xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' World Toddler: June 2016

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Cockfights and Waterfalls

On one of our first mornings in Bali, we hired a private tour guide, Wayan, to show us around. Over the course of an enthralling day, we waved hello to farmers slashing rice in the paddies; danced under a cool waterfall; and meditated at serene temples where plumes of incense circled around us.


But the best part of the day ended up being our new friendship with our tour guide. With two small children of his own, Wayan spent as much energy entertaining Sydney on the long drives between sites as introducing us to Hindu history.
 

Wayan escorted us around the island for the next five days of our stay. He seemed interested only in ensuring we fully enjoyed, understood, and appreciated Balinese culture and tradition. One of these days, we visited the Ubud Monkey Forest (www.monkeyforestubud.com), where cheeky monkeys nibbled bananas out of our hands.

Another afternoon, Wayan invited us to his house for lunch with his family. He invited our American friends, Wendy and Rob, who had just arrived for vacation, along as well. Although of only modest means, his wife put out an amazing spread of all the classic Balinese dishes.
We sat around a table outside where their 10 chickens clucked all around us. Why were only two of the chickens caged, while the others got to roam freely? "They're for cockfighting,” we were informed nonchalantly. I took another bite of mie goring, spicy chicken and rice, to keep my jaw draw from dropping.
 

After lunch, Wayan's wife took us on a tour of their home, a compound where all three generations of the family, including extended family, live together. In the front was a small temple where a rooster was pecking away at the daily offering. The family's bedrooms were in the middle of the complex: undecorated rooms where Wayan's kids lay on mattresses on the floor watching TV.
From here we entered the kitchen.
 
A mama hen and her 4-day old chicks waddled on the dirt ground under the kitchen sink. Dragonflies swarmed around the empty pans. We maneuvered past the children's bicycles leaning against the tin cabinets to the pig pen, where 4 piglets suckled on an enormous mama.

After lunch, we gave Wayan's boys bags brimming with classic American candies, which they ran off to hide in their room. We then all grouped together for a picture and, before leaving, promised to host Wayan and his family just as generously should their dream of seeing America come true.
If you ever make it to Bali, look up our friend Wayan at www.amansukatour.com for an incredible window into the local culture.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Ski-Lift through the Rainforest


On our last Australian day, we took the Cairns Skyrail over the rainforest. An enclosed cabin lifted us by ski-lift technology over the tops of the dense rainforest.








A couple of miles deep into the forest, our car stopped for us to get off and walk through the ancient forest. From the comfort of a wooden promenade, we marveled at the nearby density and danger of the rainforest lining the path.

As we walked along, I stopped to take a picture of Nolan and Sydney. As I tried to move on I felt a tug on my shirt. I looked behind me. There was no one and nothing there. I tried to walk on. Again, my shirt tugged and I didn’t move. Now I investigated more closely. Latched onto the shoulder of my shirt was a thin, green branch, barely noticeable even upon close investigation. How could this tiny vine latch on so strongly?



A nearby tour guide, noticed me struggling to detangle myself and warned me to "stop moving!" until he could come over and unlatch me. He then introduced us to this unfriendly plant, called “Wait a Whiles” because, once they latch onto your clothes, the best course of action is to stop moving and slowly disentangle yourself. Another name for this snake of a plant? "Lawyer Vine." (no, I am not joking. go ahead and google it!)


In the fierce competition for sunlight in this dense rainforest, some trees grow extra tall and wide.

Others grow slender and light, and grow like a parasite on the stronger trees. The tree I was recently freed of had evolved to have sharp spindles to latch onto and grow on stronger trees. This evolutionary trick had worked wonders. Now aware of them, we spotted the spiky vines everywhere.


Now having had a first hand experience with the inhospitality of the Australian rainforest, we wondered about how Aboriginal people had survived here for over 40,000 years. Aborigines cut paths, built small clearings, and constantly moved between areas depending on the seasons’ weather and rainfall. The vast majority of these people died when Europeans arrived on the continent, either from massacre by the new arrivals or from introduction of new diseases like the common cold.



As the Aboriginal people did not have a written language, the death of their people meant the loss of a great deal of their cultural history. As such, little is known about how they survived in this dangerous habitat. How did they maintain clear paths in a forest that regrows every year? How did they differentiate edible plants from poisonous ones? The secrets of the Aboriginal history are, for the most part, lost within the dense trees of this ancient rainforest.

Plaque in Cairns, Australia