COOKING STORIES

FATE, COOKING, AND LOVE IN BALI

September 25, 2017

The more I grow, the more I believe in some certain undeniable truths in my life. One of which is that whatever is supposed to happen in my life will always happen. The people I am supposed to meet, I meet. The experiences I am supposed to have, I have. All at exactly the time I am supposed to encounter them. Fate. When I trust this simple truth, when I allow myself to let go and follow the signs that are presented, whether subtle and quiet (in the beginning they are often whispers) or deafeningly loud and brightly flashing (sometimes it takes me to get to this point before I wise up and listen), I always, without a shadow of a doubt, find myself humming along the path I am destined to be walking down.

 

Now, my natural inclination always and forever has been to push. I’ve always been wildly intuitive and feel things incredibly deeply, so when I come across something or someone I KNOW is right, I feel it in my bones so much that I set my mind to making it happen, to moving things along on my timeline. So I push. I orchestrate. I rush. I put myself on the path my heart feels is right. But more often than not, that path is not ready for me in timing or circumstance. Or the players that need to join me on that path aren’t ready yet. Or I haven’t yet learned what I need to know in order to hop on that road.

 

So my life-long struggle is to truly madly deeply learn (and put into practice) the lesson that the harder I push something and the more I force my way along (in relationships, work, life) there is an equal reaction of force from the universe that takes me further away from the path I desire. It tells me- hey girl, you obviously haven’t learned your damn lesson yet so go get your shit together and come back and see me when you’ve learned to let go.

 

Now this path thing, which I’ll name Fate but you can call it whatever you’d like- destiny, random chance, God, the universe having it’s way – is nearly impossible to make sense of until you look back and connect all the dots. And when you do- OH MAN – do you often sit there in total fucking awe at how you wound up right there at that moment. Things that made absolutely no sense for so long – random encounters, strangers you met in a coffee shop, missed flights, horrible heartbreaks, devastating illnesses, career missteps, epic failures and disappointments, on and on and on – all start to fall together in this bizarre epiphany kind of moment where all the randomness clicks together in this crazy intricate jigsaw puzzle and you finally see the big picture that you’ve missed for so long. I’ve had a few of these ah-ha moments in the past couple years that took my breath away in so many ways, from small in scale laugh-inducing/head-smacking/damn-I-should-have-seen-that-coming kind of moments to those large-scale oh-my-god I’ve been looking at this all wrong I need to make some serious changes epiphany level shit. Then, there’s those wow, this is just a really cool reminder of how sometimes, the accumulation of years and years of encounters can take you down a path that will give you exactly what you need at the exact moment you need it. And it’s that kind of fate that brought me to Tresna Bali Cooking School.

Kim and Sara

If you’ve read my Origin Story, you know that I came to Bali for the first time last April because of one of my closest friends Kim. I had met Kim years ago because my boyfriend at the time, Scott, needed some new shirts and Kim’s boyfriend, Jon, owned a custom suiting company. Since Scott had horrible fashion sense he sent me to pick out fabric swatches with Jon, and over fabric and coffee we hit it off, and he insisted I meet his girlfriend Kim who was at the time in the beginning stages of starting her own branding design shop (and I had yet to switch careers from web designer to chef). Within five minutes of our girl date, Kim and I both know we would be life-long friends (I owe it all to Scott’s inability to make decisions, and I could take this connection story all the way back to why I met him and and so on and so on, but I have to stop somewhere).

Now last year Kim had a chance encounter at a co-working space back in Los Angeles with a badass woman named Sara (I call her the Most Interesting Woman in the World – she has killed a shark with her bare hands) who had given up her comfortable life as lawyer in favor of an experience rich Nomadic life (meeting her was a huge inspiration in my choice to do the same). Sara had moved to Bali and invited Kim to join her for a month, and one day at the beginning of last year I opened my inbox to an email titled “COME TO BALI WITH ME?” to which I replied within a minute and zero thought a resounding YES (did I mention when I feel something is right I make it happen?). Southeast Asia had never been on my high priority list, but I know a once-in- a-lifetime opportunity when I see it and knew if I was with her, it would be an experience worthwhile no matter the location. Since I had nobody close to me that had ever travelled to Bali, I did some crowd sourcing on Facebook for things I must do while there, and one of the replies was from a woman named Hannah who insisted that I must go meet her friend Adi who was opening a cooking school in Ubud at exactly the time I would be there.

Hannah

I had met Hannah during my previous life when I was a wife over 10 years ago, when she was living in the same building as my ex’s parents. I had only met her a handful of times back in the day, and hadn’t seen her in years outside of the occasional social media post. Hannah had met Adi years before as strangers when he took her and a friend on a tour (and when the cooking school was just a dream), but they had stayed in touch via Facebook. The fact that she even saw my post (damn you Facebook Algorithm, I never see ANYTHING!), that the timing of the school opening was in line with my trip, and that she was so adamant about me heading to Trensa all converged on me booking a class.

Frances and Adi

Tresna Bali Cooking School (Tresna = Love, and damn is there love flowing from every single spot in their property and their beings) is the love child of Frances and Adi Ardika. Frances, a Canadian of Chinese heritage, is a former high-powered Armani-suit-wearing/5-star-hotel-staying golf-tripping/business school graduate who while living in Hong Kong one day decided she needed a dramatic change in her life so she booked a trip to Bali.

 

While in Bali, she booked a massage at a spa and wound up having a sub-par experience and gently suggested to management that they needed to re-train the masseuse and requested the best masseuse they had for her next day’s massage. Adi, Balinese born and bred, happened to be working at that spa as a masseuse. He recalls watching Frances’s name bounce around on the appointment sheet all day because nobody wanted to have the woman who caused them to be reprimanded and re-trained, and lo-and-behold Adi drew the short straw. Over the course of the brief massage (Frances strongly points out that it was only a foot massage so get your mind out the gutter) they chatted and got to know each other. Frances walked away beyond pleased she got the best masseuse, and Adi was beyond happy he was not up for re-training. She went back to Hong Kong and went about her life for a month.

 

But she couldn’t get Adi out of her mind.

 

One day, she had lunch with an old friend, and turned to her and said she had decided to go back to Bali because she had met a man. Her friend, shocked because she had not known Frances to date anyone seriously during their lifelong friendship, listened to the story complete with the facts that they only spoke for a brief time, didn’t exchange numbers, and had not spoken since. Frances pulled out Adi’s business card (she had been carrying around in her wallet for a month) and her friend snatched it, grabbed her phone, dialed the number, and the nervous as anything Frances told Adi she was returning to Bali and they set up a dinner date.

 

The rest is history.

 

They quickly fell in love, Frances moved to Bali, they married, had a child together, started a wedding planning business and luxury travel company, and through many years and many twists in their path, purchased the land and built their home and the most beautiful cooking school complete with the garden and cottage of my dreams.

Frances and Adi had literally just opened their doors the day before I arrived last April, and had no plan for a plant-based cooking class (and which I learned later was quite the point of contention between the two). Adi is cautious and practical, and likes to plan and be ready for things so he said “no way” to my crazy vegetarian inquiry. Frances, as we’ve seen, says yes and figures shit out later (she and I are soul sisters in so many ways) – so she put her foot down and they scrambled to make my class happen.

 

And what a class it was.

 

The moment you enter their property you are transported into this magical garden paradise bursting with jackfruit, coconut, durian, mango, banana and kefir lime trees, fragrant with lemongrass and ginger and galangal and literally everything else you need to make the traditional Balinese food we feasted on all morning. The interior is impeccably designed by Frances (her father, who passed away right around when mine did, was a brilliant architect and her mother a real estate agent with an inspired eye for design, and Frances inherited every last gene) with an attention to detail I’ve never seen in a cooking school in all my days. As a cooking instructor myself, I’m beyond picky when it comes to taking classes, but that day I couldn’t find a single thing out of place or that I would have changed. The marriage of Adi’s culinary talent (he has knife skills like none other) and his patience and gentle nature and Frances’ ability to organize, structure, host and make everything run smoothly and look beautiful makes for an experience that is not only delicious but also a place where you feel completely at home.

Because she said yes, our paths came together and I am now lucky to call both Frances and Adi (and their 11-year old daughter Santi, literally a mini-mi – standing on the table directing everyone where to put their hands to get the perfect shot, case-in-point) dear friends.

 

And because she said yes, a few other simple twists of fate occurred.

Zandra

When I returned to Los Angeles, I continued working with Airbnb on their Experiences program I had been a pilot host for the last year teaching an Instagram Food Styling workshop. The weekend of the big launch, the Airbnb Open, I hosted an experience (one I had wanted to cancel so I could attend the festivities, but practicality prevailed and I went through with it) and my only attendee was a beautiful soul named Zandra from London. We spent the day together creating Instagram #foodporn magic, parted ways, and planned on meeting up at the big free Maroon 5/Lady Gaga concert that evening. We somehow found each other in the crowd, along with a super cool woman named Ulla who she had also met that day. Ulla had been hearing about our experience all night from Zandra, and so after our brief conversation, she followed me on Instagram.

Ulla

Now Ulla had recently left her home country of Denmark and was living the Nomad life around the world. Over the course of the next few months, she wound up in Bali and started a company called Learn with Locals – a mad cool experience-based service company much like what Airbnb was doing (you need to make her tell the story on how that all happened- it’s incredible). Frances had somehow gotten wind of the company, and like the smart businesswoman she is, kept insistently tagging Ulla’s Instagram account with all her posts in hopes of having her check out Tresna. Ulla kept ignoring the tags and ignoring the tags, until one day she saw a post that Frances had mentioned me in. Something jogged Ulla’s memory and she remembered meeting me and decided it was Fate and booked a class at Tresna.

 

I had completely forgotten my chance encounter with Ulla, until two weeks before I retuned to Bali Frances tagged me in an article on Facebook. I was busy in my preparations for leaving LA so ignored it for a while, until one day curiosity got the better of me and I dove in to the article- which amazingly recounted the story of why Ulla wound up cooking with Frances and Adi. It was another one of those moments that I just couldn’t believe.

Ryan and Ryan

Shortly thereafter, things started going badly for me (and keep my origin story in perspective for all this, this was merely just a continuation of the shit storm of the past two years). I cut ties with the man that changed my life two years before, Ryan, someone that taught me more about myself and love than I had ever believed possible, someone that because we knew it was not the right time or place or path for us to be together, we built and maintained a deep friendship that carried me through my time in hell. An unfortunate side-effect of that friendship, one that for me was filled with more than platonic love, was that it was stopping me from giving anyone else a chance at my heart. So as these things go, we agreed we needed to part ways, and losing that friendship, losing my person who I spoke to every day from morning to night, missing that support and wisdom and love that I could always turn to, left me in a pretty deep depression. Then, in the midst of that pain, a month later I fainted and smashed my head on the concrete a week before I was set to leave for Bali – getting almost 20 stitches in my head and a horrible concussion, rendering me pretty helpless to pack up my life and beyond devastated by the turn of events that would now be marking the start of this fresh new life I was about to embark on. Then, more pile-on, I fell really ill on the plan ride to Bali and spent the first week and a half in bed miserable and lonely and angry at losing so much time in paradise and anxious to get out and experience life.

 

Then just as I started to feel better and exist out of bed, things started looking up. I met a man (God help me, another Ryan) that was one of the most incredible people I’d met in a long time, and after a string of horrible heartbreaks in the past two years, I finally thought the universe was giving me something good. It happened in a way Fate seems to work, through a couple of chance encounters, and he spoke to my heart in a way that few people do- we vibed on all the levels. I already had a weekend booked to go back to Tresna and stay with Adi and Frances, and he asked to join me. I was beyond excited to share this special place with him, and to see where the path was going to take us. And then, poof, the next day he took it all back and it broke the very last piece of my already fragile heart.

 

The accumulation of all the pain from my recent past set me swirling back down deeper into the dark place I had been living in. I was still sick, skull-cracked, torn apart by my past, and that momentary belief in the possibility of my heart not being dead anymore after thinking I would never open it again, made the fall so much worse.

Defeated, I packed my bags, hopped on my scooter, and travelled back to Tresna – and back to exactly what I needed at just that moment.

Back to Tresna

The arms and love of Frances and Adi, the flavors and fragrance of the garden, the stunning ambiance of the brand new little wooden house, and the deep conversation that flowed for two days magically shifted my mind to a place of peace. We spent hours talking about life, picking exotic vegetables from the garden, practicing gratitude with the traditional Balinese morning offerings, spent days of endless chopping and squeezing and frying, and ate until we couldn’t eat another bite and then ate some more (there are literally no words to explain how insanely delicious their food is, so I won’t even try. Top 10 meals of my life. Just go, you will not regret a bite.)

Mr. Sirkus

During our time together, I had to explain what happened to this man that was supposed to join me, which led to many tales and tears on both sides. I told the story of the healer I visited last time I was in Bali, and how he changed my life in so many ways and how he was instrumental in helping me through the shock and pain of my father’s death. I spoke of how I was considering returning it him to help me through the thunderstorm that was happening inside me at that very moment.  At that point, Frances turns to me and asks me if I had considered going to see Pak Sirkus, a famous Balinese healer located in Canggu (where I am living).

 

I immediately went silent.

 

If you read my story about my first week in Bali, you know the hell I went through finding a place to stay, and the path that took me to the place I am currently staying. That place? The Sirkus Guest House. Yes, Sirkus. As in, I am living in the guest house of the very famous healer Mr. Sirkus. Turns out, Frances and Adi are close friends with Pak Sirkus, they have taken him to study with their village’s famous healer, and tell me that I must see him as soon as I return to Canggu. That perhaps he can find the malicious spirit that has been following me around messing with my life and tell him to go the hell away.

Now

So, at this very moment, I sit waiting for my turn to see this great man. I’m on hour 4, and it now looks like I have only 2 people left ahead of me. Ulla stopped by to say hello, I sat and cuddled with the puppies that frequently find their way to my guesthouse, and most importantly, the wait has given me the time to write this post I have had floating in my brain for weeks but not able to write for all the reasons and excuses we always make. And if that’s all that comes from today, that is enough. If he doesn’t help me, he wasn’t supposed to help me. Maybe he’s the end of my story of why I found Tresna, but more likely he’s just another fork in the road. Maybe I was just meant to slow down, listen to the birds, write, get a puppy kiss, take time for the things that make me happy and start to heal myself.

 

I will sit and wait my turn, and remind myself that more often than not, the time spent waiting is the best part of the journey.

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