Lost Passport in Bali, Blow-By-Blow

I cry a few times at the airport checkout counter after learning, I absolutely can’t fly out of Indonesia without the passport. The woman says it’s ok, and soon I will be strong again soon. Ha.

It’s embarrassing to cry in public, but people are so polite here, no one indicates they even notice. My poor porter walking alongside me while I bawl, wheeling my bags… LET’S REWIND…

6:50 am Alarm goes off on my phone, playing Cat Stevens (Ready to Love, Yeah!). Shower and eat the rest of last night’s vegan tiramisu from Seeds of Life. Skype with my client on her big presentation for an hour.

8:21 am Luxuriate in my last moments of Bali’s rice expansive fields, listen to the coy make bubbles in the pond, and just enjoy life.

9:33 am Say da da (goodbye in Balinese) to ‘Yan and ‘Tut (our helper ladies) Emma (dog) and finish packing the pile of 4-way stretch braided yoga tops I bought.

10:10 am Gede, the driver (who has a crush on me) helps cart my giant suitcase downstairs and loads all my luggage into his car.

10:13 am Ride my scooter into town, with Gede following, buy those adorable Havainas I’ve been eyeing (flip flops), get a cheese quiche from Bali Buda, get more moolah at the ATM. (Awesome Tree of Money)

10:28 am Just as I’m riding up to the scooter rental place, the woman is riding off with three daughters on her bike. She spots me, turns around, and I’m able to return the scooter!

10:32 am My phone isn’t working, so I can’t contact and find Gede, my stuff, etc. Somehow manage to find him on the street.

11:09 am Finally communicate to Gede I need to find WiFi cafe on Hanuman so I can contact Oystein, the friend I’m meeting at the beach. Gede is video chatting and driving sloooooooooowly, shooting his camera at me – to show his video buddy who he’s with. Feel objectified (and a little flattered.)

12:43 pm Wade through traffic, finally arrive at Kuta beach, with about 30 minutes of actual beach time possible before turning back around to the airport. Gede insists on driving a 15-minute walk past my meeting point at the beach, walking to the beach with me, and taking pics of me in the bikini. I get 10 minutes with Oystein before he leaves for the airport. Drink half a Bintang sitting in the waves, walk back with Gede.

2:23 pm Freak out at how late we are for my 4:15 flight. I realize I don’t know where my passport is exactly. I climb in the back seat and tear my suitcase apart. My computer case too. No luck. I climb in the very back, sit on the floor of the trunk, and rip apart my big suitcase. Nada.

2:43 pm Arrive at DPS International.

2:44 pm Cry.

2:55 pm Ticketing sends me to EVA customer service on the second floor. No carts allowed on the elevator, and the escalator is broken, so we walk back and forth across the airport til we finally ditch the cart and make it downstairs.

EVA customer service says it’s $400 extra to fly out tomorrow, $200 to fly Saturday. They kindly offered me tissues and water when I cried again.

3:15 pm I text Robyn the news, and she is ON IT, searching for my passport at home, doing consulate research, and reminding me to breathe and seriously chill, “Guess Mama Bali doesn’t want you to leave yet!” Robyn turns the house upside down and doesn’t find the passport. I can just see it in my head – it’s in a thin black fanny pack.

I pull all my stuff out of my suitcase to look for the passport again. The zipper breaks more. I punch myself in the face trying to pull things out of the suitcase which were now stuck halfway in and halfway out.

3:40 pm EVA kindly calls the US Embassy which closes soon – turns out, if you want a replacement in Denpasar Bali it takes NINE DAYS to process!

Possible though, if I fly to Surabaya. (Where? Oh, Java. Where do I know that name? Oh, the terrorist bombings last week in Indonesia.) I can get it same day. (My next workshop starts in 4 days in Oakland, so I have to get back.)

3:49 pm I realize my porter has been sitting in the EVA office for half an hour while I cry and text Robyn, so I pay him and let him go.

4:02 pm The helpful ladies at EVA tell me to go to the police station in the domestic terminal, and remind me it’s closing soon. I wheel my own luggage past the cars awkwardly along the road and found the police station, file the report. Commanding officer asks if I’m a teacher, because I enunciate well. I say yes, which I then have to put on the form as my occupation so I’m not lying. I use the men’s toilet because there are no women’s toilets in the police station.

4:34 pm I go to the SIM card phone store and find out the reason my phone stopped working this morning is because after 2 months you have to register the phone number with your *passport*. Ha! I keep asking and finally the Telkomsel guy tells me to buy a SIM card from the other phone company.

4:44 pm I buy a new SIM card and yay! My phone is working!! Called and emailed the US embassy. Robyn helps more.

4:55 pm I get a decaf iced latte at Starbucks with whipped cream, sit, and research the US embassy.

5:03 pm You need 5 passport photos (no glasses, white background), the police report, ID, several documents, and an appointment, to get a replacement. $145 US. Robyn wonders if they’re closed for Ramadan, and if I just book a flight to Surabaya show up on the doorsteps with no appointment, will I even get in?? It does seem risky. They’re already closed for the day. If I don’t get in tomorrow, they’re closed all weekend and I have to wait til Monday.

5:22 pm I find the number to call but it’s wrong, and after a lot of help from the guy who holds the door for people coming in and out of Starbucks I get a human. Human transfers me to the consulate. Yay! But it’s a dead line. I call again, and he says he’ll speak to the consulate and ask on my behalf, but then he hangs up on me. But he does tell me they’re open tomorrow! Yay!

5:25 pm Meanwhile the email I sent them goes through, and yay I have an appointment in the morning at the US Consulate!

5:26 pm I feel a creeping sense of schmaltzy, effusive patriotism rising in my fourth chakra.

5:55 pm I drag my giant luggage(s) with my new white hipster yogi hoodie hanging out (broken zipper) to the Garuda ticket counter and buy a ticket for a couple hours from now to Surabaya. God is great, and also Visa is pretty cool.

8 million guys keep asking if I need a taxi. Where are you going? To the airport! I say. Taxi? No, thank you! Unless you want to drive me 10 meters! They laugh.

6:11 pm I get to the luggage storage place. Yay! I don’t have to drag all the braided tribal yoga pants I bought to Java! It says ‘no live animals allowed’ in luggage storage. I say, I have 5 cats and 3 dogs I want to store overnight. It takes the guy a while, even though I’m over-enunciating. He finally gets it and laughs. A moment of joy! I sort through my luggage and pack even less in a smaller backpack, and I feel like George Carlin in his Stuff routine, keeping piles of shit all over the world. I store the laptop too.

6:22 pm I go into the airport. I have to get a boarding pass even though I just got a ticket at the counter. Robyn says take the laptop. The guy doesn’t let me walk back outside 20 feet away to go get the laptop, I have to go all the way around to exit. Taxi? Taxi? No taxi, only going to airport.

6:55 pm Go through security, pass perfumes at duty free stores, find the gate, chat with off-duty pilots from Italy and France about… Trump. I just need a little European contact. Board the plane. Lots of empty seats, but there’s a guy next to me. Boo. I move to be in my own row, but the airline guy says I can’t sit in that seat. I move to a different row and he doesn’t stop me. Yay!

7:35 pm The engine is strangely loud. Boo. Flight attendant says it’s normal. Yay! We get Ramadan snacks on board. Yay! It’s a dinner roll and a bottle of water. Boo.

I had booked a fancy hotel for my overnight layover in Taipei for tonight. Non-refundable. Boo. Robyn puts in a request for a refund – so sweet of her. Yay!

8:14 pm I land in Surabaya, and put on yoga pants under my dress and a sweatshirt to cover my bare skin after an hour at the beach. It’s different in Java.

8:21 pm The taxi driver smiles and laughs when I ask him if he knows the address of my hotel! Hahaha. I’m popping Rescue Remedy like it’s Valium.

8:49 pm A rainbow striped hat falls off a baby on a scooter. Another scooter driver rides alongside them, motioning to the head, but it fell away long ago. (Sidenote: a rainbow appeared at SFO when I flew to Bali.)

9:05 pm Book the hotel online while in the taxi. Arrive at Novotel. They sweep under our car for security. (Yay!) of course they want to see my passport… I catch the dessert train just before it pulls out of the station. I’m printing official documents for the US Consulate. Prayers from the mosque filter in through the glass doors of the hotel. They tell me here the photo place will probably open late because it’s Ramadan… The hotel staff here are all fasting during the day, and we joke about me getting up at 3 am to eat with them, before they have to start fasting at 4 am. I say we have this in the States too – it’s called intermittent fasting. Anyway, please let me have a long hot shower. I don’t want to conserve water tonight. I’m sorry. I do on all the other days.

10:24 pm I ride back up to the 17th floor to fill out passport paperwork and plug in my phone. I open my computer case, which I’ve already searched six times today… and… (see the video below).

11:11 pm I head down from the 17th floor to give a donation for the “give a kid a tree” charity, in honor of the good fortune, and to share the good news with my new friends at the concierge desk.

Post script… had Robyn not told me to go (back) and get the laptop from luggage storage in Denpasar, I would still be heading to the consulate in the morning!

The Ganga is a Local Call

I'm now at Santosh Puri Ashram in Haridwar.  I took the train, and at Haridwar, and took pictures of some monkeys on the train platform.  One of them beared her teeth and tried to grab the shoes hanging from my bag, but I stepped back and she stopped.  I walked across the street from the station, had a pratha with cheese and a chai with no sugar and a lime soda, put stevia in them both.

Took pictures with some engineering students, one who graciously kept me company, although I did not ask him to.  Indian boys want to be nice to you though you haven't asked them to.
I took a rickshaw to the ashram, but they told me it was full.  A man with very long but well-groomed ear hair was the only English speaker.  I said "hello" and they said, "no hello" so I said "Namaste, hare om."  And they said, "Namaste."  I told them about Mandakini and how I had emailed her, and then I realized it was the wrong ashram.

They pointed, and I walked and walked, asking for directions every few minutes to this small ashram with my over-packed backpacks in the midday sun.  I got closer and closer it seemed when I hear two bearded sadhus singing bajans inside a gated home.  "Ram something Ram" was all I understood.  I let myself past the gate, shed my bags and shoes, bowed, and sat in the little room where they were playing a harmonium and drum, passing the melody back and forth.  I lovingly ignored the thoughts in my mind suggesting I should leave and also suggesting I should stay for as long as possible.  After a while I began to hum along with them.  After a longer while I realized they were singing "Sita Ram Sita Ram" and began to sing with them.

The singing became very pleasurable and I began to smile in my heart, and also thinking of Jai Uttal and Aharon.  After some time, they spread out a mat, interrupting the chanting to point it out to me that I should sit on it instead of on the cement.  When I felt it was time to leave, I got up, and they motioned for me to give some money.  But because they hotel only took cash and the rickshaw driver had no change I had nothing but 500 rupee notes left.  I motioned that I had nothing but bowed in gratitude.  Then I remembered I had a dark chocolate pretzel and a granola bar from the airplane, which I didn't eat because I'm not having white sugar.  I gave them the sweets and walked back out of the gate.

I walked to the next door and realized that ashram was next door to Santosh Puri Ashram.  Guru Mataji's daughter, Mandakini, greeted me and showed me to a room.  We talked about our friend Erin, who suggested I might come here if I was looking for a peaceful and secluded ashram.  Erin left only two days ago, and they said she mentioned to the people staying here that I would be coming.  Very kind of her.

Some people were going to the River. Stephania from Italy told Mandkini she was going and asked if she should take the dogs with her.  The dogs were too hot for a walk, so she went alone. Though I hadn't slept much in 48 hours, I wasn't so tired, and I wanted to go to the Ganga as well.  I walked along the path a passed a number of sadhus in the woods, speaking only briefly to one younger man with matted hair folding an orange robe, who asked my name and told me he is called Gopi.  Then I saw the three other foreigners from Santosh Puri wading in the Ganga.  It's so dirty in Varanasi that I didn't dare go in, but here is much closer to the source, and people aren't creamated and sent into the river.  There's very likely less defication here too.  I mean, if you're not allowed to go in the river and leave your shoes on, it follows that you shouldn't go in and leave your shit there as well.

I slowly walk into the water with my clothes on.  The riverbed is silty, a smooth mud, and I slip on it, falling in up to my shoulders.  Blessed by the Holy Ganga.  I hold my nose, relax my knees, and dunk my whole self in.  It's dark brown and big river plant parts are floating past us the whole time.  This is because it rained heavily yesterday.  I climb out and Antoine ask Krishnabai, who looks very familiar to me, "How long were you in Oregon?"  "We were there four years."  Osho was in Oregon for a few years, and I immediately assume this is who she was with.  They continue talking and I ask if it was Osho.  She says yes, and then I ask if she knows the American man I met in Tiru on my first trip here, who told me he was with Osho for twenty years.  "Yes, very well." she says.

We walk back to the ashram together, and I'm still not tired.  In the library I send an email to my parents to tell them I've arrived safely and where I am.  The shelves are full of books in different languages, and the one that pops out is titled, The Way of a Pilgrim.  I pick it up.  Where have I heard about this.  It's by a Russian man in the nineteenth century who sets about on a journey to learn the practice of incessant, interior prayer.  J.D. Salinger places it in the trembling hands of Franney in Franney and Zooey.  I placed Franney and Zooey in the hands of RM.  On Independence Day, July 4th, 2006, an hour before we saw the fireworks, on the steps of the Maritime Apartment complex in San Francicso, he told me that he had read The Way of a Pilgrim while traveling in India these past seven months, and this might be more than a coincidence that we are reading Franney and Zooey together.  Though we parted ways several years ago, strands of our conversation are still finding their other end and turning out to be incessant loops.

I'm still not tired, and after dipping in Ganga, I pick up The Way of a Pilgrim and sit with a guy outside the gate of the ashram.  He is building a set of steps out of bricks and dirt, sandbags, wire, and old pieces of wood and concrete.  Since the path to the Ganga is not ashram property, it's illegal to make a proper stairway, but the path is difficult to traverse and Mataji has asked him to make something a bit more sturdy that the monsoon won't wash away so easily.  I sit and read The Pilgrim while he chain smokes and builds and I feel both an affinity for him and a desire to help construct the stairs.  He says it's his third trip to India and he has stayed for almost a year the past two times.  He had lots of complications in his home country; his mother fell ill, but he found himself counting the days until he was to return in January and finally decided he couldn't wait any longer, that no matter what happens, he's coming here in May.  I tell him the same thing happened with me, and I had to come now.  He remembers Erin, "Covered with tattoos?" "No.  Tall, curly hair."  "Oh, yes.  Black hair.  Very strong and clear internally.  She does astrology."  "Yes."  I tell him how Erin suggested that it would be astrologically fortuitious for me to travel immediately instead of waiting, and then get back to working on my career punctually on July 31st.

He and I agree that the West is materialistic, and he says subtly that the stars might not know better than my internal guidance.  He suggests that if I want to be in India, I should focus on India, and see how I feel then.  We agree that we shall see.  I feel judgment that my internal compass is not louder and stronger like his or like Erin's.

A woman here wears a white cotton sari, and she reminds me of someone I met at Anandashram, on my last trip here.  I found myself at Anandashram because during a medicine journey my guide played a bajan sung by Krishna Das, and was in tears at the ecstacy of God Realization.  I asked Krishna Das after a concert about this prayer, and he told me this song is sung day and night, incessantly, at a place in Southern India called Anandashram.  On my first trip here, I went to Sivananda Ashram upon the suggestion of a friend I  had met, and I write a little bit of comedy about my trip so far, which I get up and perform for the two hundred yoga students and the swamis on talent night.

One fellow there, a fellow Jew now living in Boston, lived at Anandashram for several years, and he tells me, yes, go there and you can chant Sri Ram Jai Ram day and night.

At Anandashram, Thuli Baba is making a rare appearance, and I just happen to arrive while he and his devotees are there, though I have never heard of him.  A devotee of his invites me to attend his satsang, during which we chant the Rhibu Gita and receive the prasad of his his left over food.  It's not really left over, it's more like they make food for him and he gives us each a bite from his plate, and this is very holy.

I fell asleep after reading and awoke to hear the chanting of Arti.  At dinner last night, K has just bought a new handloomed thick white sari because she is headed north to Badrinath to the holiest city in India, to be with her Guru.  "We are not averse to the cold up north, and we are very ready to be out of this heat."  I ask the name of her Guru.  She says he is not famous, and I think, well, I don't even know the Gurus who are famous.  "His name is Tuli Baba."  "I met Tuli Baba at Anandashram.  You must know M!"  "She is a good friend of ours.  Babaji gave her a new name, Gagi."  "I thought you reminded me of her.  You must also know C, who is now in San Diego and came to my house in Oakland a couple of months ago to give a satsang."  "Yes!"  K says that her name came from Thuli Baba, after the Mother of Anandashram.  

This morning they served chai and fresh homemade bread and butter made from their cows' milk.  S and Mandakini are talking about herbal medicine and Erin's astrology reading for S.  A new woman keeping a vow of silence has arrived, named L, and she's wearing a shirt that says Omega.  I tell her how my father was a sort of acquaintance of Stephan, the founder of Omega and how we used to attend retreats there when I was a kid.  We get up, and she hugs me, which is a surprise, and I hug her back tightly.  I give her some of my neem oil, and she silently says thank you.  I'm hoping it will rain soon.


Today,  I went out to sit and read Pilgrim by the steps to the path to the Ganga.  A band of monkeys came and hopped past me.  A and S were going to the River, so I followed them.  On the way, a herd of cows, apparently led by no one, were crossing the River…  probably twenty of them waded in and about halfway they would begin drifting, over their heads, diagonally toward the other side.

The current would carry them quite far, and then they each reached the bank and would begin walking again.

The river was rushing pretty fast, so we found a spot where it was calm, and some Indian guys about to go swimming pointed out a snake in the water.  I was scared, saying "Om Namha Shivaya", but crossed this little tributary behind S anyway.  We waded into another part of the river and it was incredibly refreshing.  A couple of young guys asked if we would take a picture with them, and I really didn't want to but feared it would be very rude to say no.  "One snap?" they said.

A. took a picture with them, and then it seemed to be our turn.  They waited an awfully long time for us.  I sat in the flow of the river, imagining what these guys would do with their picture of them standing between two white women in wet clinging clothes.  We very gently said we'd prefer not to.  Ok they said, and it was a relief.

S. decided to go back, and we followed her.

On the way, A told me a joke:  "There's a swami, and he goes to Rome to meet with the Pope in the Vatican.  They talk about God and spiritual matters.  'Dis gold phone  hotline for God?' 'Yes,' The Pope says.  'I talking God?' The Swami speaks with God for a minute, hangs up, very happy.  The Pope says, 'That'll be $3000.  We have to pay for the calls… it's long distance.'  Some years later, the Pope is in India and meets the Swami at his ashram.  The Pope sees the swami's phone, says, 'God call phone?' 'Yes.' He talks for 30, 40 minutes, and swami says, '20 pace.' The Pope says, 'Only 20 pace?'  The swami says, 'Local call.'"

The train to India (to Haridwar)

I’m on the last part of a six hour train ride from Old Delhi Station to Haridwar in Uttarakhand. Anjou and her son are in the berth across from me and Raj Kumar was in the berth above.  I boarded at 5 am and the train left at quarter of.  Booking my trip to India only a couple of weeks ago, I only just got around to checking for train tickets.  Hadn’t really decided where to go.

Imagine coming to the States with a ticket to New York and contemplating upon arrival if you’re going to hop a train to Baton Rouge or North Dakota, because, what the heck, it’s all an adventure, right?  So I booked a train for the last night, and got waitlisted.  Assuming I might not get off the waitlist, I booked this train for 5:50 am as well, but I didn’t go so far as to book a hotel, meaning I did the dumbest thing possible: flying into one of the most expensive and dubiously treacherous cities in India with no actual place to go upon arrival.

I just need to check the website to see if I should go to the train station an hour north of the airport to catch my train or if I should find a hotel for the train station an hour south of the airport where my morning train would depart from.  The tourist bureau in the airport has no actual suggestions of where I can get on the internet, I take a taxi to the hotel area, then to the tourist beaureau, then to a hotel.

I’m still waitlisted so I’ll take the morning train.  I slept from 3 am to 5 am before my flight, took a six hour flight and a twelve hour flight, on which I slept three more hours. Passed through 11 time zones, slept 4 hours at the hotel, and now it’s morning time again.  How does it keep being morning again with so little night?

My going-away dinner for my third trip to India was very casual.  I haven’t written pages and pages of intentions for my big journey.  There’s something very casual and very natural about coming back here.  People can tell it’s not my first time here.  I’m already back to speaking the broken English I have found to be highly understandable in communicating with people here.  I paid for the hotel with left over rupees from my last trip.  There was a minimal amount of nausea in the death-defying road race of Indian traffic.  I even forgot to pack toilet paper.  Part of me is afraid that it’s almost too natural, that the parts of me I’m hoping to leave behind have come along for the ride. Though I know it is delusion to thing that I left them behind the last time.  We come with who we are, wherever we are.  Sometimes it just feels a little more momentous.

The plane to India

I'm sitting inside a giant piece of metal and plastic hurdling through the sky to visit a distant and exotic land.  I hope the pilot has had more sleep than I have.  Times in my life have been more meditative.  I don't sit and meditate every morning these days.  Turbulence rattles the wings outside like a floppy plastic toy.   Flying on the big taxi to India is a 5 hour trip to Newark plus a 14 hour trip to Delhi.

I love how the wings are aligned with the horizon and the wing tip tones match the sky and the clouds.  The clouds above blend into the water below as if there is an active process of transition between aqueous and gaseous forms occurring.  We've just traversed some body of water I can only assume to be a great lake..  As if all lakes are not great, but anyway.

Gazing below at the patches of red, beige, and various shades of green, seams dotted with cars, the land shaped like the "crazy quilts" they make in fabric shops and display at quilt festivals.  These crazy quilt landscapes are more likely sewn by men.  Bedazzled with streetlights and swimming pools.  The trees and forests look like fluffy feltish material.  I want to know that moment when everything changed.  The tipping point.  The constructional pivot point at which there came to be more land cultivated or paved or bulldozed or housed than there was land with those fluffy tree things.

I imagine a unified effort throughout the country to radically change the way we buy products.  A partnership between the community and the company, whereby both parties step up to the challenge of sustainable living.  A growing awareness that all life is really one life.