Thursday, July 29, 2010

Selamat Indonesia

I really do feel like we've been thrown into a whole new world. Just when I thought I had this traveling thing down, the very essence of traveling came knocking on my door and laughed in my face. In Indonesia, the money is different, they drive on the opposite side of the road/car (this mind-fucks you the first time you see it), there are people wearing sacred cloths on their head (which I don't fully understand yet-but excited to learn), and they barely speak any English-creating a true language barrier that I have never experienced-and I am the minority.

"There was just a topless woman!" Matt exclaims as I try to look up as often as I can from this writing. The setting is quite similar to that of the Philippines, there are sari-saris (little shop) on every corner, people gazing out their windows at the action, traffic up the wazoo, & palm trees that create the whole backdrop effect. But something definitely feels different here. I have a feeling this "new chapter" is not going to be the island oasis splurge we were just on, this one will be a bit more intense. Don't get me wrong, I am glad I started out in the Philippines because two months ago, I was not ready for this. But now I am. My heart, soul, mind, body & stomach are all ready for this new voyage. America is riding on my sleeve, telling me "No. No. No. These ways are not right!" but deep in my gut I am in love with these difference and I am really looking forward to this cultural exchange.
Jakarta. Another big city which we tried to escape ASAP, but this time we got a bit stuck (for a lack of better words). This time we got "stuck" not because of choice, we got stuck because we entered a new world totally unprepared. We arrived in Indonesia with a vague outline of what we wanted to do, no plans, no written down advice of where to stay or go, no travel book, just a map. Through this, we truly ingested why people call the Lonely Planet, the "Travelers Bible." We felt literally lost in a place where no one speaks our language & all the street signs are in Indonesian (Bahasa); & worst of all, when we did find a book store our much needed travel-guide was "sold out." On our last leg we finally found it in some random hidden book store tucked in the shadows (totally overpriced, but we didn't care). I knew "the bible" would be hiding in some odd whole in the wall. Ironically, when we opened the book it introduced itself by saying "If you think travels rugged now, delve into Helen & Frank Schrider's Drums of Tonkin which documents their 1963 journey from Sumatra to Timor in an amphibious jeep; landslides, gun-toting soldiers, & sea voyages galore." They definitely figured it out on their own 50 yrs ago without any silly travel-guide. I was humbled by this.

We have thrown ourselves into a Muslim world, is what we've done. I mean I've seen Muslims before (& had Muslim friends)in America, but that's when I was looking at them like they were the odd ball out, now their starring at me & asking themselves "what the...hell is she thinking." Maybe. I'm not for sure; their looks are mysterious, I can't tell if their intrigued or totally turned off. I say this because they are very conscientious about image & I can almost read their mind as they look at me thinking "Oh my God (or, Oh my Muhammad!)look at all that skin she is showing." But I specifically wore my longer shorts (to my knees) & a top that was midriff conscious with intentions to appease their religion. Still I think it might be too much... I haven't cared about my image so much since I was in the States. I think if I brought too much of my spunky American style to this place, they might gasp at me in horror.
On a lighter note, the Muslim prayer callings (songs of meditation) are much more inviting. On every Mosque there are loud speakers that sing to the whole town several times in the day (even at 4am). These callings are dedicated to the people to notify them it is time from prayer.. Its actually quite beautiful, and perfectly soothing.
So now, everywhere smells like cloves, we are surrounded by temples and the kindest people I have met so far, and the culture is as rich as a slice of chocolate cake that sinful written all over it! I can't explain the happiness and gratitude I am carrying with me in my soul. This experience is unreal, and the greatest gift I have ever given myself. Currently, we are headed east towards Bali, but not until we stop & see Borobudur (the largest Buddhist temple in the world). I LOVE Indo!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Farewell Philippines

They do not live up to any standard but their own.
They are relaxed islanders by nature but innate hard workers by necessity.
They indulge in sweets & cigarettes to make life more enjoyable but their teeth do not agree.
They still smile big!

Sin color is a classification of social class, the light colored ones are the ones who care and the dark either don't care or have the choice to hide from the sun.
They're all hopeless romantics, even the men sing sappy love songs loudly.
Rice is the staple of every meal, if they go without it in a day they feel as though they haven't eaten.
The Filipino will drop everything they are doing to wave hi, or yell "Hey Friend!"
They are an indigenous race that has uprooted from the junlge & created their own unique villages to reside.
Their livelihood includes selling the goods and services of the Earth.
Even their homes and shops are created out of the very materials of Earth, & actually look like they belong among the forest.
But, just like an American, Filipinos value the quick, easy, & fast; fast food chains with long lines prove this.
They work very hard for very little inevitably limiting desires to necessities.
Every capable family member contributes to the daily budget, young & old.
The Filipinos with money do not segregate themselves to a "higher" community, instead they nestle their houses amidst neighbors of various social classes.
They are a barefoot culture whose mantras are of God & LOVE, & through this they are truly a pleasure to be around.

There are so many visions & memories that come to mind when I think of this new experience of travel & the culture of the Philippines. But the places and things I will remember the most is: (in no particular order)
~The boat tours in El Nido-carsts, blue lagoons, snorkeling, & beach side lunches :)
~ Apo Island Diving-Huge aquarium, tons of life, especially the 15-20 sea turtles.
~Cantabon Cave-Amazing splunking tour
~Getting Scuba certified in Moal Boal-and the introduction to the "lady boy"
~Sugar Beach-remote & quiet break (from everything)
~Siquijor waterfall- swimming under it!!
~El Nido Sunsets- BEST I have ever seen (so far), every night was a dramatic display.
~Motorbike exploring-especially Valencia & the Twin Lakes
~Roosters GAllOre- cock everywhere!
~Sari-Sari's (small shops) on every corner fulfilling my sweet tooth at night time.
~Halo-Halo- the weird Filipino dessert (with beans?!?!)
~Mangoes-mmmmmm I'm in love~!
~The markets-culture SHOCK!
~Jeepneys, tricycles, buses, bangkas, ships, & planes-getting places was always a new ride.
~Seeing Matt's face at the airport.
~Being a minority-& all the expressions I received from Filipinos of all ages.
~All the animals roaming the streets.
~3 in 1 Nescafe, & the early morning transition.
~Jungle trekking-especially the Monkey Trail.
~THE FLORA! Absolutely Vibrant!
~Virgin coconut cream sauce + garden veggies, mmmmm, & that delicious green vegetable we never could find out the name of...
~convincing Matt that breakfast is the best meal of the day :) & the muesli, mmmmm.
~So much sugar in everything! even the spaghetti was sweet.
~The geckos!-welcoming them into my home.
~San Miguel & Tanduay (rum)-cheaper than water
~The safety of the mosquito nets at nighttime.
~A New EARTH, and the inner transformation.
~ The hut & bungalow accommodations-some nicer than others :)
~The Chocolate Hills & the Tarsier
~All the nasty fat old white men with Filipina wives...

Now we are thrown into Indonesia, and this is a VERY different experience, I will expand later, we are getting kicked out of the internet again...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Visayas.... So Far.

In every direction the Philippines has beautiful landscapes & ample opportunities for exploration. This place is an Earth Scientist dreamland! From the top peaks of the mountains & volcanoes to the deep trenches of the ocean & everything in between amazing views of the Earth are waiting to be seen. gazing from the rocks and sand of the Earth to the thick clouds in the sky it is very rare that I need to remind myself that I am in paradise. The colors are so vibrant, the brightest blues & greens I have ever seen! The other day I saw a tree with flowers every color of the rainbow~quite a site.
About a week or so ago I was given my PADI scuba certification after four days of hittin the books and underwater lessons. We were stuck in Moal Boal for those 4 days- and it wasnt too bad of a spot to be stuck. I went 20m or 65ft deep in the ocean & saw a whole new world. I thought snorkeling was cool... pshhhhh.. Scuba diving is one experience EVERYONE should have, snorkeling is incomparable, when you dive you are IN the ecosystem. That might scare some, but I was thriving! I swam with a sea turtle, it was probably 1-2ft away from me. I felt like I could reach out and grab it, but I resisted, and swam with it instead. During this moment I felt the energy of my brother, an avid turtle lover. At another point we were swimming up on what seemed to be a huge dark rain cloud, it was almost scary how big it was. I noticed it was a school of sardines, millions of sardines, like you would see on a clip of a Planet Earth movie, each of them were swimming in sync with each other. I saw GINORMUS tunas trailing their path, but the day before Matt saw Thresher Sharks stalking them. Moal Boal on Cebu Island is a major attraction for diving because of its massive coral wall. The shore goes for about 30m then suddenly drops to the dark deep ocean floor, along the wall the ocean life is beaming in all shapes, colors, and sizes. I cannot even begin to explain what I saw because it would take me hours. But I was in awe by the sights, and I was almost as impressed that I could breath underwater.
The bus rides are long, some up to 6 hours, but they allow me time to think. Each place we pass seems similar to the last, but still unique in its own way. A transformation has already shifted inside of me, I dont know why or how, it just has. I feel a oneness with everyone and everything, as though they are a part of me, rather than separate. Two months ago I had no idea who these people were and now I see their ways of life as a beautiful manifestation of tranquility and serenity. Even the parts that seem hard to swallow, I allow myslef to see the light of their ideas and visions. Every section of each island we pass provokes a deifferent thought, and I am trying to absorb it all. The school yards are so full of life with children hopping around with smiles and excitement to be out! They stare at me with amazement as I pass by with a smile in return. I think they are facinated by my curly hair, I might be the only onw in 1000 miles with it. The other day Matt & I went to Malapataya secifically to see their colorful market. It encompassed a vast display of their culture. From the dried fish, fruits & vegetables native to their land, big slabs of tuna & beef with flies covering them & women trying to shew them away, cheap plastic toys & shiney things, buckets of slop that looked like fish guts (but that was only my guess), cows pigs goats, and chickens running around to the sound of kareoke every 5m, this place screamed Filipino life.
We just left Sugar Beach, once again we got stuck on a secluded beach paradise. And this was the most secluded yet. :) In order to get there we had to take a bangka boat that cost 300pisos/$6 one way. Once we were there everything turned into complete relaxation mode. There were no tricycles zooming up & down the street, no buses honking, no roosters crowing, no street lights, just clean white beach surrounded by blue ocean, hammocks hanging in every capable tree, a few hostels & resorts, and a small village. We got stuck hanging in hammocks, reading our books, and playing in the ocean for 5 days. A total of 6,000 Pisos/$13 per day including food, I can't complain. While we were there I was having continuous headaches & mild fevers at nighttime. I was sick of feeling like crap at night so I decided I needed to see a doctor to figure out the issue and get some medicine. As soon as we stepped foot in the doctors office I instantly changed my mind about the state I was in. There were probably 75 people waiting to see the 1-2 doctors, mostly sick babies and children. I decided to save that stop for emergencies only and stopped at the pharmacy instead. Yesterday on our bus ride to Bacolod (North Negros) Matt & I decided everytime we get on a long distance bus one of us will give away a belonging of ours to an unknown Filipino who looks in need of a brighter day.
We made it to North Negros with intentions of climbing Mt. Kanlaon, an active volcano, but today we found out it is booked for a month.. We were both very excited to do some volcano trekking, but a change in course is now in progress.
Today marks my 1 month exploration away from home, and Matt's 2 month (were totally treating ourselves to sushi tonight). The Islands have treated us VERY well so far, but we are getting a bit antsy and eager for a more intense excursion. We decided once we get into Indonesia we are going to start volunteering, WWOOFing, and finding a greater role. But we still have a few weeks left in the Philippines to relax & soak it up, and 3 more Islands to investigate. Leaving no stone left unturned.
More pics are coming soon, its hard to find internet cafes that will let you upload data.