Elephant + Selfie = Selephantie


A photo for scale (in feet):




I did do my research before going to hang out with elephants, because I know that not all places that specialize in tourist-y “come play with animals” stuff treat their animals nicely. The place I went to is an elephant rescue program, with most of the animals coming from Sumatra, and it has a reputation for treating it’s animals very well. (Steve Irwin reportedly said it was the best elephant park he’d ever been to.)

That being said…it was a little bit strange. The elephants that didn’t get along with the larger herd couldn’t be kept in the same open-air “stable” as the rest of the elephants, and were chained up in different areas.

It’s conflicting, because there isn’t much that people can do about herd dynamics in elephants, and sometimes the only option that keeps every animal safe is keeping the outliers away from the main group, but…it’s also really big animals, in a really small space (relatively). Added into that is the fact that these animals were all rescued, so even if their living conditions aren’t as good as could be hoped for if they were in the wild…it’s a pretty safe assumption that they’re incalculably better off at the sanctuary than they were before.

It takes a lot of money to care for elephants, so giving rides to tourists seems like a very reasonable option, and certainly better treatment than the elephants were receiving in their previous occupations. (Most of the elephants were rescued from logging work.)

In the end, I just decided that it was people trying to do the best they could with the resources they had, because everything I saw about the place felt touristy, yes, but also like it was done in good faith. The people who work there really do care for the animals they work with. Every elephant has a single dedicated caretaker they work with every single day.



Topeng Jimat

This evening, I went to go see a dance called Topeng Jimat, put on by the Agung Rai Museum of Art.

It was an adaptation of a traditional Balinese dance form, that uses puppetry and masks. I went with the guy who taught me about mime, and he’d been taking Balinese dance classes, so he also explained a lot about the meaning of certain colors and costumes and stuff.






It was really cool.




Last night at the dance party, I met a man named Nicholas, who is a mime.

I mentioned that I really want to learn mime techniques, and he said “I can teach you.”

I said “Really?”

and he said “Of course! What is your schedule like tomorrow?”


So, today we met at the pavilion, and I learned some basic tenants of Mime.

Apparently, there are three basic schools of mime: Mime of Life, Mime of Magic and…something else I don’t remember.

We started with Mime of Life, which is sort of exaggeration and caricature of…normal stuff. It feels a bit like stand-up comedy translated into physical form.

Then we moved on to Mime of Magic, which is the classic stuff, like getting stuck in a box. The key is wonder. Always be surprised at consequences to actions.


I’ve never had a better day spend walking through invisible doors.

Dance Party, Part Two

The Dance Party Restaurant had live music again tonight.

The whole crew promised to meet up again.

I was the first to arrive at the restaurant. The host greeted me with a smile and a fist-bump when I got there. He said “I’ve talked to every one of you, and you all said you’d be coming back tonight.”

and I said “Heck yes we’re all gonna be here tonight!”

I though I was going to walk around the block, to give everybody some more time to show up. I got maybe five meters away before running into Erica.

Party. Started.

This time, everyone brought friends.

We got the entire restaurant to dance. The guitarist broke two strings, but we managed to convince him to re-string and keep playing.

I love people.


At the Market

The Market seems to be situated squarely between the place I’m staying and…pretty much every single thing that I want to go do.

The first few days I walked through, I was still a bit in shock from the currency. I’ve never been in a country where the currency is a based in thousands. It was really intimidating for me to walk through and hear people shouting “So cheap! One hundred fifty thousand!”. It was so easy for me to just…walk through, because I hadn’t gotten a handle on the fact that one American dollar is about twelve thousand Indonesian Rupiahs.

Once I got a bit more used to the exchange rate though…the market got steadily more attractive.


I’m not in the habit of keeping a lot of cash on me. I usually take what I need, and not a lot more. So, today, I realized two really incredible strategies for haggling:

1) Honestly don’t want the thing.

If you really don’t care whether or not you get the thing, and you’re actually willing to walk away, it’s amazing how fast the price gets lowered.

2) Actually don’t have the money.

If you’ve gotten the price down to 100, you reach into your pockets and then truly only have 88… chances are you’re going to get it anyway.


Monkey Forest

I was walking to the Monkey Forest, and before the entrance to the actual forest proper, there’s a stairway.

Me being me, I went “WHERE DOES THAT GO?!?” and promptly went up the stairs.


These were the kind of huge steps, the kind that make you feel eternally two years old, carefully stepping one foot at a time, as if you’re still learning to balance the weight of gravity with the need to find out what’s over there? As I got to the top of the stairway, every flat surface was covered in leaves and sticks, so I wasn’t always sure just how far down it was to the next step.

When I reached the top of the hill, I found that the stairs led to…absolutely nothing.

Well. Not nothing.

The stairs ended at the top of the hill, and left me in the middle of what seemed to be a nursery area for macaque monkeys.

There were baby monkeys everywhere. Some of them were so small they were still mostly pink, too young to have much fur yet.

I stood there, and tried to take a few pictures.

I was so entranced by suddenly being surrounded by baby monkeys, that I didn’t notice that there was an older monkey on babysitting duty who distinctly did not want me there.

I turned around and was faced with a giant, hissing monkey.

At which point, I went back to the stairs, desperately trying to remember what I’d read about how to defuse situations with Macaque monkeys. (All I remembered is that they were attracted to shiny things, don’t try to take anything that they had already grabbed, and that showing teeth was seen as an act of aggression.)

I didn’t want to turn my back on it, because the last thing I wanted was to get jumped by this monkey when I couldn’t see it coming.

It didn’t think I was moving fast enough, as I was trying to pick my way back down the stairs, and so started slapping my legs.

It finally left me alone when I got a little ways down the stairway, but it walked along the top of the hill, just in case I got any ideas about trying to go back up.


So. Sometimes magical stairways don’t lead to Narnia. They lead to angry monkey babysitters who want you to go back down the hill RIGHT. FUCKING. NOW.

A New Kind of Smithing

I’ve worked with blacksmithing before, but the smallest thing I’ve ever worked on was a cloak pin.

I’ve never had the opportunity to work with delicate metal. Everything I’ve ever done has involved mallets, vices, several sets of tongs, and exerting as much for as it was physically possible for me to put forth.

I love working with metal. (Also, I’m pretty sure it’s physically impossible to be cold whilst working in a forge. I just think that it can’t happen.)

However…I really, really like small things. I like details, I like trivia. I like the corners and the edges and seeing a single tree in a forest. Which…is not really blacksmithing. There’s a limit to the amount of detail that can be done when working with metal rods that are two inches in diameter.

Today, I got to work with jewelry for the first time.

The torch used for soldering the pieces together had a foot-powered bellows on the floor next to the work station.

I love it.

I was working with silver, which is just…delightfully responsive. I can apply the smallest amount of force and it will bend.

It’s so strange that I don’t need tools to help apply the amount of force that I need to make metal do what I want it to, but it’s wonderful.


…I might well be hooked.



A Beautiful Morning

I was picked up from the airport yesterday by the lovely couple who run the place where I’ll be staying in Ubud.

I was sufficiently sniffly during the trip that when we got to the place, I was shown to my room and given a mug of the most amazing tea. It was spicy and sweet, and I have no idea what it was, but it was so, so good.

I’ve spent the past two days pretty much just sleeping and trying to get better. I don’t need to be totally well, but it’s a lot easier to go on adventures when one is reasonably healthy.



I started my morning with this view



and I’m ending my afternoon with this one.



My life is so good.