Thursday, August 31, 2006

Legong, Very long and Not Long Enough (a tale in three parts)

Part II – 30th July 2006

The plan today was we would do a 10 km walk taking in a few temples and the traditional rice paddies around Ubud. Bless the Lonely Planet’s little cotton socks, but I had a sneaking suspicion that the little looping line with hardly any street names was going to be a wee bit difficult to follow – even for a navigational genius like myself – so I decided to leave the navigating to Kimberly. The paragraph describing the walk was even less helpful: go past the garbage dump, don’t be afraid to ask directions! We weren’t even out of Ubud when our first hiccup occurred. We had reached a roundabout, or was it a fork? Maybe a crossroads? Whatever it was, it was marked by a HUGE statue of ... mmm... what exactly? Neither Estrella nor I can remember exactly. I think there were wings and something standing on animals. Anyway, the point is it was massive and we didn’t know where to go. I did bite the bullet and go ask directions like the LP suggested. I left the shop with some new vocabulary: ‘Pasar Pejeng? Pasar Galiang?’ but still no real idea where to go. We tootled off in the wrong direction, scuttled back past the giver of bad directions and things seemed to go OK then.

We did the steep descent through lush forests, crossed a river which was hidden below the foliage and climbed again to see our first rice paddies. I had seen photos in the books, but seeing it for real was amazing. It was like travelling back in time when machinery was not invented and perhaps life was simpler. The only things which placed these fields in our time where the scooters piled with as many members of the family as possible, the loud easy listening escaping from the compound walls and the little boys. Why the little boys? Well, the little girls also shouted, albeit quietly: ‘Allo.’ ‘What’s your name?’ ‘How are you?’ But the more vociferous boys also shouted very loudly ‘Foto, foto, foto.’ Then they would lounge back on the steps and grin and wave their fingers at us. They would then jog up to see the results on our tiny little screens and shoot off leaving behind the sound of their hysterical high pitched laughter.

So at what point did we realise we were lost? Oh, probably way back there after the fifth paddy field. When did we start to worry? Well, it may have been as I had my head buried in the guide book looking up the phrase ‘Where is?’ only to be drawn out by the panic stricken wailing of a two year old who had probably never seen a white tourist before. “I’ve never scared a kid like that before.” Estrella confessed later. It was closer to the time we finally saw a sign saying Pejeng and we realised we had been walking for three hours and the walk was supposed to be three hours in total. Oh yeah, and it was definitely when we asked where Pura Pesering Jagat was and we were told two or three km's away. Not only had we not even reached the first of the temples, but it was now gone eleven and we had a Javanese Flower bath and deep tissue massage booked for two and we weren’t even halfway around the loop!

Eventually we reached Pura Peneteran Sasih. My toes hurt, my legs were weary, I was sweaty and this temple had a drum called the Moon of Pejeng which fell to earth about a thousand or two years ago. There was a moments hesitation when we saw that other tourists were donating 20,000 rupiah for a visit (the equivalent of 2€), but we were dog tired, so we slapped a 50 thou for the three of us down took our sashes and went off to find the drum.

That didn’t take long so five minutes later we had new priorities: getting back to Ubud and we weren’t bloody walking anymore. Forget Pura Pesering, the archaeological museum or Goa Gajat. Those are all things we passed as we sat in the back of a Bemo transporting flies, turnips and us.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


(I freely accept that my ideas here may have been influenced by some American guy whose name I can no longer remember ... Bucket ... fuckit ... and he wrote a book about Pirates or something like that and also about Stuff).

As a child I lived in the same house for eighteen years. I was born in that house and my biggest move was from the box room to the attic after it had been converted. Since then, in seventeen years I have moved thirteen times. Surely that has got to be crazy? That can’t be right? I even wondered whether I could count fourteen as strictly speaking there was a short period after university where rather cleverly on my part I forgot to apply for any jobs and extended my summer holiday for another eight months thanks to the tax payer and my parents who lodged me. But I decided no. A rucksack and one box does not a moving make. No for it to be a proper move there has to be STUFF.

And with that stuff comes rules. For instance rule. 17 in the Miss V moving manual is: Thou shall not move thy toilet brush from one abode to the other. Why? When did I decide that? Well, actually I can fill you all in on that one. It was about the moment I shoved everything from the shelves into a placcy bag and chucked it into a box and there before me was the toilet brush and in a blinding flash I just said NO.

Rule 11 is: Thou shall buy new duvet covers to welcome you into your new abode. Again I ask myself why. Well strictly speaking I have spent the last year with one full duvet set and two half sets, because he who shall not be mentioned buggered off with half of each and isn’t anywhere as anally retentive as me when it comes to matching sheets. But I stress that I never saw that as a good point, that was a FATAL FLAW. However, I do also recognise that it is also a pretty fatal flaw on my part too. Why oh why must they all be matching colours and go with the rug on the floor too? What is wrong with me?

So back to the stuff: I have big plates, little plates, pasta plates, bowls, red wine glasses, white wine glasses, champagne glasses (admittedly one of each but there was a whole set once upon a time). In the last week I’ve used the same plate, same wine glass (and maybe used it a little bit too much last night) and same cutlery – which incidentally I spent my birthday money on a couple of years ago because I decided the Carrefour cutlery was crap. When did this happen? There was a time when the only time I did the dishes was when I ran out of stuff to eat off. OK that time was about March of this year, but that was exceptional and I really tried hard never to let that happen again.

OK but what’s the point? The point is that whether you want to or not stuff rules your life. Here was rule no.1 in the moving manual: Yon apartment must be big enough for all my stuff to fit in. I searched around Paris with this unwritten rule foremost in my head unaware that I had become dominated by stuff. This is the same person who when she saw the two French women waltz into the hotel in Bali while their packhorse boyfriends carried their rucksacks and their own said: ‘If you can’t carry it, don’t pack it. How much stuff does one person need?” Well in answer to my own question; 40 odd boxes of crap, piles of furniture, lights and various other shit.

I remember one idealistic day in my past when I tried to make a promise to myself that I would not become materialistic. Since then I appear to have accumulated more crap than I really should have and at various times have been part owner of three cars (even though I don’t possess a driving licence) an apartment in Paris, and a washing machine that I cannot be parted from – Rule 3 in the manual: Thy washing machine is not a frivolity, it is a necessity.

I could go on, but really what’s the point. Yes, I have a lot of crap. Yes, I bought some more today. No, I don’t really need it and no I don’t really have the courage to drop out of the societal loop sufficiently to rid myself of the need of stuff. So there we go, that was a pointless and circular argument if ever there was one. A bit like stuff really.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Legong, Very long and Not Long Enough (a tale in three parts)

Part I - 29th July 2006

We had seen a Legong performance in a restaurant in Sanur, but as I suspected the dancers and the whole performance was much better in Ubud. For a start the performance takes place in the Ubud Palace, which is a pretty magical setting. You enter through an ornately decorated doorway and either side of you are covered platforms with gilded red cloths hanging around the eaves. We arrived too late for seats under those, which would have been directly behind the Gamelan orchestra, but got seats right in the middle - even if it was behind some guy’s big head.

The Gamelan Orchestra begins proceedings by playing an introduction. To western ears used to different music scales, to begin with the notes that are pounded out with their arched hammers sound if anything discordant, but eventually the flute weaves in and out and your ears get used to it and at times it reaches a crescendo and speed which is reminiscent of modern dance music. Before long the music has drowned out the sounds of the howling dogs and cicadas.

The dancers enter through a central doorway. It’s hard to say what hits you first: the amazing staccato eye movements (which caused a contact lens to pop out when I tried it), the beautiful sarongs and tops wound tight to accentuate their arched backs, the delicate movements of their hands which weave patterns in the air, or the jerky yet still graceful movements.

My favourite dance of the evening was the ‘Oleg Tambulilingan’. It’s described as a ‘graceful love dance’ and the story should be fairly simple, but the English translation was a wee bit confusing. Is it a flower seducing a bumblebee? Or a bumblebee seducing a flower? Anyway they fall in love in their brightly coloured purple, red, green and gold sarongs which is entwined between her feet (recipe for falling over if you ask me) and his which trails on the ground and is waved at her every now and again like a matador enticing a bull (OK this is not creating the image of a love story, but you get the waving movement right?)

There’s a lot more in the Legong dances like guys in masks with long scary fingernails and other more complicated stories, but even reading about it in the guide book was not the same as seeing it. Unfortunately for me I also discovered that my camera was more than a wee bit limited at low light action photography. Still hope you get a bit of an idea of what I saw.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Wonderful World of Entertainment

27th-28th July 2006

It’s been three years since my last long haul flight, but the one that sticks in my mind is the one I took ten years ago. I had two suitcases, one with an orange sticker saying VERY HEAVY and they added up to 50 kilos. They were my worldly possessions, the things I had deemed important enough to take with me to my new life in Mexico, but that’s another story and the point is that two hours into the flight I was dying to be in Mexico, to see what it was all about. I had ants in my pants and was constantly off to the loo, for a quick chat with Polly and Mary in the smoking section and nothing I had brought with me on the plane could keep me entertained. So that was why I had the Miss V personal entertainment and long haul preparedness rucksack with me. Fourteen and a half hours plus a twelve hour stop off in Singapore. I was prepared for all eventualities. What I wasn’t prepared for was KRISWORLD (or the fact that thirty seconds after arriving at Heathrow we spotted the Singapore Airlines desk and changed our Singapore Bali connection to a reasonable two hours).

So stop me if you have experienced this system before, but me, I was blown away. Eighty films, countless TV programmes, music, games, all at the touch of a few buttons. Wow with this system even Flight path became exciting. The pages of the Sudoku book curled, I read about four pages of The Kite Runner (I know this may be the pot calling the kettle black, but I’m not impressed with Khaled Hosseni’s punctuation there. There’s different and then there’s downright: ‘What the hell are you trying to do there?’) and the ipod was positively ignored.

Two hours in Singapore was just enough time to buy a bigger SD card for the millions of photos I planned to take, have a fag, freshen up, walk to the gate and fill in the immigration cards. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t have KRISWORLD on this short hop, but after my second breakfast (mmm treated like Hobbits we were) I crashed into a deep slack jawed slumber.

So Bali. Well, I was kind of catatonic in the taxi but what struck me was the solid line of furniture shops from the airport to Sanur broken up with little patches of knee high grass and the odd grazing Oxen. I eventually realised that those birds hovering perfectly still in the sky were actually kites.

By mid afternoon we were on the beach lined with multi-coloured fishing boats, painted and shaped to represent elaborate fish. The sea was rapidly retreating to the reef and we watched the semi submerged fishermen casting their lines out.

Estrella and I went on a water mission returning with three bottles of water and three separate offers of massages. The offers started at 20€, but by the third person we were down to 5€ without even trying. We were all messed up with time so we kept saying ‘maybe tomorrow’ but it turned out to be a pretty effective way of haggling. So by five o’clock we were all being pummelled while I was receiving a simultaneous pedicure. Estrella was disgusted that my toenails bore remnants of varnish last applied in April, but man there’s other stuff to do in the world. Anyway, this tomboy now has red toes with eenie weenie flowers on them, even my pinkie!

Today was more of the same, beach, walks, swimming, massages, Estrella ruining the luck of one saleswoman by buying all her sarongs from a competitor ‘Why you no give me luck?’. Tomorrow is the beginning of birthday weekend and we’re off to Ubud up in the hills. We’re rested and limber.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

A letter to no one

Today I received a letter,
a long one;
a letter crying for something.
Begging for understanding?
Begging for forgiveness?
Begging for peace?
I cannot say.
What I do know is that I can give those things:
Understanding, forgiveness, peace,
But it is not from me that they will come.
Not now when we have a channel between us.
Those things have to come from you,
So I choose to save my words
And write a letter to no one.

Sunday Night Blues

It’s my last Sunday before the grindstone begins to turn again. I’m feeling like I really shouldn’t complain. Estrella was telling me that she read an article that said it takes four days to wind down from the stress of work and that people in the States never take holidays so in effect they never wind down; whereas here I am having Sunday night blues four days early; more than enough time to wind down from the stresses of moving, trying to clean my computer up, unpacking, electrocution etc.

So moving... Well that was pretty straightforward. After I emerged from the study, which seemed to have swallowed me whole and submerged me in the bile of six years paperwork, the rest of the flat disappeared into boxes pretty quickly. The only evidence that I had been here were the dusty shadows around my picture frames and my brightly coloured walls.

Was I sad to leave the place? No. In retrospect I think I spent three of the unhappiest years of my life here. I thought I would find it harder to leave the place. I thought dredging through all that stuff would be harder, but it was funny, even the photos spoke volumes. They were all organised into albums and had funny little comments underneath them, and then nothing, photos shoved into packets covered in dust to be forgotten, a marker of what was soon to fall apart.

And then my welcome to the new place. Well... I threw the door open excitedly, I flung the windows open to welcome in fresh air and then I walked about from room to room (it’s only a deux piece so that didn’t take too long) and then I stared out the window and my phone began to ring. “What number do you live at? I’ve got a piece of paper here that says 100 and another that says 103?” It was the mover’s. They had my file which gave my address and then they had a scrap of paper where I had scribbled the digicode. How difficult could it be? I tapped my pocket and skipped out the door. I figured I would stand in the middle of the road and wave at them, that should save any confusion. But they weren’t there. They weren’t anywhere to be seen. So I turned around, reached into my pocket and drew out my keys with the magic pass key. Only the bit of plastic I had in my hand was brightly coloured depicting a San Francisco tram, not the magic key that would let me into my new building. I had the wrong set of keys!

The following events prove that I have made the right choice in choosing this apartment. Miraculously I remembered the digicode and got as far as the letter boxes, but then was lacking the key to get any further. BUT no fear, the guy from the architect’s office at the front of the building was there. As he let me in I gushed out in a babble how I had locked myself out and the mover’s were on there way, blahblehdiblehdiblehdibler, three light seconds later I had explained everything and he in a very concerned way explained that I was lucky that I had not locked the door. I didn’t like to point out to him that if I had locked the door I would have the keys. I also didn’t want to point out to him that there was an electrician standing on a ladder to my left and my first floor windows in front of me were wide open. After the architect had finished his commiserations and suggestions I pointed to the ladder and my windows, there may have also been some more light speed explanations, but in any case in the next second the mover arrived and he was up the ladder before he had a chance to protest. “And make sure you don’t fall off.” The architect called up to the mover as he with some lightning speed Spiderman movements was up and over the balcony. I wasn’t sure who to hug or kiss so I restrained myself and didn’t kiss or hug anybody.

Well cleaning the computer: ‘nuff said. It was depressing and sad and is still not completely better, but it’s limping on for the moment.

Unpacking - Well major thanks go to Claire there. She got me over the midway mark and held the ladder as I discovered my new passion in life: drilling holes in walls. I enjoyed it so much I even drilled some extra ones.

And lastly the electrocution. Well it wasn’t a major one. Mind you it wasn’t the gentle tingle up to my elbow that I experienced when I stuck two screws into the ac adapter when I was ten and my brother was farting around with his tape deck. “Here feel this bro.” I said handing him over the wire. That little trick earned me a wallop around the ear from my Dad which hurt a lot more. “You could have killed him.” My Dad railed at me. I pointed out that I had touched it myself and knew it wouldn’t kill my brother, but that was it I was banned from electricity for ever more.

Well obviously not because otherwise I wouldn’t have been standing on top of my wet metal sink attaching a light fitting the other day. Now I know I switched off the light switch when I removed the old fitting, but it was in removing the old fitting that I realised that I hadn’t pulled out the fuse for the light fitting. Somehow, as I disconnected the wire, the screwdriver made the connection and momentarily before the fuse flipped the light came on and a jolt went down my arm and thankfully out of my right shoulder. I screamed and the light fitting fell on to the sink. Of course my first recourse was to go and sit on the sofa and have a fag and thank my lucky stars that my electricity was still at 3 volts and not 6 and that the fuse had flipped when it did.

I assure you I’m not feeling immortal after that little debacle. No, I am feeling very cautious. That is why there is still no light in the hallway and I’m waiting for Jane to come round and ensure I don’t forget any really important things like turning off the electricity. So I better go she’s due any minute.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Naughty Quickie

I had all these fabulous plans about how I was going to launch into this fantastic travelog and post photos and so on and so on, oh and catch up on my fave blogs. Well, I only got as far as Debi Alper’s and then all these little light bulbs kept going on in my head and in between packing I have spent the last two days doing everything that AVG forum thing told me to do, but the old computer still seems completely fucked.

I suppose it’s good then that France Telecom are so bloody inadequate and won’t be able to get my internet connection up again for a week when I move. I’ve coped for a month without a computer, so I guess I’ll just have to hand the baby over to The Server Guy and pick it up in a week’s time. Shit! Bugger ... and so on and so on.

See you lot in about ... eh September maybe. I hope.

Right I’m going to go and swear some more and pack some more. My life is currently disappearing into black plastic bags and cardboard boxes. I’ve already christened the new flat with a bottle of Cote de Provence and a couple of fags. So I’ll have a new view when I next write. And I have so much to write about. ) :

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I'm back

Yep, I'm back. I had a fantastic holiday, great birthday, had a few near death experiences, ate absolutely loads of food and released a turtle. I'm now going to take some melatonin and hope that I don't wake up at 2am all energetic. Then again if I did imagine all the packing I could get done.

I did miss you though and will spend tomorrow morning catching up on you all while I blissfully ignore all the millions of things I need to get done.

Na night.

Maybe I should download some photos... NO!


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