Studying abroad is one of the best experiences I have ever had. This is my second time doing so- the first was 4 years ago with University in London which was the source of my raging travel bug! This time, I am in sunny, humid, culturally rich Bali.
I never thought I would end up here. It is where all the Australians flock to for a quick holiday in the sun, which means there is more Australian accents than Balinese- totally not my style! BUT that is not why I am here.I am here to get a CIBTAC qualification at Bali BISA (Bali International Spa Academy). Yeah that meant nothing to me before I did my research too. I am doing a world recognised CIBTAC Diploma in Spa Therapy, and Anatomy and Physiology. It is crazy, intense and wonderful!
Usually a year long course, we are squeezing a manic amount of study into 2 months. There are 5 of us, cramming our lives into our assignments and practical skills. We love it! Trying out new therapies and techniques on each other, meeting new clients, having new Balinese friends which are so friendly and happy. This is a unique experience I will never forget.
So what exactly am I learning? Well apart from an abundance of new exotic foods, we are learning all about the human body (which is interesting but super intense), Swedish massage, body scrubs, body wraps, hot and cold stone massage, and Indian head massage. Just the stuff to get you started in a career in Spa.
For those who don’t know me, I am a dancer. And I found doing these treatments is like performing a dance, or drawing a picture on someones body. Massaging is a series of choreographed movements which occur in a sequence. They require artistry and style to perform well. You must focus on your posture, presence and creativity to perform well. That is probably why I love it. It channels my inner creative!
I love being active and struggle sitting still, and granted, at first there is a lot of theory in this course, but once you get the mass amount of that out of the way, you are in for days of treatments and trying to negotiate the space in your brain and body for this abundance of new knowledge and skill. I think the 2 month course is way more rewarding than doing it over a lengthier amount of time, because you practice everyday. But it is intense, and as a result I have not actually seen much of Bali!
Being in Bali, I have experienced masses of cool culture and made awesome new friends. We were here for Nyepi (Balinese New Year) which unlike in other countries where you get blind drunk and spend new years day trying to recover, the day is spent indoors, in silence, with no lights or electricity. It is a day for reflection. It was the only time in three weeks there hasn’t been the familiar sound of motorbikes hooning past my homestay! It was eye opening and really interesting. Although as I said being stuck indoors sitting still was not the greatest use of my day…… procrastination is a wonderful thing- even when you have assignments to do and are forced to be in close proximity to your laptop! The coolest part about Balinese New Year is the festivities of New Years Eve. A series of parades and celebrations with massive statues which are super creepy are carried around by a bunch of men or boys and made to dance to a dancing band of Balinese instruments. It is like a competition to see which group can make the scariest and craziest monsters and perform the best dance. Then there is the guy over the loud speaker commentating in jibberish and making noises to go with each teams monster (imagine the sounds- snort, whine, high pitched laughing, snort snort, low voice jibberish, high pitched whine, snort, evil laugh, sneeze, snort, whine, cough, scream etc etc)! mind you- some of the ‘jibberish’ pro was actually Balinese!
It is unlike me to not attempt to learn the local language. I can recall numbers 1-10 in Indonesian from Kindergarten, but that is as far as I have gotten. I have not needed it- everyone speaks English. That’s not a good excuse I know- but really I have little brain space left for language learning after all this study. However, I am experiencing culture in different ways. I am that token white girl walking on the side of the road each morning and night on my way to school. No-one walks here. People think I am crazy, and maybe I am- turning up to class every morning dripping with sweat. So the past few days I have stepped up my game and borrowed a bicycle. I am still the odd one out, but less now I have a set of wheels! Everyone here drives motorbikes or scooters and the odd bicycle. Its not uncommon to see a whole family on a motorbike- the small kids standing on the foot rest of the scooter, mum and dad on the seat, one holding a baby who has fallen asleep and head is hanging over the side of the parents arms! It is refreshing to see people actually living life – rather than being compounded by ridiculous amounts of rules like we have in the western world. Although, there are probably more accidents here.
Driving on these roads is an art form. If you come and want to drive in a western manner- you will die. its safer to be a bit reckless and add to the chaos! the moment you stop because someone is driving on the wrong side of the road towards you, is the moment an accident will happen. Better just to get over and let them pass on the wrong side. Have a little fun- just be smart and learn the rules. Honk when your coming to a corner. Honk when you’re beside someone. Honk when you are behind someone. Honk when you see someone you know. honk if you want to overtake. Honk if you are annoyed with the person in front of you. And honk if in doubt of when to honk! better to be safe than sorry! People say the roads are crazy, but it’s not that bad.
Balinese people are the source of the culture. They are interesting. On the street they want to ask you where you stay, where you are going, and of course if you can look in their shop. This part of Bali (Sanur) is touristy so of course they want you to buy from them. Although at times it can be mighty overwhelming! I have made friends on the street, who seemed like decent people, but when they started asking me to try food from their cafe I got a vibe which meant I was just like every other foreigner. As a stranger, I guess this is true! However in school it is different. We are always laughing, joking and having a genuinely good time with our Balinese trainers. They are the loudest people I have come across. You can hear them laugh a block away, and on a particularly rowdy day you can find them smearing cake on each other’s faces, covering each other in water and then flour, and just having fun. They are open and friendly, and genuinely great people.
So it is safe to say, it was a good choice to come here. It is almost half over which seems crazy! But there are so many more things to learn and experiences to have! So stay posted:)