Salamat pagi! (Good Morning)
I’m writing this morning from our beautiful Program Center, which is filled with Balinese statues (many with flowers behind their ears and offerings at their feet), an immense amount of tropical plants and flowers, cute little kids running around, and multiple buildings with intricate wood carvings. Our classroom looks somewhat like a classroom (picture multiple rows of chairs with desks attached), but it only has three walls – the fourth wall is wide open and looks out at stone paths framing little gardens and pink and purple bougainvillea, which litter the pathways and add to the magical feel of the compound.
To get to the Program Center from our orientation site, we all took public transportation in small groups. This was about a 30ish km trip, but took around three and a half hours. We were first dropped off in Kerambitan (where our orientation was), and hopped into a mini bus for about a dollar each. I climbed over baskets of offerings, through rows of flip flow wearing Balinese, straight to the front row which was ideal for watching the television screen showing Indonesia n music videos at the front of the bus. With just a couple weeks of Bahasa Indonesia classes, I was able to recognize a few words from the subtitles, but I still have a long way to go. The music videos definitely helped make the hour long ride more exciting, though. As soon as we reached our first stop, we immediately found a bemo (shared taxi) driver who directed us to his little car. Initially he told us a price, but then tried to raise it once we got to his car. Not acceptable by us savvy travelers. We refused to pay more, and finally he gave in and drove us to our next stop.
Once we reached our destination, we hopped out of the bemo into the hot sun. Thankfully we were greeted by a large bus heading the right direction, and the driver agreed to a ~$1 ticket. Our bodies sank into the cushioned seats, which somewhat made up for the sweat dripping from our bodies. I got a very good tour of the area, since the bus drove along at a snails pace. I watched motorbikes pass, and then cars pass, and then even humans pass on foot. We finally made it to our last stop, which was about a thirty minute drive to Ubud, the touristy town close to our program center and that day’s lunch spot. We must have looked a bit disheveled by then, because a nice Balinese woman directed us to the right bemo stop (which was simply just a spot on the side of the road. Cars and motorcycles kept passing the stop, but no bemos. Finally, a bemo came around the corner and I nearly wept tears of joy (which I could have easily confused with sweat, since we were standing in the sun).
Our ride to Ubud felt like a ticket to tourist land, as the number of non-Indonesian people became greater and greater the closer we got to the Ubud pasar (market). I had only been in Bali for a week, but already I felt like I wasn’t there to just be a tourist – my purpose in being here was a lot deeper than touring around and shopping in Ubud. I remember one of us telling another bemo passenger, “kami bukan tourist, kami mahasiswi!” (We are not tourists, we are university students!). That being said, when we reached Ubud and sat down for a lunch of wood fired pizza, my stomach was overjoyed to be having a non-rice based meal. The pizza so was simple and delicious, I even ate the whole thing (and for those of you that know me well, this is pretty impressive).
After a long day of travel and heat, I was content with relaxing for a bit in Ubud before taking another (quick) bemo ride to our Program Center. Traveling was definitely not as simple as the United States, as official bus or bemo stops don’t exist and a schedule is unheard of, but I felt incredibly accomplished when we made it to Ubud in one piece. Since our day of travel, I have taken bemos a number of times between Bedulu (where our Program Center is located) and Ubud, and each time I feel incredibly prepared, thanks to the challenging and rewarding day of long-distance public transportation travel.
I have many more posts that I’m dying to write since our days have been rich with cultural experiences (weddings, cremations, general exploring, and even a massage!), but internet is very slow at the Program Center and our days have been jam packed. I hope to post more soon, so stay tuned for updates about my host family, food, and general Bali life!
**Note: Sorry about the poor image quality – my internet here is not a fan of uploading pictures.