Adventures in Food

Getting Ripped Off In Bali

I am no novice to traveling in Asia, and I feel like I have put my time into giving Bali a chance, but there are days where I wonder, why the heck do I live in Bali?  These days are generally the ones were I get ripped off, or spend my day avoiding getting ripped off in Bali. There is no way of avoiding it, I am, in fact, a Bule.  Bule originally translated to albino, and was the word that the Balinese used when first seeing the Dutch settling in Indonesia.  Now, it refers to any foreigner, particularly of the white-skinned variety.  That includes me. There are benefits and burdens to being a Bule in Bali.  The biggest benefit relates to the cost of living here, and is the reason why an increasing number of expats, retirees, and digital nomads are calling Bali home.  When you earn your money online, or from other Western sources, and are living in Bali (or most of Southeast Asia), it is a steal. One of the burdens of being a Bule, in Bali and elsewhere in the region, is that we are often seen as giant ATM machines.  Now, I understand that there are a lot of things that I pay more for in Bali, solely because I am a Bule.  And, most of the time I am okay with it, because I know I earn more money than the average Balinese.  But, today, things went too far.  They went far enough that I want to scream that I am sick of getting ripped off in Bali. Our Babi Guling Place There... read more

When a Writer Drinks

Occasionally, when I drink, I start to write.  I often believe that the writing is profound, in a Truman Capote kind of way.  Then, I show it to Eric after, he reads it, shrugs his shoulders and I realize it was quite possibly, complete crap.  Because when a writer drinks, often times, it’s crap. On our way from Abu Dhabi to Dublin, we flew sheer across the Gulf.  Something I have never done during the day.  We were flying home to family, for a funeral, and certainly not the most celebratory of trips. That may have been why I had two, very good pours, of whiskey before 11 am.  Eric joined me.  At least I was not drinking alone. There was part of me that enjoyed the banter between Eric and I.  The discussions about our seat neighborhoods, the other people who boarded the plane, the fact that there was a window in the bathroom of our Etihad flight.  I think that we each relished the moment where we could pretend that this was a normal flight, a normal trip to Ireland, instead of a rushed, last minute booking to celebrate, and bury, someone who Eric thought of as a brother. I recognized how strange the flight was, even as we pretended to be normal.  Eric noticed that I had become fascinated with the landscape out the window.  As we made our way north, we flew over Kuwait City – so much beige, and in complete contrast to our landscape in Bali. Then, the map function on the Etihad entertainment system told me we were crossing over Baghdad. I... read more

Foodies Guide to Taipei

Our initial purpose in going to Taipei was to visit a friend during a visa run from Bali.  Plus, we heard there was good food.  And, it is impossible to find a dumpling in Ubud. I was jonsing for some dumplings. I laid out a plan of where to eat, and most importantly, what to eat, as I started to create a Foodies Guide to Taipei.  And, if you are wondering how much food can two people eat in 5 days, check this out: Stay tuned for more information on the Foodies’ Guide to Taipei, or subscribe to the With Husband In Tow... read more

The Liberation of Downsizing

Just 5 weeks before shipping out on our new life, Eric found Fluent in Three Months. Among the 29 life lessons this guy learned during 8 years of RTW travel, this one spoke to me, particularly as we were selling and giving away 99% of what we owned.  Possessions Own You.  “Look at the real reason you want to buy more expensive crap and realise that it all comes down to validation from others in one way or another. You don’t really need any of it unless it’s directly related to essentials in how you work or survive. The need to buy new crap dictates your life – it fixes you in one location with that house and furniture, and it governs how much money you need to earn. And it almost never actually enriches your life in any way. The less you own the better.” As we donated stacks of books and gave away boxes of CDs, I thought about how much we spent on all of that stuff.  As I was downsizing, I donated dozens of shoes, I thought about how many of them I barely wore.  In the end we had about 64 wine glasses of varying shapes, sizes, and quality.  I love my wine, but generally can only drink out of one glass at a time.  We have never served wine to 62 of our friends at once.  Who, outside of a small commercial establishment needs that many wine glasses?  We lived a Crate & Barrel lifestyle and although we never really tried to keep up with the Joneses, we continued to accumulate stuff for most of the... read more

Gaining Weight and “Depression”

5 Years and 40 Pounds I moved to DC in the Spring of 1999, just out of college and ready for law school.  I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, like all new law students – the world was at my feet and ready for my taking.  In July 2001, we got married.  I was 125 pounds and 5’7”.  Not bad.  I looked good on my wedding day, happy and filled with hope for the future.  After law school, I clerked for a judge in DC while getting an additional law degree, specializing in tax.  All of this to help me land the perfect big law job.  It worked.  In April 2004, we moved to Chicago for a job with a top tier law firm.  That was when weight and depression started to do me in.   I don’t know what, exactly, made me put on so much weight in Chicago.  Was it the diet of Italian beef sandwiches, french fries, Mexican food (La Bamba’s “burritos as big as your head”), or was it merely my metabolism changing after I turned 25?  Or, was it the weather: cold and dreary and ultimately depressing for several months out of the year.  Okay, more than several.  Our first summer in Chicago, the temperature never went above 90, until September. I think it was a little of both of those things, but more than anything, it was sitting behind a desk for 60-80 hours a week for the first time in my life.  I was working crazy hours with an unpredictable schedule.  I could not get into an exercise routine.  I lived in a... read more

Young Boy Celebrates Nyepi in Bali – Photo Essay

In the weeks leading up to Nyepi in Bali, the boys of Bali start preparing for the ogoh ogoh processions, building elaborate monsters to scare away the demons. There was one boy in particular who I became a little infatuated with.  He lives in our village, although I am not sure whose he is.  I just found him adorable. I first noticed him in his red shirt and white udeng hanging around the smallest of the ogoh ogohs, just trying to take in what was going on around him. Then, I noticed him climbing inside the bamboo holding platform that is used to carry the ogoh ogoh in the procession. He was about half the size of the rest of the boys who were scheduled to carry the ogoh ogoh that night, but he didn’t care.  He desperately wanted to be there.  Helping.  Participating.   Several times, the older boys practiced lifting and carrying the ogoh ogoh, and this little boy was right in the middle of it.  Several times the ogoh ogoh was lifted, and they lifted the little boy right off his feet, leaving him dangling a few inches above the ground.   Finally, his mother pulled him out and away from potential danger.  I gave him a lot of credit though.  Cute little kid.... read more

Scarecrows of Bali

One of my favorite things about living in Bali is watching the cycle of rice growing.  Yeah, the gorgeous, bright green, terraced rice fields make for postcard perfect tourist photos, but watching what goes into growing rice is simply stunning.  It has caused me to be more appreciative of every grain of rice.  We have seen several cycles so far, from preparing the fields, to planting the rice, to tending the crop, and into harvesting.  All of it complicated, and still something I do not truly understand. As the rice nears its final stages, though, it becomes attractive to the birds.  And, much like the image I have of farms in the US, probably inspired a bit from the Wizard of Oz, the rice farmers here in Bali use scarecrows to frighten the birds.  I believe the scarecrows of Bali, though, are unique, and unlike any I have seen before. Our gardener, Pak Mejo, tends the rice outside of our villa.  We see he and his wife working daily, even during Nyepi, to ensure a good crop.  They arrive early in the morning and spend the day working from one of the wooden shacks, which holds their tools and allows them a place to escape the hot afternoon sun. Pak Mejo and his wife created four new scarecrows just outside of our villa.  They each are dressed in local Balinese clothing, and were so detailed, I had to explore the fields, with camera in tow, to capture the detail of the scarecrows in Bali. This scarecrow, in full action, holding a flag to make the birds think she is... read more

Our Wedding Story

Our wedding was a simple one, and not necessarily the stuff of fantasy or legend, but is the next episode of our sappy love story.  We wanted good food and good music so people would have fun.  Everything else was the fluff.  For me, it is enjoyable to look back at the photos of when we were young, skinny, and oh so naive about our future together, and about what it actually means to be married.  Because after all, this is our wedding story. We set the date for our wedding within a few weeks after getting engaged on that rainy night in DC.  We settled on July 28, just a short ten months after the engagement.  We had a short window.  We had just enough time for me to work as an intern for the summer between second and third year of law school, finish the job, get married, and have a honeymoon, before returning for my final year of law school.  After choosing the date, we learned that we would be sharing our anniversary with Eric’s Irish grandparents, which made it all that more special.  We went through all of the usual pre-wedding rites of passage, including an engagement party and bridal shower in New Jersey with family, and another shower in DC with girlfriends.  I registered for all of the typical bridal swag: Lenox china and flatware, crystal, candlesticks, expensive cookware.  I got all of that and more.  So much stuff that I look back and wonder why?  Most of it we don’t own any more.  We have our china and crystal stored at Eric’s mother’s... read more

A Day Trip From Ubud – Shopping in Kuta

There are many reasons why I am living in Ubud.  A big one is that despite it being a small town, there are tons of amenities to keep a Western expat happy.  I can pretty much get anything I want here in town.  It might not be my favorite brand, but I can get a reasonable alternative.   There are some things, though, that I just can’t get here.  Besides dim sum, and Chinese food in general, I can’t buy underwear.  Ok, yeah, I can buy underwear at the local supermarket, and maybe it makes me a snob that I feel like I need to buy underwear some place else, but it is one thing I just can’t buy in town.  It is also hard for me to find yoga tops and bathing suit tops, for obvious waist up reasons.  Similarly, Eric has a hard time finding t-shirts large enough to fit him, other than the Bintang beer tank tops and tees.  And, once we moved into the new house there were just a few items we needed.  We used all of these expat “issues” as an excuse to get out of town for a day.  We hired a driver to bring us down south, to the big city of Kuta.   I am not a fan of Kuta. I generally refer to it as the arm pit of Bali, loaded with drunk Australian tourists and aggressive touts.  I avoid it at all costs.  But, there are occasional times where even the most adamantly anti-Kuta person, finds themselves shopping in Kuta.  Even if somewhat against their will. After grabbing... read more

The Boys of Nyepi in Bali – a Photo Essay

I rarely take photos around town.  It is not like I am a tourist, snapping shots to commemorate a trip.  I often think about bringing my camera out with me, to drive around the villages for a day taking photos.  But, then, my regular schedule kicks in, and I just live my life as an expat, living in Bali. The day before Nyepi in Bali, however, I wanted to take advantage of living in Ubud during one of the most important holidays of the year. I wanted to be a tourist in my own village.  I took the requisite pictures of the ogoh ogohs, and posted them to Facebook, like many of my friends in Ubud. But for me, the most interesting photos were not of the ogoh ogoh themselves, but in the boys carrying them.   Nyepi is definitely a holiday for the boys of Bali.  They dress up like miniature versions of  their fathers, with their sarong and head covering, an udeng.   The girls do this as well for most Balinese holidays and ceremonies, wearing small sarongs and lace tops called kebaya.  For Nyepi in Bali, though, the girls take a back seat, and the boys are the stars.   They join together to make the neighborhood’s ogoh ogoh, and then they carry them together as a group through the village. They took pride in making the finishing touches on the ogoh ogoh. You could just see how excited some of the smaller boys were to participate in the ceremonial procession, some nervous with anticipation. I am sure the older men tired of it after so... read more

Nyepi – The Day of Silence in Bali

I was happy we experienced the ogoh ogoh procession in Kutuh Kaja the night before Nyepi, the day of silence in Bali.  I felt as though we were part of the community, and experiencing something special.  But, by the time we returned to the house, it was dark, as the lights around started to fade.  Although Nyepi does not technically begin until sunrise you could already notice a difference in the village. Quiet took over.  We started our Nyepi lock down with a night swim, Eric’s babi guling soup, some chocolate mouse cake, and a little TV.  It was an early night for us, and our friend Emerald who hunkered down with us.   Around 11pm the power went out.  I was worried.  During the silent period of Nyepi you are not supposed watch TV, play music, cook, or even turn on lights.  The goal is to allow the demons to pass over the island.  As Bule, we are given a little more leeway with these things, so long as we are not disruptive and stay within our homes, but for a moment there, I worried that they would turn off the power entirely.  I worried about all of the ice cream I bought.  I worried about sleeping in a room with no fan.   It must not have worried me too much, because I was asleep a few minutes later.  When I woke in the middle of the night, I heard the hum of the ceiling fan and I knew my ice cream was safe.   I woke early Nyepi morning, which for us seemed much like other... read more

Preparing for Nyepi – the Ogoh Ogoh of Bali

It was not our first Nyepi spent in Bali, but this one was certainly different.   The first time we heard of Nyepi was back in 2010, when we spent the last month of our round the world trip in Bali.  We attempted to see a parade of ogoh ogoh, but failed as we had no idea what we were even looking for and what time things happened.  After, we were locked inside a hotel, with awful food, and a bunch of strangers.  For 24 hours.  We were barricaded, with the front entrance enclosed by plywood.  It was a strange holiday, and I knew we were missing something.   This Nyepi, we were living in Ubud.  In our own house.  In a village we love.  I knew it would be different than the last.  We had local friends who explained more about the traditions, and the rules, of how to experience Nyepi, and more importantly, the night before Nyepi.   Nyepi is the Balinese New Year, and one of the most important holidays of the year.  For weeks before, we saw the neighborhood boys creating their ogoh ogoh, large styrofoam monsters and demons which would be paraded through the village.  During the afternoons, younger boys were working on a blue monster with wild hair.  In the evenings, the older guys were at work on a large frog, with tiger stripes, and a blue monster sitting atop, while listening to music, and probably drinking a little Arak.  Each day as I drove by, the monsters took shape and looked more like the ogoh ogoh I have seen before.   As... read more

My First Yogathon in Bali – a Photo Essay

For those of you with absolutely no interest in yoga, I apologize.  I promise to return to drinking, food, and expat living soon enough.  It just happens that a lot of yoga stuff was going on in Bali, which leaves me to a mess of yoga themed blog posts.  Apologies.   With that disclaimer, I never expected that I would attend a yogathon in Bali.  In fact, I had no idea there was such a thing as a yogathon, but apparently there is.  I had no plans to attend.  It was not something I looked forward to.  Nonetheless, stars aligned and I found myself catching a ride south, to Canggu, for my first Yogathon at Desa Seni. The Yogathon in Bali is an annual event, and an unofficial kickoff for the BaliSpirit Festival, a 5 day yoga, music, and dance event in Ubud.  The Yogathon, though, is a chance to raise money for a charity, while offering two studios of yoga, all day long.  Sixty minute classes, back to back, from 8 am until 6 pm.   I arrived just before 10 am and jumped in full bore, taking three classes back to back, with Simon Low, Emily Kuser, and then Eion Finn.  By 1pm I was hot, sweaty, dirty, and exhausted, even after feeling the High Vibes with Emily and the Blissology with Eion.  I attempted one more class at 2, but just wasn’t feeling it.  Instead, I snuck in a shower and a cool down.  One of my good friends, Les Leventhal, was teaching at 3 and I knew I did not have it in me for... read more

Our Engagement Story

Some people have grand and romantic stories of how they became engaged.  Our engagement story revolves around a call from a French pay phone.   We have never been that lovey dovey type of couple.  After all, we barely got along the first six months we were together.  I am not sure what changed after that.  We just started to grow accustomed to one another, to the idea that it was okay to be a couple.  After all, we were getting older and isn’t that what mature people did? Eric let me even wear his sweater.I started law school in the fall of 1999, only a little more than 2 years after we met.  Eric and I moved down to Washington, DC, for me to attend school.  We moved in to a crappy cookie cutter apartment in Falls Church, Virginia.  But, it was our first “real” apartment, away from college, away from roommates.    We moved down to Virginia in March of 1999, and spent the summer living the DC life. I was working as a legal assistant at a large law firm.  The law firm threw Friday happy hours on the roof top with free beer and pizza.  We met friends.  We drank. In August, Eric broke his arm pitching a baseball the week before I started school.  I had to take care of him.  I helped him brush his teeth and helped him bathe. I drove him to doctors’ appointments and bought him beer to help him self medicate.  I guess it was then that our lives became so intertwined.  Once you bathe someone, you become just... read more

Teaching Yoga at The Yoga Barn Bali

I am a new yoga teacher, having just completed my teacher training last year in Ubud.  And, I choose one of the most competitive yoga markets in the world to start my career.  I did so with full knowledge that it would be difficult to teach.  In the end, I enjoyed living in Ubud, and that was enough for me.  Let the cards fall where they may. So, to get my practice teaching in, I have been forcing some friends to take free private classes.  I taught Balinese high school students for a few months as a volunteer teacher.  More recently, I have managed to teach some private sessions, which went really well.   But, the apex of my introduction to yoga teaching has come through teaching some free Community Yoga at The Yoga Barn Bali.   Back in March 2010, I took my very first yoga class at the Yoga Barn Bali.  Back then, it was a quaint studio, with two small rooms and views over the rice paddies.  Since then, the Barn has expanded immensely, with three additional studios, a second reception, an Ayurvedic spa, a cafe, and accommodations. You name it, the Barn has it.  It is the epicenter of the yoga movement in Ubud.  It was where my yoga journey began.  It was where I completed my training.  It is where I have been practicing yoga for over a year with some amazing teachers. And, I got to teach there. Okay, it was a free class, and I was not paid for teaching, but I still considered it a huge success.  In fact, it was the... read more

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Im Amber!

I’m a recovering attorney, yoga teacher, and perpetual nomad.  I also travel With Husband In Tow, as we follow our stomachs around the world, in search of Adventures in Food!

 

 

 

 

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