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Un-settling in to Our New Life

Visiting Bali is heavenly, moving here has been a bit of hell with moments of paradise sprinkled in.

Our house is amazing. It is clean, it is filled with light and opens up completely so we enjoy the near constant breeze. Unfortunately it doesn’t close up completely so we have cicaks (small lizards) on the ceiling and an occasional Huntsman spider or cockroach. Ewww. Thankfully our cat, Luna, and our dog, Dali, are great hunters, no snakes or rats… yet. Our bedrooms do close up completely and have A/C so we are sleeping well (except when the occasional Tocay/Gecko wakes us with its call in the night). We just have to remember to shut everything up by 5 so we don’t get mosquitoes in our rooms. We left the house open one evening and Elena was nailed by them. We have learned our lesson now! That was 10 days ago and no signs of Dengue so hopefully we are in the clear! 

The house came partially furnished. Our first priority was to buy mattresses, linens, and a washing machine. It took us 3 eight-hour days of driving around the insane traffic on the west side of the island to find everything. We picked out the cheapest washing machine, only to find out that it washes in cold only. Apparently we would be better off swishing our clothes around in a bucket with soap 🙁 We had to go back the next day for the better model. We also bought a microwave. It is very basic and weak (8 minutes to pop a bag of popcorn). We bought a blender that makes me yearn for my Vitamix on a daily basis. Fortunately we did find decent mattresses and COTTON sheets, a luxury here apparently. The best towels we could find work better to exfoliate rather than dry, but our house is functional now and that is a beautiful thing. None of these things are cheap on the island. We still need bedframes and a dining table and chairs, but we are not anxious to go back to the city so the coffee table works fine for now! 

Cooking is another incredible challenge here. I know the pain of so many moms, including myself, when struggling to breastfeed a new baby. I did not expect to have such similar feelings now! We have been to a dozen grocery stores here and we have only been able to cook one of our recipes from home successfully. Western food can be found… with a lot of searching and a big fat price tag. My search for farro lasted a week, until one of my friend’s here finally broke the news that I would never find it and I should try barley as an alternative. It works! We tried to make crispy tofu noodles one night. Sadly, it took a week to find all of the ingredients and by then the bok choy and tofu were rotten. The burner I chose on our cooktop only had 2 settings: set-the-house-on-fire flames, or burn-the-crap-out-of-dinner flames. Fortunately, I chose the latter and dinner was ruined, but our house remained intact. I ate cereal that night (a very expensive option actually) and the kids and Jason choked down the slimy, burnt noodles, clearly out of pity for me! 

Driving. We tried to survive the first week just using taxis and an occasional driver. Unfortunately our address caused a great deal of confusion, and when a taxi can’t find your house and you need to get the kids to school it is an ugly scene. Apparently there are 2 streets in town with the same name, and our house, #5, is a couple blocks away from house #’s 3 and 7. Ugh! By day 3 of school we had rented a car, and by renting a car we mean we called a guy, who knew a guy, who sent a guy. He brought us a beat up 2014 Toyota Avanza, 89k kilometers, torn seats, lots of dents and scratches, only 3.8 million Rupiahs a month ($267/month). Ok so it wasn’t a screaming deal… or really a deal at all, but we have wheels. We paid the guy cash and he handed us the keys, that’s it, deal done. Driving is a scary venture here, but sitting in the passenger seat while someone else drives is actually worse (picture white knuckles, barf bucket in hand). Motorcycles, driven by kids, piled with kids, dogs, kites, large shards of glass and other deadly-in-a-crash parcels, are everywhere. They just shoot out of side streets without any warning, and almost no one has a helmet on. There are also street dogs to contend with, bicycles, open concrete gutters along very narrow roads, cars and scooters illegally parked everywhere, and big barreling gas trucks around every other bend. 2 lane roads become ½ lane roads when cars are parked on either side, or they become 8 lane roads when motorcycles and cars decide they want to squeeze in next to you. Did I mention we also drive on the left side of the road here? Instead of looking left-right-left we have to look right-left-right. The turn signal is on the right. The gear shift is on the left. The first day I managed to hit the windshield wipers instead of the turn signal about 5 times. The first week I hit 2 parked scooters while trying to squeeze down a road without hitting oncoming traffic (luckily they weren’t knocked over and no people or scooters were injured)! These were not my finest hours. Motorcycles pass on single lane roads constantly, sometimes on the right, sometimes on the left. A friend described it as swimming in the ocean. Our car is the big fish and if you just drive slow and steady then the minnows (everyone else) will get out of your way. Most days it feels more like playing chicken to me. 

So why are we still here? Well, for one thing.. it took a Herculean effort and a lot of sacrifice to get here. Also, you pay for a year’s rent upfront here, and our house in Cali is rented for the next 2 years. We love our life at home. Everything is easy, predictable, safe…except for the gun culture. We DO NOT miss that. We do miss our friends and family. We miss Amazon, and Target, and Trader Joes! But the thing is the school here is AMAZING. Our kids have access to a world class education now, they have friend’s from all over the globe, they are learning about new cultures and religions, they are learning new languages, they are trying things like drama, art, School of Rock, teaching Indonesian kids to speak English, yoga, mindfulness, yearbook. These are just the things they get to do in school! And the people are AMAZING. I could write pages about all of the kind acts from the community that have kept us afloat these last few weeks. I used to tell Jason how much my friends back home inspired me to be a better person. Well I have somehow found equally phenomenal and kind people here to inspire me. They have really gone above and beyond to make us feel welcome and loved, and we have only been here 2 ½ weeks! We are also here because we want to grow, and dang there is no other option here. We have very little control over so many things. It is terrifying, and sometimes it makes me sad, but most of all it makes me recognize that the only thing I can change is myself and my own reactions. The daily yoga or swimming at the school pool probably helps with this too. 

Celebrating Indonesia Independence Day, Bali Island School, 2019

We always talk about how resilient kids are. Ours are blowing our minds. They have faced so much change, so many challenges, yet they are somehow just taking it all in stride. Like me, in the evenings especially, they feel a little homesick, but they approach every morning with a positive attitude and come home smiling every afternoon. Thankfully, it was their choice to come here, just as we made ours, so even on the toughest days they haven’t put any blame on us. We are just getting through the good and bad together.