Sunday, January 23, 2011

They'll call me freedom

Last week, my class had to create a piece of artwork for the GATE Art Gallery (which is aptly described with the acronym GAG). Getting ten six-year-olds to all sit in chairs at the same time is a feat; getting them to all work together on an art project is nothing short of a miracle.

My new coteacher went to school for design, so she's very artsy. I asked her two weeks ago for ideas, and she said whatever I did would be fine. I asked her a week and a half ago for ideas, and she said whatever I did would be fine. I asked her a week ago for ideas, and she said whatever I did would be fine. With her full support behind me, I designed a project and began to execute its creation.

I spent an hour having the kids tear up paper for my "collage" before my coteacher finally realized what I was doing. She looked at it like you would look at a homemade pillow made by a preschooler out of your favorite dress; you appreciate the creativity and thoughtfulness, but it's really quite a train wreck.

Therefore, when she took over, I didn't mind in the slightest. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I'd rather write you four thousand words to get out of drawing the picture. My coteacher took over trying to salvage the project I had started, and I did what I do best: entertained the kids with a dance party.

I usually try to play things I know the kids have heard before, but sometimes they surprise me by knowing pretty obscure songs. This time, I was beyond delighted.

Clearly, they're singing this:

I couldn't love these kids more if they pooped sunshine.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Black sand kinda looks like mud

The next morning, Jo and I had breakfast on the terrace again before heading out into the city. JoAnn had returned the night before with some really great bargains from the market in Ubud, and since I had spent my entire day playing with monkeys and hanging out with Liesl, I hadn't gotten a chance to visit there yet. We set off in the same general direction but ended up doing our own shopping.

The market was a million things all at once. It felt a little like a flea market, but nearly every shop sold the same thing, and the vendors shamelessly pulled you into their stalls. If you stopped to look at something for longer than a second, you had better be prepared to buy it. I'm honestly kind of surprised I didn't have an anxiety attack while I was there.

(I just looked at all my pictures of the market, and none of them properly convey how horrifically cluttered and overcrowded it was. I'm going to leave it up to your imagination.)

A few brief stories from the market:

  • A women selling baskets caught my eye. They weren't normal baskets; they were these completely flat, carved wooden things that opened up into a basket-type shape. (Confused yet? Me too, a little.) Once the woman noticed I was looking, she pounced on me. She showed me every kind of basket she had and grabbed a calculator to show me the price. Although she started with 25 bucks, I knew I'd be able to talk her down fairly easily; the thing was, I didn't want the basket. I live in a one-room apartment 6000 miles away from home; it's not like I'm particularly looking to collect knick knacks at the moment. I told her I didn't have enough money left to buy the basket (which was true) and tried to sneak away, but she grabbed my arm. Down the price went, but I still really didn't want the basket. The woman started muttering "good luck, good luck" under her breath, and I knew I was screwed. In Indonesia, they believe very strongly that your first customer of the day will set whether you will have a lucky sales day. Basically, if your first customer leaves without buying anything, you won't make any money that day. I frantically started scanning the other objects she was selling, but there was really nothing I wanted there. The more I tried to pull away, the more she clutched my arm. The woman had tears in her eyes... and I'm a sucker... so now I have a weird wooden basket thing. One day I'll have some kind of bookcase to put it on and I can proudly tell the story about how I bought it for nearly nothing at a market in Bali, but for now, it taunts me as an ever-present reminder that I literally don't know how to say no.
  • I don't have any perfume here. I didn't bring mine with me because I somehow got it in my head that I'd find something really exotic here that would make me a kind of sensually-scented goddess. Instead, I've merely gone four and a half months smelling like a mixture between my shower gel and laundry. I decided in Bali that that would no longer be the case, and I set out to purchase perfume. Unfortunately, in a country where not everyone can afford food, good-smelling water isn't high on the sales priority list. At the market, however, I did stumble across some essential oils. I'm the kind of girl who buys premixed Italian seasonings because combining oregano with... whatever else is in that... just seems too complicated for my limited attention span, but for some reason, I decided at that moment that I would make my own perfume. I chose a few flowery oils, and when I got home, I googled "how to make your own perfume." The recipe I found online said to combine a few drops of oil with pure grain alcohol, so I headed to the mart to locate "pure grain alcohol." Unfortunately, I haven't the faintest idea what that means, so I just bought something clear with pretty colors on the bottle. I still haven't gotten around to dumping the oil in the liquor bottle, but once I do, I'll let you know how it turns out. I may even be able to tell you in person after having been fired for my job for showing up to work smelling like I bathed in floral tequila.
  • I bought something special for my honeymoon.
  • That mask, combined with my new "I'm a pitiful (but floral!) drunk" perfume, is going to be the start of a marriage that lasts about as long as a box of Twinkies at fat camp.
Once Jo and I reconvened at the home stay, we packed up our suitcases and said goodbye to Ubud. The final stop on our tour de Bali was Lovina, the home of the black sand beaches. A three-hour car ride later, we dropped off our things and ran out to see this gorgeous black sand.

In case it wasn't obvious by the title of this post, I'll go ahead and point out the fact that black sand looks remarkably like mud.

Our arrival in Lovina was a handful of hours before midnight. Jo and I decided to hang out in the hotel for a little bit before heading out to find a place to ring in the New Year. Because we're both super-cool people, we ended up falling asleep with our faces in books. We're pretty much the definition of party animals. When the clock struck midnight, people set off some fireworks on the beach that ran right behind our hotel. In Korea, being awoken in the middle of the night by loud noises means Kim Jong-il finally snapped, but in Indonesia, it means celebration!

(Note: this is not an actual picture of the fireworks we saw.)

Our last morning in Indonesia, we woke up and looked outside, only to see this:

That's a lot of rain.

We actually got quite lucky; we visited Indonesia during its peak rainy season, but we only got stuck inside on our last day. Besides, as was previously stated, we're both huge nerds and really enjoyed having an excuse to spend the morning reading on the porch.

The rain cleared up by afternoon, and we headed out to take pictures in the town. Due to my new-found affinity for macro mode, I have far more pictures than I'm sure you're interested in, but here are a few of my faves.

We headed back to the hotel and spent the rest of the daylight hours in the pool before gathering our things and saying goodbye to Lovina. The cabdriver who took us to the airport was by far the absolute worst driver in the history of the world, and I've never been more motion-sick in my life. I had to sit with my forehead smashed against my knees to keep myself from throwing up. Just remembering it is making me queasy right now, so I'm gonna go ahead and stop writing about it.

That's the story of Bali! I literally took over a thousand pictures, and one day, I promise I'll upload them to facebook. Until then, um, just watch the last part of Eat, Pray, Love.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Back to Bali

After we left the Gilis (and my fiance), we headed to the "cultural center" of Bali: Ubud. The cab pulled in long after dark, and all the shops looked closed down. Although we had been told by numerous people that Ubud was "the" place to be in Bali, it looked completely dead. Having just left paradise island, driving through a scarcely populated village made me, um, a tad bit cranky. We carried our stuff up to the room, and I promptly had a hissy fit. I'm not going to go into details because it's my blog and I can make myself out to look like an always-pleasant-to-be-around ray of sunshine if I want to (even if it's horrifically untrue).

We dropped off our things and went out into the town. Pretty much everything closes in Bali when the sun goes down, so neither of us took our cameras when we went out onto the streets. That was a terrible decision because we ended up catching the end of what was one of the strangest and coolest shows I'd ever had the pleasure to witness. It was a retelling of the Hindu spiritual story of the Ramayana in the form of a ballet, and it contained costumes like this one:

We literally stared at the entire production, eyes wide and mouths hanging open, the whole time the women were dancing. I feel like such a failure that I don't have any pictures of it :(

In the morning, we toured our home stay, which turned out to also be an art gallery. Jo Ann is really artsy and loves looking at paintings and sculptures, so she walked around taking fancy pictures of artwork. I also took pictures of things I found interesting and culturally enlightening.

This is also the point of the trip where Jo taught me what "macro mode" is on my camera; therefore, I spent a good hour taking pictures of every flower I could find. I have approximately 1,983,527 pictures of Indonesian plant life, should you ever want to see it. For now, I'll just post a couple so you can ooh and ahh at my amazing photography skills.

Due to our little spat the night before, we opted to head out our separate directions for the first part of the day. Jo wanted to go shopping, and I had heard there were more monkeys to be found. She set off for the market, and I set off for the primates.

There's no other way to say it: Ubud was cool. I felt like I was on some kind of really elaborate movie set the entire time I was walking around. The shops and restaurants had so much character. I'm finding that it's really hard to describe this place, so I think I'm going to just resort to showing you pictures.

The roads to the monkey forest were so incredible that I'd have gladly wandered for miles. I wish I had better words to describe this; there's just a richness there that I've never felt before. It felt like colors were brighter, and sounds were clearer, and foods tasted fuller.

I swear I wasn't on drugs.


The monkey forest was bigger than the temple Jo and I had visited in Sanur, and there were hundreds of monkeys everywhere. Coolest. Forest. Ever.

While at the monkey forest, I made friends with a girl named Liesl. Liesl is from Oregon and is spending five months traveling around Asia. Basically, I wanted her life. I settled for having lunch with her.

She took me to a little restaurant near her hotel, and we talked about everything she had done so far on her trip and where she planned to go next. Although I had already pretty much made up my mind to go home and go to grad school, this crazy girl was very close to convincing me to quit my job and move to Thailand/Cambo/India/AnywhereButHere. She added me on facebook and we made tentative plans to hang out in Seoul before she heads back to America before parting ways. As an update, my facebook stalking skills tell me that she just arrived in India, and my envy level is at an all-time high, considering the fact that it's 3 degrees here and, you know, it's not India.

I met Jo Ann back at the home stay, and we had a van waiting to take us to the Spa Hati. There are massage places all over Indonesia, all for less than a cheeseburger and fries cost here, but this place is glamorous. I'd never had a massage before, and honestly, if I can't have another one like that, then it's totally not worth it. Oils, trickling fountains, showers with water that came out of a carved lion's head. This place was heavenly. I obviously don't have pictures of me getting massaged because I was wearing only a sarong, but here are some pictures of the spa, sans naked me.

The greatest thing about this place was that it was a non-profit. All the money they made went straight into funding an English school, so I was completely okay with paying a whopping $27 for an hour and a half massage. If you're ever in Ubud, I'd totally recommend it :)

More relaxed than I've ever been in my entire life, I returned to the home stay with Jo and we headed out to catch dinner and another show. This time, I had my camera on hand, but the costumes weren't as off-the-wall as the night before. Fortunately for you, you didn't see the ones from the night before, so you don't know what you're missing out on!

Despite having fewer words than any other post I've ever written, this has taken me almost three hours. Granted, it's mainly because I have extreme ADD and keep switching to facebook/gmail/whatever random thing I feel like googling. Nonetheless, I'm getting awfully bored staring at my computer, so this is where this installment will end. Ciao!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

And then I got engaged

Today's story is going to read like the script from a straight-to-DVD romantic comedy, only funnier because it actually happened.

Our second day in Indonesia, JoAnn wanted to go to the Gili Islands. According to her research, they were beautiful and incredibly popular among the Aussie tourists, and everyone knows Australians are always right about everything. We packed up our suitcases bright and early and waited outside for the shuttle to pick us up. It arrived just on time, and the driver tossed our bags on the roof of the van (no straps, just tossed 'em up there) before taking off down the road. JoAnn had hopped in the front, but I totally didn't mind that she called shotgun when I looked at the two guys I'd be sharing the backseat with.

As soon as I got in the car, I could feel myself getting stupid giggly; the guy who was sitting by the other window had curly brown hair and a spattering of tattoos up and down both arms. When he opened his mouth, it was instantly obvious that he was Australian, which is hands-down the sexiest accent in the world. His friend, who was also Australian, sat between me and Mr. Handsome, and I talked to both of them a little while we drove to the dock. When we piled out of the car at a little restaurant near the beach, Jo and I headed to the back to grab a bite to eat and giggle about how cute the two Aussies were. We were planning to go to a lesser-known island instead of the main party hang-out where they were heading, so we assumed they'd float off into our memories as soon as we left the dock. When we stepped on the boat, however, we were delighted to find that the cute Australians would be sharing our transport for the next two hours. Unfortunately, they were both pansies and had taken the seasick pills, which meant they fell asleep the second their butts hit the seats. I popped my earbuds in and spent the duration of the trip listening to Ben Harper, staring out the window, and wondering how I could get my lips to bump into Mr. Handsome's and make it look like an accident.

The boat pulled up on shore at Gili Trawangan, but JoAnn and I didn't get off with everyone else. Although we had been told that the boat would take us over to Gili Meno, that apparently was a blatant lie. The boat drivers kicked us off and pointed us in the direction of another boat, but those drivers wanted $50 each to take us to the next island over. Having already paid $65 to get to where we were, I was not keen on forking out more money to go from one random tropical island to the next, particularly considering that the cute Australians were somewhere on my current island. We decided to stay, so we set off down the muddy path to find somewhere to sleep for the night.

The thing I hated most about Indonesia - and when I say I hated it, I mean people are lucky I didn't punch them - was that everyone shouts at white people. "You need transport?" "You have place to stay?" "I give you cheap rooms!" "You have dinner here! Good price!" "You want sarong? Necklace? Bag? Shoes? Dress? Herpes?" Since we were carrying suitcases down the path and it was pretty clear we had no intended destination, we got shouted at by every single person on the street. Sometimes people even stood directly in front of us, blocking our paths and reaching for our bags to take us into their hotel. At first, we were polite, saying, "No, thank you" or "We'll be right back," but within a few minutes, we were ignoring them altogether and pushing people out of our way. We stopped at a few different places, but none of them looked all that great, so we keep trudging through the mud. Finally, we found a place that had special "backpackers" rooms for nine dollars a night. We both thought we were pretty badass by that point, so we lugged our bags up to the reception desk and asked to see the cheapest rooms.

One of the employees walked us down a path past the "deluxe suites" to the "discount rooms." These rooms consisted of a set of bunk beds, a junky fan, and a delightfully fecal odor. The shared bathroom was down a dark alley and behind a huge building (where no one could hear you scream), and it was decorated with dead spiders. JoAnn gave me a look that said "hey, it's only nine bucks!", but I just shook my head. While I'm not high maintenance by most standards, a gas station-esque bathroom is too much for me to handle in paradise. We argued about it a while, and finally I talked her into staying in the deluxe suite.

After dropping our stuff and marveling in the glory that is air conditioning, we headed out to explore the island. We chose a direction and wandered off. I had assumed that when we dropped our bags, people would stop shouting at us, but clearly two twenty-something girls are just too easy a target. "Where you from?" "How long you stay?" "Beautiful. You get drink?" I suppose I shouldn't be complaining ("Oh how I wish men didn't find us so attractive!"), but it just gets old quickly when everyone is cat-calling at you. Yeah, there's no way to rephrase that to make it sound any less pretentious. But it's only flattering for about twelve seconds. Then it's maddening.

We stopped at a restaurant pretty far from the hustle and bustle of the main strip to order dinner. The restaurant was right out in the sand, and we ate our food in little huts overlooking the water. It's almost unfathomable how ridiculously beautiful this island was.

After dinner, we grabbed our bathing suits and rented snorkels along the beach. I'd never been snorkeling before, and you know how giddy I get when presented with magic like being able to breathe while my face is in water. I followed a giant turtle around for a good thirty minutes, and I "found Nemo" enough times to drive even a kindergartener crazy. I'm astounded and amazed at how beautiful the world is, even the parts we can't see. You were right, God. It is good.

We stopped at the room to shower before going out to the "authentic" Mexican restaurant connected to our hotel. We had intended to wander down to the main strip to see what kinds of exciting things were going on, but instead we sat in a little hut and talked about ethnocentricity and faith... because we're just that nerdy.

In the morning, we set off in the opposite direction from where we had explored the night before and ended up falling asleep on some random stretch of beach that was just as impossibly beautiful as the rest of the place.

After a while, I could feel my shoulders turning a fiery shade of pink (who doesn't take sunscreen to paradise? this idiot), so I asked Jo if we could walk back to the hotel and sit in the shade. After stopping briefly for ice cream (greatest. ice cream. ever.), we were smacked in the face by some generous fate; the Australian guys were walking right toward us.

The one I had already fallen in love with grinned like a little boy. "I thought you girls were going to another island!" I told him we had decided to stay and that we were heading down to find a hut and get some drinks. They asked if they could join us, which was, of course, the best thing that had happened all day. While we started walking, Nick (because his name would be the same as mine) asked me why I looked different that day. I laughed and told him I had taken a shower and didn't have to cover my hair with a bandana anymore. He frowned and said that he liked it when I looked like a pirate before launching into more lame pirate jokes than I've heard since third grade. He also pulled out a black chain and a silver ring and showed me some "magic tricks," which were actually kind of good - and I'm not just saying that because of his accent (yes I am). 

While we walked, he told me that he had been so disappointed when he thought we were on another island because he had wanted to ask me to marry him when he fist met me. I told him that I would absolutely marry him - if he had a ring. He grabbed my hand and crammed all my fingers into the medal ring that was half of his magic trick; I told him that was close enough, and we were engaged. Just like I always dreamed it would happen.

Jo decided that she was too tired to socialize, so she stopped at the hotel and I continued on with my new fiance and his buddy mate, Des (because the sexy Australian would have a friend named Des). We stopped in a hut along the edge of the water and the guys ordered drinks. Nick continued to woo me with bad magic tricks and even worse jokes, and he tried to "accidentally" brush against me with his foot - and ended up caressing Des instead. We talked about where we'd live after we got married and whether we should try to find a preacher on the island or hold off until we could plan something nicer. He asked what my plans were for the evening, and that's when it came out that Jo and I were heading back to Bali in about forty-five minutes (whoops). Nick offered to let me stay in his hotel room (what a gentleman, coughcough) and Des looked thoroughly amused at the fact that Nick had wasted so much time hitting on a girl who wouldn't even be around to keep him company that night.

After the guys paid for the drinks, they walked me back to my hotel to get Jo and our bags. Nick had his arm around me and kept talking about how disappointed he was that his fiancee was abandoning him. This proved to be absolutely phenomenal; with a man beside me, no one shouted or cat-called or anything in my direction. It was such a relief to be able to walk down the street like a normal human being again. 

While we were walking, he suddenly looked down into my eyes and said, "We should do what married people do."

Excuse me? "Oh yeah? And what's that?"

"Hold hands and skip!"

We can absolutely do what married people do!

When we got back to my hotel, Nick hugged me. As soon as he had his arms around me, he whispered, "Do you know what we haven't done yet? Slow danced." I laughed and told him that there was no music. "There's music in my head when I'm with you." (Clearly he learned how to pick up American girls by watching chick flicks and reading Stephenie Meyer). Nevertheless, I slow-danced with a cute Australian guy on a beach in paradise.

Nick kissed me on the cheek and told me to meet him at such-and-such bar for New Years before disappearing with Des into the crowd. Jo and I rolled our suitcases out to where the boat would be picking us up, and I said goodbye to the most sincere relationship (and most hilarious story) I've ever been a part of.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Indonesia, part one!

I've been back from Indonesia for almost a week, and I've got over 700 pictures to sort through and post, along with six days of Balinese adventures to recount in glorious detail. I spent the last two nights sitting in my apartment with the best of intentions to start getting things posted, but all I've managed to do is watch the new season of 30 Rock and read every article has ever published... I've just been really homesick lately. When I first got here, I was homesick in little bursts. I'd talk to someone on skype, or walk past a KFC, and suddenly wish I could just close my eyes and reappear in Ohio. Those bouts of homesickness wore off quickly, though, since I was still getting such a kick out of my new surroundings. When December came, I started to feel a gnawing sense of unease; I blamed it on PMS, cold weather, whatever I could think of, until I returned home from Indonesia on Sunday. I walked back into my apartment, and, for the first time since I got here, it was 100% absolutely not where I wanted to be. I was tired, hungry, and still nauseous from the cab ride from hell (more on that later), and I wanted to be at home. I haven't lived at my parents' house in more than six years, and my most recent apartment in Cinci now has strangers living in it, so I'm not exactly sure what I meant by "home;" I just knew I didn't want to be here anymore. It's been five days and I still can't shake the feeling. It's like when you realize you've gotten too fat for your underwear. It didn't bother you before, but then one day, it just occurs to you that your butt feels far too smushed. From that moment on, that's going to be all you can think about, every second of every day, until you buy new underwear. Korea feels a little like a smushed butt to me right now.

Fortunately for you, I have plenty of things to talk about that don't involve underpants; I went to Bali! Because writing kicks my OCD into the highest possible gear, I have to tell the story of Indonesia chronologically. Christmas night, I stayed up until 1 AM watching my family open their presents for their Christmas morning. Since I had sent home presents for some people on my dad's side of the family, I wanted to be able to make an appearance there too; however, that side of the family celebrates on Christmas afternoon, which is middle-of-the-night-after-Christmas for me in K-land. Thus, I clocked less than four hours of sleep before I popped back out of bed to skype again. With a small suitcase and a backpack in hand, I headed to the subway station to meet Jo Ann before 7, and we started our journey to paradise.

Despite being notoriously late for everything in life (someone's going to have to lie to get me to my own wedding on time, I bet), I'm anal about getting to the airport two hours before my flight. When I came home from Fukuoka, I got to the airport three hours early just to make sure I wouldn't miss the plane. After missing our express train by less than 90 seconds, we still made it to the airport pretty early... but then neither of us had written down the flight information, so we had no idea where to go to check in. We waited until it popped up on one of the signs then joined a super-long line at the check-in counter. At the front of the line, we were informed that we needed to print off our e-tickets and obtain tourist visas before we could leave. The lady behind the counter pointed us in a million different directions, and I started to get panicky. With less than an hour before our plane boarded, we had a laundry list of things to do, and a very big International Terminal to cross. We hopped in line for the visas but were informed at that counter that we could only buy them with US dollars. That was convenient considering we typically have our wallets stuffed with a currency we don't use (*sarcasm*). After dashing to the nearest money changer, we headed back to the Indonesian visa counter, bought our visas, rushed downstairs to print off our e-ticket (which we never did need), and ran to security. 

Immigration stamped us out of the country three minutes after our plane was set to board. I couldn't help feeling like I was caught in the first scene of Home Alone as we dashed around people to get to our gate. (Well, I was dashing. Jo Ann is obnoxiously calm when faced with almost missing a flight to paradise.) When we arrived at the gate, it was immediately clear that my running was unnecessary; after checking with a few people standing around, we discovered our plane had been delayed. I'll spare you the boring details, but we ended up waiting in that terminal for over six hours. Here is where I learned a valuable lesson about traveling: if you're going overseas, don't head out on only four hours of sleep. Should you disregard that rule, sleep in the airport if your plane is delayed. If again you choose not to listen, absolutely, positively do not stay awake the entire duration of the flight, no matter how badly you want to see Avatar. When we arrived in Jakarta, we had long since missed our connecting flight, so the airline put us up in a hotel for the night. Unfortunately, we only got to relish in how soft the beds were for about four hours; our new connecting flight was unnecessarily early in the morning.

We finally arrived in Denpasar around lunch time a day later than we had planned. We called the home stay Jo Ann had reserved for us, and they had given our room away when we didn't arrive on time. Luckily, she had a list of other options, and we just started calling until we found one that would let us stay there. We hopped in a cab and headed to the home stay, where Jo promptly fell asleep and I headed out to experience Indonesian culture.

I chatted with the barman at our home stay, and he gave me some ideas of nearby tourist spots. According to him, the temple Jo Ann had wanted to see was so crowded this time of year that it would just be a complete mess to try to go there. He suggested another temple and called his cousin to drive us; I sprinted upstairs to shake Jo Ann awake.

On the way to the temple, we were scheduled to stop at Turtle Island. When we arrived at the little port, however, we saw that it was more expensive than we'd bargained for, so we opted instead to hang out on the beach and drink out of coconuts.

After grabbing some food, we hopped back in the car and the driver took us to a temple. I honestly don't know what the temple was called or even where it was on the map... but regardless, it was hands-down one of the most gorgeous places I have ever seen.

**Yes, Mom, I know I'm dangerously close to that edge. In fact, when I sat down to take the picture, the locals all started yelling and trying to grab me; I'm pretty sure they thought the crazy white girl was suicidal. Aren't you proud?

Random story: While we were wandering up and down the side of this cliff, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around, and a middle-aged man pointed at his camera. I reached out, assuming he wanted me to take a picture of him, but no... He wrapped his arm around me and laid his head on my shoulder; his friend snapped a picture that I'm positive has the most distinctive "WTF" face I have ever made.

Our driver/tour guide led us through the temple and along the ridge of the cliff, where I took far more pictures than is strictly necessary. I do have to say: I sincerely can't understand how someone could visit a place like this and ever question this world was creatively and intelligently designed.

On the way out of the temple, our tour guide picked us each a flower for our hair, and we walked through a tiny patch of monkeys. Yep, you read that right, monkeys. When we entered the temple at the other end, the guide had told us to put away our sunglasses and any food we might be carrying because the monkeys would snatch it, but we weren't expecting there to be any others past the main part of the temple. Oh boy were we wrong.

Jo Ann had pulled her sunglasses back out of her back and put them back on the top of her head somewhere in the temple, and on our way through the gate, she felt a hand grab them. She told me she originally thought it was me (which is, in all fairness, a really good guess), but then she looked down beside her and saw this:

Basically, Abu stole her sunglasses.

Our guide and the temple guards huddled around the fence, waving bananas and money in the air to coerce the monkey to give back the sunglasses. I stood off to the side, taking pictures and comfortingly laughing my butt off while Jo fretted about, hoping to get her sunglasses back. Eventually, the monkey decided that we simply weren't offering bills in sufficient denominations, and she darted off into the trees. One of the guards explained that she was trying to mate with one of the males and that she likely stole the sunglasses to impress him. Honey, if you want to impress a guy, you have to present him with either a sports car or a ham sandwich. Everyone knows that.

I headed back to our home stay with a visibly distraught Jo Ann. When the driver dropped us off, we decided that we should head down to the ATM to get some more cash before leaving for the Gili Islands in the morning, so we wandered down the street (toward the Dunkin Donuts, if you're keeping a map). We stopped in the first ATM and tried our cards... and they both got declined. We shrugged and headed to the next ATM. Declined. FIVE ATMs later, we started to freak out. Jo Ann had only brought her Korean bank card, but I had brought both my Korean card and my American card, and all three of them were getting turned down at every machine. We buzzed around the street, asking money changers and security guards if they knew of anywhere we could talk to someone about the ATMs not wanting to give us our money. Finally, we crumpled onto the stoop outside Dunkin Donuts, completely at a loss. I pulled out my iPod touch and called my friend Kristen on skype to see if she had any ideas. She said to cry a little (after all, we were stranded in a foreign country with no money and no access to money) then to pray. 

We stared at each other for a while, and I texted my dad on my iPod. I'm sure that was a text that no father wants to get from a daughter he knows is in a foreign country: "Hey dad! Can you get on skype? I kind of need some help..." Although it was kind of early in the morning in Ohio, my dad signed on a few minutes later, and I explained our predicament. "Well, that pretty much sucks, kiddo. What should we do?" I gave him my checking account number, and he tried to call the bank to find out what was wrong with my card. Unfortunately for us, his story sounded completely outlandish ("My daughter is stuck in Indonesia without any money and her debit card seems to be frozen. Is there anything you can do?") The customer service rep wouldn't help him since he's not a cosigner on my account, so my dad had to put her on speaker phone so I could talk to her through skype, and we eventually managed to get some money transferred over from my savings account. I said goodbye to my daddy, and Jo and I said a quick prayer before heading back to the ATM. We put in the card and chanted "please, please, please" while I entered all the information. This time, it worked! You can thank 5/3's customer service department, but Jo Ann and I thanked God - thanked God for skype on the iPod touch, thanked God that my parents' dogs had already woken my dad up so he saw our text, thanked God for the kind woman who helped us even though the internet kept cutting out, and thanked God for the card finally working. We withdrew some money and went back to the home stay, grateful and exhausted.

This is a really long post, and I applaud you if you made it all the way to the end. :) Until next time...