holmes sweet holmes

sucking marrow and seeking more

Archive for the month “October, 2014”


Only a small number of things in life truly scare me now.

Moving across the world to live with people I don’t know? Exhilarating.

Hanging out 30m underwater, possibly with sharks? Bring it.

Riding on the back of a motorbike? Petrifying.

Driving my own? Ha! Never.

Except…in Bali, that’s the most common form of transport. And while driving a car isn’t impossible, it is nearly guaranteed to double your drive time. So, I put my big-girl pants on and sucked it up. No time like the present to face my largest fear. When in Rome, right?

Our first weekend here — NINE weeks ago now! –, two of the other newbies and I rented motorbikes for the month of August, received a mini-lesson on how to drive the thing, and took off.


Don’t be fooled by the false bravado. It’s all an act.

It wasn’t pretty. My shoulders were up in my ears the whole time, I practically came to a complete stop around the corners because it was TERRIFYING, and sometimes I would panic and squeeze the break and accelerate simultaneously. Somehow, I made it to the beach in one piece, pleased with myself for not dying.

But I still needed to get myself home.

A shortcut exists here in Canggu, a winding brick road cutting through gorgeous rice paddies. It gets quite narrow at one particular point, and when a car drives on it, it feels teeny tiny.


On the shortcut, looking at the rice fields

Of course, when I drove on it that night — a mere three hours after I rented the damn thing –, a minivan passed by me at that narrowest of points. I felt like it was all up on my side of the road, but other bikes made it, so there’s a slight chance that I may have overreacted. I panicked, accelerated and braked at the same time, and drove right off the road into the rice field.

It happened in slow motion, and I saw myself going over the edge and jumped ship. A bunch of locals helped me lift the bike out of the mud, checked to make sure it was still working and that I was okay, and then they laughed at me. I had to sheepishly drive by the traffic I caused to back up, covered in mud.

Don’t worry, folks, I had nothing but a bruised ego. And, unfortunately, an even greater fear of that bike for days to come. I dreaded getting on it. Now, two months later, I am more competent and confident. I can zip around on the highway, weaving in and out of traffic, at a speed I would have thought impossible when I first crawled along. (Don’t worry, I always wear my helmet. Because literally YOLO.)

And that shortcut is now my favorite part of my commute. Watching the sun kiss the rice fields each morning is absolutely breath-taking. But more importantly, I know now that I can drive into a rice field, get a little shaken and muddy, and everything will be okay. At least it wasn’t a concrete wall. 

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Returned the rental bike and purchased this baby


Jalan Jalan

Somehow I have been in Bali for two months now without writing a single blogpost. Instead I’ve been out observing and absorbing my new surroundings, trying to replace my mind’s default-foreign-language of Arabic with Bahasa.

My language lessons help, and I am slowly remembering the new vocabulary. In particular, I really like the phrase jalan jalan. Jalan means street, and jalan jalan is a multipurpose word, depending on the context. My favorite definition? To wander. 

The last nine weeks I’ve been wandering down strange streets, attempting to find my place amongst the Bintangs and villas and rice fields. 

Settling into Bali is an entirely different experience than Cairo. Besides the obvious differences – tropical island, drastically lower population, traditions and religion – I am finding smaller, more nuanced changes. Like differences in my mental math (that costs ONE MILLION RUPIAHS?!), the variety of fruits and veggies (dragon fruit and edamame, yum yum), and my life’s new soundscape (cocking crows in place of calls to prayer).

I am the biggest change, though.

My naivety has lessened, and I know that arriving in a place does not actually mean I have arrived at all. There are still so many steps to take after the first one that brings me off of the plane. 

And my comparisons have increased. I am no old hat at teaching abroad, but because this isn’t my first international job, I hear myself saying, “When I was in Cairo…” far too many (annoying) times. This is a rougher transition. I still feel unsettled, in both the place and in my job.

Plus, I find myself longing for Cairo. And we all know how impossible it is to embrace something new when you are grasping for what you left behind.

This is not to say I am having a poor experience. On the contrary, I am literally living in paradise. Many Sunday nights, I eat fish barbecue while watching the sunset over the ocean, and then walk down the beach to dance in the sand to live reggae music. I am forging friendships with beautiful souls, and I have nothing but love for the kiddos who fill my classroom and my heart. I explore new corners of this island on a regular basis, across land and under the sea. It’s been a wild adventure.

My soul is still wandering these new streets, working through the growing pains of a new situation, searching for the words to articulate it all. Until I find them, I’ll share pictures: 

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Rice fields

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Tanah Lot Temple

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Sunday night sunset

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An evening’s walk on the beach 

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Nyang Nyang Beach, off the beaten path

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Contemplative monkey

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Uluwatu Temple









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