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I swear I'm not a heavy packer. I traveled the world for nearly 2 years with only a carry on and when I travel for business I never, ever check luggage. But somehow all of that goes out the window when you've got 5 kids and are moving to an island without easy access to goldfish crackers or sugar free maple syrup. We recently returned to Bali after the end of year break and we did not travel light.

For those of you counting at home, yes, that's 14 boxes and suitcases. Each one weighs about thats about 720 lbs of luggage! Plus carry 5 kids...

You might notice in these pics that my kids don't look super happy. That's because our flights are at 11:30 at night and that's not a kid's best time of day.

So what did we pack? Laugh all you want, but it's mostly books, toys, snacks, body glitter and sunscreen. A few big ticket items like air purifiers for the bedrooms and outdoor string LED lights for the garden take up a few boxes too. I admit to least 100 pounds of goldfish crackers, sugar free ketchup, sugar free maple syrup, peanut butter puffs...My kids struggle with the local snacks options and I cringe giving them full sugar condiments.

So a few Costco runs later...we're ready for another 5 months in Bali!

I give thanks to the Bali gods for airport porters. These guys were lifesavers! Also thank you to this crazy Coronavirus for clearing out the airport and giving us a half full flight. I've never been through immigration as fast!

A quick list of things we can't find in Bali that we "need"

- our favorite sunscreens

- Hidden Valley Ranch

- sugar free condiments

- LED outdoor string lights with shatter proof plastic bulbs

- children's books

- tahini made with sesame oil (only coconut oil tahnini here and it is not the same!)

- goldfish crackers

- decent kid's footwear

- acrylic samovar for parties (we don't need this but I needed this!)

- colorful organic cotton sheets for the kids beds (unicorns, mermaids, sharks, etc.)

- inflatable SUP

Other stuff like air quality monitors, air purifiers, and outdoor projectors could have been purchased here, but they are wicked expensive and quality was dubious.

I blame the kids for most of the packing (convenient, right?), though I could just force them to adapt to the local foods...and games and books and clothes and shoes...but it's so easy to buy stuff in the US. And the irony that the consumerism is a HUGE part of what we are trying to escape isn't lost on me. Am I failing them by failing to adapt? Probably, but there is only so much I can adapt to without feeling frayed.

Bali is about balance. Bali is about acceptance. Bali is about pushing our comfort zone. But I'm a mom of 5 living in a strange land, dealing with sunburns, typhus (seriously!), dengue (yikes!) and weird snack foods. Sometimes moms need a little help...sometimes 700+ pounds of it helps a lot.

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Updated: Dec 17, 2019

It's not surprising that a tribe of free spirited adults looking to live their "best life in Bali" would throw some killer parties. Most Green School parents are on sabbatical, retired, in transition, or otherwise free from constraints that force most adults to be in bed by 10:00.

We are a social, friendly, curious, and openhearted community. There is very little judgment. No quest for status. No posturing. There are a rainbow of passports and languages but the parents we know from GS and other local schools are like long lost members of the same lovely tribe. All are welcome. The Island has a creative force and we are a creative bunch. I'm not spiritual, but when we get together you can feel the love.

Glitter is kind of a thing here.

If you're thinking of moving to Bali and joining our GS party tribe (or any tribe!), bring glitter. Bring many colors. Don't forget the gold body tattoos and stick on gems. Throw a few wigs in your luggage too. Definitely don't show up without costumes. There seem to be no rules except that you must show up bedazzled. Shirt and shoes optional. If you're at home reading this and you can rap, please pack your bags and come join us. Rappers needed.

How hard is the party?

Like a lot of Bali life, pictures don't always represent real life. There might be drinks in some of the pics, but the party isn't about drinking. As someone who rarely drinks in Los Angles, I do drink more often in Bali. But that's not saying a lot. I have about 2-3 glasses of wine a month in LA so more for me is relative. Although I drink more in Bali (maybe 10-12 glasses of wine a month), many Aussies and Brits here say they drink less than at home. Some admit they drink more. I spent 10 years living on/off in Brazil and the party vibe in Bali is similar. Parties are more frequent and free spirited, run later and larger than what I'm familiar with in LA, but feels like people do less drinking. The goal is fun, not getting smashed.

Get your dinner party on

Not all parties are disco dance fests! Most are dinner parties and group hang outs. We also do board game nights and group dinner or brunches. Our house has 2 guest houses so most weekends we host another GS family (usually from the Ubud area) or friends from elsewhere on the island for a sleepover. The kids play and swim, the adults chill and swap stories. The casual nature of weekend guests is pure pleasure for me. In LA weekend guests would stress me out. Here it's no biggie. No pressure.

Bali is a collective struggle that requires celebration

Living in Bali isn't easy. Paradise can be a real bitch. The weather is a cunt. The bacteria in the water is an asshole. Traffic is shit. The heat is a mother fucker. You need to celebrate these irritants or you'll collapse. Say cheers to the dirty air. There is a flow to Bali and the undercurrent can pull you down if you don't learn to float. There is very little in your control here so enjoy the ride and celebrate the fuck out of each day.

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Updated: Dec 10, 2019

Santa, as we Americans know him, is not intuitively a good fit for Green School. Normally Santa Claus is found at a crap mall surrounded by plastic junk but my kids were missing him so I needed to bring his magic (minus consumerism!) to the tropics. In our Green School version, Saint Nick's sleigh isn't burning fossil fuels, he pays his elves fair wages, his toys are made from bamboo, and his cookies don't contain palm oils.

It was a bit of a surprise to learn that Green School doesn't have a typical Santa Claus routine for the young kids. In fact, I had to send out messages to all the parents asking if a visit from Santa would be OK and promising that he would be 100% secular. Not even a smidge of the "real meaning of Christmas" would be worked in. A lot of kids here are muslim, hindu, hodgepodge or totally off the grid. We are devout atheists so no problem on our end making Santa a jolly fat guy handing out cookies and singing jingle bells in the jungle.

I believe Kipper means Christmas. If not, WTF does Kipper mean?

Once all the parents of both preschool and kindy classes confirmed that Santa could visit, we had to find a costume rental and human willing to put on said costume in tropical heat. Julia's Costumes in Canggu had a complete velvet (lined!!) costume with beard, belt, belly padding, and black boots. When I saw they had an adorable elf costume too...sold. My oldest daughter played Santa's elf and she passed out his cookies in classic one-for-you, one-for-me tradition.

Finding someone to play Santa on a tropical island is a bitch. Most men with a lick of common sense realize that wearing velvet (did I mention lined??) costume with full beard and having sticky, sweaty little kids sit in your lap is less enjoyable than a morning surfing. I asked several local Balinese to be Santa but they all said Santa was too scary (seriously?) and they didn't know much about him or any of his songs.

But we roped Kipper, one of my favorite Green School parents, and he killed it. Yes, he went commando. And yes, he almost died of heatstroke. But it was so worth it. By the time he took the costume off it was soaking wet. Poor guy.

Aside from Kipper surviving 90 minutes as Father Christmas in insanely hot tropical heat and Lovely not blowing his cover, the miracle of the day was that only 3 kids out of 70 had actual gifts on their list. About half the kids said they wanted nothing for Christmas. The rest wanted chocolate, an extra cookie, or a kiss from a mermaid. Beyond sweet. The dozen or so kids who literally had no idea who Santa was really rolled with it. And that's the thing about Green School that never ceases to impress: the openness of the kids to experience whatever comes their way.

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