Week 3 | Bali
Ubud, Bali, two weeks have gone by. Many stories can be told but they all revolve around a name. Andy. About 1,80 meter tall, dark hair, a gentle and firm voice, an elbow-sleeves red shirt, black trousers. Of all the things we will remember, he’s on the top of the list.
I won’t write long about the mess we’ve been through. I won’t write about how we felt when we realized we lost our only credit card. I won’t write about that emotion called “galère” in french (I love this word because it perfectly represents a human body’s feeling in front of a problem. Not a small problem, not a medium problem, but a huge one: you feel in jail, blocked.)
Surviving with barely 10 euro in our wallet might be a starting point for a couple but it definitely turns out to be a crazy madness with two babies. I won’t write about how difficult it was to reach out to our families in Europe with a +6 hour time zone and how difficult it was to deal with all this chaos in a country that is not your birthplace, but actually 13000 km far from home. We visited the first bank and they told us that probably our credit card has been automatically destroyed by the ATM; carefully praying and promising to be good guys forever we went to the second bank, where they told us that there was no trace of our credit card; bank n. 3 simply said that they could not help us; then we run against time to bank n. 4, which we found close. Right before the weekend. I won’t write about our faces after this rollercoaster. I won’t write about how we managed to reopen the service in bank n. 4. No, I won’t definitely write about it. What two parents can do in front of such a strong and impending necessity it’s best to not talk about. But I will write about him, Andy. I will write about how elegantly he came closer and offered his help (while we were pale, showing dark circles under our eyes, sweating, desperating, orchestrating the most crazy scene of our lives). The bank could not do much for us, business timetables are apparently more important than the customer’s necessities out of schedule. But Andy could, oh yes he could help us. That was the first time we met him. He told us he was very sorry it would’ve been impossible to find customer support before Monday. It would’ve been impossible to find any help, but his own. Andy, about 1,80 meter tall, dark hair, a gentle and firm voice, offered his money to us. And all he knew about us was our very worse. Andy wanted to open his own wallet to help us, two poor dumbs. Andy was offering his help without any guarantee except for our promises to give it all back as soon as this matter would be solved. It was a shock, we could not thank him enough. We were speechless. Andy shared his phone number with us begging us to call him in case of need, in case our plan B wouldn’t work. And then, just like that, after a day that slapped us in the face so hard, we said goodbye and walked on opposite paths.
This second week of our trip has all been about meet ups.
About Sebastian, Julien’s childhood friend. The memories of the times they used to play the guitar and the drums together, in the parisian suburbs. Time flies while seeing each other again after more than 10 years in front of a vegan buffet in Ubud and talking about how they both left it all behind to see the world. When it was time to decide about the destination, Indonesia prevailed for Seb and Jeanne (his girlfriend) too. We spent with them a wonderful afternoon in the Monkey Forest.
About Rika, the indonesian girl with the biggest eyes we’ve ever seen. We met her during a visit at a local balinese market that we casually found while heading to Tirta Empul Temple. We could not resist and we stopped the car immediately to take a look. No other western face around, just a few words in english. Anyway, nothing could stop us from talking to the locals, to those women sitting on small chairs right outside their shops, all busy chatting and cooking among fruit, vegetables and cloths. Just like Rika. Nothing brings more joy to balinese than toddlers, and when there’s two of them then you become great friends.
And then it was about all the ones whose name we don’t know, but who marked our path. The woman who sold us our first sarong at the local market in Ubud. Big fat laughs when she purposed the price and Julien answered with a “Are you ready to hear my offer now?” We did great negotiating, however we ended up buying not a sarong, but two.
Or about the super young bride and groom, cherished along the streets of Ubud. Incredibly elegant, all of them, guests included (the indonesian wedding dress is still one of my dreams in life).
About Rathma. She. We loved her at first sight since the moment we met her on Bintang Supermarket’ s square, right behind our flat. A scarf around her head to support the weight of our suitcases, while carrying them home in a game of balance. A positive energy that’s so incredibly contagious, an elegant and sensible smile, one of those that make you feel good.
About Him. The man who danced on the fire during an evening show, the night we decided to go out and celebrate. Him, the guy who inspired Teo to repeat non-stop “Mom, he pain feet!”, especially when the fire was eventually installed on stage. “Mom, chicken?” “Ahah. No, Teo.” “Mom, cooking pasta?” Ahaha. A traditional performance seen from the eyes of a child, who still believes that the actors were dressed like zebras.
Every night I asked Teo the same 5 questions:
Teo, your favourite food? Tuna pasta, grandma’s polpette. Nothing to do, italian food still wins over the asiatic.
What’s your favourite drink? Water!
Your favourite animal? Gazelle, liiioooon (along with the animals’ call). We didn’t cross many animals so far, except for monkeys and chickens (oh well, I almost forgot about bugs, giant geckos and a snake - but I’d rather to not think about that).
Your favourite color? Blue. No doubt. Always.
Your favourite place? Bali first, then the “Monkey Forest”. I must admit that during that experience I didn’t show my best profile: monkeys are totally free, you can walk and interact with them and if they don’t like something you can bet your bottom dollar that they won’t be too friendly: I wanted to leave the very moment I got in. While Teo of course liked it a lot. No fear. We bought him a notebook where he can draw all these memories and hold on to them forever. That notebook is going to be a precious treasure for me.
He still whispers “W o w” when we take his toys out of his little backpack. The easy way they are adapting during this journey amazes me everyday more. Better than us, good old adults, for sure.
Waking up in our Homeaway home, in the middle of the rice fields. Banana pancakes and strawberry cookies. The delight of getting up with a view on the pool, between bamboo trees and palms. Big love at first sight for the terrace on the first floor, with a small writing desk. The joy of feeling at home. We never went out at night, we tried to find the same old habits that we loved so much when living in Florence. Pasta can be found in any supermarket, so we ended our evenings in front of a good dish of penne or fusilli, 13000 km away from where we used to do it all the times. Every now and then we think about it, about home, about Florence. Perhaps the most challenging part of the journey is to realize that the moment we say “Ok, now we can go back home” will never come. Two weeks are still too few to realize it. So far, saying goodbye to Florence remains an open wound. Personally, I believe it’ll take time to heal. When I’m checking my Instagram feed and I see images of Florence, I scroll down fast. I don’t want to see it for now. We never regret this choice but Florence is Florence and we know we won’t see it again unless it’s just for some time. Florence is the city where we met and for this reason it’s way too important for us. We know that she’s there, lives in our dreams and it’s also thank to her that we ended up taking this big choice. She is our great friend, sigh of relief.
Puri Saren Agung, Pura Taman Saraswati. All the km we’ve been walking through the streets of the center, trying to move as far as possible from tourist paths. Same thing when it comes to the prices: everything is so much more expensive in shops and restaurants conceived to welcome western travelers. Last week we could buy Nasi Goreng for 25.000 rupee (the equivalent of 1.50 euro), while in the center of Ubud you hardly find the same for a price that is lower than 60.000 rupee. Starbucks. Stylish restaurants similar to those you can find in Camden Town. We asked for advice to balinese citizens, they said they almost never visit the center of Ubud. Five minutes away from the center by car is enough to reach a real paradise portraying how Bali was way before the wave of tourists. However, balinese people are peaceful and happy with visitors: “Oh, we don’t mind as long as they respect our culture”. After all, tourism brings more work, work brings money. And no one knows it better than an Italian and a Parisian (no, it’s no joke). And so, here it’s a recipe for a healthy sharing: if you want to see what the real balinese life is, you need to visit local food markets at night, where they gather around a good Nasi Campur.
Tegalalang rice paddies, they take your breath away. Touristic? Maybe yes. Actually, no doubt they are, but who cares when the beauty is disarming? And then, the highlight of the week: Tirta Empul Temple, at 12:00 on a cloudy Thursday. Women, men, children, entire families diving in the holy water, where you can get clean from your sins. Walking through 30 fountains is a Hindu ritual that brings purification. At first, we didn’t consider bathing, but Carpe Diem, right? Dressed in the sarong I rented at the entrance I got immersed in the water with Teo. Behind me there are two mothers with their toddlers. We smile at each other and without talking we wait for our turn. Our children were born in opposite sides of the world but, despite this matter, they have the same exact reaction: grabbing our neck, they hold on tight to their mamas trying to avoid the water’s temperature. There is no such thing as difference in front of cold water (that after a while suddenly becomes warm. It might be about the mystical atmosphere of this place to make it so magical. Daddy and Lia were waiting right outside the water and every time she spotted us she laughed and waved ciao ciao. It’s been an incredible moment, we perceived on our skin how extraordinary this place is. It’s our turn.
This is how I’m going to end this article, thinking about that moment, the great occasion we lived. Thinking about the feeling of that water on my head while my baby was holding on to my neck. I turn, my daughter smiles at me with just those two tiny teeth she has. Julien takes a picture. The other mother who is walking behind me smiles looking at Lia, looking at Teo. “Are they your babies?” Yes, they are my babies. Yes. It’s all true. I bend my head under the water again. The water is warm.
With a Lot of Love. #miljiansgotobali
Helpful links :
Our Home Away House : https://www.homeaway.it/affitto-vacanze/p3530836
on homeaway.it you can find lot of choise and for all budgets
Monkey Forest : https://www.monkeyforestubud.com/
Tempio Tirta Empul : http://discoveryourindonesia.com/tirta-empul-bali/
Kecak Fire & Trance Dance Pura Batu Karu : https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g297701-d7194867-Reviews-Kecak_Fire_Trance_Dance_Pura_Batu_Karu-Ubud_Bali.html
Risaie Tegallalang : https://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/tegallalang