Call me crazy….but you already knew that!

I’ve stumbled up on a really lovely little place to stay here.  And, I’m leaving tomorrow.

This is a huge room, comfortable, full size sofa, two veranda’s, lots of space and centrally located close to everyone thing I want.  So why am I leaving?

Focus is the best word I can come up with.  I want a few days in a quieter location, more isolated and natural, to write and do some work that I intend to massage on this trip.  I found what I believe will be a great place!

I looked at a number of spots.  When I walked into this one, that feeling of ease and lightness was very strong.  The woman helping me took me to a very quiet room facing remaining forest and rice fields here.  Perfect!

I’m planning on coming back to this place before I leave Ubud and have booked my last week here hoping I get the same room!  Wayan Johnny knows I like this room so he’ll try to keep it for me.

Healing and resting!

After stopping to see Nyoman to say good night and having him get all excited about continuing the work he did last night, I was off early this morning to see Eddy.

Several photo’s of Nyoman and his grand daughter Putu below along with a photo in Eddy’s office and Wayan with me.

Eddy worked me over really well!  He’s an amazing reflexologist!

Typical local lunch

On my way home, I stopped for coffee with Iwan.  He has a manual espresso maker and it was really good.  He’d just roasted two different batches of beans, one for pour over and one for espresso.  Yum!

My little local warung wasn’t open yet so I headed to another.  This is what a 35,000 Rp ($2.60 US)  lunch looks like!  Lumpia and me goreng both with peanut sauce.

Back at my room relaxing, I realized how much healing work I’ve had done lately!  Since arriving I’ve had a massage, two healing sessions with Nyoman and the treatment from Eddy today.  I laid down to rest feeling so happy that I chose to come here and take care of myself!

While it will be sad to leave tomorrow, I’m happy to have found this place and happy to go hibernate and bit and sort some things out.  Maybe I’ll get there and simply feel like reading or watching movies which is fine.  I am creating the space if it feels right to explore some of the online possibilities I’ve been attracted to.

Today was a national holidays, no school.  At 6:30, kids were gathering the street, finding friends, and making plans for the day.  I took a few photo’s of the area around the family compound here.


A little on my coffee history

I’ll be the first to admit I’m very picky about my coffee. I can tell when I walk into a coffee shop, by the sound of their steam efforts, if I’ll even bother trying what they are making. If I don’t like the sound of their milk, I may order an Americano. If there is no crema on the house espresso, I’ll look to a bold drip coffee or ask them to brew me a French Press of something interesting.

My first exposure to espresso drinks was when I moved to Boulder, Colorado around 1990. I frequented “The Trident” on Pearl Street where I’d order my Mocha and sit for some people watching. Within a few years, as I was carefully watching my budget and realizing how much COULD be spent on espresso drinks each month, I finally splurged and bought a home machine.

I spent less than $100 on a discount pump driven machine and set about learning how to use it. In addition to the information that came with the machine, I asked questions everywhere I went. In each coffee shop, I observed the barista carefully often asking them why they did what they were doing and asking if they had any tips for me at home. Thus began my training as a barista.

After that first machine burned out, I upgraded to a better one. Somewhere in the late 90’s, Starbucks offered a close out on their Estro Profi model which included a burr grinder. I swung back and forty debating whether or not to purchase such an outlandish splurge item. By the time I decided, the only machine left in the area was in Fort Collins.

That purchase was wonderful and mysterious. The machine originally sold for around $500 and was discounted. The machine they had left was a floor model so they gave me an additional discount. They also threw in pitcher, thermometer, Starbucks recipe book, a free pound of coffee and whatever else they could. Within months, I’d already saved more than the purchase price and was making lovely drinks at home.

In 2004, a friend was promoted to manager of the new Starbucks in Longmont, the first with a drive-thru. He asked me if I knew anyone who wanted a job and I noticed my hand going up. Seriously, all by itself! I told him I didn’t want a job, I already had my own business. However, I love coffee and I love people so if we could work out a very part-time schedule, I’d love the opportunity. I thought I’d learn a lot and stay over the summer. I stayed over 2 1/2 years!

About one year later, I saw a food program on TV about 7 years ago filmed at a food show exhibit in Las Vegas. They were filming “latte art” at one of the booths in the exhibit. That was the first experience of latte art for me and I was bitten hard. WOW! I knew I wanted to learn how to do that! So I started searching everywhere for tips on how to do that.

By this time, google and other search engines opened doors to all sorts of information. I started learning about the coffee world “outside” Starbucks, the specialty coffee industry. From written descriptions and video and forum tips, I worked very hard at learning how to pour latte art. What I discovered in the process was a very different and exciting way to steam milk that dramatically improved the taste and texture of milk.

I was asked to come to the Starbucks learning center in Denver and share what I was learning with Starbucks District Managers. They became excited about the taste difference between the kind of milk normally served and the kind of milk we could deliver. I had managers confide that they had stopped drinking milk based drinks at Starbucks because the quality was poor. The milk was burned tasting or too hot or the espresso didn’t carry through. For those who were committed, there was now a way, a reminder for many, of what was possible.

In Longmont, on my shifts, I almost always worked the drive-thru. I had two pitchers, made every drink fresh, knew how much milk and which pitcher to use for what drinks and kept up will all orders even during a rush. I know it’s possible. Tiring, nerve wracking, and rewarding, it is possible!

In the spring of 2005, I attended the “Fresh Cup Roadshow” in Tampa, Florida while visiting a good friend there. Many wonderful things popped out of that experience! I was able to go through a latte art class with Jerod Mockli who was the Executive Director of the Seattle Barista Academy at the time. I also met a great barista from Zoka Coffee who invited me to jump behind her machine, pull some shots and gave me more tips. Tracy Allen of Zoka Coffee gave a cupping class and I’ll always remember his inspiring us to “educate your palate, educate your palate, educate your palate” so we would be more aware of what we were drinking and what we liked. I went to for the coffee flavor wheel to help me educate my palate.

During that trip, I also met Terry Davis who was running Ambex Roasters at the time, the second largest coffee roasting manufacturer in the US. I sat at the bar in his coffee shop asking questions and learning more about coffee’s.

Starbucks approved my ideas and sent me to the American Barista and Coffee School in Portland for a latte art training with Matt Milletto. What an amazing experience that was being with other barista’s and having the opportunity to work with Matt. I was making great milk by that time but hadn’t perfected the pour.

In my research, I’d read a suggestion for practicing the latte art pour, “do it in a padded room so people can’t hear your screams of frustration”. I fully concur! I was so close but had little control over what I was doing. One moment, a beautiful pour would occur. The next 30 attempts left a formless white blob floating on top.

One thing I learned through this process: the latte art isn’t really the most important part. What is important is how a barista treats the milk.

I’ve had drinks with latte art that were horrible (burned, overheated, no sweetness left, little espresso flavor). I’ve also had lovely drinks with no art that were amazing…sweet, full of flavor, lovely mouth feel. The secret is really in how you treat the milk. I’ll write a post of the keys I’ve picked up in my search. For now, know that milk steamed only when it’s cold and then properly textured and not heated over 150° will have an amazing natural sweetness and the micro-bubbles that carry the flavor of the espresso. And it has such a nice “mouth feel” when done properly!

Through the generosity of others, tips from the hundreds of coffee shops I’ve visited, a ton of questions, hours of practice with gallons of milk and pounds of espresso beans, hours of research on the web and hours of video’s watched, I’ve distilled some milk frothing tips to help people get great velvety milk with tiny micro-bubbles.

As I’m finishing this, I’ve received a note from a friend visiting family in the Maryland and yearning for a “Larry’s Latte” as she’s been unable to find good coffee anywhere there. Once you’ve had great coffee, it’s tough to settle for less.

Ubud return, a few days later

As I’m writing from Ubud, you are guessing correctly, I was unable to find a flight out of Denpasar two days ago to Labuan Bajo. My flight in from Makassar was good, I was moved to an exit row that I had to myself, and the Lion Air Flight landed relatively smoothly which they are not known for doing. They have a reputation for hard landings which wasn’t the case, thankfully!

OK, so I’ve been here for several days and am just now updating. The internet service at Dewa’s is adequate for email and basic surfing but not for this. The internet across the street charges in 5-minute intervals. Half an hour costs more than two hours in Sulawesi and isn’t any faster. Besides, I’ve had laundry to take care of, my pack to unpack, croissants to sample, espresso to taste, friends to talk with and relaxing by the pool to handle. I do need more relaxing by the pool but what little I’ve had has been glorious!

After we landed, I collected my backpack, left the arrival terminal and walked to the ticket offices at the departure terminal. Helpful agents sent me from one counter to the next and the next and the next until I found the planes were all full or had already left.

Back to the arrival hall, I found the taxi station (referred to in some areas as the “taxi mafia”), saw the listed prices on the wall behind the ticket agent and purchased my ticket to Ubud. My unhelpful driver took off immediately walking quickly, not helping with my small pack which was unusual, and leaving in his dust. Across the terminal, over curbs and sidewalks, through traffic twice, we arrived at his car.

For the third or fourth time, he asked me where I was going. For the third or fourth time I told him the same thing differently, using different reference points, pronouncing the name or a business close to Dewa’s differently. Eventually, I stumbled upon the right formula. When I mentioned Monkey Forest Road in conjunction with Hanoman Road, he nodded in recognition. Most of the time, that nodding in apparent understanding doesn’t mean much. He started the car, we were off and I was wondering if he knew where he was going.

Immediately, I noticed much more traffic than the last time I was here two years ago! Perhaps my memory isn’t correct but there were many more cars than I remembered and certainly more and larger buses. Traffic was thick all the way to Ubud.

Each stop light came with a variety of vendors walking car to car with food or newspapers or colorful moving plastic gadgets. At one, my driver bought a plastic gadget which looked like a small blue plastic flower pot with a blossom and two leaves rising from the pot. It was solar powered blue plastic flower pot thingy! The solar energy powered the leaves and the blossom moving. He really liked it and placed it immediately on the dash with great delight!

His driving skills and speed diminished over the next 5 kilometers while he moved his taxi driver license around, looked for a better spot for the pot to sit and move, and repositioned it after each acceleration or tap of the brake. My backpack was handy meaning I could access my duct tape. I peeled off a small strip, doubled it over, and had him hand me the flower pot. Cautiously, he handed it toward me. I touched the tape lightly indicating it’s sticky nature to which he smiled. Now appropriately sticky, the plant was carefully placed by the proud smiling driver. Our drive resumed undisturbed by moving plastic moving plant thingy. His driving speed and attentiveness improved for which I was very grateful!

Our approach to Ubud, once we turned off the main road, was hampered by serious traffic jam. I wondered what all the traffic was about? I never dealt with those when I rented my motor bike and explored last time. Approaching a sharp curve, I saw the reason for the jam, a huge tour bus ahead, much too large for the tiny rural road, taking up 2/3 or the asphalt, and stopping off the pavement for other wide traffic approaching it. Closer to Ubud, it grew even worse! Buses meeting buses had to pull off the pavement where they could find he space; buses backing out of parking lots needing to move forward and reverse several times to get back in the lane of traffic; each maneuver stopping all traffic in both directions. My friend Mary wrote me about how much Ubud had changed and about the buses, now I knew.

I watched the road carefully and knew where I wanted to get out. My driver stopped where I asked, I grabbed my pack and walked the rest of the way to Dewa’s. I think my taxi driver was grateful he didn’t have to drive all the way through Ubud, have to deal with traffic and he was now free to make make a quick exit!

Ubud has changed a lot! Small open spaces looking over the rice fields now house new shops. Some of the small mom and pop shops have apparently sold and gone upscale. Their is an air of affluence or at least of wanting to be. Galleries, jewelry stores, many more aromatherapy and natural product shops, “organic spa’s”, new upscale restaurants, each occupying what was open space in the city and each very modern with fresh paint, glass doors and air conditioned interiors.

I arrived in Dewa’s and asked loudly if they had any cheap room’s, “SPECIAL PRICE” I said loudly. Then, they recognized me and all smiled. The entire family was there having lunch at 1:00 pm. I sat and talked sipping a cup of coffee they brought for me. Soon, Bayu came, grabbed both of my packs telling me to carry my cup of coffee and follow him to my room. I’m in a nice bungalow below the pool. I think it might be the same room my friend Wendy stayed in when she was here the fall of 2009.

Dewa’s has finished their construction and upgraded their rooms. I’m getting a special price and Dewa thanked me for all the people I have sent here. The special price is still more than I’ve paid except for once on my trip and I can’t think of a nicer family to spend extra money with. It’s really an exceptionally comfortable place to be!

The room is completely tiled, contains no mildew or fungus smells, (yes, the last few rooms have been a bit smelly but it is rainy season over here). It also has AC, a ceiling fan, “hot and cold” shower, a marvelous porch so sit on and write, newly installed “WiFi” and a pool I’ll have to myself when the boisterous group of 16 Chinese with children leave for a day adventure.

It feels a bit like coming home!

My pack is empty, I dumped everything out so it could dry and air out. One bag of clothing headed to the laundry, I headed to Tutmak for what I remembered was great coffee and some lunch. One reason for coming here was to eat something beside rice and veggies or rice and fish for every meal. So many food options exist here although they are much more expensive than other places I’ve been. A complete meal in Sulawesi often cost $25,000 rupiah or less. A coffee here cost that much or more.

Sipping my coffee at Tutmak, once again, I was reminded that the quality of coffee depends on the barista. The coffee tasted very good! However, the milk on my cappuccino was a thick foamy aberration, had been cremated and wasn’t so hot. The good news: it was still way better than any coffee I’ve had since the shop I stumbled upon in Penang.

On Monkey Forest Road, I found a travel agent who found a ticket for me on Saturday for $670,000 rupiah, much less than the $1,850,000 rupiah I was quoted in Makassar! The airline server went down so he couldn’t book the ticket. I went back that evening as instructed, he had left for the day. The next morning, I went back again. After about 40 minutes I was able to purchase the ticket. I needed to return that evening or the next morning to pick it up. I went back that evening. He was gone. Another man searched through drawers and cabinets finally finding a ticket with my name on it. My name was there, the name of the airline wasn’t! I think I’m flying “Fred’s Airline” or something like that.

I’ll travel by bus to Kuta on Friday, see a few old haunts and maybe get a massage at Jari Menari, have dinner (WITHOUT Rori this time as she’s freezing in Chicago) at TJ’s Mexican restaurant and fly out Saturday morning. I remember having some amazing salad with fish at TJ’s there last time so am looking forward to that and might even indulge in a margarita since I’m already there.

Being here at Dewa’s means I can store all my extra stuff and travel light to Labuan Bajo. I’ve already started the sorting process and am considering shipping some things home so I don’t have to lug them around for another month! Mary suggested it would be far more expensive to ship than lug so, I’ll be looking for an extra suitcase possibly for the extra things I’ve picked up. My flight from here to Singapore has a weight restriction and charges extra for weight over their maximum. If I pay more than four hours in advance, it saves more than 50% of the cost. The international flights, I’m allowed two bags for free.

I slowly wandered the city seeing old familiar haunts and discovering new ones. After five failed attempts to get money from an ATM, I walked all the way to the one I remembered working best last time. It still is reliable! Good thing too as I couldn’t use credit card for the flight or for Dewa’s so need more money here.

Past Bali Buddha, up the small hill, stands Wayan’s healing center. I walked in and heard a voice from above saying to come in. I stood there looking up at here as here face registered recognition and she smiled!

She was leaving for a ceremony so wasn’t working. I said I only came by to say hello. She asked me to help her with a couple things when I come back and I will.

I had coriander crusted tuna steak at Nomad’s my first night and remembered I need to tell them to cook it more (for my taste), stopped at Kafe on the way home for a scoop of gelato and an iced chai. Kafe feels more “uppity” and a bit pompous at times. There are expatriates from around the world who hang out there and are the “in” crowd. At other times, it’s the same old friendly place where the staff remembers me from last time.

I met Anna there. She’s from Holland and worked in real estate. The company she worked with was going “down” as they say here. She decided to leave, put her house on the market, was surprised in a slow market that it sold in one month, she had two buyers competing for her property so she got a good price, and now she is traveling for a couple months in SE Asia uncertain what she’ll do when she returns.

Four years ago, sitting on the Bia Hoi corner in Hanoi and talking with a man from South Africa, he shared one thing he loves about traveling and meeting travelers. “Everyone is looking for something” he said. Yes, that appears true whether they are looking for a break from life, a fresh look on what to do, a new cultural experience, whatever, travelers seem to have that in common.

Mary, a friend who lives here, said they have had nothing but rainy season for over a year. One night, after very loud and persistent thunder throughout the night, it was cloudy and overcast all day. Today was overcast as well and a bit of rain late in the day. I’m planning to be quiet, do some writing, rest, explore two new coffee shops I found, meet my friend Mary and generally relax. It’s the perfect cloudy, lazy day for doing that!

What am I thinking?! Force never works as good as flow.

Last night, I attempted to book a ticket with Air Asia for my flight on to Borneo. On the way back from the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and the Chocolate Botique, I got off the bus in front of Air Asia offices near here.

After printing a copy of my return flight information, she did some checking on flights to Borneo. It felt rushed as they were closing in 4 minutes so I decided I’d book my own flight via internet.

Flights are more expensive now with last minute booking but still amazingly cheap compared to the US. Accidentally, I entered January 30 as a travel date and ticket prices were $125 MYR (about $40). Correcting the date, the price jumped to $424 before adding baggage fee, courtesy fee for using charge care, etc. All totaled, it was just under $500 MYR (about $166). Curious, I checked Malaysia Airlines and found their tickets over $3,000 MYR (approximately YIKES).

Finding the connection that worked around getting my Indonesian Visa, I completed details and clicked the payment button. REJECTED! Repeating the process using a different card and clicking the payment button and once again “REJECTED’ appeared.

Six more times at different hours with three different cards and nothing worked. Suddenly I realized I was so intent on making this happen, I hadn’t realized it simply wasn’t happening! So, I stopped!

Force versus flow, which dominates the activities of one’s life? In the US, an intent competitive country, I’ve worked with companies and leaders who were very focused on making things happen. And they were successful, what they wanted manifested to some degree or another. But at what cost?

Lunch spot today near Spice Garden, notice the proper muslim swim attire in the second photo:

One company described their brainstorming sessions as a “Blood Bath”! Their climate was one of “don’t open you mouth if your are not prepared to be beaten, challenges and put through the ringer and can fight for your idea”! That’s not brainstorming, it’s some form of mental Gladiator! The cost: collateral damage and body count.

Innovation takes inspiration, patience, exploration and space to evolve. No fresh ideas result form a blood bath and people leave the room beaten and thrashed. Next time, they don’t come back full and whole but defensive and cautious.

Leaders I’ve worked with have done the same. Last summer I talked with a leader about his organization and why people don’t have high standards, why they don’t aspire to excellence more often. As our conversation continued, I realized the answer was right in front of his nose. He was a perfectionist thrashing and berating every little mistake, often publicly!

Excellence and high standards are inspired, not demanded. He couldn’t see that and demanded perfection which never happens, is impossible and eventually drives talent away. Inspiration happens from modeling, nurturing, helping people maintain a positive vision and helping them learn from mistakes so they are better next time.

Back to my moment here NOW! In a few minutes, I’ll head to the Air Asia to get a ticket before going to the Indonesia Embassy. Clearer this morning, I’m going to listen for which option feels like the path of least resistance. Where is the flow? Which option is most effortless?

Every single time on my trip when I’ve needed something, it has shown up! Poof, there it is in my face without any effort or forcing on my part. My role has to been to be clear on what I want or need in this moment. Travel information, hotel recommendation, information on what bus to take, confused about whether or not I’m on the right bus and an English speaking passenger gets on at the next stop and makes things clear, a confused bud driver telling me this bus doesn’t go where I want to go and I persist suddenly finding the one word he knows thus turning him into another “angel” helping me get where I need to go. That is the flow I know is present every moment in life.

How about you? Where are you aware of flow and ease guiding your life? What happens when you lose it? How do you operate from there more consistently? From that place, life is good! Struggle means life is helping you correct your course and adjust a little bit. Listen!

Once again reminded, more aware of the feeling of ease that accompanies flow, I’ll be off in a few moments for the morning travel arrangements, flights to book, embassy officials to work with, politics to sort through and then, I’ll visit the beach for the first time this trip.

UPDATE: I wrote the message above this morning around 8:00. I went to the Air Asia office expecting to have the flight and assistance add extra costs to my ticket since I was unable to book my own last night. I was wrong! It was nearly 70 MYR less (over $20 US or three nights lodging) and was done in about 10 minutes. The only itinerary I really needed was the one I stopped and asked them to print last night.

I caught the local bus #101 North toward the Indonesian Embassy. While taking a number and preparing to sit in a room already overflowing with people, a voice asked, “Sir, may I help you?” I had my visa application complete and was out the door in ten minutes. I go back to pick it up tomorrow.

Leaving the Indonesian Embassy and on the road, I made a spontaneous decision to head on North and explore the area. Uncertain of where I wanted to get off, I listened and waited until I saw an interesting looking place ahead. Yesterday, I spent a couple hours wandering about a mall here looking for some supplies including an interesting bar of soap. I didn’t want any of the HARSH stuff sold in supermarkets but was unable to find anything interesting. I stepped off the bus and ahead of me was a “Spice Garden”, guess what they had?! Amazing how this works every day. I now have several bars of ginger and clove soaps made with natural materials and essential oils!

Also a few new friends! I found two coffee places today, had wonderful espresso and cappuccino and wasn’t allowed to pay. I guess it was fair exchange for offering a little training. Imported beans, great machine and very passionate and inspired barista.

Nice afternoon relaxing on the beach reading and sipping lemon juice. My Chinese appointment was great. They found a viral infection, gave me herbs for three days and needled my knee and stomach meridians. The place is about a 3 minute walk from here with great people. I had a doctor with three students studying acupuncture who had a great sense of humor, lots of laughing.

My friend Jose arrived today and may force me back to the Chocolate Boutique tomorrow. I guess the responsibility of friendship will force me back to sample more chocolate. GOOD NEWS too, I noticed when the bus went by that there are TWO chocolate places near each other. YUM!