Our adventurer, Paul, continues his sabbatical with a trip to Bali with his family. Along the way, he talks about acclimatising to a completely different culture, creature comforts we take for granted in Western culture and meeting people from all over the world!
So this is the main event. The 5 and a half week family trip; 3 and a half weeks volunteering in Bali, followed by 2 weeks in Australia. The packing’s done, the inoculations taken, the literature read. We’re ready so let’s go...or are we?
The flight is pretty long but nothing we haven’t done before so we arrive in reasonable shape. We’re staying in a small village about 20 minutes out of Ubud which is one of the main towns. First impressions are good, the area is lush with tropical plants and trees and lots of rice fields which the locals use to sustain themselves.
The first week of volunteering is one of acclimatisation, to the country, the culture and our environment. Conditions are fairly basic by our western standards but we rented a couple of private rooms as we figured sharing dormitories would be a step too far for our girls and their middle aged parents!
We have lots of activities organised for us in the first week so that we can soak up the culture prior to getting stuck into the volunteering projects. So off we go to temples, ceremonial dances, markets, cooking and language lessons culminating in a blessing at a temple where you submerge yourself in holy water to seal the deal.
Everything is amazing in its own way. The people are so friendly and accommodating and things are just so different. Having this week of activities has given us an understanding of the country that we wouldn’t have got from tourist trips. Our private rooms are in a family compound which gives us a real insight into normal life here. The animals are next door and boy do they like to make themselves heard!
There are a few things I wasn’t expecting though. It’s weird being around a large group of people and doing stuff with them most of the time, especially when most of them are 18-22 year olds. Everyone is really nice but they are just different to me. Not in a bad way but just different. Also I’m surprised by the mix of nationalities - UK, Ireland, USA, Hungary, Spain, Australia, Iran, Bulgaria, Egypt, jersey, France, Hawaii, Mexico, Italy, China .... this makes for a fascinating mixture.
We all miss things from home as well...we have a positive attitude to the food and the facilities but there’s no point in trying to pretend that you don’t have a longing for some simple comforts.
Personally, I miss having boiling hot water to make tea or coffee - and the food is also a little bland for my hard-to-please tastebuds. This is understandable given the cooks are catering for 100 people at a time and reminds me of the simple pleasures of home. I realise you can still have a great time whilst at the same time be missing home. I also learned it’s much better to talk about it and work around the limitations rather than risk souring the whole experience.
Everyone is ready to get stuck into their projects by the end of the week and all have had enough of the group activities (no matter how good they are).
We spend the weekend touring Bali and have some really memorable family time together, the highlight for me being some rafting down the local river. So, all in all, it was all about beautiful scenery, beautiful people and a very memorable experience. It’s a big tick off my bucket list!
Next week we start what we really came here for…