Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Long First Day to Bali

Yesterday lasted 45 hours.

It began at 4am Monday morning as I walked to the bus in Lowertown St. Paul, MN USA. I walked past that really big guy from the Bulldog bar having a smoke on the corner of 6th & Wacouta after his closing shift Sunday night -- a rare encounter with the nocturnal.

It ended near 1am Wednesday morning after a taxi from the airport to my hotel at Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia where the Aussie tourists were just heading out to the nightclubs and discotheques.

I awoke this morning to monkey calls at 5:30 and am hopeful I can get through the day with limited jet lag. It's 6am now and it's raining as I sit in the lush green gardens of my hotel writing this. It's a serious tropical downpour, but I did choose to travel in the wet season after all.

When I arrived at Un's Hotel I had a bit of an "oh shit" moment where it hit home that I'd be spending the next month solo in a developing nation where it often feels like the job of the locals is to separate me from my money. But I quickly remembered my zen pledge to just enjoy each moment and appreciate every experience. Ahh, my first tropical downpour! It's actually generating a cool breeze through the covered lanai on which I sit that seems to have helped disperse my old Minnesota nemesis, the mosquito.

Today's plan: Take a good long walk around the Kuta beach region to scope it all out - beach, bars, restaurants, surfing, tourist infrastructure, etc. I don't plan on staying here long but hope to do some surfing.

Technical Note: Having cell phone connection troubles even though I paid for the International plan from AT&T so I may not have that easy txt msg access as previously thought. Plenty of internet cafes in this part of the country, at least.

Air Travel
Flights went well. From Chicago to Seoul we had the personal video screens so I watched 4 movies - Get Low (pretty decent); All is Faire in Love (fun mockery of Renaissance Fairs); Toy Story 3 (very nicely done again); Eat, Pray, Love (it was horrible but I figured I should be familiar with it).

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Day Zero

I'm all packed and ready to go, leaving on a 6am flight tomorrow to Chicago, then Seoul, then Bali. Much to my surprise, I can actually catch the 54 bus at 4:10am to get me to the airport in time for my flight. Gotta love that public transit system.

All my stuff is packed into a carry-on sized backpack, so it'll be nice to know that everything will make the trip with me and also nice to have a light load. Included is an even smaller satchel-sized pack for short day trips or carrying stuff to the beach.

Today was the last of my 3 days of SCUBA dive training, too. We got to practice the backward roll into the pool, but I was disappointed they didn't teach everyone what SCUBA stands for. I guess it doesn't really matter anymore, but its one of those bits of trivia I've been carrying around forever.  Today we were in the deep end and even at only 12' deep, the whole process of descending, ascending and just hanging out takes a little getting used to.  One woman in my class had lots of trouble getting comfortable with even the simplest of skills underwater. I'll still have to do 4 open water dives in Indonesia before I'm 100% certified, however.

So here we go.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Indo Countdown

5 days and counting until my 6am flight leaves for Chicago on Monday morning.  Then it's 14 hours to Seoul, South Korea and then another 7+ hours to Bali, Indonesia.  I arrive Tuesday at midnight local time, so it effectively takes me 42 hours to get there because Bali is 14 hours ahead of us.

I've got my list together and have checked it more than twice.  I'll be packing in just a carry-on sized backpack so hopefully all this stuff will fit:
  • 1 pair pants
  • 2 pair shorts
  • 1 pair boardshorts (swim trunks for surfers)
  • 4 shirts (2 wicking t-shirts, 2 button-up shortsleeve)
  • hiking trail shoes
  • flip-flops (will be weird cuz I'm not a flip-flop guy like those kids these days)
  • socks & underwear
  • rain jacket
  • contact lenses
  • re-wetting drops for contact lenses
  • spare glasses
  • sunglasses
  • chamois towel
  • hat
  • headlamp
  • mosquito repellant
  • malaria pills
  • money belt
  • minimalist watch
  • toilet paper
  • water bottle
  • minimalist clothes line (thanks Sarah)
  • earplugs
  • zip-lock freezer bags (to keep money in zipped pockets when surfing)
  • journal & pen
  • toiletries
  • photo copy of passport & credit cards
  • passport
  • credit cards
  • 2 paperback books I can discard
  • Lonely Planet Indonesia
  • iPhone w/ headphones
  • camera
  • ac/dc power converters
  • charger cables for phone, camera
Am I missing anything?


SCUBA lessons this weekend in Mpls and I should be good to go!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My DVR

It's been two years since this post when I listed what TV shows I'm recording so I thought I'd do another and see what's been constant and what's new.

Austin City Limits (still a favorite)
60 Minutes (new)
Frontline (new)
Globe Trekker (still a favorite)
This Old House (still a favorite)
Almanac (still a favorite)
mn original (new)
Independent Lens (new)
No Reservations (still a favorite)
Adventure Sports (new)
First Ascent (new)

Travel, arts & music are constants for me. A couple adventure shows have been added as those have become more prevalent, and quality documentary programs are favorites of mine, too.

End of My Cycling Season?

Yesterday's dump of snow combined with my pending trip to Indonesia officially marks the end of the bicycling season for me. This was my fourth year of seasonally commuting 12 miles each way to work and I got to the point this year where the pleasure of the ride reached a new high. I'll really miss it.

Just last Tuesday morning, 11/9, was one of my most enjoyable rides of all time. It was a gorgeous morning, sunny and in the mid-40s, and the timing of my ride and the arrival of dawn just a couple days after the end of daylight savings was perfect. The combination of the practicality of the bicycle commute along with the accompanying exercise and quality time outdoors is something that just feels so right to me. I wish there were more ways for me to combine those 3 elements.

When I go out on a long weekend ride, I usually can't help but think ahead to when the ride will be over. Often I have other things on my mind and while I love the exploratory nature of many of those rides, I rarely am able to allow myself to just purely enjoy them in the moment. It's as if my goal were to be able to say that I rode 50 miles.

Commuting to work puts me in a different frame of mind, though, and I am able to appreciate and revel in the experience of the ride. Since my morning destination is the office I'm in no hurry to complete the ride so it can sometimes feel like the high point of my day. Burning calories as part of a required daily task is pretty great, too. It's like losing weight and getting fit while brushing your teeth. And as I mature I simply appreciate the sounds and smells of the seasons more and more. I also think clearly when I'm riding and often will stop to email a great idea to myself.

As winter arrives I look hard to find a similar activity which can impart all those benefits on me and I don't see much. Maybe I just need to buy some studded tires, turn on all my rear red flashers and front white lights, don the balaclava and the white helmet and the yellow jacket and find a way to bicycle commute year round.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Trickle Down? More Like Trickle Out

There's political debate going on nationally and locally about repealing the Bush tax cuts from 2001 & 2003. Mostly, the debate centers around whether or not the taxes should be reinstated for those earning over $200K ($250K jointly) per year or not. Most seem to agree that they do not want to repeal the cut for folks making less than $200K.

One key argument for not taxing the rich is that rich people spend a lot of money buying things and that the manufacturers, sellers, and supply chain of those things all make money and stay employed as a result of the wealthy person's purchase. It's Reagan's trickle-down economics theory and it made sense in 1980 when most of what Americans bought was still manufactured right here in the USA.

But the manufacturing landscape has changed significantly since then. It's global now so when a wealthy person buys a new car they're not buying a Cadillac made in Detroit with American labor and American made parts. They're buying a BMW or Lexus that may or may not have been made in America. If it was made in America, the labor salary increase since 1980 has not kept up with the cost of living so the trickle down is barely a drip. And the supply chain for the car today mostly comes from Mexico or China or Malaysia so that money is really just trickling out of the American economy to others overseas.

By getting out of the manufacturing business the United States has caused a fundamental shift in the underpinnings of this economic theory.