Bali Adventures Week 6 | Nadia La Russa

Bali Adventures Week 6 – Gangam Style, Elephants, and Dengue Fever

We’re back! This is the last Bali Adventures post, from week six.

As you may recall, the boys had to leave a week before us girls. We were sad to see them go, but super excited to embark on some girly adventures – namely, shopping and the spa.

We kicked off the week with a trip to Gold Island for some watersports.  We had never tried parasailing before, and it looked like fun.  The girls and I opted for a package that included parasailing, a jetski ride and a group tubing adventure.

The first thing we did was the parasailing. We jumped on a boat, and it drove us out to the middle of the sea, where we met up with another boat.  As if it was a completely normal thing to be hopping from one boat to another in the middle of the ocean, we soon found ourselves aboard a ship with three nice guys on it. I could tell for sure, but I think their full-time job is dancing on this vessel amidst strapping people on to the parachute. In any case, they appeared to be having a grand time, techno beats blasting.  They harnessed us in and up we went!

It was amazing! It was a clear day, and it’s sooooo peaceful up in the sky. I could have stayed there forever.

Later that evening, we hit the strip of shops near our house for the day, and stopped in at a place called “Frankenstein’s” for a snack. The girls were getting tired, so I asked for the check.  After settling the tab, I went back to the table, to find it empty.  I found the girls a short time later….

Our next adventure brought us to an elephant safari. The girls spent the morning hanging out with the 31 elephant residents of the sanctuary, feeding them, and bathing them.  It was a very long and informative morning, filled with laughs and smiles from everyone!

Just after lunch, we made our way back to the villa. I was unusually tired, so the girls hopped in the pool while I napped.  I woke up a short time later, feverish, drenched in sweat, with a blinding headache.  I also felt chilled, and scared. I couldn’t even imagine what was happening, but I sensed it wasn’t great.

The next morning, it was even worse.  I found myself unable to get my temperature down one moment, and the next moment I was piling blankets on me trying to stay warm.  And the headache – I can’t even describe how terrible it was.  As a previous migraine sufferer, I was trying to identify if this was, in fact, a migraine – but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was different about it.  The following day was a complete blur. I vaguely remember handing money to Camryn so her and Andria could get food.

I woke up some time on Tuesday evening feeling worse than before, and still feverish.  Groggily, I padded off to the bathroom to splash water on my face and brush my teeth.  It was at this time that I noticed my gums were bleeding.  I also came to terms with the fact that I needed a to see a doctor.

Now, initially, I was a bit frightened. After all, here I am in a foreign country, clearly very ill. I had absolutely no working knowledge of the medical system, but I felt a little short on options. I certainly wasn’t in any shape to board an airplane the following day.

I made my way to what was rated as the “Best Hospital In Bali” (thank you, Google reviews) and I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in a bright, clean, up to date hospital, complete with English-speaking nurses and physicians. Within the hour, I had received an initial diagnosis of Dengue fever, a common mosquito-transmitted virus that, although uncomfortable, had very little serious risks associated with it. I was given a very thorough examination, kept overnight for observation, heavily medicated, and made it back to the villa the following morning in time to pack up for our journey home.

We spent the last week getting re-settled into a nice home routine, recovering from jetlag and visiting with the friends and family we missed while we were away.

Overall, it was indeed a great adventure. Bali, we will be back 🙂

Jackhammers and Immigration Officers | Nadia La Russa

Jackhammers and Immigration Officers

Goodbye boys, hello new villa!

Week 5! One week to go! We said goodbye to the boys this week as they ventured home and left us girls to fend for ourselves.  On Tuesday, we had to move to a new villa. Our old villa was familiar an comfortable and I was sad to move, however, they were re-doing the road outside and there was jackhammering. All.Day.Long.

So, I reached out to my host, and luckily, she had another villa that was available. So, we packed up and moved into the new digs!

On Thursday afternoon the boys packed up and headed home, leaving the girls and I to explore the new neighbourhood, do a bit of shopping and making plans for the rest of our time here.

The dynamic is so much different with just us here. We can travel in a normal taxi, it’s quieter, and food is easier. But we do miss our boys! We had a chance to celebrate the twins’ birthday before they left with a delicious banana flour cake.

And then, it was off for some excitement! This week we chose white water rafting – wow was it cool! There is only one river here suitable, and I think it was definitely an “easier” paddle but it was loads of fun!  It took us about 90 minutes to cover the 10km journey, passing by beautiful stonework, caves, and trees.  Definitely an unforgettable day!

 

It hit me on Thursday that the girls and I had been here a month, and that our tourist visa was about to expire. So here is the story you have all been waiting for – Nadia and the Immigration Shenanigan.

I went to the visa renewal office alone, with my passport and the girls’ passports in hand, fully expecting a simple process costing approximately $30.  Little did I know what was in store.

Rewind to arrival day – a blurry eyed Nadia gets instructions from the immigration officer that sound something like “You tourist Visa is good for 30 days, make sure you renew it before it expires” which translates to my exhausted brain as “you have a month to figure this out.”

Not so.

When they said “30 days” what they meant was “30 days, and today is day 1.” And that is NOT the same thing as one month. So, we got here on the 24th. When I arrived at the immigration on the 24th I was two days late to renew. Apparently, this is a big deal. I asked the quickly-becoming-less-and-less friendly counter person “So what do I do now?” and the answer was “You leave the country. Immediately.”

So herein lies the problem.  I had no means to “leave the country immediately” for several reasons, the main one being that I didn’t have my children with me.  I started to protest, which was very quickly met with me getting ushered – and I use that word lightly – into the small, grey room with the table and two chairs that you see on television.  Enter Big Balinese Immigration Dude and Even Bigger Balinese Immigration Dude. Dudes were not pleased.

For the next 10 minutes or so, I was subjected to a very loud and stern talking to about the importance of respecting authority, following process, and removing myself from their land.  It didn’t take much to have me do what any self-respecting, confident woman would do – I burst into tears, and sobbed uncontrollably.

That was their cue. They left the room without a word, and entered a very small, sweet, kind and helpful lady with tissues. Calm Sweet Lady apologized for her mean friends, and suggested that there might be another way to get my visa extended.  It all became clear at that point what has happening.

“Money?” I said. “You want MONEY? Frick, why didn’t you say so. How much do you need?”

And it was done, just like that.  I handed over $500 and all of a sudden I became a respected and esteemed visitor. Not only was I allowed to stay, but now my passports were going to be “fast tracked” through the “speedy system.”  The next day, the girls and I made our way to the central immigration office, and were escorted to the front of the line for photos and fingerprints. Amazingly, our files were already at the office all ready and waiting for us.

Upon further research, I learned that this is a pretty common occurrence. That the intake officers at the airport are intentionally vague about the details and that this good-cop-bad-cop game is a way to line everyone’s pockets. Lesson learned for sure!

Thankfully, its all sorted. As they say, every trip has a story!

Bali Adventures Week 4 – Searching for Treasure and Snorkeling for Shipwrecks

Bali Adventures Week 4 – Searching for Treasure and Snorkeling for Shipwrecks

Another week under our belt! Each week that passes, I’m more and more amazed with this family. We had a friend ask us this week “would you do this again?” and it was really tough to answer.  Brent summed it up perfectly I think.

“This trip has had a lot of firsts. First time travelling this far. First time travelling this long with all 5 of them. First time not working this long. First time being away this long in a place where everything is different.”

With all those firsts, it’s really quite humbling and amazing that we have had this opportunity, but it does leave us spinning quite a bit! I think we have grown closer as a family, and also more independent. I think we have let go of some fears, and tried new things, new food, new ideas.

Here are some of the things we did this week.

Furniture Shopping

Brent and I have had a chance to explore a bit on Scoopy this week. We ventured off to a few cool shops to check out some furniture. Brent is looking for the exact-perfect-piece of wood that will become the centerpiece of our new home: the dining table.

Being parents of 5, when we look into the future, we realize that a table that seats 8 is not suitable. Between there being 7 of us to start, the moment you add in family, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents – there just isn’t anywhere to sit.

Luckily, Bali is home to amazing and talented folks who specialize in teak and suar wood furniture.

The pieces I have seen here are nothing short of absolutely breathtaking.

Now, it’s not like shopping at fancy furniture showrooms at home. Oh no. This is all open air, usually under a tarp or a grass roof, and right in the middle of a workshop.

We stopped in at about half a dozen places, when we came across Kenny’s Furniture. We spotted a teak table from the street, and decided to check out the store.  The salesperson was nice and helpful. When Brent described what we were looking for, she said “Oh, we have some more pieces in the back, would you like to see?”

Weaving through furniture, stepping over various items, and out the back door we went. Following her through a back workshop and through a non-descript entrance, we found out that “the back” actually meant “10,000 square foot storage building, filled wall to wall with beautiful pieces of wood, all covered in dust and cobwebs.”  The pictures don’t do much justice, but I hope you get the idea:

Snorkeling for Shipwrecks

This week brought us far, far, FAR away from our home in Seminyak to the north-east(ish) coast near Tulamben.  This is the site of the Liberty Shipwreck. Back in WWII the Liberty Ship was hit by Japanese torpedos and beached at Tulamben.  Then, in 1963, Mount Agnung erupted, and the eruption and lava caused the ship to slip off the beach and settle about 3 metres underwater on a sand slope.

The ship itself is 130m long, so it slopes down under water to a depth of about 30m all said and done. Since 1963, it has become home to some lovely coral and many, many fish.  It also happens to be the most famous dive site in Bali.

Luckily, because it is so close to the surface, it is also a fantastic snorkel site. So off we went.

Here is what I learned on snorkel day:

  • You just never know what will enthrall your kids. I have taken them zip lining, and to a killer waterpark. Yet, they reported this activity to be the “best one yet”.  I think this is because there is just nothing else like it they have ever seen.
  • You can never properly predict a panic attack. Yep, I had one. A doozy of one. In the ocean. Wearing a snorkel mask. Out of absolutely nowhere, and for no identifiable reason.
  • Go-Pro cameras are freakin’ cool. I have attached some shots from Emerson’s footage for you to enjoy!

So, it started out as a normal day.  We got up as a family, ate breakfast, and met the diving company’s pickup vehicle at the hotel next door.  The company itself was amazing – they provided snorkel equipment, two guides just for our group, lunch, transportation and water.  It was a long ride (see the map – we drove clear across the island!), but the kids did awesome.  I was excited – I had done some snorkeling before, and loved it.

 

Ocean Panic Attacks are a Thing

I have no idea what went wrong.  The sea was a little rough, but nothing outrageous.  I’m a confident swimmer, and I have snorkeled before.  We went out as a group of 9, so it wasn’t like I was alone or stranded. But, something just snapped.  I secured my mask and snorkel, and was enjoying the swim toward the wreck. Every so often, I’d pop up and count snorkel tips.  (Yes, but it’s a mom thing!) Then, I’d continue on.

All of a sudden, I felt as though my mouthpiece was gagging me.  My heart started racing and I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I lifted my head to the surface, removed my mouthpiece and thought “That was weird.”

And then it got worse. Much, much worse.  I became scared that someone was going to attack me (like, who exactly, would randomly attack ME in the middle of the ocean with a bazillion other divers and snorkelers around?). I was convinced that fish were touching me (they weren’t), and I was absolutely certain that my entire family was in grave danger (No danger. None whatsoever.)

And then, I saw Brent. He came to the surface and said “Are you ok?”  Somehow, those three words brought me back to reality. I was ok. No harm was coming. But I had to get out of the water.

So, I swam back to shore as calmly as I could, and stood on the beach and watched Brent and the kids snorkel.  It ended up being a great day. They swam and played for about 3 hours, then we sleepily drove home.

I’m still a bit baffled at what triggered or caused this in me. I’ve never had it happen before – and I certainly hope it doesn’t happen again, or at the very least, that it happens while I’m on dry land.

Healthin up!

Back on dry land, we ventured to our family favourite spot to eat – a great, healthy place called “Go Fresh Life” that makes beautiful salads and cold pressed juice. It’s such a relief to find a spot that is both healthy and appealing to the kids.

Stay tuned for white water rafting, our big move, and some ink coming next week! We miss everyone back home!

Week 3 - Ants, Scoopy and Toilet Paper | Nadia La Russa

Ants, Scoopy and Toilet Paper – Week 3

Week Three is done. Wow, just wow.  I feel the days slowing moving by, and then the next thing I know, the days have flown by.  Life has slowed down here for us – finally. I’m absolutely loving this pace.  We had the chance to get into some really good conversations with the kids and have found out the insights from their viewpoints. Emerson, on his own accord, told us the other day “Life is easy here.”  Hearing him say that was a breath of fresh air.

This week’s adventures took us to Waterbom – Asia’s #1 rated waterpark, and #2 in the world. The kids had a blast.  The parents also had a blast relaxing in the gazebo and occasionally throwing food towards dripping children.  Of course, the immediate question as we were leaving was “can we do that again?!?” – so I’d call the day a success.

The boys and Andria took turns on the “flowrider” to hone the surfing skills, and we did a family ride down the lazy river. The day was absolutely amazing.

Our house is next to the Four Points Sheraton, and each night, we can hear music from their rooftop patio. On Monday’s, we have started taking the kids there. It’s usually a small crowd, maybe our group plus one other table, and the musicians have started including the kids in their sets.  I’m loving it, although every so often I get a twinge of “maybe Camryn is a bit young to be singing in a bar.”

As we settle into regular life here, I find myself getting used to certain aspects of life that I think would be strange to accommodate back home.

 

Ants. Holy moly, the ants.

These buggers are e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.  They are small, they travel in packs of 349,280 and the walk around silently, carrying of any food you are foolish enough to leave out.  They don’t bite or actually harm anything, but they are certainly not easy to get rid of.  I realized pretty much from day three here that I could either live in a cloud of Raid, or just deal.

So, all of the things go in the freezer. Chips, rice, cereal, fruit, everything. Zero things get left on a counter here. These guys will literally crawl inside a wrapped loaf of bread if you leave it unattended for more than a few hours.  I’ve gotten used to brushing them off my bed each night and wiping down the bathroom sink each morning.

 

I drive a Scooter

I rented a scooter this week.  What a difference a little mobility makes.  I think my mother is going to lose her mind at this one (sorry mom!) but the more time I spend here, the more I realize that the traffic moves relatively safely. So, I walked down the street and rented this piece of freedom:

Meet “Scoopy”

Scoopy and I did get ourselves into one itsy-bitsy traffic jam (see above traffic picture) but I just followed the rest of the pack – on to the sidewalk – and in a few minutes it was over.  No one actually drives at any amazing speed here, and I’ve learned that all you really need to do is keep track of what is going on in front of you, not hit anything, and everyone else does the same.

I bee-bopped from Seminyak to Canngu where I visited Made’s Banana Flour and had myself a little piece of heaven on a plate – fluffy, gluten free waffles.

It was AH-MAZING.

 

Toilet Paper

For reasons that I don’t quite understand, toilet paper isn’t a “thing” here really. They have it, but the more time I spend here, the more I start to wonder if it’s really just for the north American tourists.  The house we are staying in is fully stocked, but heaven help you if you leave the house without a partial roll with you.  Most public bathrooms are outfitted with this setup.  I can’t even begin to figure out how on earth I would even operate this, or what the rules are on it’s use. Just, no.

 

Since coming here, Brent and I have waffled back and forth between “this is awesome” and “what were we thinking.” Overall, its been an experience being here – one that I have definitely found enriching and challenging at the same time.

This week, we are heading on a snorkeling adventure – stay tuned!

Bali Adventures - Week 2

Bali Adventures – Week 2

Another week! Amazing.  Time is sure flying here.  We have gotten into a pretty good daily routine – we wake up, eat breakfast as a family, hang out at the house until mid-morning, then we venture out for lunch.  Each day we try a different “warung” (which, directly translates to ‘shop’ but we have learned means ‘small café or restaurant’) and sample unique cuisine.

Then, we head to the beach or to whatever activity we have planned, and we reconvene at dinner for a home cooked meal. After supper, someone does the dishes (7 people, 7 days of the week. Coincidence? I think not) and we either do a family movie or we have a family conversation about something important.

It’s been equally nice, and not nice.  Our house is small and cozy, which is great until someone is in a grumpy mood. It sure doesn’t take long for that to spread like wildfire through our little group.  Luckily, we have had some really good conversations to talk through what’s going on. I think we are making headway.

Brent and I decided that we would limit activities to one per week – for a few reasons. First, money. We sure can’t afford to rent jet-skis for 7 people each day. Second, exhaustion factor.  We experienced that we need about two days to properly recover and re-engergize for the next adventure. Third, time – there has been great value in just hanging out.

Our Place

It’s ‘bake’ or ‘not bake’. That is all

The house we rented is exactly what it appeared to be in the photos, however, it’s no secret now that the owner deliberately tried to angle the shots to make the rooms look bigger than they are.  The kitchen is a long galley style that gets really crowded, really quickly.  I have to walk past the sink, fridge and counter to get to the stove. When I’m standing at the stove, I’m directly blocking the main bathroom door, and also the door that leads to Logan’s room. Cooking here has been a challenge at times, particularly trying to bake things.

The decorations are….eclectic to say the least. We have seen many examples of “upcycling” all over the village, and this place is no exception. There is no rhyme or reason to the colour scheme, and yet, I kinda like it.

The house itself is set behind a tall fence, next to a rice field. The grass roof has seen better days, and when it’s raining hard, the water pours into the shared bathroom.

 

This week’s adventure

We asked Komang to take us to Sekumpul waterfalls this week.  We drive up a windy, narrow road that lead into the clouds. I was disappointed in the weather, but on the other side of the mountain, it was like we had entered a whole new world. It was bright, dry and warm.  Another windy drive down the other side of the mountain brought us to the entrance to the waterfall trail.

Many of you know that I’m addicted to hiking, so I was pretty excited. I had read reviews about the waterfalls and how beautiful they were – but I was not at all prepared for the difficulty of the journey, or the awesomeness of the falls.  The trail lead us down over 500 stairs, some of which were no more than a plank of wood stacked on its side. Handrail availability was sketchy at best.  Most of the way down, I was thinking to myself “we eventually have to come back up this mess” and I was aware that both Andria (arthritis) and Camryn (broken femur in June) might have some difficulties.

But, we made it, both down and up, unscathed.  The kids don’t hate me, and for the first time ever, I got to stand under a waterfall.  It was amazing, and humbling.  I absolutely loved it.

This coming week our adventure will take us to Waterbom – the #2 highest rated waterpark in the world. Stay tuned!

 

 

Bali Adventures - Week 1 | Nadia La Russa

Bali Adventures – Week One

What a whirlwind!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a week, and it’s equally hard to believe that it’s only been a week.  I feel like we have done a ton of activities, and also done a ton of nothing(ishness).

The trip started out with a small kerfuffle. The girls and I hit the airport 44 minutes before the departure of our flight, fully expecting that we’d get our boarding passes and meander to the gate with our carry-on luggage.  Apparently, the cutoff for the flight was 45 minutes, and in the one minute that I was late, they had assumed we weren’t arriving at all and had issued our seats out to the standby passengers.

I have never in my life before encountered this level of ridiculousness, but we took it in stride. I asked the Air Canada rep to check us in for the rest of the trip, which she did.  I then rebooked us on the porter flight that – ironically – departed 20 minutes later (24 minutes before said Air Canada flight that I was “late” for), and off we went.  We landed at Billy Bishop, high-tailed it to Pearson, and boarded our 5:55pm flight to Munich without issue.

I’m conflicted between being angry at Air Canada for their cut off times, and being angry at myself for not showing up an hour before.

Since getting here, there are a few things I have learned. I am by no means an “expert” on Bali, and I find that I’m still learning more each day about how life works here.

The Traffic

The traffic here is unbelievable.  They drive on the left, and I have yet to see any traffic lights, stop signs, lane dividers or any sort of “this is where you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to be doing” traffic notifications. As such, the drivers here pretty much do whatever they want, and it appears that so long as you issue a friendly honk of your horn, you can drive wherever you please without anyone stopping you.

Then, there are scooters. Everywhere.  When the cars are stopped, the scooters boot in between the cars, beside the cars, up on the sidewalks, around pedestrians and anywhere they can fit. They just keep on going. Then, when the cars start up, the scooters are just driving in the same lane right beside them.

Amazingly, nobody dies.  I started the week out incredibly anxious and stressed, and somehow, over the course of 5 days, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that cars and scooters whip past me at mach speed on the sidewalk while I’m walking home with my groceries.

About the Groceries

Ok. So I’m a numbers girl. I budget things for a living. People pay me to do this, and I’m considered an “expert” at this having had literally tens of thousands of hours preparing budgets.

Somehow, I catastrophically failed at determining a reasonable grocery budget for this family trip.

At home, I have a pretty stable grocery expenditure line. It rarely varies, and I can usually feed the family for $5-7 per meal.  Depending on how often we have the boys, it can go up from month to month, but there has yet to be a month in the last 7 years where I have totally blown the food budget for this family out of the water.

So, before this trip, I found the location of the supermarket that I currently shop at. They have a comprehensive website, and I was able to ascertain that while some items here are much cheaper than at home (rice, fruits and vegetables), some items are much more expensive (eggs, milk, spices and specialty gluten-free items). Armed with this information I did up a general meal plan for the family, beefed it up by 20% (just in case) and came up with a food/grocery budget for this trip of $2500.

I was wrong. I was wrong by almost triple.  Yep, let that sink in, because it sure hasn’t for me.

Here we are on day 6, and I have, thus far, spent $1345.58 on food.  At this moment, we have enough food to feed us for approximately 2-ish days.  If I buy absolutely nothing else whatsoever, we will run out of breakfast options by Tuesday.

I’m still trying to figure out exactly what happened, but here are a few things that have come up:

  • These children are eating an incomprehensible amount of food. Seriously, you have no idea.  We haven’t thrown any food out, there hasn’t been one meal where someone didn’t clean their plate, and approximately two hours after each meal there are five “hangry” people in my presence that are miserable to be around.  I didn’t believe this at first, so I used my parenting tactic of “if you are actually hungry, you can have a (insert usually undesirable food here)” *and they do*.
  • I failed to properly budget for the staple items – I purchased a kombucha scoby, some starter kombucha, some essential kitchen utensils (like, a cutting knife and a frying pan) spices, oils and gluten-free items which set me back about $300 or so.
  • I did not account for the caloric requirements of 5 growing humans who spend their days running around. This was a gross underestimation on my part.  But seriously, look at these smiles.

 

It’s hot here, but not that hot

I think I envisioned spending my days trying to wear as little as possible, and walking around using one of those battery operated clip on fans all the time.  It’s not quite like that. Honestly, I’ve found the weather really pleasant here.  It’s sunny a lot of the time, and the ocean is a wonderful and welcoming temperature.  The evenings cool off appropriately and we have had no issues sleeping at all.

24/7 with family is much different than I expected

This is both in a good ways and bad ways. I have experienced both extremes of “wow this is amazing and I love spending time with my family” and “get me on the next flight out of here.” But, I think that’s part of what we wanted out of this experience.  The highs and lows of family life still exist here.  What’s been great is that each day we learn and grow together.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of this adventure brings.

We miss you all back home! Send love and good vibes our way 🙂

 

Why I don't Celebrate Halloween

Why I Don’t Celebrate Halloween

Halloween is in a few days, and each year I dread it. Want to know why I don’t celebrate Halloween? The store shelves are just about buckling from the weight of chocolate bars, pumpkins and severed limbs, and hyperactive kids across North America are testing their parents’ sanity. As far as I’m concerned, Halloween is just another greedy, commercialized money-grab that teaches our kids very poor lessons.

Here are four reasons why I don’t celebrate Halloween:

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