MY WORKAWAY EXPERIENCE AT SHANKARI'S RETREAT IN BALI

It’s been nearly a year since me and my partner went to Bali. A lot has happened in that year and I found it hard to find motivation for blogging. I have split with my partner of 5 years recently and am still trying to find my feet. So please forgive me the humongous delay in writing.

Luckily, I took some notes while we were travelling so now I can recall the memories. It’s different to write as you travel, and different when you’re trying to do it after a while, from memory. I’ll do my best.


Within a week of getting to Bali, I managed to:

  • get food poisoning and threw up onboard a plane just as we took off for Bali. Luckily I managed to run to the toilet just in time.
  • get a sore throat and annoying dry cough.
  • get another bout of food poisoning, which this time resulted in a 2 day long diarrhea episode. I tried a lot of things, nothing seemed to work. Eventually, good old edible carbon came to my rescue (the same kind of carbon that I used to take in childhood).
  • get a cold by leaving a wet bikini on me for an hour in the evening.
  • fall from a motorbike.

My partner was riding. We tried to turn right to join the traffic (you drive on the left hand side of the road in Indonesia). Abdi didn’t manage to turn straight on the road and got on the side of it, which was full of gravel. Instead of slowing down, he accelerated and slipped on the gravel. Both of us fell on our right hand side. Luckily, there was no speed involved, as we were just joining the traffic. Both of us ended up with scratched knees and elbows. Abdi cushioned my fall, as I was sitting behind him – therefore both the bike and me fell onto him. It could have been much more serious – we could have had broken some bones, damaged heads or other people could have been involved. All we ended up with was some scratches and a few bruises. Thank God for that!

The native style cottages we stayed at in Shankari's retreat:

This one had 2 floors and 2 beds:

Funnily enough, we had gone on a day trip by motorbike just a day before the fall, and came back in 1 piece. The day of the accident we only borrowed the bike to drive 5 minutes up the road for lunch. We could not walk there, as we were located pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It was impossible to walk on the side of the road, as it was way too busy, with crazy drivers. About a week later we saw a terrible accident, right in front of the retreat where we stayed. The bike driver had his neck broken. Drivers in Bali, especially bike riders, are crazy. We were really lucky.

The place where we stayed was stunning. My jaw dropped when I saw it for the first time. I have never seen a more beautiful hotel/ resort. And we didn’t even have to pay for it! You are probably wondering: how come? Well, we participated in a workaway.info project. 

Mosaics were present all over Shankari's Retreat:

Yoga halls at Shankari's Retreat and the area around them:

I’d read about it on another blogger’s website a few months back. You basically work a few hours a day in exchange for accommodation, sometimes also food. So we decided to try it out in Bali. We emailed a few families and a couple of them replied. 2 weeks later we were in Balian and met our hosts – Jiah and Dian. We worked about 5 hours a day and in exchange we got accommodation and breakfast. The place was so beautiful I almost wanted to cry when I saw it for the first time. We were staying in a cottage/mini villa decorated in mosaics and local style. Each of the cottages had a terrace or balcony. There were 3 swimming pools, 2 yoga halls, a restaurant where we used to have breakfast (and some dinners as well) and lovely roofed relax areas. The place was about 10-15 mins walk from the seaside and the beach. As Balian was a couple of hours of driving from main tourism spots in Bali such as Kuta, it was much cheaper as well. You could have dinner at a restaurant for $5. If you ate at a local market from a stall, you’d pay $1 for a nutritious chicken soup with meat balls. Or my favourite – coconut water straight from a young fruit, for $1. Paradise. 

Some of the photos I took for the family's jewellery business as part of my workaway experience:

 The family we “worked” for were owners of the hotel/resort and a jewellery business. As part of my workaway experience, I took photos of the jewellery, including studio shots and model location photoshoot, as well as take pictures of their retreat. Once these were done, I spent the rest of my working time editing the photos. My partner did copywriting for the family’s business websites. We were lucky to meet some other great workawayers as well – Shadi from UK, Dago from Mexico, Sarah from Canada, Katherine from USA… Very quickly we became like a small family and used to spend a lot of time together, not only working but also enjoying our own company.

 

The rice terraces in Western Bali:

 

 

 

 

 

We rented a motorbike for a day and just rode around. The views were spectacular to us, to the locals they were just everyday reality. We rode through rice fields and some mountains. We saw a procession of very colourfully dressed people. Men wore very bright pink tops and royal blue shiny trousers, women seemed to be dressed in their best outfits, too. 

 

 

I asked Dian (our Balinese host) that evening what had it been all about. People at the procession were also carrying a long white cloth above their heads. The cloth was several meters long. Dian explained to me that it was a very sacred ritual. When a married couple can finally afford to build a house of their own and move out of their parents' place, they cannot just pack their bags and go. Every house in Bali has its own chapel. So when the couple moves to a new house the spirits of their parents’ home chapel need to be partly taken to their new home. The white cloth symbolises it. If the distance is short, like from one village to another, they walk. If it's longer, they get on a truck, get off 100 m or so short of their new house and carry the cloth with them. They use the truck because it has to have an open roof and they need to keep the cloth above their heads. The whole village comes and walks with them. There is a huge sense of community here. The family that moves gives their village people food on that day, but they don't give them any money. Even the poorest villagers will come and help. And if the family is wealthier, they will just prepare more food. 

 

 

And so it was like the whole village of people walking on 1 side of the road. The police had to stop cars to let them walk. I didn't take any pictures of it, embracing every moment of that ritual there and then.

 

On one of our days off we rented a car and went to North of the island, visiting temples on the way.

Shankari's restaurant:

One thing that us, Europeans, are not used to, is slow internet. I mean, really slow. So if you’re planning to work online in this part of the World, invest in a usb dongle. It will make your life easier and more enjoyable.

The hosting family were really lovely. Jiah and his wife Dian were quite flexible with our working hours and days off to take. They are very welcoming people, we ended up being invited and involved in their family life and activities.

When we fell from and damaged their motorbike, they were truly more concerned about us and our wellbeing than the damage we made to (their) bike. They treated us with Chinese medicine which prevented our wounds from getting infected in that hot and humid climate. I used to spend time with Dian who was a young mother and wife of the owner, and who taught me how to make Pavlova. As a native of the island, she told me a lot about Balinese culture and beliefs. Abdi had a chance to get to know better the founder and spirit of the place – Shankari. A single mother of 5, she started the retreat in early 90’s, from nothing. Jiah, one of Shankari’s sons and a husband of Dian, was very helpful with organizing whatever we needed. I liked his honesty – if he loved something, he didn’t hesitate to express it, if he didn’t like something, he was the first one to tell you as well. It made our cooperation a lot easier.

Our hosting family from workaway.info:

Hinduism is the  main religion in Bali, which comes with a lot of superstitions and ceremonies. We had a chance to participate in the Full Moon ceremony. We had to wear sarongs and put rice on our foreheads. There was food that people offered to Gods. One weird event there was that Jiah’s and Dian’s little boy Jeida started to cry at some point of the ceremony. He looked truly petrified and was cuddling up to his mummy. When I spoke to Dian about it later, she explained that Balinese believe small children can see more than adults, e.g. they can see spirits – good ones and bad ones.

Full moon ceremony:

We and other workawayers were also invited by Shankari to her house, for a beautiful dinner with Balinese dancers. We were served delicious food and it was a truly magical evening.

We also hired a car with a driver and went for a tour from the South to the North of the island. Balian where we were staying was more of a surfing spot. If you wanted to go diving or snorkeling, you had to go up North. And so we did. We passed by lots of rice terraces and some temples on the way. The roads were like serpentines and made me feel nauseous, but the coral reefs we saw during snorkeling made it worthwhile.

We had planned to stay and work at the place for about 7-9 days. We ended up staying for 2 weeks. We loved it. 

 

One of the pools - during the day and at night:

Balian river going straight to the ocean, views from Shankari's house terrace:

Local village and architecture; Balian, Western Bali:

Driving through rice fields at sunset and a mosaic we made at Shankari's house:

Thank you for reading.

Boogie

xxx

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Hello stranger! My name is Bogna, but you can call me Boogie. I come from Poland, but have lived in a few different countries, including UK and USA. In the past I have been a summer camp counsellor, special needs teacher, cruise ship photographer and  IT Support. I am the author of BoogiePlanet.com This website is all about the experiences I encounter in different cultures and the World I see through my lens. You can help me fulfill my dream to be a travel photographer and perhaps to inspire you to travel by liking my page on Facebook, or following me on Twitter


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