Bali Creatures

One of the reasons I was most excited about coming to Bali was the chance to better acquaint the kids with animals and plants in their natural state. To date, most of their interactions with animals or nature have been with our pets or animals at the zoo. I think this lack of organic experiences has resulted in Allie wanting to capture every animal she runs across and hold it hostage in an empty, plastic, drinking bottle.

Having lived in LA for most of my life, I always liked “nature.” In fact, I always enjoyed going to visit it (within an hours drive), where I could thoroughly soak it in, then return to my house, shower, and go to sleep in my clean, comfortable bed. “Nature” was best in it’s own neighborhood. But, I always thought –wouldn’t it be great for the kids to experience more “nature”?  Of course it would! I’d read about “Nature Deficit Disorder” a term coined by author Richard Louv in his book Last Child in the Woods and I was sure my kids had it in spades. I longed for them to experience the wildness and beauty of nature while remaining safe and more importantly, clean and sanitary.

Right before we left LA, I received an e-mail from the Santa Monica Police Department addressing a pertinent “nature” issue. Perhaps, this gives some insight into how I and, in my opinion, most Angelenos “coexist” with nature. Below is an excerpt from that memo: (I promise this is real)

“Living with Wildlife in Santa Monica”

Coyotes Are Active in This Area

One of the great features of living in an urban area like Santa Monica is the ability to be so close to nature and the local mountains that are full of native species like raccoons, possums, squirrels, and coyotes

Humans can coexist with coyotes by following some of these helpful tips:
·         Do not run or turn your back.
·         Be as big and loud as possible.
·         Wave your arms and throw objects.
·         Face the coyote and back away slowly.
·         If attacked, fight back.

John Muir is surely spinning in his grave. I think this was taken from an earlier SMPD memo –“Coexisting with Rapists.” But, I digress….

Back to my fantasy….I longed for my kids to chase fireflies, capture frogs and play kick the can… okay, maybe I got a little carried away with that one. Anyway, you get the idea.

Well as the old adage goes: “be careful what you wish for.” I think I mentioned in previous posts that the houses here are mostly open air. We have doors that close up our living space but, they’re only closed at night when we go to bed. In addition, there is a large open area right off the dining room that has no doors or anything that closes so, that part of the house is always wide open. During the day all the doors remain open, mostly for air flow, but it also makes access completely available to whoever wanders in…..or out. But, only after they’ve spent a long, noisy night with us.

So, in my old version of being close to nature, I imagined my children running across a meadow, chasing butterflies in smocked outfits, gleefully playing without even a speck of dirt on them. And it was beautiful. Here’s the problem with my fantasy and what I’ve learned about “nature.” Nature is kind of gross. It’s loud and often smelly. It doesn’t wipe it’s feet or flush and it doesn’t care who or what it poops on. For a city girl from LA, this is taking some getting used to.

Let me take you through an average day and night at our house in Bali. At about 5:00-5:30 AM our neighbors roosters, (yes, roosters with an “s”), begin to make noise (if we’re lucky, it’s not earlier). That myth we’ve all been fed of the polite rooster, patiently waiting until dawn to cock-a-doodle-doo  –let me disabuse you of that notion right here, it never happens that way. It is possible that these roosters are either ADD or idiots or both but, they make noise, lots of noise, whenever the impulse strikes them –in fact, I’ve never noticed it being precisely at dawn. And here in Bali, there are chickens EVERYWHERE. They all belong to someone –but, no one has pens or bothers keeping their chickens in their own yard. And for some reason, there seem to be WAY more roosters than hens. The kids, (especially Allie), are fascinated by the chickens — I, on the other hand, am fantasizing about chicken nuggets.

Our "neighbors" roosters that spend most of their time in our yard.The brown one is especially vocal.

Our “neighbors” roosters that spend most of their time in our yard.The brown one is especially proud of his singing voice.

After breakfast the house is opened up and throughout the day we are visited by lots of bugs (nothing too scary), mostly innocuous, flying ones. Lots of butterflies, gnats, dragonflies, and lovely iridescent green flies. Currently, it’s the middle of the summer (technically) so, most of the smarter creatures (of course, this doesn’t apply to our resident idiot chickens), lay low most of the day to avoid the heat and humidity.

Later in the afternoon is when the real fun begins. Around 5:00 pm, it starts to cool off slightly and the first thing to emerge are small, pinkish-brown lizards everyone calls chik- chaks. By late afternoon, there are around 10-15 on the walls inside the house. As abundant as they are, they’re actually quite shy and run away when you approach, so getting good pictures of them is tough. Their name comes from the sound they make which sounds like chik-chak so, that’s what everyone calls them. I’m sure they have a fancier, scientific name, I just didn’t bother looking it up.

chik chak in the house

chik chak in the house

Chik chak

Another Chik chak

Along with the chik chaks, the geckos start to emerge around this time. They share the chik chaks’ shyness but, they’re larger and MUCH louder. They’re also referred to by a name associated with the sound they make — toe-kay. The first time I heard it I thought someone was standing in our living room blowing an airhorn. The booming and startling noise that comes out of this relatively small lizard is astonishing and frankly, awe-inspiring. I think Fletcher must be related to them. We have several that live in our house, mostly behind the pictures hanging on the walls. There is one in particular that Allie has named “big boy” that lives behind the painting over the couch in the living room. I still haven’t gotten used to him darting his head out of the bottom of the frame, just as I’ve just settled down on the couch.

"Big Boy" sticking his head out from his favorite hiding place.

“Big Boy” sticking his head out from his favorite hiding place.

Several geckos hanging out by the front door

Several geckos hanging out by the front door

Gecko hanging out over our kitchen door

Gecko hanging out over our kitchen door

As much as I would like to think the lizards are our personal welcoming committee, they’re actually coming out to feed on the mosquitoes. Yes, the mosquitoes are pretty bad right now. Poor Allie! Her legs look like she has chicken pox! I recently purchased these super-charged, personal bug zappers that look like electric tennis racquets. In the evening, (including the time we’re having dinner), we walk around the house carrying them and competing to see how many mosquitoes we can zap. It’s pitiful. The people who’ve been here a while tell us that eventually your body adjusts and the mosquitoes don’t bite you as much or you stop reacting. And mercifully, when the wet season ends in March/April, the mosquitoes are supposed to subside. I’m praying that day comes soon for my daughter — for some reason, the mosquitoes love her the most.

After the initial siege of lizards and mosquitoes, out come the bats and frogs. The bats generally stay outside, except for one overachiever who finds his way into the house every night and circles over our heads for about an hour – (luckily we have high ceilings). He also leaves us a present wherever he feels like it, (lately, it’s been in the middle of the living room floor). The frogs are even less bold than the lizards and not nearly as agile (at least on land). They tend to hop in, freeze up, and then proceed to just sit there in the middle of the floor waiting to be stepped on (as Marc did one night on the way to the bathroom –yuck!) or discovered by one of the kids who then, happily chase them around the house.

Bats outside our house.

Bats outside our house.

Frog on a picture in the dining room

Frog on a picture in the dining room

Fletcher catching tadpoles in the fountain in the middle of our house.

Fletcher catching tadpoles in the fountain in the middle of our house.

Are you appalled yet? I hope not. It probably sounds worse than it is. I’m actually growing fond of the creatures that inhabit our house. I think of them as little soldiers that  protect us from the assault of the evil mosquito army that invades every night. Nothing like a common enemy to bring you together!

That being said, it’s definitely a different way to coexist — we’re all learning a lot. The other night, I watched as the kids ran around outside with flashlights, chasing and catching frogs (almost like I imagined – just with more dirt). And I’m happy to report, it’s been days since Allie trapped anything in a plastic bottle.

Then again, if it gets to be too much, I can always go back to waving my arms, throwing objects and acting as big and loud as possible but, on second thought, that’s actually what brought me here in the first place.

Touring Green School

We scheduled a tour of The Green School, (where we had enrolled the kids), on Friday, January 18th, two days after our arrival on Wednesday. We planned for the kids to start school on the following Monday which would give them a couple of days to acclimate and get over their jet lag. Based on the pictures and videos of the school, we thought we had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Yet, never having laid eyes on the place, I was more than a little anxious –what if we just flew half way around the world to send our kids to a giant dump? That would make for a long stay here. Luckily for us, the campus is mostly as promised, a lush, verdant oasis. Thank God!!

During our tour, Allie got excited about all the animals. Fletcher got excited about all the room to run around and kick balls. And I got excited about them going back to school, any school. They had been out for almost a month since winter break began in Los Angeles. We’re all getting a little sick of looking at each other. School starting will definitely be good for everyone.

If you’d like to check out the school for yourself– here’s the link:

Arriving in Ubud

We arrived in Ubud @ 5:00 pm. We were met at our new house by Jared, the realtor who helped us in our search for where to live. I was nervous about choosing a house from so far away, based on a few pictures on the internet –we’ve all been tricked by the fish-eye lens before! Luckily for us, Jared has worked with lots of American families. He found us a very nice house, in a great neighborhood with an amazing staff. In addition, our landlord, who lives next door, (in an INCREDIBLE house he built last year), has lived here for many years and is a great resource for all things Bali. He had graciously arranged a delicious dinner of chicken curry to be prepared for our arrival. I wish I could say how much I enjoyed it — unfortunately, we barely could keep our eyes open! We did our best to stay awake as long as we could but, despite our best efforts we were all in bed by @ 7:00!

Front entrance of our house

Front entrance of our house

From the back of our house - looking toward front door

From the back of our house – looking toward front door

One of the great luxuries of living here is the availability of cheap labor (especially compared to the US). For about what it cost to have a housekeeper once a week in Los Angeles, we have a full-time driver, chef and 2 housekeepers! The chef is going to be hard to get over when we return! Every morning he prepares fresh fruit, smoothies, eggs, french toast or whatever we request. My kids are in for a shock when we return to Eggo waffles and cold cereal! After breakfast, we decide on the menu for lunch and dinner. He was trained in a French restaurant here in Ubud so, he can cook lots of Western dishes as well as Thai, Chinese and, of course, Indonesian.

Breakfast fruit- includes a rambutan which cost @ $8 at whole foods in LA. They taste like a big peeled grape. Allie loves them!

Breakfast fruit- furry one is a “rambutan” which cost @ $3 a piece at Whole Foods in LA. They taste like a big peeled grape. Allie loves them!

Our first breakfast - everyone looks a little tired..

Our first breakfast – everyone looks a little tired..

Our chef, Gedee ("gahday")

Our chef, aptly named Gedee (pronounced “g’day) How perfect is that? Every day is a good day when he’s here!

Our arrival in January coincided with the rainy season here. Iit rains almost daily but, I’m actually kind of enjoying it. It’s a tropical rain so, it’s sunny and humid most of the day and then at some point (mostly late afternoon or at night), the sky opens up and, wow! It comes down! Not like at home where a tiny shower becomes the lead story on the news — (“Stormwatch” for you Angelenos!), and people lose their minds trying to leave work early. Here, people just go on with their day, just part of life. Unlike us Americans, the Balinese don’t spend a lot of time trying to control their environment the way we do. They’re very easy going and accepting of most things…..more on this later.

The downside of the rainy season is that nothing dries — EVER! Towels and clothes have a vague damp feel and the few books we brought now have distinctly wavy pages. For those of you who’ve lived in Florida or Hawaii, this might not be so unsettling. But, for those of us who live in a place where water is so precious that letting our kids run through the sprinklers could result in jail time for their parents, this takes some getting used to. To contend with the wet climate, the houses are mostly open, including, (which I didn’t fully grasp from the pictures), all our bathrooms! This might seem romantic after a massage in a Hawaiian spa, but not that awesome when you need to pee in the middle of the night.

Allie's bathroom - complete with garden IN the shower!

Allie’s bathroom – complete with garden IN the shower!

Getting to Bali

I’m finally trying to get caught up on the blog. I’m about two weeks late in posting these pictures from the trip over.

We made it! It was a LONG 27 hours, but the kids did very well! I’ve never been particularly fond of their Nintendo game consoles but, they saved us during our 5 hour layover!

We may have overpacked!

Leaving LAX –we may have overpacked!

After so many weeks of preparation, we were all excited to finally be boarding the plane to Hong Kong — Fletcher wasn’t shy about enjoying the great Cathay Pacific service! I’m not sure the kids had ever been on a flight that served food and drinks whenever you want them! Fletcher told us he wants to be a “businessman” — (like the other men on the plane) my guess is for the free food and drinks!

Fletcher - on the flight to Denpasar

Fletcher – on the flight to Denpasar

Allie also enjoyed the flight. Lucky for us, her Furby (her favorite xmas gift), only chattered for about 5 of the 27 hours. (For those of you not familiar with Furbys, imagine a maniacally babbling, Japanese toddler crossed with the old woman from Poltergeist in the shape of a furry egg – yeah! Scary! And –it doesn’t have an “off” switch!) – I kept expecting it to suddenly open it’s eyes and declare – “this plane is clean.”

Allie and Furby settling in for the long flight to Hong Kong

Allie and Furby settling in for the long flight to Hong Kong

Furby gearing up to torture unsuspecting, nearby passengers

Furby gearing up to torture unsuspecting, nearby passengers

In the lounge in Hong Kong awaiting our next flight to Denpasar. The kids were thrilled to have unrestricted access to their games!

Waiting for our flight to Denpasar

Cathay Pacific lounge in Hong Kong

Waiting to get on our flight to Denpasar

Waiting to get on our flight to Denpasar

At last, we arrived in Bali! Just a 1 1/2 hour drive to go and we will be at our house in Ubud. Our driver, Indra, and his brother both met us at the airport in two cars. Apparently, we couldn’t fit ourselves and all our bags in one! The customs agent was the first to give me the impression that we may have overpacked when he asked ” you open shop?” What? I thought everyone brought an entire duffel bag of dental floss. We may have panicked just a little from what we read on the internet about Bali. I’ve since discovered they do have stores here…who knew?! Maybe, I will open a shop. Another thing I’ve discovered is no one seems to worry much about copyright infringement. I saw a man pushing a fried chicken cart with the “KFC” logo painted on the side. I’m pretty sure KFC isn’t selling their chicken off carts pushed by old Balinese men these days but, now I’m thinking…. “Ubud Disney Store” or “Bali Walmart World” would be a huge hit!

In the car -- last leg of the trip!!

In the car — last leg of the trip!!

Sights in Denpasar

Sights in Denpasar

Moving Day

It has arrived. Sneaking up on us while we were occupied with seeing everyone we know as much as possible and dealing with day-to-day logistics for the trip. Selling and leaving our house of almost seven years was incredibly sad. We made great memories here with our family and friends. It feels like home in so many ways, yet I know we’ll make a new home for our family wherever we are. My parents, Pam & David, came out from Texas to help us pack. One week turned into three. Without them, we would still be packing boxes full of carefully bubble-wrapped dishes. The support from Jessica’s family, and from our friends helped smooth the way, though every going away party or dinner made it more difficult to say goodbye. We will miss everyone terribly, yet we also look forward to sharing stories of our new home in Bali. Hopefully we’ll even get a few visitors throughout the year.

Bali Adventure

Welcome to the Evans family Bali blog! As we leap off into the great unknown of the Southeast Asian tropics, we’ll be doing our level best to keep all of you up to date on our adventures. You can expect posts from each of us, as the kids will also have their own blog posts so you can read how they are experiencing our life and travels on the other side of the world. We will also get as many photos and videos up as we can. Feel free to sign up for the email updates, and you’ll be notified each time something posts.