Wednesday, June 29, 2016

After all this time, I suddenly thought of this blog and wondered if it was still around. Huge surprise to find it still in the blogosphere. Took some time to find the email address and then request a new password, but here I am, back on this and wondering just where to go from here.

Its been ages, years in fact, since I wrote in this. last we were in Dubai, or heading that way. Fast forward 3 years, and we move to the Netherlands, where we have been been for five years now. cant quite believe its been so long here.

More to come...


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

After so long away, it was with some surprise that I took a look and saw that the content of this blog is still hanging around in cyberspace. It's been near three years since I last wrote for this blog. Three years is a long time. Obviously.

Just as obviously, things change, people change, life itself changes. Not such a bad thing by the way. Would rather take tremulous steps forward than sideways or, indeed, backwards.

Not that the idea of stepping back (if one could call it that) has not been without some favour in the recent past. Notions of moving back to Australia has been high on the list. Working overseas no longer has the strong appeal it once had as far as financials go, with the US dollar on par with the Aussie, salaries in international schools are now, in most cases, below that of what one would earn back home as an experienced teacher. Sure you get free accommodation, and yes, flights home every year, and free medical... but thats about it. No pension, no super. Plus side: easy access to most places, experience of living in a foreign country, expatriate lifestyle.

So, one really needs to consider carefully what one does as contracts come to a close and decisions need to be made.

We've been near 3 years here in Dubai. I probably should have kept a blog while here but, honestly? there just wasn't much to write about. Here one lives a fairly normal suburban life, long hours at work, time with family, some with friends, a few small trips here and there, but thats about it. I guess the flavours of life one experiences in Indonesia do not appear as readily here. I know that others will find this assertion astonishing, claiming Dubai is the best thing since sliced bread. For many expats, this is indeed true. High salaries, maids, good roads, stable government, low crime, reasonable infrastructure, Friday brunches, all year round sunshine etc. I've certainly enjoyed my time here as its been easy. But, as they say, time for a change.

Come August we take a step further away from Australia, and yet this step seems to be the right one. South East Asia, the Middle East, and now Europe. Should be interesting, hopefully lifestyle, experiences etc will be worth it. I'll let you know.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Good Bye

Well, our time here in Indonesia is now drawing to a close. We leave on Thursday, thus ending a 5 year stay here which has been full of highs and lows, fun and laughter, friendships and adventures. We have lived in two cities, Jakarta and then Surabaya. If you were to ask me which was my favourite I couldn’t say. Both have their merits. Jakarta is hugely fun to live in, with cafes, restaurants, odd shopping complexes, strange little areas you could get lost in all day, and there were times when I did. To see Jakarta you have to do it by foot, and there was many a time when I did just that. I would go in to a part of the city then set off. The sights you would see are the ones you miss from behind a car window, and everywhere you go, there is a new and interesting thing to see and think about.

Surabaya has its own attractions. It’s smaller, less traffic, and yet also has those pockets of interest that demand to be seen. It is well laid out, easy to get to places, and while not as vibrant as Jakarta has its own charm.

I am going to miss Indonesia, it will always remain as a second home. I’ve loved our time here, and having spent such a long time here have gotten to know its culture and people fairly well. I think Indonesia is a great place to live; it has everything you could want and then some. Its chaotic, difficult to understand at times, bureaucracy is maddening, traffic laws non existent, little organisation, terrible pollution issues, corrupt like you wouldn’t believe, and yet.

And yet, it has a vitality about it, a love of life, its gentle and welcoming, friendly and humorous, caring and thoughtful. The people, the food, the culture, the environment outside the cities are just brilliant. And in the cities it’s vital, hectic, and fun.

Our children have spent the best part of their lives here, with Lil C arriving here as a 3 year old and now leaving as a beautiful, vivacious and confident 8 year old. Lil D was brought here at the tender age of 3 months and has spent his four years here. They have become well rounded, inquisitive, well travelled little people, and they are a delight to be around. Not often you will see a 4 and 8 year old wandering through an airport with the practised ease of seasoned travellers, able to meet and greet people from any nation with confidence and courtesy, able to meet up and play with children they have only just met as if they had known them for years, and able to fit in where ever they go.

Lil C has more years than Lil D, so she has had the greater benefit of living overseas. I’m sure that her time here will not be a passing thought but rather an indelible series of experiences that have set her up well for her future life. For Lil D, his time here has been one of a multitude of experiences others will not have in a lifetime. He has grown up in a privileged state with maids and nannies and yet he has been taught that respect for others is paramount. They have both learnt that life is not always easy, that in a country like Indonesia they do stand out, sometimes to their detriment, yet they taken all this in their stride and then some. They have both grown, developed and become 3rd culture kids in so far that the values and attitudes of C’s and my respective countries are lived on a daily basis yet tempered by the influences of the environment around them.

And as for us? We have learnt a lot as well. Too much to try and describe here yet suffice to say that wherever we go from here, Indonesia will always remain a significant part of our lives and hearts.

My heart felt thanks to all those wonderful people we have met in our time here, the friendships extended, the generosity, care and thoughtfulness which has made our stay here so memorable. We have loved it here, and this is mainly due to the people we met during our stay.

I'm not sure whether I'm going to continue this blog in our new home, Dubai, but check back every now and then. You never know!

Until next time.


Mum at Besakih, learning the history of the oldest temple in Bali, and in Sanur, enjoying lunch by the beach.
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My mother came out to Bali from a small country town outside Brisbane called Boonah, also known as the Scenic Rim. This was only her first second visit to Indonesia since we left in ’79, and she had a great time. She relaxed, got to see the markets, malls, sights, beaches, countryside etc. She went back last Friday and it was hard to see her go as we are not sure when we will be back in Australia again. It had been 3 years since she had seen the kids and they loved seeing their Oma. It was a good bonding time for them and for us.

You don’t realise how important family is until you sit down with someone like Mum and she begins to fill you in on all the doings. You miss a lot living overseas, family get-togethers, parties, dinners, birthdays and so on. You always email but it isn’t the same. So Mum comes along and has all the information at her finger tips, is able to give you all the background info, the little anecdotes, the humour and the difficulties, it’s like you have rejoined the family again.

In my family, connections have always been important. There are six kids, Pa died some years ago, the veritable patriarch of the family, leaving Mum to pick up the reins and ensure we don’t get so involved in our own lives that we forget each other. And to her great credit, we haven’t. She ensures that emails are sent along, forwards the important stuff, visits all my siblings and their families when she can, and still maintains her hectic life as a carer for old folk at a respite centre, speech making, choir singing, book club, bowls, Tai Chi, radio station volunteer, ticket selling, art gallery volunteer and so on. And most of these are on every week. Not bad for a 73 year old! So while we were a tad anxious at her travelling alone to a foreign country, Mum made it through with flying colours. I should know by now not to under estimate her.

So anyways, Mum brought us up on all the doings, and we spent ages rehashing old and new history, putting things into order in our own minds and learning what has been going on back home. For those expats who don’t get home very often, the service a relo like Mum provides is invaluable. Strongly recommend it!

We all had a lot of fun and it seemed like a fitting end to our own stay here in Indonesia, to see out the remaining days with someone from home, thus giving us a chance to see things with a fresh perspective and enjoy all that Bali has to offer all over again.

Thanks Mum!


Kota Kinabalu

One of the things about Indonesian visa’s is that they are set to a strict time limit, i.e 30 days. So when you arrive at the airport, dash for the queue, pay your US$25.00 per head, then queue again for immigration, you already know that there will come a time when you will have to do this all over again. Such a time came for us on the 20th July when we flew to Kota KInabalu, sampled its delights for one night and day, then flew back to Bali. You see, to get an extension on your visa, the only way that I know of, though I’m sure there are other ways requiring white envelopes and discreet smiles, is to get out of the country then fly back in again. Some time go I had booked through Air Asia our seats to Kota Kinabalu, arriving in the mid afternoon, then flying back mid afternoon the following day. This was not to be. A week or two before intended departure I get an SMS from Air Asia telling us that our flight would not get in until 5.30pm, and would leave the following day at 6pm. Not good as this meant we had to either extend our time (after checkout) at the hotel or wander around for a few hours with tired kids. No contest. Pay the hotel.

So we took our leave from C’s sisters and flew out to Kinabalu. Once there we were pleasantly surprised. The airport is only a few kilometres away from the city centre and it only took a short taxi ride to a hotel I had already picked out on the web. This time I thought we would wing it a bit and check out the price at the door rather than pre-book. This turned out to be a good move. Got a suite for cheaper than the net. Recommend the hotel; it is called the Promenade Hotel. Thought it was a great option, had everything you need, was busy and very friendly.

While we only spent one night here, it was very nice to walk along the waterfront, visit the night market, have dinner along the boardwalk, and enjoy the evening.

Now I had all sorts of ideas of what the place would look like. I knew it was a port town and thought it would be the same as most port towns, crowded, rundown, teeming with people etc. Was I wrong! Kinabalu is a well laid out small city, wide streets, footpaths, clean, no litter, clear blue skies (now when I had last seen that?!), orderly traffic and so on. Just to give an example, the water off the boardwalk was so clear we could look down for a few meters and actually see schools of fish. Show me another fishing port that could say the same. It was hugely reminiscent of Darwin. Same sort of city. I loved it. It was a pleasure to be there and the fact that it was such an easy town to get around in made it enjoyable to wander its streets. I’d go back, and next time I would make tracks for the surrounding mountains etc. Apparently there are same great tracks to go on, and much more to do besides. I heard there is an orang utan rehab park, and there is always the fishing!

That night we wandered to the night markets which were set up in a huge car park right next to the water, with fishing trawlers parked a bit further along. What amazed me was how clean everything was. The market sold everything from fruit to vegies and further back, along the waterside, table after table of fresh fish, prawns etc. C mentioned that she couldn’t get over how clean everything was, the fish stalls were spotless. Not sure what prices the fish etc were going for, but they had a good variety.

Towards the street side all the food stalls were set up and they were doing a roaring trade. People everywhere congregating for a feed with friends. The food looked good but caution prevailed and we had dinner along the boardwalk at an Irish pub. Well, the kids did. Right next door to the Irish pub was an aussie one so I ordered a steak. Prices were okay, but more along tourist prices than local. The Guinness though from the Irish pub was lovely! Sitting on the boardwalk was very pleasant. It was a balmy night, with just a hint of a breeze, perfect for outdoor dining.

The following day we wandered some more on foot through town, ending up back at the boardwalk for lunch.

A short sleep for the kids at the hotel, then back to the airport for a fuss free trip back to Bali on Air Asia. All in all, a good trip, though far too short.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Our neighbours cows wander along the beachside, Lil C finds a puppy, horseriding, and a rooster finds himself on the wrong sid of the fence...
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The local warung...
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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bali Update

You would think that this extended holiday would have us starting get bored, but thus far this hasn’t been the case. We’ve had two sets of visitors, are kept busy by the children, and find the evenings lovely to just sit back, read, watch a film or generally kick back. Plus, my mother is braving the trip and coming out from Brisbane for 8 days. She arrives next week and this will be her first trip back to Indonesia since we lived in Jakarta in the 70’s. I’m sure she will enjoy it but also think it’ll be a vast difference from what she remembers. Then again, not planning on going to Jakarta, so she may find Bali not so different as in some ways it hasn’t moved on as much. For instance, one of the houses we lived in was on Jl Fatmawati, and surrounding us were a few shops and rice fields. Nowadays it’s a choked highway of cars and motorbikes and the entire area is built up. Be interesting to get her take on it.

We had a great time with C’s sisters. You could not find easier houseguests. Every day they did something different, and most evenings we went out to dinner and tried the places around Seminyak. It was a bit hit and miss as far as restaurants go, and in the end, everyone noted that the best place for a good feed was none other than the small warung at the top of the drive near the villa. Go figure. The warung looks out over the beach, the service is friendly, and dishes while simple, very tasty and cheap. For the six of us the other night, 9 very nice mains which we all shared, plus desert, all came to about US$25.00. Good value! Now compare this to the famous “Ku De Ta”. We had a drink each, and the bill came to just over US$50.00. That’s for 6 drinks.

The warung is situated in the middle of nowhere (you have to drive across the beach along the front of the Grand Balisani Hotel then a bumpy pebble road to get to it) but since they opened a few months ago, word is starting to get around and every night they are doing good business. Since we’ve been here we have noted more and more are dropping by both for lunch and dinner, ppl are even getting taxi’s out to it!

The sisters went to “Ku De Ta” for lunch on Sunday while we were in Kota Kinabalu (another story) and said the food was good, but price wise was not worth it (cost about US$100.00 for 4). The place is nice, smooth service, lots of beautiful people and wannabes, but also very pretentious, way over priced for what they give you, and in my books, all a bit silly. Then again, it could be that I’m just not a ‘with it’ type of guy and can’t appreciate the subtleties of the place.

“Pauls Place” was another we tried; you sit on the rooftop overlooking Seminyak. The service was very slow, food mediocre at best, and we were the only ones there. Not a great place for the hum of people around you, a lively evening and good food.

“Best Ribs” on Jl Petitenget offered a reasonable selection of dishes, but again, the food was very mediocre, served half cold and with little imagination. I did try the ribs which were served warmish yet nothing of note.

“Venue of The Moon” was better value, fairly good food, and efficient service. I could go on but you get the picture. I think some of these places really need to re-evaluate what they are doing and try to establish a return customer. As it stands at the moment, none of them have done that. We should have tried some of the more famous restaurants such as “Mykonos” and we will when Mum gets here next week.

The sisters did quite a bit of sightseeing while here, going to Kintamani, Ubud, Besakih and so on. They enjoyed it all. We hired a very comfortable Mazda E2000 van for Rp200, 000 per day (12 hours) which could sit 7 comfortably and used the villa driver. They do offer a driver as well for another 100,000 rupiahs.

They left yesterday for the next part of their trip, to none other than my favourite city in Australia, Perth. I could be biased in that I have a house there but it is a beautiful place. They have a cousin there so will be staying with him down in Mandurah.

Where we are staying the beaches are big, wide, grey sand, yet the surf is rough and not safe for swimming in except in front of Balisani hotel where they occasionally have life guards and the obligatory yellow flags. There are signs posted along indicating rips and strong currents and you can well believe it when you see the waves coming in at odd angles, lapping over each other and hitting the shore line in ragged formation. At night you hear it crashing against the shore in a thunderous roar and you’d think it had some beef with the beach. When we do go for a paddle, we only let the children up to their knees in the water and only if we are standing next to them. It’s just too rough to allow them to go in on their own. I guess this is why this part of the coastline has not seen the development other parts have. However, right next door a hotel complex of over a hundred villas is going up and on the other side next to the Balisani another smaller complex of 12 villas (to be sold at US$700,000 each!) is being built. I suppose you can’t put a price on a piece of paradise but it does seems like an extraordinary sum.

The beach up from where we are staying is the famous ‘gay’ beach though you would not really know it when walking along except for the odd male couple and a few rent boys hanging around in the late afternoon. We haven’t seen any sort of behaviour that would cause us to cover the kids eyes, in fact its very tame when compared to some of the beaches back home. However, there are bushes at the back of the beach that seem to have a few blokes wandering in and out of which would cause you to suspect that there is more going on there than meets the eye . You do get quite a few older western fellas hanging about there as opposed to a young gay crowd while the rent boys are almost all in their twenties I would guess. It is somewhat incongruous to see, as we did this afternoon, a bloke in his 60’s walking along arm in arm with a young Indonesian male. Then again, each to their own. It’s only when walking alone that I feel slightly uncomfortable as eyes follow you, the occasional wave from some bloke sitting amongst the bushes and you get the feeling you are intruding a bit.

Once past this patch of beach you reach the car park; on one side is our favourite blue cafe, on the other side La Lucciola, which, I’m embarrassed to say, we haven’t tried yet. As sunset approaches, this whole area in front of the car park starts to fill with people, hawkers, food stalls, soccer games and the like. Lots of families and young couples sitting around eating and watching the oncoming sunset. Almost all are local Balinese. The other afternoon we witnessed a man and woman immaculately dressed in traditional clothing making an offering. This involved various baskets, incense and quiet prayer. It was a gentle display of spirituality that seemed to make sense in those surroundings.

The other common sight is people walking their dogs. Bali is known for its dogs which roam at will everywhere, yet I’ve never seen a vicious one. On the beach, particularly in the late afternoon you’ll meet up with people wandering along while their dogs gambol about. The dogs are everything from local mongrels to beautiful shepherds, rottweilers and so on. Met up with one fellow walking three daschunds who told us he was a journalist who came visiting to Bali and has not left except on assignment. A woman walking a mongrel told us she lived and worked here and was perfectly happy. Not hard to understand why when as we chatted the sun was setting on the horizon, the waves were rolling in and the sand felt cool between the toes.

I could get used to this life.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

4 sisters..(C is second from left)
and one more..
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Birthday boy, 4 years old.
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On the beach...
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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sunset offering...
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Sunset in Seminyak...
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Children at Kuta beach, The Beach Cafe in Sanur...
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