Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Farmers' Yard

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Open-air kitchen
  Tasha called a cab to take us to our next host, which we appreciated since we still only knew a handful of Indonesian phrases. Although we had the address, the cab driver had a hard time finding it, and had to call Djuca for directions. It seems we weren't the only ones who had trouble navigating the poorly marked streets. After driving around for about 45 minutes, we finally saw a sign for the Farmers' Yard, and told the "taksi" driver to stop. The sign ambiguously pointed to a set of double doors, which we tentatively knocked on. When no one answered, we knocked louder, but still to no avail. There was no lock or knob on the door, so after standing outside for a few minutes, we peered inside and saw a courtyard. There was a multitude of signs promoting sustainable farming and conscious living, and we figured we were in the right place.
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 By this time it was starting to get dark, and we were moderately worried about how we would spend our evening. We went into the courtyard, and immediately liked the vibe. Stepping stones wound down a brick-lined path, with raised beds on either side. There was an open-air kitchen with signs like "lettuce turnip the beet." The natural building techniques were inviting, with cob and bamboo everywhere, but there was still not a soul in sight. After peeking in the dorm rooms, we saw one guy who was face-down asleep on a bed, but we didn't want to wake him, so we just put our stuff down and waited. Twenty minutes later, the mysterious sleeper woke up and came out. Nico, a dreadlocked, soft-spoken Frenchman of few words explained a bit about Farmers' Yard, and then showed us where we would be sleeping. Then Holly made some rice with soy sauce and dried pea-snacks (we hadn't brought much food with us), and we fell asleep to the hypnotic humming of a neighbor's whimsical twenty-foot-tall bamboo weather vane.
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One of the dorm rooms where we stayed
The next morning when we awoke there was still no one around, so we went out in search of breakfast. Along the way we noticed small baskets made of palm leaves and filled with flowers, money, and incense in front of many houses. We later learned that these are called canang sari and are placed out daily by Balinese Hindus to give thanks for the peace granted by the supreme God. We bought some eggs, cabbage, and onions from a stand down the road, and when we came back, Will, a French-Canadian was awake. He explained that everyone was out late last night, and was sleeping in.
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Later we met Djuca and Tom, the creators of "the Yard," and about half a dozen other international volunteers. The Farmers' Yard was Djuca's brainchild; he wanted to encourage more responsible, conscious tourism, and create a place where travelers could be a part of the community. He started it over two years ago, and built it from the ground up. There are 3 dorm rooms, with a total of 16 beds, and it was on the cusp of completion (the first guests arrived about a week before we left). The Farmers' Yard is an amazing nexus of interesting people who form a community of spontaneous music and laughter. We highly recommend staying there if you're ever in Bali.
Some people find 
Jesus in their pancakes. 
All we got was this guy.
Djuca's truck
     Later we went to the market down the road, but there weren't many booths because it was late in the day. The market was open-air, with dozens of vendors. Most booths had some combination of vegetables, tempeh, tofu, and maybe eggs, some also had nuts, dried beans, rice, fruit, or these crazy flavored wafer things that expand into light, crispy chips when fried. Some had more dry goods, like instant coffee or raman-type noodles, and a few had fish or meat. There were two main booths that sold fresh raw chicken, and the two men had a pile of chicken parts and a cleaver, and would hack chunks off until it was a kilo, or however much you wanted.
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Are your dreams not patriotic enough?
These mattresses should help.
  On our way to the market we got stopped twice. Holly was just going to keep walking, but Randy was curious and wanted to see what the people were asking. One man gave us cards and when we pulled open a tab, he said we won, one of us supposedly won two polo shirts, and the other one of us won the "grand prize." He was really excited and wanted us to come claim our prizes right away, he said the reason he was so enthusiastic was because he got $50 whenever there was a grand prize winner. The other man really wanted help mailing a letter to the "White House Palace," the longer we stood there the more confusing his story got, so we just walked away.
Work at the Farmers' Yard was pretty open-ended, we could choose whatever projects we wanted to work on, and then go at our own pace.
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Woven bamboo fence
Our first few projects added to our bamboo repertoire, we used the material to add a ladder onto a bunk bed, and weave a garden retaining fence. Some of the smaller projects included transplanting starts, reinforcing the dining room table, installing overhead lamps in the rooms, and completing the cross pieces on the last unfinished bed. Before long, we realized that a large part of construction in Bali is making do with what you have, it wasn't possible to run down to the local hardware store and buy enough lumber or hardware to complete a project as you intended.
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Splitting the bamboo for the fence
Every job required the extra consideration of what materials were available, and what tools were on hand. We enjoyed brainstorming around the challenges that arose, and got to exercise our creativity with some of the bigger projects. We built kitchen countertops and shelves out of scrap wood that was lying around (hours of hand-sanding), did some bathroom sink plumbing with fiberglass and bamboo, and used an old flipflop as a stop on a sliding door.
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The weekend after we arrived was Tom's birthday, and the party really showcased the vibe of the Yard. There was lots of music, good food, and drink long into the night. There we met Rohman, who got to be a familiar face, and has his own soap company, and Jaya, who designs and makes awesome clothes (check out her etsy shop here) and is also Djuca's girlfriend. Randy was also able to try the local hooch, arrack. It was obtained from a friends' house who brewed and distilled it, and it was transported in plastic baggies, like everything else. Almost everyone at the Yard is a musician (check out Tom's band here), and often throughout the day, and usually at night people would jam.  
     About a week after we arrived, two American girls came, Luna and Katie. They had just graduated from Warren Wilson, and were traveling around Southeast Asia. They were the first Americans we had seen since the drunk New Jerseyian in New Zealand, and we hadn't realized how much we'd missed the subtle unconscious nuances of conversing with someone from your own culture. Almost everyone spoke English, but with Luna and Katie we could finally say we were from central Massachusetts and St. Louis, rather than "near New York City," and "the middle," and no longer had to defend our units of measure. With our common American experience as a backdrop for conversation, we could communicate more easily and freely, without having to worry about being misunderstood.
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Katie and Luna helping us finish the fence
     They introduced us to the intricacies of "warungs" (roadside restaurants), and got us hooked on terang bulan. Terang bulan is a light, fluffy pancake drizzled with condensed milk, and topped with chocolate sprinkles, banana, chopped peanuts, and cheese, then folded in half into a calzonesque, 4" thick chunk of awesomeness. About twice a week we would treat ourselves, and go in search of the roving street vendors who created them. Randy thought that marshmallows would make a delicious addition to this concoction, and at one point tried to supply the cook with this extra ingredient. The man was confused, and thought Randy was handing him trash, and obligingly threw the perfectly good marshmallows in his wastebasket. Another casualty of the language barrier.
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Mixing cob; 2:1 sand to clay,
with a little water
 and straw mixed in.
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Giving the floor its final coat
     They also helped us patch up a cob floor; first we mixed up a new batch of cob (mud, sand, and straw), and then filled in all the cracks and divets.
     A week or two later Paul, an English electrician, and his friend Carrel, a Czech-Canadian computer whiz, arrived. They had been scouting the area for a possible location to start their own guesthouse, and lent their expertise for a few weeks. We asked to help Paul, in the hopes of gleaning some electrical skills. He was happy to share his knowledge, but pointed out that wiring in Bali was not exactly the norm. The hostel had been built by a myriad of passing travelers, and we spent quite a few hours tracing wires and determining the final lighting configuration. 

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Djuca, Nico, Ruta, Katie Pedro, Luna, Holly, Randy, Mitsu.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ubud Day Trip

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Bumi Sehat clinic
     Ubud, Bali, is home to the Bumi Sehat Foundation. Founded by Robin Lim in 2003, it provides free prenatal, birthing, and medical care to anyone who needs it. In Indonesia, babies are often held by hospitals until they receive payment for the birth. Because of this, families who cannot pay are often forced to give their babies up, or women don't go to the hospital in the first place, leading to high rates of maternal and infant mortality. Lim started Bumi Sehat to combat these dangerous practices, and 80% of the women who receive care are unable to pay at all. If you are looking for a charity to donate to, we highly recommend Bumi Sehat, just click here.
indonesia     Back in New Zealand, we had learned that our around-the-world trip, one of the last things we wanted to do before we had kids, turned into literally the last thing we would do before having kids. About six weeks in, we found out Holly was pregnant. We'd had a few tests done in New Zealand, but we wanted a proper prenatal, and Bumi Sehat seemed like the perfect place. 
Randy's "Bali kiss"
ubud bali indonesia workaway helpx     It was by far our longest excursion on the motorbike, and we got up early so we could drive most of the way before it got crazy hot. Armed with a map, a compass, and some snacks, we set out. The map was not as helpful as you'd think, because some roads did not have names on the map, and most did not have signs anyway. It didn't take long for us to take a few wrong turns, and we often got swept along in the current of traffic, unable to turn around for several minutes. We kept pulling over to consult the map and ask people, but between our four-word Indonesian vocabulary and the unmarked roads, we often just guessed. Once while attempting to pull over to get our bearings, Randy hit a patch of sand and the bike slid out from under us. Fortunately Holly landed on Randy, and she only got a few scrapes. Randy's roadburn was a bit more substantial, but we decided it was best to continue on our way. Luckily when we got back on the road, we were finally headed in the right direction, and started seeing signs for Ubud. Eventually we made our way off the highway, and found ourselves on the peaceful, beautiful back roads. The picturesque drive was punctuated with Hindu temples, terraced rice paddies, and the ever-present colorful kites. Along the way we came upon a ceremonial procession. The slow march filled the street and consisted of dozens of people clad in white, carrying poles adorned with religious objects and chanting. Not wanting to awkwardly idle at the back on the motorbike, we decided to test our new-found navigational confidence, and set out in search of a shortcut. We wound our way through a residential neighborhood, sometimes driving on narrow footpaths, but miraculously bypassed the procession.
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It was a day of babies
     Along the way we stopped at a convenience store and bought some vodka, which Randy used to sterilize his cuts, since of course we'd left our first aid kit at home. As we entered a more densely populated area, at least three different people saw our injuries and were quite concerned, and wanted to take us to a clinic right away. One of these good Samaritans ended up leading us directly to Bumi Sehat, which was lucky because otherwise we might not have found it.  Once we arrived, our escort made it a point to alert the staff to Randy's injuries. Right away three people starting patching him up, while Holly waited to see a midwife.
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A troop relaxing in a quiet part of the park
 A senior nurse used Randy's injuries to teach two younger midwives how to sew stitches. They were a bit tentative, but eventually managed to complete the single stitch that he required. Holly also got cleaned up a bit, and then met Robin Lim, the woman who started Bumi Sehat, and we chatted a bit about midwifery. Then Holly got a prenatal. Since she was only 13 weeks pregnant, there wasn't a whole lot to it; they checked her height, weight, and the baby's position. We were quite surprised when they asked us if we wanted to hear the heartbeat. We hadn't expected to be able to hear it so soon, but the rapid taps heard from the Doppler gave a new dimension to the pregnancy.
Super excited founder
of the sanctuary
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Pensive monkey
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Koi pond

     After eating a snack, we headed to the nearby Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. We had seen many monkeys earlier on our way past the sanctuary (they could easily scale the 8-foot fence, and were often found scampering outside the walls). We still wanted to see the interior, and with the $3 entranced fee, it was too good to pass up.
ubud bali indonesia workaway helpxThe Sanctuary fosters religious, ecological, and educational experiences. The Sanctuary houses about 600 Crab-eating Macaques, with 5 different troops. We didn't see them eating any crabs, but you could buy overpriced bananas to feed them. Some uninformed visitors also fed them crackers and cookies--not exactly the monkeys' natural diet. We'd heard stories of the monkeys' boldness, but as long as you weren't being a jerk and hiding food from them, they weren't mean at all.
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This is as close as we got to the monkeys
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Temple in the middle  of the sanctuary

 They let you get within a foot or two of them, but would casually saunter off if you tried to touch them. We had a lovely leisurely walk around the sanctuary, and saw monkeys engaging in all kinds of social behavior. It was really fun to see so many monkeys up close; from adolescents play fighting, to whole troops lazing and grooming, and a few actual confrontations involving rival groups.
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On our way out, we saw a few monkeys playing and banging on the roof of a nearby SUV; we were glad we weren't parked so close. Although the drive there had taken us three hours, the drive back went smoothly, we took 0 wrong turns, and it only took us an hour. even with stops for ice cream and gas. Gas stations in Bali were a bit unconventional, there were regular gas stations, but they were few and far between.
Monkey crematorium
Most gas was purchased from small stands on the side of the road, consisting of shelves lined with old Svedka vodka bottles full of gasoline (for some reason, it was always Svedka). 
     When we got back we met four Europeans who had arrived while we were away, a French couple and a British couple. We enjoyed working and relaxing with them for the next few days, before we packed up and headed to our next destination.

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Some of the interesting statues found around Bali