Friday, April 26, 2013

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

It's been six years.

Six long, sweaty, hard years. Six years of pain and strain and hardship, as well as six years of some fun and laughter.

And now we're breaking up.

Yep. After Saturday, Pinochet and I will be seeing each other no more. Relationship over. Gone. Done. Broken up. Finito.

I'm trying not to think about it.

This has been one of the most formative, evolving, nurturing, live-changing relationships I've ever had. As Pinochet is leaving the gym on Saturday, I will not be seeing him any more. I don't that that this is the end of our friendship - I'm sure we'll be seeing each other occasionally on a social level. You don't build up a relationship over a number of years and lose total contact.

All of this is a bit of a shock to the system. Pinochet has been my touchstone when it comes to exercise for nearly six years. He's the person who's been constantly whipping my butt, helping to build be up from a lazy, occasionally smoking, heavier drinking sloth to something of a semi-Amazonian gym junkie. I've gone from detesting the gym to feeling that life isn't complete without it. I've managed to take up running, know that with training I can run a half marathon distance, I know how to train my body to look and feel good - and I've finally twigged to the fact that exercise is a main factor in keeping colds, flu and depression at bay.

He's also facilitated training in a way that's let me make friends and feel a part of a community. The gym is not just a place to get hot and sweaty. It's where I go to recharge and think, hang out with friends, get ideas, de-stress.. . so many things the gym provides me.

And now, my weekly touchstone won't be there. In the early days he was half the reason I went regularly - as I found if I went a couple of times a week, the sessions with him didn't hurt so much at first.

I still remember my first session with him all those years ago. I thought I did well - and I could barely walk for the next few days, such was the state of my muscles after. Sitting down was agony. My back felt like it was made of concrete. A few years on and I know it's been a good session when I know that a few muscles are groaning a bit.

So now what? What is to come of me and personal training? Do I need a personal trainer? Will I get my Thursday night's back?

I'm considering this at the moment. There are a few great trainers at the gym. One guy I've seen on occasion is a brilliant boxing coach. There is another with the finest set of back muscles I've ever seen who might be good for toning. Another, who I refer to as Ivor the Soft, could be the ticket as he's great at all round coaching, despite my teasing moniker.

But for the moment, I will silently mourn for a bit. Then I will find a new whip master to put me at their beck and call. I like having somebody tell me what to do for a few hours a week. It's nice to be pummeled into physical submission on a regular basis by somebody - it helps to extend your boundaries - and I need this.

The most important man in my life is walking out on me. I know he's doing this for so many good reasons - his life is moving in other directions. He wants to be around more for his young daughter - and he's got a day job which is challenging him. All perfectly valid reasons to be leaving his personal training clients.

Still, it feels like I'm about to go through a rather rugged break-up.

I'm allowed to be a little sad.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Stuff I Learned on Holiday

I'm home.

After sixteen days away taking in three places, I am back into my own bed tonight. My wonderful house sitter has left the place in condition better than I left it (well at least as good as - I don't remember leaving it this tidy) and now I'm about to embark on the next phase of life - what ever that may be.

However, I'm technically still in "holiday mode". This morning I woke at 9.30 am - a sensible time I think, I've done very little so far. I'm waiting on a call back from a phone interview I had in Bali and I'm waiting on a go see from another company - not bad for shoving a line up on my LinkedIn Page when I woke this morning.

Yet still I remain in 'holiday mode'. I will be in this state until the last of the remnants of my exploded suitcase are off the lounge room floor and all of the dirty clothes are washed, ironed and put away.

Until this happens, I can reflect on what I learned on holiday this time around  - which strangely, was a lot more than I expected to learn.

So hear are my holiday lessons:

1) Upgrades are SO worth it

Not that I'm feeling overly flush, I managed to upgrade two sections of my trip for a fairly nominal fee. The first was at the hotel in Sydney where I got a business class room for the night - the small extra fee bought me dinner for myself and the friend who came to visit me as well as a decent breakfast the next morning, Oh, and the room was a bit bigger, with an in room coffee machine. This made the start of the trip something special - not having to pay for wine and food for the evening, even better.

The other upgrade opportunity I was thankful to be able to take was the opportunity to go business class on the way home. But more in this later. For once again a fairly nominal sum, I got to ride home in comfort. But yes, we will talk more about this later.

2) Hello, Goodbye, Please and Thank You

I'm a seasoned traveller. One of my rules of travel is to be unfailing polite where ever I go. I do make an effort to learn these words in the language if the country in which I'm staying. Bali is interesting in that it has two languages - Bahasa Indonesian and Balinese. Thank you in Bahasa is "Terima kasih". Thank you in Balinese is "Souk samoor". Using the Balinese will earn you many, many brownie points. Just smiling, showing some gratitude and being polite makes travelling quite easy.

Thank you is not a hard word to learn .

Another thing I was taught growing up is when you ask for something, you say please. Watching fellow travelers not use these words of gratitide really did my head in. Being polite costs nothing. Not saying please and thank you gives tourists a bad name.

It's just a simple courtesy. How hard can it be?

3) Sometimes some things at home are better

I was only away for a two weeks, but there were a few things that were sorely missed. These being:

My electric toothbrush
Wholemeal / seedy bread
Walking down the street and not being asked whether I needed transport / a plaited bracelet / a hotel room
Being able to wake up in the morning and it being like cool (not 25 degrees and muggy)
Finding some items at the price at which they were displayed (I'm not a great haggler - I'll play for one or two rounds - that's all)
Having Coke / Diet Coke / Coke Zero all at the same price. For some reason diet coke is more expensive that regular coke.

Which really isn't that much at all - though it was lovely to come back to my toothbrush and decent bread.

4) Confronting your fears doesn't always get easier

I fell in love with the Yoga Barn when I was in Ubud. I know I'm a bit of a hippy, but this place is the mothership for all things even remotely alternative.

During my time in Ubud I decided to bite the bullet and try tackling my fear of yoga. It's not so much that I'm afraid to do yoga - it's more the disappointment I feel in my body when I can't do things, like wrap my arms around each other, or do back bends. I can do other things in the class quite well, however.

In the three classes I went to, the first one - an Intro to Yoga was a lovely gentle session. The second in Anusara Yoga, a little more difficult, but as it was breath based, I was happy to participate.

The third class, another Intro to Yoga class was taken by this incredibly attractive, incredibly flexible man. Instead of the dreamy, slow paced, breath-filled yoga of the last few days, this hottie put us through our paces - spending forty minutes of a ninety minute class on the Downward Dog position.

Confronting is an understatement. Being gently singled out at the class nuffer (okay, I was probably ten years older than most of the people in the class, but I never let that get to me normally - this time I really felt it). There were other things that made me look at what was going on. The releasing of the hamstrings that Pinochet has had me working on for over a year - finally working. The shoulder freezes that I've worked on for years - finally providing dividends, but still, I end up a stroppy, teary mess.

The only way that I can get through feeling like crap with yoga is to do more of it. I do enjoy it - I just find it confronting.

5) Travelling when sick, quite frankly, sucks

I caught a cold on my second last day in Bali. Like who goes to the tropics and catches a cold? For regular readers of this blog, you will know that I don't get nice colds. I get crappy, two day in bed feeling like I'm dying colds that end up with me with a rotten junky cough types of colds. So I flew back on Bogan Air in the Business Class section - which was thankfully comfortable, and they ply you with free drinks and let you roam around the cabin. On a six hour overnight flight where you can't sleep because you're too stuffed up is a bonus. On arriving in Sydney, I caught the train and the ferry out to my hotel, fell into reception and put myself to bed for the next two days. A waste of a good hotel room, yes. Did I get to go to my friend's birthday party that I was in town for - no... felt far too crappy. However a nice cool room, with a big bed and nice soft sheets did me well and I think it made my recovery smoother. That, and a lot of panadol and the odd weak gin and tonic smoothed the ride. Flying back to Melbourne on the Sunday and I was back in the land of the walking wounded - but still happy to get home.

6) Sometimes the wankiest sounding things can be the best things ever

I had the most sublime time at the Sound Medicine session at the Yoga barn. Run by the Bali Sound Healing Collective, this session was one of the most spiritual, awakening, sublime and potent healing sessions I've ever had. I have never been a part of a sound cloud before. I've not had my body and mind disappear from consciousness so completely before. Shervin and his team lead the most incredible meditation session I've ever had the privilege to attend and participate in.

Sound healing - sounds like a pot of crock - it isn't. If you're in Ubud, check this out on a Wednesday evening. I wish I could go back to the Sound Medicine session weekly. I felt at one with the world after this session - and I'd love to learn more about this amazing, magical art.

I got talking to Shervin the following evening after another meditation session and set the universe in motion with something. I want to launch my book at the Ubud Writer's Festival in a year or so. I have put this out there, in the presence of a shaman. May this help to get the project off the ground.

May the magic of this session help to get me doing what I'm supposed to be doing.

7) Holidays are really a very necessary thing

I didn't think I needed a holiday.

Seems I did.

And I'm glad I have had one.

Can't wait to do it again.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Fury and the Freedom

I am a member of a very special club.

This club has no paid membership.

This club does not demand anything more than active participation in it's rituals on a regular basis.

It is a group that demands discipline and focus. A group that requires your heart and soul to be on guard at all times. It is a group that will celebrate your successes and help you through your failures. It is a group that will ultimately make you a better person to all concerned, ensuring that you become the best version of yourself that you can be. 

This does not come naturally or easily to most. It can take months, even years to find this personae in yourself. Until you reach this state of enlightenment, you will travel many roads and paths, working on yourself, working on the essence of yourself that will bring you to this place of peace.

This club doesn't really required any special costume.

It has no passwords, handshakes or special words, other than the odd comment of encouragement or advice. A knowing smile can help others in the club at times. Just reminding somebody to slow down and breathe can make a difference. Easy stuff.

Once you've become a member of this club, you will always be a part of it, even if it's you're not participating.

For those who continue in the club, a generosity of spirit that you may not know you possessed can appear. It bands you together with people that you never thought you could bond with. It makes you akin to people who come in every size, colour and shape.

You applaud them all, for like you, they have been through the process of stripping away an old life and found a new way of being. 

There is no best in this club, nor no worst. All it requires you to do is put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

For that is the only rule of the club. Persevere.

I am a distance runner.

I, like so many others around the world, belong to the universal club of distance running.

Long may I be a distance runner.

And for as much as my heart goes out to the people of Boston at this time, to those who have lost family and friends, to those who have been directly impacted by these senseless acts, my heart especially goes out to certain members of the club.

I am especially thinking of those who have trained for months, years, to participate in their first marathon who were still on the road and would have been unable to finish. To the many, many people who would have been a kilometre or two away from the blast, halted in their quest for their own personal victory over the road.

You also think of those there cheering on their family and friends- for the blasts came when the "normal" people would be coming through - the elite runners would be sipping on a latte a few blocks away after a shower. No, at the four hour mark the Mums and Dads and office workers and charity runners are coming through. Which makes this all the more sinister.

And to those runners injured in the blast - may you always be able to run free, no matter how this running takes place in yourself.

Running is the ultimate freedom. It gives you complete ease over your body and soul, give it time.

To the wingnuts who performed this atrocity, you failed to take this into consideration.

We are runners. You can never take this freedom away.

(p.s. Reindert ran a 3.05 in the race. Not bad for an old bloke. He, Corazon and his friends are safe and well and were home by the time news of the blast filtered through. It brings a personal note to such a horrific event.)

Monday, April 15, 2013

The New Pad - Part Two

The iPad and Blogger don't get on that well. So I will continue with the last of the tour of my current digs.

So, you've seen the pool. I've taken you down the lane where the golf carts scoot around, you've seen the pool. I've also got a pavillion to myself wiht a telly and DVD player - great for the knock off DVDs available from every street corner. There's also a small kitchenette, some sun loungers and a shady hut - a place to lie and read.

Inside,there's a nice big air conditioned room, a big bed, another telly and DVD player, cupboards etc.

Oh, and a bathroom with a shower and a nice big bath in which you can lie comfortably and read a book.

Yeah, it is rather tough this holiday life I'm living at the moment.

The New Pad

As I'm currently relegated to my bedroom with what can be described as a very mild case of something tropical I'm going to take the opportunity to show you areound the joint. And before you get too concerned, this probably just a slight touch of too much heat and sun, but before you ask, yes, I'm hydrated, no, stuff is not pouring out of me - I'm just a little off colour and the cool of my air conditioned villa is the best place to be at this point in time. (and yes, I'm only drinking water from bottles, beer and the gin that came in with me duty free)

So, I left Ubud on Friday. It was sad to say goodbye to a place that I know I will returnto. I've put it out to the universe that the launch of my first book will be there - now I just have to write it.

So now I'm in Seminyak near the coast - and thankfully just around the corner from where I stayed last time I was here. This is a good thing as I know where a lot of things are - like the Grocer and Grind where they do Melbourne quality coffee.

Anyway, I am now at my little villa.

On arrival, they take your bags and put you on a golf cart to take you to your room.

The villas are down a long alleyway on both sides.

You're taken to this set of double wooden doors which open onto the villa. There is a not only a lock on the gate, but a bar that means that you can't be disturbed if you wish (prevents keyed entry - yay)

And so here I am, in my one  bedroom villa for the next four nights (I've been here two already) I've got all of this to myself!

There's the pool.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

First Name Friends

In the last few days I've made a number of first name friends here at the Best Exotic Frangipani Hotel. This is my name for this little patch of paradise here in Ubud.

I call these people "first name friends" as I truly doubt that I will ever learn these people's surnames, but despite the casual acquaintances we share, they have all somehow wended their way into my heart and soul. I think that this is some of the magic of this place.

There is something very special about this place. It's not a five-star establishment, far from it, but for the $50 a night that I'm paying, I couldn't be happier. I have my own large room, huge bathroom, with a bath and shower, a king sized bed complete with mosquito nets, air conditioning, and the piece-de-resistance, a koi pond outside, where I can sit on a bench and watch the fish to my hearts content with a Bintang in my hand. The staff here are wonderful and the hour long relaxation massages are incredible - made even more incredible as I'm having one every second day for the princely sum of $13...

I knew there was a reason I came here.

The thing that is impressing me most about the Best Exotic Frangipani Hotel is the like minded people I keep meeting. As I said in my last post, everybody here appears to be on a journey, whether it be spiritual, physical or emotional.

Okay, I know that I'm transitioning through my working life at the moment - though I am very proud that not once has the iPad been set to Nope, job hunting can wait until I get back next Sunday. But there is more to this trip. Four days in and I've given a handful of tarot readings... maybe this is why I'm here. In return, I've been bought a coconut and given a book writen by the recipent of the reading.

I like that in this place of wonderment and healing I feel like I can talk to everybody here. Before you make the comment that I can talk underwater with a mouth full of marbles, this is not the small talk talking. I feel strangely connected to the people here. 

Life has taken on a gentler pace. I wake up in the morning and promptly go for a swim for half an hour or so - because I can. Breakfast - normally of an omelette or scrambled eggs, some freshly squeezed juice and a cup of acceptable hotel coffee follow, is taken after the chlorine is washed off in the shower. It's at the communal breakfast table where these first name friendships. Standard questions.

"Where are you from?"
"How did you find this place?"
"How long are you staying?"
"Where else have you been?"

A lot of these are very loaded questions, despite the apparent innocence of them.

Ubud appears to draw in the wanderers and the seekers. I suppose I'm one of them, open to all sorts of different thoughts and beliefs - and Ubud is the place where you can find them. Or find yourself. Or just disappear and reappear as the mood takes you. 

I met Lizzie as I went for my evening swim last night. She's in the process of working out who she is. Ex-wife and mother of four grown men, she's spent the last six months living between Northern California and Bali. She hopes that she can continue this lifestyle for a while longer.

"How do you manage to live like this?"
"I just keep manifesting."
"But how?"
"I think the universe reckons its my turn now. I've spent my life being somebody's wife and mother. Now it's time to work out who I really am."

Makes my being here enjoying a job transition rather pale in comparison.

Talking to Barb, the retired nurse from Melbourne who's been back here four times in the last six months. She's wondering what her next move will be, whether she goes into some sort of healing work or return to something a bit more mundane. She has a quiet, almost regal presence.

There is my adopted drinking buddy Sasha, who's here with her teenage daughters. We can be found in the evenings on the seats outside my room with a beer in hand putting the world to rights. Her girls are some of the wisest teenagers I've ever had the pleasure to meet. Lovely people. Sasha will be running a course up here later in the year and she's scoping people and places out to give her a hand. It's good to find.

There's Lorainne, the girl from the British Midlands, making Bali one of the last stops on her three year working holiday around the world. She's doing three yoga classes a day next door and has a quiet, gentle presence. She's great to talk about travel with over the breakfast table.

I've made a first name friend with this wonderfully boisterous American from all over the place. Jenni, in her mid-thirties, like me, is transitioning out of one job and into another life. We've got each other's life stories over the last few days. We're off to visit a temple later this afternoon, making offerings to the gods in gratitude. 

I love these first name friends that you meet when you're away. You'll probably never get to know their surnames. It doesn't matter.

But such is the power of the Best Exotic Frangipani Hotel.

The locals here at the hotel all come looking for something, and in turn, have something to offer. 

I was not expecting such a special place.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Come Find Yourself

This post needs a soundtrack, so I give you The Fun Loving Criminals.

I'm writing to you from Mung Bean Central - the cafe at the Yoga Barn in Ubud, Indonesia.

Surrounding me are people of all ages, in various shades of suntan, speaking in all sorts of languages and dialects,  most of whom look rather earnest. I'm picking up words like "shamanic", "arsana", "The Anti-Wheat movement", "organic" and all sorts of other concepts that wouldn't be found in my normal Melbourne life. (Okay, like what the hell is Kirtan - my new first name friend I met at breakfast was raving about Kirtan. Is it a type of kilt?

Everybody around me looks healthy - and earnest.

There might be something to this hippy thing.

This is day three in Ubud, and there is a large part of me that wishes I was spending all of my time here - yes, rather than taking up that wonderful one bedroom villa in Seminyak. I think I have found the motherland in some strange and wonderful way.

There is no not embracing your inner hippy here - you either take it on as a way to be or leave for Kuta. There is no option.

I'm spending a lot of time at the Yoga Barn. Part of me is facing a large fear - that of being dreadful at yoga. Since I've conquered my fear of the gym and of running in the last few years, yoga is like the last bastion of exercise.

I am not flexible.

I am not bendy.

The left brain part of me thinks yoga is a whole lot of bollox that should be left for the hairy mingbeaner hippy freaks.

I am not earnest or virtuous or heaven forbid an organic vegan Birkenstock type.

I am the Panda - I like tomato sauce, red meat in moderation and I like to shift weights and run. Not stretch, salute the sun and chant.

Yoga is for those trying to find themselves.

So with some great trepidation, I bought my five class pass to the Yoga Barn and turned up for my first class - and Introduction to Yoga - or as I call it, Veggie Yoga (where the vegetables go to learn what to learn what to do.).

Okay. There were only seven people in the class in this amazing open air, wooden floored place just off a rice paddy. The teacher, Eka, was slow, patient and made no expectations of anybody. He guided us through a number of positions and let us feel our way into this strange way of being.  And just like the Picasso Museum in Malaga - where after years of strugging with Picasso, things finally came into place, this time, yoga made a bit more sense.

I came out of the classing feeling refreshed and I skipped up the wobbly stairs to the cafe to have a freshly squeezed energy juice - apple, mint, cucumber and ginger - yummy.

The second class this morning was a bit more demanding. A few more people and a different type of yoga. Emily the earnest American took us through a basic course of Anusara Yoga - something to do with celebrating the body through breath. It was rather reminiscent of a friend of mine who's a Mittendorp Breath Work Teacher. She'd love it.

Regardless, the class was more challenging that the last one that I'd done.

I think some of the lessons I need to learn from yoga is that I have to accept that I can't do everything - and that it will take time to learn, and unlearn some things that my body does instinctively. And that with training, I should be able to do some more. But that is with time and commitment and training.

So for the next few days I'm committed to a yoga class a day until I leave Ubud - just to work out if I want to continue with this yoga stuff - and to see what else I find in these classes.

The biggest surprise for me was at the end of the class today - where as we were lying on the floor, the teacher asked if we would like a dab of oil called "Joy" to leave our right hand facing up and our left hand facing down. Once we were given the oil we could place our hand where we wanted - be it our heart, throat or third eye chakra. The oil was received. My hand went over my heart. And from that moment, something very special happened. As soon as my hand hit my heart, I was enveloped in the most glorious golden light.

I can't explain it.

Maybe there is someting more to this hippy crap than just really wholesome, life enriching food.

Maybe there is more hippy in me than I wish to admit.

Shanti. Shanti. Shanti. It's just an old Shanti in an old Shanty town. (To quote Clive James)

Namaste.  xx

Monday, April 8, 2013

And there be Geckos

Stepping out of the plane into the cloying heat of Denpasar airport is not unlike subjecting yourself to the First Level of Dante's Hell. A warm, bizarre smelly limbo that you know that you will be out of shortly, but you just have to weather a bit more purgatory before you find your heaven.

The six hour flight on BoganAir was uneventful (i.e. OneStar - oops, Jetstar). I was thankfully sat next to a small, silent woman who, liked me, kept her thoughts on the iPad in front of her and only talked to me for the last ten minutes of the flight.

At the end of the flight we made the approach into the airport together. Regretably, I left my holiday hat on the plane, so I can see myself hunting down another "Deliverance Special" to wear around the place.

Anyway, it's entering the Arrivals Hall at Denpasar Airport that the fact that you're in a different country really kicks in. And like the First Level of Hell, home to the unbaptised and virtuous pagans, a plethora of humanity surges towards the gates. Added to the joys of the Arrivals Hall is that there are three steps to checking into Bali. There is the US$25 payable to the man at the first gate, a stamp to be gained from a second person at a second desk some fifty meters away. You then have to collect your baggage, but it through a large scanner by yourself and have a quick chat to the man at the Customs desk - after that, you're home free. All the while, there are a few things running through your head - namely Schapelle Corby, the Bali Nine. You know that you have no contraband packed - but still - the thought is there. It's good to see that most bags are sealed with small locks or zip lock tags helping to ensure that nobody breaks into your luggage.

But after a six hour flight, coming from a rather mild Sydney to the damp, oven like conditions in Bali, it's a bit disorientating - just like Dante, weary from travel, you're flummoxed by what you see. For me, the flotsam and jetsam that Bali attracts is astounding. Of course there is the bogan element with their piercings, tribal tattoos, stubbies and thongs attire and a laid back way of getting through the crowds on their way to the backpackers at Kuta Beach. There is, of course, the more erudite traveller like myself who prides herself on being organised, polite and nearly invisible. There is one other type of traveller, but we will talk about them in a minute.

I suppose it does help that I was feeling nice and mellow. On the recommendation of Millie I purchased a pass to the Qantas Club Business Lounge at Sydney Airport - brilliant advice that one. Once my mother's lipsticks were purchased, a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin procured and a new happy snapper camera obtained for the holiday, I made my way up to the Qantas Lounge for two hour of rest and relaxation. A glass or two of champagne, some wonderful fresh salad and some gelati as good as you find in Florence were had, all whilst perched in a comfy chair watching the planes take off.

Spending time in there made the tip all the more pleasant - and I have a spare pass for future travels.

The other type of traveller which was most surpring was a group of Chinese tourists. Where even the bogans were queueing quietly in the immigration line, there was a barrage of Chinese tourists who came through with the force of a category one cyclone. What felt like a Mexican wave began to overtake the area. The personal space that is normally afforded to one in a queue was left by the wayside as a fifty strong group of Chinese tourists tried to barge throught the lines.

It wasn't well received.

After being shoved in the back for the umpteenth time, I made a point to stand my ground. The metal-ridden, tattoo freak behind me did similar, trying in earnest to get the group to play ball. In the end, the Immigration Officials stepped in and asked them to behave. The immigration official just rolled his eyes after and muttered something along the lines of "Chingleese - hmph." I'm sure he's seen it all before.

Denpasar is going to have a new airport in September- it's nearly built, which in some ways is a bit of as pity as this is all a part of the Bali Experience.

Once through customs and past all of the money changers I was relieved to see my name on a piece of cardboard held up by a smiling gentleman. Wayan was a godsend. He had a chat, took my suitcase and told me to follow him.  We made our way to the van, a short distance away, weaving through fellow confusted looking travelers while taking in the scent of the tropics - sweat, clove cigarettes, fragipani and the faintest indication of mould.

Travelling does take a certain amount of trust. Trust in yourself, trust in the universe, trust in the fact that you're going to have a nice person take you the hour drive up to Ubud in the mountains.

I lucked out with Wayan, who was thankfully obliging in my curiousity and answered all my questions - "What's going on here?" (a festival), "Why are all the statues dressed in sarongs?" (it's part of the festival) "How do you learn to drive in all this craziness?" (You have an instructor like everywhere else.)...

I ask lots of questions.

Bali is a sea of air conditioned people movers and motorbikes. It's not uncommon to see a family of four on a scooter - dad driving, Mum on the back, a toddler in front of both of them. No helmets.

There is also a visible security presence in the evenings.

This is not Australia - I'm glad it's not Australia but the place has grown on me after a day.

And stepping out into the heat of the night, down a cobbled path, I found my patch of Paradise.

Just as Dante said I would.

But more on that later.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Good Start

I'm writing this from one of the top floors of a swanky hotel in Sydney. The little blutetooth keyboard really does work well with the iPad - and I feel like I'm cooking with gas when it comes to typing. which means I have no excuse not to write while I'm away.

Finally, after all this time in planning, I'm finally on my way.

Also, spurred on by Millie from Hold the Peas, I've made looking out for some great extras to make the holiday even better.

So on arriving a the hotel yesterday afternoon, the Radisson Blu Plaza, booked months ago as a special, and being offered an upgrade to one of their business class rooms, I jumped at it. Wine and canapés in the evening, breakfast in the morning, free wi-fi, in room coffee machine. Just a few things to make the night a little bit more comfortable.

Worth it - very much so. It meant not having to go out for dinner, the canapés light, but substantial enough to make a light dinner.

Finally, after not working for a week, it feels like I'm on holiday at last. The racing around of the last few days have abated. The packing is done, the flat is in a good state for my house sitter - not that I really need one, but I'm cutting a friend a break. There is nothing more to do than hop on the train in an hour or so, go to the airport, check in and make my way to the Qantas Club Lounge for some light lunch - again, on the recommendation of Millie.

Yes, it's all a bit decadent. I spent last night drinking a glass of wine in the bath while watching television. I can't think of many other things I rather do on a Friday night. A decent Marlborough Pinot, Dr Blake, a nice deep warm bath. Bliss.

This morning's breakfast exceeded expectations as well. The only downer to the morning was the incessant drone of CNN  with its mildly alarmist news gathering on the North Korea crisis made the smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and toast and marmalade a little distasteful.

Would I stay here again? Absolutely.

Well, I'd better get my bum to the airport, get checked in, find my mother's lipsticks (she's upgrading her Avon classics to MAC), find my gin and maybe a new happy snapper camera, then get my bum to the Qantas Business Class lounge for an hour or so.

I like this decadence thing.  Thank goodness it's all paid for.

Right, best be off. Bali here I come.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Holiday Mode

I'm on holidays.

Big whooooooohoooooo!

Actually, technically, I'm between jobs - or without work for the moment as my contract finished on Thursday, but or the next three weeks, I'm on holiday.

No job hunting, no sitting in front of a computer for anything work or job hunting, I'm doing things that I don't normally do and I'm generally working out that I'm really overdue some time off.

So I'm sitting here at my mother's kitchen table, looking out the glass wall onto the willow trees and the Hindmarsh River, spotting the odd antechinus (mouse like marsupial found around the Fleurieu Peninsula) with a cup of tea in hand pondering the drive down to Adelaide to see the visting Turner Exhibition at the Art Gallery in Adelaide. After this, we're going around to see my Uncle John where we will go down to the local Chinese restaurant (Please, please, please let them not use MSG and can we have steamed rice...) before taking wine filled parents back to Myponga.

Should be a nice day.

Actually, I've had a lovely few days here in South Australia. I only make it back here once or twice a year and only ever for a few days at a time.

So far I've nearly finished my book group book, which contrary to popular thought, I've loved. I've managed to see a friend, get introduced to the best 'snot blocks' in South Australa (The Aldinga Bakery - MAGIC vanilla slices)

I've also managed to find a way into my mother's wireless broadband.

The conversation went as such.

Pand: Can I use the broadband, Mum?
Mum: You know where the computer is, dear.
Pand: No, can I please have your network key so I can get onto the wireless broadband and use the iPad instead.
Mum: Oh, do we have wireless broadband?
Pand: Yes, you do.
Mum: Well, what does the key look like. The man who installed it didn't give me a key.
Pand: No, Mum, it's a code. The man would have given you a card.
Mum: Oh, I think I threw that out.... Do you think I could use an iPad.
Pand:  Arrrgggghhhhhh.......

After a bit of digging, the network key was written on the back of the modem.

I know that I am repeating a conversation that many forty somethings have with their parents. To give her some credit, Mum can pay bills, send emails, prepare her BAS statements on the computer -but trying to explain the internet to her is like trying to explain the intricacies of tennis to me - I just have no interest what so ever. The thought of her getting an iPad scares the living hell out of. The phone calls I'll receive at work! Arrrgggghhhhh.

Another great thing about being in South Australia again is that you can get South Australian food - inparticular, proper pasties. I will be told that there are plenty of places that sell pasties all over Australia, but you always get a good one when you're in SA - even go far as to say that they start up again once you reach the SA Border - the ones you get at Bordertown are great. It's something South Australia (and Cornwall in England) do really, really well.

It's also nice just to do nothing for a bit.

Okay, so I feel like I've driven all round the place today - went and saw the Turner at the Tate exhibition this afternoon with the folks - strangely, they came along quite happily - never thought I'd ever get my mum and stepdad in an art gallery, but they appeared to enjoy it. Me, I had my breath taken away on a number of occasions - a pen and ink sketch of Ely Cathedral took my breath away for a start. The folks said they were pleased to go along - but both preferred the paintings where they "Knew what was going on..."It was good - also nice in that we got there late in the afternoon and nearly had the place to ourselves. After than, we picked up my uncle and went for Chinese Food and we've just got home. Tired I am - this holiday mode is a busy time.

(Picture courtesy of

But tomorrow I fly back to Melbourne early in the afternoon. I have 36 hours to get the flast as spick and span as I can, change some currency, got to dream group, do some exercise, get my legs waxed, pack, sort out my passport and the like and finally take off to Bali for two weeks.

And not thing about getting a job for two weeks.

And not think about the wonderful, rewarding, well paid, stable, interesting, occasional travel required job with fantastic people that I'm going to find when I get back.

For the moment, it's just me, a swimming pool and a bottle of Bintang waiting.

Does one need any more than that for a few weeks?

I think no.