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April 2009

Jet-lag, Southern Belles: Louisville, and The Counter

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Finally made it home to LA and have the most god-awful, head-pounding case of jet-lag ever.   Feelin' as wild as this cutie looks.  Hope tomorrow brings a new bout of MST energy so I can resume my posts properly.  I do so miss ranting and raving about all that inspires me on a daily basis.  Today, my inspiration came from the insane veggie burger with gobs of cheese and mayo that The Counter churns out.  As well as the Marina del Rey library, which I just wandered into.  It's got a badass Nautical wing, with every sailing book in the world right around the corner from me.  Talk about lucky-duck.

And, in the meantime, the show that I just spent 8 hysterical months of my life working on (I wrapped the day before I left for Indo) is set to premeire on SoapNet on May 21st at 10PM (EST).  It's called "Southern Belles:  Louisville", and it's fo sho an addictive little docu-drama.  Check it. 


Henry/Anto/Hasta Pronto Learns to Make Ice

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Remember how I was saying there was no ice to be found in SMBL?  Well, that's just to the naked eye.  Sometimes you could find it, it you knew exactly where to look.  Once someone brought me a block of ice (for a warm beer) that had been packed in a plastic bag that once held fish.  I took one sip of the beer and almost threw up.  Which is why the first big purchase after a computer at CDC was a sassy blue fridge.  Hello cold beer, frozen diet cokes and icy red bulls.  Smartest buck thirty I ever spent. 

And, Henry, oh Henry (who was once named Anto, then changed it to Henry, and then quickly demanded his name to Hasta Pronto once he heard how great it sounded rolling off the tongue)--well, he was beyond delighted.  He couldn't wait to load that thing down with little ice cube trays and sit and watch the ice "make."  I, on the other hand, couldn't wait for him to load it down with the case of Bintang that we trucked in from Mataram every few days.  Some things never change, eh? 

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The Food of Lombok, Indo - Tahu Isi For Starters...

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The food of Lombok deserves a cookbook. Period. Which is exactly what I intend to create the next time I am back in Indo. It's so different than food found on Bali (which is delish, don't get me wrong), but the food from SMBL in particular is spectacular. I'm gonna dive deeper into food in future Toothie posts, but the one thing that I know every tofu-loathing person in the world would fall in love with is a beautiful fried treat called Tahu Isi. Conjure up a vision of a piping hot, tempura-crusted fried tofu square stuffed with baby bean sprouts, skinny rice noodles and small slivers of carrot and cabbage. You pop a tiny, blazing green chile in the center and this is an addiction that can make one blind with obsession.

Every few days, I'd hit up my fave stand in SMBL and bring back huge sacks of fried tofu, fried tempeh and fried bananas for the kids at CDC (feed all for about $2). Sometimes I'd get these crazy bubble drinks in a plastic sack. All sorts of various sweet liquids (heaven only knows what they were) were put into a black plastic bag with some ice and by the time you reached your destination a few minutes later, the ice had melted and you had a frosty cold sweet soup of sorts with bits of jello and bubbles in it.

In a town where ice is a rarity, and cold drinks don't come around that often, it was like drinking straight from the hands of God. I mean that. Cookbook next time? I just gotta get to the root of that Tahu Isi, so consider it a done deal.

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Everybody Loves English Lessons

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Have you ever sat in a poorer-than-dirt, pitch-black bedroom, ablaze from the glow of a few candles, and taught a gaggle of jubilant young Sasak kids their ABC's?

That was where I found myself on Tuesday and Thursday nights while in SMBL. The first heavy-duty project for the CDC was to build some sort of structure. For the students and for the volunteers. We set it up where English and computer lessons were held at CDC on Monday, Wednesday and Friday (on a one-by-one tutor-like basis), and on Tuesday and Thursdays, we taught in the local grade schools by day and by night we taught in the surrounding villages. We also threw in a girls-only English class during the day at CDC. The plan was perfect. Everyone soon got the lay of the sked and as soon as we posted the weeks blank time slots, boom!! They were full of names. Takers ready and willing to learn English til the roosters crowed and til our ears burned and dreams were full of lesson plans.

But teaching to the kids a few nights a week was pure emotion. That heavy, holy-shit I just got a 3-year-old to recite her ABC's in front of her stunned parents who were busy poking their heads in through the door, gazing in awe and wonder.

These kids are clever as can be, too. We'd move into words of the alphabet and not only would they repeat it in English, they'd teach it to us in Sasak AND point a finger in the air for clarity, to make sure we understood, just mocking us and all of our hand movements that are the universal sign on communication...with great success, mind you.

We made up games on the spot, in order to keep them entertained while they learned and I'd hear later that their parents couldn't believe how much their children embraced foreigners, cause they'd always been terrified of the scant few "tourists" who made their way to SMBL. And, the final question of the night from the parents was always, always, PLEASE tell the volunteers to come back every night. They loved seeing their babies learn. It was proud times all the way around.  I strongly recommend it to everyone.

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The Amazing Success of 4th World Love: Indo

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Where do I begin after a trip like the one I just had? Do I start with the incredible success of the CDC (Community Development Center) that 4th World Love created in the tiny mountain village of Sembalun, Lombok, Indo? Do I blather on and on about how utterly perfect the six cleft palate surgeries we sponsored for local babies turned out--I mean capital P-perfect? Maybe I talk about Hasan and Diman, the two eager young Muslim lads that immediately took over the MST donated Nikon digital camera and the Canon HD video camera on our daily excursions, and I mean the very minute I inventoried them into the CDC? Better yet, why not tear up about Baby Azi and how much different he is since he got that 4WL sponsored heart surgery a few months ago--talk about a happy, healthy, gorgeous baby..I must have snapped a thousand photos of him alone. I could try to put into words how amazed all the villagers were when intrepid volunteer after volunteer started showing up for their respective 4WL tenures--teaching English and computer skills day in and day out in the always abuzz CDC.

But, I think I have to take my sweet time with this one. This trip was too special to lay out in a mere few Toothie posts. Yes, time is what's needed here.

I've been in Indo almost a month and in less than a week, I head home to LA, TN, Chicago...wherever you wanna call home for me these days. What I do know is the day after I get back, my boat arrives in LA-to a perfect slip just outside my front door in Marina del Rey. Oh, I know what I will start with...the map. The giant map of the world that was brought in from Mataram and promptly hung up on the buttery yellow wall at CDC so that all the volunteers could mark their "home" in the world and I could show some of my fave people in the universe (the villagers of Sembalun) where my boat is gonna be parked in LA and just how close it is to Indo. Well, 30 days ain't that long by boat, is it? They were stunned, laughing and wailing about huge, torturous waves and tsunamis that would hit me at every waypoint. These are mountain folk, remember? The volcanic mountain kind. But, someday...I swear I'm gonna sail that gal to Lombok. What an amazing journey that will be. And, I know the day I arrive, all my English-speaking, computer-rockin', business-starting pals will be there to greet me. I'm just that way, I do what I say I'm gonna do. Plain and simple.

And, now that I am back on Bali (getting my advanced SCUBA certification whilst managing to blow out my eardrums and get the killerest tan of all time), I will update daily as long as the wily net allows. Lots of stories to tell, friends....gut-wrenching, soul-shakin' stories...you just can't buy experiences like these.  You can only give and give until you laugh til you cry.  That's the way it works...


Sometimes I Just Need the Guarantee

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That's right.  I come back to good old Indonesia time and time again cause I need to know I'm gonna witness this view every morning from my little front porch.  I need to know that funny Gary the Expat is gonna be having a hot dog at his hot dog stand and cracking up about the influx of non-American tourists every day.  I need to know that a SCUBA adventure awaits me.  I need to know I can sleep for 12 hours and not feel a lick of guilt.  I need to know that there's gonna be an afternoon shower pretty much every day.  I need to know that no matter how hectic life is back home, it slows down somewhere.  Here it is.

That said, I leave for Lombok soon and might not be able to post for a few weeks.  Rest assured, I will be back soon though...with updates from the 4th World Love community center, intel on Baby Azi, photos of the locals jammin' on the guitar that Seven from Whiskey Falls generously donated and loads of other deets from the frontlines.  Back soon, I promise...