Indonesia: Boys will be boys, but where are all the girls?

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I recently volunteered as an English teacher with a program called 4th World Love for a week in Sembalun, Indonesia. Sembalun is a remote village on the island of Lombok. To give you an idea of the poverty here, I lived with the wealthiest family and still used a squat toilet and didn’t have a shower.

This post was difficult for me to write. I left the village with conflicting memories. On one hand, the hospitality of the locals was unexpected and exactly what I needed during a period of homesickness. Many of my students made an effort to show me their beautiful country and way of life – and this is something I will never forget. Yet, my time here was tainted by my personal experience as a woman in the village. And while it
gave me insight into the lives and struggles women face in Indonesia, I’m sad to say I felt uncomfortable the majority of my stay and I left unimpressed with the education program provided by 4th World Love’s Cultural Development Center (CDC).

I was raised to approach every situation with a positive outlook and to search for beauty in the most trying situations. You’ll notice in my photos I’m smiling and happy, and I was! I had an eye-opening (although challenging) experience, and I’m so grateful my journey brought me to the people of Sembalun. However, due to the nature of my blog I won’t be discussing the amazing people I met and the fun things I did. Instead, I’ll focus on my experience as a female here and explain my dissatisfaction with the organization. So here’s how it starts… Continue reading

Indonesia: Seeking Balance in Bali

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Before I left the States my best friend’s mom, Carmen, and I talked about balance. She told me the key to being happy is to lead a balanced life. You have to balance your family, friends, love interests, work, pleasure, and personal growth. Since then, balance has become a personal mantra and daily focus.

When I planned my trip to Bali I was unaware that Balinese culture thrives on the concept of balance. They believe in Tri Hita Karana, the philosophy that one achieves happiness through three harmonious relationships: human interaction with the divine, other humans, and the environment. Because of this, Bali is a haven for balance seekers. And, really, what better way to practice it than yoga? In Ubud, it’s hard to walk down the street without seeing a yoga studio. I signed up for classes at the Yoga Barn, and I’ve gone every day.

One morning I decided to venture from the traditional classes. I chose Jungle Yoga. I was a bit apprehensive at the name, but if not in Bali, then where? I, of course, am late to class. Already sweating, I grab a mat. I plop in the back of the room and scurry into meditation pose.

Now, in a typical yoga class the mats are situated so everyone has an equal amount of practice space. The room is balanced. And, ideally, you should be able to see the instructor from wherever you sit. In this class, I know the instructor is male because of his voice but I only see blond curls. A wall of middle-aged women (which I will call the Divorce Field of Desperation, DFD for short) blocks the rest of him.

I had read that single women were flocking to Ubud after reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. Apparently, most are recently divorced and hoping to find a Brazilian love interest (Who can blame them when Javier Bardem is playing the part?). Continue reading