Dry and Sprawling: Lombok

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Came back a few days ago from Lombok, an island off of Bali. In all the time that I've been in Bali (almost 6 months in total now) - I have not bothered to explore Indonesia at all. It's terrible and embarrassing! When I was in Mexico, I always wanted to see more and would be just kind of amazed when I would talk to people who would just go to the same place in Mexico over and over.

Bali, at least for me, right now, is this vortex where I don't really feel the need to leave. The island itself has a lot to explore that I have yet to see and even that feels like a whole big thing in itself.

Anyways. My neighbor has a non profit organization, Hairdressers Without Borders, where she goes to developing countries and teaches people there how to cut hair. She was going to Lombok and seeing an opportunity to finally see another part of Indonesia (although haha it's only half an hour away by plane - baby steps yah?) I asked if I could tag along (by helping her haha...take pictures) and she said yes.

I don't really have many pictures (that aren't of washing, combing and cutting hair) to show because we were working for most of the day and would just go out to dinner at the end of the night and pass out shortly thereafter.

But here are some snaps:

This is a tiny thing and might be completely wrong, but you can automatically see the difference in wealth between Lombok and Bali by this corn. In Bali, everywhere there is the option to have sate, grilled meat on a stick - but in Lombok, most of the time you just see this corn. Maybe it's not so much a matter of wealth but that they really like corn haha. Which isn't such a bad thing cause it's delicious. Especially with a coconut. And a nice sunset:

Lombok is known for being a less developed island and to have really beautiful scenery. I didn't get to see much of it, but I can tell you that what I did see, it was really dry at some part, and then lush and sprawling at others.

The actual volunteering. First off, you need to know that Lombok has a really strong Muslim religion. You hear several mosques all throughout the day, religion, religion, religion. Rather than seem like a spiritual thing - it seems more like a limiting thing that contains the people and island's potential. It made me finally see or at least feel the difference between religion and spirituality. I haven't really seen or experienced a lot of Bali's religious ceremonies so this is still probably somewhat ignorant, but from what I have glimpsed, there is something lighter to Bali and I feel like that it's cultivating a spirit, beliefs and a holistic approach rather than a set sort of rules that are just like, wait, where did these come from and why are we following them.

Hearing the mosque all the time and with the dry climate and undeveloped lands, Lombok just felt really heavy. The women get the shit end of the stick in everything.The typical wage is incredibly low and the job options are limited and are again, not increasing the potential of the people and the island.

So for these women to even want to show up (consistently, prepared, and on time) and to learn a new skill that could (and hopefully provide them with a new source of income or at the very least, instil more confidence and independence in them) - is big. Watching the students, the transformation was so fast, at the beginning of the week, they would be shy, really quiet, and kind of scared (some would shake while holding the scissors and tentatively touch people's heads)- but as the week progressed, they would open and you could see the confidence beginning to form and ideas and dreams materializing.

 Us being there for a week is a small thing and who knows might not lead anywhere.

Or maybe everywhere.

I hope.

Vancouver: Gems.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I just came back from being in Vancouver for a little over 2.5 weeks.
I had such a good time. I can't tell you enough how good it was.

Seeing this reminded me that oh yah, Vancouver likes to have some weird and slightly amusing highly manicured plants. And it's funny because this was also the first thing I noticed when I first came to Van back in 2005.

The easiest way to describe why my visit was great was that it was a novelty coming back. Things were familiar and new at the same time and there was just enough time to feel only this. Rain was refreshing instead of being a reminder that it was the start of a season that would last for what seemed like an endless amount of months. Grey skies were pleasant to wake up to (for the past year I have been sweating from just...existing). Riding around on bus and just watching everything and everyone instead of fiddling around on my phone because I had taken this way so many times before. Walking routes I used to take and seeing what has changed and been replaced or remained the same.

Got to stay with Jane for a bit and have some good hangs with her and her endlessly loveable cat Dig Dug.

This used to be an ordinary sight to me. But there were many moments this year where I dreamed about this place and eating piles of this stuff...which I proceeded to do when I got the chance.

I forgot about areas. Places I walked several times but completely didn't remember until I returned. This is one of them, I loved this spot, it's lined with gardens (some bursting with vegetables and flowers) and if I ever felt shitty I would just walk along it to help me feel better. Or it was just a nice way to break from walking along houses and feeling like you were somewhere completely different.

Herein begins my unintended photoshoot with Jane haha:


Happy cookies.

Some pretty dumpling shapes.

Jane, Megan and I were walking and all of the sudden started picking up acorns from the ground and got really into it. By the time we got home, a lot of them had fallen apart.

Oh look another picture of Dig Dug :)

Had so much delicious food. So many meals with friends. Thank you again to everyone who ate with me, it was really nice and I had such a good time spending time with you guys and hearing about what's been happening with your lives.

It was also nice to be able to cook meals. Hearty, cozy, and overindulgent ones. Like roast chicken. Risotto. Mussels. When I am travelling, even though I live in places for somewhat long stretches at a time, cooking is just not the same. Especially in a tropical climate. The kind of cooking that I really love is the ones where the dishes take awhile (haha and create steam and heat), where it's an excuse to hang out inside and take your time and watch lots of tv or a movie while things cook. Basically lazy delicious cooking.

Last meal.

I got to do all the things that I love and forgot that I loved. Before coming to Vancouver, I was feeling either slightly ambivalent or kind of scared. Because it brought up questions of what I was doing with my life, that one day I will have to come back and set more solid roots (either there or at least somewhere), basically just making me confront life and making some choices I don't want to and am not quite ready to make. And even though it was a brief amount of time that you only really experience the best and exciting parts of being in a familiar city - it reminded me of what people always say when you leave a place - you can always come back. 

Bali: Here for Awhile

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Went back to Bali for a couple of months. Snaps:

The most perfect orange.

Side of the road satay setup.

They love to burn things here.

This dog is adorable. I love how his ears just flop like that. He's an old one, always kind of in the way when I need to get out, moving at the slowest pace when he realizes he needs to move.

Insane low tide.

My neighbor's cat, Suzuki. My neighbor was driving along a rode and saw two guys pulled over, looking at their car. He asked what was wrong and they said that they thought they heard a meowing coming from inside. They looked and there was this tiny kitten hidden in the engine. When my neighbor held up the tiny thing, he's like, "AH, SUZUKI!" (the car in which the kitten was found was a Suzuki). Really sweet cat. He does this thing where when he's super comfortable, he begins sucking his tail (you can kind of notice in this picture where at the end the tail isn't fluffy) - it is quite the thing to see.

Even though I was in Bali for a longer period of time, I don't have that much to show. I got into a routine, was trying to root myself a bit more. For the time being I have decided to base myself here and go back and forth to Singapore (where my parents are) and to other places I am curious about in Asia. It's odd. I never even planned on coming to Bali. And I never planned on staying past the initial month I came. And I'm not nearly as in love with it as other people who live here longterm, but here I am and if you're ever in Bali or Singapore, do say hello.

We can eat $3 lunches, laugh at getting candy as change, marvel (in both awe and amusement) at the amount of ceremonies there are (from a baby turning 3 months old, to blessing surfboards, motorbikes, and kitchen utensils), get real sweaty and tanned, ride through rice fields on a motorbike to the beach, say hello to the nice guys who run the surfboard rental at the beach and make silly jokes that only they really find funny, surf waves early in the morning (and watch all the surf schools scream at their students, "PADDLEPADDLEPADDLEPADDLE, UUUUUUUUUUUUP!" and then they proceed to scream and laugh some more), drink coconuts, see a Bali healer (with the surname 'Circus') who has the one weird eye and makes lewd jokes (and proceeds to profusely say, just kidding, just kidding) but does somehow manage to fix that one spot without even asking, hang out with many dogs and cats, hang out with my very sweet neighbors (who feel like the true definition of the word in all the best ways) and on and on and on.

Forever Friends: Hong Kong

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

After Taipei, my mom and I stopped in Hong Kong for a few days for my cousin's wedding banquet.

I've been to Hong Kong a good handful of times now. Even though the buildings are just as run down and grimy in Taipei and the air is also hot and humid, and the consumerism and amount of people is dizzying, it felt good to be there, feeling so familiar and new. I guess cause I went to Hong Kong when I was young and each time I went, it was the bomb. Back then I was in love with Sailor Moon and there was Sailor Moon stuff everywhere (I got a Sailor Moon denim jacket that I hope is still buried away at my parent's house somewhere). I remember also meeting and playing with a collie for the first time and it was the best thing ever (I was young okay!) Also riding my grandma's bike in, I don't really know how to describe it, backyard is a stretch, but this tiny bit of concrete that surrounded her little house. I pretended I was a delivery person (that somehow really appealed to me). Eating instant noodles with sliced hot dogs for the first time and those flavors completely blowing my mind. Drinking cream soda with milk. Finding out I had relatives and that they were so nice to be around. Watching Titanic before it came out in Canada on an illegal cd! That stuff made me fall in love with Hong Kong and I am forever its loyal friend.

Anyways, not much to show, but here's some funny things:

This cat was the most pleasant surprise ever. I had no idea he existed and he was so close to our hotel (so we got to see him everyday twice a day). 

His woman companion.

Droopy ice cream from what had to be the most unimpressed and bored ice cream man ever with the cutest ice cream truck.

Food at my cousin's wedding banquet. Mannnnn traditional Chinese wedding banquets are quite the sight to see. 

Until next time Hong Kong! xo! 

Wet Hot Taiwan Summer

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Went to Taipei with my mom for 10 days:

While I was in Chiang Mai back in February, I had finally read Eddie Huang's Fresh Off The Boat. I totally fux with that book. He made Taipei sound so awesome that I was like, gotta go to Taipei. 

Made a day trip out to Wulai, a town that is "famous for its hot springs and aboriginal culture".  It was way too hot to try out the hot springs, so we just explored a spot where there was a waterfall up in a mountain nearby. 


Loved the pattern on this light. 

The park around the waterfall had all these weird/awesome statues. We went there on a weekday and I think normally it's packed with tourists, but with it being rainy and not a weekend, there was barely anyone there. It was kind of surreal, not everything was open in the park (there's rides, some cafes, a performance stage, a semi-extreme games course, the list goes on) and it was as if time stopped and the place was abandoned in the middle of something and you were seeing the aftermath of that. Or aliens invaded. Or I was on the set of the Hunger Games. 

I have no idea what this animal is supposed to be. 

I was kind of disappointed with this town because I was really looking forward to seeing Taiwanese Aboriginal culture. (You're about to learn how ignorant I am) -  I had no idea there was even an Aboriginal culture in Taiwan. I loved all the patterns that I saw around town, but it was obvious that what actual Aboriginal culture there was left wasn't going to be seen and all that there was was something to just please and appeal to tourists. 


Although this place was slammed with tourists, I still loved it here. 

Xiao Long Bao at Din Tai Fung. It was cute, they put this creepy crawler crab thing to indicate that you are having the crab xiao long bao. I really noticed the service at Din Tai Fung, which is the first in a long time. It was really good and it didn't make me uncomfortable. HA! A lot of the times when I experience attentive service at a restaurant, I get really self-conscious and say thank you too much and smile a lot to feel less awkward, but then I think my attempt to seem really grateful just makes it more awkward. Or not. Anyways, with Din Tai Fung, I think the difference was that I felt like the servers were really proud of their jobs, that they were part of an institution in Taiwan that locals and foreigners really love. I liked that they explained how their dumplings should be eaten and that if you look at your receipt, there's notes indicating when to start cooking the dishes so that the meal is timed right. 

When I saw these on this woman's table I went nuts. LOOK AT THEIR TINY LITTLE HANDS HOLDING PIECES OF SHRIMP AND RICE! We asked the woman what they were "they're from Australia" (doesn't really answer my question), how old they were "3 to 4 years old", why is the front one so fat (couldn't get him in the picture) "I dunno but he's fully grown like the others". For someone with such cute animals she didn't seem very happy or into answering our questions. Yes to be fair we shouldn't have interrupted her meal. 

A town with a teahouse that inspired the bath house in Spirited Away

In case you wanted to see a large non real cat on a roof.

Went to so many night markets. 

And ate way too many things. This is the one bite sausage. 

A deep fried sandwich. I...wouldn't get it again haha. The bun is deep fried and slightly sweet and then there is meat, tomato, cucumber, hardboiled egg and its slathered with this sweetish mayo. The English name of the stall was "Nutritious Sandwich". I dunno if the owners were trying to be funny or it's just Engrish, because the women running it didn't really look like they joked around much. 

I was so excited for Taipei. In my research on what to do and eat there, everyone had nothing but good things to say. I dunno if it was my mood (which was a weird, overly-contemplative one), or that it was constantly grey and threatening to rain (and then would), or that it was so hot and humid that the air was thick and a bit of a slog to move through, or that maybe we stayed a bit too long, or that the buildings were a lot more grimier and rundown than I thought (when I imagined Taipei every time I read about it, I thought of giant streets with giant buildings and bright lights and packed with people). But I didn't like Taipei as much as I thought I would. I so, so wanted to. I mean a place that comes up with beef noodles, xiao long bao, bubble tea, night markets galore, has friendly people, how could it not be the best? I dunno! But I'm not going to let that stop me from thinking that it was still nice and that I would like to go back and maybe I'll see you there and we'll be eating xiao long baos and you'll tell me what a fool I am. 

It was nice travelling with my mom again. Eating lots of lychees at the end of every night. Ordering and eating way too much food. Melting in the Taiwan heat and laughing at how delicate we are. So delicate.