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A Birthday Like None Other

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A Birthday Like None Other

Adam's 28th year was brought in with a Balinese bang!

Our Balinese friend, Guli, invited a couple of bules (white people) to his family's temple ceremony. Thankfully, we were two of these lucky bules along with our new Colorado Springs friends, Rich and Danielle. The date of the ceremony was scheduled for an auspicious day on the Balinese calendar and just happened to fall on Adam's 28th birthday.

This kind of invitation is the ultimate travel experience for Adam and was quite the birthday gift to start off a new year!

 Guli

Guli

This ceremony celebrates the birth of the temple and is celebrated every six months through two cleansing ceremonies in the clan temple and again in the family temple. We had no idea what this meant and what we were in for, so cheers to another #nuventure!

 After arriving at the family's compound, we sat chatting with the men. 

After arriving at the family's compound, we sat chatting with the men. 

 We sampled sweet Balinese coffee, rice cookies, purple sweet potato and spicy chicken. Yum!

We sampled sweet Balinese coffee, rice cookies, purple sweet potato and spicy chicken. Yum!

All six senses were bursting with new and foreign stimulus all day. From our first step into the compound, we were constantly adjusting and soaking in all the new visuals, sounds, and smells that come with preparing for and taking part in a Balinese ceremony. Just imagine this scene: roosters constantly crowing, incense burning for the offerings being sent to the heavens, constant ringing of the priest's golden bell as he prayed,  the tonal pitch of eastern hymns, mischievous boys running and screaming around the temple,  and the vibrant colors in the decorations, the attire and in the fruit and flowers.

We were soaking all of this in whilst being creative in our communication with Guli's family through broken English, laughing, and enormous smiles. We wanted to make sure his family knew we were so thankful to be there with them on such a special day!

 The family temple decorated for the second ceremony. 

The family temple decorated for the second ceremony. 

 The family temple located right in the compound next to the bedrooms. 

The family temple located right in the compound next to the bedrooms. 

 The ladies started taking the offerings to the clan temple. 

The ladies started taking the offerings to the clan temple. 

 Everyone preparing the offerings in the family temple. 

Everyone preparing the offerings in the family temple. 

 While waiting for the ceremonies, Adam learned how to massage and condition cocks for cock fighting. 

While waiting for the ceremonies, Adam learned how to massage and condition cocks for cock fighting. 

We made our way to the clan temple for the first prayer and cleansing ceremony. As we were sitting on the bamboo mats in the clan temple, Guli was guiding us through the Balinese prayer ceremony we were about to experience. Just before it started he said, "I hope after today you will be better Christians."

 The family slowly trickled into the clan temple. The priest had started ringing his bell and the singing of prayerful songs had started. 

The family slowly trickled into the clan temple. The priest had started ringing his bell and the singing of prayerful songs had started. 

 How beautiful are these women? Waving flower petals and wafting their prayers to heaven. 

How beautiful are these women? Waving flower petals and wafting their prayers to heaven. 

 We are so bad. We're supposed to be praying! I'm not a good influence:)

We are so bad. We're supposed to be praying! I'm not a good influence:)

 We loved how the boys could just play and be themselves during the ceremony. 

We loved how the boys could just play and be themselves during the ceremony. 

 The women, the colors, the offerings. Ah! All are so lovely! 

The women, the colors, the offerings. Ah! All are so lovely! 

 Big contrast to Adam's Southern Baptist upbringing. This would be begging for a good switchin'!

Big contrast to Adam's Southern Baptist upbringing. This would be begging for a good switchin'!

 Guli's uncle chummed up with Adam all day. He's holding a grilled chicken with the head, beak and talons still intact. It's snack time after the ceremony. Dig in!

Guli's uncle chummed up with Adam all day. He's holding a grilled chicken with the head, beak and talons still intact. It's snack time after the ceremony. Dig in!

 Small piece of Guli's family. 

Small piece of Guli's family. 

 While waiting for the second ceremony, we sat and chatted again. Everyone was amazed by Rich smoking his pipe. Never seen a pipe before!

While waiting for the second ceremony, we sat and chatted again. Everyone was amazed by Rich smoking his pipe. Never seen a pipe before!

 Everyone's watching curiously!

Everyone's watching curiously!

 The men were preparing a fire cracker to explode during the next ceremony to scare away evil spirits. 

The men were preparing a fire cracker to explode during the next ceremony to scare away evil spirits. 

 A fire was lit under three bamboo stalks right outside the family temple. Everyone laughed and made fun of each others' shock when each one exploded.  

A fire was lit under three bamboo stalks right outside the family temple. Everyone laughed and made fun of each others' shock when each one exploded.  

 The women are still bringing in more and more offerings for the ceremony in the family temple. 

The women are still bringing in more and more offerings for the ceremony in the family temple. 

 And more...

And more...

 The entire family squeezed together on the ground for the ceremony to begin. 

The entire family squeezed together on the ground for the ceremony to begin. 

 The priest prayed, rang his bell, led us through prayers and drenched us with holy water. 

The priest prayed, rang his bell, led us through prayers and drenched us with holy water. 

 Guli's uncle led the songs of prayer and guided us through the singing. 

Guli's uncle led the songs of prayer and guided us through the singing. 

 So many offerings of cakes, fruit, flowers, rice and chicken. 

So many offerings of cakes, fruit, flowers, rice and chicken. 

 The camera just can't capture it all. Heaps of offerings were on the tables, in the temple's nooks and crannies, and on the ground. 

The camera just can't capture it all. Heaps of offerings were on the tables, in the temple's nooks and crannies, and on the ground. 

 After the ceremonies, it was time to eat! Guli presented Adam a cake from the offerings as a birthday cake. Balinese folks don't have birthdays, but are familiar with Western traditions.  He asked, "Should we light the candles?"

After the ceremonies, it was time to eat! Guli presented Adam a cake from the offerings as a birthday cake. Balinese folks don't have birthdays, but are familiar with Western traditions.  He asked, "Should we light the candles?"

 The family all followed us out to wave goodbye. Ah! What an amazing day!

The family all followed us out to wave goodbye. Ah! What an amazing day!

The day ended and we crashed into bed with yet another day of our minds exploding from all the learning and our hearts full from the love we received from another beautiful Balinese family.

 Family photo!

Family photo!

The next morning I woke up in a groggy stupor and realized I had no idea what had happened on Adam's birthday. I was in absolutely every moment. I saw it all, took in all the noises, smells, tastes, brilliant colors and smiles. We even took part in the same ceremony twice. I still had no idea what was sang, what was prayed, why certain colors were chosen, why they have three ladies praying instead of four, etc, etc.

Before I started googling the heck out of Balinese human temple ceremonies, I had a revelation. I was there. I don't need to google it. I don't need to know absolutely every intricate detail of what was said, what was sang or the purpose behind every small hand movement. The purpose of the day, the temple birthday and Adam's birthday, was celebrating life. Even though we all come from such different lives and backgrounds, we came together to celebrate. We united in celebrating life living in a world of the seen and unseen, the known and the unknown. To what we see and know, we all give thanks and for the unknown and unseen, we all get on our knees and pray.

Cheers to another year, Adam, of new, unknown adventures!

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Drenched in Balinese Culture: Nyoman (Part 3)

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Drenched in Balinese Culture: Nyoman (Part 3)

Our day being Drenched in Balinese Culture with Tinggly was so epic and jam packed with newness, we had to split up the revelations into several parts. If you missed out on Parts 1 & 2, head on over to get caught up! For Part 1, click here. For Part 2, click here.

We started making our way to the family's rice terraces. The Ubud region's rice terraces are known around the world and are scattered beautifully like a patchwork quilt.  Along the way, Made continued grabbing at plants and leaves to be used as ingredients in our meal. The family's property seemed to go on forever!

We arrived and were blown away by the lush, green rice terraces! The perfect way to finish the trek was to climb up the rice paddies to say hello to Made's uncle while he was out working the land.

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After saying hello, we continued our way higher to the edge of their property and found ladies finishing the last bit of the rice harvest.

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As we met the ladies working in the paddies, they started laughing at us! I thought they were laughing at my big eyes again. I was so curious and was observing their every move. I had no idea how rice grew, let alone how it's harvested. To be honest, the only visual I have ever known with rice is from National Geographic. You know what I mean, the pictures from far away Asia where people have the wide hats and are bent over in the wet paddies. Well, we arrived and were in the picture now!

 We are in the National Geographic picture! What?!?

We are in the National Geographic picture! What?!?

Well, they were laughing because they thought Made and I looked like sisters! Well, obviously I'm a white "Bule" and Made is, well, have you seen her yet? She is absolutely beautiful! So, I took that as a huge compliment!

 Sisters, yeah? I don't see it:(

Sisters, yeah? I don't see it:(

As we were all laughing, the ladies in the next paddy yelled to Made and she translated. "They are asking if you are married." We yelled back with big smiles showing our rings, “Yes! Two and a half years!”

“Baby yet?”

“Ha, ha! No!”

Now, their eyes got big as they responded in English “Ohhhh! No problem!” We all laughed.

The ladies continued working and Made had to explain to Adam and I how the harvest happens.

 Here are the rice stalks. 

Here are the rice stalks. 

 Here's the tiny rice grain coming from one of the pods on the stalk. 

Here's the tiny rice grain coming from one of the pods on the stalk. 

 To get the rice out of the pods, the ladies cut down a bunch of stalks. Then, they thresh (beat) the stalks against the basket several time. Through the threshing, the rice comes out of the pods and into the basket. 

To get the rice out of the pods, the ladies cut down a bunch of stalks. Then, they thresh (beat) the stalks against the basket several time. Through the threshing, the rice comes out of the pods and into the basket. 

 Another group of ladies beating their rice stalks. 

Another group of ladies beating their rice stalks. 

 Once the basket is full, the ladies pour the rice onto a tarp to haul the rice back to the house to dry out in the sun. The beaten stalks are tossed to the side to be burned later in preparation for the next rice planting. 

Once the basket is full, the ladies pour the rice onto a tarp to haul the rice back to the house to dry out in the sun. The beaten stalks are tossed to the side to be burned later in preparation for the next rice planting. 

The ladies gasped that we didn't know how to harvest rice. I couldn't understand their words to Made, but I could hear their shocked tone.  They asked confused, "Where are you from?" Their eyes lit up, "Ohhhh, America! Don't you have rice in America?" "Uh, no, not really. Only a little bit." Honestly, I only have rice once or twice a month in the states, if that. To these ladies, their entire lives have revolved around rice. They work in the rice fields every day and they eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

They looked at us, shook their heads and laughed like we were so foreign and so bizarre! Well, we are! Ha!

This exchange was just hysterical! All this newness, I was thrilled to be here!

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As we were descending the puzzle of the rice paddies, I asked Made what the ladies thought of us for being married two and a half years with no babies. Made explained that once you get married in Bali, you are expected to have babies right away. If you don’t have them, "Everyone will start talking a lot of things about you and will start taking you to the doctor." Well, we would have been the talk of the village for years then! We have now learned from other Balinese friends that it is absolutely normal for a man to take his fiancé on a "honeymoon before the wedding" to make sure she is able to have children. And, it's totally normal for a woman to be pregnant at her wedding and for the baby to be born three months after the wedding. "Ohhhhh!"

Over and over, our cultures are completely opposite!

As we climbed back up the hill, we were finally on the way to the kitchen. The cooking class had finally arrived!

Check out the last part of Drenched in Balinese Culture here to see the delicious food we learned to cook up! But first, how many spicy hot chilies ya want?

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Drenched in Balinese Culture: Made (Part 2)

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Drenched in Balinese Culture: Made (Part 2)

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If you are just jumping into our series onDrenched in Balinese Culture, make sure to read Part 1 here! This culture is the complete opposite of everything we have ever known.  Part 1 describes the head spinning differences we learned within our first short hour on a Balinese family's compound on our Tinggly experience!

If you already read the first bit, you are one of our biggest fans! Thank you so much! Cheers to Made (Part 2)! Enjoy!

Picking up where we left off, the first hour of our morning was hearing all of the shocking differences between Balinese culture compared to everything Adam and I have ever known. Our minds were reeling in the midst of hearing and seeing the family temple, their human temple, buried placentas, and the dynamics of an entire family living together. To get a grip on it all, I asked our hostess, Made, to sum up the difference between American culture and Balinese culture. Made was hesitant, but honest with us when she answered, "Americans spend their days working and a Balinese day is spent with their family."

I was smacked in the face with her honest answer!

 I'm sure my face went something like this!

I'm sure my face went something like this!

I wasn't offended at all, because I was totally prepared for that kind of answer. It doesn't mean it didn't hurt to hear, though. Everyone in the world knows that American working culture is tough with little or very few vacations. We have spent the last year hearing from Europeans about their lovely, annual six week holidays and their four month honeymoons. When we say Americans get two weeks per year everyone gasps! "What?!? Only two weeks?" We are a bit embarrased and definitely envious of our European friends! So, Made's honest opinion of the true differences and priorities of both cultures was valid. It makes me a bit sad, though, because we are and have been surrounded by Americans continually striving so hard to find the absolute balance between their faith, family, health, friends and work. Just the effort that goes into the balancing act is stressful in itself! We have all felt stretched too thin and pulled in every direction. To hear Made call us out, well dang. I'm sure my eyeballs hit their size limit many times throughout our day with her.

Made continued to tour us through the family's compound. Through every small bit of conversation, we were slowly putting the pieces together and seeing the fruits of communal living manifest themselves around us.

Another auntie waved as she came by to feed the pigs. The family raises pigs and cows to be sold. Made shared, "We don't need all that meat." All I could think was BACON!

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Making our way to the chicken coop, Made's face cringed at the thought that we eat chicken eggs. "No. We eat duck eggs." If they take their chickens' eggs, the chickens will stop laying. No good! They need the baby chicks for future chicken dinners.

So, when in Bali, do as the Balinese do. We tried duck eggs. Now, we ain't no egg connoisseurs, ya hear, but by golly they taste just the same!

 Their ducks lay 100 eggs a day!

Their ducks lay 100 eggs a day!

We were also learning this family was full of entrepreneurial spirit and had been very creative in finding different forms of income. As we continued walking down the path, we waved to men in their jungle. Had to be uncles working on the banana trees, right? Made laughed, "No, I don't know those people." The family has so much land covered with banana trees, they sell the leaves as another form of income. "Everyone always needs banana leaves for all of the ceremonies, offerings, and cooking," she explained. "Ah!"

We heard about members of her family as taxi drivers and painting class instructors. Then, we toured the family's rentable guest house and swimming pool overlooking their rice terraces. Just beautiful! The family even rents access to the river on their property for white water rafting tours to use. We already heard they sell cows, pigs and banana leaves. Oh yeah, we can't forget the cooking class we are currently experiencing and we hadn't even stepped into the kitchen yet!

 We were still gathering ingredients along their hillside on our walk to see the rice terraces. 

We were still gathering ingredients along their hillside on our walk to see the rice terraces. 

Seeing the family's creativity in using their strengths to find income inspires Adam and I. Along our nuventures, we have been traveling and seeing new places but it has also become a journey of dreaming about our future. We continually dream and brainstorm ways of diversifying our income so we aren't fully dependent on one source. Also, we are always thinking of ways to make passive income on the side as an extra boost each month. This is all in an effort to have more time for our family now and our family to come. We dream of working and making incomes remotely so we can travel for a month to Canmore, Alberta or to take off for the summer and road trip to see our families across the US. We want that to be "no big deal."

We have met so many fellow travelers and families along our journey that have been creative, figured out how to diversify their income, are working for themselves and have control of their days. We want that, too. We want to be able to go for a bike ride in the middle of the afternoon or get lunch with our kids at school and not have to explain ourselves to anyone.

We are working on giving this lifestyle a go. We may fail or we may decide the lack of a schedule and structure doesn't really work for us. We may realize we are working so much more time for less money than we did while working for an employer. Who knows how we will fair in taking new leaps of trying freelance work or developing passive modes of income. It's scary, but we know what we are working and hoping for in our future. More time. More time to do what we want, when we want, with the people we want to share time with. Made's family and their different lifestyle inspired us.

With those revelations all wracking through my brain, I snapped back to the task at hand as Made continued to lead us down the path guiding us toward their rice terraces.

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Want to check out the lush, green rice terraces or just get some comical relief from our conversation with the women harvesting? Read on to Drenched in Balinese Culture: Nyoman (Part 3) here!

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Drenched in Balinese Culture: Ketut (Part 4)

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Drenched in Balinese Culture: Ketut (Part 4)

After a jam packed day of constant culture shock we finally made our way to the kitchen for the Balinese traditional cooking class from Tinggly! Get yourself ready to have a mouth on fire! Brings me back to ATL's Varsity shouts of, "Whad'ya have!?!" Three, four, five or six chilies?

To read the cultural revelations we had prior to the cooking class, check out Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

We arrived in the outdoor kitchen exhausted from all of the learning and drenched with sweat from our trek up the rice terraces in the day's humidity. Our stomachs were ready too, as Made had been teasing us throughout the entire morning by picking ingredients along the way and letting us smell the delicious aromas. We were excited to get our cooking on!

As we walked up to the kitchen, Made's nephew was fishing in the family's pond!

 Just waiting for a bite.

Just waiting for a bite.

We heard a "Woop, woop!" He caught a fish! We were all yelling with excitement. Made turned to us,  "Do you want it fried or grilled?" I was confused, "Oh, no! He caught it! He should have it!" Again, completely different cultures. I was thinking he did all the work, the fish was his prize. Made brought me back to her culture of community. "No, it's for everyone! We'll all have it!"

 Stinkin' adorable!

Stinkin' adorable!

The menu for the class was soup, coconut salad, corn fritters, pork steamed in banana leaves, chicken on lemon grass skewers, banana fritters, sweet potato rice and now a side of fish!

 Everything was cooked on the wood fire stove!

Everything was cooked on the wood fire stove!

Amazingly, all of the ingredients were pulled from the family's garden and compound, except the salt, pepper and coriander. Incredible!

 Lemon grass, ginger, tumeric, chilies, peppers, garlic, coconut, salad (red onion), kaffir lime leaves, corn... 

Lemon grass, ginger, tumeric, chilies, peppers, garlic, coconut, salad (red onion), kaffir lime leaves, corn... 

Made explained that we must know the two most important aspects to Balinese cooking. One, you must have fresh ingredients. Two, you, "Chop, chop, chop," all the spices together in one big mix and then use bits of the mix for each part of the meal. A little in the soup, a little with the pork, some with the chicken, etc.

The big question finally arrived. "How many chilies?" I gulped and my eyes got big again. Adam has been force feeding himself the local spicy food for every meal to get acclimated. I, on the other hand, cheer him on and have been taking my time preferring the "local" French bakery over the spicy Balinese food sometimes (okay a lot of times). So, we settled on three hot chilies instead of the normal six Made usually makes for her family. I know, I know, I'm the weakest link. I'm getting there!

 We used grinding stones and pestles throughout the cooking!

We used grinding stones and pestles throughout the cooking!

 Start chopping the onion, garlic, and chilies for the spice mix. 

Start chopping the onion, garlic, and chilies for the spice mix. 

 Made and her sister-in-law didn't trust Adam chopping. They were afraid he would cut his fingers off, so they took over and made Adam start on the coconut shavings. 

Made and her sister-in-law didn't trust Adam chopping. They were afraid he would cut his fingers off, so they took over and made Adam start on the coconut shavings. 

 Chop, chop, chop until the spices look like dis. Then, you start mixing the spices into the chicken by grinding it together and the pestle and stone. 

Chop, chop, chop until the spices look like dis. Then, you start mixing the spices into the chicken by grinding it together and the pestle and stone. 

 But first, mix in the salt, palm sugar, and the kaffir lime leaf. 

But first, mix in the salt, palm sugar, and the kaffir lime leaf. 

 Coconut shavings for the coconut salad. 

Coconut shavings for the coconut salad. 

 I was working on smashing the garlic, salad (red onion) and the chilies for the corn fritters. 

I was working on smashing the garlic, salad (red onion) and the chilies for the corn fritters. 

 Corn fritters comin' right up!

Corn fritters comin' right up!

 Mix the pork with the spices. 

Mix the pork with the spices. 

 Made showing us how to wrap the chicken around lemon grass stalks for the grill and how to roll the pork into banana leaves for steaming. 

Made showing us how to wrap the chicken around lemon grass stalks for the grill and how to roll the pork into banana leaves for steaming. 

 Rolling the pork in banana leaves. 

Rolling the pork in banana leaves. 

 Adam on the lemon grass chicken skewers. 

Adam on the lemon grass chicken skewers. 

 Can't forget the staple: rice with sweet potatoes!

Can't forget the staple: rice with sweet potatoes!

 Looking good!

Looking good!

 The pork ready to go on the stove to be steamed!

The pork ready to go on the stove to be steamed!

 Chicken's going on the grill. 

Chicken's going on the grill. 

 Now, we wait. 

Now, we wait. 

Once the food was complete, Made created fifteen separate offerings of flowers, rice and other bits of all of the food we had prepared as a way to give thanks and bless the meal.

 The offerings with flowers, food, rice and holy water. 

The offerings with flowers, food, rice and holy water. 

She set the offerings all over the food preparation area near every resource that helped make the meal. One was placed on the stove, one near their natural spring, another near the pond, one in the tree where the lime came from, one near the bathroom, another at the kitchen entrance, and one in the area where we were eating. With each offering, she placed both the flowers and the rice down, lit an incense and flicked holy water on the offering for the blessings.

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It was amazing to watch this tradition! We have learned that about 30% of a woman's daily time is dedicated to preparing all of the blessings and offerings. That is a lot of time focusing on giving thanks!

It was now time to eat! We were so full from taste testing along the way, but we couldn't help but stuff ourselves to continue consuming the goodness.

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 Coconut salad

Coconut salad

 Soup

Soup

 Corn fritters

Corn fritters

To truly get the local eating experience, just find a seat on any flat surface and dig in with your hands mixing everything with the rice! Yum!

 This was all I could eat after all the taste testing. 

This was all I could eat after all the taste testing. 

With our bellies full, we relaxed, were treated with tea and coffee and had the treat of meeting Made’s mother-in-law and adorable kiddos!

 We interrupted Kadek's corn snack with our photo shoot!

We interrupted Kadek's corn snack with our photo shoot!

 Beautiful Grandma and Kadek. 

Beautiful Grandma and Kadek. 

Adam and I looked at my watch and then at each other. It was only 2 pm! We were worn out and exhausted. We had only spent six, short hours with Made and her family, but we tried to keep up and soak up the intricacies of Balinese culture. I felt so heavy like I had been totally immersed into a whole new way of living in every aspect!

 Our final walk through the compound. 

Our final walk through the compound. 

The car ride home was silent as we both looked out our respective windows watching the kites fly over the rice paddies. We were lost in our own reflections. We wanted to remember each moment of this amazing day forever! One thing we both knew, we were addicted to learning more about this beautiful Balinese culture. We think we could settle here for a while!

 It's kite flying season on Bali. The wind is just right, so all the kids build their own kites and fly them over the rice paddies. He's on his way!

It's kite flying season on Bali. The wind is just right, so all the kids build their own kites and fly them over the rice paddies. He's on his way!

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