When we moved to Vietnam almost a year ago I spent hours pouring over Lonely Planet guides and endless blogs creating my “list” of things I wanted to do and see.

When we returned in July from our Sapa  and Ha Long Bay trip, I felt satisfied like that feeling you get when you close the cover on a great book.  A book that transported you into another place or time,  lingered on the edge of your thoughts, left you daydreaming about the characters long after you set it down. It leaves you a little sad to say goodbye but the story lives on in your mind like old yellowed photographs of forgotten friends. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had closed the book……

A month away would be good  for all of us I thought. The apartment walls were closing in, Zeb was not doing well boxed up, Silas was hardly leaving anymore and the boys were eating too much junk food living above the Select mart (basically a 7-11). Sapa had been a great reprieve from the constraints of the hazy, concrete summer of Saigon. I saw a change in the boys one that we needed to see more of.

Before the plane had left the tarmac I was quietly stressing out over the return. I didn’t see a second book in the works….But, what was I to do?  Our lease was signed, school would be starting, I didn’t want to go back to the states and Philip wasn’t ready to step so far away from his office in Ho Chi Minh. New Zealand wasn’t an option yet….

I approached this dilemma like any restless Gemini would and hatched a new plan….Philip needs a place to work but really only needs to be in office one week a month so, where could we live that would be close enough for Philip to commute?

Singapore, maybe Kuala Lumpur?  Both great cities, family friendly, lots to do….I walked around Singapore imagining what it would be like to live there.. It would be easy to transition, it’s safe, has great public transportation, lots of schools and a large expat community…..Kuala Lumpur has great parks, diverse population, good schools…both are cheap , short flights back to Ho Chi…..

But, they are both still cities… It was time to return to our roots and get back to nature….What about Bali? Sun, surf, mountains an amazing school in the jungle…..  Only 3 hour flight from VN. sounded perfect to me. All I needed to do was entice Philip with the surf and see what the school was all about….. I started throwing out comments to no-one in particular but always loud enough for Philip to hear. “Wow, BALI sure looks like a great place to learn to surf”,  or ” BALI sounds like it’s a pretty cheap place to live” and “The boys would love the Green School in BALI!” emphasizing the points that would appeal to him. Generally though his comment back was “who are you talking to and why are you shouting?”  But, I knew  the seed had been planted…

My first impressions of Bali were lost in the late night downpour. We made our way from the airport through the rising water to the hotel where we quickly fell into a deep sleep for about 3 hours until we were rudely pulled from our dreams at 4am by dueling roosters….these two battled it out  for 2 hours.  They finally  stopped, now the sun was up and glaring through the paper-thin blinds.  As the light filled the room I was not impressed. The walls were stained a deep yellow, there were pools of water under the leaky roof, toilet water was seeping into the shower…..yuck.

The hotel said it was “within walking distance to the beach”… this is only if you like walking miles (Ok, maybe 1K) on a busy road in the heat with your kids…I don’t.  Especially when I’ve had no sleep. We finally make it to the beach and it’s nice…in a sedate sort of way…nothing wow…but there are small things shining through that are intriguing me.. The ladies placing offerings everywhere. In front of their doors on the streets , on dashboards and in windows. Then there was cinnamony smell of incense, altars on street corners and hindu detites peeking out from checkered aprons…. So my interest was piqued but, I wasn’t feeling like this would be the place…

After another night at the rooster hotel and I was seriously considering roast chicken for dinner. Luckily we found another hotel  in Sanur right near the beach that was beautiful and only a couple of dollars more for the next 4 nights. We moved over there and settled in. Philip was checking out surfing lessons and I was trying to stay awake while Zeb and Arlo jumped on the trampoline. [True story here] As I sit there with heavy lids under the afternoon sun, an image flashes through my mind of Arlo crying with a broken arm… ‘oh please no’ I thought to my self  our trip is just getting started…..

5 minutes later Silas (or Marmaduke in this case) bounds into the small trampoline bored, wanting to “play” with his brothers. No one is fighting yet and I had already forgotten about my preminition so I didn’t tell him to get out. Seconds later I am wide awake kicking myself as Lolo is double bounced by Marmaduke through the zipper he left unzipped. Flying Superman-style through the air he lands hard on the ground. I rush over to him he’s crying I can see by the angle of his arm that it’s broken…..

We call a cab and he takes us to the local “international” hospital where they proceeded to “bleed” his ear all over his white shirt. They said they needed to put him to sleep to fix the break, after three nurses tried to no avail to “find the vein” they decided they would take him in the back without us. “Maybe try gas, then find vein or use shots”

Okay, Thank you, but  time to go. Arlo has never even had antibiotics there was no way in hell we were sending him in the “back” to get gassed! So, we take the tired, bleeding-eared, broken-armed Lolo back to the hotel to try to find another hospital. We learn that there is an SOS clinic about 40 minutes away (these are well know expat clinic’s we had used one in Saigon). We get there  late and they fax his x-rays over to a specialist in Jakarta. We are told that the break is bad and will require pins.  He needs to go to Singapore for surgery. Woo, so now we  take a hungry, tired, dried blood eared, broken armed boy for chocolate chip pancakes and back to the hotel to wait in pain for a flight the following day…..

It was a long restless night for all of us but by morning  his arm was sort of numb so he was actually in good spirits. He is no fool, he saw this as a double, make that a triple-dip kind of day. A broken arm, surgery, and his birthday!! Ya, he was going to make out like a bandit not only once but twice. First with me while we were in Singapore, and again with Philip and the boys when he returned with his cast!! So after 5 days start to finish we were back to Bali a week of the trip gone…

I felt like I had only glimpsed the place. But while I was away  Bali worked her magic on Philip and the boys. They spent the time falling in love with the surf and had moved from Sanur to the little village of  Canngu. That afternoon the boys took us down to Echo beach. It was love at first sight…the rocks, the surf, the temple! Now this I could see as home.  Philip and I went to dinner alone  that night. walking along the beach on our way to eat we came along  a huge celebration spilling out from the temple onto the beach and onto the rocks jutting out to sea. We were mezmorissezed and stayed to watch as the ceremony got under way. We were told it was for purification….

The next day we decided to check out the Green School. After looking at the website I knew I was going to love it but Philip was a little more skeptical. After 3 hours of touring and talking to the administrators Philip was convinced. 1 down 3 to go..Arlo was like baking brownies in an easy bake oven. He fell for the “cooling bubble” and there was no going back. All he had to say is “when can I start”…Next was Zeb we brought him back the following day and between the campus grounds and the “cooling bubble” I had another one hooked!  We decided not to take Silas until we knew for sure we could work it out…He had looked at the web site and his only comment was ” I can’t believe you’re sending me back to another hippie school”. So, okay 3 out of 4 aint bad and really unless I said we were moving to Italy, Asheville or Ketchum I wasn’t going to get a positive response from Si. Even though he loved surfing and hated the apartment he wasn’t bending.

Green School Bridge

On top of the beaches, and the school, the people are wonderful.. A whole new culture to explore, a new language to learn (should be a lot easier than Vietnamese)  And hinduism offers us a new and ever-present religion to observe. I can smell the fresh pages of a newly opened book….

Now we were pushing the end of the second week. If we were going to make this happen we had to work fast. Philip would be leaving for the states on the 1st and i was flying back to VN on the 2nd to either pack up and leave before our visa’ ran out on the 12th…or settle in start book 2……

We needed to find a house. The first day we found someone to help us look, and I felt a scratch in my eye like I had sand it. By the time we get to the second house my eye is swollen, red and full of puss…That night things get a lot worse and I am out for three days not able to open one eye at all and only a slit for the other….By the time I’m well enough to be seen in sunglasses..we have 2 days left. We find a place it’s lovely close to beach, perfect. But, hours before Philip’s flight the house falls through…He leaves and the boys and I fly back to VN  after  a pit stop in Singapore to have Arlo’s pins removed and his new cast put on.

Shit, should I just pack up and find a house when we get there? Should we just stay put like we planned…

24 hours after we return I have two rooms packed. We are going back. House or no house it’s time to go. Then at the last-minute someone from the school told us about a house  in Canggu we grabbed it up and a week later the boys and I were moved. Philip met us here the following day. We’ve been here about 10 days and it feels like home. The house is great and the boys (even Silas ) love the new school.

So dust off your passports, get out the luggage, and come visit us in Bali!! Whose first?

traditional dance performance

early morning

Zeb pouring wax on his design

Zeb and Arlo and I took a batik classes. It was a lot of fun.

Zeb and Philip taking a wood carving class

Zeb and Philip taking a wood carving class

On the way to the bus stop....