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!

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!