From Australia to Indonesia

I continue to be overcome with emotion.  I wonder when I will stop getting teary-eyed at the reality of my dreams coming true, or when the random smile appearing on my face will stop.

It’s been a long journey from Atlanta to Bali.  In total, I’ve been in the sky for over 26 hours and spent three days getting here.  I’m finally adjusting to the jet lag and last night I slept an entire four hours laying vertically.  This is the most I’ve slept laying in a bed and not in an airplane since Sunday night; it is Thursday now.

I woke up and thought, “I don’t want this to end.”  I hadn’t even started, hadn’t even seen the island or anything outside of my hotel.  And then it hit me – it doesn’t have to end for a long time.  It’s a strange, frightening, liberating feeling to wake up and know you are the only person you know within roughly nine or ten time zones.  How strange to say “I am the only person I know.”

I arrived into Bali late last night and was greeted at the door of the airplane with my wheelchair and a woman dressed in a light purple dress who was my escort.  I typically don’t like to have someone help me through airports; I feel like I’m giving up some of my independence.  But this trip is so different for me.  I’m totally alone and know that I need to rely on others to help me with menial tasks, so I let her push me through the COVID check point, immigration, and customs.  She was incredibly kind, helpful, and even got me to the front of most lines.  When we got to the exit, she helped me find an ATM and waited until I could locate my driver, including speaking with him on the phone so he knew where we were.  There were about 200 drivers holding up names, so finding mine was almost impossible.  After he located us, she handed me off to him and he took over pushing me through the parking garage to his car.

MerthaHood is his name.  I settled into the back seat while he put my wheelchair in the trunk, and right before we took off, he handed me a Tupperware container and a bottle of water.  I opened the Tupperware container and inside were three neatly folded and moist washcloths to refresh my face and hands after a long flight.  We drove about 30 minutes to the hotel and the entire cost of the transport was $3.49 USD.

MerthaHood asked about my family and I learned about his.  He has a four-year old son and a wife.  His English was not great but we were also wearing masks which made it just a bit more difficult to understand each other.  He told me that he learned English by listening to English music, specifically love songs because they were the easiest to understand.  He said there were no schools that taught English because he did not have enough money, and so he learned by listening to music.  I will always be amazed at the people in this world who grasp at anything to learn English, something so many of us take for granted every day of our lives.

I arrived at the hotel to discover that the elevator was not working, and my room was on the second floor.  I had to do a bit of negotiating but managed to get a room on the ground floor, and supposedly nicer room, for my stay.  The room itself is decent and clean, but it smells strongly of urine.  This is a part of the world where used toilet paper goes into a trash can and not the toilet, and the plumbing systems are functional at best.  I also know that in 2021, Bali had 45 foreigners visit their island (they were closed due to the pandemic for the entire year).  I am hopeful that as the days go on and I use the bathroom plumbing, the smell subsides.  It is likely that this room has been sitting empty for months, maybe even a year.  None the less, there is a beautiful courtyard immediately outside of my door, and the air conditioning works well, so I really can’t complain.

I was up slightly before the sun, made a few calls home, and headed out for the day.  I had the Sanur Walking Path in my mind, and that’s exactly where I ended up.  The part of Bali that I am staying in is a town call Sanur; Bali itself is the island.  Sanur is a calmer, more family friendly part of Bali.  I’m not into late night partying, and the mountainous part of Bali just won’t do well with a wheelchair.  Sanur seems perfect for me.

The Sanur Walking Path is a brand new, cement path that runs along the beach.  It’s about four miles long in total, and is lined with plenty of hotels, restaurants, and shops.  I walked for quite a ways before stopping at a restaurant for coffee and breakfast.

The traditional breakfast in Bali is fried rice.  I opted for this and it came with a side of fruit and Bali coffee.  Bali coffee is made from a special bean that has been digested by wild cats and retrieved from their poo.  It’s often called Wild Cat Poo Coffee.  It was served in a small cup with a pot for additional servings.  I finished the pot and order a second, it was just so good!  I’m a bit of a coffee snob, and seriously, this was some of the best coffee I’ve ever had.

It took me over two hours to have breakfast.  I drank slowly, ate slowly, watched the water, and took in the people.  It is so unlike me to take two hours to have a meal.  I’m usually in and out in 20 minutes.  But then, that’s why I’m here.  To slow down a little and enjoy the little things in life.  Perhaps that’s why the coffee was so good.

After I paid for my breakfast, a bill that was a little over $4 USD, I continued on the walking path.  There were lots of ‘Good Mornings,’ lots of smiles, lots of locals asking if I needed a massage, and my favorite part, a cute little girl who was probably three or four years old who wanted so badly to push me.  I couldn’t understand a word she was saying, and she couldn’t reach my handles to even attempt pushing, but she bounced along behind me for quite some ways, her father following behind.  I was getting quite warm at this point.  It was approaching 90 degrees and the sun was straight overhead.  I turned around and started heading back to my hotel, which was two miles on the walking path and then another five minutes or so from there.

I had been reading mixed reviews on whether the LifeStraw I had brought along was enough to filter the water in Bali.  There is a virus that much of the water has here that the LifeStraw cannot filter out.  I decided not to take my chances and stopped at a mini market just next door to my hotel.  There were two steps to get in, so I hopped out, sat on the step, pulled my chair up, and was quickly inside.  I bought four large bottles and a few other food items for the week.  I had a bag with me that I put everything into, but it was quite full.  I only had a few yards to get back to the room, so I figured I’d make it work.  I got out of the store the same way I got in – I sat on the step, bounced my chair down, and attempted to carry four massive bottles of water and other groceries back.  The condensation on the water bottles made them slippery and they fell all over.  I would pick one up just to drop another.  Finally, a man standing on the side of the street came up and pushed me the distance back to the hotel.

I was hoping to be able to capture all of the people who have helped me on this adventure, to share a story about each and every one, but already, just a few days in, there are too many to share with you all here.  They come out of the woodwork, and before I even have a chance to say anything, they are there helping.  I know there will be more, and I know they will do it with smiles and graciousness.  It’s what I needed to see in the world right now, in this very heavy world that feels as though we are all against each other.

So I’ve been here in Bali for less than 24 hours, and already, I’m so happy I took the risk and made this journey.  I’m learning to slow down, to wheel at a pace that allows me to see the world.  Yesterday, I got to the airport quite early.  There’s a pretty extensive checklist of documents that are needed to get into Indonesia, and I wanted to be sure I had adequate time in case I needed to fill something out last minute.  I’ve always been the person who times getting on the plane exactly to the minute, so there’s no wasted time or sitting around.  Yesterday, waiting in line and not stressing, removing the anxiety of a time crunch, was quite refreshing.  I must say, there’s something to be said about not hurrying through life.

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