Updated: Apr 6, 2020
I was feeling absolutely reassured and spiritually refreshed. Having released the emotion of the past two weeks, I was ready to move forward. After everything that had happened, I was prepared to be present and enjoy the last week of my adventure. Svenya and I decided to walk to the supermarket that evening. We set out down the small path that housed our Yoga life in Bali and headed for the main road in Ubud. Maybe it wasn’t the geographic centre of Ubud, but as far as I was concerned, it was the path that led to the heart of the town. It was the point where the relaxing calm of the rice fields ended and the chaotic city streets began. It was dark when we got to the main road and the tourists were out in droves. Scooters zipped by, weaving in and out of traffic, narrowly avoiding each other. Taxi drivers hollered at every passing tourist, pushing their services, trying desperately to earn my business. But that night, Svenya was set on walking. The path was dilapidated, and broken chunks of cement and brick were strewn about. We dodged and weaved along the sidewalk, stopping at any open boutique we could find. Svenya tried on a few house coats at our first stop, but I knew that if I even tried I would just stick to the fabric. Even though the sun was down, the temperature was unbearably warm, and the humidity thick.
Svenya & I
We left that boutique and ventured further into the darkness. There were no street lights, no open shops, and it was eerily quiet. This was one of the only moments in Bali when I actually felt nervous for my well-being. I kept thinking that if someone had popped out and grabbed us, all I would be able to do was fight, because no one was around to help. But we pressed on. I blocked the negative thoughts out of my mind and focused on our conversation as we powered up the long, steep hill. Svenya is adorable. She is very much concerned for the environment and does anything and everything that she can do to save it, thus her insistence on walking. She would debate the topic with anyone, no matter the person. As much as I bugged her with little things like a disposable lid and plastic straws, I really did admire her conviction and confidence.
Svenya was curious about my Chakra meditation experience. So as we climbed the never-ending hill, I told her my story. I told her about the abuse I suffered as a child and how I worked throughout my 20s to overcome it. I told her about my parents and the conflict I felt over the difference in their beliefs. Earlier in the week, Svenya had asked me what my favourite age had been. I told her it was the age I was in that moment, because, for the first time in my life, I didn't feel like my entire existence was a complete disaster. That was a moment that really made me reflect on the past ten years and how much I had changed. It made me realize how much my life has changed and how differently I feel now compared to then, and that all the work I put into my health and well-being was absolutely worth it to feel how I felt in that moment. Svenya and I bonded on that walk to the supermarket. She allowed me to reflect on my life and I showed her what true resilience and inner strength looked like.
The Supermarket Fruit Section
The supermarket had an incredible selection of fruit, some of which I had never seen before. We browsed through the aisles and suddenly my eyes grew wide with excitement. There were Oreos with strawberry filling! And not only strawberry filling, but peanut butter and chocolate-filled and ice cream flavoured! I left the supermarket with six sleeves of Oreo cookies that night, feeling elated. When I got back to the guest house, Zhana was sitting outside of her room talking to her partner back in Toronto. I offered her an Oreo because I had never seen them in Canada before, and doubted she had either. That moment bonded her partner and I, as I was henceforth known as Strawberry Filling. I cleared half of that sleeve of Oreos that night. Nina and I spent a while talking about our experience in Bali and the changes we both wanted to make when we got home. I was happy to listen to Nina's story. It felt like she didn't get to talk very openly with many people back home, and I was glad that she felt comfortable enough with me to let out her thoughts and feelings. We had very different pasts and lives back at home, but I really felt like we were at the beginning of a life-long friendship. And I was determined to one day show her that I normally was a morning person! It was only in Bali that I woke up with a huge scowl on my face and drudged around the room not wanting to get ready. It was that damned mattress!
The View Behind the Restaurants
I woke up relatively early the next morning, as I found it impossible to sleep in. I met up with my French ladies and we walked into town together. We found a beautiful restaurant that overlooked a river and ravine; it was neat to see the insides and back ends of the restaurants of this particular street in Ubud. All of the buildings were constructed over ravines and rivers, and every one of them had a gorgeous view of a river and forest. Beautiful palm trees lined the riverbanks and dense, tropical greenery filled in the gaps. It was absolutely magnificent to look at. That morning’s eatery was completely open concept and had three floors of dining tables with no other diners in sight.
I ordered bacon, eggs, and a smoothie bowl that morning. I really enjoyed my time with Claire-Anne and Anne-Laure. Despite the slight language barrier, we had many laughs and learned a lot of words from each other. I even started remembering some of my high school French. Zhana showed up half way through our meal and we all finished our breakfast together. We decided that we wanted to check out the Ubud market, as I personally had some Rupiah burning a hole in my pocket. There were a few things I wanted to purchase, such as a shirt and a pair of sandals. Zhana decided she would accompany us to the market, but would do her own thing when we got there. On our way,we stopped at a Starbucks for a much needed caffeine boost. Claire-Anne ordered her coffee as Beyoncé and we made our way out to view a cool temple just behind the cafe. I was struck by the intensity in colour of the water lilies in the ponds in front of the temple. I’ve never been the type of person who likes flowers, but I find myself enjoying them more and more with age. The water lilies were a magnificent pink, and almost looked fake with how perfectly-shaped they were. The yellow was such a rich hue. The temple was pretty cool too. Long staircases led to massive stone entrances where tourists were posing for their perfect Instagram picture. This was a pretty common thing all through Bali. There were places in Bali where people would line up to take a picture in front of specific temples and tourist attractions. Not I. I was searching for authentic photos that captured and encapsulated my experience forever.
Beautiful Decor In A Beautiful Restaurant
Crossing the street in Ubud was nothing like Canadian street crossing. Cross walks simply did not exist. If you wanted to cross the street, you were taking your life in your hands and darting across at the perfect moment, like a high stakes game of Frogger. This was always a moment of stress for me during my time in Bali. We made our way through the organized chaos of Ubud, and finally came upon the street vendor market. Zhana went on her way, and the ladies and I ducked into the market. And ducked is the perfect word, because the space was tight. We squeezed by racks and tables of items, past the mass of tourists and pushy vendors. I struggled here, because I am so used to looking everyone in the eye. But as soon as you looked one of those vendors in the eye, they took it as a sign to offer every product they had for sale, and then the stuff their friends and family were selling next to them. And they had a method. They started off way overpriced, forcing us to barter with them to get the item for the price we wanted. The first item at the market that I actually wanted to purchase was a (knock-off, I'm sure) pair of Nike slides. Yes they were mens, but they were the perfect sandal for my remaining time in Bali.
The currency in Bali, as I mentioned, is Rupiah. 10,000 Rupiah is equal to just under $1 Canadian. The vendor spotted me right away. I'm sure he realized instantly that I had no idea how to barter, so he quoted me 400,000 Rupiah for the slides. I said 300,000. He said 350,000, and I told him I wasn't interested. Just then, Claire-Anne came rushing to my aide and asked the vendor what he wanted for them. The vendor again quoted 400,000. I was so impressed with what transpired next. This small-statured young woman from France turned up her nose in disgust and stated, “no, no, no! 100,000!” The vendor quickly said “no,” and Claire-Anne grabbed my hand and said, “okay let's go.” We took about four steps before the vendor surrendered. With a look of disappointment and his voice full of annoyance, the vendor agreed to 100,000 Rupiah. I whipped out my cash and walked away triumphantly with my new slides. I was so impressed with Claire-Anne's sheer determination and conviction in that moment. I will never forget when this incredibly strong woman defeated the Bali vendor trying to take advantage of two young female tourists.
Unfortunately, I continued down the line of vendors and the ladies stayed behind at another booth, separating us only moments after the slide surrender. I was now on my own and would have to take what I learned from Claire-Anne and apply it to the rest of my market experience. I kept seeing various beaded pouches that could be used as a make-up bag or a pencil case. After passing up many options, I decided to purchase a pink pouch with “BALI” beaded on the front in black. I didn't realize this then, but I definitely paid too much for that cheap pouch because the zipper started getting stuck the next day. It looked cool though. I also found a purple tank with a white elephant on the front. Spyros had the same shirt as well, likely because those shirts are the quintessential Bali purchase. I know that I paid too much for this shirt though because a few days later, at the 308 Kiss MeRestaurant, one of the young ladies asked me how much I had paid for it. When I told her the amount, she raised her eyebrows and her jaw dropped. I knew then that I was no good at bartering. However, I made a few other purchases at the market including a few surfboard keychains for my friends and family back home, and a hand fan. The hand fan was really poor quality,as the wooden spines began to warp shortly after purchase, but I was just happy to have a few things to take home to commemorate my time in a foreign place.
The biggest thing that struck me as strange in Bali was the sheer amount of penises for sale. There were penises carved into anything and everything. The most popular was simply a wooden penis decorated with paint. There were dicks for days! Everywhere I looked, a dick. The theme song of my Bali trip should have been: “There's a pink dick here and a black dick there. Here a dick, there a dick, everywhere a dick dick, all the Balinese love their dicks, E-I-E-I-O!” Another random dick I found was made out of bubble bath suds. So the Balinese women would relax in their tub of soap dick at night. I was constantly chuckling, both to myself and out loud, about the omnipresence of the dicks. Nowhere in my life have I ever seen so much blatant dick hanging out. It wasn't until the end of my trip when I finally asked around to find out, what exactly the deal was with the dicks. Apparently, the Balinese see these penises as good luck. Balinese men even used to wear penis charms around their necks to ward off evil spirits! My North American brain would never associate dick with luck... well... maybe if I was getting lucky!