I absolutely love Christmas. I’m one of those irritating people that starts singing Christmas songs in late November and by the first of December, my tree is up and my halls are fully decked. So I was a little apprehensive at the thought of celebrating Christmas on a Hindu island in the largest muslim country in the world but it turns out Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year wherever you are.
Being born and brought up in Indonesia, Christmas is just another day for my hubby but he’s been a great sport for almost 15 years, humouring me at the most wonderful time of the year with his luke warm generosity of Christmas cheer and thinly veiled contempt for the now overly commercial holiday. So having moved back to the tropics and with less than a week to go before the big day, no decorations erected, the poor b**tard probably thought (wrongly) he was off the Christmas hook so you can imagine his horror when he woke from an afternoon nap on 21 December to find the boy and I tangled in 15 metres of fairy lights to decorate a metre high, oh so tacky, pathetic excuse for a Christmas tree. ‘O tannenbaum, please take it down, before I get the matches!’ It stayed up for 6 days.
Hubs adores our family but too much affection in the wider arena makes him ‘icky’ so the big family Christmas tends to give him hives. However, he loves me and happy wife, happy life eh babe so he always gets stuck right in. But this year, with us now being so far away from everyone I think he thought (still wrong!) that once again he was off the hook but grandma quickly wiped the smug grin off his face with a pair of Emirates tickets and 4 little words – see you at Christmas!
So, now our tree is up and we’re merrily on our way to the airport to collect grandma and grandad. In an attempt to get Arlo out of the pool without an argument we bigged up the journey – we’re going to the airport!!! Yay!!! Yes, thats where the planes are sweetheart, clever boy! But I think toddlers have some kind of hearing dyslexia. They hear a word they know and like and make up the rest of the sentence to suit themselves so suddenly ‘we’re going to the airport’ is ‘we’re going to see planes’ or worse, ‘we’re going on a plane’. As usual it’s all harmless fun and games (whatever gets you in the car sweetheart!) until he finally understood that he’s not going on a plane, there are no planes in the arrivals hall and no, mummy can’t get one sweetheart. After over an hour of listening to ‘I want plane back mummy‘ I was ready to buy a sodding ticket and put him on a plane just for a moments peace! But finally, my parents made it out and we headed home. Side bar – a few weeks ago I went into the village to have some photos printed. Using my expanding Indonesian vocabulary, I started a conversation with the couple who owned the shop and it turns out they live in the house almost across from ours. I gleaned this nugget of information after establishing we live in the same group of houses (they call it a residence here) to which she said ‘ah, is it your kids I heard screaming last night?’ Guilty! ‘Don’t you have a nanny?‘ Nope! ‘Why not?‘ Good question, since clearly I need wine, sorry, help. Anyhoo! We’re now bezzie mates and she pops in now and again to see how we are. My poor mum had only been here five minutes and was already a bit jumpy with all the ci caks (geckos) around the house so it probably wasn’t the best time for our neighbour to drop in to let us know that she now only has three ducks after she lost the fourth to a snake! This revelation coupled with my mums first encounter with Allan that night (the large tokeh lizard that lives on the upstairs landing), I thought for sure we’d lose her to a hotel by day 2 but she stuck it out.
With one large suitcase almost entirely filled with gifts from the grandparents, family and friends back home plus grandads rosy cheeked glow, cotton top and belly that wobbles like a bowl full of jelly, I’m pretty sure Arlo now thinks that ‘gran-gran’ is Santa Claus. Other than a few presents for the kids, we didn’t really bother with gift giving opting instead to spend time, instead of money, on each other. We did dinner on Christmas Day but it wasn’t the traditional meal we’re used to much to my dads disappointment. We invited a few friends and family that live close by to share in a feast of traditional Balinese and Indonesian dishes – there was bebek betutu (duck roasted in spices – head still attached much to the horror of my father!), babi guling (suckling pig), nasi uduk (coconut rice), tempe orek (fermented soya beans fried in chilli, sweet soy and spices), gado gado (white cabbage, green beans and beansprouts served with a spicy peanut sauce), krupuk (deep fried crackers), watermelon and pineapple, all washed down with litres of cold Bintang beer and wait for it, wine!!!! My parents, the good little booze mules that they are, brought us three bottles of France’s finest. It was four but one was confiscated at customs.
We had a jolly old time showing my parents around the south of Bali – the white sand beaches and turquoise waters of Uluwatu and its swanky resorts, the cheeky monkeys of Ubud, snorkelling in the sublime Blue Lagoon, taking in the majestic Pura Lempuyang (Gates of Heaven) near Amed, dinner and a traditional Barong dance show in Ubud and we partied the New Years Eve away at Komune Resort on the beach of our awesome local surf spot, Keramas.
They thoroughly enjoyed spending time with us and the kids but I’m not sure Bali was quite what they expected. I think they were expecting the Seychelles but its more Hawaii or Barbados but without the surf. It’s a surf island, one of the most wave rich in the world, and here, that usually means coral reef. The breaks are impressive but the coral is sharp and though there are quite a few beaches that are good for swimming, the waves are still powerful and caution should be exercised. I thought witnessing my poor mum and dad navigate the strong breaking waves and swash of Blue Lagoon in bright orange life jackets, snorkel head gear and flippers (which they decided to put on on the beach and then shuffle backwards into the water like some kind of tango-d, confused penguins) was a low point, all be it a hilarious one for those of us on the beach, but oh no, the best was yet to come. Virgin Beach. When Santa got stuck up the chimney….grandma said ‘hold my beer’. You ain’t seen nothing yet…
Towering coconut trees and jungle stretch right down to the white sand and clear turquoise water like a scene from Robinson Crusoe. However the waves aren’t gently lapping at the beach, they’re trying to rip its face off. It’s not a surf beach and the swimming is lovely once you get out past the breaking waves, to where its calm and beautiful. So I gave them some tips gleaned from surfing – start swimming as soon as possible so the waves aren’t breaking in to you and if there’s a large one about to drop on your head in the ‘impact zone’, dive under it and swim through blah blah blah – and waved them on their way. Hubs and I are sitting a way up the beach with les enfants, enjoying a cold afternoon beverage when I turn around to see my poor mum being put through the washing machine of the knee deep swash while my ‘trying to be helpful but actually useless’ dad, bless him, is trying and failing to drag her onto the beach by one arm while she flops around his ankles like a pissed fart. It was like watching a drunk couple on a Saturday night out in a scene from Geordie Shore but with less booze and more clothes. So I did what any good daughter would do – ran to the waters edge and started recording! By the time she got out of the water, the gusset of her swimming costume was hanging prrretty low from the amount of sand she’d collected. It might look rough but other than her pride, she walked away intact and pretty unscathed luckily so before you watch the video and call me cruel you should know this is a mother that, during my fragile early teen years, strutted through our village leading the gala day parade dressed as a Vegas showgirl in nothing but a leotard and enormous feather headdress. That does something to a girl. I’ve waited a long time to get even! Ha, ha! Best Christmas present ever!!! Thanks mum. x
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