http://parismorningsnewyorknights.blogspot.com/2015/12/an-ode-to-san-francisco.html Wild Young Minds

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A deep valley or a safe side alley

Get out, stay away and never return
Don't ever try to change my mind
Some things we just refuse to learn
So it is better to leave them behind

The pain will be too heavy to bear
It will wound the way I feel about myself
A cloak of mysery is what I will wear
And confidence will be stored on a shelf

In order to avoid this total chaos in mind
I will work, work and work until I die
Though I don't know what I will find
I just step forward and never wonder why

Facing the fear is the first step on a long road
A road that goes down, deep down into a valley
Will I be able to stand tall and carry this heavy load
Or will I slip away through a safe side alley

What is the worst thing that can happen to me
If I face my fear and let go of the control
Will I become a nobody or what is it I will be
Life is an unknown stone and it can only roll

The path of failure I have never tried before
I was afraid of the consequences all along
Yet there comes a time I can no longer ignore

The fact that failing will only make me strong


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Adventures in the East part 3: Bali & the Gilis

''Don't go to Kuta'', our guide at the water castle in Yogyakarta said, ''it's full of Australian mosquitoes''. ''What???'', I replied. ''Yeah, you know, all those tourists!'' Ooooooh, I thought. Thank god. My fear of mosquitoes has basically been haunting me during all of my travels over the past few years. Come to think of it, not just the fear haunts me, the mosquitoes themselves rather do. Honestly, they love my smell, my blood or whatever it is. It doesn't matter how much deet I spray, or whether I wear long or short pants, they will always get me. Why fear such little creatures that much, you might think. Well, there are two reasons. The first is that I got a horrible allergic reaction to mosquito bites two years ago, when I was cycling from Berlin to Poland. The poison oak rash I had in San Francisco last september didn't lessen this fear either. The second reason is that mosquitoes in Indonesia are not very innocent. They can actually kill you.


And since I have a mild form of hypochondria, I couldn't stop worrying about those stupid insects. Already in Java, I heard about the disease called dengue, also called breakbone fever. There's no vaccination against dengue, like there is against malaria, so when a mosquito infected by dengue bites you, you're pretty much screwed. When I was sitting in the taxi in Bali, I heard more details about this dengue fever: the mosquitoes are mainly active during the day, they are striped like a zebra and the consequences are high fever, the feeling that all of your bones are broken and some sort of red rash covering your body. Five days before, I was bitten by a mosquito during the day (at the bird market in Yogya), it was a huge mosquito, yes, with black and white stripes, and the incubation period was five to seven days... So if I was to get sick, it'd happen right about now.

I already saw myself laying in my hostel bed, with the feeling that all my bones were broken and no sunny days in Bali left. Typically me. But well, everything turned out fine, all my worries were for nothing and the part I wrote above, was too, come to think of it. Yet, it did remind me of the downsides of the travel, the fears you can have and the differences between tropical destinations and home. In the end, insects didn't hurt me, but that other tropical thing did: the sun. My legs were completely red after the first couple of days in Bali and my tummy too. Ah well, I only had myself to blame.

And now it's time for some positivity. Because there were plenty of positive things happening in Bali. They mainly were: amazing breakfasts, sun sun sun, cocktails and the company of great people. I began my trip through Bali in Canggu, which is known for its good waves and hipster cafes. I stayed at an amazing hostel, called the Farmer's Yard, that a friend of mine recommended. It was all based on the concept of perma culture, but the guests didn't neccessarily needed to help. I would've loved to, but on the other hand: I was yearning for rest and relaxation. So I started my days at Crate Cafe, which was relatively expensive for Indonesian standards, but which served all a hipsters asks for: avocado, shakes, yoghurt with granola, scrambled eggs and more. Sitting there on my own, reading my book, I instantly came into conversation with two Americans: Douglas, a novel writer, and Sean (read more about him here). Afterwards, I saw the lighter of the girl sitting opposite me. It was from Hutspot. She must be Dutch!




And she was. I spent the rest of my time in Canggu with Hannah, a great girl from Amsterdam. The first thing I did was pointing at the book she was reading and then at my tattoo. On the Road! It turned out we had more in common and so we spent a few days at the beach, at restaurants and at bars. We pretty much did the same in Uluwatu, which is in the south of Bali. Uluwatu is known for its surf vibes too, especially Bingin Beach. On Sunday, we joined Douglas to a party at Single Fin. It probably was the most crowded party I've ever been to. At first, I didn't think I'd survive for a long time, since there were so so many drunk Australian and British people, but when the disco beats started upstairs, we started dancing and didn't stop until the end of the party. We finished the day with a fresh dive in the pool in our guest house and I felt ready for Ubud.



Most people know Ubud from the film ''Eat, Pray, Love''. Julia Roberts goes to Ubud, to seek for balance in her life and falls in love with a Brazilian fellow there. I didn't go to Ubud to fall in love - and to be honest, I think Julia Roberts is super annoying - but I was curious after all the promising stories. Ubud is the cultural and spiritual centre of Bali, with lots of spas, yoga places (the Yoga Barn!) and the monkey forest. Also lots of temples. I didn't learn that much about Hinduism while I was there, but I was intrigued by all the offerings they did everyday, by all the sculptures and rituals. In Ubud, I stayed at In Da Lodge, another great hostel. It was huge, which can be a downside, but since I was travelling alone, I embraced this fact.





Already on the first night I arrived, I came into contact with a big group of people from all sorts of countries: France, England, Portugal, Canada, the States. We had dinner, went salsa dancing (I surely looked like a freak, but I had lots of fun) and singing. The day after, I joined a couple of girls to go rafting, which was the best. I'd never rafted before, but I love those adventure things. We rafted through amazing landscapes, saw some outrageously beautiful resorts and had a break in the middle of the jungle. Two girls were serving beer, crisps and soda there and so we asked them how they arrived to this isolated  place every day. They had to walk 12 kilometres to get there, every single day, just to sell some stupid tourists a beer or two. Isn't that insane? Travelling through Southeast Asia, you start to realize that the chances we get in the West, are completely impossible for most people in this world. Even asking whether Balinese people ever travel to Europe started to feel foolish at one point. This world...




In a way, staying in Bali made me realize these kind of things most. Bali is paradise on earth. It's warm, it's cheap, it's filled with pretty people, it's like Ibiza but less high-end and more authentic (I have never been to Ibiza, so correct me if I'm wrong). On the other hand, Bali is so much more touristic than Java. Locals mainly treat you as a walking wallet and the white Westerns have taken over. It confronted me with a weird kind of dilemma. As a backpacker, you want to avoid the touristic hotspots, you want to meet locals and discover abandoned places. At the same time, especially when you're alone, meeting other backpackers feels safe and trustworthy. Being somewhere far from the touristic areas can be dangerous, few people speak English and it can be a pain-in-the-ass too. So what to choose? I think the best of both worlds is always a good option. After you've done the first, you appreciate the second more. And the other way around.


The same applied for the Gilis. I started at Gili Trawangan, the party island. The Gilis don't allow cars or buses on the roads, so all you saw were bikes and horses. I really enjoyed biking again, and I discovered the entire island in a day. I went for dinner and drinks with two German girls and two British girls. On the third night, a Belgian girl and a Dutch guy joined and we all went partying. Since it was Ramadan, everything closed at midnight, but it was fine, after drinking for a pretty long time. After Gili T - where I also spent a great afternoon snorkelling - I appreciated Gili Air even more. Less tourists, less hot spots and even more relaxation. I can really say that after two days at Gili Air, I was satisfied. No stress, my sunburn had turned into a damn fine tan and I read more books in those days than in the last month.




And that was when the end of my vacation was already there. I had a long trip ahead of me: taking the boat from Gili Air to Lombok, riding to the airport, flying from Lombok back to Jakarta, from Jakarta to Xiamen and from Xiamen to Amsterdam. This time the layover in China was about 10 hours, so at first, I wasn't sure what to do. I was probably gonna be alone again, with no Chinese money (the machine didn't accept my debet card and I'd forgotten the code for my credit card - I know...) and too much fear I'd miss my connection. What happened was slightly different. Standing in line for the passport control, I met two Belgian guys: Peter and his son. We clicked straight away and decided to explore Xiamen together.

The Belgians had had some trouble with their flight on the way to Indonesia - they had to wait hours and hours, that kind of story - so they'd received compensation for it: 1000 yuan, which is about 135 euros. We ate some good food, strolled around the shopping streets (seriously, China is crazy! So many malls, so many special food stores) and spent the last money on whiskey cokes at the airport. This last day couldn't have been any better, considering the fun we had and the stupid jokes Peter told. He even convinced a Chinese shop-assistant I was the Dutch princess. She yelled: ''No way! I'm so close!'' And ran back to tell her friends and update her Facebook timeline.

Feeling slightly tipsy, we entered the plane and spent the next 11 hours trying to sleep, watching films and making fun of the Chinese doing exercises. Seriously, the woman next to me was hitting her legs for twenty minutes. Hitting it really hard. Ah well, before I knew it, I was gonna spend all my days in the boring Netherlands again. Where we complain about the rain. Well, you know what? I'll try not to, from now on. I'll try not to, because I've been to Java, to Bali and to the Gilis, and because I know I'm a pretty lucky person doing this. End of story :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Adventures in the East part 2: Bromo & Gunung Ijen

I've often wished my parents had moved to another country when I was young, so that I could grow up in a different place. I can already hear you say that I shouldn't complain, my country is a fine country, we have a good social system, we are relatively wealthy, we don't have any crazy political system or attacks (let's pray it stays this way), in other words, the Dutch shouldn't be spoiled. Of course we are. We complain about the rain and we complain about the cold, but what I complain about most, is: our lack of nature. No mountains, no waterfalls and no volcanoes. So when I heard about a 3-day trip to Mount Bromo and Gunung Ijen, I didn't hesitate for a single moment: I was going to see my first volcano and I was going to see my second one too.

My travel buddy Mees had decided he wanted to surf first, and climb Mount Rinjani instead of Bromo, so we said goodbye and after five days, I was on my own again. Not that I minded that much, when you're travelling solo, you meet people instantly. So I chatted with a worker at the hostel for a bit, and went to sleep pretty early, since I wasn't going to have a lot of sleep the next couple of days. My tour included transport to the volcanoes, so at 8.30 in the morning our driver picked me up from the hostel and I stepped into the van I was going to spend many, many hours in that week. 

Our group consisted of about 10 people, mostly couples, two female friends, two guys who travelled solo too, and me. Our journey was going pretty well - we stopped a couple of times, to pee and to eat - until suddenly the driver told us to get out. I soon found out that this is typically Indonesia. What followed was an hour of standing in the heat, looking at Indonesian fellows with worried looks on their faces, not knowing what was going to happen.
The Greyhound taught me to take it easy, though, since I'd experienced many silimar moments when I was travelling through the USA. You just have to accept the fact that you're gonna arrive hours later than planned. I could never do so in the Netherlands. I'd curse the NS, I'd be frustrated as hell and I'd not be able to sit down and relax. I was now. I chatted with my tour mates, mostly with the two solo travellers, since the couples weren't that easy to come into contact with. I don't mean to generalize, but I've experienced this more often. When you're travelling with your lover, it's comfortable to stick together and talk to each other, especially if your mother tongue is French or German. It's easy to say I would never be this way, but well, you never know. Anyway, I made friends soon enough and when we finally arrived in the small town near the Bromo vulcano, we agreed to look for food together, despite the fact that it was 11.30 pm already.

That proved to be harder than we thought. Two hours before, the driver had stopped and told us to buy dinner at a small supermarket. Fuck it, I thought, I'm not gonna have cookies for dinner when I have to wake up at 3.30 in the morning (yes, really!). I did buy crackers, but I still wasn't planning on having this for dinner. Neither did Bernat and Vincent, so we told the driver we wanted to have some real dinner. The driver took this very seriously - of course he did, we were hungry - and knocked on the doors of every restaurant, yelling stuff and making noise. 
Eventually a woman opened the door, looking all sleepy and grumpy. ''No! Go back to sleep!'', we said, ''we're so sorry!'' And we were, but well, she was awake already and we really were hungry, so we stepped inside and experienced one of the weirdest dinners ever. It was more of a candy shop than a restaurant, there was Indonesian milk, chocolate and crisps everywhere and flies were flying around. We could choose between nasi goreng and a banana pancake, and since I don't eat meat, I went for the pancake. That day, my breakfast was a banana pancake and my dinner was a banana pancake too. Could be worse! In the middle of our fancy dinner, the driver and his buddy came in and they decided to order some sort of fish. The fish smelled like sulphur - for those who don't know what this smells like, it's a very very strong version of rotten eggs - and Bernat and Vincent couldn't finish their dinner. I could finish my dinner, but I couldn't stop laughing, because this situation was just too absurd.
That night, we slept for about three and a half hours, before driving to a viewpoint from where we could see the volcano. It was extremely cold and since I wasn't expecting this kind of weather in Indonesia, I hadn't brought any sweaters. I thought I could survive with three layers of shirts and my thin coat (my friends from San Francisco will probably recognize this stubbornness, which is actually more of a foolishness) but I could not. So I rented a warm jacket for a euro and found a spot to see the sunrise. We had to wait for at least 45 minutes until the sun finally rose and when it did, it was hidden behind many clouds. Seriously. Waking up at 3.30 without any breakfast and not even being able to see Mount Bromo? It proved to be less bad, cause we did see some nice views later on and part of the trip was that we could also walk up to the volcano and look inside it. Pretty damn magical.

After taking many photos, we walked back, ignoring all the Indonesians with horses. I understand the system, they want to make money and they want to help old - or young - people who aren't in such a good condition, but I felt extremely sorry for the horses. They looked tired, unhappy and I just didn't agree with this system. Not that anyone would care about my opinion, though, so I walked back and started talking about breakfasts with Bernat and Vincent. I shouldn't have done so, since this made me very hungry again and when we received the breakfast (which was included) I was slightly disappointed. White bread, American cheese and an egg. I finished it anyway, and prepared myself for another six hours in the van.



That evening, we arrived at our second accomodation. This one was a lot better than the first one, since it also had a swimming pool and a jacuzzi. We had some dinner, chatted for a bit and around 9 I went to sleep. Despite all the chants outside - it was Ramadan after all - I fell asleep straight away and woke up at 12.30 pm, when we had to leave for the Ijen volcano.



This was probably the hardest thing I had to do this entire trip - waking up when I usually go to sleep, climbing for about three hours and not being able to breath normally, since the smell of sulphur was everywhere. When we were getting close to the blue fire, though, I instantly forgot how bad I was feeling. We were constantly bumping into workers, who carried 80 kilos of sulphur on their backs. They weren't strong, young men. No, they were old, skinny guys who did this three times a day. Isn't there any other system to do this, we all thought. It was painful to watch. The workers earn less than 8 dollars a day and once they're out of the crater, they still have to carry the sulphur about three kilometers to get paid. Horrible... Arriving at the bottom of the crater, we forgot this for a minute, however. We'd arrived at the blue fire.



You can only see the blue fire when you arrive before sunrise and it's just mindblowing. The blue fire is ignited sulphuric gas, which arises from cracks at temperatures up to 600 degrees. Apparently there are two places with blue fires in the world: in Iceland and in Indonesia. After we stayed at the blue fire for a bit, we continued to the turquoise-colored crater, which was insanely beautiful too.


After a long hike back, our driver brought us to the harbor, where we could take the ferry to Bali. Though I'd experienced three intense but beautiful days, I was longing for relaxation, sun and the beach too. Which place is better than Bali, then? My first hours in Bali were not that relaxed, however. We were in a crowded bus with no airconditioning for the first five hours, arrived at a bus station that was 20 kilometres from Denpasar, where taxis costed crazy amounts of money (compared to normal Indonesian prices) and my phone was not working at all.

When Bernat and I finally arrived in Denpasar, we spent 1,5 hours in a Chinese restaurant with wifi and in those 1,5 hours all I managed was booking a hostel. My uber app wasn't working and I had no clue how to find public transportation to my hostel. Bernat was heading in a different direction, so when he left, I decided I had to find a taxi myself. I negotiated a bit - paid way too much anyway of course - and stepped into a taxi with two guys. At that moment, feeling extremely exhausted, I didn't care anymore. I thought: when this turns into a horrible situation, it's completely my own fault, but well. Luckily it didn't. It did take the drivers ages to find my hostel, but when they did, I ran to the shower and took of my shoes. I was in Bali.