Archive for December, 2008

First night, Bali 12/12/08

Posted by Robin Sparks on December 23rd, 2008 | Email this to friend

My first night in Bali I struggle to stay awake at 8:12. Like a princess in some kind of eden, I sit perched on my large teak four poster bed, high above the turquoise pool below, the uplit banyon tree, the night sounds of the jungle. (I am the guest of Ketut, owner of Tutmak Restaurant) And the occasional chirp of a gecko. All is quiet except for the night sounds. There is air conditioning, but I have all the windows thrown open wide, have touched my skin with citronella to ward off night insects, and so me who normally cannot sleep, will sleep tonight sans earplugs, plus a chorus of crickets, frogs and who knows what else, and the sound of the dripping rain, just dripping not falling. Gentle as is Bali. On white crisp sheets. I will let down the netting around my bed. And in the morning, light will stream into my room and likely the sounds of the night will wake me, but it will be like camping.

There is AC but I don’t want it. It is not hot. Humid yes, and so you move a little more slowly, but hot, no. Not even warm really. It just is, the temp it might be in a botanical garden with less humidity. I want a life where I live in concert with the outdoors. I don’t want to shut it out.

This is the house that Ketut told me five years ago he was going to build. It is still a work in progress.
And I will read Rumi until I fall asleep.

And so I do. Only to wake up sometime in the soft darkness, rain still tapping the leaves on the tree off my terrace, frogs still croaking, so much softness everwhere holding me. Bali embracing me. I get up in my jet lagged early awake time and rearrange my things. Unpack my bags. Everything now in its place. I look at the clock. It is midnight. Ah, jetlag. I take a sleeping pill. And make a list of what I will do tomorrow. I pad around quietly in the soft night on bare feet. Maude and Harold the dogs sleep outside my window on my private terrace.

First morning 12/13/08

This morning I wake enveloped in the soft muslin hanging around my teak canopy bed, perched high above the banyon trees, sun is out. Soft voices below. Yes, I am in Bali I remember. I get up and move about slowly. There is all the time in the world. Wash face. Lay out clothes, prepare makeup, my things for the day. At some point I glance at the clock on my phone. It is 8am. 8AM! and it feels so right. So rested. 8am only comes at home when I have an appointment, someplace to be. But now i remember how I lived in Bali. How everyday in this equatorial island ends at 6PM and begins again at 6am. Down with the sun, up with the sun.

James Johnson, That’s all right, that’s alright playing in Tutmak’s where I sit having my first cup of Balinese coffee….I sit on platform having removed my pink flip flops.

The quiet of Bali is disturbed only by the motorcycles, everywhere. Too bad they don’t have a law requiring people to ride what they call here pushbikes. Then it would truly be paradise. But not as much fun.
This morning, like in a foreign film, I got up my full skirt, cotton blouse, pink flip flops and simply pointed the boys at the house the direction I want to go. I am handed a helmet, and board the back of the motorcycle. We start and stop up the wending muddy path, stopping only to allow a group of five men who are carrying a large knarly branch, big enough to take up the breadth of the muddy path, and then we go, me watching, trying to memorize landmarks so that I can find my way back.

Off the muddy path, we turn right at a gas station, and a something Gengis Guest house sign. Soon we pass the Arma museum on the right and we keep going until we turn at , eeks, what was there where we turned? I hope to remember when I go again. Straight along until soon we have pulled up in front of Tutmak’s.

Drums, beeps, American jazz, and buzzing, buzzing motorcycles.

breakfast – fresh papaya juice. #2 breakfast, toast, avodacdos, eggs, arguala, bacon, chives, grilled tomatoe. Sitting crosslegged on cusions on a platform at a low teak table.

Today I will rent a motorcycle. Get millions of rupiahs (you take off the last four digits to get the equivalent in dollars). Go get a massage ($6!) and pedicure and manicure and facial. I will check in with Marcioux the fat frenchman who owns Highway internet cafe. I will get him to help me send photos to my doctor of the not quite healed open wound from recent surgery. I will find a pharmacy and steri strips, and a health food store where I will stock up on vitamins and natural skin creams.

I will write. Complete assignments 8 and 9 before requesting number 10. I am so inspired to write here. I wrote my forum yesterday:

“Made it! None of the horrific things that even I worry about before taking a big trip happened. I am sitting barefoot outside drinking a fresh mango lassi, watching women walk up the hill balancing towers of fruit on their head. Across the street is an ornate temple gate leading to someone’s home with some kind Hindi god statues, and out walks a woman just now and she’s placing burning incense and tiny offerings everywhere on the ground. And who’s on the sound system but Waylon Jennings… You can run but you can never really hide.

Anyway, here I am ready to get back to work. I’m in that first excited phase before jetlag kicks in. I did a lot of work in good old pen and ink enroute (couldn’t find an adaptor to fit a Turkish plug so computer was useless, but guess what? They use the same size plugs in Bali so I’m golden here) on Assignments 8 and 9 and will transfer them to ‘puter tonight and request #10 tomorrow.

And for those of you who are thinking, how lucky… must be nice to have that kind of money. I flew here on frequent flyer miiles and I am the guest of the owner of a restaurant here who I let stay in my SF apartment years ago. My flats are rented in Istanbul, and even if I were paying for my own place here, which eventually I will be, I save money because the cost of living is so much lower here than “home”. My bedroom – a huge canopy bed and tile bathroom open to the outdoors, and just outside my bedroom is a garden with a pool. The living room has a stream running thru it with koi fish and goldfish…The owner won’t be here for a few days, but told his staff to take care of me.

Point is, magic is free (or very cheap). You don’t have to settle for ordinary. – Robin”

A member of the forum replied:

“Dear ObiWan-Cinderella,

Please teach me how! I long to drink a fresh mango lassis in Bali,
instead of sipping weak coffee from a styrofoam cup in a Comfort Inn
in rainy PA.

Oh, my! Do I!

I’m happy for you and thankful you made it there safely and in one
piece. I’m happy to just to read about your life, for it brings a
moment of fantasy and sunshine and escape into my dull gray one.

I dream of following you on a journey, and having you be the tour
guide that opens my eyes to a life I can barely imagine. And the funny
part is – I know you can do it.

And I am so thankful that I know you! You are a tonic for my tired soul.

Please write more – and often.

Much love and gratitude,

I will go home late this afternoon or evening and swim.
So few distractions. If there is daylight after writing, I will visit the Yoga Barn where I will meet a friend and sign up for classes next week.

I will shower and dress and return on this Saturday night to the Jazz Cafe. The first place I went 5 years ago and ended the evening on the back of a motorcycle with a woman with long flowing red hair, tatoos up and down her ankles, leaning into the turns on a cool Balinese night, the smell of jasmine and clove cigarettes in the air, a full moon illuminating the way.

Robin in Bali
Saturday, Dec. 13, 2008

Writing Workshop Aboard Turkish Gulet 2009

Posted by Robin Sparks on December 1st, 2008 | Email this to friend
The Kaptan Sevket

The Kaptan Sevket

Hi Everyone,

Yep, we’re doing it again! We had such a successful voyage last September that we’re heading back to Turkey’s Turquoise Coast for not one workshop but two, September 12-19 and September 19-26, 2009 for a week of sailing, writing, and wandering the ruins and villages. Like last year we’re restricting the group to 10 participants and we’ll meet for instruction in the mornings, have private consultations throughout the day (in and around writing and exploring), and meetings for discussion and sharing our work in the evenings before our sumptuous nightly feast. After that, of course, there’s more time to talk or write, sip wine or raki, or simply lie on the deck and look at the stars. Full details here:

A lot of you have asked me about our 2008 Writing Workshop last September. In short, it was perfect. (My humble opinion of course).

Ten of us climbed aboard the Kaptan Sevket on September 20, 2008 and set sail into the Gekova harbor off the coast of Turkey where the Mediterranean meets the Aegean Sea. Our wildly varied group of personalities, ages and skill levels got along fabulously. After a week that included idyllic sailing along Turkey’s curvaceous coastline, swimming and kayaking in aquamarine waters, visits to small villages, hiking among the ruins on Cleopatra Island, eating outrageously delicious, healthy food that just kept coming and coming, meeting and talking about writing, and producing heaps of newly informed and inspired pieces, we disembarked after one week with indelible memories, new friends, and vastly enhanced writing skills.

Most participants were previously published writers who were emphatic about improving their trade. They worked at it, showing up for every class each morning and evening to write, and to consult with our instructor Larry Habegger throughout each day.

As for our magic carpet, The Kaptan Sevket, it was a sleek, solid, 82 foot, hand-built Turkish gulet with majestic sails that towered high above as we headed each day for our next bucolic harbor. We all concurred that we did not see one other boat on the water that could compare to ours! And the crew, ah the crew, how we loved them. There was the capable, all-knowing Kaptan Mustafa. And sweet, efficient Levent, Batur and Tuncay. The food. Can’t say enough about it and so I won’t.

You can see photos of it here, thanks to our itinerant writer and photographer, Cheryn Flanagan.

We are on again for next fall, September 12-19 and September 12-19, 2009! This year we’ll start a little further south on Turkey’s coastline in Gocek and head to Ulu Deniz – one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – and the waters of Kas where we’ll snorkel over ancient cities, sail past ruins, go ashore when the mood hits, and yes, once again, write. And we will do it on the Kaptan Sevket with the same crew. They are family now.

With two successful writing workshops under our belts, the word is out and we expect that the 10 spots (yes, we will limit it once again to 10) for each of our workshops in September, 2009 will fill fast.
Wondering what to give that friend or loved one for the holidays? Why not a writing workshop off the coast of Turkey? It’s an experience they will never forget.

The price for the September workshop is $2800 usd and is all inclusive for the week on the boat. You can reserve your spot by sending $1400 via to Spots are filling fast so be sure to reserve yours soon. Deposits are non-refundable unless we can fill your spot.

To learn more about our instructor, Larry Habegger, co-editor of Travelers Tales Books, have a look at the following links:

Here is what some of our participants have to say:

When I signed up for the workshop, I couldn’t have imagined what I would leave with: deepfriendships, a new understanding of myself and writing goals, an amazing collection of photos, and a great big notebook of souvenirs in the form of writing tips, techniques, and guidance I received from Larry, who has replaced my 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Klein, as my favorite instructor of all time. Sailing on a handsome gulet along the gem-colored shoreline of the Aegean Sea is the perfect place to get inspired, forget about all the distractions at home, and devote yourself to a week of writing. – Cheryn Flanagan, San Francisco, California

This workshop exceeded my expectations a million times. I had a vague idea I could write commentary but had no confidence in my ability to write description. I came away feeling like I can now do both. Larry helped me find continuity in my notes and pull them together into something that was actually writing instead of just ideas on a page. Listening to everyone else was valuable in pointing me in the right direction. Having optional and flexible individual consultations was perfect. Being on a boat in gorgeous surroundings crystallized everything into one great experience. - Nicola Prentis, Istanbul, Turkey

The trip was really fantastic, worth every penny. I would definitely consider coming again next year. - Judith Colp Rubin, Tel Aviv, Israel

Thank you for a wonderful experience aboard the Kaptan Sevket! The trip was well organized. It was a nice touch making decisions as a group about specific destinations on a day-to-day basis. As a lover of the wilderness, I enjoyed mooring in secluded bays absent of resorts and other development. I liked meeting in the morning and reconvening in the evenings for writing. The private meetings with Larry were a real plus. Our group was diverse in many ways, and I appreciated the different personalities. Thank you so much for an inspiring, relaxing and colorful experience! - Carrie Visintainer, Fort Collins, Colorado

The price for the September workshop is $2800 usd and is all inclusive for the week on the boat. You can reserve your spot by sending $1400 via to

Hope to hear from you soon, and I will see you in Turkey in September 2009!

Please purchase travel insurance as deposits are non-refundable unless we can fill your spot. We also reserve the right to cancel the workshop up to July 10 in the unlikely case that there are less than 8 participants.

Robin Sparks in Istanbul, Turkey
OneWorld Ltd

Judy in private consultation with Larry

Judy in private consultation with Larry

Cheryn and Carrie working on assignments

Cheryn and Carrie working on assignments

Cleopatra Beach