Nusa Lembongan: Trip to the Other Side

On clear days, I can easily see Nusa Penida and perhaps a bit of Nusa Lembongan from Sanur beach. When I just moved to Sanur, I often wonder what’s in these islands. Are the roads all flat like they are in Sanur? Are there supermarkets there or do they transport things from Bali? And how would the island of Bali look like from where they are? Last July, to answer my curiosity and also to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary, my husband and I decided to cross over to the other side of Sanur – Nusa Lembongan.

We catched the speed boat from the beach in Jalan Hang Tuah side. There are plenty of speed boat companies to choose from, but the prices are the same (Rp. 250.000 for locals, return trip). It only took half an hour to get to Nusa Lembongan – half an hour of jumping up and down against the big waves! I heard that this happens during high tides (generally during full moon or 2 weeks after full moon), so if you get sea sickness easily perhaps it’s better to do the trip during low tide as the waves are quieter.

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Cottages among the tree – getting closer to the island

Getting close to the island, you can see the cottages between the trees. The view really reminds me to the view that I saw during boat trips in Thousand Island or Lake George, back in the US. We got off from the boat, not sure how to get to our hotel. Good thing the boat trip also include transfer to the hotel, using this pick-up truck (turns out this is the only type of car that the island has!)

I booked my hotel with Agoda, but unfortunately the manager forgot to save a room for us and the hotel was fully booked! The good news is the manager /owner also owns other hotel, so we were transferred there. Not bad because we got better room at the beach front of Jungut Batu village! The room has a private porch, and we got an amazing sunset view!

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Sunset from our hotel’s room

We quickly found out that the roads aren’t flat here in Nusa Lembongan. To get to other beaches (Mushroom Bay, Coconut Bay, Devil’s Tear etc) you would have to climb up and down the hill. It took about half an hour for us to get to the Mushroom Bay. The walking was nice – we passed through a wood and a local village – but going up was challenging. I guess it would be better to rent the motorbikes, although I wonder how the owners keep track of their motorbikes since none of them have license plates! Yes, I guess this is still possible because the number of vehicles is still very limited in this small island. Plus we also didn’t see any police or police station, so I guess you don’t have to worry about fines.

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Pick up truck: the only type of car available in the island

What I really love about Nusa Lembongan is the fact that we can just snorkel by the beach! I saw plenty of colorful fishes in different shapes and sizes, without having to take a boat. Of course if you want more amazing snorkeling experience, there are plenty of boat trips to take you to several spots where you can snorkel or dive.

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View towards Jungut Batu village

We had our anniversary dinner at the Sandy Bay restaurant. You can call them for reservation and they will arrange a pick up for you (yes, with a pick-up truck). It was a nice ride, though; we got to see more of the village within the island. At times it can be so dark, because the roads have no light. The restaurant is by the beach but we got there after sunset so we can only hear the waves – we can’t see much because it’s already dark. 

Back to the hotel, we spent the evening sitting by the beach – enjoying the quiet village while looking at the twinkling lights in Sanur and Candidasa. It was a very relaxing trip, and now I know how Bali looks like from the other side.

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View from Mushroom Bay

 

Massimo’s Gelato

One thing I really love doing on the weekends is visiting Massimo restaurant to enjoy their gelato. Massimo is an Italian restaurant in Sanur, and I’m lucky enough to live within a walking distance from it (hence the frequent trip with my dog, Hazel). Massimo is known for their superb brick oven pizza, and of course also for their gelatos.

Ready for some gelato?

Ready for some gelato?

You can have the gelato with various sizes of dishes, and also with cones. The cones come in three flavors: chocolate, pistachio (green), and sugar (the regular one). Prices are very reasonable, starting from Rp. 20.000 (2US$) for two generous scoops. Very affordable pleasure! I can assure you that the price and quality is the best compared to other gelato places in Sanur.

So what choices of gelato that they have? A lot, and they continuously invent something new! They have the sweet ones such as chocolate, coffee and hazelnut (among others), and also the sour ones such as blueberry yogurt, kiwi, raspberry, and so on. The display is also very interesting, and it’s difficult to make up your mind when you are standing in front of the counter! When that happened I usually go for my default choices: hazelnut and pistachio (you can find real pistachios inside!).

In Albany there is my favorite bakery that sells a very good gelato also (Chrisan at the Lark Street). I’m very happy that I found a comparable one here in Bali! Thanks to my sister for introducing me to Massimo’s gelato, I’m really hooked up. And thanks, Massimo. With you, my love affair with good gelato continues…

Ricefield Reflection

Rice terrace 1

It is so easy to forget that Bali is not just about beautiful beaches; the island also has wonderful lakes, waterfalls, and mountains too! And up in the north, there are some rice terraces with breathtaking views! Here I’m taking you to Jatiluwih, a village located in Tabanan regency.

Tabanan is the area that has the largest production of rice in Bali, with Jatiluwih as the main supplier. Of course this is not enough to meet the consumption of rice for the whole island, let alone the country. We Indonesian are one of the main rice eaters in the world; rice is our main food staple and most of us eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Jatiluwih, UNESCO's World Heritage Site

Jatiluwih, UNESCO’s World Heritage Site

The puzzle is this: if the demand for rice in this country is really that high, then why Indonesia is one of the world’s leading rice importers? Why don’t people want to be rice farmers? There are many different explanations for that, but the definite one is because being a farmer is not beneficial.

First, the fertilizer is expensive and it is not subsided by the government (it used to, decades ago). Second, there is always the risk of crop failure due to the dry season, pests, and so on. Imagine that you’ve worked so hard every day, invested your time and energy, but yield nothing in the end. Third, rice cannot be planted today and harvested the day after. It takes months of daily hard work under the sun in order to be able to eventually harvest the rice, if nothing goes wrong.

As we watched the lush green landscape, my husband pointed out that the farmers need money every day; to buy food, to pay for their children’s school tuition, to buy medicine for the sick child, etc. But they can only have money every five or six months if they’re harvesting, and not to mention that they would have to pay the land owner for letting them work on the land.

For a moment, I was complaining to myself. My husband is once again ruining my ‘tourist mood’ by telling me all this. I wished that I can be just another tourist, merrily trekking the rice terraces and taking photos of the farmer’s unique caping (cone shaped cap). Because what can I do, really, to make a difference for the farmers? I feel small and helpless.

But then I thought, empathy is such an important feature in social lives. Often, it is what drive people to do meaningful act of kindness to others, a ‘vaccine’ against me-first attitude. Yes, I may not be able to change anything by caring or thinking about the farmers, but at least it is better than living in a pure ignorance to their challenges or suffering.

So if you ask me to tour you to Jatiluwih one day, I may start talking about the grim reality faced by the farmers there. Please don’t be annoyed. Sometimes, I think, tourists like us also need a touch of reality.

People trekking the rice terrace, this one located in Tegalalang (near Ubud, Bali)

People trekking the rice terrace, this one located in Tegalalang (near Ubud, Bali)

Realizing my Paradise

“I bet these people never realize that they live in such a beautiful place,” says aroonh82 or whatever name of the person whose comment I happen to read under a Youtube video, some years ago when I was still living in Albany. That day I was missing Holland’s parks, canals, trams, trains and all the familiar places. I then decided to spend my time watching videos people posted about some Holland cities, and that was when I bumped into that comment.

That random comment really struck me and that must be the reason why I still remember it after many years. What if I’m the one who live in that beautiful city and I was too preoccupied with life that I don’t even realize the beauty surrounds me? Or what if I was aware the beauty, but because it’s so accessible I became less appreciative? It is so easy to take things for granted.

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That man in the photo was reading his kindle all the way through this beautiful park in Albany NY. I wonder if he realized that he’s underneath a beautiful tree, that looks this pretty only in spring time.

Now that I’m living and working in Bali, I constantly remind myself of the same thing: that I’m blessed with another chance to live in such a beautiful place, and I should not be so immersed in all the daily routines that I forgot to appreciate it. “People fly from all over the world, spending their time and money just to be able to be here,” I keep telling myself. It’s just a shame if I can no longer be amazed by all the different colors of frangipanis, can no longer smell the fragrance of the incense that Balinese people burn to go with their offering, or can no longer hear the birds happily sing to welcome the morning.

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This is just one of the beautiful colors of frangipani, locally called jepun in Bali.

I don’t want to forget, I don’t want to be distracted. 

I want to be present, I want to be attentive.

That comment really was an eye opener, I owe that random person a thank you!

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Look at these beautiful canang (offering)! They go with the fragrant incenses. I took this photo in busy Ubud streets, I’m glad at that time my sis and I got the chance to actually admire these canangs. Wonder how many tourists missed these.

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Biking in Bali

RELIEVED! That’s how I felt when I first reached my office by bike. It was only my second day of work here in Bali and at that time I just came back from the US after living there for some years. I was not afraid that I’d be lost, but I realized I was not used to the traffic anymore.

It only takes about 30 minutes to bike from Sanur where I live to Renon, the area where my office is located. But I have to pass busy streets where people are rushing to their destinations with their aggressive cars and motorcycles!

It’s not just in Bali, really. Everywhere in Indonesia there are more and more cars and motorcycles, causing traffic jams in many places that used to be congestion free. It wasn’t like this when I left Indonesia about four years ago, and I can immediately feel the difference once I headed home from the airport on the day that I returned.

But in Bali, things are more complicated because there are not many options of reliable and affordable public transportation. There’s no city bus (to be fair there is one now, called Trans Sarbagita, but the routes are still very limited and it’s mostly aimed for tourism). The taxi is too expensive (for comparison, 15 minutes ride in Bali with metered taxi like Blue Bird will cost you approximately Rp. 28-30 thousand, while 15 minutes ride in Semarang with the same taxi will cost you less than half of that price). So of course, people use motorcycles a lot as an alternative.

If in Holland every person is said to have at least one bike, in Bali every family (including the lower income family) has at least one motorcycle. For example, my landlady has a family of three, but they own two motorcycles (three, if you count the old rusty one they parked next to my room).

It’s also very easy to get a motorcycle; with a down payment of as low as Rp. 100.000,- (10$), you can bring a motorcycle home. And of course, families are getting busier these days. Parents can’t always take their kids to school (and doh, there’s no school busses of course!). Solution: very young kids, as young as fifth or sixth graders, are hitting the small roads of Bali, riding their motorcycles with their school uniform without their helmet on.

You may wonder how the police let them get away with this. I also don’t know. Maybe the police also have kids who need to ride their own motorcycles to school? My friend told me that the police let them ride their motorcycles as long as they avoid busy or main roads, but I’ve seen these kids in busy Ngurah Rai bypass!

They are young and brave, but of course also careless and I don’t trust their judgment at all. But these kids are not the only ones who will make you feel nervous (or frustrated). There are many adults who just don’t follow directions, too pushy, or plain stupid. They are all over Balinese roads.

So there, these are the reasons why I felt really jumpy during my first couple of days biking to the office. I hate to feel this way and I never told anyone about this, because I’m afraid that they’ll see me as this annoying person who just came back from overseas and complained about everything in her country including the crazy traffic.

But the truth is, I need to readjust myself. And there’s nothing wrong about it. Yes, this is my home country, but it doesn’t mean I don’t need to readjust to it after living away from some time. For some people the readjustment is very quickly, some people need more time. Some people need to readjust to the climate, the food, the level of noise etc., and I happened to need to adjust to the traffic.

The good news is, after some weeks I can finally feel relaxed when biking in the city, although sometimes I’m still concerned about my safety especially when kids crossed me with their motorcycles. But biking is once again becoming an activity that I enjoy.

Helmet on, ipod on, let’s go!!

No, this was NOT the busy road that I was talking about. This was actually by the beach in Sanur, a very nice area to walk/bike around because no motorcycles are allowed here.

No, this was NOT the busy road that I was talking about. This was actually by the beach in Sanur, a very nice area to walk/bike around because no motorcycles are allowed here.

Update: More Heartbrand photo collection!!

In You Say Potato, I Say Potayto, I shared about how nice it is to find something similar in different settings. One of the things I love to see (and photograph) is how the Heartbrand logo is the same but called differently in different countries.

I’m happy to report that I’ve got more collections of it! One is from my recent work trip to the Philippines, and another one is courtesy of my sister Asti who recently traveled to Bangkok. Here they are:

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In the Philippines, it’s called Selecta!

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Mmm… Do you know what it’s called in Bangkok?

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Another Heartbrand in Bangkok. Good luck on reading it :)

Tentang Depresi dan Menghakimi

Minggu pagi kemarin ada berita mengejutkan saat saya membaca twitter feeds. CNN, Huffington Post dan banyak media besar lainnya menulis bahwa putra dari Pendeta Rick Warren bunuh diri. Setiap tindakan bunuh diri adalah sebuah tragedi, tapi berita ini sepertinya terasa lebih mengejutkan, terasa lebih tragis, khususnya buat komunitas Kristen.

Kita cenderung berpikir bahwa tindakan bunuh diri adalah suatu dosa yang tidak terampuni, yang dilakukan oleh orang yang hidupnya kosong atau tidak berpengharapan akan hari esok yang lebih baik. Setidaknya seperti itulah ajaran yang saya dapatkan dari khotbah-khotbah di gereja. Banyak pendeta yang senang menggunakan contoh bagaimana orang-orang ternama bisa sangat berkelimpahan secara materi di dalam hidupnya, tetapi tidak mememiliki hubungan dengan Tuhan sehingga merasa hidupnya kosong dan pada akhirnya bunuh diri. Banyak juga yang mengambil contoh bagaimana orang-orang bunuh diri karena tidak kuat menanggung tekanan hidup, dan mereka melakukannya karena tidak memiliki pengharapan kepada Allah.

Dari contoh-contoh seperti ini kita tanpa sadar jadi terbiasa menghakimi orang yang mengakhiri hidupnya. Bunuh diri itu dosa besar dan dilakukan oleh orang berdosa, titik. Jadi saat yang melakukannya adalah putra dari seorang pendeta penulis Purpose Driven Life yang sangat terkenal itu, kita terhenyak. Bukankah dengan memiliki orang tua pendeta sekaliber Rick Warren, almarhum memiliki akses lebih banyak untuk membangun kekuatannya di dalam Tuhan? Belajar dan tahu bahwa mengakhiri hidup itu berarti menyia-nyiakan karunia kehidupan yang Tuhan masih berikan?

Saya jadi teringat saat seorang teman yang saya kagumi mengakhiri hidupnya, hanya beberapa hari menjelang Natal 2010. Dia adalah teman saat bersekolah di Belanda dulu, seseorang yang sangat pintar, ramah dan punya banyak teman. Saat berita duka ini beredar lewat email di antara para alumni, banyak rekan yang dalam terkejutnya kemudian bertanya-tanya dan membuat pernyataan yang bernada menghakimi. Seorang teman lain yang mengenal almarhumah dengan lebih dekat akhirya tidak sabar, dan menjelaskan bahwa almarhumah bunuh diri bukan karena muak dengan hidup tetapi karena memiliki gangguan kejiwaan yang membuatnya rentan terhadap depresi dan pikiran-pikiran untuk bunuh diri.

Ini juga yang dialami oleh putra dari Pdt. Rick Warren. Dalam suratnya kepada jemaat di Saddleback Church, Pdt. Rick Warren menjelaskan bahwa almarhum sudah lama berjuang melawan penyakit ini. Sayangnya dalam satu episode depresi, akhirnya almarhum menyerah – setelah bertahan sekian lama.

Di Indonesia, pengetahuan tentang gangguan-gangguan kejiwaan masih sangat terbatas. Stigma terhadap mereka yang memiliki gangguan kejiwaan juga sangat kuat sehingga menghalangi penderita untuk mencari pengobatan. Dan dikala mereka mengambil jalan untuk mengakhiri penderitaan lewat bunuh diri, ada stigma lain yang juga melekat: bahwa mereka kurang tangguh, putus asa, tidak beriman, dll. 

Sekali lagi, setiap tindakan bunuh diri adalah suatu tragedi yang sebenarnya bisa dicegah. Bagian kita adalah berusaha belajar lebih banyak tentang gangguan-gangguan kejiwaan yang membuat orang rentan untuk bunuh diri, mengenal tindakan-tindakan pencegahan, dan berhenti menghakimi. Mungkin dengan perginya Matthew Warren, banyak orang yang jadi terdorong untuk belajar mengenali bentuk-bentuk gangguan kejiwaan tersebut. Dan saya juga berharap, banyak pendeta yang berhenti menggunakan contoh-contoh bunuh diri untuk mengilustrasikan berdosanya seseorang.

Sungguh, bukan bagian kita untuk menghakimi.

 

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Visiting Hogwarts

A few weeks ago I won a ticket to be a visiting muggle to the Hogwarts. Of course, Harry Potter  – the boy who lived – has long graduated from the school so I didn’t meet him, but still the visit was really interesting. I was granted permission to publish some public photos of the school that I gladly share with you in this post. So muggles, please join me in a quick tour of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry!

My journey to Hogwarts begins in this rotunda. There were doors at all sides of the rotunda, and if I pick the right door I should be able to find the Fat Lady painting.

Luckily, I found the right door that led me to the Fat Lady painting. I was given a secret password that sadly I can’t share with you. But I’m sure you know that if you have the Felix Felicis liquid, you should be able to make me tell you what the password was.

Yes, the password worked! The Fat Lady swung her picture backward so I could enter the Gryfindor’s Common Room. What you see above is one section of the Common Room. And oh, if you wonder what happen to the guy over there, yes, I think he was under Petrificus Totalus done by a prankster.

I was then led to the stairs, which surprisingly looked very modern. I was told that they are not going to reveal 100 percent of what Hogwarts looks like, so I guess they put a charm on the stairs to make it look like this.

Now let’s tour the 4 student houses in Hogwarts.

Look at those students entering the Gryfindor’s House! As I expected, out of the 4 dormitories in Hogwarts, the Gryfindor was the most alive!

This was one side of the entrance to the Hufflepuff House. By the way, those are brooms… which to the muggle eyes appeared as bicycles.

The next picture shows you one of the yards inside the Ravenclaw House. If you wonder where the students were, well… remember that the Ravenclaws tend to be academically motivated and talented students (the Sorting Hat almost assigned Hermione to the Ravenclaw because of this reason). Ravenclaw House prizes learning, wisdom, and intellect in its members. Thus, you can easily guess that the Ravenclaws are either in the library, labs, or in their classes – studying diligently.

For some reasons, I couldn’t enter the Slytherin House. I guess the dark spell was too strong for me. This was one of the entrances.

Other things I spotted at the school:

Hear No Lies. Tell No Lies.
Dolores Umbridge: Please, tell them I mean no harm.
Harry Potter: Sorry, Professor, but I must not tell lies.

Various kinds of Coat of Arms displayed on Hogwart’s wall.
Motto:
Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus
(Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon).

Below is the entrance to the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.

Next picture shows you the students entering the Muggle Studies classroom. They all dressed as muggles in this subject.
This shoe below belongs to a statue. Wonder why it was shiny? Turned out it was a portkey!
I rubbed the portkey and here I was, suddenly transported to Holland!
Crap, now I have to find the portkey to go back to Hogwarts!
The next picture was the location where I landed back from Holland. They no longer put me inside Hogwarts.

I guess this was the end of my magical tour.
Oh, in case you wonder, we the muggles called this school as Yale. But now you know that Yale is really… a Hogwarts!

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Tracing the Dutch Heritage in Albany through Tulips

Albany is a city with a rich Dutch heritage. Around 1609, it was the Dutch who established the Fort Orange at the site of the present-day Albany. To celebrate the heritage, every year during the Mother’s Day weekend a Tulip Festival is celebrated at the Washington Park in Albany.

This year, however, the tulips are a few weeks early. Yesterday morning I rode my bike to the park and found that the tulips are in full bloom! Enjoy the some of the pictures that I took this year!!

The Esther and Maureen Tulips

The Yellow Ones against The Blue Sky

The Beauty Queen: Even Sexier When Wet

The Fringe Tulips

The Blushing Lady

The Yellow Pomponette

The Purple Diamond

The Flair

Thank you, tulips… for taking me to a very nice retreat to Holland!

Soul Searching & Spring Cleaning

How do we pretend to be busy before the internet age? I happen to read that question posted by a random user when clicking through Yelp’s website. Certainly that question was meant as a joke, but it got me thinking. It’s true that there’s always status to update, thoughts to tweet, photos to upload, places to check-in, blogs to write, books/movies/restaurants/hotels/purchases to review. We don’t need to pretend that we are busy, because we are busy. We only need to pretend that all we do in the online world is worth doing.

During the last few weeks I’ve been cutting down on my online activities, and one of the main reasons is because I feel like I always have so many things to do. I miss the times when I can totally relax, connected to my inner being and not concerned about doing things. I remember when I was younger I can spend my Sunday afternoon laying down, listening to nice music from the radio while watching the white clouds lightly float against the blue sky, daydreaming, and falling asleep. Wow, I remember how nice it was but I almost forgot how to do that – because I’m always busy.

Daydreaming. Oh, what a luxury.

Why then, am I always busy? What are the things that keep me busy? Some days ago I decided to find the answer by creating the not-to-do list, instead of the usual to-do list. My goal was to simplify things by discerning things that I really should take care of, and things that can go on without me. It’s predictable that my online activities easily go to the not-to-do list. And turns out it wasn’t that hard not to tweet or not to keep checking my Facebook. I also have no problem of letting go of my habit of writing restaurant reviews on Yelp.

But I’m a WordPress sucker, and there’s always something that I want to write about. Last Wednesday, even though I know I have decided to limit my in-front-of-screen time, I still tried to write a blog post about International Women’s Day (IWD). I was tired after the long day at work, but I really want to publish the post before Thursday, March 8th, the d-day. So I kept writing, until suddenly my laptop froze for unknown reasons. Normally I would go nuts, but that night I just laugh to myself. I’ve learned from past experiences that unpredictable things like this usually happen when I don’t listen to myself. So okay, even though my laptop went back to normal again after not responding for about half an hour, I decided that the world can still celebrate the IWD even though I don’t write a post about it. My dreams for gender equality are not shrinking just because I don’t get the chance to write on IWD. Then I went to bed, sleeping peacefully right after that frozen laptop incident.

 

March, I think, is a really good time to back away and take some retreat. This month, many Catholics/Christians are observing the 40 days of Lent by fasting, doing some self introspection and avoiding things for self-indulgence. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with Nyepi, Balinese Day of Silence which this year falls on March 23rd.

In Balinese Hinduism, Nyepi day has four rituals (Catur Brata Penyepian) which guide the Hindus to step back from the world for one full day. They are Amati Geni (not using fire nor turning on lights, which also means that they are not cooking and eating), Amati Karya (not doing any work), Amati Lelungan (not traveling), and Amati Lelanguan (avoiding any entertainment). During Nyepi day, the whole island shuts down in retreat, literally cuts off from the rest of the world. Streets are deserted, even the airport and seaports are closed. Tourists are expected to observe the day by staying inside their hotels for the whole day. My sister lives in Bali and I’m hoping that she can write about her first-hand experience observing the holiday, which I think is really interesting.

One of the many beautiful places in Bali. This island will be in total silence on Nyepi day.

 

Retreat, silence, self-introspection is something that’s open to all, you don’t have to be a religious person to observe it. I, for one, am called to do this now so I can join the grass, trees, flowers and all my fellow creations in the rebirth of spring.

Dear flowers, teach me to just be...

So after all the talk about unplugging from the online world, why this post then, am I relapsing? Perhaps, but most importantly I feel that this blog deserves an explanation for my future disappearance. I’ll be back whenever I feel like it, whenever I’m ready, but for now I really need to search for some silence so I can be attuned to my inner being again. Deep down I know that She is the existence that really matters, not the outer person that always dominates whenever I’m plugged the online world. And friends, since I can’t google how to be connected to her, I better log off now.

Can you see the sunbathing turtle? Life is good :)

 

Image credit: The gorgeous photo of Bali was taken by my sister, Asti aka jepun kuning.