The World Is My Country

By Karyn:

Wild and Free has gone international. We’re transitioning to become a travel and philosophy blog, so that Jeremy and I can use this space for personal thought, while writing seriously as a profession. We begin with my adventures in Bali and greater South East Asia.

Life in Bali, so far, has been nearly perfect. Everyone is always smiling or honking their horn at you. Honking is not necessarily an insult here, simply a way to communicate on the road, where every one drives like a Californian (aka insanely). Except here, 15 lane highways are reduced to two and there are almost no rules. Everyone is also on a motorbike and those that aren’t get stuck in traffic!

My first reflection on motorbikes is that they are a blast! I wish that the US had more of them as a traditional mode of transport. Especially in Hawaii, where the need for off-road vehicles results in a lot of trucks and thus a high demand for fuel and expensive living costs. If Hawaii were to adopt a motorbike culture economic challenges could really change there. More on that later, perhaps.

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An unusual scene: no traffic!

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When I first arrived at my new home, I was greeted by the bat on our property. It was beautiful and unafraid to show off. Perhaps it was attempting to protect a nest or baby. Either way, I enjoy antagonizing it so that I can get a glimpse of it flying around the yard. Every single time it sends a rush up my spine as it swirls around me.

I think that is why I love bats so much (I really, really love them); they challenge me to accept that something seemingly menacing is harmless (unless it has rabies). The pale glow of our porch light creates for a translucent appearance of its wings and skin. They are simply fruit bats, but locals, like me, worship them.

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View from my apartment. Bat viewing to the left.

Overall, it has been easy to get used to Bali, it’s people and culture. I myself have long explored the Hindu religion and at times have called it mine. The streets here are littered with offerings to the gods in the form of little baskets made from leaves, which are filled with flowers and bits of food.

Like I mentioned, people drive crazy, but such behavior isn’t much of a change for someone born and raised in Southern California where driving the speed limit is dangerous. The bats and worship of nature reside with my passions as well. The only disconnect may be the views on plastic and tailpipe exhaust.

Plastic is considered clean by many and thus swept away with biodegradable goods in the gutters. Even so, many restaurants and shops are conscious of the problem and take part in Bali Cantik Tanpa Plastik‘s (Plastic-free Bali) campaign to reduce the use and distribution of plastic bags.

Unfortunately, exhaust isn’t much of a concern either, as most people do not protect their lungs from the massive amounts spewing from motorbikes and cars.

I choose to wear a handkerchief most of the time, because of my asthma. Yesterday, I cleaned it out in the sink only to find the the water immediately became a dark brownish yellow – the color of gasoline. I imagined that had I not been wearing it most of the time on the road, that filth would have been stored in the lining of my lungs, rather than the cloth. The realization was startling. I’ll make a video next time I clean it out.

The cities are a congested place where rice paddies rarely can be seen. I was told that locals have realized they can make more money selling their land than they can continuing their trade.

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Rice paddies are growing more rare in Ubud, as farmer realize they can make more money selling their land than continuing their trade.

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Local architect, Popo Danes, presenting “Bali for Sale” at a local TED Talk-like event called 20×20

Fortunately, I have been able to get out quite a lot. My first weekend, the roomies took me to a beach on the south eastern side of the island. There I learned to take the equatorial sun seriously. I rarely get sunburns, but even in the shade, with sunblock I managed to earn myself a pink hew. It was a small price to pay for one of the most pristine beaches I’ve seen in my life.

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I read in Rachel Carson‘s Sea Around Us that the sea is saltier here because of the evaporation caused by the heat. I can certainly attest that this is true, considering how much my eyes burned after swimming a few laps in the choppy water. Floating was so easy it felt like flying.

The clouds here are utterly incredible as well. Sea Around Us also taught me that cumulus clouds are consistently massive here. As I was flying in, I was able to see them for the first time lit up by the sunset. I could literally see the layers of the atmosphere, where each held it’s own variation of clouds. An epic spectrum of gold, violet, and fuchsia greeted my arrival and I knew that I had finally arrived in a place I might call home one day.

NOTE: My professional camera disappeared in the Singapore Airport, so most photos will be from my cheap camera phone until further notice. NBD since the beautiful scenery of Indonesia outmatches the poor quality of my pictures.

Please share your thoughts, all are welcome and will receive a thoughtful response.

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