I Have Rented A Villa In Bali!

We have a 3-bedroom house with a spacious common space, kitchen and two bathrooms. I’m sharing it with another girl from Poland, Ewa, who is now slowly becoming my little sister. The latest update is that since two days ago we’ve had a new flatmate – Diana from Slovenia. Our house is big enough to have visitors staying over and I’d like to take this chance and officially invite my friends to discover Indonesia with me! Not sure yet how long I’ll stay in Bali, as I’m also planning to spend some time on other islands. There are around 17,000 of them (or more, according to some documentation, and depending on the level of the ocean), so a long journey is in front of me.

But if you decide to come and let me know in advance, I will be here to keep you company, help you drive your first motorbike, cross the road in this congested traffic, eat way too spicy food in your first warung, and then, as a result, perhaps overcome your first stomach revolution. Those were my greatest fears, and I experienced them all. I am still awaiting Dengue – a disease spread by mosquitoes, with symptoms including fever, terrible headache and willingness to die ASAP to get rid of them.

Initially, we were a cohort of 12 Darmasiswa students in Jimbaran searching for digs. Our coordinator, Bapak (Mr) Nyoman Rajin showed us several houses and boarding houses on the second day of our stay in Bali. I was not convinced by any of them, and gave myself another day to search. Some guys, including Fanni from Hungary, Ilija from Serbia (whose name sounds almost like mine and we never know if others say Ilija or Emilia), Pass from Thailand, and Eliyyahu from Fiji, decided on rooms in a kost (a kind of boarding house) offered by a lovely lady named Ibu (Mrs) Bunda. I was really tempted by her rooms and the way she acted towards us, but eventually the only one left was next to a bird that belonged to her and was noisy like hell. I didn’t believe our coordinator’s explanation that the bird was so loud because it was announcing that strangers have come. No one will ever convince me that birds are closely related to dogs in biological systematics.

Next day we continued in a smaller group, now by ourselves, without Bapak Rajin. Five of the students rented a lovely Japanese-style house. Me and Ewa were now the only homeless ones. But it was not long until we found our new place on Earth.

Looking for accommodation was how I imagine the door-to-door field methodology is in Nielsen studies. You walk along the street, knock on the door, and ask if there are any rooms available. We did very well as for the first time! A Balinese girl walked us around a few boarding houses, but they were all full. And she was apologising for not being able to help – the locals are adorable. Then me and Ewa, getting a bit hungry and tired of heat, asked in a few other houses. No luck.

Then we opened a big gate behind which we saw a little in-home manufacture of offerings: two women that looked like a mother and daughter were making beautiful compositions of flowers and banana leaves. These were offerings for gods that Hindu people place inside their house or at the entrance for protection. We spoke to a man named Rama, the only one of the three who answered in English. It quickly turned out that in this house he lives with his mother and wife, rents a few rooms nearby, and has a house for rent that we can reach via a short ride on a motorbike. ‘You no have bike? Have mine’. And he is leaving us with his motorbike, getting another one from his wife. ‘Bapak, we have never driven one’. Well, I have, but it was 15 years ago. I did not really feel experienced enough to ride a motorbike in this crazy traffic without a short introduction.

We must have looked funny with our facial expressions, as here in Bali everybody rides a bike. Families with babies, vendors with all their supply – they do not walk at all, even if the distance is very short. After literally a one-minute ride we arrived at our destination. Ewa behind Rama’s back, me behind his wife’s on the other bike.

We loved the house at first sight. It was spacious, relatively clean compared to what we’d seen until that point, and we negotiated on the price so in the end we went down to almost half of the initial price. We kept repeating that we are students and our monthly allowance is only 2.65 MM Rupiahs. Which is, I must sadly admit, true. But where else could I be a millionaire?

Below some photos showing what it is like to be a millionaire in Bali.

Darmasiswa Orientation Program

Around 600 students from around the world gathered in Grand Sahid Jaya hotel in Jakarta for two days. We participated in several lectures with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic representatives from almost all the countries that take part in the program, including a Polish consul, Maciej Duszyński.

He himself was a Darmasiswa student a few years ago. He gave us useful tips on how to have a great time in Indonesia, minimising the risk of getting into trouble. The speech he gave to the frightened group of Polish students sounded like listing the Plagues of Egypt, including tropical diseases, getting arrested, being involved in a motorbike accident, followed by quiet: ‘but at the same time you are in the most beautiful country in the world’. And then he said something about diverse culture, primitivism painters and perhaps something about friendly people, but I was so focused on remembering the name of the antibiotic that he said is the only one really working to fight amoeba that I can’t recall any details.

The opening ceremony involved a short gig by a local band which played a few hits that most probably all gathered students could recognize. I said most probably because North Korea is also part of the program, and I am not sure if its students are familiar with any western songs.

The songs included some by Coldplay, Queen, and Michael Jackson. Good for Freddie Mercury that he had a chance to die before ‘We Are The Champions’ became the anthem to greet diplomats in the Darmasiswa program. However, ‘Heal The World’ by Michael Jackson, in this international context and together with my fondest memory of Jareczek – my beloved flatmate, who used to play that song on the piano while I would sing (or rather scream) along – seemed perfectly fitting.

I’ve never been in a place like this, being part of such an exotic blend. Not only did North Korea surprise me with its participation in the project. In the lift I spoke to a guy coming from perhaps the youngest country in the world, East Timor. Given the historical background of bitter relations between Indonesia and East Timor, that guy in the Javanese hotel was evidence to me that things have truly changed here.

Almost like Indonesian flag
Almost like Indonesian flag
100% Polish girl
100% Polish girl
From this part I did not escape
From this part I did not escape
Obligatory 'selfie' in the hotel bathroom
Obligatory ‘selfie’ in the hotel bathroom

I Have Sinned

I sneaked out from the opening ceremony. In this way I was trying to follow my dearest Ania’s advice to do things that I wouldn’t normally do in life. I took 2 girls with me, ordered an Uber taxi and did some sightseeing. I’m a rebel!

We went to Kota – the old part of Jakarta, with post-colonial architecture, or post-colonial ruins I should say. At Taman Fatahillah, the main square, the Dutch heritage is relatively well maintained.

Former town hall of the Dutch East Indies, now Jakarta History Museum
Former town hall of the Dutch East Indies, now Jakarta History Museum
Another reminder of the Dutch
Kota Tua Jakarta – Jakarta Old Town

Very soon we were caught by the rain. We found shelter with one of the vendors, having been invited into his little firework store in Pasar Glodok (Glodok Market) and offered chairs, thinking what to do, until we ordered an Uber taxi back to the hotel.

My Indonesian Adventure Has Begun

I promised many of you that I would write down my stories and post some photos. Thinking of a blog in which I would aim to update my friends with what I am up to, I faced difficult questions: How do I make a blog that is interesting, distinct from other travel blogs? What should be the main theme of the blog, so that each post is a piece of a whole?

My choices were:

1. How not to get unwanted sexual attention in Indonesia while being a bule (fair skin foreigner); more specifically, being a tall blond Eastern-European girl among the Balinese.

I would post photos with my bushy armpits or oily hair with Kuta beach, the cone of Mt Agung, or Uluwatu temple in the background. But after thorough analysis I realised it would ward off not only the locals, but, most of all, Australian surfers. Which is not my intention.

2. How to survive in a student environment while being a 30-year-old?

This would cover how to cope with your feelings that you don’t match the group which you made a deliberate decision to be a member of. Those feelings are accompanied by a peculiar pride that finally the urge to go where you want to go won out over the need to belong and to be going where your group is going. I came to that point barely a few days ago when having a walk in Jakarta by night I split from the group of Polish students that I flew here with. Better late than never, better over 10,000 km from home than nowhere.

3. How to travel while being in one’s 30s and not die of exhaustion?

It came to my mind when I read a column by Małgorzata Halber in which she described what a music festival looks and feels like for people in their mid or late 30s. It came to my body when I arrived at the hotel after a 24-hour journey. Nothing mattered but to have some food, take a shower and have a nap. Some people went on socializing, some others had a stroll around the streets nearby. I was ready to conquer the world only after a few hours of rest. However, the conquering was in the end limited to sitting in the hotel foyer, listening to live music and eating a melon. The battle was over for that night. The World vs. Emilia – 1 : 0.

I will count on you now. You can let me know which of the above options is most appealing. Or least appalling. I will be also happy to know your suggestions about the blog’s main theme. Not sure if I will follow them, because since that night in Jakarta, I’m an individualist rather than a group member. But it will be nice to get your feedback.

Stay in touch!

I hope this was fog
I hope this was fog
This is what an old person like me enjoyed most about Jakarta by night
This is what an old person like me enjoyed most about Jakarta by night
An evening stroll along streets of Jakarta
An evening stroll along streets of Jakarta
Mamo, karmią mnie tu dobrze
Mamo, karmią mnie tu dobrze