Filipino Family

Every time I walk to town, San Juan, about 10 minutes from my cabin on the beach, I pass a host of characters. Off to the side of the mud road, before turning onto the pavement, broken tube lights hang over a dozen pic nic tables. It’s Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-ish. The roof is made from corrugated metal and blue tarps. Illegal gambling.


Across the mud road: a dozen or more knee-high A-frames for roosters. Illegal cock fighting.

I pass the gambling, roosters, and men who watch me intently, before turning the corner on to the paved road in front of the church.

And there they are: two giant white slabs inscribed with the ten commandments. See the irony? Non?

ten coomands

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Filipino finger food and tricycles

Ok, in Philippines now for two and a half weeks; another few weeks to go. Coming from Java Indonesia, where everyone is trying to sell you something, that is not the case here; however, walking through San Juan, my little town in the north, I feel like a celebrity. All eyes watch me because I’m the only white person. But, people smile, and wave. Some even blurt out a big ‘hello ma’am!‘ Everyone calls me ma’am.

I flew into Manila and then gum booted it out of there (chaos and unsafe) on an eight hour bus ride north to San Juan City to find my cabin on the beach. Arriving around 2am, I could only hear the waves crashing on the beach. Beautiful.



Fishing boats outside my cabin.




If I thought Indonesia was humid, this is an entirely new level of stickiness!

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Moving past the ugg

Two nights ago I got food poisoning. No pictures will accompany this post!

Around 2am I awoke to that lovely ‘gut-wrenching’ churning feeling that makes you hop out of bed toute suite; vomiting was soon to come. Back and forth throughout the night; honestly, I will not go on. Suffice to say the thought of standing up, packing, and then getting on an airplane were the last things in the world I wanted to do.

In the taxi to the airport, I motioned vomiting with my hands to mouth to the driver and laid down in the back to sleep. He laughs. Good times. I had two days of flying ahead of me: first I had an hour flight from Yogyakarta to Jakarta on Saturday; stay at an airport hotel one night and then a four hour flight to Manila, Philippines on Sunday.

I must have looked like a chump: slumped over at the ticket counter, I could hear mom, “stand up straight.” But Ma! I can’t. I feels like a sack of tatters.

In fact, my tum tum hasn’t been happy for most of Indonesia; maybe it’s the water or maybe the spices? Or, could it be the chicken on the third night of our volcano trek? I’m pretty sure they didn’t cook it three days ago. Ohhh nasty.

The strange Jakarta airport hotel, in the midst of renovation, was in a complex called Aeropolis, a series of vacant store fronts; someday it might be finished?  I walked over rubble in the entrance to get to the registration desk. The rest of the floor was impeccable white tile. Inside the room, no larger than a twin bed, there it was: a fluffy white comforter. After eating a few bites of a chicken sandwich (more torture?), I dove into the fluffy white comforter and slept; then slept; and slept more. It was late afternoon and I woke at 8pm feeling gads better.

I skyped with some students and then returned to bed for some more wonderful sleep. With every hour of sleep my body was recovering. When I awoke I felt so refreshed, then I peaked at my watch: 8am! The airport shuttle leaves at 8:15!!! No one called me for my wake up call. Shit. Shit. Shit. Hopping up, I threw on my dress and ran out of the room. Turns out it was only 7–time change. Whef. But still. The panic.

Walking past all the batik souvenir shops, it reminded me of making a batik one afternoon with Ellen. And the coffee we drank while waiting for it to dry. What memories will I find in the Philippines?

I made the flight and am now having a tea at Starbucks. Don’t judge me. I wanted a piece of home. Calm tea. Yeah, I’m drinking a tea called Calm. Again, do not judge. Frank Sinatra is singing: “Fly me to the moon.” Ahh. Nice.

The other cherry on the top: when I got to the ticket counter, they didn’t charge me for changing my ticket. I was originally supposed to leave a week ago but stayed to hike another volcano. And finally, in the duty free shop, I found an old perfume that my stepmother gave me years ago: Calyx by Clinic. Smelling it made me think of home.

During my bout of stomach poison, I wanted to go home terribly. Hop on the nearest flight; I didn’t care about cost. Get me home. But, as I wait here to take off to another new place, that feeling is dissipating. Just like the icky stomach pains. I’ll find new things and I won’t even remember the tummy cramps.

Bagging volcanos in Indonesia

IMG_9823 IMG_9848 IMG_9879 IMG_9820Four weeks and five volcanos, ‘bagged.’ Gunung bagging is the term for hiking as many volcanos as possible. And, Indonesia has the most active volcanos in the world. I’m writing a story about them so I can’t divulge too many juicy details. But, I will post pictures of the various sunsets and highlights.






Pura Besakih Temple at Agung–the beginning.


The crater rim.

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Friends in strange places

This is a non-pictoral post; random thoughts during a morning run.

“But you can stand outside and sweat,” said Ellen, my Dutch buddy who thought I was nuts. The looks from locals said the same. Even before 6am it’s sticky. But, running clears my head and grounds me. It’s also a way to feel control over your surroundings when everything is new. All you need are shoes and the will to get out of bed.

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Java — Buddhist love

Of the some 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia, I am visiting three in one month. Only about 6,000 are inhabited but I feel Bali, Lombok and now, Java, are enough for now. Flights between them are also cheap.


Borobodur–the highlight of Java so far. Largest Buddhist temple in the world. 

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Ubud and beyond–Bali

After three weeks, I have a routine in Bali. After breakfast, I walk through my neighbourhood of Nyuh Kuning. Stepping over the daily Hindu offerings and incense,

offeringsrefusing the local taxi operators, and watching the kids in uniforms hop on the back of motorbikes heading to school. I often stop for a coffee at Copper Cafe while ensuring monkeys don’t land on my head from the nearby sanctuary. Sometimes for a treat I have the sweet black rice in palm sugar and yogurt. The nutty rice is soaked for a day then boiled for four hours.

Then after a few hours of marking assignments, a girl’s gotta work, I mosie into the centre of Ubud to people-watch and have a $10 massage.

Here are a few highlights from my past few weeks.

Cooking class: chicken with Balinese lemongrass sauce. Many local family-owned restaurants, called warungs, offer classes ($25 for about four or five hours!) Think fresh spices like turmeric, aromatic ginger, fresh bay leaf, lemongrass. (I had no idea how to cook with lemongrass before: smash it and then stick it in the water to boil with the chicken!)

The chef kept telling us (my friend Virginia and daughter Angie visited): “thinner, chop thinner!” Virginia’s hand was aching from chopping! The result is a paste rather than ‘chopped’ veggies.






“Indonesian food is simple, but the process is not simple,” says Kadek Suwartini who owns d’waroeng

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Hiking highest peak in Bali–or is it?

“You know Miss Saigon?” Yoyo our driver asked when he heard I’m from Toronto. “No, but I have seen Mamma Mia. Very good.” He didn’t respond. “Ohhh no, he says, “I said, Mississauga.”

Miscommunication would permeate this volcano trek. Looking on to the crater rim.







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Bali — mom, send my things

North of Kuta, where Aussie spring breakers vomit pink drinks and make regrettable decisions, is Ubud—a slightly less busy Balinese town.

Driving in late at night, flowers and jasmine overtake the air. A few snaps of the town vibe…downtown and the rice field burbs.










My room, in a villa called Loka Pala, is one of a few rooms around a courtyard pool, a hammock with candlelight and ricefields in the backyard. Opening the glass doors, a wee kitty saunters in at my ankles and purrs. Mom: send my stuff please.

IMG_9747 IMG_9746


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Tassie Trails and tales

I want more time in Hobart, Tasmania’s main city in the south. For a few days, I drank world-class whisky, mountain biked the north south trail that skirts along Mount Wellington, walked through a Saturday food and craft market and met some amazing people…

Trying on a vintage dress. Good idea for a Tassie winter. Lots of rain and fog. Reminds me of Vancouver in the winter.









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