I wanted to travel out of my depth, on my own and as far away as possible... I wanted to escape my ordinary routine and day to day activities by stepping out of my comfort zone completely. I live in England and Bali has always been a mere dream however this year I decided to make it my reality.
Firstly, the IVHQ volunteer Facebook page gave me the platform to chat to other volunteers and before I had stepped foot out of my hometown, I had made friends for life. I planned to travel alone, however I made arrangements to fly with another IVHQ volunteer I met on the Facebook page who I ended up living with during my stay in Bali. So, my first tip to you... you should use social media to its advantage and be confident to talk to new people, it’s where my volunteering story began.
Bali welcomed me with open arms; from the minute I stepped off the plane (from a long 27 hour journey) I was greeted by my transport, on time too! When I arrived it was the middle of the night, therefore my journey from the airport into Ubud centre was dark and a little daunting. However, my driver spoke good English and he made me feel very safe.
Let’s talk about my accommodation. Now, I have known a fair few people that have volunteered with different programmes all over the world and I have to say I had build up an imagine in my mind of where I would be sleeping... let’s just say it wasn’t pleasant. Nevertheless, when I arrived at Tini House (my house name) in the middle of the night, jetlagged and hoping for the best, I was pleasantly surprised. My accommodation was absolutely stunning and bursting with Balinese culture. Mrs Tini, our house owner, was a lovely lady who made me feel welcome from the get go. She spoke about how she wanted to keep the volunteers safe in her local town and if we needed anything night and day she would be at hand. I did feel very much at home, I have to admit. I was sharing with 5 others in my bedroom but in total 18 in our house, which at first was daunting however after a couple late night chats in the front garden, quickly we became a family.
Tip: if you meet people in your house that you get on really well with and feel you would like to volunteer with them on your programme, don’t be scared to ask. I asked to teach with a friend that I lived with and the co-ordinators are more than happy to put people that get on well together, together in the classroom.
The orienteering week for me was absolutely fantastic. It gave you the opportunity to see the best of Bali. The rice fields, temples, traditional dancing and so much more. On reflection they gave you the opportunity to live like a local while getting to know your peer volunteers from all over the world. As a student art teacher at home... I personally loved getting involved with local Batik painting; we were even allowed to keep our design. (which made an amazing souvenir by the way.) This week was packed with energy and all the volunteers were buzzing, we were able to mingle in the cafes and meet local people that lived in Penestanan village. Its true what they say about the local people being friendly and accommodating, they are happy to help you with whatever you may need during your time volunteering.
Tip: If you are travelling from England, the exchange rate for British Pounds is higher than any other currency you are recommended to take. Get your money changed over there instead of prior to your trip, the ATM’s are really close by and easy to access money too. The closest ATM was located at the BINTANG MARKET, around a 20 minute walk from the village.
As I student teacher at home, teaching the kids at Sabatu school was a dream. It was challenging if I am going to be honest, the kids struggled with English speaking and the language barrier proved to be difficult at times however with help from the co-ordinators you soon feel comfortable being left alone with them. A quick tip; don’t plan a lesson each day to fill the full two hours you are teaching in the classroom, the kids get bored quickly after a long day at school so plan some games, prepare to have fun and don’t be scared to get involved, they love it! We played games such as; Simon Said, Duck Duck Goose and Heads up Thumbs Down.
The rice terrace house was accommodating to plan lessons with plenty of books, two computers and a photocopier, so don’t worry you aren’t left to your own devices. What I would say is don’t be afraid to get attached to the kids, you build a relationship with them that changes your life, they appreciate everything you give to them and in return they give back by making you smile. Leaving them is hard, for sure, but it makes you feel like your time volunteering has been worth it.
You are given the option with IVHQ to be in a school teaching or to teach kindergarten. I wanted to teach as this is my career prospect however with teaching comes restriction as you are travelling to the school and teaching from 1pm- 5pm, I didn’t mind this as I was there to teach however this factor caused issues with other volunteers wanting more spare time to see the island. Kindergarten starts very early in the morning and ends around 10.30am. If you are unsure, you can change programmes while you are there or you can do both during your time, even better!
The food at the canteen gave you a taste of Balinese culture. Each day was something different, some days you might like it, other days you might not but don’t expect western meals as this was not on our menu. It was nice to try new things and I certainly did, there is always something you can eat so don’t worry about that. But, if you prefer to eat out, there are local cafes in the village that have amazing local and western dishes for real cheap too. A walk into Ubud centre, which is filled with restaurants and always buzzing from morning until night, is around 30 minutes from the village and you can always find something you like to eat there.
I was lucky enough to meet fantastic people and make friends for life, we all shared a common interest and that was to explore the island. On weekends we visited Gili Air, Ulu Watu and Nusa Lembongan, along with doing activities such as; visiting the rice terraces, white water rafting, snorkelling, visiting food festivals and doing Mount Batur sunrise trek. You seriously can’t be robbed for the price you pay to do fantastic things in Bali that at home would cost you an arm and a leg. The memories that you make here are built into the weekends, there's nothing better than experiencing new things with a group of people who are there to have fun just as much as you are. Also, quick tip; get a massage in Penestanan, they are fantastic.
I loved every second of my time in Bali; you are able to experience the different ways of life to Bali by living away from the beach in an area packed with culture however the option to travel at the weekend is there for you too. I can honestly say you will be welcomed into the community by the locals with grace and appreciation for your kindness to volunteer which makes the experience worthwhile. So, finally I hope I have been as helpful as I could be to new volunteers, I hope you have a fantastic time in Bali or with any IVHQ volunteer programme and stay safe!