Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Fourteen Years of Hit-n'-Miss Marital Bliss

There are few things that can test a marriage as much as spending months upon months together with someone 24/7, in foreign surroundings.  Without a pub to retreat to with your mates or a therapeutic shopping trip and a caffeine-fuelled gossip session with some friends, a relationship can really be tested to the limits when it's just the two of you.

So bearing all this in mind, it is almost miraculous that the husband and I today celebrate 14 years of wedded bliss...in Bali of all places.  Even more miraculous is the fact that despite being cut off from friends and family for the better part of six months thus far, we not only don't appear to hate each other, but still find things to talk about.  Okay, it's often commiserating over the childcare, complaining about the mosquitos, and arguing about visas...but still.  

What is apparently clear is that we both share common goals:  keep our children alive, try not to spazz ALL our money on this adventure of a lifetime, and try and maintain at least some semblance of responsible parenting - despite the temptation to outsource it entirely to the Pembantu's....

Oh yeah - and we also know how to have a good laugh.  And that my friends, in my opinion, is the deal maker.  Despite all the trials and tribulations, our determination to achieve our creative goals whilst doing as little poo-picking-up as possible, and our mutual yearning for something outside the typical 9-5 grind - we unite in the desire to live our lives as fully as possible, with as much free spirit as we can squeeze out of this mortal coil - despite having two progeny.

To that end, we have just finished two hours of blissful massage, which was preceded by a lovely leisurely lunch (sans kiddies), which was itself preceded by a lovely breakfast and some reminiscing over a couple of creamy lattes after the school drop off.  That's the thing - it's easi(er) to be loved up in Bali.  This place is conducive to romantic vibes...be it the childcare on tap, tropical weather, or cozy mosquito draped beds.  Or maybe it's the super-affordable massages that can't help but put you in a good mood.

Whatever the case, I just want to say that I'm a lucky girl...for a lot of reasons.  And one of those reasons may have a penchant for adventure sports, fast two-wheelers and be a total internet hog - but I wouldn't trade him for anything (except maybe two extra pages in my passport...but that's another story).

Monday, 30 August 2010

"He'll Be Comin' Down The Mountain When He Comes..."

So it seems as though the monsters WILL have a father around for the foreseeable future.  The husband returned from his mountain climbing expedition in one piece.  Looking rather stunned and quite out of it (he did after all have no sleep,  climbing through the night and into the next day, and had to tack a 1.5 hour scooter drive home to the end of it), we were relieved to see him saunter in.

I was in fact lying on the bed, nursing a severe headache, no doubt brought on by the screaming I'd done earlier when Egg scaled the outdoor bathroom wall, teetered onto the ledge and once again climbed onto the roof of our villa. I nearly yelled myself hoarse as I stood on the ground below, pleading with him to come down or at least drop Bacon (he was navigating the circumference of the roof with only one hand, clutching Bacon the stuffed bear with the other).

Nearly apoplectic with rage (borne of fear) I had visions of him slipping and breaking his neck, fracturing his spine or even worse.  Kadek was beside me also frantic with worry, whilst Dumpie looked on amused - no doubt planning his future escapade and bursting with admiration for his older brother.

The night before I had made the mistake of letting Egg and Dumpie sleep in our bed for a big 'sleepover movie party' while the husband was away.  They were giddy with excitement as I pulled out a giant chocolate chip cookie each, a bowl of popcorn and some little chocolate sweeties.  I meant to join them, I truly did, but as often happens, I got waylaid in cyberspace and by the time I hesitantly pulled back the mosquito curtain, I found the end credits rolling and my bed covered in edible debris.  Urgh...

The three of us slept rather poorly as I was convinced we might have an intruder outside in the garden in the middle of the night...though it was more likely a small animal foraging for food in our overflowing recycling bin.  And Dumpie ended up 'upsy-daisy down' (I'll be sad when that particular vernacular disappears)  in our bed, whilst Egg for some inexplicable reason decided to sleep vertically (sigh).

Given that it was the first night we've all been apart in months, I think it went relatively well all things considered.  The husband didn't fall off a mountain (despite his 'guide' breaking his flip-flops one hour in and climbing back down the mountain), Egg didn't fall off the roof (despite one-handedly traversing the entire circumference), and Dumpie didn't fall off the bed (despite half-hanging over the bottom edge in a sleep stupor most of the night).

And me?  Well I didn't fall out of favour with the monsters, despite technically standing them up on 'Movie Night' while I got stuck on my laptop for over an hour....and I still come out as 'best Mama in the world' simply because of the plethora of treats I coughed up.  Nice one.

Friday, 27 August 2010

"Go Climb A Mountain Why Don't You..."

So the husband has decided to go and climb a mountain tomorrow night...as you do.

I'm not exactly thrilled about this because:

a) it's meant to be a fairly dangerous climb...people have died and injured themselves climbing Mt. Agung

b) he's planning to do it without all the proper equipment - merely a pair of cheap $30 Indonesian hiking boots procured yesterday from god knows where, and a $4 bright yellow plastic pair of sunglass headlamps (reminiscent of Orbital - had they been children's telly presenters as opposed to superstar dj's....)

c) his 'guide' is just some local dude he met last week who has apparently climbed it a couple of times

d) the final ascent is meant to be a treacherous three hour straight up affair, scrambling in pitch dark, and i've heard a fair few troublesome tales relayed by apparently seasoned climbers who found it daunting/dangerous

e) the climb begins at 2:30....in the bloody middle of the night!

"Don't worry I won't take any chances" he tried to reassure me yesterday when I found out what he was planning to do.

This from the same guy who until a week ago refused to wear a helmet since we've been in Bali, despite clocking up hundreds of kilometres on a scooter, simply because he couldn't be bothered.

I find myself getting more and more angry and worried.  What if he hurts himself badly or even worse, perishes?  What if the volcano erupts while he's up there?  (A friend was regaling a story of how six months ago she went on an expedition to climb it, but it was called off on account of the usual path being unavailable because anxious inhabitants of the mountain were frantically making 'ceremonies' , given that there was a severe warning in effect).

And so, I sit here contemplating the fact that we have no life insurance, we are mere  four days away from our 14th anniversary, and I have two headstrong young boys who I most definitely cannot raise on my own.

Oh yeah - and the husband has just informed me that although he lacks the proper clothing and accoutrements necessary for this feat, he is intending to wear his pink and white striped Abercrombie & Fitch long-sleeved button down shirt.

"It's all about the layers," he's explaining to me.

Well, that's okay then.  As long as he's got that sorted....

Thursday, 26 August 2010

"Salad Daze"

It appears as though Dumpie is taking his obsession with his proud, high, round little tummy a touch too far these days.  As I placed his little blue rucksack and tiny scooter helmut in his cubbyhole at school this morning, waving goodbye and forcing a sloppy wet kiss on his delectable little cheeks (only to watch him scrub it off furitively moments later), I caught a bevy of Balinese teachers gathered round the little man, taking it in turns to stroke his belly.  The fact that he was wearing his bright red and black 'I LOVE Bali' t-shirt only served to make the mental snapshot all the more poignant, as I heard a chorus of bemused, "You no fat!" issuing forth.  Oh dear.

Meanwhile, I'm having to deal with bigger issues at home.  Such as a massive salad backlog.  Nyoman our cook/housekeeper has discovered that there few better ways to illicit gasps of amazed gratitude, than by  fashioning ever bigger and elaborate salads for the woman of the house (umm...that's me).  I think I've inadvertantly hit her repeat button, and whipped her into a frenzy of culinary self-competitiveness.

Ingredients such as apple, bean sprouts, feta cheese, arugula, and fresh basil are daily being incorporated into these gourmet worthy concoctions.  Homemade salad dressings, ever more creamy and piquant - fashioned primarily from our herb garden and whizzed up on the mini CuisineArt, only serve to up the 'yum factor' to such a degree that I can honestly say that I don't think I've ever tasted better.

But here's the problem.  The monsters don't eat salad.  And the husband isn't a big fan (he loves a Ceaser it's true, and is quite partial to a rocket & parmesan, but that's about it).  So that leaves me, little ol' me, to somehow get through gigantic wooden bowls of salad, painstakingly prepared and left for me on a daily basis.  

Having lived here for over a month, that's a fair few salads.  I remember boasting to an envious mate several weeks ago, "Yes, I know i'm so lucky.  I could eat this every day!"

Turns out I am.  And I'm starting to tire of it.

To make matters worse, the past few days the husband has completely opted out of even the 'polite portions' of salad I've been trying to sneak on his plate.  Add to that the fact that we've had a couple of days of almost exclusively eating out, and my current conundrum is becoming more pronounced.

The only way I could imagine getting through all this salad (both the prepared variety and the soon to be harvested fresh ingredients threatening to burst out of the fridge) would be if I hosted a giant 'Ladies Who Lunch' convention, inviting all the female ex-pats on the island to come and sit around little wrought iron tables and have a salad luncheon whilst discussing animal rights or something.  Or I could make a bunch of new gay male friends who might love nothing more than to join me for a luncheon, decked out in crisp summer whites, pick at a salad, sip chardonnay and have a proper old bitching session.  But then again it's hard to fuel a proper bitching session without appropriate lubrication.  And the 200% alcohol taxing system here in Bali make that scenario rather unlikely.  And the laundry service here makes the thought of crisp summer whites laughable.

So I suppose there's only one option.  I'm going to have to start eliminating other foods from my diet, and focus solely on getting through some of this salad.  Maybe I should set my running alarm to go off every two hours (goodness knows with all this healthy salad eating I can probably stand to lay off the running a touch), or maybe start having late night dvd and salad sessions.  There are a lot of movies I've been meaning to watch.

Maybe I should just tell Dumpie that the best way to lose a tummy is to eat lots and lots of salad....

Sunday, 22 August 2010

"E.N.B. (Excessively Naughty Behaviour)"

"Mama that is very bad you do NOT eat Eggie's cookie - that is stealing!"

This message was relayed via furitive finger thrusts to the face by my three year old this morning after he found out that I'd eaten one of two gourmet chocolate chip cookies I'd bought them.

They'd missed out on them yesterday due to E.N.B. (Excessively Naughty Behaviour).

I'd nibbled one late last night in lieu of dinner you see.

When I foolishly confessed to same, Dumpie immediately assumed that it was Eggie's cookie I'd eaten and of course not his own.  And as for the righteous anger - well I suspect that it had more to do with the prospect of being forced to halve the remaining biscuit than any great sense of fraternal loyalty.

Little Dumps is certainly not afraid to speak his mind.  In fact, I sense he's coming into his own in that regard, and is beginning to flex his verbal muscles in a way that's starting to make me very uncomfortable.

Yesterday, I overheard a conversation he was having with poor Kadek about the hirsute state of her legs.

"Let me see your legs Kadek," he suggested.  Her jeans were obediently hiked up and a calf was proffered.

"Oh no...you have too much hair on your legs" he observed worryingly.

(Cue nervous giggle from Kadek...wondering where this is going.  She's not the only one.)

"Girls not supposed to have hair on legs - only boys!" he stated authoritatively.  (I knew I shouldn't have let him watch me wax my legs).

"No, it's okay...only little hair Dumpie," offered Kadek.

"You have too much hair!  We need do waxing today!" Dumpie decided.  

I stifled a giggle and slipped upstairs.  Great.  How long until Dumps starts ordering Kadek to take of her top and show him her nipples?  This sense of entitlement has got to be nipped in the bud.  The poor woman already spends a great majority of her day constructing tent after tent for Dumps from all the pillows and blankets in the house.  I even observed him telling her off the other day when she foolishly neglected to include a toilet area.  

As for Eggie, while Kadek has been under the watchful eye of the Little Despot, Egg has been constructing little challenges for himself. I'm actually too scared to venture inside the artists studio here and see what effect the Little Professors unsupervised experiments have had on the formerly pristine workshop.  I reckon an apology letter and a fistful of notes upon departure will take care of the worst of it but still...the owner is a painter and is likely to be rather precious about his art work....(sigh).  I'm not sure what he'd make of the fact that his former studio is now a six year olds' "Inventor's Workshop".

Yesterday after grocery shopping the husband and I returned to find Kadek almost in tears chanting, "I so fraid...I so fraid!" and the housekeeper beside her shooting sympathetic looks (she is her auntie after all) as we trudged up the path.

Turns out we'd just missed the spectacle of Eggie climbing outside the upper floor window onto the thatched roof of the villa and precariously side-stepping the entire length of the house while the women vainly tried to get him to step back inside.

No such luck.  And to make matters worse, Egg doesn't exactly possess the innate agility of Dumps (who could scale a tower with ease) and hence I imagine it must have been a terrifying spectacle for the poor women to helplessly observe.

The husband has concluded that we really shouldn't leave Kadek in charge of the monsters anymore while we go out.  I disagree.  We just need to rig up some sort of restraining device on the sofa by the telly, ensuring they have a decent supply of apple juice and oreos cookies to hand, and then it should all be fine.

Kadek can then put her time to good use downstairs by teaching herself how to construct the mother of all temples out of cushions.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

"Professor Egg and the Amazing New Muesli Maker"

Egg has decided that he's sick of Bali and doesn't want to go to school anymore.  We suspect that this might have something to do with his recent addiction to the Cartoon Network and being yanked away from an especially engrossing episode of Tom & Jerry this morning.  

This upsets the husband and I, not only for the long term implications of his scholastic career, but because we weekly have to fork out £100/week for the privilege of sending the monsters somewhere they apparently aren't that keen to go.

(For that amount of money the husband and I could procure approximately one hundred lattes...or put another way, seventy homemade gelato's).

Egg might just be going through a difficult stage at the moment.  His current favourite movie is "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs' and he utterly idolises the main character, an inventor by the name of 'Flint Lockwood'.  He has taken to begging us daily for a white lab coat and the husband and I are already imagining how we're going to have to get him fitted up in India for one for Christmas.  In the meantime however, Egg is quite happy using the husbands big white t-shirt as a temporary replacement, and as such, has been spending a lot of time in the artists studio here, pretending it's his lab.

His first invention is to be "A Muesli Maker".  He has drawn out the invention and included detailed point by point instructions for constructing it.  I don't know whether to be impressed or horrified that my son is so obsessed with this overpriced, imported contraband $7 a packet granola cereal as to be attempting to set up his own supply.  Bless.

Things reached crisis point the other day when Kadek the Pembantu (nanny) came running upstairs to where I was trying to work on the computer, holding aloft the last remaining bit of cereal and being chased by Egg who was wielding a heavy wooden stick and trying to knock it from her grasp.  

It was all a bit frighteningly 'Children of the Corn' and I know for a fact that poor Kadek does not get paid enough to have to put up with such monstrous behavior.  Even Dumpie was getting in on the action, pulling up the rear with his light sabre and chanting 'moosli....moosli....moosli!'

Personally I think the monsters are going to have one huge reality check when they're eventually back in London, no longer have a Pembantu to order around, and have to become reacquainted with the British state school system.  

Somehow I think they'll recall fondly their school trips to 'Bali Fun World' and having science lessons that consisted of chasing butterflies round an ethereally pretty garden.  

And as for school dinners?  With the first hefty slap of mushy peas proffered up on plastic plate, I suspect a inward tear or two will be shed when remembering the 'prepared fresh daily' Indonesian delights that were to be had for a mere dollar a day in the outdoor bamboo canteen...

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

"Does My Tummy Look Fat In This?"

The other night at dinner, Dumpie pushed his plate away and refused to eat anymore.

"I don't want to be fat" said my three and a half year old.

"WHAT?!" I exclaimed, hoping I had somehow misheard.

"I.  Don't.  Want.  To.  Be.  Fat." repeated Dumpie, this time pausing dramatically between words to make sure I got the message.

"But my darling, you are NOT fat!  Why would you think you're fat?"

Dumpie hopped down from the table and stood before me, jutting his gorgeous Winnie-the-Pooh-esque belly toward me and lifting up his shirt.

"See.  Big tummy."

We looked at his precious little tummy together and I stifled a giggle. He was serious.  I just wanted to kiss it.  Where on earth has this recent preoccupation come from??

Eggie joined in and said, "I don't want to be fat either.  Am I fat Mama?"

A long and serious conversation followed whereby I attempted to maintain a straight face and explain that they were both skinny and had absolutely no reason to be worried about their weight.  Watching them pull up their respective t-shirts and measure tummies mid-speech was priceless...especially as Dumpie, still only three, has a high, round tummy and Egg a svelte one.

Thinking this issue had been put to rest, I was most disconcerted to be asked last night by Dumpie, totally out of the blue, "Mama, how can I get skinny?"


Monday, 16 August 2010

"The Halfway Mark"

Yesterday marked the halfway mark of our 'Year Abroad' (or as I like to think of it, 'In Search of A Meaningful Life By Way of the Beach Bum Ethos').

Six months to the day that we crammed all our valuables into cheap cardboard boxes (i TOLD the husband not to scrimp and get the cheap ones), frantically raced from room to room cramming last minute objects into any available luggage space (which would explain the Chanel Nail Varnish and 'Fried Green Tomatoes' dvd, both of which inexplicably made their way to SouthEast Asia), and boarded Kingfisher Air, the 'King of Indian Beers' airline, not looking back even once.

Are we happy?  (Yup)
Are we glad we're not taking our scheduled return ticket back to the UK this month?  (Yup)
Are we bored of the constantly perfect weather, divine affordable eateries and picture perfect beaches?  (Nope. You kidding?)

See, the thing is, although we do occasionally pine for London (the pub, Waitrose, my oven, red wine, my clothes, a mosquito-free bedroom, etc.) we know how darn lucky we are.  Despite being domesticated to the extent of having two dependents, the husband and I are still 'living the dream' that we did years ago when traveling the world as crusty backpackers.

Every day is a mini-adventure, and today felt like one of those textbook days which just leave you feeling nothing but grateful:

8am - wake up
9am - freshly brewed coffee in magnificant garden
10am - London mates swing by for a quick goodbye en route to airport
12pm - lunch in garden
1pm - scooter around town with husband and purchase new helmets
3pm - afternoon snack in garden
5pm - hour long massages for each of us here in our home
8pm - dinner delivered from local 'warung'

In between all this we had two lovely local ladies making our beds, doing our dishes, feeding our children, taking our laundry to be washed, doing our grocery shopping, mopping the floor, playing with the monsters and dealing with Dumpies late afternoon 'accident'.

And you ask why we're greedily jumping at the chance of six more months of this...?

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

"The Manifold Uses of The Common Household Broom"

It's become abundantly clear that I'm going to need to put myself through some sort of 'domestic decompression chamber' before re-entering normal life in approximately six months time.  

Why do I say this?

Well take this morning for example.  The husband, searching for his least offensive smelling shirt to wear on our snorkelling trip today, happened to glance underneath the bed.

"You should check out  the two dead cockroaches under there."

"What?  Eew.  That's disgusting.  I don't understand why they don't clean our room here," I complained.

Gingerly I got out of bed (a raucous but amazing beachside dinner with our London mates last night ended with one greatly depleted duty free gin bottle and rather high spirits) and stepped over the detrius on the floor:  Mentos wrappers, dead flies, Ritz crackers crumbs, a dangly earring, etc.


A short while later, Egg came running up from the beach where I'd like to think he was collecting shells, but was more likely hanging out at the bar talking someones ear off.  He grabbed a broom from outside our door and went tearing off with it on some mission or another.  

Then it dawned on me that he had a broom in his hand.  And that the broom has been sat outside our door for the past six days.  And not once have I even thought to pick it up and use it.  

That part of my brain which when at home, automatically fills spare units of time with domestic tidying, as if on autopilot, is broken.  I mean, I definitely clocked the broom, and I most certainly knew it was there for someone to use it, but when I realised, around three days in, that there was no 'housekeeping' per se here at our bungalow, it never even occurred to me to use it myself.

I am ashamed.  What's happening to me?  How am I going to eventually handle going from a staff of three to a staff of me??

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

"Taking A Holiday From Your Holiday...The Logistics Therein"

It's an odd thing, but the husband I were remarking yesterday on how we're nearing H.S.P. ("Holiday Saturation Point").

Here we are, on a desert island, eating delicious food, snorkelling, swimming in crystal blue waters, sipping fresh lemon juice by day and icy cold Bintang Beer by night...and yet we find cause for dissatisfaction.  How can this be?

Well the husband I know is anxious to get back to his fairly regimented daily writing schedule (novels don't write themselves or so I'm told), and equally so, I am pining for the chance to get back into the recording studio in Bali and continue working on my music.  But, it also must be said, we are desperately missing our pembantu, Kadek.  

If nothing else she is an extra pair of eyes.  And we are in desperate need of those these days.  Throw a couple of laptops, a few riveting reads and a general sense of self-preoccupation into the equation, and it's understandable how keeping an eye on the monsters isn't as easy and automatic a task as one might think.

For one thing, the little pony carts - the only wheeled transport aside from bicycles allowed here on the island - can come shockingly fast around corners.  More than once the monsters have been caught unawares and have had to be jerked frantically out of the way at the last minute.  The husband remarked how ironic it would be if after all these months of travelling and precarious traffic conditions we've encountered since we left the UK - one of the monsters were to be the victim of a road accident on a traffic-less island.

Speaking of which, Egg was nearly complicit in an accident yesterday as he took off running alongside a pony cart (as he is want to do...'catching rides' alongside buses, cars, motorbikes and even oblivious joggers, is one of his favourite pastimes) and scared the pony so much such that the cart driver lost control and very nearly went ploughing into an oblivious and loved-up couple holding hands on the other side of the road.  Oops.

Yesterday was a big day for Egg.  He tried snorkelling for the first time.  I tried 'chilling out and reading with a bored Dumpie' by my side.  Didn't work so well.  So I gave him my ipod to watch a movie on.  That amused for about ten minutes.  So knowing his love of photography, I reluctantly put my camera into his eagerly outstretched hands in the hopes of buying myself a few minutes reading time.  Result.

This was great for awhile, until Dumps got bored taking pictures of sand and started going all Page Three photographer on me, suggesting I pose lacivously with my hat ("Kiss your hat like dis Mama and I take picture okay?")

His next request drew a startled glance from the table beside.

"Now Mama, lift your shirt up so I can take a picture of your tummy."

Embarrassed, I casually acquiesed, glancing around self-consciously and hoping that would be the end of it.  

It wasn't.  Clearly he was gathering steam.

"Okay Mama now I want you take off your whole shirt now for a picture" he requested, standing above me, the Fuji Finepix held up to his little squinty eye in preparation.

I grabbed the camera.  

"No Dumps. That's enough.  Now let's get you a lemon juice okay?" I tried, hoping to redirect his attention elsewhere.  By now, the chain-smoking blond beside us was taking no pains to hide her amusement and I tried valiantly to wrestle parental control back from my three year old.

He was having none of it.  We began a furious game of tug-of-war with the camera.  With an audience now.

"But I want to take picture of your nipples!" Dumpie cried as I finally wrestled it from his clutching grasp.

Just then the husband and Egg walked up, Egg blabbing excitedly about the millions of fish he'd seen underwater.

"That's nothing" I told the husband.  "You just inadvertently saved me from accidentally taking part in a soft porn shoot."

"What?" the husband asked, wrinkling up his face in incomprehension.

"Never mind" I said, taking off with the snorkelling gear, leaving a confused husband, exhuberant Egg and pouting Dumps in my wake.

Holidays Schmalidays...

Friday, 6 August 2010

"Paradise Found...I Take It All Back! - Day 5 of the Family Road Trip From H___!"

"Heaven....I'm in Heaven...la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-laaaaaah!"

After chartering a little boat for the twenty minute ride from Lombok to Gili Air (the best of the Gili islands most say), we landed in Paradise.  No, really we did.

Peaceful, serene and drop dead gorgeous, this heaven on earth is too wonderful not to visit if you ever get the chance.  Even Egg and Dumpie screaming for their confiscated chocolate sweeties wasn't enough to fracture the blissful sense of serenity which descended upon my frazzled nerves as our boat pulled up to the sandy beach.  

Our road trip was over.  The trials of the past few days completely forgotten.  Only a week of total bliss stretched out before us.  What's not to love?

It's Honeymoon Central here.  Well it feels like that anyway.  Loads of loved-up couples sipping cocktails, watching sunsets and generally getting down and snuggly in public.  But who wouldn't be loved up here?  Pretty twinkling night lights, scrumptious places to eat, sip cocktails, and the perfect opportunity to pretend like we're all stranded on the worlds most gorgeous deserted island.  Adding to its charm, there are no vehicles of any sort allowed on the island - only bicycles and the odd horse drawn carriage.  No petrol fumes, honking horns or chaos of any sort.  

I feel like I'm on that 80's television show 'Fantasy Island'.  I half expect to see two matching figures in white suits (one tall, one vertically challenged) pointing upwards and exclaiming, "Ze plane!....Ze plane!"

We've managed to snag a lovely bungalow beach side, with a gorgeous open-air bathroom (it never rains here apparently) and some gorgeous shady cushioned areas out front from which to view the placid sea and lolling sailboats as we sip fresh juices.  Snorkelling here is meant to be out of this world, and I can believe it.  Can't wait to try it out.  

So with no further ado...off walk I into the sunset (well, kind of....you can't really do that thing with our traveling circus of a family...but you get the picture)...

I have finally reached Paradise.   Ahhhhhh....

Thursday, 5 August 2010

"From Bamboo Squalor to Mountain Delights - Day 4 of the Family Road Trip From H___!"

After all the hardships we had endured thus far throughout our little Lombok road trip, believe me when I say that we didn't even mind sleeping four-in-a-bed in a primitive bamboo structure, in a parking lot in Kuta.  No biggie.

Of course the bar next door helped, as did the two Mojito's the husband brought back for us to sip on our 'front porch' after the children had fallen asleep and we silently watched the steady stream of traffic go by.

We'd gone up and down the strip for ages and literally NO WHERE had any vacancies except for one scary place at the end of the beach, which looked like the scene of a horror flick.

Grabbing what was definitely the last available bed in town was a coup by anyones standards, and we were still buzzing from the high of having been rescued from a potential roadside slumber after our double tired disaster just a few hours earlier.

After a most unpleasant sleep (I burrowed myself somewhere near the bottom of the bed) I awoke to find the husband ill from the night before.  Apparently he'd not just returned our empty glasses to the bar next door after I went to bed, he'd also added a few more of his own.  Oops.  Cue killer hangover the next morning and a flustered wife marching up and down the still-sleeping main drag trying to procure Panadol (the famous 'period pain' remedy) for the husband.  He'll never learn.

Soon though, the reality of sleeping in a glorified parking lot got the better of the husband, and he somehow forced himself up and back on the road again we went.

Our tenacity was to be rewarded later that day as, after an uneventful day of driving and NO VOMITING, we pulled into the glorious Rinjani mountain resort.  The husband earned back his place back in our good books after procuring the most amazingly beautiful hotel room perched on the side of the mountain with views to literally die for.  We were once again happy.  Sipping tea as the sun when down, we sighed and gazed contentedly at each other.  

I was so grateful for our good fortune that I gave the husband permission to go off the next morning on a five and a half hour trek while I manned the monsters (not as easy as you might think given no telly, no guard rails to keep them from falling off the side of the mountain, and some contraband sweets they managed to find which made it impossible for them to not try doing the former.)

At one point I found Dumpie trying out a gymnastics move on two bars, hanging precariously like a monkey on the only things keeping him from certain death if he fell.  Racing towards him he jumped off and started climbing upwards, forcing me into an ant colony which soon had me hopping up and down in pain as I got bitten and tried yell-whispering  "Dumpie! Get down!  Get down now!' to no avail."  It no doubt made for great entertainment for the rather staid German family staying in the villa next door.

Never mind.  The husband eventually returned, having decided against taking the 3 day/2 night summit trek thank goodness, and we jumped back into our car and took off for the ferry port.

Gili Islands here we come!  (Queue huge sigh of relief as departing Lombok...)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

"Bump-Bump-Bumping Our Way to Madness - Day 3 of the Family Road Trip From H___!"

It wasn't long after we'd left our lovely little 'cottage-like' resort on the beach that we came to a fork in the road.  We slowed down to ask some locals which way we should go. They laughed (at us) then urged us on vaguely to the left.

We soon came upon a bumpy road...which soon became even bumpier.  A few minutes later despite being strapped into seat belts we began jolting about like human 'PopRocks'.  At this stage we were still laughing about how bad the road was.  

Sure our fortune was bound to change up ahead, the husband, regardless, was at least courteous enough to ask, "What do you think crew?  Should we turn around and take the other route?"

Oh, how I wish I hadn't been daydreaming, messing about in my handbag and generally being optimistic.  

Instead, no doubt subconsciously trying to make up for the sulky strop I'd had on the ferry boat the other day, and trying to prove myself a good sport, I had resolved to be more positive despite whatever discomforts traveling as a family of four brought on.  So I merely mumbled, pseudo-optimistically, "Whatever...we can do this."

Ten minutes later the road got so bad it ceased being laughable and turned diabolical.  We were going torturously slow and hard.  Now, the only thing that keeping us from turning back was the knowledge of the bad roads we'd have to traverse a second time round if we backtracked.  No way!  So we kept on, convinced at every turn (literally, for they were windy roads) that the huge pot holes, deep gouges, and great missing chunks of the so called road would eventually cease and we could once again drive in a sane fashion without jiggling ourselves into a state of dementia.

We pulled over for a break to recalibrate our frazzled nerves.  The road just wasn't getting any better.  In fact, though scarcely possible, it was getting worse.  But with no choice but to carry on, the husband resolved to kiss the first stretch of decent road we came to...if we ever came to it...as penance for having made the earlier decision to go 'off the beaten track in Lombok' with his now less-than-impressed family.

No sooner had he made this pronouncement, when the car started rattling.

"Who left their door open?" he asked, pulling to a sharp stop.  He jumped out and had a look.  Nope, all doors securely fastened, everything a-okay except - wait a minute - oh bloody heck.

We had a flat.  A bad one.  How long we'd been driving on the rim was anyones guess.

"Check the other side!" I yelled to the husband.  Moments later our despair was complete.  The rear wheel on that side was kaput as well.

Two flat tires.  In the middle of nowhere.  Two hot, bored children with car sickness.  A spare tire in pretty bad shape.  And no tools with which to put it on in any case.

A few minutes later a father and son came whizzing by on scooter, balancing two giant glass doors between them.  At the sight of some flustered 'Bules' (ie. hapless tourists) at the side of the road, it was no surprise when they stopped.

Speaking no English, it was with some relief that another scooter ridden by two young men slowed to a stop soon after.  They spoke maybe six words of English between them.  

During the next half hour, various families stopped, hopped off their respective scooters and trucks and plonked themselves down beside us on the roadside.  Gestures, smiles and Oreo cookies were offered back and forth, but for all intents and purposes it very much felt like we were a tourist attraction.  Which we were I suppose.  How else to account for 'The Primitives' (this was one of the six words known by the young men, who attempted to explain the cluster of bedraggled natives peering out at us from the side of the hill top across the road), who stayed there the entire two and a half hours, still as statues, doing nothing but staring at us with undisguised curiosity.

Bless the husband.  Through pure perseverance, and no small measure of desperation, given that only a few hours of daylight remained and his family potentially faced a very hardcore night spent in a broken down vehicle at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere on some small island in Indonesia....he managed to set the wheels in motion for some sort of a rescue mission.

Under normal circumstances, the husband would have begged a ride on someones scooter, taken the two damaged wheels to the nearest mechanic, then come back and rescued us.  However, being in a remote area of a relatively un-touristed island, in  a Muslim country, already aware that I had way too much skin on show in my strapless mini sundress, and somewhat unnerved by the two young men especially, who kept eyeing me up and down, i hissed, "No bloody way...Don't even think about it!"  And there was certainly no way I was going to go off on the back of some strange man's scooter either, so...

So sit there we did.  Having experienced a fair bit of confusion given the language barrier and the 'helpfulness' of all the assembled onlookers, it was a small miracle that we managed to finally dispatch the father and son pair with both our punctured tires, heading, we hoped, towards a mechanic and not to the nearest local market to be sold for whatever they could get.

Somehow, in the fray, the husband handed over 50,000 Rp to the two young men with the wandering eyes, and not the father and son pair in possession of our tires. This did not bode well.  Some time later, perhaps an hour and a half in, the husband casually asked the pair, who refused to leave our side, despite having nothing to do, "So, did you give the money I gave you to the other man?"

The fellow looked solemnly at the husband.  "Money," he repeated lamely.

"No, I'm asking...do YOU have the money or does he?"

The fellow looked to the other man and they spoke in Bahasa.  Then he turned to the husband again and smiled.  "Money...yes."

And so it transpired that the wrong men were in possession of our money, and our fate was to be determined by the kindness of strangers.

Two and a half hours later, much to our relief (and surprise it has to be said), our wheels were returned, patched up and promptly put back on the car.  The husband broke out our sacred family sized bar of Cadbury's chocolate and to the great delight of everyone assembled, handed out celebratory pieces all round.

As we pulled away, so joyous were we that we barely registered the still shambolic roads and instead concentrated on the task at hand...finding a place to lay our heads that night....

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

"Bedding Down Miniature Style - Day 2 of the Family Road Trip From H___!"

After such a long day of travel (we had, after all, been up at the crack of dawn to start packing for our ten day trip, then had to endure the whole ferry ordeal), the husband and I weren't much in the mood for pushing things further than necessary.  So after only a couple of hours of driving, we found a place listed in our guidebook, and pulled in to secure a room for the night.  

It wasn't like we had a lot of choice, for unbeknownst to me, once off the ferry, instead of heading for the Sengiggi, the main tourist destination in Lombok, the husband had taken the other direction towards the sparsely populated area of the Southwest.  At this stage I was obliviously unaware of his intention to try and circumnavigate the entire island.

Having only passed one other place to stay - which involved sailing out to a nearby island and sleeping there - we fervently hoped there was vacancy.  

And there was!  Hallellujah!  And it looked a rather pleasant place too.  Right on the beach, manicured lawns, courteous staff....it could easily have been a resort by the Lakes in Ontario, Canada.  It felt distinctly 'cottage-like' and seemed a touch out of place in Indonesia.  But in a good way.

We were shown to the only room available.  A tiny white clapboard structure housing a bathroom and two children's sized single beds.  

Exhaustion overtaking common sense we took it.  What else could we do?  And besides, two tiny beds beat kipping in a stinky van.

A lovely pre-dinner swim in the warm placid waters followed, before showers for everyone and dinner in the dining room.  On the positive side, the kitchen was open plan so we could see what was going on and how our food was being prepared.  On the negative side, the kitchen was open plan so we could see what was going on and...

Some merely passable food stuffs were consumed with relish (hey we were really hungry) before I volunteered to escort Dumps back early in order to save the other diners from hurling their forks at our youngest child as he began wailing and whining.

Bad move. For the next forty five minutes I had the task of trying to get the wriggly giggly and uber-naughty Dumps in his jammies, teeth brushed, and settled in for the night.  The husband on the other hand, apparently enjoyed some quiet reading time while Egg quietly did a puzzle at the now peaceful table, and the two enjoyed a most delicious banana split I am told.

But the score was evened that night as I ended up bed partner with Egg and the husband slept with Dumps a foot away on the matching miniature mattress.  There really could not have been any other configuration given the sheer diminutive dimensions involved.

Egg somehow had the sense in the middle of the night to turn upside down, so aside from the rather unpleasant sense of having someone else toes crammed near my open mouth during slumber, we managed to have a decent enough sleep.  The husband on the other hand did not.  Perhaps it was the paranoia that he might get wee'ed on that kept him periodically and randomly shaking Dumpie awake throughout the night for mandatory toilet attempts.   Or maybe it was down to the horrid sloping mattress I had neglected to tell him about, which tilted towards the floor, threatening a spill for whoever was unfortunate enough to sleep on the edge (the husband slept on the edge).  It's hard to say.

The next morning after a quick breakfast we strapped the monsters back into our Pringle-n'-Oreo-laden vehicle, grabbed the map and took off in search of Paradise.  That's why we came here after all.  Lombok is supposed to be like Bali was fifty years ago.

(But I like Bali NOW, I couldn't help thinking.  Why would I want to go back in time to more primitive surroundings when I know for a fact Bali stays just as beautiful fifty years after tourism errupts?)

This question would plague me (as would others) later that day as disaster befell us.

Monday, 2 August 2010

"Ferry Ferry Quite Contrary - Day 1 of 'The Family Road Trip From H___!"

You know how on the ill-fated Titanic, there were insufficient lifeboats for passengers?  Well the seat to person ratio was somewhat reminiscent of that on our 4.5 hour ferry crossing from Bali to Lombok.

In retrospect, we were idiots for faffing about downstairs on the vehicle level after driving onboard... getting snacks for the ride, searching for Eggie's perpetually lost flip-flops, etc.  Turns out our time would have been far better spent up on the passenger deck procuring seats for the long outward journey.

For upon entry to the passenger level we found, much to our dismay, that every seat had been taken.  For starters, whoever designed this boat must have figured on a ratio of one seat for every two people.  This discrepency in itself could have been borne if not for the fact that a most distressing 'greedy guts' mentality seemed to be in effect.

Passengers lucky enough to have secured a seat didn't just leave it at that.  Most snagged an extra one or two for good measure, ensuring that their accoutrements (helmets, bags, jackets, etc.) could spend the journey in relative comfort...propped up jauntily on large padded seats beside them.

I could feel the husbands' eyes on me, wondering how close I was to full-on silent tantrum mode.  Pretty damn close as it turns out.

Standing there furiously clutching my bags and two children in a vice grip, I did what any self-respecting parent would do.  I marched them up and down the aisles, staring pointedly at the locals, daring them not to move their belongings aside and make room for one of the little ones to sit.

No one so much as looked down in shame.  Instead, meeting our beseeching eyes with impassive stares of their own, they let us wander up and down the aisles like a sorry band of vagrants, confounding any sense of decency.

By the time we made it to the rear of the seating area, where cushy padded chairs had been replaced by long wooden benches, I was nearly apoplectic with rage as I scanned row upon row of solitary snoozers who had unashamedly commandeered whole rows meant for five or six persons, and had stretched out proprietorily and already fallen asleep.

In panic, we grabbed the only seats going...the only seats left...the ones clearly nobody wanted  A tiny little wooden table boasting four tiny little seats stood empty.  I'm sure its proximity to the noisy snack bar and toilets couldn't have helped much, but then again it could have been the huge gathering of loud, chattering chain-smoking old men and guitar playing teenagers in the vicinity that had put people off.

To make matters worse, the husband didn't seem too bothered.  (Men listen up:  When your partner is PISSED OFF, even if you can't help the situation, any wise mate will realise that appeasement is the way forward.  At your peril should you take the side of a stroppy flight attendant, rude check-in staff, or an arrogant rail employee over that of your significant other.  If left unchecked, the continuation of this sort of behaviour will likely lead to divorce, or at the very least a very, very unhappy wife...which will lead to a very, very unhappy life...and in severe cases - physical harm to the hapless spouse.  But I digress..)

This was, after all, only the stage where the boat was pulling out of the dock.  Not enough time had elapsed for the husbands bottom to fall asleep, his legs to get pins and needles, and his back to start aching from being held so erectly upright against a painful steel bar...all this was to come.  Instead, with a pleasant enough grin, his Nikon flung casually over one shoulder and the monsters in tow, he took off for a wander upstairs to snap some pictures.  I stayed right where I was, glaring at the rude man across from me - staring pointedly at his extra seat with slowly mounting fury.

I have simply never seen anything like it.  There were children and women milling around with nowhere to sit but on the hard floor - and grown men, lounging on their string of 2, 3, or 4 seats, taking their shoes off, stretching out their legs, and settling in with a smoke and a burp for the long journey.

I briefly entertained thoughts of a freak-out, imagining the thrill of racing through the cabin hurling jackets and bags off seats whilst triumphantly giving the liberated seats to those unfortunates like myself, like some sort of manic Robin Hood, simultaneously forcing all the rude men to spend the journey cleaning out the toilets. That's when I knew I had to remove myself from the scene before I either exploded with a coronary brought on by uncontrollable rage, or began hurling helmets overboard.

So I stomped off upstairs to the top deck, where all the clove cigarette smoking male crew were huddled, bracing themselves against the strong wind.  I plopped myself down on the edge of a hard wooden bench, flicked on my ipod and stared resolutely ahead as Sigur Ros played mournfully into my ears, trying to pretend there weren't still four hours to go.

But all (good and bad) things must come to an end, and we finally pulled in to Lombok several hours later.  For the duration of the boat journey I stayed upstairs in the chilly wind, stubbornly refusing to move, despite being eventually wee'ed on by a sleeping Dumps, who not only soaked my only pair of trousers but my treasured All Saint's cardigan as well.

As we drove off the ferry, equilibrium descended and I glanced over to the husband.

"That really pissed me off."

"Uh.  Yeah.  I know.  I think the entire ferry knew"

"Nevermind," i thought to myself as we began winding around picturesque roads and unspoiled scenery..."It's all uphill from here".

How wrong I was.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

"Wee and Road Trips...Not the Best Combo Ever"

When the in-laws brought us a travel sized bottle of Febreze back in Goa, I never imagined the importance it would take on, five months in, here in Bali.  For Dumpie has suddenly, and inexplicably, taken to wetting the bed most nights.  

This would be one thing I suppose, if we were moving around to different hotels each night, leaving urine scented mattresses in our wake.  However, as it stands, our new home, the one in which we intend (read 'hope') to stay ensconced for the next couple of months, now suffers from massive wee carnage.  No mattress has survived unscathed.

If the older gay proprietor of this place, Alan, who is fortunately abroad at present, were to find out about this assault on his textiles, no doubt we'd be chucked out on the side of the road, clutching our possessions, faster than you can say "But we used Febreze!"  

I'll say one thing though.  For dog smells, dirty laundry and even the unsavoury whiff of stale smoke, i'm sure Febreze works a treat.  But for a three year olds ammonia laden wee, it's a bit like putting a flower arrangement in a dumpster in the hopes of alleviating the stench.

The husband went out and bought Dumpie some giant sized nappies (he is almost four after all) to wear at night.  It makes him look like a giant baby monster.  Dumpie, truly offended, screamed like a child possessed and refused to wear them.  But tonight, after a few Oreo cookies as bribe fodder, and some heavy duty cajoling, we managed to get him into them without any lethal scratches or heavy objects being flung our way.

The other night after he wet our bed, we stuck him in a pair and were awoken this morning to tiny little crab-like pinches on our forearms.  It was Dumpie insisting we give him a shower because he'd wee'ed through the nappies.  And so he had.

I thought we were past all this.  Worryingly this recent penchant for nighttime waterworks coincides with a rather lame show as of late from the laundry service we use.  It appears as though our family are now subsisting on something like only three pairs of pants each.  So Dumpie has taken matters into his own hands and decided to go 'commando' for the time being.  Great.

But I've got more worrying matters to hand.  On Monday our little crew shall be setting forth for a family road trip.  I'm already dreading it.  Vomit, incessant whines of 'Are we there yet?" and reggae music on our little speakers 24/7.  Can't wait.

Oh yeah, and did i mention the 4.5 hour ferry crossing?  Where we'll no doubt be stuck in our rental car for the duration?  It won't be anything like European ferries, that's for sure.  There's a super speed ferry that does the journey in one hour flat, but the husband wants to take our rental car, so that's a no go.  And there's also the option of a twenty minute flight which costs only $40, but to this, the husband says, "Where's your sense of adventure?"

I'll tell you where my 'Sense of Adventure' is...currently pinned to the ground in a vice grip by 'Common Sense', whilst being taunted by 'Hindsight'.