Can You Go Home Again? Teacher To Tourist

From 2009-2010 I lived in Depok, Indonesia as a United States Fulbright Fellow.  I both loved and struggled with my time abroad, but I made my little corner of Depok a part of me.  Part of my home.  When I left a year later, friends despondently waved from my house gates, and I sobbed my way through my 2-day trip back to the States. Not ready to go, the situation felt even more desperate by not knowing if and when I would return. Who would I become in relation to this country.  And if I did return, would Indonesia even feel the same?  Would what was once so innate to my daily routine become foreign to me?  Underneath, would Indo feel like déjà vu inspired from a dream–a removed experience, a ghost, something no longer my own? I questioned: Can you go home again, truly? Or once you leave, does that…

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Eat, Pray, Love: Bali Prophecies

Right around the time that I lived in Indonesia, Eat, Pray, Love was taking off. Lets face it, what woman wasn’t dreaming of gallivanting off to Italy for the fine Italian…pasta…and seeking sanctuary and relaxation in India and Bali. Liz Gilbert was our idol, and in her honor, we visited THE Wayan—the actual traditional healer from the book—in Ubud.   Pictures of Julia Roberts and Elizabeth Gilbert cheered us on as Wayan grabbed our hands, pinched our cheeks, rubbed cream on our faces, made us swallow vitamins, and examined us from top to bottom: Wayan: You like sweets and eat too many. You need to stop. Your blood is dirty. You are a 5th generation reincarnation. You dated a man for 3.5 years and had two jobs. Me: [Stunned silence. That first and last sentences were definitely true] Yes, ma’am. Wayan: You have too much acid in your stomach. You…

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Visiting Tanah Lot in Bali, Indonesia

Traveling whispers unintentional commentary on humanity—which might explain why I am such a people watcher. Sidewalk cafes feed my imagination and more tourist destinations read like one giant live Facebook feed. Bali is no exception. Tanah Lot is beautiful and crowded. It is steamy hot from the equatorial sun yet cool and misty from the ocean breeze. Men pedaling pictures with giant snakes greet visitors as couples casually soak in views from strategically placed benches. Young girls with big hats and flowing dresses work tirelessly on their Instagram selfies and videos, backs turned to the views, while dreamers and poets silently ask the clouds and sea for inspiration. The tide restricts access like a snobby bouncer, causing longer cliff-side lingering, and low tide grants exclusive and pushy access. A juxtaposition of natural beauty and tourism, inspiration and chaos. Indonesia is a series contradictions just like America, which makes it uniquely…

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Monkey Trouble in Bali: Visiting Uluwatu Temple

My husband always considered me fearless until the monkeys… In Bali, we grabbed drinks overlooking the beach at Single Fin and headed to Uluwatu to see the Kecak and Fire Dance. The male performers artistically chant “cak” for over an hour during sunset while traditional characters reenact famous scenes from the Ramayana. The circle formed in the temple surrounding the fire paired with the backdrop of the glistening sun is just stunning. Personally, I loved that Hanuman started talking selfies with audience members—gotta keep it relevant. But onto the hissing monkeys. Let me start by saying that the Ubud Monkey Forest was a one-time experience (2009) that I will never re-visit. Never, never, never. On this trip to Indonesia, I told everyone: NO MONKEYS.  When we pulled up to the temple for the fire dance, our friend coughed out: bythewaytherearemonkeys.  SERIOUSLY?! While touring Uluwatu, announcements warned that if a monkey…

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Orchids and Eyang: How Living Abroad in Indonesia Touched My Life

I don’t believe that there are random coincidences; instead, I think every moment is a serendipitous sign that either strikes dead center to the heart or we blink too quickly, missing the message. One year ago, I was at the Epcot Flower and Garden show when I came across these nearly hidden orchids.  Orchids remind me of my Indonesian grandma, “eyang,” as she would vigilantly care for hers with a tender caress and kind word.  Every weekend when I approached Jalan Penjernihan in Pejompongan, Jakarta I’d find eyang on the front porch cultivating her flowery children, a lusty wink in her eye.   Last year when I first stumbled upon the Epcot orchids, I messaged Ibu Nina, her daughter, to let them know that I was thinking of them.  I had not been in touch for awhile but those orchids spoke to me.  Two days later, I found out that…

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