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Indonesia, pt 1

2016 March 28
by Rachel Turiel

We’re home! It’s so good to be home (even if I’ve been lying around sick with a tonsil infection, binge-watching educational documentaries Orange is the New Black on netflix). I feel forever, gratefully changed for the experience of spending three weeks in Indonesia.

And somehow, we are back to our normal Southwest existence.

Rose is noticing that she did better left-hand cartwheels in the Eastern hemisphere. Dan is asking if I can do something with the soured, raw cream in the fridge that smells too much like cow ass to put in his coffee, but apparently not enough like it to toss in the compost. Col is lobbying clemency for our hen who apparently turned into a rooster while we were away. (Rose is on Col’s side: “Other families don’t just kill animals all the time.” Huffy sigh). And I just made a vet appointment for Rose’s rat (who has an alarming abscess. ETA: now healed!) which may be the clearest sign that we’re back in a first world country.

After 24 hours of being home, Dan and I marveled at how our time in Indonesia was a brief and shallow swim across the surface of a hugely different world, but for those 249 million Indonesians, it’s just everyday life. Nyoman, the 63-year old man (whose wife is also named Nyoman – because the Balinese name their children according to birth order) is likely climbing a coconut tree barefoot to retrieve a coconut for a tourist, smiling without his full complement of teeth and insisting, “no problem,” a phrase we heard so much it may well be the national anthem. Baby ducks are eating cooked rice, and full grown ducks are peering out of cramped bamboo cages on the back of someone’s motorbike, rumbling off to market.

There was so much our American minds simply didn’t understand. How do the dogs navigate the busy streets? Who’s supervising those children swimming in the ocean? How can a family of four all fit on one motorbike (including bobble-headed infants, snoozing toddlers, texting teens)? Why are those boys carrying snakes in water bottles? Will anyone clear away these roadside piles of garbage? How do people drive in a city of 2 million with no traffic lights? (Rose asked one of our tour guides, “Are there any rules here?”)

“Camera please?” we were asked by many Indonesians who wanted to take photos with us. Besides Bali, the islands we visited were not tourist destinations and clearly people weren’t used to seeing white faces. Photos of Col and Rose are likely floating all around Indonesian social media.

makassar girls

Indonesia is mostly a muslim country, except the island of Bali, which is predominantly Hindu. It is illegal to buy guns in Indonesia, and despite the low standard of living, we saw no homeless people and I always felt very safe. One local explained that they simply took care of each other, feeding hungry neighbors, taking in elderly parents. That was their social security system. People were disarmingly friendly, generous and cheerful.

Every morning on Bali people leave beautiful and ephemeral offerings for the Hindu gods. Placed inside woven baskets of banana leaves are assortments of fresh flowers, a small bit of food and incense. These are so ubiquitous, found in front of every home and business, also on people’s car dashboards, check-out counters of major grocery stores and the airport. I found them to be beautiful and uplifting. Rose asked, “What do we do for the gods everyday?”

Bali offerings

These are the rangers on Komodo Island, charged with keeping the highly dangerous dragons away from visitors with forked sticks: (the dragons’ attunement to the smell of blood is so great that menstruating women or anyone with open cuts were advised to forego the tour).

komodo rangers

This is a two-way street in Bali.

Bali 2 way street

We didn’t exactly plan to feed this dog we met on the island of Lombok after swimming in the Indian Ocean (The Indian Ocean!), but she really liked coconut. The man selling coconuts for 20,000 rupiah (about $1.50) said to us with maybe the tiniest bit of amusement, “Maybe you buy another coconut for your dog?” tweetie

For the first time, I think I understand why people love to travel. How everyday your senses are unlocked, your mind cleared for the next inexplicably fascinating, confusing, amusing, odd and delightful moment. How, somehow it’s both disorienting and reassuring to be somewhere where English is not the first language. Ultimately, I am an ever-grateful resident of the pinyon and juniper, the high desert mountain landscape, although now I feel a little more like a world citizen.

More coming. So much more to share.



14 Responses leave one →
  1. March 28, 2016

    welc(om)e back to Turtle Island…we missed y’all!

  2. March 28, 2016

    Oh, wow. I haven’t been on the blogosphere in a while, but looks like I stopped by your place at a good time. I love everything about this. EVERYTHING. Can’t wait to hear more!

  3. Solyssa permalink
    March 28, 2016

    I was so excited to see your title, I think I jumped a little. I have been trying to decide; Indonesia or Thailand/Laos? for a trip for our family next year. Loved your comments and look forward to more colorful tidbits. Welcome home!

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 29, 2016

      Please e-mail me.
      I’d love to talk to you further about SE Asia.

    • Andrea permalink
      March 29, 2016

      I’ve been to Thailand, it is a must see.
      So, I guess you should do both!

      • Andrea permalink
        March 29, 2016

        Welcome home! And yes, you are a world traveler. I’m just dying to hear more…

  4. Molly permalink
    March 29, 2016

    Thanks for sharing some of your adventures! I hope you are feeling better and getting settled in back at home. Cheers!

  5. March 29, 2016

    I’m so glad you had a wonderful trip, Rachel! It sounds like it was amazing for all of you.

  6. Kayleigh permalink
    March 29, 2016

    I’m starting to want to go to Indonesia right now.

  7. Becky permalink
    March 29, 2016

    thank you so much for including us on your trip with your wonderful pictures and descriptions.
    can hardly wait for the next addition. I thought you were kidding about the dangerous dragons but went and looked them up and found out that you were not. Hope you are feeling better and that Dan got his cream. Did you all plan your own trip or use a service?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink
      March 30, 2016

      A little of both.
      I personally left all the planning up to my dad, who loves to travel and research travel ideas. We were part of an organized tour of Indonesia, which included viewing the solar eclipse in Makassar Strait between Borneo and Sulawesi, and then we spent five days in Bali, unplanned, just hanging out and checking things out.

  8. March 29, 2016

    As always… beautifully shared

  9. Natalie permalink
    March 29, 2016

    Thanks for taking us with you!!!!
    So fun for us all.


  10. Andrea permalink
    March 29, 2016

    Welcome home! And yes, you are a world traveler. I’m just dying to hear more…

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