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The Power of Story

February 9, 2016

Happy Chinese New Year! Ringing in the Year of the Monkey (and a recent Memories post courtesy of Facebook) reminded me of my Very Best Vacation Ever, which reminded me of why I'm so excited to be starting Nota Bene this year.

 

For our Chinese New Year holiday three years ago, my dear friend Charlotte and I decided to venture to Bali, Indonesia. As we planned our itinerary, we frequently referenced Eat Pray Love and author Elizabeth Gilbert's adventures on this very island. In fact, we decided to spend half the week in Ubud, partly because of her enticing description of the time she spent in that area of Bali.

 

Charlotte and I arrived in Ubud like Gilbert did: single women hoping to find some peace and culture in this incredibly beautiful part of the world ... Insert eye roll here ...

 

The thing is, though, that's exactly how it went down. In those few days, we found enough peace, culture, fun, and beauty to revitalize our tired, English teacher souls.

 

We checked into a tiny stone cottage, where we shared a bathroom with a couple of lizards (whom we couldn't resist christening Richard and Felipe). We walked into the village at the crack of dawn one morning to practice yoga at the most gorgeous open-air studio I've ever seen (with the most gorgeous instructor I've ever seen ... bonus!).

 

Next up was a cooking class that entailed going to the local market and then using a mortar and pestle to grind ingredients like chillies, garlic, turmeric, shallots, salt, and peppercorns into a paste, which turned into seasoning for the most delicious chicken satay, a tasty fried greens dish, and phenomenal fish soup. (Who knew I could cook, by the way?) We even made coconut pancakes for dessert, which we then ate outside, basking in the sunshine and in the satisfaction of a job well done.

 

Oh right, the monkeys. In Ubud, there's an area called Monkey Forest where these guys run wild and tourists come to have their cameras stolen. It's very entertaining. We saw a wise old monkey who looked at us like we were aliens. We saw a monkey family of four sitting on a fence, watching traditional Balinese dancers sway to enchanting music. We also saw a weird little monkey who seemed obsessed with trying to wrap a stone in a leaf. I still worry about that one.

 

All that to say, I wouldn't have traded our days in Ubud, however unoriginal, with time anywhere else. And that, to me, illustrates the power of story. If you can articulate your experiences and interactions half as well as Gilbert does in her book, you've drawn us in to what motivates and inspires you. And that makes the rest of us want to come along for the ride.

"When you are walking down the road in Bali and you pass a stranger, the very first question he or she will ask you is, 'Where are you going?' The second question is, 'Where are you coming from?' To a Westerner, this can seem like a rather invasive inquiry from a perfect stranger, but they're just trying to get an orientation on you ..."

- Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love

 

A new lunar new year seems like a fitting time to consider our stories and what the chapter we're writing now is all about. So where are you going? And where are you coming from?

 

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