Monthly Archives: October 2008

The Heart of School, Bali + Learning about Life on the Islands

I woke up yesterday morning to crystal blue waters, humidity (a very welcome contrast to the Santa Ana winds we were dealing with in LA), and an exciting note from Green School in Bali.   (You can read more about the school in my post, Where Did You Come From.) They are building a new bamboo structure on campus – The Heart of School.  This will be a beautiful structure encompassing the library, computer room, and additional classrooms.   John Hardy’s vision when creating the school was to provide truly equal opportunity learning experiences for all children.  He shared a story with us: when he was 8 years old his choir teacher told him he couldn’t sing, he would never sing, and forbid him to participate.  John always wanted to sing and to this day “can’t.”  That experience impacted him so deeply that he understood instantly the importance of allowing children to explore their passions.  Everything about Green School holds true to his vision, giving all children the foundation and space to grow and cultivate their talents (even if others don’t recognize them as such).  It’s always nice to receive updates from the school as they continue to maintain and expand upon John’s vision.

After reading that note, I decided it was time to do some exploring of Turks & Caicos.  Apparently when you’re staying at Club Med, you’re supposed to stay at Club Med.  Thankfully, Day 1 I met some people who were up for a little adventure and exploration.  When I travel to new places I like to connect with the locals and see the real deal – immerse myself in the culture.  I’ve never been one for your run-of-the-mill tourist vacations so it was a great to meet some like-minded spirits. 

Our taxi driver, Lofton, stayed with us all day, taking us to various villages and “settlements.”  He took us to “the ghetto” of Turks & Caicos, after sharing the disclaimer that “there is no ghetto in Turks, but if there were, this would be it.” Lofton explained that this area is inhabited by illegal immigrants, who squat on the land.  This occurred shortly after he took us to “the most exclusive area of the island” where “rich Americans” were spending an average of $3 million for ocean-front homes.  Let’s just say: the squatters got it right!  They pay nothing, for an even better location on the ocean. 

But here in Turks you actually can by a nice piece of ocean front property for $185,000 or a 2 bedroom, 2 bath townhouse for 495,000.  Yes, I did stop by a realty office my first day here! And there are no property taxes on the islands. If you’re a “Belonger” – the original inhabitants of the island (most of whom were brought over as slaves), the government gives you a 75% discount on the land.  So we saw some amazing ocean front properties where the locals live. 

One of my favorite things I saw yesterday was the Peace Tree.  It’s… a tree…. where locals sit and smoke pot. But what’s special about this tree is it’s also where people share their concerns, fears, and things they’re letting go of.  The locals carve their thoughts on pieces of wood and hang them from the tree.  It’s quite a sight to drive by and a reminder that no matter where you live, people are essentially concerned with the same things: love, money, health, family, work, and life/survival.  The ironic thing about the tree is that it’s directly across the street from the police station.  I’m going to attempt another visit to the tree before I leave – I’d like to speak with the locals and get some pictures.

But it’s not all education and culture here…. rest assured, we’ve been having A LOT of fun.  

From the side of the pool, with a pina colada, typing to the beat of the music,



When you look around you, at those in the world who flourish, thrive, laugh, and love – with friendships, adventure, even abundance – aren’t they, more often than not, first and foremost, the dreamers? -Anonymous 

Ahhhh.... the water!

Ahhhh.... the water!

This is what I wake up to every day

This is what I wake up to every day

From Islands to Icebergs

I was struck by the irony of my shopping cart at Big 5 yesterday – a snorkel set and Hot Chili’s thermal underwear.  And then I heard the sound of all my friend’s voices echoed in my head, “You should go see the polar bears before going to Turks & Caicos.”

But in true Billy Corgan fashion, I’m going to the Islands before I go to the Arctic.  Last night I saw Smashing Pumpkins perform and I was reminded that Billy Corgan is a walking “F you!” aka the ultimate rebel.  It seems like almost everything he does is a carefully calculated move to spite you.  At one point he was literally singing “nah, nah, nah, nah,” with an expression that let you know he was intentionally taunting you.  And yet, when you speak with him, he’s quite kind and has an angelic smile.  Not to blow his cover though – he does have that other side.  But I’m not going to Turks & Caicos out of spite, of course 😉

When my friend, Jen, told me she was essentially going to be out of town for 2 months, I asked where she was going.  “Blah blah, blah blah, Turks & Caicos, blah, and blah blah blah,” is what I heard – not because I wasn’t attentive, but because Turks & Caicos has been on my “list” of places to travel since I was a kid.  Jen works for a company that creates travel packages, or better classified as “experiences”.  So needless to say, I got a fantastic deal on this trip.  AND Jen is one of my most favorite people to travel with.  We’ve traveled to Vegas, Burning Man, and Bonnaroo together and always have an amazing time.

It was an offer I couldn’t pass up and the trip just happens to fall shortly before I head to the Arctic; much to the dismay of my well-intentioned friends who imagine a better itinerary would begin with freezing temperatures and end with tropical waters.  I’m not complaining though.  I’m very fortunate to be going on both trips; the order in which they occur is inconsequential.

The other thing that’s struck me recently is the anticipation of the state of our country when I return between the two trips.  I’ll be back in LA in time to vote, and then leaving again a week later.  That week in between Islands and Icebergs is going to be really interesting.  .  . Talk about climate change! It feels like the absolute perfect time to embark on the polar bear expedition and experience the impact of the way we live on the Arctic region.  

It’s been a while (by my standards) since I’ve traveled and I was reminded of some lessons this morning at the airport:


  • The only Starbucks that carry Cinnamon Scones are airport Starbucks
  • The only time I go to Starbucks is when I’m at the airport
  • I get hit on most frequently at airports
  • Maybe that’s because I’m most frequently in airports
  • Good news is when Hudson News carries the next book in the series you’re reading!
  • There are no coincidences – the guy who hit on me in Hudson News was wearing a t-shirt with the words “POLAR BEAR” printed in huge type on the back. 
  • It’s also no coincidence he arrived 2 weeks too early (this is the island vacation.  Polar bears are in November), so I ignored his advances
  • They now have wifi on airplanes.  Maybe that’s not new news, but again, it’s been a minute since I traveled last.
  • Do we really need wifi on airplanes?? Can we take a break from the internet for 6 hours? That’s usually the time I dedicate to cleaning up and replying to all my personal emails. Well, if I’m delayed replying to your email it’s because I’m playing Pathwords on Facebook during the flight instead.
  • Never underestimate how busy the airport will be at 7am on a Sunday!
  • The approved size of carry-on luggage seems to decrease by 15% every time I fly
  • The amount of room in the aisles and between the seats decreases by 20%
  • Much like you spend the first 30 minutes at the movies watching previews, you spend the first 40 minutes of the flight on the runway.


Initial attempt from the sky, using GoGo wifi for airplanes but that didn’t work,

Second attempt from Miami Int’l Airport, where you can walk around drinking beer, but internet didn’t work there either. 

Third attempt from my room in Turks… this is bound to work!




Billy Corgan, one of my favorite rebels.

Billy Corgan, one of my favorite rebels. Smashing Pumpkins at The Lot Oct 25



Where Did You Come From?

“Where did you come from?” the young Balinese man inquired.

“California,” I responded with a smile.

“Oh… UNITED STATES!” The notion of California was too small for this man to imagine – the United States is a world away from his world. He went on to explain that most Balinese have never traveled outside of Bali, not even to the neighboring islands by boat. He then asked several questions about what it was like to be on an airplane, to have TV, to see the world. . .

In that moment, I was reminded just how fortunate I am, with opportunities to explore the world, learn from many people and cultures, and have unforgettable adventures. When I reflect upon how much I learned in Bali alone, it’s really amazing. Among the most noteworthy:

  • I’m the only American to have traveled to Bali this year who did not read “Eat Pray Love.” (I’ve since read it)
  • It is possible to create a completely sustainable school where, in addition to standard curriculum, children learn through experience, sharing of ideas, cooperative activities, and movement arts. A place that is powered by a hydro-generator. A place where the stoves are fueled by methane made from cow’s waste (no, it doesn’t smell). MUCH more about this later, but if you want a sneak preview, visit!
  •  People are happier without $4 lattes, cell phones, iPods, and instant messengers. In fact, forget about “instant” – take your time, share stories in person, create music together and then… dance!
  • Food tastes better when the land it’s grown on is revered.

I can go on about Bali forever (and I will in other posts), but this is just a quick example of the importance of travel and why I’m starting this blog now.  This year alone I’ve been to: Vail, New Orleans, Costa Rica, Bali; with repeated visits to New York, San Francisco, and Santa Barbara.  Add to that list Turks & Caicos and the Arctic (to see the polar bears) before the year’s end.  Some people travel much more frequently, others much less.  For me, the adventures and people I encounter while traveling are integral to who I am.  They shape (and re-shape) my world-view, inspire me infinitely, and help me become better at everything I do: relationships, work, and play! I have a long list of places to visit and many tales of adventures past to share.

The reason I’m beginning this blog today is because I’m preparing for a polar bear expedition in the Arctic. I’ve wanted to see the affects of climate change on the Arctic region and its inhabitants for some time and now have the opportunity to travel with 2 scientists who have studied bear conservation and Arctic ecology for 40 years. Friends, family, colleagues and strangers have all responded to this idea with great enthusiasm and interest, and journeys like these are meant to be shared!

Next up: Turks & Caicos and Getting Ready to Meet Polar Bears.

Gregory "Andro" S., pre-schooler I'm sponsoring at Green School

Andro, a preschool student I'm sponsoring at Green School