Category: Bali

Enchanted Island (Gili Trawangan, 1990)

September 16th, 2009 — 10:19pm

The travel guidebook claimed it was a fine swim from one Gili island to the other, and I knew I was a strong swimmer.

Every day in Bali I plunged into the Java Sea, and swam far out from the black sand beach to where I could float. From the gently swaying water I would gaze at the green hills of Kayuputih rising above Lovina, and the solid purple peaks of Java piercing the sky to the west.

I swam to near where the good coral was, scarlet and deep. I swam through sea lice that stung and stung my fingers. I swam so far that I could no longer see the touts selling postcards, the massage women, or the wooden bench where every day we sat and drank sugary iced tea and smoked single kreteks with Lasmana, the blind man.

One day Pasek and I take the ferry from Padangbai to Lombok, wanting to vomit as the boat lurches away from Bali’s shore. After sitting cross-legged on the floor for several hours drinking coffee at his cousins’ house in Sengigi, we charter a carriage led by an emaciated horse to go in the direction of the Gili Islands. A boatman with a wooden sampan rows us out to an island with no cars and a few huts with thatch roofs that arch into the sky. Continue reading »

5 comments » | Bali

Leaving San Francisco (2001)

June 3rd, 2009 — 9:48pm

Originally posted on August 10, 2001 on, the Geekcorps volunteers’ site:

San FranciscoI am now part of the G3 group of geeks. I am leaving San Francisco for four months. I have been here since the early 90’s, when the city was sleepy and cafes were filled with people writing novels and at parties everyone wore cool purple hats and sparkly clothing but didn’t have jobs. By 1995, I was working in a web company out of a garage and we knew what to do on weekends because Craig Newmark sent some of his friends an email list. I had gotten the job after reading Laura Lemay’s Learn HTML in a Week and I did. At my interview, I sat on a ripped couch in the garage and talked to a bearded Stanford computer science graduate who still had a Brooklyn accent after 20 years in the Bay Area. He asked me to describe a technology goal that I had.

Before coming to San Francisco, I had spent a lot of time in a small village in the north of Bali where the local rice farmers didn’t have electricity, and making a phone call meant borrowing someone’s motorbike and driving nine kilometers to the nearest town, going to the telephone office there and waiting while the operator tried to reach Jakarta. I imagined that one day technology could improve the communication in that village, that the junior high teacher with his tattered books could find materials online, that there could be a kind of clean economic development that wouldn’t rend the landscape with Industrial Revolution smokestacks and blackened rivers, wouldn’t mar that green and shimmering rice-paddy landscape filled with tree spirits. Continue reading »

3 comments » | Africa, Bali, Change, Ghana, San Francisco

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