Sunday, November 1, 2015

Misadventures in Bali - Jimbaran, Indonesia

T - 20 weeks 2 days
My friend that I had been traveling with went back to the US.  I had plans for the next 12 weeks, but beyond that, the future was wide open.  I was choosing my own destinations, and I found inspiration in The Secret Sanctuary, on the island of Borneo, in Kuching, Malaysia.  I sent them a request to stay for 56 days and they said yes.  Then, since I was in the area already, I looked for something in Bali, Indonesia.  I found a yoga studio with a bed, and a kitchen, and a view of the rice paddies in Ubud, and felt like I had found the ideal space.  There was so much open space for movement.  I was excited, and so I booked it.

T - 24 hours
I get an email from the host of the place I was staying in Bali. "I'm so sorry! I don't know how this is still listed. We lost the renewal lease on this and have moved from the property!"  The host went on to ask that I cancel my reservation because "If I cancel on my end I get severe penalties."  Here is a tip: if you are using AirBnB and the host asks you to cancel, don't.  Had I canceled the reservation, I would have received an automatic feedback posted to my account saying that I canceled the reservation the day before I arrived.  This would have negatively affected my reputation on the site, and could have meant getting turned down by future hosts.  Since I currently use AirBnB for nearly all of my reservations, this would have been bad in the extreme.  Instead, I called AirBnB.

 The customer support agent I spoke with was very helpful.  She read the messages I had received from the host, and initiated the cancellation on his behalf.  In addition, the money I had already paid for this reservation went into a hold on the site, so when I booked something else, I would be able to use it immediately instead of waiting for the money to make it back to my card.  They even offered an extra 10% if my next reservation was more expensive than the last.

 Unfortunately, with so little time, I was not able to find an equally inspirational location for the full 28 days I was scheduled to stay in Bali.  I finally ended up booking a small, cheap place, only a couple hundred meters from Jimbaran beach.  I booked it for 6 days, and figured I would look for something else when I got to Bali.  This was probably a mistake on my part.

 T - 12 hours
Because of all the time I lost searching for a new place to stay, I did not finish packing early for the first time ever.  In fact, I didn't really finish packing until 8 am when I needed to leave for the airport at 9 am.  Instead of sleeping well before travel, I drank a bottle of wine, slept for a couple hours, and packed in my hyper elevated state of stress.  All definitely bad choices.

 T - 0 hours
Far too little sleep.  Far too much stress.  A bit too much alcohol.  I left for the airport still damp from a shower, and started sweating immediately.  I never really stopped sweating all day.  I slept completely through the flight from Borneo to Kuala Lumpur, only waking when they made me put my seatback up for landing. The land around the Kuala Lumpur airport seems to be covered in oil palm plantations.  The trees looked surreal to my sleep and exhaustion fogged mind.

 T + 4 hours
I had booked the legs of my flight independently.  I hadn't processed until the landing what that meant.  I had to retrieve my bag, find check ins, pass back through security screenings, and make it to boarding, all in about 2.5 hours.  Considering the problems I've had in the past, this really wasn't wise, but fortunately, I experienced no problems with this process, and even had time to get a sandwich and drink before the flight.

 On the second flight, I had water three ways.  I had a Teh Botol (Indonesian sweet jasmine tea), a water, and a spicy pot noodle.  This helped me achieve true hydration, and I finally managed to get more liquid in than I was sweating out.

 My seatmates on the second flight were an interesting couple on 3 month holiday to southeast asia.  They had been to many cool places I would like to visit, including Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and more.  Talking to them was a nice interlude.

 T + 11 hours
At the Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar, things continued going a bit haywire. The airport has more open space than I have ever seen inside an airport before.  It was almost as if someone had intended to build and airport 3 or 4 times larger than they needed, then realized it after building the walls, and just put a much smaller airport inside anyway.

 I got through immigration and customs with no real problems, but when I went to withdraw money from the ATM, neither my credit card nor my debit card were working.  I still had a bit of Malaysian Ringgit left over, so I exchanged that at a money exchange for something like 630,000 Indonesian Rupiah.  It sounds like a lot, but it was really only $40 - $50 US.  I paid a quarter of it just on my transportation to the place I was staying.

 I was met at the airport by Mr. Max.  I am not clear if this is a strange combination of cultural respect and familiarity.  I think Max was probably his first name, but I never inquired.  Max drove me to my temporary abode where I dropped off my bags, then he gave me a brief tour around the area, took me to get a SIM card for my phone, and to get a tiny bit of food and drinks for the room.

 T + 13 hours
The room is basic, and strange.  I expected the basic.  I did not expect the strange.

 Where to begin?  We drove down a nearly anonymous street in the dark.  Apparently, most taxi drivers have no idea where it is, and have trouble finding the place, hence Mr. Max. We parked on the street in front of a half open gate. Through the gate was 25m of shared drive, leading up to a two story home with a foot gate to the right side.  We went through the foot gate, down the path, to the left of another building, then turned up the stair of said building, where it was quite dark, up to the second floor, and into Suite No. 1.

 The room is something like a 20' square box with a 5' x 6' bathroom in the back right corner, and a short bar with the smallest mini fridge I've seen, an electric kettle (more on this shortly), a toaster, and some very basic place settings for 2.  The bar appears to have a sink (a stone bowl with tap), but the tap does not produce water.  Even if it did, it would not be deep enough to fill the kettle in, so I haven't missed it.

 The bathroom is a shower.  I don't mean there is a shower inside of the bathroom.  There is a sink, and a toilet, placed appropriately for a slightly room bathroom.  Extending from the bottom of the sink faucet is a hose, which leads up to a mobile shower head hung on the wall right between the sink and toilet, not more than a foot from either.  There is no toilet paper.  In fact, the instructions for the wifi say the password is "wedontusetoiletpaper."  Next to the toilet on the wall is another spray nozzle like you would find in many kitchen sinks.  It is the biday.  Both shower and spray nozzle have very little water pressure, not ideal for the sole means of bum cleaning, but it will have to do.

 There is wifi in the room.  I ran a speedtest and got about 1 Mbps down, and 0.2 Mbps up.  Fortunately, I have my phone which is getting 6 Mbps down, and 0.6 Mbps up.  This is especially good as they asked me not to watch YouTube videos, download anything, or do anything else that uses bandwidth.  This was a huge frustration for me, as the listing said free wifi included and didn't say a thing about not using it for anything significant.  Had it listed that honestly, I would not have booked the place, since my job is online and involves video conferencing with people every day I week, which is often 7 days a week.

 The room also includes supplemental guests, no extra charge.  There are the largest roaches I've ever personally seen.  They are also not nearly as bashful as I am used to roaches being.  They are more comfortable in the open than I expect, and unfortunately, they don't seem to make much effort to stay away from people either.  For three hours on the first night, every time I started to drift off to sleep, I would feel something crawling on me, and wake up slightly freaking out.  Around 1 AM, I sent a very frustrated message to my host.  They never responded.

 T + 23 hours
After sleeping something like 4-5 hours, I woke up fitfully, ate a bag of chips I had bought, and a couple of these strange green rolls that turned out to have some kind of chocolate sprinkles and cream inside, and put the electric kettle on for some tea.  Whoops.  The power went out.  I fired off another message to my host, and they replied that someone would be by within the hour.  The power came back on, and a person stopped at the door.  I asked about the insects, but they didn't speak English, so nothing got resolved.

 T + 30 hours
I spent most of the day working, but somewhere in there, I contacted my bank to figure out what was going on with my cards.  They never notified me of a security hold, but it turned out there was one.  This is a real problem with my chosen style of life.  I cannot count the number of time I have had to explain to banks, or staff of web sites to explain that yes, I am in Malaysia, or Spain, or Indonesia, and could they please bloody stop freezing me out of my accounts randomly every time I change countries.  I've even notified them I am traveling constantly but nothing works.  You have to be prepared to go cardless at any time for anywhere from 1 to 3 days.  Even if you aren't using cash, you need to have a stockpile to hold you over when suddenly none of your cards are working again, but whoever is on the other end of the phone line doesn't feel like answering right now.

 T + 32 hours
I was getting hungry.  I still didn't have confidence in my ability to use my cards, and I had limited cash left.  I decided to try to order food online.  This is when I learned I don't know my phone number.  And that I can't send text messages.  Or place phone calls.  Or find the web site for the phone.  Or use it for anything but a tethered modem.

 I finally got all the fields filled out, registered everything, and completed the online payment form.  I got my mastercard confirmation code, entered it, and things went poof.  I couldn't tell if I had just ordered food or not.  20 minutes later, I got a message to call the delivery company.  I couldn't use my phone.  I couldn't get google hangouts to dial the number.  I couldn't get a local number from Skype.  I finally got Skype to dial the number.  They told me my card had been declined, then that it was still in progress.  They said they would have the food delivered, but it would be CoD.  Unfortunately, I have 430,000 rupiah left, and it would cost 415,000.  Oh well.

 30 minutes later, I got another email.  They couldn't find my place, and since the phone number I provided was not an Indonesian number, they couldn't call to get my help.  Forget the fact that if they had called me, I would probably not have understood them on the phone, and even if I did understand them, and they me, I couldn't direct you to my location any more than I could give directions in the Sahara.  I didn't know where I was.  I couldn't even remember the name of the street.

 T + 33 hours
It wasn't until nearly 6 pm that I went out to get cash and my first real meal in Indonesia.  I walked out to the main street, found an atm, and actually got cash this time.  The exchange rate is so foreign that I am struggling to get my head around a sense of prices.  I've finally settled on something like this, price in dollars is about 2/3 the price in tens of thousands of rupiah.  This means 90,000 rupiah is roughly 6 dollars.  It isn't a perfect conversion, but it is pretty close.  (Technically, today, 90,000 rupiah is $6.52 USD.)  It is certainly close enough for a general sense of how much money things cost and how fast your burn rate is.  Assuming, of course that you can get your head around how 10,000 of something is less than 1 dollar.

 I walked to the beach, and had a 1 kg grilled fresh sea bass, some kind of green vegetable that I couldn't identify, rice, condiments, and a couple of drinks.  It was more than enough food for 2 full meals.  I paid less than $11 for the whole thing.  My table was out on the beach, and I watched the end sunset for my meal.

 On the way back from dinner, I walked down the wrong street and ended up back out on the main street in the area.  Along the way, I stopped at, of all places, Circle K.  I just love seeing those American brand names in other countries. Among other things, I grabbed a "single source coffee" from Indonesia.  I think it was a Balinese coffee.

 When I got back to the room, I carefully unplugged my computer, then made hot water for coffee. Whoops.  The power was out again.  This time, only the AC, the electric kettle, and the fridge were plugged in.  Apparently, the AC and the electric kettle cannot both be on at the same time.  Another message to my host.  Then I called, just in case.  They weren't very responsive in the evening the day before.  Calling was a challenge.  I cannot use my phone for anything but data right now.  I don't have a balance for things like text messages and phone calls, and can't figure out what my phone number is, nor how to top up my balance.  I guess I'm going to have to go search that out sometime soon as well.

 They could barely understand me on the phone, but I got a message soon from the host.  First came instructions for getting into the room next door, then after a while instructions for resetting the circuit breaker.  I got the latter about 2 minutes after I had found the circuit breakers at the far end of the building in the back and fixed the problem myself.

 Back in the room, the roaches were taking stock.  I made my peace with them, then bumped one of my backpacks and one scurried out.  I really don't want to think about how many might be in there.  I guess I have to unpack everything and repack it before I move so I don't take any with me.

 T + 44 hours
It is 5 am.  I haven't slept at all tonight.  I can't decide if walking to the east side of this isthmus before sunrise is a good idea or not.  It seems like it should be a bad idea, but it would only be a bad idea if by not going I would get some sleep.  I just don't know how true that is.

 At some point yesterday, I signed up for the Hubud coworking facility.  If they ever approve me, I should be an unlimited member.  Now, I just have to solve the 1 hour commute, without spending $50 a day on taxis.  Either a car or a motorbike / scooter rental is probably in my future.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Borneo Paradise - Kuching, Malaysia

I've been here in Kuching, Malaysia for a week.  In such a short time, I already cannot recount all the amazing things I've seen and done.

I am staying at the Secret Sanctuary here in Kuching.  Walk out the front door and you find yourself just moments from the city.  The nearest restaurants, markets, and shopping are just minutes away by foot, or you can dive right into the traffic to go further.

My favorite hammock, conveniently in front of my room.
From inside, however, you cannot tell you are anywhere but in a tropical paradise.  The Sanctuary is difficult to describe.  With the exception of the bedrooms, nearly every space is open to the outside.  Much of it is roofed, but much is not.  The walls are natural walls built of stone, or hanging net, or bamboo lashed together.  There is a fish pond, a fish spa (smaller fish you can soak in the water with), and a pool which includes a full on waterfall.  The bedrooms are interspersed around the premises and feel private despite being right in the middle of things.

The staff of the Sanctuary all seem to live on the premises.  They are friendly, helpful, and thoughtful, and will accommodate any reasonable need or desire.  I felt like they adopted me into their family immediately, and I am more comfortable here than anywhere I have been in the last ten years.

The temperature here is hot and it is humid, but being able to swim whenever you might desire takes the edge off the heat.
I usually work at the low table on the left.

I am comfortable working anywhere on site.  The internet is good (4.5 Mbps down, 3.5 Mbps up),  but latency between here and the United States is terrible.  Video and voice calls with my coworkers, on top of being exactly 12 hours off from their time, has been a challenge.

There has been a powerful haze that has been strengthening since I arrived.  Apparently, burning in the Indonesian part of Borneo has swept across the border to affect Sarawang.  We did get an afternoon of gorgeous clarity after this significant downpour:

Friday, July 31, 2015

Poor Planning & Appropriate Patience - The Hague, Netherlands

Until Thursday of last week, I was convinced I was flying from Dublin to Den Haag (the Hague), on a 6 am flight on Saturday.  I do not excel at dates and times, but when I read a date, thought, "that's Sunday," and had a brief panic about whether the dates for my accommodations and my flight matched up, everything turned out to be on Sunday.  Who knows how I managed to get Saturday stuck in my head.  Once everything was sorted, and I had an extra day in Dublin, I felt a lot of misguided relief.

From Tuesday of last week, work was crazy.  I'm not going to go into it here, but come Thursday, I was struggling to meet a deadline I was afraid I couldn't possibly meet.  I worked a 15 hour day on Thursday, an 18 hour day on Friday, then worked from 6 am on Saturday until after 2 am on Sunday. When I managed to get everything tested, merged, tested again, and pushed, I felt tremendous relief.  I had about 45 minutes before I had planned to leave for the airport.  I wouldn't be sleeping, but I was ready to go.

At 3 am, I logged in to Uber and requested a car.  No cars available.  This is when the fear started to creep in.  I ignored the flashes of worst case scenario.  My computer was packed.  My phone was not great for searching, and my terrible through the floor wifi access was not helping.  I found a cab company online that had merged with some uber like app on another site.

The site swore I could book a taxi online, but I could not find out how on my phone.  I checked Uber a couple more times, figured out how to download the app for the other company, then couldn't register.  They wanted to send a text message to my phone.  My phone had no SIM card.  My iPad had a SIM card, but a text message sent there did not work.  I had a skype phone number but a text there didn't work either.

At approximately 3:50 am, I gave up and pulled out my laptop.  I didn't think I had time to walk to a train station / find a bus to get to the airport early enough.  I was beginning to imagine going to the airport and buying a ticket for the next flight to Amsterdam, no matter what the cost.

I could not register for the site on my laptop either.  Still the problem with no phone.  However, I found the online link for booking a taxi.  While I was fighting with the site, I was also compulsively checking Uber on my phone.  I book a trip on the site.  It says someone will be there in 7 minutes, but it conspicuously says no driver has been selected.  After 10 minutes, I call the company.

They explain there is no driver available, and they are trying.  All the while, I'm checking Uber.  I explain that I have a 6 am flight, and need to get to the airport, and they say they will try.  Just as the web site finally updates to say a driver is on his way, I somehow book an Uber Black car.  (Nicer cars than Uber X and more expensive.)  Now, at 4:15 am, I have two cars on their way, and as soon as I leave the apartment, I can't check Uber, because my phone has no SIM card.

I head down to the street, and a taxi pulls up in front of me.  I get in and I'm on my way, right?  Except that as we approach the first intersection, I notice the keys in my hand.  I was supposed to drop them in the mailbox on the way out.  We turn around, I drop off the keys, and we head for the airport.  During my conversation with the driver, I realize that this is neither of the cars I had booked to come pick me up.  I apologize to whatever future driver has as much trouble or more than I did because I stood up not one, but two taxi reservations.

I get to the airport around 4:45 am, and there are a lot more people than I expected, but not terribly so.  I make it to the gate by 4:50 am, and I start to relax.  The flight was nothing special, but not bad.   Flying in to Amsterdam, I saw windmill farms out in the water.  Not at all where I expected to see them.  Those Dutch are all about the windmills.

At the airport, I zipped over to baggage claim in record time.  And then, I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Half the bags showed up.  The rest just would not show up.  Finally, over an hour later, my bag and another 20 backpacks from some scouting troop arrived.

While waiting for my bag, I had a chance to reflect on some poor decisions in packing.  I expect that at some point on this wild journey I'm on, I will lose one of my bags.  I try to accommodate that possibility when I pack.  Here is how that is supposed to go.

My carry on bag gets a full change of clothes.  It gets my computer which should not be in a checked bag.  It also gets things I expect to use on the flight, like my kindle, and my phone which I will almost certainly use at my destination.  It should not get my iPad.  My iPad is my backup computing device if I lose my carry on bag with my computer in it.  My carry on usually also gets either my hoodie if things might be cold, or my rain jacket if it might be raining.

My checked bag gets all of my toiletries which won't pass through security.  It should get my iPad.  It gets a full change of clothes.  It also gets all of my miscellaneous power cables, and adapters for international travel, including my power strip that I inherited.  It gets whichever of jacket or hoodie that didn't go into my carry on.

Finally, my towel goes into whichever bag has the room for it.  I prefer it in my carry on, for nostalgia reasons.

Here are the things I did wrong during final packing at 2 am after 20 hours of work on the back of 2 days of short sleep.  I put the power adapter for my laptop in my checked bag.  If my checked bag didn't arrive, I had power for my laptop for the life of one battery charge.  I think this is normally 2-4 hours of heavy usage, and believe me, my laptop experiences very heavy usage.  I put all of my electronic devices in my carry on bag, and all except for my iPad power cable, all cables were in the checked bag.  At that point, I had compromised most of my backups for electronics and could have been in a very bad place if I lost one bag, or a not great place if I lost the other.  I think I need to write out a packing guide for myself.

I also need to plan out my travel better.  I should have already had a car booked to take me to the airport if that was my plan.  I'm not sure if I can really say lesson learned or not, but lesson lived through.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Packing Game Conclusion - Dublin, Ireland

I finished the packing game.  Here are the results.  Apologies for the low quality of the images.  I'm not much of a photographer.

What I'm not taking with me.

The clothes I am taking.

Everything before I pack it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Small Things - Dublin, Ireland

No matter where you are in the world, the ability to take pleasure in the small things can make your life better.

Here in Dublin, since moving to the second apartment, nearly every night, I've seen a gorgeous sunset.  Dublin is on the coast, and the apartment looks out over the Liffey river.  The frequent cloud cover, and unblocked sun from all around makes for gorgeous colors and a daily art show.

In addition, I'm often awake for the twilights at the beginning and the end of the days.  Despite the short nights, the pleasures of these skies are worth every lost hour of sleep.

I've also had the pleasure of watching the early moments of life for the pair of seagull fledgelings only 50m from my window.  I've seen ups and downs, as they fell from their nest, beat their wings furiously trying to get home again, and finally began flying.

The gulls fly around here constantly, and roost on the roof of the college next door.  They reel and dance and caper constantly, and their voices are a song throughout my day.  Often, they will fly almost straight at my window, just topping the roof above me.

What have you noticed lately that made your life better?  Are you seeing what is right around you?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Packing - Dublin, Ireland

It is T-4 days until I have a 6 am flight from Dublin to Amsterdam.  I've been in the same apartment for approximately 6 weeks.  Everything I own has exploded all over the apartment.  It's time to start packing.

Tasks for the day, laundry with any clothes that take a long time to dry.  This is primarily my hoodie.  I can't wash it at the last minute, and don't want mildew smell in my bags.

I am also starting the game of "What do I leave behind this time?"  So far, I've left something behind, intentionally, with every change of locale.  This is one of my favorite games.  I'm slowly paring away the objects I own, until there is literally nothing left to get rid of.

Right now, I'm looking forward to colder climes, and thinking I need space if I'm going to prepare for them.  Among the things on the chopping block: 1/2 to 2/3 of the clothes I own; every physical book I own;  all or most paper products, like envelops, notebooks, etc; some of my excess toiletries; excess spare/reusable bags.

Some things I'm thinking about adding to my bag that weren't there before: my jar of coconut oil; my new pumice stone.  I have begun to replace most of my toiletries with coconut oil.  I've used it variously as shaving cream, moisturiser, cooking oil, conditioner, and aftershave.

Hopefully, there will be pictures soonish of the things I decide to leave behind.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Squeeeeee! - Dublin, Ireland

For a long time, I've been a fan and supporter of Lindsey Doe and Sexplanations.  Last year, before Subbable was subsumed into Patreon, I was a 1% supporter.  My individual support was equal to 1% of all the support of their monthly goal.  Around the end of the year, I quit my old job and had to cancel basically every monthly expense I had.  When I started to get paid by my new job, I could start supporting all the things I wanted to support, and I started supporting their new Patreon at the highest level they had.

Over the past months, I've exchanged a few messages with Lindsey over Patreon, in response to reward levels, polls, etc.  I never really thought much about it, except to be a bit excited to get messages from her and respond to them directly.  You see, I have a rather large crush on Dr. Doe.  She is intelligent, playful, cute, silly, and an amazing and honest communicator.  I don't generally get crushes on celebrities, but of the few I do get, she is right at the top of the list.

Last night, I was up way too late.  At 0241 am, I see a message from Patreon with a link to a YouTube video.  Lindsey is doing a live hangout.  One thing leads to another, and I find myself in a Google Hangout, live, with the object of my crush.  Still, not quite an oh, jeez moment, but bloody close.

Then, this happened:  mid thought, she pauses for a second and a half then says, "Sean Carley, like THE Sean Carley is here?"

"Uh, the Sean Carley," I laughed, "I'm the only one I know, but there are more online."

"The Sean Carley whose packages are accumulating...."

"Yes, that one."

"Coooool.  It's so good to meet you."

At this point, my heart felt all fluttery and I may have ceased to be a rational being for a while.

Watch the video (and try to imagine what it would feel like to have your celebrity crush treat you like you are the celebrity.

After this, Dr. Doe cubed me and a handful of others on a live hangout.