Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More adventures in paradise

The past nearly three weeks back in Ubud have been about spending time with the man who came into my life in early February. And the more I know him, the more I want to know. He’s deeply comfortable in his own skin, very affectionate and attentive, mature and wise, as steady as a rock. He is patient and kind, spunky, very manly and very funny. His voice makes me swoon.

Some highlights: I spent two days at his house overlooking the rice fields for Nyepi (Balinese New Year) and Silent Day. One night he quietly sang me an ancient mantra, his arms wrapped around me in the dark. He encouraged me to sing and to dance. Naked.

Early one morning, he rode alongside me on his motorbike as I ran for an hour and a half on the outskirts of Ubud. He smoked a cigar and sang “Eye of the Tiger” to amuse and inspire me.

We’ve eaten together most nights (sometimes he cooks). He’s a better Scrabble player than I am. He helped me with a tedious task and enjoyed doing it. He is younger than I am, and feels just right.

We are flying to Kuala Lumpur this afternoon for three days together before I return to Florence.

The gods in Bali have definitely been smiling on me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Karaoke and other capers in Kuching

As always, the magic kicked in as soon as I arrived back in Kuching.

I had listened to the advice of the spiritual psychic I met in Ubud about doing some singing as a form of active meditation and made a date as soon as I arrived in Kuching to go to karaoke with Mas and Jun. An hour later, in a taxi, I was talking about singing with the driver, Hamitaf, who remembered me (and my name!) from a year ago.  He said that he loves to sing, so I asked if he would sing me something. He sang some of a Paul Anka song. It was really lovely.

A couple of days later, I made my karaoke debut with Mas. I think our rendition of Doris Day’s “Que Sera Sera” could be heard in the waterfront district on the other side of the Sarawak River, because a few days later I could hear singing coming from that direction at karaoke hour. I was so nervous I had to hang on to Mas, but I threw myself into it as best I could and it was lots of fun. Jun is a real character and always makes Mas laugh. What more can you ask for after 30+ years of marriage?

Jun and Mas

On a couple of mornings during the week, Mas and I continued our sing-along while she was doing my room: our favourite was another Doris Day song, “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”, which we sang along with on YouTube.

I made four visits to Normah Hospital for the whole gamut of tests that make up a full health screening. The initial purpose had been to get a letter from my doctor there to say I’m fit to run races in Italy and France, but it seemed like a good opportunity to cover all the bases. Hamitaf drove me each time, and also took me to the airport on my last morning at 4 am. If a suitable song had come on the radio, I think we would have sung it together.

Also on my agenda for this visit was a long run with Min and the Kuching contingent. We had downscaled from our planned 29 km Lundu run (rescheduled for next year…) to a 16.4 km Robyn’s River Run, so named by Min. Our runners were Steven, Alfred, Larry, Pang Yen, Swee and Sara. Sam was support, meeting us at various points along the way with water and encouragement. 

We crossed back across the river in a sampan (tambang) and then had breakfast at a riverside place. When I got back to my hotel, I ran up and down the footpath a few times out the front so that graphic designer Wendy Lee could take some photos for a publication she is putting together for Batik’s owner, Jackie.

The next morning I ran again with Min and Swee at the waterfront and joined in Eng Hooi’s core exercise session. This is the Sunday morning regular meetup that I’d chanced upon two years ago that opened up a whole world for me in Kuching and elsewhere through my close friendship with Min and Sam.

Pang Yen, Min, Swee, Sara, me, Alfred and Larry

I had two get-togethers with Emily, who is one of the planet’s very special people; and dinner with Rita, whom I’ve known also since my first visit to Kuching in 2010. She went with me in the ambulance to hospital when I got heat stroke in a race in June of that year.

Emily (top) and Rita

Had lunch and a catch-up natter with my friend Bernard, who is now the honorary British consul in Sarawak; a three-hour session with the queen of facials, Josephine (who was also on my flight from KL); and a visit to Bernie, who does my hair. They are among my support people and it’s always good to touch base with them.

A farewell dinner with Min, Sam, Sara, and Belinda and Eng Hooi at Junk. The Wees were flying off to Burma the next day. I had been meant to join them, but there hadn’t been time to get a visa for Myanmar when I was in Oz, and I moved on to plan B, which was to return to Ubud before returning to Italy. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Feeling groovy

At the end of January I walked with a guide and a Canadian couple for two hours in the dark to the crater rim of Mt Batur, an active volcano in central Bali, to watch the sun rise. It sort of set the tone for February, which has been a really special time in so many ways. I'm feeling so grateful for my life and the people in it.

There is a large colony of monkeys living on the crater rim

Bali hasn’t been an easy place to run for any distance, but with Gede’s help I’ve had some spectacular runs. Twice we drove for an hour before dawn across to the coast so that I could run around the resort/golf course at Tanah Lot, where there is a temple complex on a small island that is accessible only at low tide. It’s not often one sees guys carrying surfboards across a golf course and outlined against a pink dawn. The second time I ran here I asked the pool guy at the resort if I could throw my sweaty self in the pool. There was a waterfall curtain at one end, which I stood under. A very refreshing end to a run. Both times Gede and I had breakfast afterwards at a small family-run warung.


Another morning we went to the Tirta Mpul temple, where I ran circuits around the "moat" and practised my race finishes along this straight stretch.

Nice weather for ducks — on a run just outside Ubud

I ran one time along country roads and through tiny villages where it seemed that everyone I met waved and smiled at me. Gede drove shotgun just ahead. Last week I wanted to do a 20K run (my longest since December). For nearly half the distance I ran in the beam of the headlights, with Gede following close behind me. After it grew light we ran into a bunch of school kids running a race through a small town, and it was fun to cheer them on. An old woman gave me a big smile and two thumbs-up. We finished at the main market in Ubud, where I’ve spent many mornings in the past month drinking Bali coffee and eating pisang goreng (hot banana fritters) and watching the morning traders and customers. 

My fallback run of 12 or more repeats of Dewi Sita has become a favourite easy one. I’ve continued to meet local characters there…

I've been hanging out a bit with Monique, whom I met in a cafĂ©. She is a retired school principal from Paris and has travelled a lot in Asia. I’m planning to catch up with her in France in a few months. 

Another new friend is Joe, a firefighter/ocean sailor from Babylon/Fire Island in New York. I’m looking forward to catching up with him in NYC in the summer.

Early in February I met Patrick, who is from California/Hawaii and is now based in Ubud. We hit it off immediately and have spent a lot of time together playing Scrabble in cafes, tootling around on his motorbike, and having dinner. He is very laidback and fun, and I like him very much. 

Local writer Cat (author of Bali Daze) is always on my list of people to see. She has a generous spirit, and I trust her instincts about people. She put me on to a spiritual psychic, Novi, who gave me an amazing reading. It was like she had the script of my life in front of her. Lots to think about there…

In amongst all the fun and games was a steady amount of work and a regular dose of spa treatments of one kind or another. All very self-indulgent and lovely.

I was incredibly lucky with my choice of accommodation: the people at Cinta Inn just took me into their family. Really lovely people — Ary, Ardhani, Putu, Novi, Oka, Ketut, Yanti (who had her baby mid-month), Sekar, Benny, and more… Putu gave me a beautiful Buddha statue he had carved.

A conversation overhead at Cinta one morning resulted in a new friendship with Kasey and Rico, whose villa I visited twice and which I’ll be renting for two months next year. I also met artist Michele, from Austin, Texas, and jeweller Nita from Santa Fe, New Mexico. I find I have quite a lot in common with many of the people I’ve met in Ubud.

I’ll be back in Bali after a nine-day flying visit to Kuching to see “family” and friends there and catch up on work.