Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bali Part II - Beauty in Ubud

Wow, Bali is sure starting to feel like a dream now. But somehow (quite miraculously, I think), I'm keeping a good chunk of the calmness Bali gave me in my heart. And it's very nice.

Anyway, here's a glimpse at the second half of our Bali adventures.

So after we left the lovely villa near Candidasa,

We spent the second half of our time together enjoying the jungles, temples, stone and wood carvings, flowers, shopping, dancing, rice paddies, fish spas, and tasty cuisine of the beautiful ancient city of Ubud.

There were temples EVERYWHERE in Ubud - large ornate ones, simple small ones, you name it.

Here's the elephant cave temple:

Here's one of the many amazing temples that are around every corner as you wander through the city:

And another:

There's still a ton I don't understand and there's likely a lot I don't understand correctly since what I gathered was from the great information our various taxi drivers and guides provided in a language that wasn't their native language. But basically, the Balinese have a totally unique version of Hinduism that flourished without interference and grew to be it's own type of thing because there was so little connection with other Hindu people for a long time. The Balinese culture wasn't affected very much by the Dutch who ruled Indonesia since Bali was generally too far away from the major Dutch settlements to be much affected by the Dutch influence. So Balinese religion and culture is truly unique in the world.

Inside every temple compound, there are different smaller temples or shrines to different Hindu gods. Each neighborhood has a temple where people gather for the abundant special religious celebrations they have plus every home has their own little temples - at least three - one family temple, one ancestor temple, and one protection temple.

Here's a little temple where the owners of the rice field leave offerings to help keep their crops healthy and plentiful. I so loved these little temples that were absolutely everwhere, helping us all to constantly remember to be grateful and to keep Deity in mind.

 Everywhere we turned in Ubud, there were beautiful moss-covered stone carvings:

There were also amazingly beautiful entrances/gates/doors everywhere:


Here are some school-children at the fancy gate entrance to their school. Fancy gates were a dime a dozen. Love how the Balinese care about making even simple things beautiful. 


Our hotel in Ubud was in the heart of the jungle, right next to the sacred monkey forest. Here's the view from the awesome tree-house like room that Jared and I had:

Here's our room:

Here's the beautiful vaulted ceiling of our room:

Here's the outdoor living room at the hotel where we had our own little church services on Sunday:

Here's Anita at her room:

Here's the entrance to Charity's room:

And here's the entrance to mom and dad's room. Nope, they don't cut corners when it comes to wood carving.

There were gorgeous flowers everywhere you looked - by the side of the road:

Arranged nicely in stone bowls placed here and there:

Even the statues got fresh flowers:

There were fresh flower arrangements placed in our hotel room daily:

Even the sinks in the public restrooms were adorned with fresh flowers:

We ate at some gorgeous restaurants. This one was featured in the movie "Eat Pray Love" and after going in through a pretty ordinary-looking storefront, there are these amazing gardens with lovely tables, some on their own little islands. And lunch cost like $5 if you got one of the most expensive things on the menu.

The food was beautiful and tasty too. This is the vegetarian sampler of some common Indonesian foods. It was super delicious.

And here are all the ladies enjoying a special "MFME" (mothers and future mothers of Eyrealm) lunch at this super super tasty place overlooking a gorgeous ravine.

Some people tried out this "fish spa" where little fish eat off all the dead skin on your feet. You should have heard the squeals and giggles from these tough guys!

One morning, Charity, Saydi and I went for a gorgous run  on little dirt trails through some rice fields:

See the volcano in the distance?

We spent some time souvenir shopping at a big open-air market. A lot of the stuff for sale was pretty junky but we searched and found some great stuff to bring home to the kids and to the kind people who watched the kids. Plus it was really interesting just being there in the markets and observing people and bargaining for things.

One night, we were able to watch some traditional Balinese dancing - so interesting to see how different it is from the dancing we're used to. It's all about moving your eyes just right and keeping your toes and fingers flexed at sharp angles. These little girls were really cute in their bunny costumes and the older women were masters of their art. They invited some of us up to try out some of their moves - they did their best to teach us some simple stuff and it was really fun!

Stay tuned for Bali Part III which includes hiking through rice paddies to an amazing waterfall, getting caught in a downpour, biking through villages on an old volcano and more!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Easter 2014 (according to Eliza)

This is a guest post by ELIZA (Saren Loosli's amazingly wonderful daughter who is currently 11 years of age - yep, Eliza dictated that part to me - glad she's such a confident girl!):
We had a great Easter this year!

A lot of the things we did for Easter week were things like reading from the scriptures, talking about the actual places in Israel where things happened and looking them up on the Internet (like the Garden Tomb), and watching videos about the true story of Easter. But I don't have pictures of those things. We didn't quite think of taking pictures of that stuff - and actually those would be pretty boring pictures. 

Here is some pictures of us dying Easter eggs this year. 

The first egg that we dye is always red. This is a Bulgarian tradition, and symbolizes Jesus's sacrifice on the cross for us (the red symbolizes the blood Jesus shed for us and the egg represents new life). Once this egg is dyed, we wipe a thin streak of red on the youngest child's head- Silas. That's just how they do it in Bulgaria so we do it that way.

We love to try new and interesting patterns. On some eggs, we put on painters tape in a cool shape before we dye them, so after the egg dries, we take off the tape, and we have cool patterns. We also like to dye half of the egg one color, and another half another color.

 Here is our eggs towards the beginning of the whole egg-dying process.

Here we are towards the end:

Now the eggs are ready to eat. Another Bulgarian tradition that we have is to "chuke" our eggs. This basically means that two people stand by each other and say 1-2-3 chuke. Then they knock their eggs together to see whose egg would crack first. This year, Isaac was the winner out of everyone. His egg never cracked!

Then we had a neighborhood egg hunt a few days later.

 Here are all of the kids that came:                         

When we woke up on Saturday morning, we got ready to go downstairs and see if the Easter bunny came.

When we went downstairs, we saw a bunch of ropes everywhere. It looked like our whole house was like a spider web. It was really hard to go downstairs because we had to jump over ropes and dodge underneath them. This was the first time our Easter bunny ever morphed into an Easter spider!
This is how our living room looked:

We had no idea what was going on. Our dad explained that we needed to follow the rope with our name on it to get to our Easter baskets.
Our ropes led us all the way upstairs and down.

 Our ropes even led us outside!
When we got to the end of our ropes, we found our Easter baskets in rather unusual hiding places. Then we all got together to check out what we got. We were so excited to see what we got in our Easter baskets.
 We each got something gummy and fruity. I got citrus flavored gum drops that were simply irresistable. Ashton got gourmet jelly beans (he freaks out about jelly beans). Isaac got mango gummies (he loves mango). Silas got - in Oliver's words - "juice infused gummy penguins" (he loves penguins). Oliver got gourmet gummy bears because he loves cute animals. We also got Cadbury's cream eggs and chocolate bars and oranges  hopping or flipping chicks or bunnies.

Me and my mom were looking for something to get my dad for Easter and we found this chocolate at one of our favorite stores. It's milk chocolate covered beef jerky. My dad really liked it. He let me try some of it and it really wasn't my favorite.

 Here's a peek at our hopping wind-up bunny and chick races:

Here we are on Easter morning. After we watched some videos about the resurrection (there were some really good one here), we had our favorite breakfast of the year - eggs benedict.

Then we went to church and church was good. My mom did a lesson in primary and showed a really good video about Jesus and how he died for us and got resurrected. Everyone liked it a lot. But one little girl who is new at church started sobbing when Jesus died. I thought it was good that she cared so much. But she was really happy when she saw that He got resurrected. It is really really sad that Jesus had to do such hard stuff to save us. But I'm so glad he was willing to do all that.

After church, my mom wanted to take Easter pictures of everyone in their new Easter clothes but the boys changed out of their clothes too fast. So the only people who could do pictures were me and my mom. We're the only people who like pictures anyway so it was fine.

For some reason, Ashton took this picture from far away. I liked how my shoes ended up matching my mom's dress.

Happy Easter!

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