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BALI

I love Disneyland almost more than anything. When I was a kid, my family limited most of our vacations to Anaheim and Orlando. My mom's license plate frame is surrounded by Disney characters and says, 'Been There, Done That, Going Back Again.' In 2003, I worked at Disneyland, with the characters - interpret the italics as you will. That's as close as I'll get to ruining the magic. It was the best job I've ever had, and it still didn't scratch my Disney itch.

My wife, on the other hand, has married into Disneyland. She's come around a bit and is certainly susceptible to my fervor. Lucky for us both, I've come around to her preferred status as world-traveler. We've done Portland and Mexico and New York and the Virgin Islands and  New Orleans and Argentina and now this - Bali. For our Honeymoon.

Reflections on our most recent trip go something like this:

I now refer to my wife as a Balinista. It's inspired by the very recent and very annoying TJ MAXX campaign. Cleary, my American is showing.

The real Balinistas were the nicest group of people I have ever met. Handshakes and name-exchanges were a given and immediate. Balinistas smiled - really smiled - when making my acquaintance. Asking where I was from and where I was going and how could they help me is what generally came next. If I answered that I was from the United States, the answer would be, "Obama." If I answered that I was from California, the answer would be, "Arnold Schwarzenegger" or "Super Power." Yikes.

Traveling with a mustache to Bali is recommended. I got a lot of stares and compliments and, when language failed, I got mustache gestures. Over the course of my adult life, I've had a lot of people guess me into a lot of different nationalities. In Bali, I got a brand new one: Indian. This may have been mustache related, however - I have, in the past, been told that I look like Freddie Mercury.

The food was not really for me. I tried suckling pig and I tried noodle plates and fried rice and fried eggs on everything and barbecued chicken and duck and I tried a few piles of green stuff and a pile of brown stuff and some crunchy things. Stuff and things are better swallowed if you don't ask for their specific names. One dinner featured duck - allegedly - cut into fatty little disks with an entire barrel of coriander dumped on top. That meal, like most others, was spent trying to find a reliable napkin to hide it in. No easy task considering tissues are generally doubled as napkins. Clearly, my inner Willie Scott was showing... That's a Temple of Doom reference. Which is almost another Disneyland reference.

A muscular chicken breast wrapped in a red headband.

A muscular chicken breast wrapped in a red headband.

By trip's end, I was eating purely American. I must have had ten different pizzas in a row at one point. Lots of places boasted a wood-fire oven so I pretended I was on some sort of quest to find the very best pizza in Bali - a fruitless search of course, because the best pizza will never, ever be a slice of floppy thin crust.  

In spite of the curious names, this place featured my best bite of pizza.

In spite of the curious names, this place featured my best bite of pizza.

Almost every place we stayed in was an amazing bungalow sort of situation that could be had for thirty dollars a day. Think the old Swiss Family Robinson Tree House from Disneyland. That's definitely a Disneyland reference.

Sweaty and hot was just an all-the-time thing. Once I accepted it, I loved it. I loved the sudden sheets of warm rainfall, too. I loved how green everything was. It blew my mind to think that Bali simultaneously had the most well-groomed gardens and yards that I'd ever seen and also the worst littering I'd ever seen. The excessive garbage in Bali is so bad that they have to burn it along the road or in backyards two or three times daily. Nothing like the aromatic shock of baked trash to shake you out of your meditation.

I tried a meditation class, with a meditation master and his merry gaggle of meditators. It was not for me. I will not judge those that it was for, but I will impersonate the best ones, upon request.

Nigel Tufnel sighting in Sanur, Bali.

Nigel Tufnel sighting in Sanur, Bali.

There are almost as many wild dogs as there are temples in Bali. The temples were beautiful. They came in small, medium and large. They were in between homes and part of people's homes. They were in the middle of cities and at the tops of remote hills and mountains. Watching Balinistas make offerings at those temples throughout the day was extremely moving, regardless of my inability to comprehend all of it. It affected me to the point that I purposefully avoided stepping on fallen flowers during the trip. No idea why. The dogs, on the other hand, were all the same. Mangy and nasty and growly and mean. On a somewhat-related note, there was an island we stayed at that was overrun by cats, like some sort of terrible Fievel in reverse.

And speaking of islands, I challenge someone to find an island that isn't also overrun by Bob Marley or Jack Johnson. Heard them once, heard them a thousand times - I want out. I'm done.

One more word on animals in Bali - I'm curious to find out how monkeys were deemed worthy of worship. They are grossos and creeps. Humping each other, hating each other, humping and hating each other at the same time, terrorizing humans and their belongings - what am I missing here?

I saw fireflies for the first time in Ubud, hovering over a rice field while my wife and I were waiting for a ride into town. It was one of my top memories - that and our four-hour walk amongst the rice fields and villages in Tirta Gangga. We were thousands of miles from home and didn't spot another tourist the entire time - it was just the two of us, digging in and doing it. I've never felt so connected to her and our little bubble and it really made my hairy day.

This is a rice field, but that might not be rice growing. I've already forgotten.

This is a rice field, but that might not be rice growing. I've already forgotten.

Defensive driving did not exist in Bali. I thought driving in Argentina was bad, but the Balinistas absolutely destroyed my South American family. Lanes didn't matter, pedestrians didn't matter and speeds didn't matter. If you're like me and you get carsick super easy? Well, come ond down, because you don't matter, either!

Balinistan men didn't and don't ogle women. My wife speculated that it's probably a product of the religion and I speculated that it was of the most refreshing aspects of their culture.

I think that's all I want to say about Bali, but I'm pretty sure Bali's not done saying things to me. My wife and I did a lot of big things in Bali, but we there long enough to do little things, too. We read multiple books in Bali. We wrote in Bali. We watched Season 2 and 3 of The Wire and Season 4 of Game of Thrones and Season 10 of the Bachelorette in Bali. The most important thing we did in Bali was nothing. We never do nothing. My wife and I work towards our careers constantly. Moving and hustling, all day, every day. The time we took to slow down in Bali made me realize just how lucky I am. I took the time to silently watch the way my wife greets the world when she first opens her eyes, instead of jumping out of bed to start my day. I stood beside her while she got ready - just for us - instead of waiting by the door with the keys. I held her hands across the table after meals and studied those delicate hands of hers instead of grabbing the bill and running off to our next thing. Moments like that are magic, and I know I have to have to make a better effort to slow down and let them in.  

So thanks for everything, Bali... Now lets go to Disneyland.