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Dispatches by the Canadian

February 2002


Dispatch No. 1


Written Saturday, February 2, 2002 @ 8:35 a.m. at Tokyo International Airport Internet Cafe. Waiting for flight to Jakarta, Indonesia.


Thursday, January 31
Chasing The Sun.


The sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Well, we'll see about that. Wake-up at 5:00 a.m. We're there hours before we need to be for security reasons. Layers of low-paid defense to get to the boarding area only to wait for hours. Flight take-off running late. We're driving around the tarmac with maybe two other planes at the Ottawa "International" Airport. Pilot says 15 more minutes before takeoff. What's happening? There are no planes taking off & none landing and it seems as though we're looking for a parking spot. I have now taken a Sunday drive over every driveable inch and compass point of the airfield.


Weird Feeling.


We're flying. Off to Chicago. It just hit me that I'm listening to Sting's live CD "All This Time" (recorded September 11, 2001) on my portable CD player but the truly strange part is that I'm also on an American Airlines flight heading to the most paranoid country on the planet presently. Eerie, weird feeling. The song which was particularly poignant was "Fragile". Listen to it and you'll know what I'm talking about. Right now, it makes me think of all of the lost souls from that tragedy and makes me hope that no more of this nonsense ever happens again.


Sweet Home Chicago.


Always a welcoming place. Beautiful, charismatic & vibrant city. Huge sprawling airport and still expanding. Noted that I was already becoming more & more of a minority as we approached the international flights departure area and our flight lounge. Got thoroughly searched by a huge black man who had the unmistakable inner city Chicago accent to boot. He was a combination of part comedian, part secret service agent and drill sargeant all rolled into one.  It was actually good to see the security level so high. Well, he & I got along just great. I didn't tell him that I had a money belt on until he asked. The wand goes over the zipper of the money belt and he gives me this curious look which goes to jump back/freaked out/almost horrified when I pull my shirt up really fast and say with a coy voice: "money belt". As he's making me go through it, he says to me jokingly (I hope anyway): "I could have shot you for that!!!" to which I reply with the same tone: "I made sure you didn't have a gun before I did that." We laughed and he sent me on my merry way.


Dispatch No. 2


Written Saturday, February 2, 2002 @ 8:45 a.m. at Tokyo International Airport Internet Lounge. Waiting for flight to Jakarta, Indonesia.


Friday, February 1, 2002
Enter The Dragon.


That's my new phrase for jet-lag encountered as you travel through time zones and cross the International Date Line. The feeling is like battling some sort of addiction as you cross time zones and also get more tired from sitting on a plane for 13 hours and realize that it's still early afternoon where you are. It's like a football player running across a field passing the yard lines to score a touchdown, finally getting there and collapsing from exhaustion. Great feeling to travel, but I'm pooped.


King For A Day.


Maybe it is El-Al for security, but it certainly is Japan Air Lines for courtesy, politeness, promptness and service. I have never been so pampered on a plane in my life. Air Canada and all other carriers, you should be ashamed of the way that you treat your passengers.


Dispatch No. 3


Written Tuesday, February 5, 2002 @ 7:00 p.m. at IQ@Internet, Tanjung Benoa, Bali (next to Hotel).


Friday, February 1, 2002
This Is The Life.


You wonder why you work so hard. The simple things are, to me anyway, the greatest rewards. For me, it's camping in the Canadian wilderness or spending time as a sternman on a Maine lobster boat. Right now, sitting on a darkened plane (in the middle of the morning or afternoon depending on which side of the date line you are on), passing right over Anchorage, Alaska and feeling the plane turn towards the Bering Sea, actually watching the Earth pass by underneath the plane with a screen mounted to the seatback on front of me. We're at 35,000 feet, it is -53 degrees Celsius outside and we are cruising along at just over 900 km/h. Apparently, there is much turbulence coming into Tokyo. Judy almost heaved. I'm sure that you really wanted to know that.


Welcome To The Machine.


Tokyo. The most efficient & organized place on Earth which I have ever been. the airport runs like clockwork, a well oiled machine. We wanted to check our baggage through to Denpasar, Bali so that we wouldn't have to bring them to the hotel. Judy was worried that the clerk we just dealt with on the second floor Arrivals terminal help desk would not process the request we had just asked and had written down on a piece of paper. We decided to pick-up our bags instead at the carousel and do it again to make Judy more comfortable. We waited for the bags to no avail. I decided to ask the attendants if our directions would happen and both said in absolute unison: "Already been done sir.". Only five minutes had passed.


Saturday, February 1, 2002
Night Of The Long Knives.


Well, actually early morning and a cheap razor. The paragraph title looked good. Scraped the beard right off of my face with a hotel razor. See, Japanese men don't have any long facial hair. It feels like having dived right into a sandy beach face first. I can't wait to get to Bali and do this for real. Tired. No sleep last night but Judy & I did have a slumber party...talked & giggled all night long in a trance of exhaustion. Get your minds out of the gutter.


Rise & Shine.


Got up early. Actually, I should say we got out of bed early as we did not sleep much due to jet lag. I say this because I'm delirious and not sure if I did sleep last night.

Dispatch No. 4

Running out of Internet time for the evening.

Written Tuesday, February 5, 2002 @ 7:48 p.m. at IQ@Internet, Tanjung Benoa, Bali (next to Hotel).

Saturday, February 2, 2002.

Got free breakfast at the hotel (Nikko Narita). A mix of Japanese and North American food. Odd. Judy got her sushi & other Asian favourites and I got my eggs, toast & fruit. Then, we switched just to keep things exciting. Note: Sausages are actually hot dog wieners. Hotel was OK. Forgettable, but being in Tokyo is still an experience. Looking forward to continuing the adventure. Still being treated like a king while Judy is being ignored sometimes. Women are still not highly regarded here and the fact that she is of Chinese decent does not help. I guess that's because she is the equivalent of a maid in men's eyes. We're on the Disney plane to Denpasar today but Mickey Mouse is nowhere to be seen. Apparently, he got busted at customs due to racial profiling.

Dispatch No. 5

Written Wednesday, February 6, 2002 @ 7:28 p.m. at IQ@Internet, Tanjung Benoa, Bali (next to Hotel).

Saturday, February 2, 2002
Blue Planet.

Leave Tokyo. Cross over Pacific Ocean. Watching that screen on the seat back in front of me again. The system tracks the plane's location on the Earth via GPS and gives you a visual on the screen. It's almost like a video game as you pass by cities, countries and continents. The hours tick by and suddenly China is gone from the display.


Almost There.

Pass through Borneo and cross the Indonesian Sea and right into Jakarta. Massive flooding going on and you can see the devastation from the plane. Depressing that you can't do anything to help the people down there as they deal with the 9-12 feet of water which has appeared from recent rains.


Pit Stop.

Arrive Jakarta. Get off the Disney plane (there's strange irony in there somewhere) as they must clean it to board new passengers. Airport security march us, with security personnel at all strategic points (about every 10 metres), around the entire airport. By the time that we get back to the plane, we're ready to board again. Not a happy people here, rather intimidating.


Selamat Datang (Welcome).

Finally!!! Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. Had to fill out two extremely serious looking customs forms which make statements like: "Importing drugs may lead to death sentence." and ask questions like: "Do you have in your possession transmitters, pornography or music records? If so, list these items for inspection and go to the RED line upon entry at Immigrasi." Big dilemma. I have CD's. So, do I mark it down on the form and be honest and risk the unknown or do I lie? I'm honest but worried to go to the RED line. Off the plane, incredible heat & humidity and more intimidating stares. Pass through the document handler agent fast and just happen to notice an officer smoking a cigarette directly under a "No Smoking" sign. THIS IS WHERE THINGS GET REALLY INTERESTING. Next step, carry on bags go through x-ray again. Why? We just got off the plane. Whatever. Off to get the bags off of the carousel (plane must have been unloaded in less than 5 minutes). I am completely surrounded by.......bag porters of all things!!!! I had made the mistake of making eye contact with them and they were immediately in a mad dash to get our bags for us & not let me touch them. I have since discovered that this procedure is not part of the customs function. They just wanted tips and I was literally the only "white" guy on the plane. Everyone else was Asian including Judy. Judy laughs now. Somehow these guys were able to get my bags to the customs officer (who I thought were going to shoot me for possessing Tragically Hip CD's) and right past him legally with a nudge & a wink. They then proceeded to hit us up for a tip which was obliged by me in my state of exhaustion & confusion. From the x-ray to clearing customs took less than 60 seconds. No kidding.

Hotel Bali Tropik.

Met the man with the "Rainville" sign from the tour company. Nice guy and trying hard with English as does everyone else here. Very accommodating, hope we can return the favour. Driving is insane here on a 30 minute ride to the hotel. All driving lanes are smaller than ours and seem to magically fit a car and a motorbike between the road edge and middle line (if there is one). This rule applies to both sides of the road and passing is natural course. Get to the hotel but doesn't look like one. It looks like a the most beautiful Balinese temple. The detailed stone & wood architecture is stunning. We are surrounded by a charming welcome committee in full dress (hats & sarongs) and by the tour company staff member who we drove from the airport with. After traveling so far, so far, all is great. Room is extravagant. We fall asleep.

Dispatch No. 6

Written Wednesday, February 6, 2002 @ 8:02 p.m. at IQ@Internet, Tanjung Benoa, Bali (next to Hotel).

Sunday, February 3, 2002
Fat Germans.

Saturday is a day of exploration of the hotel grounds & pure relaxation. Wonderful place. temples, pools, religious offerings of food & incense abound, restaurants (three for breakfast, lunch & dinner), watersports, beach (but over protected by natural/man made reef hence waves don't make it to shore), a rich landscaping of temple-like buildings used as restaurants and our living quarters and every type of tropical tree you can name. Also, at first sight, a plethora of fat German couples in Speedos and bikinis that all look like cooked lobsters.

Sat on the beach, played in the ocean and the pool, ate, drank all to our hearts content. All meals are good, but must avoid North American versions of food. Meats are usually cooked dry & sausages again are actually hot dog wieners. We learn fast to stick with & absolutely enjoy the tasty Balinese food. In our package, everything is free and this is a perfect base of operations for further exploration to come. We did walk the street in front of the hotel (Jalan Pratama) today. One side is decadence, the other poverty. Sad & we feel slightly guilty, but are also happy that our hotel is locally owned and supports the local community as much as possible. It's easy to see. We start getting hit up by "hawkers" selling everything from taksi (taxi) rides to warungs (amazingly delicious food sold by carts) and have to say "tidak" (no, thank you) when not interested. The warungs, by the way, have better food than any hotel. A specialty is Nasi Goreng (Rice, chicken & satay served in a banana leaf).

Dispatch No. 7

Written Wednesday, February 7, 2002 @ 9:15 p.m. atIQ@Internet, Tanjung Benoa, Bali (next to Hotel).

Monday, February 5, 2002
Go Ahead & Explore.

Exchange rate = CDN$1.00 - 5,900 Rupiah (rp)


I needed clothes in a bad way as I only brought a few t-shirts and shorts. So, we decided to do some shopping as we plan our week ahead. Taksi costs 10K rupiah return for a 30 minute ride to local Galleria (outdoor shopping centre). Pick up a t-shirt for less than 12,000 rp (CDN$2). Stores & vendors are suffering as we might have seen a dozen people in this sprawling 20 acre mall. Wet season & after effects of NYC's September 11 according to locals. Get back to hotel & go out for some snorkeling on the nearby reef. The most colourful fish that you have ever seen. Dream a colour, and they are there to be discovered. Judy loved it after being timid at first and wants to go back ASAP. Played volleyball in the late afternoon. Guests versus hotel staff. Good competition. Tourists, of course, won but earned it dearly. There was me, a fat but young, athletic German who says nothing but "ya" (yes) and schnell (sp? which means "move it") and Nikko the Crete who is the cheapest person I have ever met as he tries to barter the poor locals down to the last rupiah. After rinsing the sand off in the ocean and jump in the pool I swim over to the water pool. There, I meet Ian & Heidi from London, England. They both work in a casino there. Judy is sleeping in the room. We meet them later for a drink and hit it off with good conversation. Off to dinner where the theme was "international cuisine". Boring & tasteless. We all head over to Cempaka (an a la carte hotel restaurant) with really incredible local Indonesian food as an alternative. We proceed to get looped until only 11 as the sun & humidity takes its toll. While we were there it also rained more in the 20 minute downpour than it rains in a few months during summer back home.

Also, the power went out a few times but, of course, we were feeling no pain by now. the power went out, everything goes totally black. I swear that you cannot see one inch in front of your face. No kidding. Capped the evening with a fully clothed jump in the pool, drank a litre of water & passed out. First great sleep in days. Note: Refreshing downpours every night but clears up by next day. Almost 90+ degree weather everyday.

Tuesday, February 6, 2002
Home Of The Kuta Cowboys.

Before I start, I must let you know that there is much more going on than I am sending you in these e-mails.

For example, the peace of the temple-like hotel, the hustle & bustle of everywhere else outside of the enclave. Today, we go to see the sights of Kuta, the city that truly never sleeps. Famous for beaches, nightlife, cheap shopping and "Kuta Cowboys" (local men in great shape who seem to draw women from all over the globe for, well, you know). Also, this day is for my attempt to bodysurf some of the best waves in the world. Get there and it is as crazy as they said it would be. Hawkers trying to sell you everything and then we hit...the beach. Even more hawkers. About one per minute or five at a time. You get used to them fast and they understand the word "tidak" and move on rather quickly. The beach is not the cleanest says Judy as I become entranced by the waves...they are so HUGE!!! Nirvana!!! I bodysurf for two of the best hours of my life. That's all you can take in the full sun and we got sunburnt even after that. I rented a boogie board for 17,000 rp (about CDN$3). Embarrassing at first. I was out in the water for no more than five minutes wondering why I couldn't catch the waves like I had done a few times before when the kid who rented me the board paddles out & motions for me to flip the board over. I was using it upside down. Every few minutes I look to see if Judy is alright on the beach crowded with other tourists and all I can barely make her out for the swarms of hawkers hovering around her. I owe her one for putting up with that and for letting me play in the water.

Just Do It.

I can't put a finger on it yet but one has to visit Bali at least once in your life. Forget Cuba, the Caribbean or any other hot place. Even with all of its failures, this place is truly my Valhalla. Hinduism everywhere. A deep-seated happy people even amongst the poverty. Capitalism at its most raw, it absolute finest. (i.e. Bartering for everything). The beauty, the tradition, the heat, the humidity, the rain (all of which you get used to fast). I must admit that I was scared shitless for Judy & I when I got off of the plane in Denpasar wondering what the hell we had just done but, I could easily make my home here. However, I would only do so if invited or if I could provide desperately needed jobs. The curiosity level between the people that you speak with & yourself is amazing. If you are willing to share & open up a little by letting your guard down, so are they. With a little Bahasa Indonesian language, you can get a long, long way and get to know about the people...the good & not so good.

Wednesday, February 7, 2002

We got up late, had breakfast, did some sea kayaking out by the reefs. I flipped once and felt the true power of the ocean. She is definitely in charge and locals respect her as such. I'm at the internet place now and have finally caught up with my notes so you are now reading this in real time (sorry, Bali time is always lazily late). I'm going to send this now and have a Bintang (local beer) with Wayan, a very cool young kid (about 20 years old) who also owns this small internet shop. We'll talk about life & things...whatever goes. So relaxed.

Goodnight to all.

Dispatch No. 8

Written Saturday, February 9, 2002 @ 9:43 p.m. at IQ@Internet, Tanjung Benoa, Bali (next to Hotel).

Thursday, February 6, 2002 - Saturday, February, 9, 2002
Time Flies.

Time flies when you are having fun. To keep it short this time as I have to get back to my drink, we have been busy doing nothing and some tours around Bali.


In the last few days we have seen the Kintamani region known for the active Mount Batur volcano (beautiful & big); the lake beside it, Lake Batur; incredibly talented Balinese wood carvers in Kemenuh village; more traditional dances than you can shake a stick at like the Barong, Keris, Kecek and Fire dances. The Fire dance is where a man literally puts out a raging fire with his body; the Holy Spring (Fountain Of Youth) at Tampak Siring village; Stone carving at Batubulan village (all kids under 16 who work here, sad); Silver & gold craftspersons at Celuk village (again, the kids); the town of Ubud (more artists with talent than some sixties hippie convention without the drugs as that carries a death penalty here).

Lots to do, more on the way. Stay tuned. Having a blast.

Dispatch No. 9

Written Tuesday, February 12, 2002 @ 10:15 a.m. at IQ@Internet, Tanjung Benoa, Bali (next to Hotel).

Sunday, February 10, 2002 - Tuesday, February 12, 2002

We have seen more incredible things in the past few days. The Tanah Lot temple where I was blessed by Hindu priests. They call it a floating temple as it it perched on a rock about 10 metres from the shore and is inaccessible during high tide. Stunning. While there we spoke with some children from a local school as wearing baby blue "English Class" t-shirts. They come to the temple to speak with tourists and use their English skills. A shy curiosity for them and only the brave ones (or ones who get pushed front & centre to us by their peers) get to talk. It's really cute. We had monkeys climb all over us and the holy monkey forest at Alas Kedaton. I thought that Judy would absolutely freak, but she loved them almost more than I.

Met Pierre from Quebec City a few days ago. We decided to go back to Kuta and do some more bodysurfing yesterday (Monday). Taksi cost 20,000 rp (approx. CDN$3.50) each way. Rented two boards for two hours at 25,000 rp. The prices are all insanely low and, unlike some tourist cheapies here, we always give a handsome tip and they are thankful. It was a great day.

Speaking of tips, we are always quite generous because the average income for a worker at a hotel is US$80/month (yes, it's true). There have been a few times that I have given a good worker a little extra for their family. I, along with Ian and Pierre, have all quietly given some extra cash for really good service and tell them to take their family out for a nice dinner and for a donation to their village temple.

Where Do You Start.

There is so much to do on this rather small island (1.5 hours to drive across) that it would take a lifetime to understand how it all comes together. This place, Bali, is an island in the middle of an archipelago of a 1,000 islands which are part of Indonesia, a rather beautiful country which is rather politically & religiously conflicted. But, you just don't see it here. On Bali, you see mostly a smiling, trusting, happy people dedicated to their Hindu (on Bali it is 96% Hindu, 3% Muslim & 1% Other) religion and practice it daily, like clockwork, making offerings and timing their work to coincide with their village festivals. True, there is as much poverty as there is affluence, but everyone manages with what they have and are just like us...trying to survive and make a dollar. The big difference between the Balinese and the rest of the world is that they know dearly what brings true happiness. It's family, friends, respect of everything living, health and a joie de vivre that I just can't seem to put a finger on yet. This is what would take a lifetime to figure out. Money is just a small part of it, not like many of us back home who I now am starting to regard as just plain greedy.

Time Running Down.

I can't believe that we have been here for ten days already. Confirmed flights this morning. Feeling momentarily sad but I do know that I will be back to spend more time with my new friends and family like Wayan here who runs his own Internet shop. This young man, maybe 20 years old has, without second thought, offered to close his shop today to take me (& maybe Judy if we could fit all of us on his motorbike) out to wherever I want to go. He would do this without expecting any money and probably lose some by closing his shop to potential customers. A question for all of us....would you do this for a stranger? Think
about it.

The Last Hurrah.

Valentines's Day is Thursday and we'll be flying out.

Judy doesn't know this yet, but thanks to my secret keepers (the hotel staff, Ian & Heidi from England and Pierre from Quebec City) she will have one of the greatest dinners she has ever had. For a few dollars, we will be enrobed in traditional Balinese dress and have a private romantic dinner on our last evening here. It will be next to the temple in the middle of the open courtyard under a hand made tent blanketed with natural fauna and leaves from various trees.


See you soon.

Dispatch No. 10

Written Saturday, February 16, 2002 @ 1:04 p.m. at HOME, Ottawa, Canada.

Tuesday, February 12, 2002 - Saturday, February 16, 2002.

Forgot to mention that we went to a rather good Japanese restaurant on Monday with Pierre, Ian & Heidi our new instant friends. It feels like we have known all of these wonderful people for years. Almost had to stay and wash dishes at restaurant as the bill came to a staggering 400,000 rupiah (about US$40) but, Judy was happy as a sushi roll, so it made it all worth it.

Surfing, Surfing & More Surfing.

On Tuesday, Judy stayed at hotel to catch some more rays and hang with Ian & Heidi. Pierre & I decided to go surfing again. Well, actually Pierre decided for both of us as he is now addicted to surfing and he just had to go to Kuta one more time. We had another blast. Caught some huge waves, some must have been over 10 feet at the maximum. Nice way to wind down the vacation. We went down Poppies Gangs I & II again also. A "Gang" is another name for an alleyway where you can find just about anything like stores, small warungs (food stalls/small eateries), losmen (someone's house you can stay in for about $5 - $15/day)...anything. Just imagine those southeast Asian alleyways in Hollywood movies. Something like in "The Beach" except without the hanging meat.

Stopped at a warung with Pierre and had two large Bintang (beer), a Bakmi Goreng (stir fried noodles w/veggies and some chicken) for me and a plate of calamari with veggies and rice for Pierre. It was delicious after a hard day's bodysurfing. Total cost was CDN$7 including a big tip.

A Calm Before The Storm.

Got back to the hotel just in time. We had a few drinks with Pierre, Ian & Heidi and off to an outdoor dinner in the 30 degree heat and >80% humidity (as it had been like the whole time here). Watched another Barong dance put on by the hotel and had a few more FREE (emphasized because everything here at the hotel had been free) drinks at the lobby bar.

The Sky Is Crying.

It feels as though the sky is crying today. Permit me to be so bold as to believe that it may be for all of us who are leaving over the next few days. Ian & Heidi left for Kuala Lampor this morning, Wednesday.

We said our goodbyes and exchanged e-mail addresses. Sad. Rain all day for the first time but it is a welcome relief. Cools things off to about 75 degrees (hehe) and reduces the humidity temporarily. We spent all day after lunch lounging at the lobby bar and I believe that, except for dinner, we were there all day until almost midnight chatting with Pierre about every topic known to man. Gave the lobby bartender, a small man named Yastika a 100,000 rupiah note for good service. Told him to use it for his family and for his village temple. It almost made him cry. He doesn't get many tips as this is an all inclusive and there are many cheapies here. 100,000 rupiah (about US$20) represents a week's salary.

Thursday is our day to leave. Check out at noon and hang out at the hotel all day as our flight is not until 10 p.m. On the beach all day and play some volleyball late in the afternoon. Staff dropping by or stopping us to genuinely say goodbye, thank us for staying and to ask if we will come back again. As we pack our bags into the bus, our Hotel manager runs out with some staff that he put together and waved Indonesian & Canadian flags at us until we left the property and were down the street. This stunned the other people on the bus who were also heading to the airport one of whom stated that they didn't get a thing but the bill when they left their grandiose, big cube of a hotel. Hotel Bali Tropik is now our little secret.

Welcome Home.

After 27 hours in airports and planes, I knew we were home when we hit the tarmac at Ottawa with a big thump on our rude, emotionless flight on American Airlines from Chicago. Judy slept through it all. Made it through customs easily and got picked up by my parents who offered to do so. Dad drives the car around to pick our bags and us up, a cab pulls in behind him and honks at us even though it took me less than 15 seconds to toss the bags into the trunk. I give him the "just a minute" finger (though I felt like giving him the other one). Honks again long & loud. I go over, as a whole line of people waiting for a bus transfer are looking at us, and say "welcome home huh?". He smirks and the guy getting into his cab smiles at me and motions for the cabbie to continue on refusing to get in. The line laughs and I heard a few claps. This guy won't get to me. Things are different now. I have seen a part of the world that not so many have seen and experienced things about a culture & people that amazed & inspired me. No way, cabbie, I'm home at last.

The End.


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