Thursday, December 30, 2010

Soft and bouncy landing bubble

Dear sisters,

One good friend gave me the following advice: whatever you do, don't complain about the weather.

Most other repatriates said: be prepared, your friends are not particularly interested in your adventures in Bali/San Francisco..where were you again during the last five years? You were really away that long?

And. They continued. Maybe good friends will tolerate one evening of reminiscing: listening, smiling and saying, that sounds great, but when it comes down to it, it is your experience to keep and treasure. This may be hard.

I don't blame them, who wants to hear too much about someone else's sabbatical in the tropics?

I have therefore wrapped Bali up carefully in hand-pressed-batiked tissue paper and slipped it under my bed, to take out when needed.

For now, we are still in a rainbow coated bubble, filled with happy gas, which is rolling us through the streets of Amsterdam.

The kids both had a huge grin on their faces coming from the airport as they looked out of the taxi at the snow lined tree tops. They skated on natural ice at Christmas. At this point, this is what we call exotic. They got presents.

We have all been gorging ourselves on fresh brown bread from the bakery around the corner, sticky on the inside and crunchy on the outside, spreading it with hagelslag (chocolate bits) or smeerworst (sorry foodies, it is animal unfriendly and maximally processed - I will not translate). We have been eating cheese and chocolate and drinking red wine daily. It is Christmas after all.

This will have to stop soon, we have good food intentions, but we have to get it out of our system.

Before we left, I was reading some Dutch opinion magazines that guests had left behind, and every article seemed to have a negative and/or sarcastic slant to it. Oh no, I thought. I have either been in America too long or, I am now seeing the Dutch nature as it truly is.

But so far the "I smile, you smile back" principle" generously applied in San Francisco is working here too, and even the Amsterdam taxi drivers appear to be happy people, just to confuse us.

It is sale time, and we need winter clothes, so there has been some that.

Housing? We still have a whole week to get that organized. Schools? I think they start tomorrow. Income? Lovely winter weather out there.

I realize we are still in vacation mode. Real life hasn't started yet, and I will do some grumbling next post, but for now, just letting you know: this city girl is happy to be back in town.

Happy New Year to all. May you be healthy, happy and free.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How many more days?

That is what Rosie asks. How many more days before we go? The day after the day after tomorrow. She is excited but I doubt she realizes what awaits her. How long are we staying in Holland? She then asks. For a long time, I say.

My last havianas have snapped with a dramatic flip and a flop. This is a sign, I think.

I am making a list of things to look forward to: drinking water out of the tap, cheese and red wine, clear thoughts in crisp cold air, while savoring the things we will miss: the green, green, the tri-weekly massage, and being able to text with my doctor.

There are other things: certain yoga teachers, the Greenschool and Bali friends. But no time to be sentimental. We have some last minute nasi campur to eat, photos of palm trees to take and gekko/frog symphonies to listen to.

How is it in the real world?


Monday, December 6, 2010

jumping gymnastics and the view from my windowsill when it was not snowing

Dear all,
Greetings from the deep middle european continent, again. Its 4 p.m. and it is dark blue outside. It is snowing. A lot. It's cold. VERY. The predicted minus ten has been reached.

So here I present you with a little guide on how to keep warm :
wear lots of woolly jumpers, if you can wear a pair of tights under your trousers then do so, two pairs of socks , fleece jumpers and lithuanian hanknitted mittens, a woolly hat and hood on coat and wrap a woolly scarf around the half of your face. Then waddle out of the house, catch a tram and woddle to school. Whilst waiting for the tram , which can take a long time due to the snow delays then I strongly reccomend jumping about on two legs. Basically , when it is this cold you should try to adapt gymnastics to your everyday life where ever you are.

Here is a french man demonstrating the possibilities of gymnastics in everyday life. Its a little bit silly but it made me laugh , which is also a great way of keeping warm :) I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
How to keep the cold out !

Its funny , but did I mention that my most important subject for the first three years in the Fine Arts Academy of Prague was gymastics ? If I was to fail this subject I would have been kicked out of school, so it's a good thing I quite enjoy a bit of excercise.

Anyway, long live gymnastics and keeping warm and happy ! All my love and I'm very much looking forward to christmas and seeing you all ! Here is a little song to get you into the mood for our festive family reunion.
Happy song

Happy Sinterklaas,
Take care and have a peaceful end of year.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

relax your inner ear and pictures of organic bali chicks

Dear sisters,

If I say, I have been taking the first steps towards skillfully creating banks around a pool of internal energy, in order to make a river of Consciousness, that flows back into the ocean of supreme bliss, what would you say?

You might say it is time for me to return to a continent with four seasons.

Or you could say, wow, how was your yoga retreat? That sounds amaaazing.

It was very nice in fact, thank you for asking.

Learning about the tantric, non dualistic principles underlying anusara yoga, in which I was being immersed for five days at Desa Seni village resort, I found I could say yes, okay, uh, huh, to most things. The inflated language occasionally made my big body shudder, as it sometimes does when the G.- word is used a lot, but once we got past the definition obstacles, I was encouraged by it all.

Encouraged to learn more, dipping my toe into the swamp of eastern spiritual literature, which you could say is a little late, two and a half weeks before returning to the northern hemisphere. A. jumped into the swamp many months before me and has already pulled himself out by his tanned yogic arms, to embrace other focused books like "Crucibles of leadership", "Crossing the Chasm: marketing and selling technology", "The Facebook Effect" and similar page turners.

So, as I sit on my meditation cushion overlooking the green, green, frogs croaking, bells tinkling in my ear, my husband is making excel sheets for a new internet start- up idea, that he is tossing around.

We are being Bali about our departure, or return, depending on how you look at it. Hopefully with less suitcases than with which we came, we will arrive in Amsterdam with our lives wide open once more: housing, schooling and income all yet to be decided.

Maybe I will take a few more massages before we get on the plane then.

Love S1

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Estrahno forma de vida

Dear sisters ,
I am in the mood for songs about destiny.With the night falling at five i get quite nostalgic and i feel like wrapping myself up in a warm melancholic duvet blanket.
Please listen to this beautiful song by AMALIA RODRIGUEZ
, the icon portuguese Fado singer. So you can get into the mood of my tales to come.
And here is a visual helper of how i was feeling a few weeks ago.

By the way, November isn't my best month. Last week i woke up with a blocked nerve in my back and i couldnt move my neck in any direction,I felt like a cardboard theatre prop with a cupboard painted on it. You can imagine its not easy for a cupboard to go the cinema, but that is exactly what i did as i couldnt do anything else, even lying down was painful. The latest Woody Allen film cheered me up , even though laughing was painful , it helped me forget feeling sorry for myself. After the film I went a bit wild and bought myself a hot water bottle and a fleece jumper with a hood.
I also bought myself a bottle of whiskey to reduce the pain. i told you November is not my best month but there are some high lights. I can assure you I only drink a little whiskey with hot tea and lots of honey. This , as you might know , is our Nanna's recipe for any kind of malaise or illness. I am happy to confirm my back has been completely cured. i wore my fleece jumper with a hot water bottle in the back for about four days. i think the Nostrodamus look is back , seen in Prague first !

But I have another brilliant cure which is to go to Lisbon for five days for a drawing conference, which funnily enough is exactly what i did last week.
I have fallen inlove with Lisbon , i felt like i went up in a balloon and floated there looking at all the beauty for five days.

It is like a city of faded chandelier glass and colour. A prism of different shades of blue and broken painted tiles. The churches are filled with paintings on tiles from top to ceiling.

Breathtaking and an overwhelming feeling of being blessed.
I saw a double rainbow , what more can i say ?

Now im back in Prague again and i have crashed, fallen from my portuguese balloon.
But all in good spirit. My ring finger nail of my left hand has been surgically removed by one third ,
because of a very heavy ceramic boot that fell on it in the summer. The new nail remembered the bump and was starting to grow into my skin which was quite painful,
so i went to a doctor and she said i had to get it removed as soon as possible.
So the next day I went to the hospital and an hour later i walked out with a huge bandage round my finger. I wont give you too many details , it didnt hurt , I got two anesthetic injections in my finger, it blew up like a balloon, and then i had to lie down and the doctor asked the assistent to get the finest scissors from the draw. He lifted a long metallic tool about the size of a shoebox from the draw, saying , Are these the finest we have ?
At that point i turned my head to the right, squinshed my eyes and refused to look. He kept tugging at my hand and asking if it hurt, i mumpled not really. But the worst of all were the noises, like he was cutting into thick cardboard.
Hence again my cardboard prop feeling coming back to me.
Afterwards i went for a strong coffee and serious dark chocolate cake with A. It helped.
I am not able to do any washing up of dishes to my great dissapointment and to that of A's. I am also not able to wash any clothes with our prehistoric washing machine , which deserves a post of it's own.
A. is very helpful and patient with me.
Im just taking it easy and pondering about how i will create art work for the next five months until the nail grows back. I have tried drawing with my right hand but it looks like a three year old has been scribbling in a book which could be quite interesting for a while. Maybe i can draw with my feet , or my mouth? The time has come for a change in my art style.
Lets just hope for the best. This is me pondering :

Here are a few songs that make me feel nice and warm. The first one is by SADE,called
Bring me home

And here is a song that cheers me up , its a song about the sea

All my love and good luck with the move over there in Bali ! I would take as little as possible. And take care !
Bon voyage !

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Only 27 days.

Dear sisters,

Last Thursday was the day puppies were offered to the demons. I mentioned this practice on the blog before.

All over Bali, puppies were killed and skinned. Sate sticks were made of puppy meat, to offer with the skin. During a ceremony, a pig was slaughtered by piercing a knife into its throat, collecting the blood that ran clear, and finally, the blood spilled at the traditional cockfight was also added to the mix: a mighty potion to appease the demons coming from the sea, at this halfway point of the Balinese calendar. It is a bad month.

In the evening the villagers walked in procession to the village borders, dressed in finery, carrying the symbols of their temples, in an attempt to keep the demons out for another year. I saw the processions, but got the gory bits from my main source, Nyoman, of course.

In the week that this was happening, I was practising yoga twice a day on a marble balcony, overlooking the green, green, as my yoga teacher from San Francisco felt inspired by the gentle nature of the Balinese.

It is my yoga time. I am cramming it in before we return. Two days of rest after a week’s retreat, before I dive into a five-day immersion in the South. Will I be able to do a handstand, before we go? I dream about flying up lightly, my legs straight and elegant, but it proves a deception once I awaken. My body is still a bulging sack of potatoes, unsuccessfully attempting to defy gravity.

We had an unexpected house-guest, who came for dinner and did not leave for two weeks. We met before, during a yoga retreat in Greece, and she turned up in Ubud, we ran into her, and so she came and provided all members of the family with stories to entertain. We expect to see her again.

Today, Sinterklaas came to Bali. It was a very hot day and the parents sweat a lot, as they waited for it to end. The children sang song after song in utter confusion and eventually lined up for a bag of sweets with a notebook. Kroketten and friet on presentation of the coupon. Rosie had been up before six, showering in our bathroom to get ready for the man. I find it hard to get into that Sint Nicholas feeling in the tropics.

And now? We count down. Less than four weeks to go, before we return to the European lowlands: a bit more than a month before we meet again, elastic baby and sock sister.

With love,


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fresh Enough: doing things by halves first.

Dear Sisters,

Greetings from Villa...Smog! If I were to take a picture out of my window there wouldn't be much on it. I can measure the density of fog by looking at the clock on the old district town hall. If I can't see it, it is foggy today. It was. The whole town seems wrapped in a damp blanket, as if the whole place were the inside of a steamed up car window. It confers a certain atmosphere on the city, not altogether unpleasant. On the whole it is one of those late (late, already) autumn days that tell you winter is coming. Soon, all will have changed forever. Until next season. Time is definitely churning.

I know "no one cares what you had for lunch" but I do have some very ordinary things to talk about.

I am sitting here at the kitchen table, listening to Italian renaissance music on the radio, after finishing a delicious bowl of Thai chicken soup; it came out of a tetrapak, of which the writing printed on its side assures me it is fresh, and then I have augmented it with some fresh ginger (also great as tea), some browned pine nuts, a branch or two of chopped, organic celery; and some wild mushrooms...out of the deep freeze. Methinks my culinary art of living has gone up a notch, but even if it be just half a notch, by adding the fresh to the fresh enough, that already seems a great place to start. It has something of an elegant compromise.

So too my best intentions floundered; a perfect practice of yoga, to which I cannot yet seem to commit, is seconded by an occasional centering session on the floor of my amazing living room tatami platform with the breathtaking view. I learn to take breaths again, and to stretch in a way that has me discovering my body's hinges as if it were the very first time, and as if I was not once - allegedly - also an elastic baby. The lessons of breathing really open up something amazing and beautiful.

The website that is helping me do this is one that S1 recommended to me: Yogaglo I also cannot recommend it warmly enough. For a start, its design and usability is one of the most beautiful things you will encounter on the web. You can choose the style and duration of your lesson, including all kinds of wonderful meditation, and as it plays on your computer you can keep your mind on the lesson and not let it wander off (as it might). What's more, the screen is each time full of positive people saying nice things to you as you try something new. It has all the love of a San Francisco Yoga Tree, or even an Ubud Yoga Barn lesson, streaming through the internet and coming into your home. Wherever you might be. It always has you coming back for more. Which reminds me of my soup of which there is a bit would be such a shame to let it go to waste!

love to you both!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Villa Coral

Dear sisters,

My idea was to wake every morning fresh, why would I be tired, do my yoga stretches, meditate and then get to work, methodically, two hours on, short break, two more hours, break.

Instead I wake up with a thin layer of grizzle on my tongue and no desire to stretch my stiff limbs. I could use some meditation because my mind is full of words. But they are going nowhere yet. Just swirling around in my head.

A man starts to sweep the beach, yes the beach, very early outside my little villa. So, that is the sound I wake up to, that and the sea, which never stops lapping; lap, lap, lap, softly or loudly, it can be either. I heard about the tsunami in Indonesia from my friend in SF. That was the night the sea lapped very loudly outside my door.

Pink flowers hang from a bush in front of my window. I should know their name. It really is very nice here; the perfect spot to spend time on one’s writing.

When you go into the sea, did I mention it is just in front, and you have a mask with a snorkel, you will see a lot of fish in many colors swimming through the coral. Here the fish don’t linger on the ocean floor, they also like to swim at the surface too, where you are, so you swim through the blue and yellow fish, trumpet fish, and rainbow fish, that sometimes turn and swim towards you, smacking their lips and oggling their eyes, before darting off in disgust.

To make you feel better, sisters presently in deep and middle Europe, rushing towards winter, the writing is a struggle, I can’t say otherwise. My characters sprint and stop, sprint and stop.

Character = action, I write on a piece of paper, to remind myself.

I am encouraged by my “how to write fiction” book, saying that in the revision stage, it will be easier to sit for long hours. But now, I need the breaks, often, to think, and think, sometimes until I bump into a grey smoky wall, that is the end of my brain.

I am moving on, definitely, I am moving in the right direction. It is all becoming clearer, but the puzzle is not complete. What are the final obstacles my characters have to overcome? Shouldn’t my book be lighter, that being the writing style, that comes most naturally? Is it too light?

Do not think this is an introduction to giving up. It is just letting off steam (an excellent cliché, one of the many that could creep into this first draft).

When I write, I sit at a little table: there is one outside on the deck, and one inside in the room, both overlooking the sea, big bottles of air minum, that is drinking water, placed neatly in a row behind me, after drinking the last drop.

My i-tunes library is undergoing a renewed inspection. What is the best writing music?

Everyday I walk to the diving school over the beach. I walk past the pig, snuffling at the furthest reach of the rope around its neck, and the cockerels, pecking freely on the beach. I step over the ropes of the fishing boats, tugging gently towards sea. I generally go to the diving school for lunch. The food is not very good at the diving school, flies like to hover closely over the parched nasi campur, but they do have wifi: so I can hear about the tsunami in Sumatra from my friend in SF and download the article on my NY Times reader. And post this post.

Tonight my daughter and my husband (the son has other engagements) will join me for the weekend. I don’t know if that will disturb my rhythm or give it new energy, but I am looking forward to a conversation with a real person and a half.

Back next Wednesday.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

patterned lithuanian footwarmers

Dearest sisters , oh how i miss you so ! It has now been three weeks since i have come back from a miracle island named Bali.
Please forgive my grave retard. I am still in dream mode. I think I left my head under a coconut tree or i am experiencing a short bout of culture shock . Where is my fresh green coconut juice ?
Why have my flip flops been replaced with thick woolly handknitted lithuanian socks ( thankyou dear mama ) and ankle black leather boots ?
Why do i dream of inventing nosewarmers and becoming rich with this genius idea ?
Why is fleece my second skin ?
The list is neverending and ontop of all of that , people here dont smile as much as in Bali , they pull a funny face and look down.
But then again some smile back warmly so im not really complaining.
My daily nasi goreng has been replaced with big chunks of meat, cabbage and dumplings.
Ah, the poetry of dumplings. I think Auguste Rodin once visited Bohemia and wrote about dumplings being uncompleted poetry, whatever that means. They taste fine to me.
And i like cabbage, so there is no problem there.
My tan has already completely dissapeared on my face and i already blend in with all the other cottage cheese complexions .
I am in no way being critical , i am just objectively comparing the differences between a tropical volcanoe island and a central european continental valley.
Let me visually illustrate , this is me modestly expressing my joy of being in Bali :

And this is I too , pensively soaking up the the central eastern european vibe .

Can you spot any differences ?
Czech Republic is a tough place to be for a dutch born , yorkshire rooted , belgian citizen las. But dont worry about me, i have lovely friends :) and a wonderful family :) and a lovely boyfriend :) what more could one wish for ? and Prague is a beautiful, beautiful city.
Moving on out of this puddle of self pity , let me show you what women wear in south eastern Moravia where my boyfriend and czech wine comes from ( remember? czech Italy, previous post ) They dont wear this every day , only on national holidays where they drink lots of wine , sing folk songs and dance very wildly. The skirts are very hoopy and quite uncomfortable , attached to the body with a corset. They cannot sit down wearing this skirt, so when they are in a car they have to sit on their knees.

Floating back to Bali. The wonderland island of symphonies of vibrant colours, blue volcanoes,green greenness so green it tipples you over.

The heat, the sun , the warmth sometimes unbearable when there but so missed when here. Here a little photo of our trip to the Gilli islands. My first snorkeling experience, such beautiful fish and we even saw turtles! shiny blue sparkling and multi coloured rainbow fishes too !

Let me dream just a little bit longer, i still need to meditate on it all.
Sparkles in my eyes.

Thinking of you ,

Monday, October 18, 2010

Family trip to Borneo, written in third person (extended remix version)

They go to Malaysian Borneo/Sabah to look for the Orangutans in the wild. The man and the woman think the boy and the girl will like that.

In Sabah, wooden houses stand on stilts to let the elements pass through and prevent early deterioration. Family finances allowing, the space below is bricked in later, creating an extra floor. On one such floor, they sleep at the Dutchman’s house, tiled from floor to wall.

The man found the Dutchman on the internet, just in time to book the trip. That is what the Dutchman does. He organizes trips in Borneo and lets people stay at his house. He moved to Kota Kinabalu ten years ago, when he wanted to start anew. He fell in love with a Muslim woman.

He had to become Muslim to marry her, which he saw as a bureaucratic necessity, with the added advantage of allowing him to take four wives, should he so desire. The catch, he says, is that a man has to provide for each wife equally. They all are entitled to a house and children.

The Dutchman makes so many jokes about taking a second wife that the man asks if he is serious. He is not.

The Dutchman’s wife covers her hair when she goes out, but he has never seen her pray, the Dutchman says. She was Catholic for a while, before becoming Muslim. The decision was economically motivated.

The Dutchman’s wife draws pictures of princesses and castles for the girl and the girl plays with the daughter, the smattering of Dutch on both sides not hindering communication.

The boy and the man play darts on the covered balcony, as the trees sweep from side to side on the riverbank, under a grey, wet sky. It rains a lot in Borneo while they are there, but not continually. They will never have to put on their poncho’s.

They are taken to a water village. The woman thinks the boy and girl will like the children, who run out to greet them on the walking planks above the water, shouting, what’s your name, but the boy and girl are shy. They speak later of the five white puppies near the school and the old toothless ladies, chewing, red in their mouth. Is that blood, they ask.

In the multi-storied shopping mall, with light strings cascading down the center and a head-covered young woman in jeans, singing karaoke on a stage below, the girl has an accident in the hole-in-the-ground toilet, which means her clothes are wet and odorous. The woman walks into an Asian clothing store with the girl, hello-kitty-style, the woman calls it, and buys a dress and a pair of kinckers for 7 dollars.

The girl chooses the dress with conviction: pink/ black plaid pinafore style, with sewn in T-shirt, drop-waist and patent belt detail, silver writing across the front and a bow. Underpants: Mickey Mouse with golden flower.

The girl cannot stop smiling and keeps the dress clean for three days and washes the kinckers by herself in the sink.

They eat pancakes with sugar and peanuts.

The first day in the rainforest, they see pygmy elephants and red-tailed monkeys. A good taster for the days to come, the man and woman think. But spotting wildlife in the rainforest is not easy. That first day is their best.

The man and the woman call out and point with enthusiasm with each spotting. Can you see it, they say. The boy and the girl say, come on, let’s go, after one minute of craning their necks towards the treetops.

The boy and the girl dance around the extended buffet for lunch and dinner. I like it when we don’t have to choose from a menu, the girl says.

The man makes videos with voiceover, of the elephants and the canopy walk, which, the woman thinks, verges on the unacceptable. She has associations with holiday slide shows being forced upon her, although she is not quite sure that ever happened, it could have been a movie, or why that should be such a bad thing, now that she tries to formulate the argument in her mind. Still, the feeling cannot be shaken.

In the same train of thought, the woman wonders why she brings her camera for the night safari. What is this urge to capture. Who wants to see a blurry picture of an animal sweeping through the grass. She sits at peace with her camera by her side, until the spotter spots a giant porcupine right next to the truck and she rushes to the other side, her camera lifted to her eye, in a reflex.

She takes pictures like she used to smoke, she thinks. Only one or two taste really good, the others merely provide a pleasant pastime.

What all the other tourists, with their big cameras, clicking away, don’t know, she thinks, is that SHE is going to edit carefully, telling the story with only the strictly necessary. She is not like them.

The days are measured by the quality of the buffets, the colors of the bedspreads and the amount of privacy afforded by the toilets, wet on the tiled or cement floor mostly, flip-flops provided at the door.

Borneo rainforest is not as they expected, the man and woman say to each other, but they cannot really remember what they expected now that reality has taken over. But sometimes the well-trodden paths of the Rainforest Lodge remind them of European woodlands. The woman likes the ferns and the overhanging vines.

The man and the woman teach table manners to the boy and the girl at dinner. It is time they think. The man mimes the right way to do it and then the wrong way to do it. The boy and the girl laugh and try and copy him. The man does it again, just to be sure, fast forward and in slow motion. The boy giggles uncontrollably for some time. It is a game. When they stop playing, the boy and the girl fall back into fingers and mouths.

The girl asks the woman to draw her a princess. With long straight hair and a beautiful dress. And then another. And then two big princesses and two small princesses, and then a boy and a girl kissing in wedding dress and then two girls kissing in wedding dresses, and then four friends with their pets. Then the woman says, now is enough.

The woman thinks the boy and the girl are like cats. When she most wants to read alone for a while, they are drawn to her, rubbing against her legs, and wanting to sit on the pages.

At night, if possible without waking the boy and the girl, they watch episodes of the first season of Glee.

On Turtle island, they wait, after dinner, in the neon-lit dining room to be called. The turtle comes on land to lay her eggs at night and they can watch. But first the turtle must come. They are called after 11 p.m. The girl has long since fallen asleep, draped across three chairs. The woman teaches the boy to play patience, the card-game. The boy is excited about this night, naturally more inclined towards reptiles.

The turtle is grand. Isn’t it, the man says. Its 114 eggs are buried in the nursery. They watch the release of newly hatched turtles, making the dash to the sea. The girl squeals as she helps a lost turtle find its way. They all agree this is special, before retiring long past midnight to their rooms resembling ships cabins.

On the boat safari on the Kinabatangan river, the man and the woman, the boy and the girl sit in their colorful mix and match, now joined by others in kahki green zip pants and macro lenses and binoculars. The river looks like a Tintin adventure. The boy and girl look they were pulled through a hedge backwards, old family cliche intended, after one week without a brush.

They see an Orangutan in the wild. On their way out by boat, just before it is too late. One red furry ball in the treetop, its face hidden from view.

The last hotel in Sandakan has three restaurants and a slide in the pool. It is the best ever the boy says and the girl says too, it is the best ever. The boy and the girl watch Stop or my mom will shoot on HBO in the adjoining room, while the man and the woman get to episode 10.

The woman can’t help sharing the relief of the boy and the girl, that they will not be eating ricegreenvegetableschicken that night.

The man gets bitten by a mosquito and then again, at the poolside, and on the way up to the room, he is passing anyway, he checks one more time, everyone has confirmed so far, at the reception. There is no malaria in this area, is there, he asks. The lady looks at him with non-understanding. No, no malaria in this area, she finally says.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Discusssion about parenting

So, let’s not talk about Bali, bali, bali for a second. Let’s take a different subject. Parenting, and all it’s high and low points, for example.

So, what do you do, when you are away for the weekend, in the North East of Bali, staying in a simple bamboo bungalow, with thatched roof, at the water’s edge, the waves so loud, there could be cause for complaint; the shower is a bamboo pipe coming out of the wall outside, but what more do you need? and the hammock on the front porch is in popular demand. Okay, so Bali is involved, just a little, the point being; you are in the middle of nowhere. It is night. You are a single parent, this weekend.

So, what do you do, if your eight year old, already well-known for stubbornness, who most certainly has a fever and is rocking back and forth, red-faced, tears dripping down his face, hands in his lap, moaning because he generally feels miserable, refuses your offer of a Panadol, which you know will, at least, bring his temperature down and help him sleep? Help you sleep.

First, you may try and explain in a soothing voice what the benefits are of taking a Panadol. You explain that, if he does not want to swallow, you can squash the tablet and mix it in water, to make it easier. You explain the disgusting taste, he is objecting to, only last a few seconds, if that, and that it seriously does not outweigh a night of sleep.

What do you do, when he still refuses?

“No, no, no”, he moans.

The bamboo bungalows stand close to each other. You hear your neighbors rustle.

When your eight-year old son wails;

“Are you going to force me, Mama?”

you can’t help but think of the scene in the movie Der Untergang (The Downfall) about the last ten days of Hitler and friends, in the bunker in Berlin, when Mrs Goebbels offers her ten children a deadly potion. One child looks her mother in the eye and asks if they really have to drink the potion.
“Yes” their mother says, stroking the child’s back, “drink up, my dear,” and the girl does just that, full of trust, because her mother says it is good for her.

That is how you remember it, anyway.

So what do you do?

When you feel his head, and it feels hotter than ever, actually it suddenly feels very, very hot to you, and you remember, but not quite clearly, there is an illness, a serious complication, that starts with a fever and a cough, which is often mistaken for flu - and suddenly you wonder what you will do if he becomes sicker during the night, and you see yourself waking the resort management and finding a driver and driving three hours to the nearest hospital.

Remember, there is no second parent to put all this into perspective.

“Yes, I am going to force you”; you might say, pushing Mrs Goebbels out of your mind.

“You must take it! “ a little loud, perhaps. (this may be the moment your five year old moves to the bed upstairs to sleep on her own.)

And then, when he starts no, no, no-ing again, rocking back and forth, a little faster, you may say that he is so hot now, it is dangerous. If his temperature does not drop, you will have to take him to the hospital.

This may persuade him. He may drink the mango juice, you have managed to find, mixed with a crushed Panadol and lie down, defeated, after you hugged him tight, saying: “Thank you, good boy, thank you”. (This may be when you hear a five-year old cheer from above.) Your son may fall asleep very soon after that.

The next morning your eight-year old could feel better, although the hospital may still haunt him and he spends the rest of the day asking about that, and what happens if a fever gets too high. You may have caused something, you realize, perhaps the beginnings of a fine hypochondriac.

So, what would you do?

With love S1

Sunday, September 12, 2010

There is a T-shirt: no one gives a #***! what you did on the playa, but I will give you a glimpse anyway, and then forever hold my peace.

Dear sisters,

We have returned to Bali where it rains every day and a Starbucks has opened on the Ubud high street, much to the dismay of the expat community.

Nevertheless, the traffic seems to have died down some, and the temperature is good. The butterflies are out and the swallows still dip the pool at dusk. It is only three months before our Bali adventure is over and we shall return to the homeland. The realization is here.

The children have told us the two weeks were too long for us to be away and they may be right, although the weeks flew by on our side.

San Francisco was beautiful and Burning Man second year round was better.

My husband and I found a good modus vivendi for our different ways of expressing appreciation of the event (You might be surprised, but my husband likes to jump around, shouting "I love it!", while I am more of the smiling and walking type.)

After communicating as much on the first day, we let each other express however, and whichever way, each one felt was necessary for their enjoyment, meeting at intersections, which worked out wonderfully. Couples together at BM are not necessarily a success, so this is a breakthrough.

Our camp was named Camp Zardoz after a movie by John Boorman (1974), involving Sean Connery running through the movie in a red leather diaper as a "barbarian" called Zed and Charlot Rampling playing a character called Consuella, an "immortal". The immortals eat green bread.

The New York times critic Roger Ebert called it a "genuinely quirky movie, a trip into a future that seems ruled by perpetually stoned set decorators....The movie is an exercise in self-indulgence.."

We watched it twice before we went out to the desert, once with the director's commentary which did nothing to clarify the plot. In both instances, it served well as a sleep-aid. Even John, in his commentary, admitted that here and there, it may have been a bit much.

It involves, amongst others, a giant floating head. You need to know that you can only enter the vortex through the head and Zardoz is derived from 'The Wizard of Oz".

At 8.50 and Jakarta, we built four yurts made of foam board and reflective insulating tape, developed by Dutch students for refugee camps, and they were luxurious and spacious by Playa standards, especially after we installed our own air-conditioning units. We made a shower, which you could use kneeling down, and set up a small vertical privacy -tent, set back a little from the rest of the camp, so the men could pee in a bottle without walking all the way to the porta potties at night. Yes, you wanted to know that. We had a chill dome, a kitchen dome and shade for hanging during the day.

Our fellow Zardozians, all 13 of us, blended beautifully this year and made the event.

We shared meals at sunset, followed blinking hearts Deep into the Playa, complimented each others' outfits, played petang in a park at midnight, clustered close together in dust storms, shouted "ZARDOZ! across the sands, sat cross-legged in a circle, observing the lights from a distance and were always relieved to see a Zardoz rescue team find missing persons, especially if we were the ones missing.

Music camps played very loud music this year. I can only describe it as sawing metal to random beats - A. can do a good impression, you could ask him. We do not know what style it is; punk house, metal house? I know not, but I think the general idea is to avoid melody. We tried to get away from it, if we could. The art cars were the ones we went to for dancing.

When it was done, breaking down camp on Sunday only took 5 hours, we hugged and kissed, and promised to bring camp Zardoz back again.

Right, that was it.

S3 and friend are currently escaping the Ubud rain with a trip to the Gilli islands for a few days, with a bag so small, my toilet bag wouldn't fit in it. I have respect for this kind of light traveling.

Love S1

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Healing again

Dear sisters,

Back from our summer traveling, I have been catching up on healing, as if my life depended on it, and, if I am to believe one or two of the healers I have seen, maybe it does.

The massage from God.

I have so far, had two efficient 30-minute massages by
Ketut Arsana, who is the man of the Bodyworks emporium. You always have to book ahead. The massage involves waiting, until the short, long-bearded man with sparkly eyes, arrives, to lead you past the chained upside-down bat, past the fish, past the herb boxes, under the beaded curtains, up the stairs and more stairs, to the roof where you are led into his little room of dark timber, with bookcases full of books, and a single massage table. He gestures, without talking, for you to undress, completely, and so you step, in glorious nakedness, with hardly a modesty sheet, onto the table, and then he begins. No faffing around with introductory strokes. It is different for everyone, but with me it involved Ketut walking over my back a lot. Now, this is a good massage.

Aryuvedic consult with Uma.

I am a mixed body type: Vahta, Pitta, and Kahpa, ratio 1:2:3, but mostly at this time I need to balance Vahta. This means breathing exercises at dawn, lots of swimming in cool water and no strenuous yoga in the afternoons. Resting between 2 and 6 and a daily massage if possible. No dairy or spicy foods, no tomatoes or bananas. I am to avoid too much travel, any kind of stimulation or sensory overload. That will have to be after Burning man, then.

Also some energy work is suggested, as I have suspected blockages behind the heart.

Pak Man

Pak Man lives in my street. It is the second house up the path, past the laundry. Behind the walls a garden lies, with twinkling wind chimes and bird-filled cages in the trees. You sit cross-legged on the patio and make small talk with Pak Man’s english speaking female partner, who translates, as Pak man closes his eyes, chain-smoking, now and then flicking his long grey ponytail with the back of his hand, muttering a question or advice when it comes up.

We speak of the body being a car, driven by the mind. If the car crashes, it is not the car’s fault.

Pak Man at some point stands up and walks around his garden, hacks off a coconut with a big knife, walks inside, closes the glass doors, and then, brusquely, the curtains. After a long while, small talk is really done by now, I am invited inside.

Pak Man gives me the most painful massage I have ever had, cracks and clicks every bone in my body including the bones on the top of my hands and my feet, and then finally makes me eat two flowers followed by a glass of young coconut juice and then another glass of what seems like water with glycerin floating on top. “Pak Man medicine” his partner explains, with no intention of revealing the ingredients.

She continues to translate, after she lights another cigarette of her own, blowing fresh smoke into the air: "Right, so, ..Pak Man says you are not doing well"

My pancreas is blocked, there is salt in my kidneys and the root of the cancer has not gone. But! Do not despair, she says; "Pak Man can work on it."

He could not open everything in my body during this session, as it was still too painful for me, but I could return. In the meantime I should drink young coconut juice every day and have a good time.

When all else fails: eye-lash extension

I drove down to Seminyak and lay on a reclining chair, listening to French chansons for ninety minutes, while a sweet girl took great care to stick hair extensions onto each one of my measly eyelashes.

So far, but I am still processing all the information, I have recognized the need for many massages and am considering the daily coconut juice. I have also gracefully accepted the compliments for my eyes, although showering with goggles is a nuisance.

I leave for San Francisco and Burning Man tonight. When we return, I intend to go to one or two of the energy healers in and around Ubud and the recommended Chinese acupuncturist in the South. Just to get them all in before we go.

S3, I see you on this sweet island, when I return.
If you travel safe, so will I.