Reblogged: Mesi & Brad = Love

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Here’s a beautiful interview with Mesi about our relationship and photos taken by our talented friend Grazina. We are lucky to have many friends who happen to be awesome photographers!

Mesi describes a bit about how we got together and some of the challenges we faced doing long distance. She has a way of talking about our life and experiences in a way that is much more insightful and meaningful than I could ever be.

What would be your advice for long distance couples?

We started figuring out stuff in a Buddhist monastery in Nepal. It was a month long retreat where we studied the teachings of the Buddha, learned meditation techniques and stayed away from the outside word and touching each other for the whole time. It has totally rocked our world, like our common path together was blessed through that process. And our brains transformed. That was 6 months before we moved together permanently in Budapest.

So my advice would be instead of going on holidays together (what we did for a while) where you most likely are going to stay in your comfort zone, wear your best dresses, eat well, drink even better and most likely never really get to know each other’s deeper aspects, I recommend something more profound where there is a space to cut through the layers of superficiality and you have the opportunity to shift the bond to a deeper level to see if it’s the idea of the other/relationship that you so want or you actually appreciate who the other is and feel that not continuing together is not even an option anymore.

Read the rest of the interview and see some (slightly cheesy) photos on Grazina’s blog here.

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Off-the-beaten-track: a Bali road trip

170 km around the east of Bali

170 km around the east of Bali

Take a map of Bali and circle the main tourist spots: Kuta, Seminyak, Ubud, Sanur, and the entire Bukit peninsula – it’s an amazingly small part of the island, I’m guessing less than 10%, that captures the imagination of 3 million visitors every year. What about the other 90%? What’s there? When my friend Chris arrived for Chinese New Year break I suggested we do a bit of road-tripping, to go off and see what lay out beyond the well-trodden paths. The result was unbelievable – a two-day adventure of draw-dropping jungle-mountain-ricefield vistas, quaint villages, cops and gun men, and underwater exploration. We set off on two scooters, with little more than a full tank of petrol and rough idea of where to head first.

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A discussion with Komang from Calo: On weddings, family and freedom

Komang from Calo

Komang from Calo

View over Komang's family's fields

View over Komang’s family’s fields

Today we had an interesting encounter with a Balinese man Komang, 29. He lives in a small village of 2000 people, Calo (pronounced like the Hindi word for ‘let’s go’, challo!). He travelled the world for four years working on various cruise liners, learnt to speak four languages during that time and recently returned home this year, in August, to marry his high school sweetheart. They are expecting a baby in April.

Our friends and current house mates, Adam and Zsuzsi befriended Komang a weeks ago, while we were on a visa run to KL. Today, they decided to meet to catch up and also because Adam (a filmmaker) wished to shoot Komang’s family harvesting rice for a feature he is working on.

We followed A&Z, through a wonderful series of rural roads north of Ubud, past rice fields, gorges and rivers. The tourist density once you get ten km away from town drops dramatically, and you’re left with lots of simple villages and a glimpse into what life must have been like before the explosion of visitors to the island. Forty-five minutes later we found Komang in Calo, in his corner of paradise.

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Monkeying around with Zsuzsi and Adam

Monkey selfie

Monkey selfie

When we were searching for a house, we consciously sought out a place with at least two bedrooms so that we could have guests come share the magic of Bali with us. We’re very pleased to say that we have our first overseas guests: Zsuzsi and Adam who came all the way from Hungary! Mesi met them in India a few years ago, and back then they connected immediately and we’ve kept in touch since.

They only spent a couple of days here before heading off down to Canggu for a wedding. But we still had plenty of time to catch up, share stories and explore new areas of Ubud. We even went on an excursion to check up on their friends’ pet monkey – Kiki, while the owners were away (getting married). Mesi and I have quite a strong fear of monkeys, and it’s not completely unfounded. We’ve both been ‘mugged’ by them in India and more recently in Ulawatu in Bali. We’ve been in Ubud for almost a month and we haven’t even thought about going to the Monkey Forest.

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Gusti: the Guide of Tirta Gangaa

Our guide Gusti

Our guide Gusti

Tirtaa Gangaa

Tirtaa Gangaa

“G’day mate. Bloooody awwwwesoome”. Gusti, our local guide during our tour of Tirta Gangaa bursts out in perfect Australia drawl. This would be a little gimmicky, cringe-worthy even on anyone else, but for some reason it’s just plain endearing on this guy. Maybe because it’s the way he looks – his appearance is comic, in a good way. His body and head are tiny, with over-sized ears and a toothy grin that almost never leaves his face – he’s like a real-life caricature. The cheesy faux accents seem to fit naturally into his entire persona.

We met him as soon as we got to the Temple entrance: “Do you need a guide?” I’m not sure. In our experience, it is very hit and miss with local guides. When they’re knowledgeable and can tell you things about the site you would never have discovered yourself, I find they’re worth every penny / rupee / rupiah. But more often than not, especially in India, they regurgitate some obvious facts from wikipedia, rush through the tour and you finish in one of their mates souvenir stores.

I don’t know why, but something about Gusti made me take a chance on him. To be fair, he wasn’t the best guide in terms of knowledge, but he made up for it in terms of comedy. Every sentence starts with “Well Brad and Mesi…” The first time it’s normal. By the fifth time it’s annoying. But by the twentieth time it’s so ridiculous it’s funny again, and more so as ‘Brad and Mesi’ slowly becomes ‘Brad and Menshi’.

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Tuesday morning at Seniman’s Cafe

Best Coffee in Ubud at Senimans

Best Coffee in Ubud at Senimans

Seniman's Cafe

Seniman’s Cafe

“Look I can do it, I can do it!”

A girl, no older than seven, spins a glass top on the communal table. She’s trying to outdo her dad, John a middle aged Englishman – sporting relaxed grey singlet, and relaxed grey goatee. They’re competing for the important title of being the best spinner of the glass tops. The girl, Mabel, is adorably competitive. The way John interacts with her is inspiring. They laugh and flip through magazines, talk, play at the communal coffee table. A father-daughter excursion to the best coffee in Ubud. Mabel moves back and forth in the specially designed rocking chairs that dot the cafe.

One of John’s friend, Tegan, comes into the cafe. She’s in her early 40s, by herself, Australian, friendly. They exchange greetings. It’s soon clear they are both part of the expat scene here in Ubud.

“I was speaking to Diego last night and he’s joined some transcendental club”.

I’m not sure what a transcendental club is, but it seems exclusive.

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Sehbatu: A visit to the waterfall temple

A Balinese man cleanses at the Sehbatu waterfall

A Balinese man cleanses at the Sehbatu waterfall

Robert, a Californian who leads tours around Bali, took us to Sehbatu – a small but enchanting waterfall temple situated just a few kilometres outside of Ubud.

The waterfall is fed by cool groundwater rushing up from deep within the Earth, where it has waited decades, perhaps centuries, to see the light of day. The Balinese, who believe that the water at this site has powerful purifying properties, have set up a modest temple next to the falls, and the entire complex – temple, waterfall and pool – is surrounded by jungle. It is a beautiful mix of the natural and the sacred.

It is not surprising to me that much of Balinese spirituality revolves around water. In many ways it is simply a reflection of how important the element is to life on Bali. The island’s hilly interior and rainy season mean that rivers abound – providing a drinking supply and irrigating the water-intensive rice fields. Water, literally and spiritually, nourishes the island.

To receive the purification powers of the waterfall, one enters the waist-deep pool at the base of the falls. An offering is made before thrusting one’s head straight under the falling stream. The waterfall is small, less than a few metres, but its power is unmistakeable. Straight away you feel the chilly bite of the ground water. On several levels, it shocks you awake. You can’t hear anything except the white noise of the crashing water and the rest of the world disappears. Breathing is possible but not easy and you have to concentrate not to panic as your lungs and senses are stressed.

The Sehbatu temple

The Sehbatu temple

But once you settle in the process can be strangely calming. It’s not unlike meditation. To keep your head under the falls you have to quieten the nerves, concentrate on the breath, and remain in the moment (you actually have no choice on that last one). Robert suggested we consciously think of something we wanted to let ago of, something that didn’t serve us anymore. On an adjacent waterfall, you can do the opposite, lie your back up against the rock, chest to the sky, water flowing right over you and open up to something new. Our small group took in turns to do this and all found it a moving experience.

While we were there Balinese locals came to the waterfall, and performed similar purifications. One of these women came to us while we were seated at the temple to provide a traditional cleansing with the altar water, guiding us through the steps of ritual, before smiling and going on her way. She wasn’t a priestess, just an ordinary Balinese woman.

We’re moving to Bali!

We're moving to Bali!

We’re moving to Bali!

Ubud's famous rice paddies

Ubud’s famous rice paddies

Mesi and I had the crazy idea from a long time ago that we’d move to Bali. Back then it was clearly a dream – an ideal for some unspecified time in the future when circumstances – work, relationship, finances – would magically coalesce and we’d end up in some paradise of our imagination. This ideal was even more fuzzy given that neither of us, up until four weeks ago, had ever been to Bali. It was a half-plan based on a romantic daydream. Elizabeth Gilbert would be proud.

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