Monday, July 26, 2010

I love being the official photographer at birthday parties. It means I don't have to volunteer to run the party games and I can get away with focusing completely on the adorable kids and what they get up to. Yesterday we celebrated Ollie's 6th birthday Aliens and Monsters party (a bit early on account of his Nanny & Pa heading over to the UK shortly) at the Duntroon Community Centre.

Ella chose a very cute interpretation of the alien theme by dressing up as the Loon character in the Huff stories.

In fact most of the girls went with variations on the cute or princess type alien theme.

This little heart breaker has apparently already captured Ollie's heart.

The pinata game went on for ages and was really enjoyed by all the kids. Ollie had made the pinata himself using Clag glue and tissue paper (and made it practically indestructible). By pure chance Ollie himself landed the final destructive blow, releasing heaps of treats for all the kids who'd banged away at it patiently for at least half an hour of valuable party time.

Ollie's young male friends are equally gorgeous.

...... although why is it always the girls who position themselves so strategically when it is time to cut the Smarties, SORRY, I mean the birthday cake.

Claire is the most popular girl in town, when it is time to distribute the icing and Smarties, SORRY, the birthday cake.

These are Ollie' best friends.

We shared some lovely, much quieter moments after the party when Ollie opened up his amazing array of presents, helped very sweetly by Ella.

He was lucky to be given some beautiful things reflecting his talents and very cultured interests although there was enough Toy Story merchandise to prove that this was a 6 year old's birthday party after all. We missed Angus and his Daddy at the party very much. Angus was using the time to recover at home from his very heavy cold.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Love Lombok

Our last full day in Lombok and Rob is finally well enough to enjoy Senggigi's charms. We spend the morning in and around the beautiful Puri Saron pool - without having to share it with anyone else so it's really easy to pretend we are the idle rich! That first morning with the two hundred shouting singing teachers is such a distant memory!

We arrange to meet Leigh and Jacob at the cute little Coco Beach Restaurant which is only an 8 minute walk along the beach from our hotel. We take the little pathway to the beach at the back of our hotel garden and are immediately entranced by the sight of our own stretch of beach

It was so windy today on the beach that we made our way through the little warungs under the palm trees facing the beach, for a time. I have decided that there isn't a palm tree on earth that I don't love!

..........and our own beach!

It was so easy to while away a few hours in the delicious company of Leigh and Jake, enjoying the delicious food and setting at Coco Beach, and our last chance to really catch up.

Then another swim in the afternoon before joining our young friend Gede and his wife Nyoman for dinner at the Lotus Restaurant in Senggigi village. Gede is very engaging company, full of quick wit, intelligence, stories, laughter and funny insights on life. He has had a lot of hardship in his life as well as some amazing opportunities for a young man from a poor Balinese village. We find him quite inspiring really. We could not communicate with Nyomen as easily because of our deficiencies in the language but she seems adorable and they obviously love each other to bits.

What is not to love about Lombok? I say to Rob (who has not always been its keenest advocate!)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Lombok experience

Gregg and Leigh invited us (only Rob couldn't make it) to a musical gathering this afternoon at the "guest villa" belonging to friends of theirs in Lombok. The guest villa is newly completed even though it started life as a very old traditional Java style house imported from Jogjakarta. Their friends have had it rebuilt on their family compound set on the lush green hills behind Senggigi Beach.

It turned out to be quite a gathering of the local ex-pat community and their Indonesian partners and family members. We'd met Dick and Janet a few nights before this. Janet will start teaching English at Gregg's school next week. They are from Clovelly Beach in Sydney so will find life here is very different.

The villa was a perfect setting for a gathering of friends like this. The verandah faces spectacular ocean views and captures all the sea breezes.

Our hosts were Mark (an ex-principal from Tasmania and a founder of Gregg's school) and his beautiful Indonesian wife Sopan (recently returned from a year's study in Tasmania completing her doctorate).

But the main reason for the gathering was to listen to a performance of original music presented by Ari and his trio of extraordinarily gifted musicians.

We were spellbound as Ari's group presented a short but stunning program of amazing sound and music combining their rich collective heritage of traditional Javanese and Sasak music styles, infused with Western style jazz rhythms. They also incorporated their own free form existential poetry (in English) exploring the meaning of life and the planet into their compositions. It was actually much more amazing, beautiful and moving than this attempt at describing it!

Ari and the guy on the right played a number of instruments too. Ari could play anything - we especially loved his improvised and melodic percussion sequences played on an assortment of saucepans and their lids.

Our hosts were very generous, with plenty of Bintangs on tap and a most delicious and aesthetically presented table of refreshments after the performance.

Mark showed me over their main family house a little down the hill from the guest villa. It is a newish house in a magnificent position on the side of a hill, built to a traditional Javanese style incorporating all recycled timber from old traditional style houses in Jogjakarta. It also features beautiful antique components like doors and panels and inlays wherever possible. It has obviously been a labour of love over the past decade for Mark and Sopan. Mark even had to bring in teams of craftsmen from Java who were familiar with the construction methods and finishing processes to complete the core parts of the house.

I'd had an unforgettable experience this afternoon but it was made so much better to return to the Puri Saron and find Rob looking like he might be returning to normal. Gregg had dropped him off some Indonesian antibiotics this morning especially for killing germs causing Bali belly (only cost $3.50AUS and you can buy them over the counter) and it looks like they are doing their job well!

He even felt up to coming with me to the Taman Restaurant in Senggigi village tonight for a meal of boiled rice and a hard boiled egg while I enjoyed everything else on the menu.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


We went from the ridiculous to the sublime in our first 24 hours in Lombok. Our own garden villa facing on to the swimming pool at the Puri Saron hotel seemed just wonderful (including our own private outdoor shower).

However we quickly realised the hotel was booked out by hundreds of Indonesian elementary school teachers for a quality teaching improvement conference. And for some inexplicable reason the professional development was being conducted under a large marquee by the beautiful Puri Saron pool! At 8.30am the PD program around the pool started - using microphones at very high volume. The PD involved singing lots of elementary school songs and very animated and humorous(?) presentations using ear splitting sound effects.

We had no where to go, the noise was deafening. I did think of getting me and my cellulite into the pool for a few laps to try to make them all speechless (all those Muslim men and the women in their decorous batiks and headscarves!) but chickened out when the crunch came.

Fortunately for us this was the 6th day of their program and the FINAL session. It finished around 10.30am and as the teachers gradually dispersed over the remainder of the morning the Puri Saron reverted to its usual paradise like state.

Rob is still suffering the after effects of his Bali belly so I had to enjoy much of what Senggigi Beach offers on my own on our first full day in Lombok.

A beach walk, a swim and laze around the recently vacated pool and then a beautiful seafood lunch at the Taman Restaurant in Senggigi village started the day. There, by sheer chance, I happened to meet up with Gede, the lovely young Balinese man we met (when he was John's gardener at his Mas house) about 8 years ago on our first visit to Bali. Over the years he has taken on more responsible work in John's business in Lombok, completed a teaching degree in Hindu religion (a Canberra teacher sponsored his studies) and got married (2 years ago). He does stock control at the Taman Restaurant now and teaches one day a week at a Mataran High School.

Life is never easy in Indonesia but Gede still looks like the smiling happy young man we met 8 years ago. We gave him a digital camera when he started uni and the first thing he said to me yesterday was that the camera was 99.5% of what made his life!!!! I enjoyed talking over old times and recent history with Gede. We agreed to meet up with him and his wife this evening so Rob can catch up too.

In the afternoon (Mr) Gregg took me for a conducted tour of his Sekolah (school) Nusa Alam almost on the beach, among the rice paddies at the southern end of Senggigi. I was astounded at how much development he had led in the 11 months since our last visit (physical as well as educational).

His new senior school building is wonderful. The classrooms are bright airy and well designed and all incorporate data projectors and wireless hot spots for the kids' laptops. This is unheard of the island states of Indonesia!

We were amazed to hear he had been able to get this building constructed and fitted out for the same amount of money as our recent bathroom laundry reno. had cost!

He proudly showed me the celebratory mural that the kids had painted for the recent 10th anniversary of the school. This was an idea that was inspired by what we used to do (each year) at Wanniassa School in Canberra.

I ended the day sharing a precious bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with Gregg and Leigh at their house while poor Rob endured watching some fairly lame old movies on the HBO channel in our room.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Goodbye Ubud

By yesterday afternoon Rob and I were both feeling fantastic after our week in Bali especially after our second lunch in a week at the wonderful Indus restaurant. We even had a Janet De Neefe sighting. She was doing lunch with some very important people - no doubt more planning for the seventh Ubud Writer's Festival coming up in October. The Indus was crowded, the food was fantastic, the staff were all really on their toes with Janet around. We really enjoyed the buzz!

With all the ceremonies going on there has been a really festive air about all the streets of the village. In their very glamorous ceremonial dress, careful makeup and up swept hair the women look fabulous especially sitting decorously sideways as pillion passengers scooting off to the temples. Their partners all look really handsome too in man sarongs and batik headscarves.

Unfortunately Rob has not been well enough to leave our hotel room today to enjoy our last full day in Ubud together. I put it down to the snacks we ate last night from a market stall. I ate exactly the same thing and had no ill effects...but that is Rob and his dicky stomach for you. It's the reason why 35 years ago when we travelled around Europe for 8 months as young backpackers Rob lost about 7 kilos and I gained 7 kilos. He got sick in Leningrad eating some dicey Borscht and never really recovered until we got back to England, no matter how much schnapps he drank or how much Immodium he took.

He spent a quiet day sleeping and recovering while I visited many shops that Rob finds boring, swam in the pool, had another massage and enjoyed a beautiful lunch at Wayan's Cafe, just opposite our hotel. (on my own!) It was rather beautiful sitting facing Wayan's gorgeous garden as I enjoyed my solitary lunch (while thinking of Rob).

Rob was feeling much better tonight and was able to join me on the balcony for our last evening in Ubud. A glass of Bintang (no snacks for Rob) and the sound of the frogs and geckoes in the rice paddies, and the gamelan orchestras in the distance as the light fades over this special part of the world.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eat Pray Love

I'd avoided reading Eat Pray Love when it first became a best seller (amongst women of a certain age). Not another book about a woman finding herself (in Bali no less!!!) I thought. However since arriving in Ubud I've bought myself a copy from Periplus and am even starting to look forward to the film, opening next month they say.

Last August when we were here I took this shot of the extraordinary road collapse opposite the renowned Ubud markets - in the centre of the village, at its busiest point. Apparently it stayed like this for months; no one seemed to know what to do, what caused it, how to fix it. It created mayhem in the village and was very bad for tourism.

Come November last year the Hollywood film makers arrived, ready to shoot scenes of Eat Pray Love in a number of Ubud locations, including the markets (yes, with JULIA ROBERTS!). Apparently they organised the repair of the roadway, fixing it in a flash.

So today it looks like this........ Hooray for Hollywood, though we all hope it was not a temporary fix!

Scenes were filmed (with JULIA ROBERTS) in the markets. Apparently a lot of the stallholders were paid as extras. I heard they were paid 100,000 rupiah (about $12AUS) for their work as extras, which most stallholders would struggle to make in a normal day.

I predict Eat Pray Love will be big for Bali and may well convince many woman of a certain age to come here in search of toothless mystics so they can be just like JULIA ROBERTS.

An early morning visit to the Ubud markets, when the fresh food and cooking stalls are in full operation is a bit confronting as well as fascinating. It was wonderful to restore equilibrium afterwards with an iced Hibiscus tea at the beautiful Lotus Cafe.

And lunch afterwards at an old favourite: Ayu's Kitchen on Monkey Forest Road. Our jack fruit curry, larwa and rice and nasi goreng were just as delicious and just as cheap as in previous visits.

Rob and I both did a cooking class at the Bumi Bali Restaurant yesterday afternoon. Rob is preparing a nasi goreng here under the watchful eye of chef Nyomen. Easy, he says! I want to see him cook it at home now! We also cooked babi kecap, tum, bergedal and my favourite bubur injin (black rice pudding) - all fairly basic Balinese/Indonesian dishes (hmm).

Our Bali is full of loving and eating. I will read the book and find out more about the praying!