Today is volunteering day! If you’re a regular Virtual Travel Buddy, you know that Drop Me Anywhere is also a philanthropic endeavor. Wherever I travel to, I find an organization or project with which to volunteer a day, or part of a day, and then I tell you about them. I let you know what they do, who they serve, and how you can help too!
Today I have the privilege to volunteer with Sjaki-Tari-Us, a school here in Bali which serves the mentally disabled. You can read more about the organization and my day of volunteering on www.Rebel-With-A-Cause.org.
I arrive at the school at 8:45am. Today is King’s Day, a Dutch national holiday and a special day here at Sjaki-Tari-Us as the school was founded by a couple from The Netherlands and all of the interns working there are Dutch (there are a lot of beautiful, skinny, blond young ladies and handsome blond young men here). Julian, the manager, invites me to head up to a classroom to observe a class of five and six year-olds with a variety of of disabilities helped by their oh-so-patient teacher and interns.
They work on writing letters (of the alphabet, not to the editor) and singing songs before enjoying a snack. By late morning, it’s party time as today we celebrate King’s Day, the birthday of the king of The Netherlands. Although it’s not the actual birthday of the King, they celebrate it on this day as the weather in Holland is normally pretty good this time of year so, why not? (It’s a bit like Christmas; don’t tell anyone but Santa might have been born on December 25, but Jesus was not.) To celebrate, everyone wears orange (except me because I’m a redhead and look horrible in orange) and the school is decorated in balloons and “Happy Birthday” flags.The kids have sack races, play ring toss, have their faces painted and enjoy other activities. A Dutch cake is served and the staff (and myself) participates in a tug of war (my team wins!).
Before you know it, the party’s over and parents are slipping helmets onto the kids getting ready to drive home. Everyone here drives motorbikes and it’s not unusual to see a family of four riding down the street or a guy carrying a load of lumber on his head while navigating his way on two wheels.
Soon, it’s also time for me to leave; my mission this afternoon – go to the drug store to pick up some necessary items and maybe buy a shirt so I can get rid of a shirt that’s old and I’m tired of. I stop in the Guardian pharmacy and find some lavender body lotion. Lavender is a scent that I find very relaxing yet also have had trouble finding on these trips. It seems strange to get so excited over lavender body lotion but I find comfort in the scents I used at home. I ask about multi-vitamins and am shown the only one they carry which costs $20. Food and hotels are cheap here in Bali; pharmaceuticals are not. I ask what’s in them as the writing on the package is so tiny I’m convinced it was written by one of the guys who, for twenty-bucks, will write your name on a grain of rice. The lady starts reading some of the vitamins in it and, when I ask further questions like, “How much calcium?” I’m told, “Is very good.”
“Yes, but does it have Zinc?” I question further.
“Is very good.” I’m told.
We go through the same thing with Omega 3, and I just accept the allergy medicine they offer. Seventy five-dollars later, I leave with most of what I came fore (though I can’t find a damn hair-clip in this town to save my life).
I move on, to the shirt part of this adventure. I wander into a store where I see some T-shirts (not the My friends went to Bali and all I got was this lousy T-shirt kind), but the bad quality ones without the writing. I take a medium and a large into the fitting room, knowing that I’ll probably not fit into the medium as these are not American sizes and these Balinese women tend to be tiny. When I unsuccessfully try to navigate the medium over my head, I decide to make an attempt at the large. While I can at least, get it on (a bit like Barry White), it’s a bit tight around the boob area. Damnit, in Bali I wear an extra-large! I like this place just a little bit less than I did yesterday.
Next I wander in to a large (by Balinese standards) art gallery which carries the works of many different artists. If I lived here, this is where I’d buy everything here to decorate my house. This makes me long for my house, and gives me a small panic-attack remembering that I sold all of my furniture, clothes and my car to do this project. I drown my fears in ice cream as, just down the street, I find the gelato shop. You should know that there are a few gelato shops here in Bali yet not one of them is true gelato, and they all taste as if it’s been melted and refrozen. Still, it’s cold and sweet (kinda like me. . .wait, what?). I order up one rose petal gelato (when will I have that again) and take a seat outside to enjoy it.
I return to my hotel, change my clothes and head out as I’m going to a Balinese dance show tonight. On the way out, I stop by the front desk to send off a couple items to the laundry (I do this with hesitation as I’m not at all sure I’ll get them back).
“Yes, miss,” the man says. “When you checked in yesterday we gave you a deluxe room but you only reserved a standard one.”
“I checked in two days-ago and I didn’t realize it as it’s much smaller than the room I was shown when I cam to look at the hotel last week. What makes it deluxe?”
“It’s the same room, but deluxe room costs 500,000 and standard costs 350,00 so you need to pay the difference.”
“Um, what? You put me in a deluxe room and I didn’t even know it until tonight and now you want more money from me?”
“Well yes. We don’t have a standard room when you come.”
“But I called and reserved it two days before.”
“Tomorrow you move to another room.”
“No, I will not move, and I will not pay you more money.” I say sternly.
“Okay,” he says. “I just have to ask. It’s ok.”
Aah, this is Bali and, sorry to say, it’s not at all unusual.
I head out to see the show Women Kecak “Ramayana Epic” which, earlier this afternoon, I bought a ticket to because, “You buy now and get a better seat.”
When I arrive, it’s open seating (so much for that promise) and find a seat. It’s in a covered lot with a cement floor and plastic chairs lining the edges. There’s a stage in the front with a Balinese set decorating it. Before long, 100 women enter from the wings and walk down the stairs while chanting. They sit on the floor and continue to chant for quite some time.
Various characters soon join them including two beautiful women in traditional costume, a little kid, a large wild-faced man (think crazy, drunk Uncle Charlie at the family wedding) and a monkey (not a real one but a well costumed human). I believe the story is similar to the one I told you about in “I See Dead People” but, at the end, there’s a
surprise. A bon-fire is lit in the middle of the floor (seriously, the fumes from the lighter fluid are overwhelming) and a man comes out wearing a hula-hoop with fringe and a horse’s head on the front. Very quickly, all hell breaks loose and the man is jumping straight into the fire. What the hell? The embers scatter and two men with brooms sweep them back into a pile. The man, once again, wades through the glowing embers. The assistants sweep them into a pile again and crazy guy stomps his feet in the glowing remnants again. This goes on for a good ten-minutes. A mushroom cloud of smoke has filled the place and the host walks onto the concrete and thanks everyone for coming.
The show feels a bit like a town got together to put on a show, but it was worth the $6.50 for an hour-and-ten-minutes of entertainment. I head off to the Laughing Buddha where, as usual, a great band is playing and there’s always some fun people to meet.
Tomorrow – Rub me, Scrub me, Bathe Me in Flowers
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