There is a sweet man in tropical Candidasa, Bali that makes the best fried items I have ever tasted. Fried tofu stuffed with crisp little bean sprouts and veggies; fried tempeh; fried bananas; fried pancakes sprinkled with bits of colored sugar. He pops out for just a few hours every night and the locals line up to get the first of the hot goodies straight out of whatever magic oil/batter mix he is using. I met him last year when I was in Bali and I was REALLY obsessed this past time around...wondering if he'd made it thru the New Year. You never know who has shut down and who has prospered in times like these. Ahhh, but there he was and no matter what you order, he's always tossing in a few extra for good measure. For less than a buck, I'd roll back to my bungalow on the beach with a greased over baggie full of piping hot, all vegetarian belly busters. I didn't care though, the flavor was EPIC and he was pleased as punch every day when my eager face showed up..I could tell he was blown away that I really considered his goods to be THE BEST THING I EVER TASTED...as I would proclaim to him nightly after a few icy cold Bintang's at Ari Homestay. I really meant it though, I promise! Some would akin my wild photo snaps from various positions surrounding his cart to stalking~~
Ahhhh, the electronics needed for a trip like the one I'm about to embark on are just astounding. In short, there's the little HD camera, the mini-dv tape stock, the RODE microphone, the Mac, the extra mac battery, the 80 gig IPOD, the tiny ipod, the itrip, the italk, the 6 megapixel camera (that also shoots video), the blackberry, the flex solar panel, the 400 w inverter, the extra fly light hard drive, the tripod, the baby table tripod, the lenses for the HV20, the CD's to burn onto, the IPOD compatible speakers, the regular batteries, the travel case, the cords, the cables, the car chargers, and all the other jazz that a gal needs to try to get some shit done on the road.
Hell, then there's the solar equipped 14' trailer, the propane, the outfitting of that, the filling of the water tank, the creation of the burlap curtains, the recovering of the seat cushions, the awning set up, the air in the tires, the provisions, the paperwork needed to cross multiple borders (Mexico to Panama), the insurance for multiple countries, the loading up of all the clothes I'm taking to the flood victims in Tobasco, the hand-cranked blender to test out stat, the pilates mats I'm hauling down for the PURE retreat in Mexico, the books to situate, the maps to procure and outline, the bills to pay whilst on the road, the exercise to somehow fit in, the RV parks to source (that just sounds so funny), the banking to streamline, the Spanish classes to confirm, the volunteer stints to finalize, the clothes to pack, the heater to buy, the swamp cooler to test out, etc...
Thank God everything comes in small packages these days.
The morning began in a shroud of dense fog and a cants-n-dogs downpour. Too bad for me, because I was on my way to get my solar panel installed and the place that was doing it was all the way on the other side of town. I hadn't moved my little Yatz since returning from Colorado with her a few months ago, so the morning was pretty hectic--you know, no sleep last night, crapola weather, pitch black outside. After making it down the mountain (my parents live way deep in the woods on one of the most beautiful mountains in TN), I trudged in the dark...through the pouring rain...to Northgate RV...and about 2 hours later, I had a 64 watt solar panel on my roof! These fella's were awesome: they did everything from toss on the panel, create a vent in the tiny closet where I tucked the Group 27 batteries (straight off my boat), wire the whole kit-n-kaboodle and attach the inverter.
As I was on my way out, we noticed that Yatz' running lights were not working so they literally attacked. After a baffling take-apart of anything that moved, they discovered that my entire trailer was one GIANT GROUND. Could you imagine? No prob, they just ran a wire and the issue was no mas. I promised them a giant bottle of tequila from Mexico when I get back in the spring and tore outta there. Thank God the fog was starting to abate (see pic below)...because I feel like a couple of unassuming mailboxes coulda been swiped--and for sure, there were a few solid bottom outs on the way up the mountain. Good Christ, those are a real eye opener; but at least the solar panel is in. Just one more biggie off the CAmer to do list.
But, the most special sunset I've laid into is from a super-cute hotel called Lotus Bungalows on Bali. Every night the sun would slowly poke its way through the sky until the whole vista was awash in bright pinks. I usually partook in this majestic event from the confines of their perfectly temperate infinity pool...and the whole nightly ritual was like heaven on earth. A nice nutmeg-tinged cuba libre in hand, a sky blistered with swathes of cotton candy and very few other guests made Lotus my home away from home in Candidasa. Plus, they just opened up a great dive center there that is a primo place to learn to dive if you are interested in the wide world of SCUBA.
Soon, I shall be in Central America preying upon even bigger sunsets from the tail of my trailer. Life is good~
Today was a banner day! The weather finally cleared for a second and my dad and I finished installing the awesome awning to my little trailer. It just makes all the difference in the world. After we finished installing it into the side of my trailer, I could literally see myself checking out--and just chilling on the beach in a massively humid environment for a good long spell. It was SUPER easy to install, thanks to the genius creators at Vintage Trailer Supply. Just toss up an 1/8" awning rail (purchased at the RV store) and slide the pre-measured awning in. Sling on some thick rope (that comes with the awning), drive in some stakes, and done and done! Now come the solar panels. That one should be a doozie. Stand by for details and photos in a few days, k? Seriously, how many times can I use the word "install" in one paragraph?
There are a gazillion places in Chicago that I fly by while thinking, "Man…I gotta eat there." Yet something always comes up and I simply don't. Last week, after a major decision to move to warmer climes next summer, I decided that the only food I would allow myself to eat has to be from restaurants I've never been to. That means no more La Unica; goodbye Gruppo Di Amici; see ya later mojitos at Morseland. Yeah right—we'll see how long that brave declaration lasts, but, in the meantime, I did stumble in to a place I've been wanting to try for eons—a little Indo/Pak diddy called Ghareeb Nawaz (the name means "sustainer of the poor") just on the fringe of the Devon Avenue Mecca.
Now, this is a joint that is forever teeming with business, and the meters surrounding it are swarmed by cabs of every color. The chaotic storefront has a sign that reads "best homemade Pakistani and Indian food," and after sampling a slew of vegetarian dishes for $5, I can tell you it is definitely the cheapest and most generous homemade Indo/Pak food. The best? That's a toughie. But, the most affordable? You bet!
"Miss Misty, when will you be back to Sembalun?" This is the question that I heard over and over from my students whilst teaching in this tiny farming village on the island of Lombok (by the way, as I write this a curious ladybug is traipsing my computer screen). As I assimilate my way back in to the overwhelming American way of life, I find myself thinking--"Honey, it may be sooner than you think." I stood in Home Depot today confused as shit, lost as ever, and utterly swamped with a myriad of choices. It was too much. There is something to be had for having nothing...for needing not a thing. There is less to worry about, less to repair, less to obsess on, less to tweak, just less in general. When you travel, it's so easy to think--Wow! To be so poor and have nothing. I think my train of thought might now be--to have so little and be so rich. That is the sentiment I'm thinking hard on as the end of the year approaches. Riddle me this one--I was in Indo for a month and I had with me just 1 small solar backpack full of books, a moleskin journal, a few changes of clothes, a pair of flip-flops (no! not slippers) and an Ipod. How is it that I've never been so content and smiling and happy and giving and hopeful. Merry Xmas and may you enter 2008 with much less and be much more grateful for it~
Wanna talk about a perfect day in Indo? I was leaving Lombok after a heart-busting volunteering stint and on the ferry ride back to Bali, I caught some shots of some frisky dolphins. They were swarming the boat and flipping all over the place...it was classic. Then, I rolled into my fave hotel on the beach in Candidada, Lotus Bungalow, where me and a pal managed to kill a full bottle of nutmeg tinged Jamaica rum (the local brew). After getting all sauced up while the rain came down in buckets, I went swimming in the infinity pool and then ran to my outdoor shower so I could feel the hot spray of the shower cleanse my skin WHILE the cold rain poured in on top of that (just magic thru and thru)...once the rain let up, we hit the road and meandered down to our friends homestay---a cute little place that runs for about $10 per night called Ari's Homestay. They have the coldest beer in all of Candidasa---which is why after a decade of not drinking a single beer that I managed to slam 3 in no time flat. Some of the young gals who work there had a bit of their artwork on display, so of course a few pieces had to be purchased (to their sheer delight!). We hit the road soon after quaffing a 6 pack and shooting the shizz with Tia (it's her and Gary's place) about what it means for an American woman to marry a Balinese man---on the slow saunter back to Lotus, we stopped by my little tempeh guy...he slings out the best fried tempeh, stuffed tofu and wrapped bananas I have ever tasted, but he's only there for a meager 4 hours a night, so you gotta catch him quick before he sells out. A bag full of his goodies is less than 50 cents! That type of day is a PERFECT MST DAY....in case you are ever wondering how I like to kill an afternoon.
If you spend any sort of time in the tiny fishing village of Candidasa, Bali, the restaurant that you'll hear most folks waxing poetic about is the expat haven and real date atmosphere joint called Vincent's. Everyone in the loop in this gorgeous village knows that Vincent's has the best food around for miles---hell, he even had avocado jus when not a single other establishment in town could get their hands on an out-of-season avocado. I tend to prefer the dingy roadside dives but every now and then a gal needs to test out the towns champ. Rice chips, super fresh salad (Vincent's salad with everything in it), mixed fish cakes (dubbed fish cookies) and handcut french fries were on the docket the day I went, along with an ice-cold cuba libre. I was so full from my truly superior meal that by the time lunch wrapped up, there was no way I could comprehend sticking around for the nightly jazz session...though I'm sure it's lovely. If you EVER get the chance to try an avocado jus, PLEASE make it a priority...you will never regret it~
Here is a small sampling of Vincent's menu....and everything on it is just-caught fresh and still cheaper than Mickey D's. Go figure.
At the very end of the above posts arak fueled journey, we stopped at a local fish house just outside of Candidasa. It was most definitely a locals hangout and before I could even find the outdoor squat toilet, a slew of rice, long beans, sambals, soups, and chilled bintang's had been shuffled over to our table. You see, all you have to do at this little joint is come in and sit down...no ordering necessary since all they serve is fish in various forms: ground up, wrapped around sugarcane and grilled or perhaps rolled into a tasty little ball and cooked in broth. So simple and exactly my kind of place. Each persons bounty was about $2 (tip included). The name? Ahhhh, that arak is a killer...NO CLUE! But, I know I'll be able to find it again on my next trip back to Bali...just look for the crowded open air restaurant on the west side of the main road just outside of Candidasa...Good luck! That is the killer about Bali...everything is insanely delicious and entire meals are cheaper than a can of Red Bull. Throw in beautiful locals, gorgeous beaches, delicious fruit drinks, nature galore and exotic traditions--I mean, how could you not love the place?