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Suzen's Personal Journey - Chapter Nine


Chapter Nine: Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home...

 By:  Suzen

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Above photo taken in Bali- rice fields in the background 

Once again I am in Bali. The flight from New Zealand was almost 15 hours, counting a 3-hour layover in Sydney. It looked SO close on the world map! Actually it is 4,186 miles!  Across seas and the entire continent of Australia, on a budget airline no less...but I made it and just a little worse for wear...you know fear takes its toll! My original flight to return home was in October. In order to change my flight I had to take one that left 24 hours after arriving from NZ!!  I really tried for another flight, gave them a 3 week window...but this was the only flight JAL would book me on. It is high season, after all, I was told. So I am back in Bali for only 24 hours but I have secured a hotel room with a pool and room service and only a few yards from the beach. I paid for an extension on the room until 9pm at which time I will leave for the airport for another midnight flight. Why do all flights in and out of Bali happen at midnight??

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Photo Above- Bali Hotel

Even though I arrived late to my hotel room, still not knowing what time it really was, I was up at the crack of dawn to hurry down to the beach!! I was in Kuta, the surfing capital of Bali and a beach I have wanted to go to since arriving in Bali in May. 

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Photo Above- Kuta Beach

The surf was mild and the beach very quiet at 7am. Yes, just like everyone says, there are tons of hawkers; with food, trinkets, postcards...it is never ending. But at 7am they are all setting up their flimsy stalls and still sleepy. There were just a few surfers with calm waters and a very light breeze. It was all Bali to me.  Not only that, but across the street from the beach was...a Dunkin Donuts...it's beginning to feel like home!! In Ubud there were many places to get a great cup of coffee but to have one in a paper cup and wander the streets with it was pretty much non-existent! Ah the memories of so many beaches over the years, enjoying a Dunkin Donuts cup of coffee sitting on the sand and watching the sun rise. I never would have guessed the paper cup of coffee would one day be such a treat!

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Photo Above- Kuta Beach at 7:00AM

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Photo Above- Kuta Beach- sleepy surfboard vendor

When I returned at 5pm the beach was a totally different story! There were hundreds of surfers and twice as many sellers than surfers.  The age of the surfers made me think of spring break in Fort Lauderdale. Traffic was bumper to bumper and people of all ages, sizes and nationalities took up all the available space! I walked around but was tired of the same tourist wares up and down each street...(some of which I would not even dare to describe!) so I sat in an outdoor café/bar and watched this endless stream of humanity, accompanied by a Kuta Mojito.

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Photo Above- Kuta at 5:00PM

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Photo Above- my place for an afternoon mojito

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Photo Above- Kuta- stream of humanity

Between my beach visits I pretended I had just arrived in Bali for a long holiday and lounged by the pool and ordered room service and even watched a part of Oprah!! The first TV I had seen in a really long time, plus, is there any corner of the globe where Oprah isn't?? I enjoyed watching it though, easing me back into the USA. It was about stress!!

Try looking at this as a stress reliever...


Photo Above- Pool at my hotel- Bali stress reliever

Having stayed for 6 weeks in a guesthouse in Ubud, it was cool to see what some other tourists experienced in Bali. However, never would I have traded 6 weeks of a hotel (even with room service and that refreshing pool!) for the experience of the guesthouse, which in comparison felt like being in someone's extended family with distant relatives from all over the world coming and going.  Without Gandra's House I would have missed the stories of Jog Jakarta and Thailand and Viet Nam and Australia from people with a full range of ages and nationalities. These "distant relatives" were all of extraordinary beauty from the joy shining on their open faces as they relayed their adventures.

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Photo Above- 8 year old Cloe 

The youngest traveler in my group of "relatives" was eight, an exceptionally bright girl from France who collected languages like I collected seashells and loved everyone (in their own language) within minutes.  The oldest relative was a beautifully bright-faced woman in her seventies traveling alone and receiving unconcealed joy with each experience. Watching her tell her stories it appeared that a rosy light had been lit inside her face, what a beautiful glow showcasing her bright blue eyes. Eyes filled with the wonder of a child as she told where she had been and what she had seen and how she had gotten there.

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Photo Above- my neighbor

And then, of course, in a hotel I would not have had the privilege of getting to know on a personal level the warm beautiful gentle Balinese people to the extent that I did. The Balinese I met were fun loving with a quick laugh and huge smile. I would have missed my houseboy's explanation that Balinese don't like cats. As he said, "we don't like cats, we respect cats." This was a nuance I pondered. Especially since it was said so succinctly in a language he was, frankly, not that fluent in. He told me if a cat was accidentally killed, say by a motorbike, the person had to retrieve the body and wash it and bury it. Apparently they hold to the belief that cats are hosts for spirits. Good spirits or bad, I don't know, either way, the spirit must be appeased. On another day he somewhat dreamily told me when he married and moved back to his village, he wanted to buy a bird, one that knew many songs, not just one. I found this irresistible endearing.

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Photo Above- preparing for cremation

Most Balinese boys work in the towns or on rice farms until they reach 28 years old or so and then they marry someone from their village or perhaps a neighboring village and return to the family compound to take their place in the family commune. Naturally there are exceptions but on the whole this tradition is still maintained.  One of my tour guides told us westerners that he had the opportunity to go to Jakarta as a teenager and attended school there. He lived in Jakarta, a modern city, for over 15 years. But when he neared 30 he returned home to his village, married a local girl, and took his place in the family compound. He was the youngest son. It's Bali tradition that the youngest son is responsible for taking care of his parents in their old age. He was firm that he had no choice in the matter. He was accepting of it without any evidence of bitterness or self-pity. My fellow bikers keep on asking in different ways...are you OK with this? He said, simply, "Yes and no. This is who we are. I am Balinese and this is how we live. It is our custom." And he smiled the beautiful full faced Balinese smile.

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Photo Above- village family of children

Finally, after a last Bali meal in a lovely outdoor restaurant with lanterns and flowers and tourists all in their tropical wear I headed for the airport and the 30+ hour trip home. Please don't ask me to relive it!

Once home I had a few days of honest jet lag and a few more of just plain ole adjustment. There is evidence that traveling east is more disruptive than traveling west. Traveling east shortens the day and causes the sensation of lost time. I personally felt very sincerely as though I had lost an entire night...and truthfully, I HAD! In addition, there is probably evidence that jet lag is less when traveling to a new country with tons of time and all kinds of new experiences awaiting!! I would include a photo of what jet lag looks like but I will show mercy and refrain.

My personal journey to Bali was true to my objective. It was an inward journey, and I can see how traveling a distance away, away from the familiar and familiar habits and props is so beneficial in traveling inward.  I have barely begun the exploration of this vast unknown. From what I hear it is pretty amazing and can be just as exhilarating and discovery-filled as the outward journey to another continent.

So, this personal journey of what turned out to be my summer adventure has really just begun. What started as a 5-month exploration of a new place and possibly a new home became in physical time less than 3 months, but in experiential time, life altering. Even though my life looks like the quintessential country song..."I got my job back, my car back and my place back"...I also acquired something essential that will be with me forever; self-confidence. An expanded vision of what I can do and the possibility of what there is to do. Self-awareness without so much waffling on what I really want from life and a simplified yet concentrated knowledge of it. True self-knowledge is the God in me, as me; the unsurpassed knowing that I am not separate from God but one with eternal source, therefore wanting for nothing outside myself. All I need and will ever need is within me. It may need to be uncovered (leave out the "may") but even the uncovering is an exercise in patient self-love and belief.

On the whole, I feel refreshed and happy and ready for the next adventure!

I am home now. Ah...that sentence has such a comfort around it. Even though I just returned from exotic Bali and New Zealand, I can say wholeheartedly that there is no more beautiful sight to me than this crescent moon, reposing over the gulf, in the twilight of a summer sunset here on Sunset Beach. Someone may take issue with this but I will stand my ground against all takers. I am so grateful to have seen the sun set and the sun rise in many beautiful places but as they say...there is no place like home.

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Photo Above- returning home to Sunset Beach, Florida

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Photo Above- a Sunset Beach, Florida morning

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Photo Above- morning on Sunset Beach

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Photo Above- Moon beam on the Gulf of Mexico waters

No matter how far I may roam...there's no place like home...


Stay tuned for my final Chapter of Thoughts and Reflections from this Journey!

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