Eau de sunscreen

At last! After a grand total of 41 hours in the air and three airports, I’m happy to report I have made it safely to Bali. And the first thing I had to do was take off my socks. Skin is not meant to be suffocated here—or else you will.

This is actually not my first time in Bali. I came here six years ago for my brother’s wedding and stayed mostly on the southern coast, aka party central. We took a short excursion to Ubud—inland and closer to the mountains—but it wasn’t enough time to experience this town’s personality.

Ubud is the epicenter of all things holistic. It must be. Ever since I arrived, the words “spirit,” “energy” and “organic” have been in a lot of conversations. Granted, most of this talk is coming from expatriates and tourists, but the way of life the local Balinese lead lends into this philosophy well. This is truly a beautiful, quiet environment to relax and detox, as many come here to do.

Except for me. I am ready to work! It’s been two and a half months since I’ve been in a kitchen and my hands are begging to knead, whisk and pipe. I gave myself a couple days to adjust to the time change and get acquainted with my surroundings, but I must get into a kitchen soon.

One of the first things I like to do when traveling is find the closest grocery store. Partly because I’m still a bit too shy to communicate in a foreign language—in this case, Bahasa—to start interacting with the locals. But in a grocery store, where I peruse the aisles at my leisure, I’m becoming familiar with the country and its food without talking to a single person. In a way, food is its own language with different dialects. So being in the grocery store is like being in a language class.

The fruits! I love the tropics because of their fruits and the variety is endless. I’ve spotted some that I’ve never seen before, so I will buy and eat them all. The spices! The ones here would be familiar to many, but the secret is the combination of spices that the Balinese and Indonesians use in their cooking. Much like Moroccan ras el hanout or Indian curry, the blend varies with the cook and is impossible to nail down a specific recipe. But that’s the best part about cooking—the freedom to use and trust your tastebuds to create a dish that is delicious. It could be different every time, but it will always taste good.

It’s been a full two days of exploring (check out my Instagram to see photos). I am friends with the geckos, frogs and roosters that live among me. I am not friends with the mosquitoes. Even though it’s rainy season, the weather has been pleasant and the equatorial sun has been glaring down at me so I’ve been slathering sunscreen on every day. The smell of it pervades everything now.

I start at Room4Dessert tomorrow. It is the first restaurant that has told me to wear whatever I want. I can really just work with a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers on. Welcome to island life.

– C

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