Bulgaria to Bali – the transition

We moved to Bali in late July… it is now mid-October (the first day of Term 1 break). The fact that this is our first blog post in Bali attests to how busy life has been here in Term 1. Wait…. I thought we were moving to a calm and exotic paradise… nope, this is paradise in the fast lane.

After three jam-packed weeks in North America, we transitioned to Bali. When we moved to China 4 years ago, we checked 9 bags. When we moved to Bulgaria 2 years ago, we checked 7 bags. When we moved to Bali, we checked… 5 bags. We hope that we have honed “our load” each time and have gotten better at this whole international moving thing. Getting below 5 bags in the future would be a big trick; considering the bike and dive gear takes up 3 bags alone. Our hobbies = life… but they sure take up a lot of kilos.

Thankfully, Dad and Robyn drove us down to Boston for the first leg of the transition. Our flights were Boston to Dubai, Dubai to Jakarta (stayed overnight) then Jakarta to Denpasar, Bali. Originally, the Jakarta layover wasn’t part of the transition, but the visa requirements recently changed in Indonesia, so we could only get our work visa in Jakarta. The overnight in Jakarta ended up being a blessing, we were able to get over the jet lag prior to arriving on Bali. We arrived in Bali on Wednesday evening, and started at school for orientation the next day.

Here is what we have been up to, for school and life, since Term 1 began:

> Settling into our home – We live in a beautiful and calm oasis that was built by the founders of the school. It is our relaxing happy place, complete with a garden, pool, and countless critters to keep us fascinated for hours. We have seen our first snake just outside our main door… and the critter had the audacity to leave snake skin behind to prove that he had been visiting multiple times. The tokay geckos can be spotted when entering our compound in the evenings; their golden eyes are humanlike despite their best efforts to avoid us. In the past two weeks, as the rains have increased, we have come home to crabs in the pool. Grant has gotten very good at fishing them out with a plastic pitcher. The snails of various colors and sizes eat our compost right outside the door, and the house geckos are always welcome inside to eat the insects.

> Transportation – For the first two months, we rented a scooter. I am still too shy to get “behind the wheel” but Grant has been doing a great job getting us around. It takes an amount of boldness to be successful on a scooter here; going up over the curbs and passing cars on the opposing lane of traffic is common practice. We had read about the traffic in Canggu/Berawa (the area where we live) prior to moving here; but nothing could have prepared us for the 5pm on a Friday rush hour. The issue with Canggu is that you have scooters competing alongside very large vehicles and dumpster trucks; it is clear that the roads weren’t built for this level of traffic. One of the first times out on my bicycle in Canggu, I was hit by a scooter traveling in the wrong lane of traffic. I walked away with some bruises and scrapes, but my bicycle needed serious repairs. It is common to see tourists with stitches and scrapes caused by scooter accidents, and, at school, many teachers and students alike show up with bruises and injuries. Living in Canggu, it appears that scooter/vehicle accidents are par for the course. In the last month, we became the proud owners of our own 2010 Vario scooter. She needs some new tires but has a good heart… I mean engine!

> School – Grant and I are doing our best to balance work and life, but this is a growth area for the future. With many classes to prep for and some new curriculum to learn, taking work home in the evenings and on the weekends has become commonplace. We enjoy our colleagues and the work environment at the school; if we ever have a question, we don’t have to look far for assistance. Something we both enjoyed thus far at the school was Camps Week. This is one week of school in Term 1 that is completely dedicated to students learning outside the classroom and experiencing various places in Bali/Indonesia. Grant chaperoned the Year 9 trip, and for me, the Year 7 trip with my advisory group. Grant traveled to Nusa Penida where his students learned about traditional Balinese illustrations, went snorkeling, and volunteered at both a dog shelter and a local elementary school. For my group, we traveled to Sangeh and Lovina, which are two very unique cultural places in Bali. Although it was weird to be apart from each other for nearly a week (we realized we hadn’t been apart for this length of time since Costa Rica in 2017), we had a great time with our students and enjoyed seeing them in a different light outside the classroom! Something else interesting at school has been Grant’s Special Effects Makeup class. He proposed the idea to the school administration in preparation for Halloween in a few weeks, and they went all in for it! Grant has run three out of four sessions thus far, and this has been a great way for Grant to share his unique skills with eager students!

> Diving – The initial reason we were drawn to Bali to teach and live was SCUBA diving… and it has not disappointed thus far. We have gone out several times on the weekends with OCA Divers in Sanur. The marine life is unreal, the water is warm, but the currents are no joke. Our favorite underwater critters thus far here are the larger-than-life Manta Rays! For Grant’s birthday, we got a group of friends together from school and did a day-long dive trip to Nusa Penida (a 45-minute boat ride away from Bali)!

> Cycling – Another hobby that we have been doing together in Bali is cycling. After my bicycle accident, I realized that I can’t take my very expensive carbon bike around on the roads. Thus, Grant and I took the plunge and got matching aluminum frame bikes – watch out now scooters! Our maiden voyage on the bikes was out to Tanah Lot, which is a famous temple on the water. Bike rides before school are the best because it puts us in a good mood for the rest of the day! One weekend, we cycled up to Ubud on Saturday morning and stayed overnight, before heading back to Canggu on Sunday morning. Ubud is TOO cool! It is nestled into the mountains and very nature-focused. The food, views, hike, and monkey forest there did not disappoint! We hope to make bike touring weekends a routine in the next term!

> Triathlon training – It brings sadness to write about this element of Term 1 now. A couple months ago, I signed up for a half Ironman 70.3 in Lombok. I knew that my residual fitness from Bulgaria would mean that, with only some effort, I would be prepared for this event in a couple months of time. Regardless, I trained intensely during the first term to prepare myself for this event. This meant very long bicycle rides on the weekends into the hills, long pool swims at school, and extended beach run sessions on the evenings and weekends. It also meant that I needed to pay for new carbon tires for my bike because mine didn’t work following the scooter crash. I got new tubeless tires and felt very prepared for the event last Saturday, October 7th. Grant and I took Friday off from school and flew over to Lombok; an island thirty minutes by plane from Bali. This was the third half Ironman and I was so excited but also anxious. At my last IM full event in Tallinn in August 2021, I had bike issues that almost cost me the event completion. On the morning of the event, I went over to check my bike and prepare my running items in the transition area. The back tire was completely flat. I brought it over to the bike mechanic on site who fixed it, but I should have suspected that something was wrong. The event started and the swim went so well! 1900 m in about 43 minutes, this is a new personal best! I ran to my bike, but the back tire was flat again. I went to the mechanic and he did a quick change to put in a new inner tube. The spectators and kids along the bike course were absolutely brilliant; cheering and waving each time a cyclist passed. Over halfway through the bike, I was feeling amazing and was on track to complete the bike section in under three hours. All of a sudden, at 52km, my front tire (that had sealant inside and no inner tube) flew off its rim. I lost all control and tried to brake and unclip my foot at the same time. I skidded across the road as I landed, but was otherwise ok. Thank God there was no one around including spectators. I got to the side of the road and flipped my bike to take off the front tire. Because there was sealant in it, the glue went everywhere and it was a sticky mess. It was tough to put in a new inner tube but after around an hour, I got it. While I was waiting, many volunteers drove by and radioed the bike mechanic for help. No one came. I pumped the tire up so that it was rideable and continued down the road with a volunteer close behind me. He has worried about me because he had seen the blood all over and was concerned about my bike. After ten km, I got off the bike and blew up the front tire again. The inner tube was losing air, most likely there was some small piece of gravel inside or the pressure from my handheld pump hadn’t been enough. I continued on until 70km; at this point, I only had 20km more to go to finish the bike. However, without the bike mechanic to bring another inner tube, this one wasn’t holding air. I was anxious as well because the last segment of road had many hills and all I imagined was another crash on a hill. Without a bike mechanic for support and with some of the volunteers’ words of anxiety, I chose to DNF. This means I was out of the race and not able to continue. The bike was put in the back of a truck and I joined a van of others who also had issues during the race; “What are you in for?” they asked as I entered the van. We talked the whole way back, which was for the best, because I was terribly upset. When I got back and saw Grant, a wave of relief flooded him. He didn’t know what had happened and didn’t even know if I was ok. I am super bummed and have my own personal thoughts related to the people who installed my tires, but the most important thing is that I am ok and no one else was injured in the process. After the grief has ended, I will sign up for another event. But never again IM with tubeless wheels.

> Roy – Another teacher at school reached out to the staff that a foster home was needed for one week for a dog in transition named Roy. Roy was part of an adoption agency here in Bali that looks for forever homes for dogs in need. Roy had been adopted into the agency around two years ago from an owner that ill-treated him. Our goal was to crate-train Roy and then he would leave for Canada after one week. It was nice having Roy in our home, but it was a big reminder about how much work goes into taking care of an animal. Roy was skittish with us for the first day, but then opened up slowly over time. By his time to leave, he was sitting with us on the couch and playing with us. We wish Roy all the happiness in his forever home in Canada and miss the little sweetie!

> Batu Belig – This is a beach located three minutes by scooter from our house. It has become one of our favorite places to go in the evenings or on the weekends when we need some beach time. Many people in Canggu like Echo or Berawa Beaches for the vibes, but Batu Belig matches our personality. It is calm and with a couple restaurants that we have grown to love. We find ourselves going back to Il Lido on a weekly basis. There is nothing like a coconut and sunset at the beach after a long day of work at school. Another beach that we went to once for some ocean swim training was Jambaran. It is a 45 minute scooter ride away and near the airport. It is magical and such a nice spot for beaching and swimming! We will be back there soon!

As I write this, we are on our way to Flores/Komodo for a dive trip with Inga and Thomas; dear friends visiting from Berlin. We are in serious need of some rest, relaxation, and…. mantas. We will do a Liveaboard to get our dive fix and explore Flores/Komodo national park before coming back to Canggu for Term 2 🙂