Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Indonesian Sights from Bali

Bali was certainly a bit different than I remember in 1986, but the essence and flavor of culture
still very evident; lovely, friendly people; great climate, unique sights and sounds. As you can see, we visited a monkey forest in the more cultural city called Ubud. The monkeys were abundant, pretty tame-unless of course you didn't/couldn't read the directions and held bunches of finger bananas in your hands as you strolled through the park with your toddler in a stroller!! Gawd, we saw a woman's eyes pop open when a 20 Macaw jumped up on her leg wanting an unopened treat....Duhhhhhhhhhh! Monkeys like bananas in any language...I was seriously fearful for her babe! It sure was fun seeing the monkeys when they were done eating and just grooming each other in the trees. Not really recommended by our Travel Medicine Disease Specialist, but something that was pretty hard to pass up. We were very careful to say the least. Rabies is a real problem, especially with the huge population of wild dogs on the island. On a different excursion we saw a dog's eye shot up from locals trying to personally trying to exterminate those around their neighborhood.

The Balinese people's hybrid Hindu religion has an daily ritual of providing offerings to the good and evil spirits and cover the island on the street, sidewalks, etc., but also on small permanent structures in family compounds, in the middle of intersections, at water parks etc. We found that family compounds would have one to several prayer temples, coffee trees, cinnamon, cocoa, nutmeg, roosters/chickens, goats, pigs, bananas-which are the leaves used for the offerings, and many other resources; like the bee hives for honey.
I was amazed how the whole family compound worked and was kept by a large community of people.

I found that getting out of bed and walking to the beach was just as fast as taking a cab. During the peak holiday season, apparently many people from Jakarta and Japan ferry their boats to Bali for a week or two. I'd take a 2 mile hike to the centralized Starbucks while the sun was out and enjoy the view-like the cute little snake that apparently had expired. You would not believe how much garbage was on the beach and in the water the first day we arrived--almost layered! Joey and Hailey were swimming and getting plastic bags around their arms etc., but then 10 days later, there was a huge movement to clean it all up, as the local beach garbage brigade took over the beach and started removing huge piles of stacked garbage. I was stunned at the difference! Virtually NO garbage for miles. Apparently the garbage come comes from the rivers up country, which is a favorite dumping ground...so sad. It just trickles downhill. Bali is an incredibly dense area and has very little infrastructure, which makes it difficult for the people to work themselves out of 3rd world status. There's very few sidewalks-and most of the existing ones are cracked/broken/have gaping holes into the sewer lines etc.-and an overwhelming number of motorcycles. Running water and electricity hasn't been in many sections for very long, so unlike Shanghai, electric cycles are rare and very expensive since they are imported, thus lots of pollution.

Why is it, that the bold warning labels on cigarette cartons and individual packages sold in Asia are in English rather than the native languages? There's something sinful about keeping your own people in the dark about their own safety. Joey was shocked to read that there's more male Chinese people that smoke than the entire population of the United States. I haven't quite figured out why the women don't/aren't allowed to smoke. I wonder if it's culture, how others view them, taboos, or just the fact that they are a bit smarter than the other 700 million.

Just FYI, Anne has her hand in a pool of dry skin eating fishees. We all gave it a try. You can submerge your legs, arms, and/or body-depending what you're wearing-for about 20 minutes. They attack like piranha and clean you up with a unique sensation that confuses you for awhile. "Is this good? Fun? Does it hurt? Am I liking this?"

The little white cafe on the beach in Bali was a favorite hang out, whether it be in the scorching sunshine or a tropical rain storm. It was hard to complain when it's 85-90 degrees on the Indian Ocean.

Now you got to imagine, hopping onto the beach, running for the darker sand that your feet can handle, and you walk barely 20 yards when you're being invited/lured to rent a lounge chair and umbrella for the day by one of the locals that are hovering behind the imaginary line, about 30 yards further up than the high tide line, with huge coolers full of Coke, Sprite, and BingTang Beer. So when you get to a rootee tootee hotel with a few pools, in case you may want to test out the waters, you set down for the day. Suddenly, as if you've been spied upon since the moment you set foot on the beach, "The Ladies" appear. Of course there are also guys with an array of assorted goods and services, but OOOOhhhhhh, the ladies are the mainstay, the backbone, the wonder of the beach! They have their own territory, based on their assigned service or good to sell, and they come like mosquitoes attacking at dusk. One buzzes about, the others can hear it, smell it, and hope to taste it. They surround you and put on their best sales show in hopes of cajoling you into releasing some of your O negative greenbacks. Joey and Hailey would watch, after their own initiations, and howl, "Poned!!" whenever they would see a newbie getting a massage, pedicure, and manicure at the same time, while the sarongs would start flying around in the breeze, only to be outdone by the flutter of the kite flyers, the spearing of flip flops by the local bow and arrow salesman and the hawking of silver representations of local gods-let alone the plethora of jewelry being displayed. You have to know how to say no thanks, hide in a book, and/or fake a good snooze if you plan to survive. Although, you always keep good eye contact with your man/woman that's in-charge of keeping you hydrated Ü

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Hamster Story

By: Anne

When I was a child I had two really ugly hamsters called Salt and Pepper (one name) and Gingerbread. We were told that they were both boys. They were not. One afternoon on my way out the door to my dreaded piano lesson; I noticed a strange stench I had never smelled before. It seemed to come from their cage. I happened upon Gingerbread giving birth to 13 little baby hammies. Over the next few days, unfortunately she didn’t care for them and started to eat their heads off. My mom said it was time to remove their mean mommy and sell them all back to the pet store. Now, I was hoping to make some quick cash for candy at 7-11, but no – pet store made us GIVE them back. My sweet tooth was sad.

I have not seen or interacted with a hamster since that day, until yesterday.

It was a special “READ-IN” Day at our school where the students could wear their PJ’s and bring either a pillow or blanket or stuffed animal to school to snuggle with while we read together as a class for a half hour or so. I washed and hung my cute pink polka dotted jammies for the occasion, grabbed my pink blanket in my back pack and was off to school for a fun day of literacy.

My third grade students all wore their PJ’s, had some stuffed animals, blankets, pillows, and were excited as usual. We took a few minutes to share our PJ’s and special stuffed animal friends with each other – oooing and ahhhing over little teddy bears and kitty cats. After some math and writing and PE and Recess, it was finally time for the READ-IN. Kids prepared their books and blankets when quiet little Johnny (not his real name) came up to me.

“Mrs. Grible, ah….ah…ahhhhh…my Dad no understand your email. I think I got bad in my bag.”

“Oh, OK, that’s alright – do you want to show me?”

“Uh, yeah….(reaching into his backpack) here… my Dad put hamster here,” expressed Johnny nervously.

“What?” confused teacher responded.

Johnny handed me a small Tupperware container with a REAL brown shorthaired hamster in it. I quickly opened it noticing that this was one of those amazing Chinese airtight Tupperware containers and it had been in Johnny’s backpack for hours. I doubted the little guy was still alive.

To my amazement and relief, he was. Of course, we were late now – the kids wanted to go to the READ IN and I had a live hamster to deal with. Not wanting little Johnny to feel like a total idiot for bringing a REAL animal instead of a STUFFED animal (English is not his strongest language) and not wanting to insult his father who he SAYS put it in there…

“Oh, I see, well….I guess we can’t bring him to the READ IN, and we need to leave the lid open to this little Tupperware so he can breathe some air (it was the exact size of the hamster – I’ve never seen a Tupperware container so small! It was actually a really cute little casket) we better make a cage for him really quick before we go. Do you see something in the classroom we could use to make a cage?”
(Note: teacher technique of asking questions for child to solve own problem, not teacher – especially when teacher has no idea how to solve problem.)

Of course by this time, the whole class wanted to see the hamster and they were so bummed that they had only brought stuffed hamsters and were calling Johnny “so lucky “ that he had a REAL hamster at school and why hadn’t they thought to bringing a REAL one and maybe next year they too would bring a REAL animal.

Johnny and I made a cage out of two book baskets, put the Tupperware inside with the hinged lid open (it snapped secure on three sides and one side had a hinge) and taped the baskets together in case he somehow pushed the top off. There were small slits in the baskets and I was sure hoping he wouldn’t be able to escape through the slits. They were VERY skinny slits and the hamster was at least twice their size…

We jetted off to the READ-IN, late, hurried as I was thinking very confusing thoughts in my head about this child and his family for sending in a REAL hamster in a small air tight container in a back pack for hours to SCHOOL. “What were they thinking????!!!!”

Upon returning from the READ-IN, I forgot to check on the hamster for a few hours as we teachers have a few other things to do… like teaching. At the end of the day when the children were getting ready to go home; I heard the dreaded words…

“Mrs. G – come quick – the hamster’s all bloody and stuck in the Tupperware!”

OK, that’s not what I expected to hear, but…

Holy Crud! – Not another bloody hamster, flash backs from my childhood hit hard. Where’s my mom to deal with this? My Dad, the doctor, would surely know what to do. I quickly went over to where the make shift cage was and surveyed the hamster situation. This was what I saw…the little hammie guy somehow, someway got his little hammie leg stuck in the hinge of the cute little Tupperware container. He was hanging off the edge of the Tupperware making a little hamster squeaky noise. There was blood everywhere. His little leg was unrecognizable. God only knows how long he had been hanging there (hours?) and how in the world was I going to free him.

Poor Johnny and I took the cage out into the hall so the other kids couldn’t see the gruesome sight as we hurriedly untaped the top basket. I checked out the little guy and quickly looked around for an ayi (like a custodian) or hoping the big buff vice principal just happened to be walking by to rescue us all. No, the halls have never been more vacant. Johnny looked at me with eyes I will never forget. He did not have the English vocabulary to express himself, but he didn’t need any words. The plea in his face to help his little hammie was deafening.

Quick! Think! Hinges. Forward? Backwards? Open? Close? How do they work? If I move it forward will it make the space bigger for his mangled leg? Will it squish it more? Backwards? Is that the answer? Oh crud! (I was not really thinking “crud”.) Let’s just try and pray one of these ideas works…
I moved the lid down to close it – crud, no - that was not it.
I moved the lid back to open it – crud, no - that was not it. The little guy just squealed louder.
Crap!!! I took a breath and said “F-it” in my head and ripped off the lid of the Tupperware with all the might I could muster. Of course I had to lift the Tupperware up off the ground when ripping it so when the hamster’s leg was released, he fell to the cement floor. Oops.

I quickly picked him up off the cold dirty floor and plopped him back into the now lid-less Tupperware pit when he bit me with the little adrenaline he had left. I don’t blame him one bit; I would have too if I was him. Little Hammie immediately curled into a ball, in shock, and started licking his wound.

School was officially over five minutes ago – the kids were alone in the classroom wondering what in the world was going on outside in the hall with the hamster. They had all convinced themselves that he was dead, killed by his teacher.

Johnny and I entered the classroom to dismiss the students to be greeted by, “Is it dead?” “Did you kill it?” “Are you bloody too?” “I never knew hamsters had so much blood in them!”

I coolly responded, “OH, NO – he’s fine…just a little boo-boo on his leg. He’ll heal up real fast just like you do when you get a skinned knee.”

Yeah, right. I’m sure he was dead before Johnny made it home on the bus.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Sooo, what do you do when it's 85 degrees with a 50% chance of rain in Bali during their rainy season? Go the the cleanest, best managed, shortest lined water park with the most incredible food spread that we've ever been to! We've been to Wild Waves in Federal Way...I know...and Silverwood, which was excellent for the cleanliness and variety/excitement in Idaho, Disneyland, the Seattle Center, and some Putt Putt place in Maui-water guns only, and never before has it ever been so great! Now you've got to understand, you step outside the place and my kids had to search for a place to eat. Anne and I weren't too impressed with food in Kuta, but how good could it be sitting 100 yds. from the Indian Ocean and some pretty fun surf? Well, inside the park, there was a strip of food stalls 2nd to none-run by Australians-salads, Greek, Italian, burgers, sushi, curries, Chinese, Indonesian (rice, meat, eggs, fruit) and the list goes on. But as you can see, one of our favorite water slides was the Climax (of course). You climbed 5 stories and waited patiently to get into a locked, clear tube chamber that had a deep woman's game voice count down, "Three, Two, One...", until the floor suddenly dropped out and you literally fell vertically in a water tube for 30-40 feet before abruptly curving upward and around a corkscrew path (it's to the right in the picture) before smashing into the finishing pool. As you can see, the intensity of the drop took it's toll on the bony parts of the body-of which Joey and Hailey have plenty! What a rush! All in all, about 4-5 seconds and you were done. One time was enough for the oldest member of the family. We finally embarrassed Mom into experiencing the moment, and of course as I did, she paid the piper. Joey wanted more than 9 times, but his body didn't have enough to last. Hailey went about 12 times and is almost healed up from the 22nd of December. Where did she get that competitive nature? You can legally be skinned alive and line up for more! Ah, 3rd world rules and regs....We all decided to just watch the bungy jumpers. It was just as thrilling, we were sure...singles were snapping their heads, tandems held each others' souls willingly, and some BMX bombers went off riding motor bikes! It gave me the thrill of a life time and I didn't have to pay the $100. I kind of feel like I know what it's like to play on-line video games now! Yeeeehawwwww!