holding him while watching the other contenders being ridden.  Now, Smokes since I’d met him had a habit of always wanting to lick, whether it was our hands or arms.  Normally I wouldn’t allow this behavior in case it led to a nip, but he had been such a good boy all weekend that I allowed him his guilty pleasure.  I stood to his side with my hands clasped under his muzzle allowing him to lick the salt off while I watched the others do their course.  A couple of minutes later I realized that his licks had subsided and that he was simply resting his muzzle in my hands.  A few minutes after that I started to notice how heavy he was feeling in my hands… It was about then that I noticed his eyes were closed and his body had a very gentle sway to it… He had fallen asleep in my hands!!  I gently woke him giving him some loving pats while whispering in his ear that the show was almost over.  Bless him!! By the way, he did win the Champion of Champions!

Worming a young stud: I think the picture says it all!  While I thought he had swallowed, he apparently didn’t and instead spat all the medicine right back on me!

Worming Failure
Worming Failure

Reconstructing my San Blas anklet: my anklet from the San Blas Islands had at some point come undone, so I made it a project to reconstruct.  Since we had a road trip coming up, I brought it along to help kill time.  What I wasn’t expecting however was how involved ‘T’ (Australian rider) got into the project himself!  Along with providing helpful suggestions on how to make the slow and sometimes painful process of stringing hundreds of teeny beads on a teeny rope, he was also my cheerleader, egging me on to keep going and get the project done!  It was on the leg back to the farm that I finally did complete the anklet and got it back to its place around my ankle.

Peggy the possum: Possums were common creatures to see during the night but usually only from afar.  A couple of them however ended up becoming quite brave!  One particular evening as we sat on the front porch having a few drinks, we noticed this creature walking along the stone path directly up to the front porch steps.  It came up so confidently in its movement that we all at first thought it was a cat!  But no, it was a possum!!  It stopped just shy of getting on the porch, perching itself on the stairs.  It looked at us, we looked at it in amazement, and it simply turned away from us, scampered to a nearby tree, climbed it to the roof, ran across the roof overhead us, down the tree on the other side of the porch to a little spot we often threw bits of old bread or muffins.  Absolutely surreal!  We named this possum Peggy:)

Gabrielle the frog and T’s reaction to the frog: The French rider ‘T’ may kill me for posting this, but we had a frog that seemed to appear nightly in the same spot, so it was named Gabrielle.  One particular night, ‘T’ left the porch and entered the house and let out a scream that put 5-year-old girls to shame!  ‘A’ and I went to investigate what happened and it turned out that one of the frogs (maybe Gabby?) got into the house and startled ‘T’.  Needless to say I was cracking up over the sound of ‘T’s’ scream, and once he calmed down he too had a little chuckle over it;)

Gabrielle
Gabrielle

Of course there are many more, but since this post is getting rather lengthy, I will leave it at that!

On to Wildlife Park & Jenolan Caves

Back to Australia

Summer Camp in January

Mid-January started to roll around and though I was still having a grand time with ‘J’ and ‘A’, I also didn’t want to out stay my welcome.  So once again it was time to think of something else to venture to.  I had really only scratched the surface of exploring Australia, so I wanted to stay a bit longer while also being able to afford it!

Oddly enough, one of my new friends whom I’d met back in Malaysia while at the horse facility emailed me in late December (once hearing that I was in Oz) about a friend of hers who was working at a horse farm on the Central Coast, about and hour and change north of Sydney.  Even though I had this information back in December, I didn’t follow up at all other than simply getting an email for her friend.

Fast forward to mid-January, though I wanted to actually be able to travel more of Australia, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to at least shoot off an email and see if they needed any help at the farm.  I can’t recall if it was later that day or the next, but very shortly after making contact I was given a number to call for a phone interview and a couple of days after that I made a commitment to go and help at the farm as a horse caretaker and groom.  Part of the reason I decided that route was, well, because I love horses!  But the other part was because it offered the potential to travel around to various parts of Australia with the horses.

I will never forget the day I arrived at the farm as it was one of the most memorable for me in a fun and funny way:)  Even as I’m writing this I can’t stop smiling about it!  Since the farm wasn’t terribly far from where ‘J’ and ‘A’ lived (and they wanted to make sure I wasn’t going somewhere sketchy, lol!!) they offered to drive me to the farm and we made plans for a day trip before getting there.  First stop was along the coast for some beach time at shelly beach, then some late lunch at a chinese restaurant, then onward to the farm.

The part that made this trip the most memorable for me was when we were heading to the farm.  Firstly the changing of the surroundings was absolutely stunning!  The green, lush rolling hills surrounding us was just breathtaking!  The second part is harder to describe, but it was the overall scenario.  I had my backpack in the trunk, I was sitting in the backseat of the car being driven along the countryside into unknown territory and I was being fretted over by my two great friends about where I was going and whether the place was a good one…  Which put together all added up to me feeling like a child being dropped off at summer camp by her two dads!!  It was absolutely adorable!!

When we got to the farm we met ‘S’, my new housemate and fellow horse helper, unloaded my things into my new room (inspected first by my “2 dads”;)) and took a little wander around the front of the house.  That is where we first met Rudy the rooster.  I still recall ‘J’ and ‘A’ being cautious about the ridiculously fat, and I mean seriously rotund, rooster that was roaming around the front of the grooming stalls, while I simply brushed aside the notion that he could be dangerous by pointing out that surely they wouldn’t allow a rooster who attacks to roam around freely.  He wasn’t showing any signs of aggression or threatening motions, so I figured he was friendly…

Of course the next day I was warned by ‘T’ (the rider) and ‘S’ that I should be VERY wary of Rudy as he was quite well known for attacking people, especially strangers (both ‘T’ and ‘S’ had been attacked!)!!  So apparently ‘J’, ‘A’ and I were very lucky that first afternoon of arrival in that we did NOT get attacked!  In addition, I learned that the trick to keeping Rudy at bay and happy was to feed him bits of horse feed… No wonder he was such a chunker, lol!!

I ended up spending several months at the horse farm caring for the numerous horses along with ‘T’ and ‘S’ and have so many fond memories of my time spent there (to be listed in my next post).  And while I didn’t get to travel as much as I had hoped to originally, I was able to make it at least to one new State (Victoria) with the horses.

Originally I was hoping to stay for 6 months to a year helping at the farm, but energies started to change in a variety of directions that led me to decide to move on.  ‘T’ and ‘S’ had also moved on to better and brighter things for their path a few months before I left, but we of course still keep in touch.  It’s really amazing how even spending short periods of time with some people, you just know you will never lose touch, no matter the distance or time apart.

Best Times on the Farm

Back to Australia

Holiday Season ‘Down Under’

I hadn’t planned on visiting Australia initially because I’d learned from fellow travelers that it was a very expensive country to visit.  However, it was while I was in Malaysia volunteering at the animal shelter that I just happened to receive an email from a good friend of mine whom I’d known back in New Mexico.  We had lost touch over the years despite attempts on both our ends to keep in touch, but alas he found me:)  And as chance would have it, he was living in Sydney!  So of course I had to go see him!!

The timing of it all to this day still fascinates me.  It’s just further proof in my book that everything happens the way it should.  After a couple of email exchanges I made plans to see him and spend Christmas and New Years with him and his partner:)

I arrived in the ‘land down under’ mid-December and was greeted at the airport with the loving embrace and friendly faces of my friend and his partner.  After a quick nibble out, we headed back to their place where I met their two kids, Willow and Bear, two absolutely adorable pups!!  We stayed up quite late that first night (and for the next several nights) with bottles of vino and beer, catching up on all things past and present.  What a truly amazing and still surreal time!

They showed me around all the hotspots of Sydney; Bondi beach (pronounced Bond-eye, not Bondy), the Opera House (of course!), the harbor area, Mansly, the Botanical Gardens and the Watson Bay area where sailboats dotted a quiet bay eclipsed by beautiful homes gently sloping from the water.  It was all so picturesque and beautiful!  We even ventured a bit further out on the weekends for little road trips to the Blue Mountains where we viewed the Three Sisters.

The thing that surprised me about the Opera house was that the roof was made of tiles!  From all the pictures I had seen prior to seeing it first-hand,  the roof simply looked white and I hadn’t noticed anything particularly remarkable about it.  However up close, it was impressive to see that the roof was in fact made of white and beige tiles and that they formed very specific patterns giving each shell a unique and artistic flare.  In addition, again from pictures, I had always imagined that the Opera house was a singular building and each layered ‘armadillo shell’ was part of the design to enhance acoustics for that one stage.  I had no idea that in fact there are multiple stages allowing several productions to occur within the same season.  Just goes to show you that you never really know about something until you get up close and personal with it;)

The Botanical Gardens were absolutely darling!  They seemed to go on forever and though they were basically next door to the heart of downtown Sydney, they had a quiet and calm about them that made you feel miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city life.  2016 just so happens to also be the 200th birthday of the gardens, so that’s pretty cool:)

The Blue Mountains too were a surprise as I had no idea such lush green life and landscapes could be found in Oz.  Again, most of the pictures I had seen of Australia boasted the main highlights of the Barrier Reef, the Opera House or the Outback where the land is red and lacking plant life.  But in the Blue Mountains, I could have mistaken us for being in Virgina near the Blue Ridge!  Simply beautiful!

The only odd thing to me was knowing that it was only a week away from Christmas, yet not really seeing any sort of Christmas decorations anywhere!  There were a few scattered here and there, but nothing like I was accustomed to seeing in the States around Christmas time.  However, that didn’t stop us from doing some decorating ourselves:)  J’s mom had sent him a Christmas tree, so on or about the day before Christmas, we got our drinks on (which put us all in a jolly mood) and set up the Christmas tree and other decorations to get the place looking festive!  A few gifts were exchanged, delicious food was cooked, and we all reveled in the joys of being with good friends.

Christmas Day passed and New Years was quickly approaching, so the next big thing was to decide how to ring in the New Year.  We settled on trying for one of the free spots at a park on the harbor (Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair).  The only trouble was that once capacity for the park was reached, they closed it off therefore not allowing any new people in.  And because this venue was free to enter (and honestly was one of the best in my opinion as it had a fantastic view of the harbor, the bridge and the opera house) the lines would no doubt be long.  The chances of getting in at all were unpredictable!

‘A’ (J’s partner) had to work New Year’s Day, so that left ‘J ‘and I to try for a park place where ‘A’ would meet us later.  We made it there around 10am to find a line that wove back and forth and forth and back with what looked like thousands waiting to get in!  We got in at the back of the makeshift line and thus began the slow and arduous task of walking a few feet every couple of minutes, slowly inching our way to the entrance gates.  Luckily we came prepared however with water, snacks and sunscreen.

I should mention at this point that the Norwegian couple I had met back in Kuala Lumpur were also in Sydney for New Year’s.  We had reconnected via email and arranged to meet at the park.  After about an hour or so, they arrived with another friend in tow and they joined ‘J’ and I in line (which still had only moved a couple hundred feet or so, lol!!).  The mood around us was festive and it was funny to see how many people had already started hitting the beers hard!  Personally it was just too hot in the direct sun for that in my opinion, plus having to find a bathroom would have been its own kind of torture!!

The hours ticked away as we crept closer and closer toward the finish line… Finally, about 4 hours later we were in!  While there were already thousands of people in the park, it didn’t feel as crowded as I would have thought which I was very grateful for!  We scouted a place to sit under a nice shady tree, then sent one of the fellas to the nearby food and drink kiosks for some cold beers!  We sat around enjoying the cold beers and continued chit-chatting and all was absolutely perfect, save for one thing…

‘A’ was still at work… The plan we had hoped for was that he would be able to get off work a bit early, then head to the park where he could hopefully hop in line with us and make it in before the park reached capacity.  However, at this point it was already past 2pm.  The line that had formed behind us seemed longer than the line we had initially started in, and according to the online information, the park had already almost reached capacity and would soon be closed off.  Not happy news!!  As the time ticked on it seemed less and less likely that he would be able to make it to the park.

Seriously a huge conundrum!!  I didn’t want ‘A’ to have to spend New Year’s alone, especially without his partner!!  But I also didn’t want to leave our park spot.  We debated back and forth what to do and eventually settled on me staying in the park, and ‘J’ leaving the park to be with ‘A’.  In addition ‘J’ had started not to feel so hot, as even though he kept reapplying sunscreen the entire time we stood in line, he still managed to get a pretty bad sunburn!!  So as he wasn’t feeling the best he said he was fine with leaving to be with ‘A’.  Though I know I shouldn’t, I do still feel guilty for having stayed behind because I wanted the three of us to be together for New Years.  But as ‘A’ and ‘J’ said, they had “been there, done that” with Sydney’s firework show.  It wasn’t so important for them to see them again, but since it was a first for me, they said I should definitely see them.

So I hung back with my friends from Norway and rang in the New Year watching fireworks shower off the Sydney harbor bridge and light up the harbor waters.  It was such a beautiful sight!  I love everything about fireworks; the sounds, smells and sight of them.  Being so up close and personal to such a spectacular show was unbelievable.  I’m so thankful for the chance to have been able to be there!

After the show, I parted ways with my Norwegian friends and met up with ‘J’ and ‘A’ and we headed home to comfort the pups.  Though we were not able to spend New Year’s night together, we did have our own New Year celebration a bit later.  Popping a bottle of champagne we wrote down things we no longer wanted to be burdened with in our lives and set them on fire Zozobra style!

On to Summer Camp in January

Back to Australia

Back to Homepage

Ghosts of Indonesia

I didn’t realize how many ghosts there are in the Indonesian culture.  But I got to learn about them first hand one Thursday night with Faisal, Misba, Aput, Andre, Ucok and Iswan.  The conversation first started when I was warned about the hypnotizing thieves at market places.

Hypnotizing thieves???  Though not so common anymore, the boys did warn me that if someone tapped me on the shoulder or put a hand on me, to never look them in the eyes.  The reason for this is that there apparently are people so talented in the art of hypnosis that they can literally cast a spell on you.  It starts with a hand or tap on the shoulder.  If you look the person in the eyes the “spell” is complete.  They then instruct you to give them all your money and to return home.  It’s only when you get home that the spell is broken and you realize you have just been robbed!!  Again, the boys insisted that this rarely happens anymore, but that it has happened quite a lot in the past.  However, since I almost always went to the market with Mama, it was never an issue:)

So this interesting tidbit eventually moved into the topic of the many ghosts in the Indonesian culture.  Once the “story telling” (I put that in quotes because they don’t believe them to be simply stories, but rather real events) began, it went on long into the wee night hours!  I learned first that Thursday nights are considered the night with the most ghost activity, and that was one reason why Friday’s are considered their holiest of days. Also it should be noted that with the dawn of electricity there haven’t been so many sightings of each ghost as light keeps them away!

Mind you, what I’m writing below are stories of each ghost as given to me by the six men.  They talked rather fast at times and often over each other trying to find the correct words while telling me about the ghosts, so below are my best scribbles about each one.  I hope I’m going to do them justice!

Doti (aka Santeh or Dooken): Voo Doo, wicked black magic.  These people can insert an evil spirit into a body essentially possessing them.

Tuyul: half human, half spirit that steals money

Babi Ngepet: half pig, half human.  Can only turn into a pig on Thursday nights.  There is a keeper of this creature who can turn the human into a pig when he lights a special candle.  IF the candle is extinguished, the pig turns back into a human.  Once in pig form however, it goes out and searches for money for its owner (the candle bearer).  Babi is stronger and faster than Tuyul as it can instantly send the stolen money to its owner.  If the candle bearer notices that the flame starts to flicker, that means that the Babi (pig) is in trouble and may have been noticed.  But the pig can turn back into a human.  So if it’s being chased and can get into a dark corner or alleyway, the keeper can extinguish the candle flame and turn it back into a human to get it out of trouble.

Poppok: A human, but in the night he can fly.  He is naked.  Can be a man or a woman.  They go to the sea and bring fish for the house.  If you meet and annoy them they will tickle you to death.  But if you hit it with a native palm leaf one time you scare him.  Hit him twice and you make him stronger.  ONLY for South Sulawesi, but may be elsewhere under different names.  This is a genetic trait.  Starts as normal person.  Seeks knowledge to become paranormal.  If he does the steps right, he turns paranormal.  If they do the steps wrong, they turn into a Poppok.

Longga: Very tall human.  He eats people.  Only at night.  Can be in the jungle.  A past problem.

Parakang: Human sometimes around us.  Can be a man or a woman.  At night they go to dirty ditches looking for frogs or fish to eat.  He/she can suck the blood out of newborns.  They will come to newborn baby homes.  They come from the roof, open the roof and come in.  Even in the day.  If it rains with sunshine this is bad.  Sometimes the eyes are red.  If you are suspicious a person is a Parakang, you can test them by throwing salt at the body.  If they thrash about they are a Parakang.  It is a genetic disease.  Can cure them with an exorcism using the Koran.

Pocong: One of the scariest and most famous ghosts in Indonesia.  He has many films made about him.  Happens when a person dies.  During a Muslim burial, they put a white sheet around the body and tie the sheet at the top of the head.  This tie is called Talipocong (tali = line/sting).  After the corpse is covered, it is carried to the grave.  If the talipocong is not removed once the body is put in the grave, the dead person will become Pocong.  They come in the night only and hop around in their sheet that is still tied around their head because they are trapped in the sheet.  Pocong comes around asking to be freed.  People in the village can’t talk, they must be silent or they will attract the Pocong.  But they can help the Pocong or essentially send them away for good by digging up the body and taking off the talipocong.

Kuntilanak:  Only a woman who is pregnant.  Story is from when the Dutch came here to colonize.  A Dutch pregnant woman came and killed herself when she arrived here and she then became Kuntilanak.  Sometimes the story is that she committed suicide, sometimes the story is that she was killed by her boyfriend.  She takes revenge on people by taking other children.  She had her baby in the grave after she was dead and buried.  She picked it up and cradled it.  She takes revenge on her ex by luring single men home.  She appears as a beautiful woman in a white dress, though the feet don’t touch the floor.  She gets the men to take her home, which appears at first to be a beautiful home, but once there it turns back into a gravesite.  The lured man is giddy with love but is stuck in the grave.  She is only happy if she can kill the new girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend.

And there you have it.  Some of the many ghosts of Indonesia!

Back to Indonesia

Learning Bahasa

Please note that most of the spellings are not correct as I wrote them down phonetically so I would know how to properly say them:) Words with an asterisk are also Malay words:)

Common Phrases:

Terima Kasi: Thank you
Sama sama: You’re welcome
Senang Bertemo Dengan Anda: Nice to meet you
Sama: Same
Lagi: Again
Tidak: No
Ya: Yes
Awas: Caution
Ah-ir: Water (spelled air!)
Ah-peh-too: What is…
Bantu: Help

Food Related:

Nasi: Rice
Goreng: Fried
Nasi Goreng: Fried Rice
Tellure: Egg
Ayam: Chicken
Eakan: Fish
Bebe: Duck
Pedis: Spicy
Sawa: Rice field
Sai-yo-ran: Vegetables
Ja-goo: Corn
Pee-sang: Banana
Kuh-lap-ah: Coconut
Sumanka: Watermelon
Lombok: Chili
Enak: Delicious
Timunsuri: Cucumber
Tebu: Sugar Cane
Gula: Sugar

Numbers:

1: Satu
2: Dua
3: Tiga
4: Empat
5: Lima
6: Enam
7: Tujuh
8: Delapan
9: Sembilan
10: Sepuluh

Weather:

Panas: Hot
Matahari: Sun
Hujan: Rain

Around the House:

Baskom: Bowl
Too-chee: Wash
Coors-see: Chair
Back-eye-ya: Clothes
Room-ah: House
Bolla: ball
Booku: Book
Kamarmandi: Bathroom
Tempat Tidur: Bedroom
Sendok: Spoon
Pee-ring: Plate
Pisau: Knife
Meja: Table
Atap: Roof
Glass: Glass

Family:

Saudara Laki-Laki: Brother
Saudara Perempuan: Sister
Mama: Mother
Papa: Father
Keluahgu: Family

Emotions/Adjectives:

Marah: Angry
Hore: Happy
Berisik: Silent, be quiet
Menangis: Cry
Pintar: Clever
Bodoh: Stupid

Body Parts:

Tangan: Hand
Kaki: Foot
Mata: Eyes
Telinga: Ears
Hidung: Nose
Muka: Face
Ramboot: Hair

Animal Related:

Binatang: Animals
Kandang: Pen for animals
Anjing: Dog
Kuching: Cat
Nyamuk: Mosquito
Monyet: Monkey
Bulu: Fur

Miscellaneous:

Asap: Smoke
Ah-pee: Fire
Toe-pee: Hat
Sapu: Broom
Belajar: Study
Kayu: Wood
Jangan: Finished
Gatal: Itchy
Loop-ah: Forget
Besok: Tomorrow
Bunga: Flower
Najis: Dirty
Haram: Forbidden
Halal: Allowed
Chantik: Beautiful
Gagah: Handsome
Kerya Bagus: Good job
Besar: Fat
Gigit: Bite
Aurat: means women must be covered from head to their wrists and ankles
Muhrim: You can’t be affectionate with others unless they are family or your spouse

On to Ghosts of Indonesia

Back to Indonesia

Favorite Memories from Bajo

Not in any particular order:)

Riding on the motorbike with Ainul: This one has a little back story.  We were all out in Belopa hanging out at one of Faisal’s friends place (Misba) and among other things we got into a conversation about the Muslim religion.  I learned about ‘haram’ (forbidden) and ‘halal’ (allowed) and about proper ways to interact with other Muslim men and women.  On our way back to Bajo, I rode with one of the students, Ainul (Arabic for ‘eye of God’ essentially) and he continued to educate me about the religion during our 15 minute drive back.  He told me that the Muslim religion teaches to love your family, your neighbors and yourself.  To treat others with respect and kindness.  To give what you can and be grateful for what you have.  Then he asked (which still brings tears to my eyes thinking of it) whether I had heard of the recent bombings in France (November 2015).  I replied yes, I had.  To which he said ‘those people are not Muslims.  Our true religion teaches love, not hate.  Those people doing those bad things are not true Muslims.’  Through my welled-up eyes I simply replied “I know.”.  People so often judge others and their religions based on the evil behavior of a few who claim to be of the same religion.  But at the real heart of every religion lies the same undeniable truth: Love one another and be good to one another.  We are each here just trying to live our lives in the best way possible for ourselves, our families and friends.  It’s a shame those with evil intentions and evil in their hearts try to ruin it.

Spicy food:  Ok, so I love, LOVE spicy food!!!  I thought up to this point in my travels that I’d already encountered the spiciest food available in Asia, but I was wrong!!  Indonesia (at least South Sulawesi) has THE spiciest food I’d ever tasted!!  Even something simple like nasi goreng (fried rice) was so unbelievably hot that I was in heaven!!  Truth be told however I couldn’t always finish all my food because of the heat of the meal and the heat of the day!  Indonesia blew both Thailand and Malaysia out of the water in the category of spicy foods!

Cooking with Faisal: Watching this young man teach english was a marvel enough, but amazingly he’s also a talented chef!  I enjoyed joining him in the kitchen several nights a week to watch him whip up  delicious traditional Indonesian dishes full of intense flavors and of course spice!

Meeting his friends: Misba, Ucok, Mita, Iswan, Andre, Aput, Ainul, Lily, Diarah… the list of his beautiful friends could go on forever!

Helping to make Kapurung with Mama and at Iswan’s house with his family.

Amazing Hospitality: Everywhere you went, the hospitality was unbelievable.  Such beautiful people and so giving in every way


Treated like a celebrity: Seriously if you’ve ever wanted to know what it must be like to be a celebrity,  GO TO Bajo!!!  People literally stop and stare, ask for photos and want to get close to you!  They are all of course very respectful and will ask for pictures etc, but once you give the ‘go ahead’ they will come in close and one picture turns into about 70, lol!!  ‘Lagi, lagi’ (again, again) was the common word heard during picture time.  Even just walking down the street to the store I would be stopped by people driving by for a picture with them.  Seriously an ego boost!  Though truthfully there were lots of times when the honor wore off!  I would still always acquiesce to pictures with the people, but after that experience certainly would never want to be a real celebrity!!

Hiking the mountain: The name of it escapes me but it was one of the tallest in our area.  Iswan had a family home at the top of the mountains and after a 2 hour hike, we enjoyed a beautifully relaxing, quiet and calm afternoon chilling at their home.  We practiced our shooting skills with a pellet gun (only shooting targets, no animals!!!) and ate fresh food cooked up by the boys literally plucked from the earth.  So beautiful!

Going to Iswan and Ucok’s home: Such amazing families and homes!!  They were simple yet so gorgeous!  Animals roamed around as we sat on the floor eating home cooked traditional foods and talked.  We tried some palm wine (normally haram, but was only served to myself and the two other volunteers so it was all good!).  We met the most amazing man, Iswan’s grandfather who was apparently over 100 years old, yet looked as if he was maybe 60!  He loved meeting tourists and though he didn’t speak a word of English, his smile and constant laugh said it all.  You couldn’t help but smile and laugh with him non-stop any time you were in his presence!!

Mama: Faisal’s mother was just too cute!  She didn’t speak any English yet was still able to communicate in her own way.  She was warm, welcoming and always a bright spirit to be around!  I loved going to the markets with her or just hanging out with her on the front porch.

Learning Bahasa: I started to carry a little notebook with me so I could write down any new words of Bahasa to refer back to when needed.  I would always write the word phonetically so I could pronounce it correctly and was often corrected in my spelling, lol!!

Salma: One of Faisal’s cousin is an amazing!  She invited me to her beautiful home and served me kapurung (a traditional soup made with sagu, vegetables and meat) then took me to her sister’s house for a tour of their land.  I actually learned the majority of Bahasa words from her.  She couldn’t really construct sentences, but she knew a lot of individual words so as I watched her prepare lunch she would point to items and say their equivalent in Bahasa.  One of my favorite afternoons!

Dressed in local wedding attire: What an amazing experience this was!!  Another cousin of Faisal, brother of Salma was a make-up artist and he turned myself and the two other volunteers into brides complete with the full traditional hair, make-up and gowns!  We were then whisked off to Belopa to several locations to have professional pictures taken by 3 individuals (Aput-the real pro and Andre were 2 of them).  Talk about feeling like a star again!  We even went to the home and met one of the Queen’s of South Sulawesi (one of 8!) and were allowed to take pictures inside her home:)

Karaoke: As part of a going-away gift, Faisal, Ucok and Iswan treated myself and another volunteer from Spain to a night of karaoke!  Sooooooo much FUN!!!!!  We had our own booth and jammed away until our time was cut off, lol!!  Loved it!

The students: Attentive, respectful, full of life, cheery, smart, inquisitive, beautiful students!!  From the 6 year olds up to the 18 year olds, what a wonderful group of kids to have been given the pleasure of teaching!

Visit to recycle center: My first task upon arriving at the request of Faisal was to help set up a recycling center at his home.  Traditionally all trash is burned (not good for the air!) but luckily a recycle center was located in Belopa.  So we visited the center and arranged for us to be able to bring in our recycling.  I set up a little center near the school and we educated then encouraged the kids to bring in their plastics, paper and metals to us so we could collect them and take them to the main center.  Faisal would even get some money from the recycling, which could in turn be put back into helping fund his school!  Visit Faisal’s Environmental Page!

Leaving Bajo: This one was definitely a bitter-sweet memory.  I didn’t want to leave, yet at the same time was ready to.  I received one of the most beautiful send-offs however.  They loaded me with parting gifts and hugs.  I tried my best not to get emotional and cry, but that was just impossible.  I was a big ball of sopping wet tears by the time I got on the bus.  I still carry each of their gifts with me and smile whenever I see or wear them.  My eyes are welling up again…

Building and blessing the volunteer house: I really can’t take credit for this bit as I didn’t actually help build any part of it, lol!!  I kept hanging around and asking if they needed help, but the boys and Faisal’s father had everything under control.  They built a beautiful 2 room home for volunteers just behind the school-house.  I did help with some of the painting however and with a little poem written on the inside of each room, but that was the extent of my contribution, lol!  Once complete, we had a gathering in one of the rooms with food and the entire family and friends and had a little prayer to bless the new space.

Spiderman/Justin Bieber: One of Faisal’s nephews, a feisty character of a young man was often at the house as many other young family members were.  We’d often play games of hide-and-seek or watch them rollerblade around, and the reason he got the nickname ‘Spiderman’ was because you would literally have to look up the walls or to the ceiling to find where he was hiding!  Quite the talented climber that one was.  And he’d constantly sneak up on you from the most random of directions while we were painting or writing on the walls of the volunteer house.  Can’t recall why he also got the nickname ‘Justin Bieber’, but using either of those two nicknames and everyone knew who we were referring to, lol!!

The guitar and songs: Hanging out with Faisal, whether at his home or Misba’s place, one of my favorite times was watching him and listening to him play his guitar.  Self-taught and brilliant!  I could listen to him play for hours while either humming along or simply sitting quietly.

Children, children and more children: Aside from the school children we were accompanied daily by younger family members and in general anywhere around town or other people’s homes would be swarmed by them.  Too cute!!

Invited to an ‘Aquika’: Not at all as you should spell that word I’m sure, but essentially an aquika is a series of blessings given to newborn babies.  Family and friends gathered together to eat and watch the blessings and celebrate the new life.  The first blessing was to ensure good fertility, the second was to ward off bad spirits in her life and the third to grant her good health throughout her life.  Absolutely amazing to be a part of!

Learning the Bajo way of cracking eggs.  Basically use one egg to crack the other!  To crack the last egg they use the table top of course.  I crack my eggs the Bajo way now:).

Going to Faisal’s sisters house to watch her make (and us subsequently eat) donuts and muffins for her bakery business.

On to Learning Bahasa

Back to Indonesia

Teaching English in Indonesia

My time in Malaysia had finally come to an end and it was time to get out of the country to explore a new one.  I had been wrestling with what to do and where to go for a while and all I really knew was that I wanted to continue to volunteer somewhere, but just didn’t know where.

Tirelessly I researched place after place and continuously ran into programs that allowed volunteers to work with this or that animal, but the cost of doing so was atrocious!  Finally I came across a site called helpstay.com.  After reading reviews about the site as to its validity and exploring the various opportunities they had available in surrounding countries, I decided to take the plunge and join as a member of the site so I could contact one very specific volunteer opportunity.  In all honesty, the second I found the posting to volunteer teaching English at a home site in South Sulawesi, Indonesia that also had an organic farm, I signed up to the site and kept my fingers and toes crossed that they had availability for volunteers.

Within a few hours my inquiry was replied to and a Skype date was set so we could put faces to one another and see if we really were a match for each other, volunteer-wise.  Though part of me was a bit nervous to give away information about myself and Skype a literal stranger in a foreign country, the minute we chatted I knew I’d made the right decision.

The volunteer program organizer is an 18-year-old marvel named Faisal.  He invites people from around the world to stay with him and his family in exchange for volunteers to develop lessons and teach english to local students aged 6 to 18 years.  I was so very impressed with him during our Skype session, that I immediately committed to volunteering for a month with him and couldn’t wait to get there!

Now, all of my volunteering to this point involved animals, because that’s really where my love and strength lies.  I’d never taught English before (and I’d made sure to relate that to Faisal during our chat) but being a native english speaker I thought, how hard could it be? Less than a month after connecting with Faisal I was on a plane from Kuala Lumpur to Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.  I stayed the first night in Makassar (as my flight landed in the late evening) and first thing the next morning made my way to the Terminal Daya bus station for the 8 hour bus ride to Belopa.

Upon arriving at Terminal Daya I noted several men standing in front of the very, VERY basic bus terminal.  I spoke zero Bahasa and no one so far spoke any English (or very limited at best!) but luckily all that was required of me to say was: Belopa?.  That did the trick as they simultaeously all practically cheered “Belopa!” together.  They whisked my bag out of the taxi and walked me over… away from the vehicles that actually looked like busses… to basically a 4 door Ford truck.  Hmmmm…. is this right???  They all had stickers on the front saying “Pelopo” so I pointed to the truck and said again “Belopa?”.  “Ya, ya” was their response as they hauled my bag into the bed of the truck, took out their cell phones and typed in 150,000… the cost of the trip!

Lord knew at that point whether I was getting majorly ripped off or not, but what choice did I have exactly?  As it turned out, that was the correct and normal price 🙂  Happy day!  Moving on, I paid the fee and squished in the back seat with two other females and after a few minutes we were on our way.  There was actually a third line of seats behind my own, so in total we were a team of 7 people trundling along on the journey to Belopa (an hour South of Pelopo as it turns out).

The journey there was visually beautiful.  The mountains and the sea, vast and open rice fields, the endless green and tropical lush surrounding us.  Absolutely stunning!  The one downfall was that the driver smoked the entire way up, which was a bummer, but at least the windows were fully open to allow quick exchanges of air.  We took one break along the way for some food and a bathroom and made it into Belopa just about 8 hours to the dot later.  After a bit of miming and a game of charades with my fellow passengers in the truck, I was able to communicate that I wanted to be dropped off at the nearest ATM as I seriously had zero rupiah on me.  Luckily enough, the ATM I was dropped off at was next to a coffee shop that offered free WiFi.  So while sipping on a cappuccino (made from an instant coffee sachet) I used the WiFi to let Faisal know I’d arrived, and my exact location.

About 5 minutes later, Faisal showed up in his brother’s vehicle and we finally met in person.  Faisal, again only being 18 years of age and having only studied English for about 2 years spoke english brilliantly!  We loaded my stuff into his vehicle and made the 15 minute drive to his town called Bajo.  The town was absolutely adorable!!  When we arrived there was a football (soccer) match at the village field so there were tons of locals gathered for the game.

Just a bit further along the road we came to his lovely and humble home where I met his mom (mama as we called her who spoke zero english) and dad (who spoke a bit of english) and his cousin Irpan (a student in one of the english classes).  His family was lovely and so immediately welcoming that it just made my heart melt.  I was shown to my room and given a tour of the house and the school-house built by Faisal and some of his schoolmates Ucok and Iswan.  We had some dinner together (Faisal whipped up a deliciously spicy nasi goreng if memory serves) and I made my way to bed.

Thus began one of my most memorable months of traveling…

Visit Faisal’s website to find out more about his amazing volunteer program!!

Review of the Our Chance school

On to Favorite Memories from Bajo

Back to Indonesia