What I miss from home…

As of today, we have been here for two months. We were warned by people who’ve been here a while that this is usually when the honeymoon starts to wear off and the realities of living in Bali begin to emerge. I’m starting to agree……

The following are 10 things I desperately miss from home, (excluding, of course, my friends, family and hairdresser):

Georgia — our dog, nothing beats a Boxer greeting when you walk through the door.

Oxy-Clean — no one in Bali has heard of stain treating, go figure…

Grocery Stores with no detectable odors wafting inside or out — it’s difficult to make food choices when your eyes are watering so severely it affects your vision.

Freeways — believe it or not, there have been days I’ve longed to be back on the 405. As congested as it is, I have yet to be slowed down by roaming livestock.

In and Out Burger — many here attempt to make a good burger and a few places come close but, nothing beats the real thing.

Garbagemen — Here, in Bali, trash removal means taking it out of the kitchen bin and moving it to the large pile behind the house. Waste management is slowly being implemented yet, burning piles of garbage is still the primary method of disposal for most Balinese. I’m no civil engineer but, I’m not sure converting  plastic bottles into smoldering piles of goo really count as a waste disposal plan….

Movie theaters – Never even seen one here — I’ve heard they exist but, never laid eyes on it.

Underwear – let’s just say the styles are very different — boys’ underwear looks a lot like the bloomers toddlers wear over their diapers complete with cute little pictures on the back. Fletcher is not a fan….

My hairdryer — The one I bought here is about as effective as someone standing next to me and blowing on my head for 30 minutes.

And most desperately of all, I miss……

A reliable and fast Internet connection – I used to think there was a special place in Hell for the companies that provide internet service at home but, now, I say….

“What’s that Time Warner? Your service person can be here between midnight and 6 a.m three weeks from Thursday? Fantastic! Perfect!! I don’t really need to be at my sister’s wedding anyway! And what’s that? You’ve cleared up that little mix up with the other dead-beat Jessica Evans. No worries, six months is not a long time to wait for my bill to be straightened out. I’m sure my credit will recover….someday. Oh, and you’re sorry? For what? Oh yes, that was too bad that your service person was running late and didn’t call or make it to my house for our appointment. No worries at all. I called and had a delightful afternoon! I got to listen to a scratchy version of the Footloose Soundtrack for 45 minutes while I tried, desperately to navigate your phone tree and reach a live person. And then, I got cut off but, really, I’m sure that was my fault –I should have never put you on speaker –my bad! I’ll just wait for you to follow up — I know you will because you care a lot about your customers.”

Does that sound crazy? Of course it does! But, I would happily take that from anyone who could provide a decent internet connection to us here in Bali!!!!


Upon our arrival in Bali, we immediately heard about Nyepi -and honestly, it sounded rather daunting to me — an evening of celebration (fun!) followed by a day of silence and reflection (yikes!). At first, we considered leaving the country, as I was having trouble imagining how this was going to go down with a seven year old boy and a ten year old girl –(neither having spent much time in silent reflection!) Ultimately, we decided to stay and experience the holiday and we were really glad we did.

Nyepi is the second most important holiday on the Balinese Hindu calendar and is observed on the entire island of Bali. Everything is closed, (including the airport), and people are supposed to stay inside their houses and abstain from using any electric power or devices. People who venture out of their houses are ushered back in by the police who are out on the streets. Even tourists are warned, when they book their trips during Nyepi, that they are expected to observe the holiday and stay in their hotel (I have heard they let people hang out at the pool so, it’s not a complete lock down!). For westerners, the rules are a bit relaxed and, to be honest, I saw a few Balinese neighbors roaming around their yards but, for the devout, it is a day of fasting, meditation and prayer. We almost made it through the entire day without using our power or electronic devices but, we caved at the end and watched a movie together before the kids went to bed. It should be noted however, that we can’t currently use our t.v. to watch movies, (due to technical difficulties, mostly related to our a/v team….aka, my husband) so, four people crowded around a laptop, watching a kid’s movie, is not exactly the reward I was hoping for after getting through the day of silence but, even with that, It was a great day. Can you imagine a day like this in the U.S? Indra was curious about our traditions for celebrating holidays in the U.S. and my mind was immediately filled with images of people at the mall fighting over half-priced Snuggies or, camping in the Walmart parking lot, waiting for Thanksgiving day (and night) to be over, in the hopes of scoring a 55″ plasma for $1 — in contrast to here, where people stay home to commune with family and formulate their intentions for the coming year…..I didn’t have the heart (or nerve) to tell him so, I said “a lot like Bali” but, really, nothing at all like Bali.

The holiday began with the kid’s assembly at school and then, later that night, (the eve of Nyepi), we were off to experience the real thing. We walked into Ubud for the parade which, outside of Denpasar, is the largest in the area, and includes many more Ogoh-Ogohs than in the smaller villages. Many people from the village participate in the parade to help tell the stories of each Ogoh-Ogoh through music, dance and even some acting. The closest thing we have at home might be Mardi Gras, however, I can’t imagine attending Mardi Gras with kids or feeling as comfortable and secure as we did that night. Ironically, the Ogoh-Ogohs and ensuing parades are supposed to be so frightening, that the evil spirits are scared away from the island yet, all the kids from the village attend, (including little ones that ride on the Ogoh-Ogohs), and the overall tone is festive and relaxed. At one point during the parade, a little boy who was riding on one of the statues got scared so, they stopped and his dad climbed up to ride with him on his lap. It felt more like an old-fashioned, small town event compared to the huge commercial productions that everything seems to morph into at home. There are no barricades, security people or even plans made for the for the power lines that stand in the way of the large floats that come through the street. When a statue would appear that was too tall to make it past the power lines, out came the “rakes”  –several men would grab what looked like a long rake and push the lines over the creature’s head. Problem solved! No permits or work orders needed just a little ingenuity (and luck –especially, since no one got electrocuted!)

We made it through our first Nyepi. We even learned that we can survive a whole day with nothing but each other to rely on for entertainment (almost). We also learned how to get on each others nerves in ways we hadn’t imagined. Anyone know the joy of being serenaded by a seven year old singing “Gangnam Style” forty times in a row? It’s fantastic!

I’m hopeful we can bring parts of this experience back with us. Returning to the demands of L.A. is something we will have to navigate when the time comes. Until then, I want to enjoy the blissfully unstructured and uncomplicated days we have here as long as possible.

Balinese New Year

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country just behind the U.S. There are over 18,000 islands in the archipelago yet, the majority of the population is concentrated on a handful of islands including: Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Borneo, New Guinea and Bali (little fun fact for all you geography nerds out there!).

Bali represents less than 2% of the population and is 98% Hindu positioned, (somewhat unfortunately), in the middle of a country that is more than 90% Muslim. It can be a tough road at times. The implications for being significantly outnumbered translate into less representation in government and frequent religious intolerance. However, most Balinese rarely complain. Balinese Hinduism is woven throughout the culture — the signs are everywhere. From the “temples” that are erected in all houses and buildings, to the daily offerings that are made everywhere you look (and step!). The fundamental concept of Hinduism is the assumption of order to the cosmos known as Dharma and the objective is to achieve balance between good and evil (adharma) to achieve “moksa” — their version of heaven. To achieve this state, the Balinese practice many rituals to ward off the evil spirits and open themselves to the good spirits. And, most Balinese spend a tremendous amount of time on religious ceremonies and rituals all year.

The point of all that is to give you a little background. This week marks one of the largest holidays of the Balinese calendar — New Years. We will be observing it for the next two days with celebrations rivaling Times Square or Bourbon Street. And although the holiday takes place over only a few days, the preparations take months. The celebration includes parades of floats and feasts in each village followed by a day of silence and reflection. The “floats” paraded through the streets are called “Ogoh Ogohs” which are giant effigies of creatures taken from Hindu mythology made from wood and papier-mache. After being paraded through the villages they are burned to symbolize cleansing and purification from evil. Each village spends several months building it’s own unique Ogoh-Ogoh and astonishingly, without exception, this is accomplished in every neighborhood. I kept asking Indra if there is a slacker village that shows up late for the parade with a half finished Ogoh-Ogoh — he just looked at me and laughed (like he often does). I guess when it comes to warding off evil spirits there are no slackers in Bali.

To commemorate the holiday, the kids created their own Ogoh-Ogohs with each of their classes and presented them at an assembly. Allie’s class (4th grade) created a beautiful example (with the help of a local artisan). Fletcher’s class (2nd grade) used a little more imagination and adhered to the “Green” theme. Theirs was made out of trash and they named it “garbage devil.” Unfortunately, it didn’t fare very well during the parade (its head fell off!) but, it didn’t dampen the kids excitement.

Tomorrow we’ll go to the parade of the Ogoh-Ogohs of our village. We can’t wait to see the amazing creations and then attend the bonfire that follows. It should be fun and exciting for all of us. We’ll keep you posted…

Bali Zoo

We had our first visitors this week. My parents came from Los Angeles (via New Zealand and Australia) for a week. It was so great to have them here! One of the highlights of the week was our trip to the Bali Zoo which is only about 15 minutes from Ubud.

Most of the animals are from Indonesia although, there are a few from Africa and Australia. Unlike most zoos at home in the US, this one is very interactive. It is fairly small so, it’s easy to get around and see everything and you can get very close to most of the animals which makes it even more fun.

The first thing we did when we arrived was go for an elephant ride. The elephants at the zoo are from Sumatra (not as big as African elephants — still 5000 lbs!) They have 6 elephants that take people around on short rides throughout the day. I was surprised how healthy the elephants appear, both physically and mentally. Sadly, they seem better off than in the LA Zoo — perhaps because they have a “job” to do all day instead of standing around in a small pen. After the ride, we got to feed them pulp from coconut trees that they loved, and throughout the ride handlers would appear and hand them other treats like yams or watermelon. Marc and Fletcher’s even grabbed a small tree, pulled it up and brought it with them on the path.


After the elephant ride we went to the bird show where we participated in the tricks the birds were performing (somewhat unwillingly, due to the fact that we were one of two groups in the audience). Fletcher tried to let an eagle take a piece of meat off his head and I got to wear an angry falcon as a hat! So fashionable!


Next we fed the Orangutan known as “Jacky.” The zoo sells fruit and encourages you to feed it to him and the rest of the animals. He looks very blase when you walk up to his pen but as soon as he sees the fruit he comes up to the edge of his pen to catch bananas and watermelon slices. After he finishes he lobs the peels back at his audience. He was very keen on hitting my Dad — and, he has pretty good aim!

The rest of the zoo is great too! It’s a totally different experience to be so close to the animals. The environment is definitely more relaxed. Unlike the zoos at home, no one is worried about some dope jumping in the moat to wrestle with the tigers. In Bali, that would result in a lively afternoon for the tigers and not much else. There are no local news reporters or personal injury attorneys to speak of so, the moat jumpers have little incentive to tangle with the tigers.

We all had a fantastic time.

The Village Idiot

Political correctness has not made it to Bali. The people here express themselves directly and aren’t compelled to choose language to protect someone’s feelings which works, because most people aren’t particularly sensitive, and take things in stride. As an American and, even worse, a Californian, I wasn’t prepared for such blunt observations thrown around in casual conversation. Like when I was told how to differentiate the two Ketuts that work at our landlord’s house. “One is fat Ketut and the other is old Ketut –so simple.” Right, so simple! Or, like our friend’s driver, who is convinced that anyone involved in questionable behavior is certain to be from Java (and shares this freely with any passenger in the car). He has implicated everyone from suspiciously friendly women loitering at the warungs (cafes), to rude taxi drivers, to anyone having a bad hair day. “see that woman….ugly, frizzy hair….from Java.” Actually, I haven’t had a good hair day since we arrived; it hadn’t occurred that I might have Javanese roots (i know, bad pun). In the U.S. we would be much more covert about our observations. We would never talk about people so openly. We’re a civilized society –we have the decency to do it behind their backs, (or at least under a fake name on the internet).

Here in Bali, neighborhoods are called villages. We live in Nyuh Kuning (“New Kooning”), home to one of the biggest tourist attractions in Ubud –the Monkey Forest. Income from the Monkey Forest, (that isn’t siphoned off into government officials pockets), comes into the village, thus we have clean roads and a large soccer field at the end of our street. During the week, it’s used by the school in our village and on the weekends by the neighborhood kids. Last weekend Marc and Fletcher decided to walk down and join the group of neighbors that had gathered for a casual baseball game. The participants included a few kids from Green School and several local Balinese boys. After the game was over, Marc arrived home with Fletcher and two local boys that had followed them home after the game. They seemed curious about where the new people lived. When they noticed our pool they both lit up and one of them asked (in sign language since neither spoke English) if they could swim. Marc and I weren’t sure  — being the responsible Americans, we felt we should obtain the proper authorization from their parents after an exhaustive discussion about the boys swimming experience, assessing if they needed adult supervision or, if they could be watched from the side. Obviously, we wouldn’t be far from the pool – that would be irresponsible. Anyway, I think one of the boys picked up on our uncertainty and fled the scene while, the other took our conversation as a big thumbs up and just the time he needed. When I turned to give him an answer, he was already happily immersed in the pool wearing nothing but a giant smile. Oh geez! Now what to do? The only responsible thing was for Marc to get in with Fletcher so, he could supervise. So, the three of them swam. Allie came out, but quickly retreated to her room at the surprising sight of a naked, brown boy in our pool. I nervously stood by waiting for his parents to storm in and accuse us of kidnapping their son. But, that boy didn’t care. He swam like a mad man. I’ve never seen such flailing by someone who wasn’t in the final throes of drowning. He was everywhere –jumping off the side, paddling furiously on the raft, splashing Fletcher and Marc and giving the impression that this was the best thing that had happened to him in a very long time. He left it all there in the pool. And then, as abruptly as it started, he was done. He got out grabbed his clothes and was gone. I’m not sure where he lived or how he got there. All of us looked at each other wondering — what just happened?

The next day I was sitting at my desk on the computer when I noticed three boys had come into our yard. One of them was our friend from yesterday and he wanted to swim again. And, he brought more friends. I was home alone and had no interest in getting in the pool, nor did I want them to swim without speaking with their parents. Again, his friends picked up on my hesitancy and were gone. He, on the other hand was not to be so easily dissuaded. I started to panic. I was trying to make gestures like “the kids are at school – no swim today” –not working. I tried to speak really slowly and explain the pool was not “open” –again, nothing but, an eager smiling face looking back at me. Finally, after what felt like forever, Wayan came around the corner and I grabbed him and begged for help. Wayan looked at the boy, knelt down and talked to him. I’m not sure what he said but, in a few minutes the boy left –still, with a hopeful smile on his face. When I asked Wayan what he told him he said — “it’s okay, he’s an idiot.” I was shocked by his frankness and more than a little uncomfortable. I laughed nervously. “What?” So, he said it again. “That boy is an idiot” But, there was no malice in his words — to him, he was just giving me an explanation. I felt for the boy. Couldn’t we call him “special” or “differently abled?” I would have been so much more comfortable with that. But, that obtuse language would be silly to the Balinese. Despite the frankness of his words, Wayan was extremely patient and compassionate with the boy. His message did not convey judgment or criticism, just information he thought I should know. So, while I stood there obsessing about labels, analyzing which would be most compassionate and least offensive to use in this situation, that boy was cheerfully walking home, dreaming of the next time he would experience the sheer pleasure of swimming in our pool. Much like the day before, when I stood on the side of the pool, fretting about the risk of someone getting hurt, unable to surrender and enjoy the beauty of Bali, with my family, on a lovely Sunday afternoon, that boy saw what he wanted, dove in head first, and extracted every ounce of joy his little, flapping limbs could grab.

And he’s the idiot?

Bad Day

Today was a bad day. I should have known when we woke up and it was pouring. Although, we arrived right in the middle of the rainy season, we’ve mostly experienced brief downpours followed quickly by brilliant blue skies and white puffy clouds. But, today was different. It was a dark, gloomy, unrelenting deluge.

Allie woke up with a sore throat and slight fever so, she stayed home. Fletcher went to school by himself….and, we were running late.

Most mornings, I love the drive to school. There is so much activity. The shops are starting to open. People are on their motor bikes carrying everything from live chickens to plastic toys, piled implausibly over their heads or, sticking out in every direction –defying any law of the road or physics. I’ve often seen whole families on one bike — the mother driving, a young child holding on behind and a toddler asleep in front with its head resting on her mother’s shoulder. The rice fields are glistening in the sun, dotted with workers in their conical rice hats. And, the animals are hunting for scraps of food from people in the shops or in the piles of garbage that collect in empty spaces everywhere.

But this day was different. It was quiet on the street because of the rain and everything looked sad and empty. We were about half way to school when a small black dog darted out into the street chased by a large Golden Retriever right on its heels. It’s very unusual to see a Golden Retriever in Bali. They are rare. Most of the dogs here have a specific look — dirty, often mangy, and hardened. And, although, most of the dogs look like they were assembled with spare parts, many of them are friendly and actually have owners or, at least, are fed by the same people regularly. Most appear happy and well adjusted — trotting around with their tails and heads up proudly, approaching other dogs with interest and curiosity or sleeping on the side or even, in the middle of the road, while cars stop to go around them. They also have an innate sense for avoiding vehicles. I think this is a gene that has been passed down for generations of Balinese dogs –allowing them to remain unscathed while darting among cars, trucks and motorbikes or choosing to bed down on the roadside.

This particular morning when the two dogs ran out into the road, I felt my stomach leap into my mouth and I was filled with an intense feeling of dread. Indra and I were both chanting  “no, no, no” with increasing urgency –while thankfully, Fletcher was in the backseat with the IPad. It was one occasion when I was grateful for the IPad and it’s power to pull Fletcher into another world. At that moment, I wished I was in another world. The black dog had just stepped onto the road when we saw the truck – it was cresting a hill and not able to see the dogs that had run blindly out into the street and it was traveling at a rate that would have made it impossible to stop in time. So, Indra and I watched in horror as the black dog cleared it’s path, just barely missing the wheels of the truck. But the Golden wasn’t so lucky. I will spare you the details but, mercifully, it was quick and painless for the dog –but, not for the witnesses in the car.

My first reaction was to get mad. “Where are the owners of that dog? Why did they let him out, to run into the street? Those people should know better! They better learn from this and not ever let their dogs out in the future!” As I got going with my rant, Indra looked at me and said “it’s sad” with a touch of resignation in his voice. He was right, it was sad. He knew no matter how angry I got, it wasn’t going to change the fact that here, in Bali, dogs have very different lives. They aren’t kept penned up in yards or houses – they’re free to roam and explore and make new acquaintances. They don’t wear fabulous outfits or get carried around in purses, eat organic kibble or get treated for cancer with chemo. They’re not accessories. I would doubt that even one prescription has been written here for doggie prozac. Instead, they live active, vibrant and intense lives but, sometimes they make a bad decision and run out into traffic.

I hope tomorrow is a better day.

Trip to Uluwatu

We just returned from our first weekend away. We traveled to Uluwatu with some other families from Green School. Uluwatu is south of Ubud and took about 2 hours by car. It was our first trip to the beach. Much like LA, the beaches closer to the city are not as nice and during the rainy season (which is now) can get rather dirty from the runoff — again, just like home!

We stayed at a lovely resort called Karma Kandara. The resort is built high up on a cliff and the views of the Indian Ocean are spectacular. There is a beautiful beach down below —so far down below that you have to ride a funicular which takes almost three minutes for the descent.

Allie and Fletcher looking down at the beach

Allie and Fletcher looking down at the beach waiting for the funicular

Cool clouds --shot of the pool overlooking the ocean

Cool clouds –shot of the pool overlooking the ocean

Same pic -earlier in the day --with kids in the pool

Same pic – earlier in the day – kids in the pool

The beach at the hotel is nice but, the reason most people travel to the area is for the Uluwatu beach. Not only is it beautiful, it’s also one of the most popular surf spots on the island. The only problem is getting to it. Access is down a flight of stairs that go on forever and culminate with a portion suspended 20 feet in the air, maybe two feet wide, and with no railings to hold. That was exciting! We kept commenting that if this were the U.S. there would be hordes of personal injury attorneys gathered at the bottom of the stairs. On second thought there wouldn’t be instead, there would be scaffolding and safety nets and most likely a wheelchair ramp. Just saying…

Once you finally make it down, the beach is pretty spectacular. The first part is a big cave that the water has eroded so, the tide comes in between the walls. The main beach is through a tunnel that you can only get through at low tide –and, if you stay too long you get trapped at the beach for several hours until the tide goes back out.

The beach was great but, by far, the most exciting part of the trip for the kids was when the monkeys invaded our villa. We had just come inside after having drinks by the pool when one of the kids screamed “monkeys drinking!!” Just then ten monkeys swarmed onto the patio –one finished off my cucumber martini, one drank Allie’s mango juice, while the smallest one had a great time trying to figure out how to drink Coke from a can. He also hung out by the window while the girls tried to talk to him.

Monkey on the railing of our villa

Monkey on the railing of our villa

Monkey finishing off our drinks

Monkey finishing off our drinks

Young monkey drinking Coke

Young monkey drinking Coke

What my kids are learning in Bali

We embarked on this adventure, in large part, for the kids. We wanted them to see another part of the world, rich in cultural history and enduring traditions, many of which remain to this day. Through this experience, they would gain a greater tolerance and perspective for people of differing cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, and hopefully, return home more curious, erudite and compassionate citizens of the world.

Here are a few of the experiences they have had recently that, I’m pretty sure will contribute significantly to these objectives:

1. Last week, Allie spotted two naked men bathing and brushing their teeth in the river on our way to school. Now we look for them every time we pass. We’ve learned there are many people who use the river for, not only bathing but, many other unsavory things. Lesson learned — a more adequate infrastructure and entitlement program would help serve the needs of people here. — Bigger lesson: don’t drink the water

2. One day on our way back from school, Fletcher spotted a pair of dogs stuck in what was clearly a post-coital moment. They were facing in opposite directions yet, were still “attached” to each other and, were trying really hard to break free. Not only was this difficult to explain, it was made even more complicated by the fact that I was sitting in the front seat with our driver, Indra. I think he was equally amused and befuddled. I doubt he could understand why the kids were so interested and why I was trying so hard to distract them. I’m sure, to him, it was no big deal — most Balinese kids grow up seeing this stuff all the time. Lesson learned — a well funded, animal sterilization program would greatly improve the lives of dogs on the street. — Bigger lesson: fish make great pets

3. After dinner tonight, Allie disappeared for a while and I assumed she and Fletcher were playing with our neighbors. Somewhat later, Fletcher appeared in the door by himself, and when I asked where Allie was – he replied “She’s at a cockfight next door. How great is that?” But, I was not thinking it was great. I was thinking we need to go to the airport, right now. Thankfully, when I went to investigate, I was relieved to learn that Balinese cockfighting is much tamer than the American bloody, fight-to-the death version. It’s actually more like cock-wrestling (so, put down the phones – child protective services has better things to do). Maybe next time I will send her with some money — she does have an eye for chickens. Lesson learned — An animal welfare organization would help to educate people on cruel practices and foster greater respect for animals. –Bigger lesson – bet on the bigger rooster – he usually wins.

I’m not sure how much more culture we can take but, I’ll keep you posted.

Fletcher at school

Here is an update on are some of the things Fletcher has been busying himself with at school and home.

Fletcher is now (mostly) happy to be in 2nd grade. It’s taken a little longer for him to settle in than it did for Allie. We made a tactical error and started him in first grade even though he was more then a year older and almost twice the size of several of the kids in the class. Being an international school, the age when kids start school varies a lot, but, in general, kids seem to be younger than at home. The red shirting of kindergartners doesn’t seem to happen much outside of the U.S.

After a week, it was clear to us and the school, that he belonged in 2nd grade so, he was moved. I think we may have underestimated the effect all the moves would have on him. He’s always transitioned easily so, we (stupidly) thought this would just be another transition. It’s taken a little time but, thankfully, he is starting to make friends and he seems much happier (phew!) Yesterday, he came home and was thrilled to show me the new song, (complete with obscene gestures), his friend had taught him. And today, he was excited to bring his new Balinese drum to school for music class (and the rest of us in the car were thrilled to hear him play all the way to school).

Fletcher in 2nd grade class

Fletcher in 2nd grade classroom

Last week in class, he got excited about learning how to make klangsa –which is a weaving made out of coconut leaves. Fletcher enjoyed it so much that when he came home he wanted to do even more weaving. With Dek and Wayan’s help, they cut down some coconut tree branches so he could continue to work on his weaving skills.

Fletcher working hard on his weaving

Fletcher hard at work

Dek helping Fletcher pick the perfect branch to weave.

Dek helping Fletcher pick the perfect branch to weave.

In addition to the important life skill of klangsa, Fletcher has been working on some musical numbers. This is a video of his class performing in a school assembly. Every Friday afternoon there is an assembly for the lower school kids. Often, it is a performance by one or more classes, at other times, the school brings in performers to educate and entertain the kids. Recently, Michael Franti performed which was followed by a green smoothie and raw food banquet (no, I’m not kidding…). Michael Franti is great — I tried not to let the fact that he hasn’t worn shoes since 1997 distract me from his talent.

More pictures of Fletcher at home.

Fletcher with a snail he found in our yard

Fletcher with a snail he found in our yard

Close up of snail's shell

Close up of snail’s shell


Everything is a bigger around here! Sorry Texas!

Fletcher and his homemade "bandaid"

Fletcher becoming “green” – his homemade “bandaid”


Allie has fallen in love. And in that unique way that the universe works, (or maybe it’s just the way it works for me), the recipient of this intense, heartfelt, (mostly unrequited), devotion is, of all things……………..a chicken. A downy, yellow, slightly runty, baby chicken. Some of you may recall that in my earlier posts I’ve expressed my feelings about the chickens that torture visit us frequently. How much I appreciate being woken up throughout the night or having my phone conversations interrupted by an important message that must be conveyed to the rooster down the block at just that moment. Experiences such as these, continue to endear me to these feathered knuckleheads.

It all began rather secretly. A few days after our arrival, Allie and Fletcher discovered one of our neighbor’s hens sitting on several eggs. They began a vigilant watch over the hen’s progress and several days later noticed the last of the eggs had hatched. In their exuberance, (at least, this is what I’ve gathered from conflicting accounts), they startled the hen and one of the newly hatched chicks fell, dramatically out of the nest, (about six inches), to the ground. Now faced with, what they perceived as, the tiny chick’s life hanging in the balance, they jumped into action and scooped it up. But, what then? Allie, being the more experienced chicken wrangler (based on her telling this to her little brother), she suggested they keep it and raise it as their own. And Fletcher, having no say in the matter and not wanting to be left out, went along with the plan. For almost two days Marc and I spent much of our time enjoying the quiet and peace in the house. We marveled at what a brilliant decision we had made in bringing our family to Bali. Clearly, the kids were so enamored with the beauty here, they were inventing new, thought-provoking games to play with each other, stopping, only to exchange monologues professing their deep love and affection for their parents. Or, they were trying to get a newly hatched chick to eat leftover lasagna.

Allie found a basket in the house and filled it with an old sock. This was to be the chick’s new home. While they were at school, the chick would hide in Allie’s closet but, at all other times, it would be in Allie’s bathroom where they would feed it leftovers from the kitchen and tend to all it’s little chicken needs –which they had determined to be lots of “training” and expressions of affection (evoking Lennie and the rabbits – Of Mice and Men, anyone?). It was an extremely well thought out plan. Except for one small wrinkle. Remember how I mentioned that we have an abundance of help here at our house in Bali? Well, those people take their jobs seriously and part of their job is to make sure Allie’s room is clean (I know, I know — we’ll be dealing with the implications of this when we return but, I’ll cross that bridge at a later date). About 36 hours into the chick’s incarceration rescue, Marc and I actually started to get suspicious about how often the kids were going back and forth from the kitchen to Allie’s room. In addition, Dek, our exceedingly responsible house manager flashed a large and knowing smile when I made a comment about how “hungry the kids seem to be.”

You’ve probably gathered it was taking a whole house of bricks to fall on their parents, before we began to think something was up. Finally, we went to check on our suspiciously quiet kids. I opened Allie’s door and there was Fletcher holding the hostage in his hands.  They both recounted the story of how the chick had fallen out of the nest and was unlikely to survive if not for their valiant rescue (including a dramatic reenactment). “What will happen to Papaya if we give her back? She’ll die! Her mother will reject her and she’ll starve!” I think Allie and Fletcher had watched too many wildlife documentaries about the complex relationship between babies and mothers in the wild. Lucky for us, we were dealing with a very uncomplicated chicken mom who, in all likelihood, barely noticed one of her chicks had gone missing for the last day and a half.

I tried to reassure Allie that her mother would definitely take Papaya back and the only chance the chick had was to be reunited with her family. “As much as you love her, you don’t know much about how to be a chicken.” But whatever cogent, rational argument I tried with Allie, it wasn’t penetrating –“but, I love her, mom, I love her so much, I don’t want anything bad to happen to her.” The intensity of her emotions almost brought us both to tears. “She’s so little and helpless, I can’t let her go.” I sat there thinking to myself – “Why are these damned chickens trying to ruin my life?!” And then, it dawned on me –I couldn’t blame Allie for acting on an impulse that I, as a mother, struggle with everyday. How many times have I fantasized about doing just that — locking her away from the mean girls, college rejection letters and boys that will break her heart. Keeping her away from the world seems, at times, the only reasonable option. To her ten year old brain, keeping Papaya locked in a basket, away from things that could hurt her, was the best defense she could offer. What she hadn’t considered was how she might be depriving Papaya. I shared how I would like nothing more than to keep her in a basket locked away, safe from the world, never to be hurt and always close to me but, then, she would miss out on fun things like birthday parties or sleepovers with friends. After she contemplated the horror of spending her life alone with only her parents and brother for entertainment, she quickly pulled herself together. Then she stood up, looked at me and smiled. “Do you think Papaya will remember me?”

She better…….I may not be able to protect her from much but, I think I can handle one  puny little chick.

Papaya with her siblings

Papaya with her siblings


Papaya – the little yellow one. Doing fine, getting bigger. Allie still visits her everyday.