What now?

The more I see of what happened in Japan and what is still happening, the more concerned I become.

It is true.
It’s easy for everyone who was not directly affected by the earthquake and tsunami to think and hear and believe that everything has improved and things are looking up.

But, do we really know what the situation is for all those people who lost homes, loved ones and livelihoods?

The more I read, the more I realise I know little and
the truth is not readily available.

For instance, I didn’t know that once people move from a shelter into the ‘temporary’ housing that is being provided, all aid is cut off – so no more food, clothing or other aid they had been receiving whilst in the evacuation centres.

Effectively, once they move to temporary housing they must
fend for themselves.

That would be fine, if they had a workplace to go to;
if their workplace was still in existence.
It would be fine, if the infrastructure still existed.

Think about all that it takes to ‘live’ in a house – food, electricity, water, transport, furniture, grocery items, heating, cooling, internet and lots of other things that we all ‘can’t live without’.

You need money to obtain these necessities.
You need a job to obtain money.
You need workplaces to obtain a job.

All of these things are gone.
Washed away,
Flattened and destroyed.

From Socks for Japan Jason Kelly com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Rough-terrain-in-Ofunato-two.jpeg

They are still trying to clear up the rubble.
Thousands and thousands of missing people are still unaccounted for;
of every age.
Progress is tediously slow.

It is still NOT OK and it won’t be for years.

What would you do?

I try to imagine being faced with the choice.

It reminds me of a game we used to play.

‘Would you rather kiss a (germ ridden) boy or drink a cup of seawater?’
You know.
That game, where you had a choice of one completely revolting thing or
some other equally disgusting thing.
And you had to choose one.
And you just couldn’t make a choice because each option was so unappealing.

Anyway, I don’t know what I would do, if I was faced with the choice of continuing to live on the floor of a gymnasium, surrounded by boxes for my belongings; boxes representing the walls my ‘home’, separating me from my nearest neighbour, no more than a metre away from me.

The benefit of this ‘existence’ being that I had a food supply, that I had access to the bare necessities of life and that I didn’t need to earn money to live (because I couldn’t, because there was nothing left standing within cooee, because I had lost ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING, because it was physically, emotionally and practically impossible).

Would I choose that over moving to a ‘temporary’ house where I had no means to earn a living, to put food on the table, pay the bills, wood in the fire?

I am not faced with that choice, but many of the people still living in shelters in the tsunami zone are.
I believe many are choosing to stay.
Do they really have any choice?
Is one option really more appealing than the other?

In my humble opinion, there’s something wrong here.;
very wrong….

In case you can’t tell,
my heart is breaking for these people.


Japan…. with a twist

Our next Japan trip is coming up!

But this is a trip with a bit of a twist.
I will tell you more in the coming months.

In the meantime, I would like to share links to updates on the situation in Japan.

I feel like it is important not to forget.
The links I post will be more for my own records than anything else, as we continue to watch and now, consider where we might be of help.

It is my hope that visitors to our blog might find the websites I mention worthy of attention, if nothing more.
We’re about to embark on a new chapter in our lives, which are inexplicably and inextricably linked to Japan.
And if you get sick of me going on and on about it, I’m sorry.
Feel free to tune out.
I’ll understand.

What is the internet, if it is not a tool?
How can I look and refuse to see?
How can I see and refuse to ‘do’?

Please don’t ever let me be a hypocrite..

Today’s link is to not just a website.
It is a link to courage, faith, inspiration and action. 
Kozmoz International

Such was Saturday night (when I originally typed this)..

This time last week, we sat at Pearl enjoying tropical heat, the tiniest smattering of warm rain, fine French cuisine and ice cold bubbly that, even though it wasn’t French, tasted just a little bit superb because it was part of the dream.

We awoke from the dream in fits and starts during the three and a half hour flight home, not wanting to fully accept that it was all over. Our heads crashed onto familiar pillows even later still, trying to prolong the dream and finally, about 12 hours after leaving the exquisite surrounds (and delicacies) of Restaurant Pearl we awoke fully to the reality that the dream was over. O.V.A. OVA!

We skip forward now, a week of work, a week of memories blending, murkily with the ‘now’, keeping eyes closed as much as possible, not willing to let the everyday in, not just yet.
A week of one foot in Perth (reality) and one foot in Bali (dream). Psychologically weird, but it works for me and I know Peter is very much straddling the fine line between dream and reality – still. And it was a short week.

Then what?
Easter break.
We’re told that Easter isn’t what it was or even is. We’re not allowed to call it Easter and it is pagan worship or it is offensive to people who follow another God, chocolate has nothing to do with Jesus and it’s not really about him anyway and it’s just a holiday and sadly for the ANZACs, they get tacked on the end of the non Easter break and all in all it is just a meaningless five day holiday this year.
Anyway, I praise God for everything, good and bad and think this holiday is a good thing and continue to marvel at how complicated and divisive a thing that was once simple has become.

It’s a holiday!

We’re at our ‘country’, ‘holiday’ house.
We will have four nights here.
Four nights of turning on the old lamp (I inherited from my Mum’s friend’s mother) as the sun dips towards the horizon – my ritual.

Every night that the lamp is turned on is a blessing. Usually it is once only, every couple of weeks, but on these holidays one night is followed by two and two by three and somehow time feels like it is multiplying and we will never have to return to our city or working life, then there is the fourth night of turning on the lamp, knowing it is the last, leaving it on because to turn is off would feel like the end.
Kindly husband, who loves so much, in the beginning, that there will four nights, will be brave enough to face the ‘turning off of the lamp on the LAST night’.
He is good and strong and brave. He knows how to work and he knows how to play and he counts even the smallest blessing and is grateful and sustained until the next one comes along.

The day here. Time to think. Thinking disturbs me. I think too much, about too many things and it is a waste of time. I am barely in the here and now! I would not even begin to share the thoughts on this blog. I think I will start another one, under a pseudonym (can’t believe I even knew how to spell that).

It will be a dark and disturbed blog, but it will be the side of me that loves and longs for tropical storms, black clouds, thunder, lightening, torrential rain, crashing waves and just wild stuff in general.

You won’t know it’s me.

Don’t misunderstand. This is me here. But there is deeper stuff. I wonder (most seriously, I ponder very deeply) if there is such a side to the famed Pioneer Woman or Kelle Hampton. But how could there not be? Where is the balance? Where is their ‘real’ reality? They make even the bad sound sweet. Their bad is sugar coated. That’s what it is. I can’t do the sugar coating, so I just keep quiet.

So, back to our day.
Easter Saturday.
I rose from bed at 5am.
Oh, of course it wasn’t my plan, but I was woken by the idling engine and squeaky brakes of what I will call here ‘some moron’ crawling the kerb (in the dark!) scouring the piles of junk everyone has placed out for the annual collection. Even now, thinking about that person, I want to strangle them! 5am! We went to bed after 2am! That’s another story, where I want to strangle ‘channel 7’ for extending the length of a 90 minute movie to three hours because of advertising every ten minutes.
You see?
All this stuff that makes me so mad I have murderous thoughts?

Out the front window at 5am was a world I felt privileged to observe.
The first thing I noticed was the cool, cool air; a rare gift in this endless Summer (and now Autumn). Then I realised I could hear the ocean; the intermittent roar as the swell became waves that broke on the shore half a kilometre away.
The complete silence of the night was punctuated by the rhythmic pounding of the dark, cold shore by the endless and immeasurable weight of that water that travels to us and to every shore. I heard it. I listened, waiting, knowing the intervals would be short, waiting for the car that has originally woken me to do its return trip down the road (we live in a ‘place’ – you have to come out the way you went in).
And then I noticed the mist (remembered that song ‘Mull of Kintyre’ – ‘Oh, mist rolling in from the sea’). At first I thought I must have been imagining it, but having laid down, tired of waiting for the vehicle to make its return journey, I arose about five minutes later, hearing another vehicle and realised I could barely see across the street. Mist! Fog! Delicious and cool. No one would believe later when the sun had risen, that it had even existed. It was magical and even I think now, in the heat of the day, that I must have imagined it. But I didn’t. It was there. It was 5.30am by then. The car had returned, driving down the street still searching for rubbish that they could collect to sell at some ‘trash and treasure’ event. They stopped further down. I could see their tail lights and hear their squeaking brakes. Again, I wondered how easy it would be for me to strangle them.

The mist rolled in, I went back to bed and pulled an extra blanket over us both.
Mist equals cold, right?
We slept until nine. The sun was high in the sky by then. The heat of the day had dried up the ephemeral qualities of the dark, cold, early morning.
The mist was me. The sun was not.
When will this Summer end?

A lethargic day. Washing laundry. Reading the local papers my neighbour kindly leaves for us over the fence. I read back to the beginning of the month, but around these parts nothing much happens, unless you call petty crime and nightclubbing news.

I notice a branch has been cut from the massive, out of control, gum tree at the front. Good! If we lived here it would be easy to keep these trees under control, but we don’t and they are growing wild. I don’t know what to do with them, so if neighbours have a problem with their growing and wish to cut them up (or down) then they are most welcome to. I must pay them a visit to thank them and apologise for the out-of-control growing that they do while we are elsewhere, working for a living, working to pay for this place and the water bill!

It’s the Easter break.
Everyone and their dogs are down here holidaying. The shops are madness – holiday makers buying out the meat section for their barbeques. We decide on laksa and make do with what is still available on the shelves at 4pm on Easter Saturday in a seaside holiday town.

It’s Monday now.
There was rain yesterday and sometime during the night before.
It is sunshine now, though.
The last Summery holiday for the year?
Winters by the seaside are soulful and wild and the real me craves that, as much as I don’t like being cold!

Tomorrow we will pack up and head back to the city.

But today, we will make the most of our leisurely existence.
This is the making of our Easter 2011 memories…

Just Back Report


I have been waiting to be able to say ‘this is our Just Back Report’!

We flew into Perth at around 5.15am this morning.
The flight was hell for a whole new set of reasons.
Previous ‘hell’ flights have involved many screaming children, many smelly nappies/feet, feeling like a sardine in a can, but last night’s hell was all new and totally, stupidly self inflicted.
We really messed up with the return flight, completely overlooking the fact that we were going to be leaving in the earliest of early hours of the last ‘day’ of our trip.

When we returned from our ‘non’ holiday in Queensland in January which saw us, most of the time, trying to outrun flood waters and when we weren’t doing that, being marooned due to flood waters or stuck inside watching the deluge which would later become flood waters, we decided our meager six days in Bali just weren’t going to cut it.

We brazenly logged on to Air Asia as soon as we returned from Queensland, found a cheap flight returning four days further along than our originally planned return and hit the ‘confirm’ button.
Seconds later we realised the reason the flight was the only cheap one remaining was because it departed our beloved  Ngurah Rai at 12.30am on that extra fourth day we were so excited about!
Yep, we lost a whole day, because we were over-excited and desperate.
Anyway, the departure time was later altered to 1.30am, just one and half hours into our longed for fourth extra day.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Oh well, we learned the hard way (and I hope I have prevented anyone else from being so hasty!)

Now, back to our second last day (which really was our last day).

We checked out of Desamuda and they dropped us down at Hotel Pearl in Jl Double Six.
We had already booked for the whole three (four) extra days when we extended our trip, but loved Desamuda so much we decided not to leave until they kicked us out (they had no rooms available for the 16th, even though we were going to be leaving at around 10.30pm on the 15th!).
Anyway, bless them, they did their best and were genuinely sorry they couldn’t help.
So it was off to Pearl, where we spent the afternoon, relaxing and had our longed for and much anticipated final dinner at Restaurant Pearl.

Every little bit of the Pearl experience was wonderful. The room (deluxe) was perfectly lovely for less than $100 per night and the dinner, superb!
I won’t go into details, because, believe it or not, I find food writing tedious and I don’t seem to have the ability to describe the delights we experienced in a way that sounds in the slightest bit enticing!

Needless to say, we were treated to a wonderful night.
We sat outside, dined on absolutely delicious French cuisine, had the honour of the (cute, but young enough to be my son) chef, Jeremy’s presence for about 5 minutes and our Hatten’s sparkling white actually performed more than adequately when supped from the very same glasses we drank Veuve from in August last year (at $200 a bottle)!

Yes, I will again, for the last time (I promise), recommend the Hatten’s white sparkling, as spoken of many times previously!
Make sure it is icy cold and now I’m thinking it would be a good idea, if you wish to drink it and experience optimum pleasure, take your own champagne glasses to Bali!
They seem few and far between and I’m sure all you connoisseurs know how important good crystal is to your drinking pleasure! Just sayin’.

Now, where was I?
Yes, Pearl!
All good. I think good value.
If you are staying at the hotel, there is free WiFi, but you pay for bottled water. There are also no complimentary mossie coils or spray, so pop straight up the road to Bintang and stock up on them (and water) as soon as you arrive.

The grounds are beautiful and peaceful.
The pool is small but adequate for the number of rooms/patrons.
We’re not talking five star here, but for the price, adequate and if you haven’t been spoiled by a huge private villa with it’s own pool for twice the price, then you will love Hotel Pearl (sorry, am I doing a review here?).
I know some of you wanted to know.

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time.
We had a lovely chat with out taxi driver.
They always say the same thing – ‘You are my first customer. It is very quiet’.
But, you know what? That’s exactly what our taxi driver here in Perth said too! Anyway, Peter and I decided early on our trip that we would always give IDR20,000 to our taxi drivers (sometimes the fare is only IDR7000 and that is outrageous, less than $1.00?!).
If it was more than IDR20,000 (which was rare for us. We never seemed to go far) we would add at least IDR10,000 (just over $1.00).
When we went to the airport, we paid double, so it cost us about $5.00 more than the meter was reading!
Honestly, I think it is so easy to forget that we are rich compared with most people in Bali and if we can bless them with $5.00 then that is a blessing to us, really. Again, just sayin’.
By the way, our taxi fare from the airport to our house in Perth was $54, so let’s keep it real!

We went through the usual rigmarole at Ngurah Rai airport.
The only thing that upset me was that they took our two cans of Lavender Scented Raid!
Yep, apparently Raid isn’t allowed to fly.
Neither was our can of Rid which we took there last time, brought home last time and took again this time (the world’s most travelled can of Rid).
But yesterday, Rid was taken away from us, along with Raid, never to be seen again.
I will keep trying though.
Last time Rid and Raid were allowed to fly, so I don’t know what they have done wrong in the last eight months, but I hope by next time they will be back in favour with the powers that be (maybe I’ll just try one can though).

We bought last minute (overpriced) souvenirs and had one last divine reflexology massage for our feet.
We then made our way, momentarily blissed out, to the departure lounge, out to the bus, sat there being gassed, while the bus idled (warming up?) and eventually were driven to the plane and allowed to board.
I’ve already mentioned the flight.
OK. I hate flying in the first place but by that point I was hallucinatory due to lack of sleep (no magic mushrooms involved) yet unable to sleep in the public domain of a half filled plane where everyone was asleep (apart from the hosties).

Actually, I am now too tired to continue with this story; the story of the things that were taken away at customs to be fumigated, the story of the taxi driver who was a misery (when he said it could be worse, I confirmed that thought for him by saying he could be a taxi driver in Bali!), the story of MacDonalds for breakfast, the story of a couple of hours broken sleep and the story of not wanting to go out into the dry heat, the relentless sunshine, everything about being back, the story of not wanting to go to Coles, so my brave man Peter went out for supplies, the story of still feeling Bali but no longer being able to see her. The all too familiar story of reverse culture shock.
The phrase that keeps repeating over and over in my head ‘I don’t want this’.
The story of plans beginning for the next trip.
The story of planning our retirement in Bali.

So here we are back in Perth.
I’m sitting at our little breakfast bar.
I look at the clock and it is 10.52pm.
This time last night we were on our way to the airport, hearing the stories of the taxi driver’s family; his two sons in high school and his wife, who works in a shop, and how he came from West Timor 20 years ago (why didn’t I move to Bali 20 years ago?).
It all feels like minutes ago.

Tomorrow is a full day of adjusting back to the people we were 11 days ago.
On Monday, the transition will be complete.
Too bad if it isn’t.
We have work to do and we have a holiday to save for.
Guess where we’re going?

Thank you, everyone who came along for Bali Escapade 2011.
Will there be another 2011 adventure (dare I hope?) or will we all have to wait until 2012?
Time will tell!

Wishing you all wonderful Bali (or Japan) escapades.
May the joy of experiencing another culture, another time and another place fill you right up and sustain you in your everyday endeavours, wherever you come from and whatever you do!

All the love in the world,
Meanie & Peter!



We are here!!

Yes, just quickly, we are now at Hotel Pearl.
We are dining here tonight and will then pack up and head off to the airport.
I would just like to show you our day – our last day.
We will be enveloped in the beauty of Bali for a few more glorious hours – the warmth, the sounds, the aromas, the grey skies and this evening, from our balcony, a sunset of sorts.

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Today is not our last day!

So I tell myself to cheer up.

Tomorrow we are leaving Desamuda and moving to Hotel Pearl.
We were supposed to check out of here on Tuesday, but managed to extend the stay for three nights.
They have nothing available for tomorrow night, or we would have stayed the whole time.

We had a booking at Hotel Pearl anyway and they were OK for us to just come for the one ‘night’ if you can call it that.
Our flight is at 1.30am Saturday morning, so we will only be at Pearl for a matter hours.
And we will be right there with one of our favourite restaurants at our doorstep?
Looks like we have a ‘programme’!

So we’ll be making our way down to Jalan 66 at around 2pm, saying goodbye to the beautiful staff of Desamuda and our 143 square metre chunk of paradise, being villa 26.

Saying goodby to the swanky boutiques of Jl Basangkasa where a little retail therapy today assisted in boosting my flagging spirits of yesterday.
Saying adieu for now to Cafe Moka, Bali Deli, Chill, the friendly men working on the boutique on Jl Kunti (‘Come back next month’, they say, ‘It will be open!’), the people peeling garlic, the dogs, the cats, the hilarious bird that is singing his little song right now (can we please take him home with us?), our cheeping mouse and our walking frog and all the other elements that became a part of Bali Escapade 2011.

And then?
We don’t quite leave!!! 🙂

I’m feeling one last flutter of joy (those tears this morning were nothing) because we won’t be going straight to the airport.
How fortuitous!
The interlude at Hotel Pearl, as short as it will be, will be welcome reprieve.
It will trick us into some kind of happiness, until we have to make that sobering drive to the airport.
I refuse to think about that at all right now!
My mind is already tricked! See?

That doesn’t alter the fact that there is quite a lot of stuff that needs to be stuffed into our suitcases tonight.
We’ve already been online upping our luggage allowance – 25 kg each – just to be on the safe side.

And I will not stop checking my emails every hour to see whether our flight has been cancelled.
I remember all the times in the past when I wondered what would happen if you just never turned up at the airport.
Someone must have done this before me.
Surely I wouldn’t be the first.

But I have my strong (responsible) man with me.
He will make sure I transition from Bali to ‘that other place across the ocean’ with minimum trauma.
He will do whatever it takes.
He actually sees it as his mission (strange man, he is)!

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here, though.
All this talk of leaving and we still have well over 24 hours left.

Today saw us holding on tight to our routine.
Late, late breakfast, coffee and reading at Bali Deli, change money (rate is 9050/$1 today), jalan jalan wherever our feet took us through the puddles, photography, no lunch, back to villa, relaxation, wonder where to for dinner.

And that’s where you find us now.
We’re going to be disappointing and once again not go to Sarong.
(I bet the day we do go there, we will kick ourselves for not going sooner).
We’ve decided to return to Cafe Degan.
I’m excited. Yum, can’t wait!

Peter has trotted off to book the complementary transport and can you believe it? Run off to Bali Deli again, for some wine.

Exciting stuff hey??

The time has come…
One last lighting of the lavender scented mossie coil.
Our signature fragrance fills the air and I wait for my strong man to return with the wine…


Couple of hours later (sorry I didn’t post the last bit earlier!)

We have returned!

For our SECOND LAST dinner we returned to Cafe Degan!
This place is beautiful.
So peaceful and calm.
The staff are gorgeous – true Bali friendliness.
I want to work there!
Our waiters, Kadek and Apri remembered us from the other night –
Mr Peter and Miss Megan –
They melt my heart – I don’t know if it’s intentional.
It could be.
Neither of them was even born when I first came to Bali.
Most people weren’t!
But they are ‘old Bali’ friendly, flirtatious and beautiful!

Tonight we ordered the obligatory chicken in pandan leaf (if you come here and don’t have it, you’re missing out, big time!)
We had chicken fried rice and the true piece de resistance from the Thai side of the menu; beef curry.
We will talk about this one for a long time.
It was very much like what we call Massaman Beef.
Oh my, it was sooooo delicious!

We will remember the desserts too, for a very long time.
Peter’s, a chocolate type of cake with a passionfruit brulee topping!
Impossibly delicious!
I don’t think I can describe mine and do it justice (remember I’m not a food writer) but here is the picture and I can tell you it was deluxe.

How we have loved this restaurant!
The things that make a place special for us (as discussed over dinner tonight)?
The food, the service and the value.
Add to that the ambience and the convenience and the ‘welcome’.
We found all this at Cafe Degan.
This is the Bali I love!
(unlike last night)

So here we are, back again at our villa.
I’m just noticing how tanned my hands are.
Oh, obviously that is a ridiculous thing to throw in for no reason.
But I want you to know how much better I feel tonight and how wonderful today has been.

I am not ready to go home, don’t think that for a minute, but today was one of those Bali days when nothing much happens outwardly, but inside the heart feels restored!

‘Om Bali’ -I think I called it last time.

What can I say?

….other than ‘day six is half an hour from being over’.

We’re getting up into numbers that are displeasing – maybe that explains my mood tonight, or it was a genuinely weird night?

Peter offered to pop down the road and pick up a take away pizza.
Yep, I thought, that sounded like a pleasant change and possibly an earlier night than usual.
Then he didn’t go straight away.
Then I said we may as well go there together and dine in.
Then I said ‘if we’re going out, then we might as well go somewhere decent’.
Then he said ‘Well, I feel like pasta!’
So I suggested we give Ultimo a try.
I had also suggested La Lucciola earlier, but it looked and sounded like we were in for another very wet night.
We were both happy to give it a miss.

The upshot is that we went to Ultimo.
My friend had said it was a good place if we were sick of rice and wanted some nice Italian.
She failed to mention that it is very much the place to be seen and obviously very much the ‘in scene’.
The food was great – I will give it that.
Sitting in the smoking section, surrounded by non-stop, puffing, bleached blondes – not so great.
Being moved to the non smoking area and listening to a middle aged ‘English gentleman’ suffering from verbal diarrhea, trying to impress his Balinese ‘lady friend’ – kinda tedious!
I don’t mind slow service, but in this case, the surroundings made me want to eat quick and get outta there.
The prices were reasonable.
So, great food, reasonable prices – it should have been a good night, however this whole ‘scene’ thing – it’s not for me.
There’s something pretentious about it that I’m sure Bali never intended being.

The place was packed. So don’t listen to me.
I’m just in a weird mood.
But I do feel like I just went somewhere other than Bali!

Anyway, we walked home.
There has been no tropical thunderstorm this evening.

Here is our day in photos – please click on an image to enlarge.
(Sorry for being so slack)!

We did even less today than yesterday – didn’t even make it to Bali Deli for coffee or Chill for a massage.

We went wandering down Jl Drupadi, bought a couple of dresses, a laundry hamper and ordered a leather bag.
Did I say ‘we’?
Well Peter was wandering with me.

We took more photos.

We drank the Hattens red sparkling wine.
It’s OK.
Both of us have commented on how we have had worse, however, I probably will stick with the white.

We even gave ‘housekeeping’ a day off today.
We hung around the villa a lot.
I made the bed myself and had a swim in the pool (must be in a weird mood).

I think we need an early night (at least before 1am).

So selamat malam, until tomorrow.