[12] Settling into BC

After we finished our quarantine in Alberta, we flew to BC to live at my parents for what would be the bulk of the summer. We ended up getting into a really good routine of pretending it was summer for the day, and then working from around 6pm onwards due to the time difference between Indonesia and Canada. My parents just moved to a new home, which is about a 2 minute walk from a very quiet, isolated beach, which makes for a great backyard.

One of the perks of being home for so long was we ended up getting to celebrate so many birthdays that we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to join. Who knew that driveway, socially distanced parties would be such a hit?!

We definitely got our beach and sunset fill while living here. It was such a treat to get to walk down to the beach every night after dinner and soak in all the fresh air.

Queen Elizabeth park in Vancouver is one of our favourite spots to have a picnic and go for a walk. We managed to come when the flowers were in full bloom and got to celebrate my Mom for Mother’s Day!

One of the spots that I often think about the most while we are in Indonesia is Golden Ears park. This is one of my favourite places as you feel so small in comparison to the vastness of the forest. As you walk through the trails and take a moment to look up, you literally feel engulfed by the massive trees.

Another activity we were so thankful for was to have so many spaces to walk through nature. In case you haven’t picked up on the theme yet, Jakarta is definitely not known for their open spaces to go for long walks. We definitely took advantage of this and made it a daily habit to enjoy getting out and enjoying some beautiful nature walks!

This night was one of the most memorable “Covid season” moments. We were visiting with some friends in Vancouver and heard people singing above us. We ended up bringing our dinner to their rooftop patio, as we found out that some members from the Vancouver orchestra were putting on a free show for everyone. There must have been 50+ people sitting on the balconies enjoying a drink or their meal, listening to these gentlemen playing. The best!

One of our other big highlights was getting to go for bike rides along the Stanley Park Seawall. This is a beautiful ride with such breaktaking views!

Super thankful for all this extra time with family and getting to soak up all the beauty in Vancouver!

Our last adventure before heading back to Indonesia was a quick trip over to Victoria, BC. It’s a family tradition to go at least once a year and it was super special we managed to go together this year!

So thankful for family and we will forever cherish this time we got to spend together!

[11] Covid Chronicles

Like everyone else in the world, March 2020 was a whirlwind for us. Our school had moved to online learning as Jakarta was officially in a state of lockdown, due to the Covide situation. Kelvin’s family had just flown to Indonesia to spend our Spring Break with us. Three days into their time with us, Trudeau made an announcement encouraging all Canadians to return home from travelling. My in-laws booked a flight for that night and ended up flying home, cutting their trip short by several weeks as they were going to visit some friends in New Zealand after spending time with us. At this point, Kelvin and I were discerning what we should do as we knew we wanted to be back in Canada for the summer and it seemed this was our window to head back.

At this point, our school hadn’t finalized whether we would remain online for the rest of the school year. We decided to wait until that decision was finalized so we didn’t find ourselves in a situation where we needed to fly back to Indonesia to finish the school year if we had left too early.

Three days after Kelvin’s family left, we got the email saying we would not return to the building to teach. Four days after receiving this email, we were on a plane back to Canada. This came as a bit of a shock to the system as we weren’t planning to be back in Canada for another three months. Thankfully, we have some very generous family members who were willing to house and feed us for what became a very long summer in Canada!

We flew directly to Alberta, where we joined Kelvin’s family in quarantine for two weeks. This was very sacrificial of them as they had already started their quarantine a week ahead of us, so they ended up spending 3 weeks in their home. It was definitely a shock to the system to be in snow as we have gotten very used to 35+ degree weather.

There were many perks of staying with my in-laws as you can see in the photos below: a hot tub, the most delicious home-cooked meals, people always up for games, and a super cozy home.

While we were here, we also were still teaching our students in Jakarta. This proved to be a very different change of pace as we were free most of the day and then started work at around 7pm at night. Some nights, we worked until around 2am, which was the ultimate test of trying to teach enthusiastically while you were beyond exhausted. Thankfully, Kelv’s parents have a downstairs area that they let us take over and set up our work there. Kelvin’s baby photos were some nice inspiration all over the walls too 😉

We ended up spending around 3 weeks here and then flew over to BC, where we started the next chapter of our homeless journey!

[9] Thousand Islands

Last year, my birthday weekend ended up being very eventful in the Benger home. Kelvin took a group of Senior School students to Taiwan for a robotics competition, and a group of ladies and I went to the Thousand Islands. I know robotics is pretty exciting, but I definitely think I got the better end of the deal!

After our experience going to Krakatau a few weeks before this, the boat ride seemed like a luxury cruise. We were so impressed at how well the boat driver knew the area as he was going around so many islands that looked the exact same, with complete confidence of where to go.

Being out on the water was so refreshing as it is such a contrast to the everyday city life of living in Jakarta. After making a bunch of stops, dropping people off at different islands, we came to our home for the weekend, Tiger Island.

We stayed at a place called, “Tiger Island Village & Eco Resort,” which has the most incredible mission. Their website says the following, “We do our best to be eco-friendly and are experimenting with efficient energy initiatives, natural building techniques, island based organic farming, coral planting, rain water harvesting, water efficiency, and local educational and economic initiatives to boost quality of life for the communities in our region. We also prioritise food and do our best to keep it delicious AND healthy. Ultimately, we hope to make you feel at home and hopefully inspired by a little pocket of bliss on the doorstep to Jakarta.”

The colour of the water was absolutely stunning and was full of so much life! The eco resort had created coral beds all over the island, to help promote healthy coral reefs and increase sustainability. It was so inspiring to see all their initiatives about how much they are intentionally trying to make a positive impact on the environment around them.

We had a super low-key afternoon, relaxing in our new home and exploring the island, which took about 10 minutes to walk around. In the evening, we realizing the significance of our hut being called the “Sunset Hut” as we had a stunning view of the sun setting that evening!

I’m not sure if there’s anything more stunning than the view of the sun setting over the water!

We went to bed in our open hut, listening to the sound of the water hitting the stairs and feeling the cool, seabreeze; much better than any 5 star hotel I’ve ever stayed in! It also made for the perfect morning view!

The food here was so delicious. The staff would go out in the morning to catch what would then be dinner that night. It really doesn’t get any more fresh than this!

When we woke up on the second day, we got to go on a snorkeling trip. They took us in a boat for about 20 minutes and then we all jumped in for about an hour. It was super fun to explore the waters and see so many beautiful plants and fish. We also really appreciated how intentional they were about teaching us how to be careful and not cause any damage.

Thanks for a great trip, ladies!

[8] Volcano Venture

Hands down, one of our favourite memories from last year was when we went to Krakatau, which is an active volcano. One of our friends found this agency that includes a weekend trip where you camp on an island, right next to the volcano. This was about as much information as we had before we signed up to go.

To add to the excitement, Kelvin had food poisoning the night before and threw up all night. We messaged the group and told them we wouldn’t be coming as he clearly wasn’t in a good state to go. However, a few hours after we sent this, he started to feel a bit better. At the last minute, we made a run for it and tried to catch up to the group (which is not an easy task in Jakarta traffic). It was about a 3 hour drive to the port where we would be getting the boat. What we didn’t quite think through was how rough these windy roads would be for Kelv but he was a champ!

We had some friends kindly wait back for us after sending two boats ahead to the island. We walked over to the dock and our friend said, “There’s our boat.” I genuinely thought he was joking as it was tiny and did not look like it was a good fit for the visibly choppy waves. Once again, I turned to my still decently sick husband with some worried eyes, but he smiled and headed for the boat (like I said…champ!).

After the choppiest 1.5 hour boat ride I had ever been on (there were moments when you waves were so big they completely engulfed the sides of the boat), we successfully arrived to our home for the weekend. As you can see, Kelv was very relieved to be able to lie down and relax.

It was a pretty special thing to have an entire island to ourselves, while having so many local Indonesians workers around as they set up the shelters, cooked the food, and took us out in the boats for some adventures.

We were then told that they were taking a group to the volcano to explore. At this point, Kelv and I were thinking we would probably stay back on the Island to continue to let his stomach rest. However, at the last minute, we decided to join and looking back, we are so glad we did. I did not realize we were heading to what would soon become one of our favourite and most cherished adventures in Indonesia so far.

As we approached the volcano, I was literally in awe as it was the most picture-perfect sight. As we arrived, it felt like we had just landed on the moon.

I think by this point, I had said “WOW” about 85 times and the photographer in me was going insane. We continued to hike up and as we did, it was getting windier and windier as we were approaching the top of the volcano.

The walk down was just as breaktaking as the walk up, as we now got to see a panorama view of what was behind us. Needless to say, I’m so glad we went and extra glad my camera was fully charged!

This was one of the most breathtaking experiences for us as we hadn’t ever seen anything like this before. The views in every direction, the texture of the ground, the insanely powerful wind from the top, combined with the feeling of experiencing an incredible adventure with so many individuals who were strangers only a few months before, was a memory we will not soon forget.

As we approached our island, our boat driver turned off the engine and we got to sit and enjoy a breathtaking sunset. It is very rare that we see sunsets in Jakarta as there is so much pollution, so this was a big treat.

After waking up from a sleep that involved some seemingly giant rats exploring the outside of our tent, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast and some hot coffee together.

Here’s to an unforgettable weekend with some exceptional people!

[10] Exploring Yogyakarta

Kelvin and I had the opportunity to travel to Yogyakarta, which is about an hour and a half flight from Jakarta. We were told that there was so much culture to see and so many places to visit and that was definitely accurate information!

The first place we visited was Prambanan Temple, which is the largest Hindu temple in all of Indonesia. It was absolutely stunning as it was not only massive, but had so many intricate details carved into what seemed like every centimetre of the structures.

The photos above are from the main area, where the majority of the tourists all flock to (like us!). However, as we stepped away from this main area, it was breathtaking to see different perspectives and to enjoy less crowded areas.

Part of being a tourist at these locations is to learn to accept that it will most likely have many moments that look like this…

The next day, we went to Borobudur Temple, which is another well-known temple to visit. It is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist temple, and is actually the largest Buddhist temple in the world, which was incredible to get to see.

One of the areas that was quite upsetting to see was where they kept the elephants. It launched Kelvin and I into a great conversation about how our money to purchase the entrance tickets continue to keep these places open. This also goes the same for the practices that happen within these places, such as keeping elephants chained up near where the tourists can look. It was a great reminder to look into all that a place offers before choosing to spend more to go as we want to ensure our money is supporting places that we can stand by.

Looking back, I wish we had spent more time at these markets, which are located right outside the temple. They had so many beautiful handmade products and especially so many stunning pieces of Indonesian art. Next time we go back, we will for sure plan to bring some art back with us!

One aspect of visiting the second temple was not anticipating how busy it would be as we were there on a holiday. By the time we had left, I am guessing we had 80 requests for either a photo or for us to have a conversation in English with some of the school groups as they had clearly come to the temple to practice their English. If you ever want to know what it feels like to be a celebrity, I highly recommend visiting these places in the middle of the day, while on a holiday…

After we left, we decided to head to a place that we knew would satisfy our desire for nature. Our friends recommended that we check out the ‘Pine Forest,’ and we are so beyond thankful we did. It was so refreshing to be surrounding by so much nature after having lived in Jakarta for several months.

And then in true Kelvin fashion, he obviously had to stop to climb up all the hammocks, give his wife a near heart attack, and enjoy the lovely view from the top! One of my favourite moments was seeing how impressed the locals were that the white guy could actually climb!

This was a great mini-vacation and we loved getting to learn more about different religions, different areas in Indonesia, and spend some time away together. Definitely a win on all fronts!

[7] Bali Bound

The idea of going to Bali with my parents and sister, to meet Kelvin’s parents, seemed so easy and peaceful the morning we drove to the airport. However, when we realized we had forgotten Kelvin’s laptop bag in the car that had just driven away and my sister was throwing up in the airport bathroom, it seemed slightly less peaceful. Needless to say, thanks to the amazing women who translated for us as we called the GoCar support line, as well as a handy airport wheelchair for my sister, we were happy to report we eventually made it to Bali!

We stayed in the Ramada Encore hotel for the equivalent of $30/night CAD. It was an unreal deal for the cost of our stay. We were also able to walk to the beach in about 20 minutes, which lead us through some great shops and markets on the way.

First day exploring the beach and everyone was smiling! Even the one who had been throwing up in the airport the day before!

We spent the day going to a bunch of different beaches and rotating through swimming, eating, and relaxing. It is a hard life!

…like really hard life.

We then headed to one of the temples and loved listening to the sound of the waves crashing up against the cliffs.

Kelvin’s parents knew of a much more remote temple and somehow managed to direct our driver there. We felt like we were walking on the cliffs in Australia; it was strange to remember that we were still in Indonesia!

We then headed for lunch and found a great place, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, that had a beautiful view of the rice patties.

Naturally, we then headed back to the beach after lunch – ha! It’s no wonder we were as sunburnt as we were. We sat down on these lounge chairs, foolishly thinking we were doing an innocent act but didn’t realize we were starting our tab where they would then tell us how much we owed them for sitting down. Since we realized we were paying, we decided to make the most of it and had coffee brought to us and continued to enjoy the sound of the beach. Again, certainly not complaining!

One of the things I was most excited about for this trip was getting to see sunsets again. In Jakarta, there is usually so much smog that it is very uncommon to see the sun setting at night. This was a big treat!

The next day, we got to go to a bunch of different spots all over Ubud. Our driver was fantastic and had some great suggestions. We started at a cultural dance performance which was a really neat experience.

We then went to a silver manufacturing store and learned how much work goes into creating the beautiful jewelry that we see in stores. Each bead takes about 1 week to make from start to finish and is sold for a total of $8 CAD. Since moving to Indonesia, I have learned so much about knowing where products come from and looking past the price tag when making decisions about what to buy.

We then went to a coffee plantation and were so thankful that our guide brought us here. They started by showing us the process of how coffee is made, and then led us to a table and told us to wait there as they brought us some samples. We assumed they might have brought us a pot of coffee and some mugs, but instead, they brought us the most incredible spread of AMAZING coffee and tea to try. I might be back here 97 more times in my life.

Did you really go if you don’t take photos in all the tourist traps?!