Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Eyes Like Jesus

Today during recreation time I was sitting and talking with a group of teenage orphan girls. One of them gazed into my eyes and, in all earnestness, said, “Wow, you have eyes like Jesus!” The other girls all enthusiastically nodded their heads in agreement. I was confused. Eyes like Jesus? What does that mean? I asked for clarification, but didn’t get a satisfactory answer. Surely they didn’t mean my eyes look like Jesus’ eyes. Who knows what His eyes look like?

This girl’s statement stuck with me through the rest of the day. I’m not sure I’ll ever understand what she meant by this, but I felt honored and flattered. What a compliment to receive! Beauty is fleeting, but “eyes like Jesus”…wow! As I reflected on the meaning of this statement later, I came up with 2 possibilities:

1.)    Maybe they saw (but didn’t realize) the reflection of Jesus in my eyes. After all, I was looking at THEM, and these girls always show me Jesus’ love and goodness through their kindness, smiles, laughs and camaraderie. 

2.)    Jesus’ eyes looked on all of creation with LOVE. He saw the good in others. He saw their faith, their potential. Could it be that I am starting to see the good in others and the beauty in all of creation that surrounds me, too? It’s easy enough to find faults in others and in the broken, sinful world we live in.  I think I have done this pretty naturally most of my life.  But it is a challenge to choose instead to see the bright side of life.  Has my time here given me a different outlook, a new perspective, eyes that look on the world with hope, love and joy instead of doubt and criticism? 

I guess the first explanation is more probable, but the second explanation is something that may be GRAUDALLY occurring in me and something I would like to STRIVE toward.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Cravings…they’re everywhere!

I believe I have grown pretty accustomed to East Timorese food-or, at least the food served here at the convent-and I honestly really enjoy it! The biggest surprise to me was seeing white rice and bread served at every meal! There is an abundance of green vegetables (which are almost always dripping with oil!), breadfruit (actually a vegetable), corn and potatoes, as well sweet, delicious fruits served for dessert such as bananas, mangoes, grapefruit, apples, oranges, pineapple and jackfruit! We eat eggs and fish often, and have chicken or pork once or twice a week.

Although I eat well, over my time here I have experienced some pretty strong cravings for foods from back home: Most notably:

The color of the altar server’s robes at Sunday Mass remind me of Bluebell Vanilla Bean ice cream! It is very hard to concentrate on the readings when I am salivating over ice cream!

The other day on one of my morning runs I passed a hut where I smelled the distinct aroma of BBQ! Oh how I longed to be at Harold’s Restaurant chowing down on some brisket, sausage or turkey, cornbread, green beans and a nice peach cobbler for dessert!

We had red beans the other night for dinner. Their smell reminded me of refried beans, and I instantly hearkened back to my love of Mexican food and Casa Herrera (where I had my farewell party way back in September!). I think this will be the first restaurant I go to once I am back in Abilene (family and friends take note)!

My Bath and Body works hand sanitizer is a wonderful (Christmas) scent called, “Caramel Apple Spice”. I really love it! Although I have been using it for a few months now, today for the first time the scent reminded me of Swedish Fish candy!

Other things I have been craving (for no apparent reason): goldfish crackers, waffles, cereal and oatmeal, Wendy’s chocolate frosties, my mom’s chili and my Nana’s mashed potatoes :D

Whew, I better wrap this blog up…just writing about these things makes me hungry! As a footnote, I would like to emphasize that I am really so grateful to be here and blessed to have 3 meals a day (and snacks available to me, too).  I know I am eating much better than many East Timorese people, so I don’t want to sound like I am complaining. I’m NOT. I just thought you might enjoy reading what foods I miss. Oh, and the next time you reach for your favorite snack (or any of the items listed above), please say a special prayer for everyone here in East Timor!! Thank you and God Bless! :D 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

For many people, a perfect Valentine’s Day might entail strolling along the beach/park/lane, hand-in-hand with your significant other, whispering sweet nothings in each other’s ear. The highlight of my Valentine’s Day here in East Timor was a little different. Valentine’s Day afternoon found me walking along a dirt road, hand in hand with orphan girls exuberantly singing Christian songs as we made our way to religious education classes! It was a blast! As these beautiful, spirited, caring, Christian girls and I sang and sauntered to the chapel in the glorious February sunshine, I felt so blessed, joyful, and of course, LOVED. What an unforgettable way to spend Valentine’s Day!
Wishing everyone a very fun, blessed, sweet and chocolate-filled day!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Baucau OW!

This past weekend I went on a shopping trip to Baucau, the second largest city in East Timor. I was desperately in need of some “retail therapy.” I didn’t know I would end up needing a different kind therapy by the end of the trip!

Baucau is just an hour away by mikrolet. This was my first trip alone on the mikrolet, but I didn’t mind. I’ve been here more than four months, so I was confident getting there and back would not be a problem. The ride to Baucau was quite pleasant. There were only 8 people in the back of the bus and NO animals, so it was spacious and familial. An older lady kindly passed around the homemade rolls she had not been able to sell at the market earlier that morning. We stopped at a well along the way, and the majority of passengers got out to rinse off. Upon returning to the bus, a man passed around cologne for everyone to share. The group also asked me a lot of friendly questions about my work here in East Timor.

The Baucau bus “terminal” is at the end of a long street lined with dozens of shops. Some huts sell convenience items and snack foods, others sell cheap jewelry, makeup, hair clips and bands and other knick knacks, while still other shops sell clothes. There are upper and lower end clothing shops. I began by browsing through the lower end shops which sell new or slightly used clothes that have been donated by various organizations from around the world. In each shop, hundreds of clothes are just thrown onto tables (not even folded) and it is your job to dig through them to find what you are looking for. As you can imagine, there is no “order to the madness”. For example, there are no Women’s, Men’s or Children’s sections, so of course there are no further subdivisions such as “Women’s tops” or “Men’s jeans”. It’s kind of like going to a huge garage sale. If you like a top but it’s not your size, there’s very little chance of finding another one-there’s generally only one of each type of blouse, sweater or pair of pants. If you’re not sure if something is your size, take an educated guess because there’s no dressing room, either.

In the very first shop I stopped in, I was elated to find a super comfortable brown wrap-around cardigan with a Talbot’s label! It’s not common to find clothes with tags from stores I have heard of, much less a pricey store like Talbot’s! I wasn’t really looking for cardigans or cool weather clothes, but I figured I would ask how much it was anyway. I was floored to hear the shopkeeper say it was just $2! I couldn’t pass up this fantastic deal! I also found a bright pink half button pullover sweater that would go well with a camisole underneath. It was just $1.50! After having such great success at the first shop, I was very optimistic about the rest of my shopping trip.

Unfortunately, I was unable to find another top that fit me or was appropriate for wearing to teach (which was my primary objective). I browsed through several “higher end” stores, but all of them seemed to carry the exact same merchandise. I am not sure where these shops buy their clothing, but it is clear it all comes from the same place. I find it very interesting (and disappointing) that all the clothes in these stores are either very dressy and gaudy(imagine sequined or bedazzled blouses, skirts and dresses to wear to church or a special occasion) or seem to be catered towards teenagers. There was only 1 size of every blouse-junior small. Furthermore, all the teenage blouses have kiddie cartoon characters on them! Definitely NOT appropriate for a teacher to wear! Where DO young adults in East Timor shop for clothes?

At one point while I was shopping, some teenage students eagerly approached me and started conversing with me in English. I was honestly suspicious of their friendliness and thought they might be pick pockets! It turns out they were just very excited to practice their English skills with me. I was happy to be able to help them out!
After unsuccessfully browsing through dozens of stores, I returned to a lower end store where I had seen some decent tops earlier in the day. I figured maybe I had been too picky before and if I browsed through the selection again I might just find something that could work for my needs.  I was DETERMINED to buy something. I was desperate!

I took a dozen or so blouses into the dressing room and I remember remarking to myself how quaint it was. The “door” was a simple curtain, the walls were bamboo, and there was a small, jagged edged mirror opposite the curtain.  This was the first dressing room I had seen in a lower-end store, and it was more spacious and better lit than any other dressing room I had visited all day. There was even a long wooden rod hanging from the ceiling on which to hang clothes. I officially felt like a native as I maneuvered myself around in the dressing room and tried on my clothes. Several times, tops would fall on the dirty, rocky ground. Yuck! I quickly picked them up and dusted them off.

After trying on most of the tops, I only had 1 “maybe”. That’s okay, I’d saved the best ones for last! As I pulled a red and black flowered blouse over my head, my left hand swooshed down and my pointer finger knicked the rough edge of the jagged mirror! It hadn’t hurt that badly, but I knew I had cut my finger, so I immediately drew my hand closer to my face to inspect the damage. I couldn’t believe my eyes- there was a deep S-shaped gash just below my knuckle that ran all the way across my finger! But why didn’t it hurt, and where was the blood?

I stared at my finger, DARING it to bleed. I KNEW a cut like this should bleed profusely. After a few tense moments, my finger DID begin to bleed….and it didn’t STOP! Uh oh, what should I do now?! I squeezed the two sides of the cut together and applied pressure, but to no avail. I needed something to stop the bleeding, but what could I use? The only things I had with me were the 2 sweaters I had bought (too precious to ruin) my own shirt, and the dozen shirts I was trying on. My blouse was haphazardly buttoned, but I ran out of the dressing room and asked the storekeeper standing on the other side of the shop for a tissue. Of course, I didn’t know how to say this in Tetum, so he came over to me to clarify what I had requested. I was afraid to show him my hand-what if blood made him queasy? I had no other choice, and I lifted it to show him what I needed. He played it cool, although I could tell he was very surprised. He ran over to the register to see if he had anything. Nope.

Another lady happened to be in the shop, and she suggested he rip a garment. I wasn’t sure if he was going to follow her advice. He scrambled to a table and rummaged through a pile of clothes to find a suitable “bandage”. I don’t know exactly what he was looking for (ironically, they were all pretty junky shirts he was sifting through) and I wished he would just choose one! He didn’t seem to find one he was willing to sacrifice. Back at his desk, he picked up a white, flowery blouse. Surely he wasn’t going to use this? I thought he must have given up and decided to ignore my dilemma altogether.

By this time my entire hand was covered in blood, and the blood was dripping to the dirt ground below. I was reminded of 2 things: First, I recalled all the drops of chicken blood I have seen scattered on the ground during my time here in East Timor, and secondly, I pictured Jesus’ crucifixion. I wonder how much blood there was during that? It occurred to me that if this had happened in the U.S., I could sue the store later! I snapped back to the situation at hand: What was I going to do? How was I going to change back into my clothes without getting anything of mine or the shopkeeper’s bloody? Thankfully, the shopkeeper came over with the makeshift bandage he had made from the flowered blouse. I was able to soak up and wipe off most of the blood from my hand and tie the material around my wound. I quickly returned to the dressing room to change into my own clothes, but I wondered what I should do next. Should I get treatment or keep shopping? I really needed tops! Thankfully, a voice of reason inside my head told me what to do: “No, don’t be crazy, you can’t keep shopping. You need to get help!” As I left the store, I thanked the man and handed him $2 for the ruined blouse. I only had 1 other dollar bill with me, and I needed it for the mikrolet home. Besides that, I had only $10 bills in my wallet, and I KNEW the blouse wasn’t worth that much.  I felt badly, as though I should have given him more money, but at least I gave him something, right?

Once back out on the street, my mind started racing. What should I do now?! I didn’t have a cell phone with me-why, oh WHY had I decided to leave it in Venilale? True, I haven’t used it the entire time I’ve been in East Timor, and I NEVER expected to need it today, but it’s still always good to carry. My first thought had been to call the sisters I am staying with in Venilale or my parents and ask for their advice. I realized that they didn’t know how bad my wound was and would tell me to do the most practical thing-go to the hospital. Although I wished someone could tell me what to do, I realized that even if I had a phone, I needed to make my own decision. No one could help me with this! I think I have mentioned in a previous post that I feel most alone here in East Timor on U.S. National holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I would like to amend this statement by saying that I feel most alone when I am injured or sick. Nothing makes you grow up faster than handling a “crisis” on your own!
I recalled seeing a sign for a clinic just past the shop where I had bought my two tops earlier in the day, so I headed there. I wasn’t sure which building the clinic was, so I returned to the shop and asked the ladies working there if the clinic was open. The first one said yes, but the second one corrected her and said it didn’t open until 2. It was only 12:30!

What to do now? I could go to the Baucau hospital, but I didn’t know where it was, how to ask for directions (although I supposed that would be easy enough to figure out), or, most importantly, how I would pay for my treatment. I had brought $60 in spending money, but no credit cards. How much would this cost to treat? What if it was just a scratch and nothing serious? I didn’t want to pay for a band-aid! ON the other hand, what if it required stitches? I would prefer to have these done by someone I know in trust in Venilale. Yes, I would return to the Venilale health clinic and get treatment from Sr. Caroline. Even though Venilale was at least an hour away (depending on when the mikrolet would be leaving), I would rather be THERE around 2 p.m. than in Baucau at that time.

Even with a plan in mind, a flurry of thoughts continued to run through my head. How serious WAS my injury? Was I being foolish to try to make it back to Venilale? My finger started to throb, I was confused, unsure what to do next, angry that I had not thought to bring my phone, and I felt VERY ALONE! How had I gotten myself into this predicament? I was injured in a foreign country without a cell phone or credit card, and help was more than an hour away! This was NOT good!

I decided to stick with my original plan-I would catch a mikrolet to Venilale. My bandage was sopping with blood, so I decided to buy a washcloth to serve as an extra bandage. I stopped at the first shop I could find. They charged me a whole $1 for a cheap washcloth, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I then stopped in a convenience store to buy snacks for the trip home. I had eaten an early breakfast and I was hungry and knew I should get some fuel. It would only complicate things to be lightheaded or weak while travelling. I had stopped in this store earlier today and the woman offered me ice cream. I thought that would be a wonderful treat for the ride home, but there was no way I could eat ice cream while applying pressure to my finger. Instead, I decided it would be better if I bought a frozen orange jelly drink to use as ice for my finger. I also bought a yummy looking package of chocolate biscuits. Grand total = 65 cents!

I didn’t know the black bag my grocery items were placed in would come in so handy. I decided to stick my hand in it to hide my gory finger. I didn’t want to upset anyone with the sight of my blood. To my surprise, however, everyone who happened to see my finger didn’t seem grossed out at all. They were concerned for me, but NONE were queasy or turned away in disgust! After buying my necessary items, I was relieved to hop onto a mikrolet that was almost full (this meant we would be departing for Venilale shortly). I was happy I was able to sit in the back left hand corner of the mikrolet, across from a mom with her infant baby and 7 year old boy. They kept me entertained and calm. The lady suggested I go to the hospital in Baucau. I asked her if it was close, to which she responded affirmatively. Just then, the mikrolet started to move. I thanked her but told her I would just wait to get treatment in Venilale.

The ride home took more than an hour, but I was feeling much more calm by this point. I had prayed for the Lord to help me, and I truly believed He was with me. I was icing my finger, eating food, the bleeding was controlled, and I was on my way to get treatment. Everything was going to be okay. I shared my chocolate cookies with the little boy across from me. He was so happy!

Once I arrived in Venilale, Sr. Caroline was nowhere to be found! After searching for half an hour or so, she finally showed up at the convent. She had been on a house call visiting an elderly lady suffering from chills and a fever. More than 2 hours after I had cut my finger, I received treatment for it. Thankfully, I DIDN’T need stitches. I was interested in seeing the cut again-it stretched all the way across my finger in an S-shaped pattern. At least I’ll have a cool scar, right? Sister twisted and contorted the wound, then squeezed it together. She then applied some antiseptic solution, and I braced myself because I knew it would sting. Still, when the first drops landed in the wound, I jumped and pulled my finger away in pain. Well, at least I didn’t scream, I suppose! The second round of Betadyne was just as painful, but I willed myself not to move or let out any audible discomfort. I was really glad to get it disinfected-who knows what germs were on the mirror or the blouse I used as a makeshift bandage?

I was relieved to have been treated, but as I half expected, there wasn’t much treatment necessary. No, it hadn’t been a “life or death” situation, and I could have waited even longer to get it treated. I was now really grateful I hadn’t gone to the hospital in Baucau. They likely would have charged me an arm and a leg for a simple bandage.
My finger has improved little by little every day. The accident occurred on Saturday, but my finger didn’t stop bleeding without pressure being applied to it until Thursday. I couldn’t bend my finger all weekend, but I was able to use it to write notes for my classes Tuesday-Thursday. Washing my hands and bathing is difficult to do without getting the bandage wet, and I have decided to postpone doing my laundry for a week or two (hopefully I have enough clothes to get by in the meantime). All in all, I am thankful I am okay and that my accident wasn’t severe. However, I don’t think I will be going clothes shopping in Baucau again anytime soon! I guess I will just have to survive with the clothes I brought with me. I AM on a mission trip, after all, so maybe this is a sign I should focus more on my service and less on my appearance!

Oh, and for those of you wondering how much a shopping spree in East Timor will cost you (including unexpected emergency treatment), here is a breakdown of my Baucau shopping expenses:

   Mikrolet to Baucau = $1
   Talbot’s sweater and pink pullover = $3.50
   Makeshift blouse bandage = $2
   Makeshift washcloth bandage = $1
   Frozen drink ice pack and chocolate cookies for a snack = 65 cents
+ Mikrolet to Venilale = $1
Grand Total: $9.15 for a 2 hour bus trip, 2 sweaters, first aid and snacks. Not too shabby!

Thursday, February 3, 2011


It’s no secret-people here in East Timor LOVE bananas! First and foremost, they are served after every meal for “dessert” (yes, you read that right. No chocolate cake, no cookies, just fruit for dessert). Sometimes, as a special dessert treat they are mixed with diced avocadoes and sugar.

Bananas are also a staple snack food. Fried bananas are really delicious and sold at any local market (you can buy 6 for 15 cents), baked bananas dipped in oil and topped with sugar are a favorite Christmas present to give and receive, store bought snack size banana layer cake snacks are also available. A common snack at the orphanage is boiled bananas. To prepare these, bananas (with the peel) are added to boiling water for 10 minutes or so.  After peeling, they are ready to eat! I prefer plain bananas, though-boiled bananas are hard (consistency of a baked potato) and not very sweet.

Thus far, I have tasted 3 different kinds of bananas. The most common kind looks and tastes very similar to bananas sold in the U.S., but they are half the size and a little sweeter. Another kind of banana has a dark green peel, appears more diamond shaped than round, and are the typical length of bananas sold in the U.S. These are good for preparing baked or fried bananas. The third kind of banana is called a “boat banana.” They are so named because they have the largest diameter of any bananas found in East Timor (as big as a boat!). How thick are they? It is hard to grasp your hand around the circumference of one.  They have a red peel and are a little TOO sweet for me. They are not mushy, but they have the taste of a mushy banana. I have trouble finishing a whole one on my own.  

Often, patients will bring in bananas as payment for their treatment at the clinic (we ask for a 50 cent donation)! Sister Caroline and I always appreciate this healthy snack when we work long hours and we are very grateful for their kindness and generosity.

Naturally, with an abundance of bananas, legends have evolved surrounding them. For example, sometimes you will find 2 bananas that are fused together. Many Timorese people believe that if a woman eats these, she will have twins! The sisters were telling me of an elderly nun who adamantly holds to this belief and refuses to eat fused bananas even today!

Interestingly, with the creativity in incorporating bananas into so many meals and recipes, I have yet to taste banana bread, banana cream pie, banana splits (no freezers in Venilale, so this isn’t really possible) or banana pancakes. I hope to prepare banana pancakes and banana bread as special treats for the sisters sometime during my stay here. Anyone else have any banana recipe ideas? Please let me know!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Laura's Legacy

Last weekend we celebrated the commemoration of the death of Blessed Laura Vicuna. She was just 12 years old when she died. Despite her short life, Laura made her days count. One day, remembering the phrase of Jesus: “There is no one greater than the one that gives his life for his brothers," Laura decided to give her life in exchange for her mother's salvation. As time passed she became seriously ill with pulmonary tuberculosisBefore she died, Laura told her mother: “I die, because I asked Jesus two years ago; I offered my life for you, asking for the grace of your salvation. Before I die, Mother, would I have the joy of seeing you repent?” Mercedes tearfully answered: “I swear, I will do whatever you ask me! God is the witness of my promise!" Finally Laura smiled and said to her mother: "Thanks, Jesus! Thanks Mary! Goodbye, Mother! Now I die happy!" On January 22, 1904, Laura died of her disease, weakened by the physical abuse she previously received from Mora, having offered her life for the salvation of her mother. 

Here in Venilale, we celebrated this occasion with a mass (as usual) in Laura’s honor. Although I arrived at the church 15 minutes early, there were NO seats in the entire building! I should have realized that a mass in celebration of a child (soon to be) saint would be attended by every school child in the village and surrounding areas. Some students, sisters and myself brought chairs down from the school to accommodate for all the people! I have never had to bring my own chair to church before! Sporting events-yes. Church-no.
In the evening, the high school students put on a performance complete with singing, dancing and retelling the story of Laura’s life. It was a really fun time and the show lasted more than an hour and a half! Afterwards, we prayed a novena in Laura’s honor.

I am sure Laura had no idea her actions would affect not just her mother’s life, but the lives of millions of people today who remember and celebrate her shining example of a (short) life filled with love of God and neighbor. Her example shows that no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. No life lived for God, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is ever lived in vain. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Dining on the beach-the perfect ending to a perfect day!

My one day in Bali was absolutely incredible! After a short one and a half hour flight from Dili, I arrived in Denpasar at 11 a.m. Two Italian sisters (one named Sr. Paola has lived in East Timor for the past 20 years) accompanied me. They were heading onto Jakarta after their stay in Bali. I was very grateful for their company. They arranged for us to board at a Salesian convent in Denpasar which was just minutes away from the airport. Sr. Paola also planned the activities for the day, which was a welcome relief for me.
We bought fruit and bread from a roadside stand on our way to the convent, and dined on sweet mangoes, tomatoes and roast beef sandwiches for lunch.

In the afternoon, one of the sisters at the convent served as our chauffer and drove us to a temple along the seashore. Although Sr. Paola speaks Tetum and a little English, whenever I asked her a question in either language, she never seemed to know what I was saying or asking. It was very frustrating! Thus, I had very limited information as to where we were going, what we were doing, how far away anything was, etc. I expected we would walk to the temple. We drove. I thought it would be a quick trip. The drive was more than 1 hour! I didn’t mind; it was a great way to see a lot of Bali in the limited time I had. I am getting pretty used to receiving very little information and being OK with that. Sometimes (or ALL the time if you live in East Timor) you just have to go with the flow.

So, how to describe Bali? It is very…oriental. Almost every building, whether it was a home, shop or business, had a thatched roof. Along our drive I saw dozens of small temples, and statues of gods and goddesses. We drove down narrow streets lined with dozens of vendors selling food, clothing, souvenirs and knick knacks. We also drove on larger streets with heavy traffic and stoplights (which are very rare in East Timor). There are more motorcycles and motorscooters on the roads than cars. They precariously weave and zig zag in and out of traffic, and bunch up in between vehicles at stoplights. Vehicle drivers must be VERY careful not to hit one of them.  I don’t know how there aren’t more accidents. Although the scooters are small, I saw families of 4 or 5 riding on some, a passenger on another scooter carrying 2 metal ladders, and a lady carrying several clear plastic bags filled with fabric. She looked like she could barely hold onto all of it!

We passed through the urban downtown of Denpasar and I saw several restaurants and furniture stores, as well as stores selling surfboards, glass and wooden crafts. I was happy to see some businesses I recognized from the United States-Circle K gas station, McDonald’s, KFC, and even an A&W Restaurant! The road on the last leg of our trip wound through rice fields, which was really very scenic.

The temple grounds were packed with tourists from all over the world, and I heard many different languages being spoken. Upon entering the temple compound, you had to walk half a mile or so to the coastline. The road downhill to the coast was packed with small souvenir shops selling “I Love Bali” t-shirts, hats, bags, magnets, stickers, etc. It was difficult for me to grasp the concept of rupiahs. How could something relatively inexpensive cost 200,000 rupiahs? I didn’t have a conversion calculator on my phone, so I was very confused as to how much everything cost. I didn’t see anything that particularly caught my eye, so, while I took a lot of pictures, I didn’t buy any souvenirs.

We reached the coastline and the view was breathtaking. There were signs warning it was “High Tide”, and the water was slamming against the rocks just a few feet from where the tourists were allowed to stand. A group of a dozen Chinese tourists tried to take a picture on a large rock, but their attempt was interrupted by a huge wave that splashed up on it-they only narrowly escaped! Interestingly, I took more photos of the cliffs, beach, rocks and ocean than I did of temple buildings. I kept wondering when we would see the temples up close. I then remembered reading previously that many temples do not allow access to tourists. This was the case here. Therefore, I got several pictures of the outside of the temples, but none from inside. Oh well, at least the scenery was really beautiful.

After exploring, we stopped in a café for refreshments. As we approached our table, I laughed when I saw some diners sipping from coconuts-this is something I had only seen on t.v., although apparently it is common among natives in East Timor as well. I was elated when Sr. Paola asked me if I would like to try some coconut myself! I eagerly agreed, not knowing that she meant I would get my very own coconut! These coconuts were huge (easily the size of a size 4 soccer ball), and I didn’t even know if I would like the taste! I had tried coconut milk at the convent in Venilale once, but it was sweetened and served in a glass.  I hesitantly took my first sip, trying to play it cool so the sisters wouldn’t know how concerned I was about liking it. The liquid was clear and was relatively tasteless. I breathed a sigh of relief-I could definitely drink this! Now I just had to worry about finishing the whole thing! I couldn’t help but smile as I sat there at the café drinking straight from a coconut along with 3 others sisters. I recalled that last year at this time I was flying to New York for my last semester of college. I never imagined that a year from then I would be soaking up the sun, exploring temples and sipping from coconuts in Bali. God is so good!

There was a fee to use the restroom, and thankfully, after drinking ALL of my coconut juice, I didn’t have to go. I did worry that I might not be able to make the long ride home, though.  We didn’t head straight back to the convent after our excursion. Instead, we stopped at a relatively plain looking restaurant with seafood displayed on its porch. I didn’t care what the place looked like-I was excited to get the chance to eat seafood! To my surprise, we were escorted through the restaurant, out the back and onto the beach! We were seated at a table just a few feet from where the waves splashed onto the shore! What a spectacular view! There was a nice island breeze and the sun was just setting. We were in paradise!

The sisters discussed what to order amongst themselves, but I had no idea what they requested. They either spoke in Italian or Indonesian, neither of which I speak. I DID hear the word calamari, and although I am not a picky eater, I REALLY don’t like that dish. I hoped we weren’t getting any of that. No one asked for my input, so I just decided to count my blessings instead of focus on the fact we might be eating something unappetizing to me.

Within a few minutes, we received spicy soup and peanuts as appetizers. I choked a little as I tried to swallow the first spicy spoonful, but managed to do so without drawing any attention to myself. Although it was spicy, it was soooo good! The shelled peanuts really complimented the soup and helped to counteract its spice.

Before long, our dinner was served. A basket of rice was brought out, along with 2 small bowls of a green vegetable (it appeared to be kanko) and a platter of fried calamari (I don’t mind calamari if it’s fried)! It looked good, but I had my doubts as to whether this would really be enough food to satisfy all 4 of us. I should have known the sisters didn’t order just 1 dish to share…they ordered 3! Promptly, two more dishes were brought out. One platter contained two very large, grilled red snapper fish, and the other platter had spicy jumbo prawns! I was so excited! Now I wondered how we would EVER manage to eat all of the food in front of us! Pineapple, melon and watermelon slices were served for dessert! Everything was absolutely delicious…Yum!

As we dined, we were treated to a spectacular sunset. At nightfall, bright fireworks shot off from nearby and flickered over the ocean before fading into the darkness. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day.

All too soon, we had eaten EVERYTHING on the table! Thoroughly stuffed, we waddled back to the car and headed to the convent. I couldn’t believe my time in Bali was already over! At least it had been a wonderful day!