When I first arrived in Bali I had to figure everything out all by my onesies but I’m gonna save you the work and tell you where you can find everything you’ll need for babies, toddlers and little kids – cribs, car seats, toddler beds, toys, those “more expensive than gold” organic baby snacks that taste like cardboard…yeh, it’s all below. I’ve given you options:

Liz & Co

…in Renon is a great little one stop shop for most things baby related. It was my first find before any of the others and I got most of what I needed here when we just started out and Eia was a tiny baby. 

Address: Jl. Raya Puputan No.172A, Renon, Kec. Denpasar Tim., Kota Denpasar, Bali 80239

IG @liznco.babystore

Mothercare

…in Beachwalk Mall, Kuta. It’s a UK brand so expect most of what you can find in Europe, just maybe not quite as much choice (though they can order stuff in from Jakarta if you ask) and it’s on the pricey side but they do have super cute toddler and baby clothes and it’s the only place I’ve managed to buy a swimming nappy. It’s also where we got Eia’s cot bed!

Address: Beachwalk Shopping Centre, Jl. Pantai Kuta, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361

IG @mothercareindo

Pertokoan Udayana

…in Denpasar. It’s sort of an outside shopping centre I guess? They have lots of baby shops, all super cheap, lots of Indonesian/Asian brands of toys, high chairs, strollers and clothes, though not all my taste if I’m being brutally honest 😐

Address: Jl. Pertokoan Udayana, Dangin Puri, Kec. Denpasar Bar., Kota Denpasar, Bali 80112

Balonku

…on Jl Bypass Ngurah Rai, Sanur. This just opened recently really close to our house. Gutted neither of my kids are babies anymore to really get the benefit of it! It’s massive! And they sell everything you need for babies and toddlers, lots of well known brands, some (but not all) at western prices (that’s local speak for “pricier than Indonesian prices”). But we bought Eia’s car seat here and shower head filters – though that wasn’t for the kids, that was to stop my hair going green AGAIN but that’s a whole other blog post! No, really, I wrote a blog post about it. It’s filed under “Bali Life” just fyi. Its more interesting than it sounds by the way, just go with me on that 🙂

Address:  Jl. Bypass Ngurah Rai No.373-375, Sanur Kauh, Denpasar Selatan, Kota Denpasar, Bali 80237

IG @balonkubabyshop

You can also get a lot of stuff online from Tokopedia. Amazon isn’t a thing here. Yes, you can grieve. And don’t forget you’ve got the gojek app too! If you run out of nappies or formula at 1pm, you can goShop whatever you need from the shop you want it from during opening hours and a gojek driver will collect it and bring it to you so you don’t have to bundle baby into the car for a diaper run! Aaaaand there are several Facebook buy and sell baby groups where I just bagged myself a kickass toddler hiking carrier for 500k! I should clarify they’re not buying and selling babies btw. Just stuff for babies. Obviously…

When you live on a small island, go to the beach pretty much everyday and have a pool at home (without a pool fence – yes, yes I know, it seems irresponsible but I have my reasons, and I’ll get into that in a bit!) teaching your kids to swim early is a life skill that shoots straight to the top of your parenting to do list.

I shared some videos on my Instagram stories the other day of Arlo and Eia in the pool at home, swimming without floaties and I got a ton of sweet messages that made me feel even prouder than I already was but I also got a bunch of questions about how we taught our kids to swim at such young ages. Ok, so firstly, Eia can’t actually swim. She’s not even 2. She just doggy paddles for a metre or two with me next to her. She can’t tread water to take a breath yet and I’d NEVER leave her unsupervised or further than arms reach from me. Number 2, if you were hoping for a “how to teach your toddler to swim” step by step guide, this IS NOT that! I”m not a swimming instructor and I know shit about fck about teaching young kids to swim and it’d be irresponsible and reckless to pretend otherwise but I can share with you what we did to build their water confidence and the rest just kind of happened from there. Ok, that’s the disclaimer out of the way, shall we get to it?

We introduced both kids to water when they were really young, about 2 months old. I should also say, I’ve never been to a baby or kids swimming class in my life. Many of my friends went and asked me to join but (a) I’m Scottish and cheap 😀 which leads to (b) I didn’t want to pay to learn things that seemed common sense to me who has been around water for much of my life. Arrogant? Maybe! But that’s how it went!

I’ll zip over the baby stuff for completeness but it’s probably nothing knew to anyone and a bit patronising to go into any detail 🙂

So…we got them used to getting their heads wet straight away. Not just with splashing but with dunking. We’d count to three, drag them through the water towards us for a couple of seconds and when they came up spluttering we jumped about in the water, holding them close, dancing like happy idiots to comfort them and reassure them that they’re ok! Sure sometimes they cried at first but they quickly got that they were safe with us and it was fun. Just before they were 1, we chucked them in water wings and they loved being able to “swim” independently. Then before they were 2 (which has been just recently with Eia) we took off the water wings and started them in the water without any floaties. Literally, just dropping them in and being right there to assist.

Whenever we’re somewhere with a baby pool or at the beach (providing its not a surf beach with crazy water!) we let Eia go in without her water wings to splash about and “swim” in shallow water where she can put her feet down when she needs. And I think it really helped build her confidence and love for the water. Obviously, we’re always there with her.

Young kids are surprisingly floaty and instinctive with their breath in water. But they can also sink like a stone at a moments notice so my eyes are always glued to her. At home, she plays about on the pool steps where she can stand and “swims” to us, launching herself off the top step in a sort of swan dive/belly flop. She goes about a metre or so into my arms and then pops up for a breath. At this age she’s too young to really take in anything about actually swimming with her arms but I think that all this free play is gonna help later when she is old enough to get it. It certainly helped Arlo….

He picked up swimming just before he was 3 but has really nailed it in the last few months. We used to use a pool noodle (you know those floaty foam straw things?) for him to hold on to to kick his legs and have always just said, over and over, “kick your legs, keep kicking, kick, kick, kick!” The noodle was also really good to help him learn to tread water and get a breath with his head above water, since he always swam with his head underwater at first and it was tough to teach him to actually take a breath! We slid it under his arms and encouraged him to cycle in the water like he was on his bike and look up at the sky to look for planes. When he got better, we took it away and he went straight under…doh. So we supported him a little with a light touch and he quickly got stronger and able to keep his head above the water. A really good skill for a kid if they ever fall into water by accident but bizarrely for us, he picked this up after he could swim! As for arms we always just encouraged and showed him to “make circles”. This was harder because the kicking seems to come naturally, the arms less so.

We also did some breath hold stuff with Arlo, where we go under with him for short periods, holding onto him and sitting on the bottom. We taught him to give us a little thumbs up when we go down and a little pointed finger when its time to kick back up. That’s been really good for snorkelling but also builds his confidence playing under the water. Saving Paw Patrol characters from a watery death at the bottom of the pool is a particular favourite and has been a good game for us to work on his breath hold. Oh and goggles are a total game changer! I think teaching them to swim and be comfortable without is super important but they also made him so comfortable with his head in the water and fun that I think it actually helped his swimming. And Eia has been the same. Also, second children seem to be easier to teach and pick things up because they have an older sibling to demonstrate so I can’t take much credit where Eia is concerned except playing lifeguard and cheerleader.

If you’ve got this far, you might be thinking “yeh its easy for you with a pool at home, on a beach holiday island” and that’s a fair point caller. We’re extremely lucky to be able to expose the kids to water daily at home and the beach especially this last year when so many haven’t had the freedom to even visit a public pool but as thing starts to open up again and summer in the north hemisphere approaches, hopefully getting the kids back in the water will be a normal thing again! And if my ramblings here have inspired you to get back in the water with your kids or just rammed home what you already knew, then that’s cool too!

Polite warning – once you start letting them go without, getting them to wear water wings when you need them to is brutal. Be prepared for epic tantrums. That’s all I’m saying.

God speed.

Nobody:
Me: “let me tell you what lives in my bottomless, Poppins style beach bag….

You don’t raise kids on a tropical island and not pick up a thing or five about beach life hacks to make your mum life easier. These are my must packs, all living full time in my mum backpack:

1. TALCUM POWDER: I never go to the beach without the stuff. Brush it on churro children to clean them up before wrangling them back into shorts. You’re welcome!

2. ZINC: I use it on for surfing but I also spread it on tiny noses, cheeks and foreheads for a solid waterproof sun block. It lasts for hours, doesn’t run into little eyes like salt water diluted sun cream and when it starts to smudge after hours of goggles on/goggles off face touching action, you can easily see which areas need a touch up. Boom! I use Sun Time by @balisoapindonesia because it’s mineral based and reef safe 🤙🏽 and the tan skin colour makes me look like Amy Childs from TOWIE. IFYKYK!

3. RASH VEST: Slathering sun cream onto your kid’s torso is sooooooo 1990. Get them an SPF rashie to protect shoulders and arms in the hottest part of the day. Plus it’s one less sand caked body part to deal with at home time. Saving time and talcum powder! Nowadays, large department stores and shops like Marks and Spencer and H&M sell their own brand SPF50 rash vests and long sleeved swimsuits but since we live in a surfers paradise, its easier – and lets be honest, way cooler 😉 – to pick up mini surf rashies for the kids.

Eia has a super cute Roxy rashie and long sleeved swimsuit and Quicksilver do a whole bunch of toddler sized rash vests for little surfer dudes! Our local Ripcurl store in Sanur on Bypass Ngurah Rai also has a super cool toddler range of rashies, shorts and t-shirts. They teamed up with a well known kids cartoon and right now for the life of me I can’t remember the name of it but I DO remember that they were super cute, if that helps!

4. SUNCREAM: For all remaining body parts that haven’t been zinc-ed or protected by a rashie, there’s sun cream. My fave for surfing and the kids is the SPF50 clear zinc sunscreen by @sunzapper. It’s not super cheap (about 500k for 500ml – £27 – from Ripcurl) and it’s thicker than pva glue but when you live a salty life on an island as hot as the sun, you want it in your life, trust me! It lasts for hours in the surf and still lets my skin safely get that island glow without the lobster look!

Thanks for coming to my ted talk 🙂

People say “people don’t change”. But people do change. And life changes people. Becoming a mother changes you. And having a second child changes mothers.

We moved out here 10 weeks after I had Eia. Arlo was 18 months old. And I still felt vaguely like I’d been kicked in the floof by a friggin horse! In this last year, I’ve been told that I’ve changed. And I have changed. This life has changed me. And here’s the thing. I’m good with it. I’ll take them apples. Because I’m under no obligation to be the person I was a year, a month, a week or even 15 minutes ago. I’m still me. I’m the same but different. After more than a year in Bali, I’ve been looking around at this extraordinary new life and thinking about all the things that’ve changed in my life and how its changed me.

Bullshit. I’m less tolerant of it (a) because my tiny people use up my quota of patience on a daily basis and (b) because here, I’m different. I’m treated different. Not badly. Just not equally. You’d think it’d help that I have an Indonesian surname but that just confuses things further. This is my home now but I will never blend in here because I’m not Indonesian. Theres been more than once that I’ve had to speak up because someone is trying to con me, trying to extort me, trying to cut in line or trying to shout me down thinking I’ll roll over because I’m a foreigner. Little do they know, I’m married to a Batak man and some of his fire has rubbed off on me. Also when you can’t fully speak a language, you have no choice but to cut out the bullshit and be direct. Its soooooo refreshing! I’ve never been a shrinking a violet but this new life has streamlined that part of my character and since becoming a mum, thats become more important than ever. My kids need someone to show them how to be a voice in this world until they find theirs.

Patience. I simultaneously have less and more of it. Nothing happens fast in Indonesia. Life is corrupt. When it works for you, its great. When it doesn’t, its slow AF. So you have to get good with being patient with the slow pace of island life. But then, on the other hand, I find myself struggling to keep my shit together daily as I navigate the toddler years with two kids under three with hubby working away so much. Its swings and roundabouts really….

Open living. Our beach house has no walls – ok, the bedrooms have walls. But the kitchen, dining and living space – totally open to the outside. Its proper tropical living which I absolutely love but some mornings I wake up to discover bat shit on the dining ‘room’ floor (they like to hang out in the eaves of the bamboo roof) and I clean up the shite of enough tiny things in my day to day without this so….like I said….swings and roundabouts. Not to mention snakes and lizards can just mosey the fuck in….little buggers!

Bedtime routine. Dinner. Shower. Put the air con on. Spray the room and under the beds for mosquitos. Bedtime story. Kiss goodnight. Lock the door. Like I said, our house is open living. The kids room opens on to the pool which borders the boundary wall on one side. We lock their door to keep them in for their safety as much as to keep intruders out. Also, we have cameras in the house (and in the kids room) and we sleep with a tyre iron under our bed. I’ve never felt unsafe here but these are crazy times! And I’m alone with the kids. A lot. And some days I have so much rage, I’d like nothing more than to ram a tyre iron up someones shite pipe if they were to get on the wrong side of my wall!

Water. You can’t drink the water here. Unless you want a seriously nasty tummy parasite! We have gallon bottles delivered which we put in an office water cooler type machine in the kitchen. It took me a while to get used to it but a couple of bouts of stomach flu later and lesson well and truly learned! However, some places cheap out on the refills and we once got a bottle of Aqua back with ants in it…..that was…..not so nice. Anyhoo! Back in Scotland, we used to bathe the kids at night. Now we shower them (sometimes if I’m feeling lazy I dunk em in the pool – counts right?) because they insist on using bath toys to scoop up the sodding water to drink and they don’t care about seriously nasty tummy parasites!

Disaster plan. In the same way that most people have a fire plan, we have an earthquake/tsunami plan. We live on the Ring of Fire. In a tsunami red zone. On the beach. You see tsunami evac route signs everywhere here but still, its not something I think on too often but it is something we’ve talked about. We have a go bag in our bedroom with first aid stuff, water, food etc. Every night before I go to bed I put my glasses, phone and keys in exactly the same place so if theres an emergency I know exactly where to reach for them. Official advice says that if an earthquake strikes at night, you should stay in your bed. But I don’t know any mother that could fight the urge to get to her children if they were in danger so day or night, my first move would be to get to the kids. Then, if we’re at home and its possible, we go under the dining table. Its 15cm thick solid wood. Its the best bet in the house. There’s a tsunami warning system here but our house is outwith the reach of the siren. They omitted that little detail in the agents blurb! I read once, experts reckon you have 15-20 minutes here from the moment the shaking stops until the first waves arrive but they only had 9 in Aceh so as soon as the shaking stops, we’d go to high ground immediately. Not all earthquakes cause tsunamis but since theres no way to know, we’d get a shimmy on anyway.

Help. They say it takes a village to raise a child. But we left our village in Scotland. So now we employ one. We don’t have a nanny but we have an awesome couple that work in our home and I’d be lost without them. Granted Pak Ketut turned the pool green this last week, grrrr, but still…they’re a god send. Ibu goes to market for us for fruit, veg and meat etc, she cooks us delicious indonesian meals, cleans, does laundry and adores the kids. Having help at home is the norm in Indonesia, it’s how Hardin was brought up but it wasn’t how I was brought up so I resisted their help in full for ages and I was always embarrassed and awkward to acknowledge their part in our life. But a few months ago, around the time of Eia’s first birthday, me, Hardin and the kids got really really violently sick for 3 days. We were so out of it, we could barely look after our own kids who were also sick but Ibu and Pak Ketut stepped up, round the clock, without us asking. If we didn’t have them, we would’ve been fucked. In the past, I’d have always called my mum and I know it must make her sad that its not her that was there this time but I hope it gives her comfort to know that someone has us. Someone cares. So now, I’ve relaxed into it and I’m so grateful for them. They make the life stuff easier so I can focus on screwing up the kids in my own sweet way!

Change is inevitable. I’m not the person or the mum I thought I’d be a couple of years ago but here we are! We’re always just one decision away from a totally different life eh?

“Ibu – how old is your daughter? She has a really cute ass.”

10 days earlier…

We got hitched in the great outdoors in Greolieres, France – a teeny tiny mountain top village in Provence near our then home, about an hour from Cannes. It was a very relaxed, small wedding. We paid for the whole shebang ourselves so we invited who we wanted and gave the rods to ‘the done thing’. That’s not quite how it goes down in Bali. A traditional Balinese Hindu wedding happens over several days. And when the eldest daughter of our lovely housekeeper, Ibu, got married earlier in the year, we were honoured guests.

My time keeping is shite. And having kids has only made it worse. I used to make excuses but the truth is I’m just that person. If you want me there at 2.30pm, you better tell me 12.30pm. But then we moved to Bali and now I’m always ‘on time’. Because the only people that are later than me, are Indonesians. Time means nothing here. Just come when you’re ready, they don’t give a shit. So when Ibu said ‘be there for 2pm’ (they don’t piss fart about with formal written invitations here), we heard ‘be there for 3pm-ish.’ Yeeeeaaahhhhh, it turns out the exception to that rule might be weddings. The only way you can stand out more as the only white folk at a Balinese wedding is to be the only ones walking in late to a Balinese wedding. Now, before you start hating on me, it wasn’t quite as bad was what you have in mind. They’re not quite as formal as western weddings. Christ, the guest I sat down next to (on a step) was smoking a Marlboro and scrolling Snapchat, oblivious to the formalities taking place on the other side of the courtyard. However, upon our arrival Ibu got up from her place behind her daughter, the bride, and came to welcome us and show us to our seats. Ok maybe you can hate on me a little, I did.

Me and Eia with Pak Ketut and Ibu

Day 1 of Balinese weddings takes place in the family compound of the bride. The ceremony of ngidih, meaning ‘to ask’, is when the groom and his family visit the brides family to ask permission for the marriage. Obviously, they’ve met and agreed permission beforehand – otherwise a ‘no’ would be super awks! – but it’s an important ritual of the wedding. When two Balinese people marry, they don’t just marry each other, they marry the whole family. Like the Sopranos. But with more God. Once they are married, the bride leaves the family home and moves in with the husband and his family (parents in law, brothers in law, sisters in law, grandparents and everyones offspring). Now, me and my lovely mother in law get on like a house on fire but if we all had to live together, I’d set the fucking house on fire! If she didn’t beat me to it that is. All I can say is, thank fuckity fuck that my Indonesian hubby isn’t Balinese! Dodged a bullet there.

Sorry, what the…? The bride has to live with who now?!!

Bules (foreigners) in Bali aren’t rare but most villagers don’t expect to see them at local weddings. Arlo and Eia get treated like rock stars here because (a) they are kids and the Balinese adore kids and (b) as soon as they learn they are belasteran (mixed) Indonesian, they get elevated to god status. Arlo knocks their socks off with his sandy hair, golden skin and two languages and Eia melts them every time with her white blonde hair and blue eyes. So it was marginally awkward to be at someones wedding and have several of their guests lean out of their seats and peer round each other to gawk at the little bule Indonesian kids. I met the bride later in the day while we were eating. She looked absolutely beautiful and was extremely welcoming and gracious although if I was her I’d have been thinking ‘your brats stole my wedding thunder be-atch, I wanna stick your fork in you face’.

The traditional dress consists of many different colours and gold, symbolising happiness and celebration. The bride wears some serious gold headgear as part of the payas agung – ‘the greatest’. Payas agung is luxury clothing, originally worn by nobility and the royal family, but its worn nowadays at weddings by those that can afford it. In the west, there’s a big hootenanny around the garter which is stripped from the brides thigh in the teeth of the groom but in Bali they are a little bit more S&M. In the middle of the brides outfit, about the height of her waist, there is a small triangle to represent the sexual part of the bride – her vulva. Yes, I just said vulva. But I say fuck all the time so get good with it. The groom wears a sword on his back to represent his manhood and after the wedding, the groom can cut the triangle, symbolising sexual interaction. Pretty hot stuff eh. Obvs, he doesn’t use the sword for real – ouchie! – it’s just a metaphor for his actual sharpie but the sword is also a symbol of protection and loyalty towards the woman. Aww…

The Bride and Groom and all the in-laws

After the ceremony, theres no boozing or drunk uncle dancing (boo!). Everyone just chats a little, eats their food package and heads home. On the second day, the families ask the gods for their permission for the couple to marry. I think it involves the brides family making offerings at the grooms home and purification of the body and spirit with holy water but I’m not entirely sure, we weren’t there for that but but we came back a few days later for the last day. Its an emotional one because this is the day that the bride leaves her family home to shack up with her new husband and his family. The bride’s father, Pak Ketut (our lovely gardener) was especially upset and crying at the thought of losing his baby girl. It was so touching and sad. We hugged and I’ve never felt closer to this man that has become a part of our family. His poor daughter was crying too but I can’t blame her. She was going to live with her inlaws. The last day of the wedding took place during the week and Hardin had gone back to work by this point so I was flying solo with the kiddos. He shouldn’t let me out alone. I’m still learning Indonesian and Ibu speaks very little English. Our friendship is one of few words and awkward silences but I try my damnedest. To put what follows into context, I have to explain a long standing joke between Hardin and I. In Jakartan banter, a funny comeback to ‘fuck off, you’re crazy’ is muke lo gila (your face is crazy) or pantat lo gila (your ass is crazy). On this emotional last day of the wedding, I found myself standing next to Ibu desperate to make conversation to fill the teary silence. I told her how beautiful her daughter looked and I should’ve just fucking stopped there because my nerves got the better of me. They marry young in Bali and I wanted to ask was how young her daughter was since she had the face of a teenager but I apparently got confused between muke (face) and pantat (ass) and instead of saying ‘‘how old is your daughter? 24? No way, she has a really young face!” I said something that roughly translates as “how old is your daughter? She has a really cute ass.” FFS! And the worst part is, because she’s too sweet to correct me, I didn’t even know I’d made the fuck up until Hardin came home THREE BLOODY DAYS LATER and I was bragging to him about my stellar Indonesian and he said “hold the phone, you said WHAT???!!!” Apparently she saw the funny side and knew what I was trying to say but its not the first time he’s had to bail me out of a language faux pas and it probably won’t be the last! I’m such a dumb muke……I mean, pantat….fuck!

When I was 17, we went on a cruise around the Caribbean to celebrate my parents 25th wedding anniversary. We started in Barbados. I expected to see clear turquoise water, palm trees leaning into the sun on pristine white sand beaches. I did. But I also saw poverty. Bali is a Barbados.

One of the orphanages in need and helped by Crisis Kitchen

It’s name is synonymous with paradise. Many people couldn’t tell you where Indonesia is – fyi its that mass of islands up and left of Australia, yeh I didn’t know that was all one country either at one point in my life – but almost everyone has heard of Bali. The majority of the population here work in the tourism industry and almost everyone else works in an industry that supports tourism. So when the island practically shut down to the outside world over night in response to covid19, they have been left with nothing. There are thousands of people here literally starving. This post isn’t meant to be preachy. Fuck, I’m writing this on a MacBook Air in our 4 bed house while the kids play in the garden and swimming pool. If that doesn’t stink of Bali white privilege, I don’t know what does. No, I just want to tell the story and help get news of the current, tragic situation out there to as many people as possible. Maybe it’ll reach a few people that are in a position to help. And if thats not you, no worries at all. Maybe you can just forward this story on. We’re all in a tight spot right now and I’m not trying to guilt anyone in to helping either. Charity begins at home and we all gotta take care of our own. But Bali is our home and it needs help from anyone thats in a position to give it.

When your fridge is full and its too hot to leave them out overnight, use the bedroom AC for refrigeration!

Many Balinese live in family compounds. Maw, paw, grandparents, aunties, uncles, kiddos and chickens under one address (yeh, the thought of it strikes fear into my heart too but clearly they are better people than me). The average monthly wage is roughly £150 and many families live hand to mouth with the younger generation (mums, dads, uncles etc) supporting the rest of the family. There is little or no welfare system in Bali so when the tourists left, businesses shut up shop and people started getting laid off, whole families started suffering. When I arrived in Bali I was shocked to find that the majority of mums formula feed. I just assumed that an island in a ‘developing country’, especially Bali with its historic pictures of native Balinese women with their tatas out, would be pro breastfeeding. But many doctors actually counsel new mothers to formula feed as they believe its better for the baby so you can imagine the tragic situation here of mothers with newborns who now have no money to buy milk for their baby and can’t produce it themselves. The situation isn’t much better for those that have chosen to breastfeed. While going hungry doesn’t affect your body’s ability to produce breastmilk, caring for a newborn on an empty tummy can’t be easy. Not to mention hunger weakens the immune system which, in the middle of a global pandemic, isn’t a safe state to be in. A friend of mine here (we’ll call her M because she doesn’t know I’m sharing this!) helped put together a list of all the charities that are feeding people so that (a) those in need know where to go and (b) those that want to donate know where to do so, and she told me that when she published it on the Bali Solidarity Facebook Page she was contacted by a Balinese mother who was desperate to track down donations of formula for her baby. Straight away, M bought several boxes online and GoJek-ed it to her (they collect and deliver within the hour here) and I know she’ll probably do it again in a heartbeat, bless her, she’s a really good soul.

One of the many families helped by the kindness of strangers and food banks

A few weeks ago, I read a post on the Bali Expat page from a Balinese woman desperate for work. Her English wasn’t great but it basically said “I need to work. I’ll do anything. My family is starving”. Then I read about Crisis Kitchen Bali, a Seminyak cafe turned free food bank, giving out food packages to the hungry and they were seeing people who had ridden on mopeds from east Bali, 3 hours away (thats a 6 hour round trip!!!) just for a meal. So I sent them a Facebook message to see how we could help. Let me just say here that I’m not one of those pricks that poses for a selfie with a homeless dude after chucking 10 bucks in his cup. Even before all of this, I’d say we’re decent people and I don’t need that validated on Instagram but I’m writing this post in the hope that it’ll encourage some people to donate and I do think that I’d be a prick to ask that of someone when I haven’t done so myself. But I have, so put your hand in your pocket! #jokingnotjoking

Sorting out food packages for Crisis Kitchen and food in bulk for distribution by our local banjar (village council)

We’re on the ground here, so they’re not asking for money (the GoFund me page is for international donations, link at the end of the post). They’re not even really asking for volunteers in the kitchen (social distancing and all!). They’re just asking for rice, noodles, eggs, green beans, cabbage, carrots and hand soap. For anyone reading this from within Bali, they’ll take them loose in bulk, whatever you can give, it doesn’t need to be all of the above. But if you’re able, the ideal is to make the care packages yourself and drop them off. They’re trying to avoid plastic so brown paper bags are the way to go and they sell them in Gramedia in Mal Bali Galleria. If you want to make them up the same way they are then one food package would ideally contain 1kg rice, 3 packs of noodles, 4 eggs, green beans, cabbage, a carrot and a hand soap. Then pop on your mask and mosey on down to their base and drop off your good deed. We also donated all but a few sentimental pieces of Eia’s baby clothes because they have families with new babies with nothing. I was also contacted separately with a request for baby stuff for a newborn that had been abandoned because the family couldn’t take care of him under the current covid situation and hoped he would end up with someone who could. My friends and I joke that I’m made of stone but even writing that part of the story, I have to bite my lip to stop it trembling. Not just as a mum myself but as a human being. Can you even imagine being in the position where you feel that the best thing you can do for your child is to give them up? I can’t. And I hope to god I never have to. I’d already given away what we had when this message came in but in the reply I heard that people were already stepping up and they were well on their way to getting everything needed for this little one.

I’ve read a lot of scathing reports on Indonesia’s response to the pandemic. I’m not gonna get into the politics of any of that but one thing I can say is that the people here can’t be underestimated. They’ve survived massive natural disasters, 300 years of colonialism and brought down a dictatorship – do not fuck with them. It’s not just well off foreigners that are helping here, if anything its the marginally more fortunate Indonesians more than anyone. The locals are coming together for each other in a way that I’ve never seen with my own eyes before anywhere. My Balinese neighbour has come to our house three times, no sorry four times, with gifts of fruit and a meal of soto babi (a pork broth sort of thing) and they have far less than us. But it’s not about that for them, it’s about community. And it warms my heart. This is what people love about Bali. It’s not just the instagrammable landscapes and the sunshine. It’s the people that make Bali. On no other island in Indonesia will you find a people so humble, kind, selfless, open minded and accepting as the Balinese. With just a little help, they will get through this and they’ll be here waiting to welcome you back to Bali with open arms when this is all over. And if you’ve never been to Bali before, no problem, think of it as an investment in your next holiday to this beautiful island.

£10 can feed more than 20 people and just £5 can feed a whole family. If you’re able to help, please see below:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/crisis-kitchen-bali

Crisis Kitchen are really managing to rack up the donations now (you can still donate by following this link) but there are other organisations in much greater need of funding to continue their amazing work. Nobody knows how much longer this will go on. Even once Bali opens its doors to the world again, nothing will change here until people start travelling once more. Below is the PDF listing many of the groups working to help feed the vulnerable here. If you’re in Bali, theres information on who to contact and where to donate food etc and if you’re reading this from abroad, there are links to the relevant pages for donating money. Massive shout out to Michelle Varga and Kim Patra for this, you girls are stars!

If you’re not in a position to donate, absolutely no problem, but please spread the word. Thanks for reading this. Stay safe guys, big love!

Kirs x

Do hubby and I argue? Abso-fucking-lutely. Do we argue in front of the kids? We have done. Am I proud of it? Nope, but it has happened on rare occasions and anyone that tells you they don’t, or would never, is full of shit.

From the second you’ve pee’d on a stick, the world and its mother are gonna want to share their pearls of child raising wisdom with you. Your face smiles politely but internally you’re giving them the rods because as well meaning as they may be, their opinions mean f**k all – they’re not raising your kids.  But what happens when you disagree with the other person that is….?  Answers on a postcard!

Hubs and I are from totally different backgrounds. We’re first world and third world. We were raised over 7000 miles apart on different continents, in different cultures and were exposed to different experiences, good and bad, growing up that have made us the people and parents we are today. And occasionally this difference in mentality can result in conflict.  We try to honour the first rule of parenting – present a united front – but occasionally our little co-creations have the two of us facing off on the front lines before retreating, troops divided.

The official lockdown party line is ‘we’re loving all the family time‘. And while that in itself is true, I’d be lying if I said there’s been no trouble in paradise. I doubt there’s a family in lockdown anywhere in this world right now that hasn’t been partaking in a little more sparring than usual. The hubby and I have been together for 15 years and married for nearly 6. In our life before kids, we lived for years in each others pockets, travelling the world, and spending intensive time together living in small flats, caravans and even a year in a camper van in New Zealand. And we were good at it. But four years ago a side-step in his career meant he’d be working away a lot more and travelling so we fell into a new, much more spacious, normal where I’m a stay at home mum and he works away in the week to carve out our crust. And we’re good at that too. But lockdown has thrown us back into each others pockets and chucked in a toddler terrorist and insomniac baby just for kicks and shit.

Before we moved to Bali, I saw an expat vlog that described moving to another country perfectly. This is relevant, I swear, so just indulge me for a minute. I’m gonna try to recall it now but I’m not very good at explaining shit (or remembering shit) so bare with me. Try to think of moving to a new country as being like a woodsman entering the woods, the woods being the country and you being the woodsman, obviously. And the woods are filled with bears – these would be the citizens (locals) of the country you’re moving to. If you get into a sticky situation with a bear, for example a confrontation, your natural instinct would be to turn the fuck around and get out of dodge A-SAP. But that will just anger the bear further because it grew up in the woods and it doesn’t think like you. So to survive, you need to think like the bear….I think this involves something to do with the foetal position but I could be confusing my documentaries here so don’t take my word for it. Anyhoo, thinking like the bear doesn’t come naturally to you because you’re a woodsman and despite your best efforts, you’re just pissing each other off more because the bear doesn’t understand you and you don’t understand the bear. Are you still with me? My point is that setting aside the fact that this is actually an extremely accurate analogy for an expat, it also pretty accurately describes being in a mixed culture marriage. There are times when neither one of us, despite however much we want to avoid conflict, can get on the same page as the other because our mentality surrounding certain issues is just totally alien to the other. After 15 years, often times we can agree to disagree and other times it gets messy. Keeps it interesting!

98% of the time I’m pretty fond of him though, handsome chops

I read somewhere apparently that divorce rates are higher after having children. If I’m honest, that doesn’t surprise me. What does surprise me, somedays, is that its not f**king murder rates. Hubby is safe from both of those (for now, although he came dangerously close to the latter last week) but marriage with kids is hard. And I’m well aware that I’m no cakewalk either. Especially under lockdown. We’re both stubborn, strong willed and passionate people so, yeh, sometimes we disagree and occasionally it just so happens that its at the breakfast table while Arlo watches us over his fruit loops. We might get loud but we don’t get mean. I’m sure there are countless child psychologists that would line up to explain to me six ways from Sunday how this could fuck up kids but – and we both adore our children so I hope we’re not wrong – I don’t fully agree. Firstly, they’re not being raised in a shouty, angry house. The majority of the time they see mummy and daddy talking with and acting with respect to each other with just the right amount of cheeky PDA’s around the house thrown in to embarrass them as they get older. Secondly, we don’t shout over them every time we have a disagreement. They go to bed at 7pm, we have plenty of adult only all out war without an audience, but on the rare occasion the kids get a front row seat to an argument its because neither one of us wants to back down. We are only human and sometimes we just can’t help ourselves, we fuck up, no matter how much we meant it when we promised we’d never argue in front of the kids. How does it go “to err is human, but to forgive divine”. Well we’ve got that shit down! A little conflict is a normal part of marriage and I want my kids to be aware of that. To know that relationships should be a safe space for you to express your feelings and to learn that in all of lifes interactions – whether with a partner, friend or stranger – its good to stand up for yourself and what you believe in. But when they see us argue, they also see us make up as we try to show that side of it too. Or the PG bit at least *wink wink*. I hope that in those moments they see empathy and understanding and come to learn that a healthy relationship isn’t always free from conflict and that in some cases shying away from it can create new problems. Because I want to teach them that while compromise is necessary sometimes, you shouldn’t compromise your voice before its heard. But all that said, if their daddy doesn’t start putting the fucking washing away once in a blue moon, I’m gonna need to find a substitute teacher!

We’ve lived in Bali now for a little over 6 months and hand on head, I’ve barely had one good hair day.  Stick with me lads, it gets more interesting…

Thicker, glossier hair is a cruel lie you’re told when you’re pregnant to sugar coat the grim reality of cankles and the creepy disappearance of your belly button as you once knew it.  At least it was for me.  At best (with Arlo), my hair stayed the same and at worst (with Eia), it pretty much stopped growing in length and started growing in tufts from my temples.  Sweet baby Jesus, what the actual f**k is that all about?!!!  Apparently, ‘girls rob you of your beauty‘.  Yeh, pretty much, I can’t argue with that because since I pee’d on a stick 18 months ago, my hair has never been the same and moving to the tropics has only compounded the problem. My natural hair texture is a beachy wave which luckily enough for me is very ‘in‘ in Bali but it’s previous smooth and shiny appearance has been substituted, against my will, for straw.  Sun, salt water and swimming pools have a lot to answer for!

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Green is the new blonde, yeh?

We’d been here 6 weeks and I was showering the kids in the driveway, as you do, when my mother in law, who speaks fluent Indonesian after living in Jakarta for 23 years, said what I thought was something like:

Anak di mandiin?” Translation: Showering the kids?

Or at least thats what I thought I heard at first because she’d been regularly and mistakenly speaking to me in Indonesian as she’d forget to change her default language setting back to English for me.  It took me a few beats to register that she had in fact spoken English and that what she had actually said was ‘is your hair green?”  We exchanged a silent look of understanding and then erupted in laughter.  It turns out hard water and chlorine turning highlights green isn’t an urban myth!  My hair was now more Billie Eilish than Blake Lively.  I was straight on my mummy group chat and google for the solution.  They all said the same thing – ketchup.  Apparently the red in the sauce does something to cancel out the green but I’ll be f**ked if I know the specifics, I’m a mum not a science teacher.  Anyway, I took everyones word for it and coated my lengths in tomato sauce.  If you think that sounds nuts, it is.  It didn’t work.   Other than leaving my hair smelling like a Big Mac, it did sweet nothing for the green!  Oh, and, washing 32C Bali baked tomato sauce out of your hair – no cakewalk!  Especially without hot water.  Our water supply comes from a well in the garden, straight from source.  It’s filtered but it’s not heated or treated.  Believe me, living on the equator, when it comes to showers, the colder the better since you start sweating again pretty much as soon as you turn the water off.  So at no point have I ever missed hot water…until then.

In the end, I decided to save the ketchup for the fries and buy toner to fix my mane.  But trying to find blonde toner in a country where 97% of the population have black hair – not easy!  So I gave up on that idea and found a salon in Kuta that could fix it.  Two and a half hours, some kind of chlorine removal treatment and a shot of toner later and I no longer resembled a love child of the Grinch.

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Getting my hair fixed by the pro’s with my little mini me.  #MumLife eh!

While we’re on the green theme, let me share a little story from a couple weeks after the sauce saga.  I’m a ‘two birds with one stone‘ kinda person.  If I can achieve two outcomes with one action, I’m all over it.  For example, showering.  Arlo usually showers with me in the morning while Eia naps because (a) it keeps him out of trouble and (b) I’d just be showering him next anyway so……I mentioned our water comes straight from source yeh?  Untreated.  Well, a few weeks later, in some kind of revolting scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie, we were mid shower when all of a sudden, a mass of green goo started coming through the shower hose!  You know how sometimes unexpected crazy shit happens and although your eyes send a message to your brain such as ‘huh, Arlo’s covered in green slime‘ it wasn’t until a split second later when he looked up at me from under a curtain of the stuff that my brain registered ‘ARLO’S COVERED IN GREEN SLIME!’ and my mouth let out a little yelp of disgusted horror.  This set Arlo’s alarm bells off too so now I’m standing in the shower in a puddle of stinking green sludge, arms raised in disbelief at my wings of algae while he flaps about screaming at my feet.  Good times.  After a minute or so whatever it was passed, but it freaked the bejesus out of me and left me primed for the next shock of the morning.  Our lovely pembantus (helpers at home) Pak Ketut and Ibu place offerings around our house to pray for our health and well being and to keep away bad spirits.  Totally normal in Bali.  They worked for the previous owner of our house too and sort of ‘came with the house’ (also pretty normal in Bali) so they have some interesting stories to share about spooky goings on (again, pretty normal in Bali and Indonesia as a whole).  No shit, my mother in law had just relayed to me that morning, one of their stories.  Years ago, Pak Ketut had been called to the house one night after a member of the family saw a woman and a child on the upstairs landing…so when I was getting dressed in the bedroom after our green shower and heard a noise outside the bedroom door, I nearly shat a brick when I opened it and found Ketut Kecil standing there (he’s Pak Ketut’s five year old son and we affectionately call him ‘Ketut Kecil’, which means little Ketut in Indonesian).  He often comes to work with his parents but they never let him upstairs to the bedrooms.  God, just writing that I can hear how ‘Downton Abbey’ and colonial I sound but its just normal life here and how hubs was raised though it’s taken me a lot of getting used to, even now 6 months in.  Anyway, I almost had to pinch him to make sure he was real and not a little ghost boy!  In the end, we had to install a new water tank for the roof, water filter and water pump to prevent a repeat of ‘The Slimeing’ and I can report we’ve had no green sightings since!

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After my hair appointment – the green is gone!

There have been days, especially way back at the beginning of our new life here, where I felt like that girl (I wanna say Christina Milan???) in that sappy film called um, something about an Inn…I think it was Falling Inn Love?  (Yeh, we see what you did there Netflix!)  I never actually watched it but from the trailer it looks like she moved to the arse end of nowhere, where she didn’t know anyone or anything about the life she was going to and bought a house that needed a little more work than she was expecting.  Yeh, thats me.  Except with a kid hanging off my leg, the other hanging off my boob, a saggy belly button and green hair.  But things are coming together slowly and I’m in love with this new life.  I’m mostly killing it now.   Somedays its killing me.  Either way, somethings dead.  Probably whatever was in that old water tank…..euch!

 

Before the pandemic hit, it had been pretty busy here in Bali, what with all the spirits in town.

Bali is so much more than the tropical paradise you see on Instagram.  It’s rich culture and traditional values set it apart from its 17,000 plus sister islands.

The majority of Balinese are deeply religious and follow a form of Hinduism known as Balinese Hinduism.  I’m not going to pretend to understand or even know the differences between regular Hinduism and Balinese Hinduism but according to our gardener Pak Ketut, who himself is a devout Bali Hindu, “its a lot more work”.  They pray.  A lot.  Three times a day – 6am, midday and 6pm.  From our home, we can hear the dawn call to prayer from the pura (temple) just up the road in the village.  It’s similar to the muslim call to prayer in that it features chanting but its accompanied by the sound of the gamelan (traditional Balinese percussion instruments) and this, together with birdsong and crickets, forms our morning soundtrack.  The sun almost always rises here around 6am, 365 days a year and the call to prayer is a daily occurrence.  My son almost always rises in a bad mood around 6am so if I’m going to be woken at dawn I don’t mind that the temple beats him to it.  Chanting is preferable to him moaning.

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My view from the upstairs hallway when I open our bedroom door each morning.  Not too shabby!

Most days you can’t go anywhere in Bali without witnessing or being stopped in your tracks by some kind of upacara (ceremony) or village gathering for praying.  I admit, when I’m in a rush it can be a pain in the proverbial but mostly, I enjoy the little glimpses into the culture of the island we have chosen as our home.  Its not our island, we are the guests here and its important that everyone, tourists and expats, respect the culture and traditions of the local people and the last couple of months have been a busy one in the calendar of cultural events.

February gave us Kuningan and Galungan.  Kuningan is the day that marks the end of one of Bali’s most important religious holidays, Galungan – a time when the ancestral spirits of deceased relatives visit the earth.  Like Easter and Ramadan, the date of the celebration changes every year and this year it fell on February 19th.  The date of Galungan is determined by the 210 day Balinese calendar and it always begins on the Wednesday of Dunggulan, the 11th week in the calendar and Kuningan is 10 days after.

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The penjor outside our neighbours house

Large bamboo poles with offerings at their tips, called penjor, are placed outside each home and line the streets much like Christmas decorations in the west.  Pak Ketut and Ibu (the lovely couple that work in our home) place offerings every day around the house and garden as gifts of gratitude for peace and as supplication to lower spirits to not disturb the living.  The offerings, or canang sari, are little hand woven baskets made from coconut leaves and filled with fresh flowers, rice, fruit, sweets etc as gifts to the gods, topped off with a burning incense stick to send it all up to heaven.  But for Galungan and Kuningan, they pimp them up and the offerings get bigger and more elaborate.  And I have a much harder time stopping the dog from eating them.  Just the other day I caught Hardin giving Arlo a treat that the cheeky monster claimed to have ‘found’.  It was a chocolate from one of the offerings upstairs!  God knows how we haven’t had a demon at the door!  But apparently once the incense stops burning the offering returns to being an earthly object and I assume the gods have no issues with hungry toddlers and dogs eating their treats…or at least I hope not.

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Eia and I with Ibu and Pak Ketut

March 25th brought us Nyepi.  On this day, Balinese Hindu’s connect more deeply with God through prayer, fasting and meditation.  This day is strictly reserved for self-reflection to evaluate personal values such as love, truth, patience, kindness, and generosity and anything that might interfere with that purpose is strictly prohibited. It’s known as a ‘day of silence’.  Mum’s everywhere be like ‘sign me up!’ except you’re gonna wanna read the small print on this one as this silence is based on four precepts:

Amati Geni: No fire or light, including no electricity and the prohibition of satisfying pleasurable human appetites.
Amati Karya:
No form of physical working other than that which is dedicated to spiritual cleansing and renewal.
Amati Lelunganan:
No movement or travelling.
Amati Lelanguan:
Fasting and no revelry/self-entertainment or general merrymaking.

Nyepi Sky

Nyepi – its awe inspiring to see the night sky so clearly without any light pollution.  I can’t take credit for this pic though, I’m reposting from Margo Zhuravleva on Facebook!

While some degree of flexibility is permitted to foreigners (you don’t need to fast for example) you must still remain at home (even the airport closes), with no wifi, tv or noise making technology of any kind and no lights, even once darkness falls.  And don’t think you’re getting around it because the pecalang (village security) patrol the streets to make sure everyone is playing ball.  So basically what this translates as is a day at home with two kids, no YouTube Postman Pat babysitting services (damn I missed that goody two shoes yorkshire postie!), lots of almost shouting and then hissing under your breath at your toddler to keep the noise down and a lot more biting your tongue while quietly trying to ‘sshh’ a screaming baby at 9pm in the pitch black after stubbing your toe on the cot in your haste to get to said screaming baby.  But in all honesty it was actually quite a nice day and even nicer night under the stars since we stocked up on our favourite booze – Cappy (Morgan Spiced) for the hubs and Bombay Sapphire for me – a tactic we have also employed to get us through the current lockdown period!

Nyepi is the third day in what is actually a six day festival.  The day before Nyepi (day 2), is for Bhuta Yajna, a village ritual involving sacrifices of chickens, ducks or pigs followed by the evening spectacle of the Ogoh Ogoh parade.  Massive handmade demonic statues, up to 8 metres tall, are carried on bamboo grids through the streets accompanied by a deafening mix of traditional bells, klaxons and gamelan music to scare away evil spirits by making as much noise as humanly possible.  But it was cancelled this year due to the social distancing measures in place to tackle the covid19 pandemic but as far as I know, the first day of the festival known as Melasti, a ritual to collect sacred water from the sea, still went ahead in some temples by the beach in places such as Seminyak, although we didn’t see it obvs, as we were social distancing.  The fourth day is spent in meditation (the Yoga Brata ritual) and the fifth day is essentially New Years Day, known as Ngembak Agni, and is the day families and neighbours visit each other to exchange forgiveness.  This is also the day of Omed-Omedan, aka the Kissing Ritual, in celebration of the New Year.  But again the Balinese Government put the brakes on both these activities this year in light of the pandemic.  Apparently, a traditional village day of Nyepi can be practiced at any time of year if it’s needed spiritually and a second Nyepi on the 18, 19 and 20th of April has been discussed to accelerate the elimination of coronavirus on the island.  The limitations on technology and lighting etc would be relaxed but if it goes ahead, which at the time of writing this is yet to be confirmed, the entire population of Bali, but specifically those living in traditional villages, would be asked to stay at home for these three days to complement the physical and spiritual aspects of the cosmos to hasten the end of the threat of covid19. It is their belief that praying will protect us and this island. Now considering that Bali lies to the north of a major fault line, is home to two active volcanos and hasn’t fallen foul of either one for a very long time, they might be on to something. Especially when you consider that an earthquake a few years back caused serious damage to neighbouring Lombok and left Bali largely untouched. I’m just gonna leave that there.

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Canang sari on the statue in front of the entrance to our home

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Canang sari at our front gate

To many outsiders this might seem like a lot of bollocks but while I’m not religious in any way, I do have a healthy respect for that which I can’t explain.  Bali isn’t known as the Island of Gods for nothing.  I’ve always been open minded about this kind of thing while simultaneously never really thinking on it too much but it is hard not to get carried along in their faith in the divine and the old magic that exists here.  Long before I lived in Bali, I’ve seen and experienced things myself that have left me wondering.  And when Pak Ketut and Ibu first started working for us and praying for us with the offerings each day, I asked Ibu ‘why’ and one of the things she said was that it’s to keep us, our home and our children healthy and safe from bad spirits.  So far it seems to be working so maybe she’ll make a believer out of me, although quick story before I go.  Last week, I was finishing putting the kids to bed when something heavy pushed so hard on the bedroom door it budged in the door frame.  It’s usually Marley and I even muttered ‘fuck sake Marley’ before immediately going to the door to let her in.  But when I opened it, no one was there.  I looked in the upstairs rooms and terrace for the source of the disturbance – still nothing – then I came downstairs to find Marley lying on the floor, half asleep, watching Hardin workout and he said she hadn’t moved.  He grew up in Indonesia and isn’t a stranger to weird goings on so I told him what happened and he proceeded to walk about the house, muttering in Indonesian that our family is not to be touched.  That night I slept with the baby monitor on and the next morning I told Pak Ketut.  He now places a canang sari in the hallway outside our bedroom and I sleep like a baby…

 

 

If you’re hanging and you know it, clap your hands…barf, barf.

Last month, I went out.  Like out, out.  Without children.  Without inhibitions.  And very much, with alcohol.  It didn’t end well….

It had been exactly 479 days since my last alcohol fuelled girls night out so I was more excited than a two peckered Billy goat.  This night off was literally all I could think about the whole week running up to it.  Adult conversation.  Being able to eat the food that I ordered.  No floaters in my table water after being forced to share with a tiny backwashing dictator who annoyingly likes to remind me to ‘bagi bagi mummy‘ (the indonesian version of ‘sharing is caring’ that has come back to bite me on the ass at moments not of my choosing!).  And no mini me stealing a sip from my mojito while the baby creates a diversion! It happened once.  Ok, twice.

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The cheeky face of my mojito thief

I have two kids and we live 4 degrees north of the equator – my default hair setting is towel dried and often up by 9am and as for makeup, anything more than tinted SPF moisturiser is a waste of time since I’m just gonna sweat it off anyway!  So I save hair and make up for nights out and when they roll around, I relish the time to get ready.  Hubs likes to moan that it takes me two hours to get ready.  Not true.  I could be ready in 30 minutes but I like to drag it out and add steps to the routine that are usually lacking such as exfoliating, moisturising, drying my hair and taking my time to do a little makeup as if I actually know what I’m doing.  You know, like those naturally pretty, childless, teen instagrammers who churn out make up tutorials.  “I like to use Bobby Brown’s Full Cover Concealer in Cool Sand…”  Oh piss of Khloe with a ‘K’ – you’re an “IT consultant” for your dad’s greengrocer, not Charlotte Tilbury.  And you’re about 12 years old!  Your skin is flawless, you don’t need concealer.  Look me up in 20 years when you’re a couple kids down and several years into sleep deprivation with eyes like Kung-Fu Panda.  Concealer won’t cut it then sweetheart, its thick camo paint you need.  I like Warm Beige.

I spent the days running up to my night out imagining how I’m going to do my hair and makeup and what I’m going to wear and how freaking put together I’m going to look (you, two kids? No way!) and feel for a change but life like to giveth and taketh away.  I should’ve been quietly f**king grateful with my freedom.  A clear path there was clearly too much to ask!

We’d spent all morning surfing over on the other side of the island.  The plan was to surf in the morning, have lunch and the kids could nap in the car on the way home getting us in mid afternoon with way more than enough time for me to piss fart around getting organised before boobing the baby to sleep and heading out the door.  Any mother who has endured a significant dry spell between nights ‘off’, say 479 days, will tell you that upholding the routine of the day preceding the night out is paramount to success (by success I mean getting out the door on time with no SOS calls from the babysitter, sorry, I meant husband).  If they’re not tired enough, its gonna throw things but if they’re over tired….you’re fucked.  Mine were over tired.  Our ‘car nap’ plan went sideways quickly after the heavens opened and flooding ensued meaning the normally hour long drive home took more than two hours and also meant the car didn’t move fast enough to lull the kids to sleep.

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Flash flooding, Bali style

This, plus the fact that we were late leaving the beach meant that my plan to get ready in my own sweet time went to hell in a hand basket.  So you can imagine my frustration when the power went off just as I began to shampoo the saltwater out of my hair!  This is Bali, the power going off isn’t unusual.  Sometimes its a grid switch off but more often, if you try to put on AC in more than one bedroom at the same time as the water pump, pool pump and the washing machine, it will trip a fuse.  But this time it wasn’t our fault.  Thunder storms are an almost nightly occurrence here during the rainy season and a particularly bad one a few days before that not only took out two trees in our back garden, one of which ended up in the pool, but it screwed up our electrics.  Since that storm, the power keeps tripping but this is the first time its gone out and stayed out.  I finish my shower in now almost complete darkness (it goes from dusk to dark in 30 minutes here) dry off and go to see what the chat is.  Fifteen minutes previously, my parting words to hubby upon going for a shower were ‘honey, if the kids are finished eating, can you shower them and get them into their pyjamas?‘ but coming back downstairs I find, to my horror, that the kids aren’t even close to being ready for bed.  Eia is still dressed as rice, chicken and vegetables, Arlo is eating grains of rice off of Marley (the dog) and all I can make out of Hardin is his sweet ass in the air, buried under the side board, flashlight in hand, looking for the mouse which has apparently moved back in (assuming its the same one Pak Ketut caught the week before and freed, clearly not far enough away from the damn house!)  God as my witness, it took all my strength not to plug his fine ass with the bloody flashlight there and then, instead opting to grit my teeth and say as sweetly as I could muster (because I still need to keep him on side to get out the door on time) “honey, maybe you can worry about the mouse later and we can get the kids ready for bed before it’s darker than Frankie Boyle’s sense of humour?”  This seemed to snap him out of it and to his credit, he came upstairs with no arguments before the implications of the lack of power dawned on him.  Disclaimer: I adore my husband.  He is a wonderful husband and incredible father but when he’s not keen on doing something, say all of a sudden having to spend the night alone in darkness without wifi, without AC in the bedroom and with two kids who may or may not wake up due to the heat, all of which serve a very large threat to the chilled night he had in mind, he can very quickly become the problem, instead of the solution.  “We’re going to have to go to a hotel, we can’t stay here without AC‘ he says.  Back the fuck up!  Say what now?  I’ll admit my motives in this moment are entirely selfish.  I wanna go out.  My adults only freedom is within touching distance and I’m not ready to pass it up, yet.  I was in the exact same situation a few nights ago when the storm was doing its damage.  No AC, kids waking frequently, everybody sweating – it was shit AND I went outside three times in the pissing rain and pitch black to put the power back on until at 2am I chose a sweaty sleep over this merry dance with the fuses.  So my argument is basically put your big boy pants on and suck it up.  Time to wo-man up sweetheart!  He see’s sense and decides to call PLN, the state electric company, while I boob the baby to sleep.  They’re gonna send a guy.  Eia goes to sleep without too much fuss and now I can turn my attention to getting ready in the 15 mins I have left before my lift arrives.  Dreams of blow drying my hair into a smooth, shiny style evaporate (natural beachy waves it is then!) and given the near complete darkness, I can’t be sure if I’m putting mascara on my eyelashes or eyebrows when the car arrives but I grab my sandals and get the hell out of dodge.

Expat Bali joke – Kuta is for the teens, Seminyak is for the party hard early 20 something’s and Canggu is for the 30-ish vegan poke bowl eating, fresh coconut drinking, wannabe surfer crowd.  We’re a group of margarita drinking mums over 30.  So we went out in Sanur.  Sanur is popular with families and retirees, both tourists or local foreigners.  It’s just about the right amount of touristy to offer a good night out without any of the idiots. We inhaled our meal at Taquisa and moved on to Casablanca (those Mexicans really know how to have a good time!), a live music joint with tasty mojitos and a dancefloor.  And I love to dance.  Two tequilas, a marguerita and I forget what else, has me feeling pretty loose and fuzzy already so when the bar man rocks up with a complimentary drink for me, the birthday girl, with what I can only assume is ethanol laced petrol given how well it burns when he sets it alight, it was always gonna be all down hill from there.  The band call me onto the floor for a victory lap of the dance floor to their take on ‘Happy Birthday’ and after that it all gets a bit disjointed.

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Yes I know its blurry but we were all half cut, what do you expect?!

At the time I felt fine, dancing the night away, sweating (the booze out, or so I thought) like a nun in a cucumber field but when they called last orders and we stopped dancing, the sudden lack of motion in my feet allowed my brain to register the spinning in my head.  F**k knows how I managed to message Saiful, the driver, in flawless Indonesian (and I only know this after checking my WhatsApp the next morning trying to piece together how he knew to pick us up).  I’m no Virgin Mary but I can count on two hands the number of nights I’ve been so wasted I’ve tossed my cookies.  With my limited experience in this area (ha, ha) it seemed like a good plan to be sick in my bag to save the car.  It was not so much of a good plan to Chloe, who’s bag I’d borrowed for the night.  Luckily when she asked me if I was ok and I confessed my plan about 2 minutes before executing it, she asked Saiful to pull over and I lost my dinner in the got (a sort of deep gutter).  This happened once more before dropping Chloe off and I vaguely remember some bright spark (either Debbie or Chloe) hooking me up with aspirin and water which totally saved me the next day.  After that I must have passed out because the next thing I remember was waking up  at 6.30am with the kids and feeling not too bad, surprisingly.  However, hubby took great pleasure in filling me in on the details he was privy too, like Saiful having to phone him to open the gate because I was passed out in the front seat.  Or how he had to carry me up to bed.  Oops.  And he thoroughly enjoyed my rapid descent from waking feeling fine to hanging over my poached eggs, bacon and avocado (what the hell was I thinking!)  in the cafe he took us to for breakfast that morning.  Note to self – on mornings such as these, the correct answer to the question ‘where do you wanna go out for breakfast?‘  McDonalds.

I wish I could say that I’ve learned my lesson but by the time all this coronavirus shit blows over in, for example, 479 days, I’ll be first in line at Casablanca.

 

 

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake struck the sea south of Bali the other day.  Its our third since moving here 6 months ago.  It did no damage and no tsunami warning was issued but the mere fact that we felt it, serves to remind me of how fragile we all are.  That, and the current covid-19 pandemic gripping the world.

At any one time I have 2-3 blog posts on the go in varying stages of completion but I’ve put them on hold tonight to hitch my ride to the coronavirus wagon.  As the seriousness of the pandemic began to sink in, my first question was ‘are my children’s lives at risk from this?’ quickly followed by ‘are our lives at risk from this?’  The collective ‘our’ being me and hubby.  A few panicked google searches later and I came to the conclusion that even if me, hubs and the kids contracted the virus, we’d most likely be ok.  Not that that’s a reason to go out and start licking door handles but it initially quieted my racing mind.  However the world response hasn’t been about protecting the healthy, its been about protecting the most vulnerable so we’ve made some changes.  Hubs 40th birthday holiday celebrations have been postponed, we pulled Arlo out of nursery (the week we did, they closed the schools anyway) and we’re ‘social distancing’.

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Social distancing, you’re a bit of alright

For the most part, Indonesia is still a developing country and Bali, behind the luxury resorts and exotic Instagram posts, is largely poor.  Hospitals take MasterCard and if you can’t pay, you don’t go, covid or not, so – and I’m not going to get into the politics of it all – I think its a fair assumption that given this fact and the reality that the country is made up of over 17,000 islands, many without hospitals and corona testing kits, coronavirus must be more widespread here than we know.  Especially in Bali, arguably Indonesia’s most famous and popular island, and crowning jewel in its tourism crown.  It’s hard to get a measure of the situation here.  The streets and beaches are eerily quiet.  No-one is panic buying but hand sanitiser has disappeared from shops and pharmacies everywhere.  And a face mask is this seasons must have accessory.  But yet it still feels like business as usual on the surface because the Balinese believe they can pray it away.  And that’s not me being a dick with this last comment.  They are deeply spiritual and they truly believe that will save them from the sickness of men.

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Usually filled with holiday makers, Sanur beach is a ghost town

The first confirmed death in Bali from covid-19 earlier this month was a British tourist.  Hubs flies in and out of Bali all the time for work and he can attest to the fact that they are diligently screening people and sanitising surfaces all over the joint but for this poor lady to have died of covid on this island, she either came in with it (which doesn’t put much confidence in the border screening tests) or she contracted it here (which doesn’t say much for the reporting of cases and calls those screening tests back in to question since covid-19 was only confirmed here upon her death).  However, until today they are still reporting no local transmissions.  That’s just not possible.  Unless the praying is working.  We’re watching coronavirus unravel societies across the world and despite the insistence that Bali is safe and putting aside the ‘we’re healthy, we’ll be fine’ attitude, I don’t want to contribute to passing the virus, which may or may not be among us, about the masses, who may or may not be able to afford the treatment that could save their life.  So that’s point number two in the ‘Reasons for Social Distancing’ column right behind ‘we don’t fancy taking our chances, fuck you very much covid!’

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An apple a day keeps covid away…according to Pepito

For every direct corona worry I have about me, hubby or the kids getting ill, I have several indirect ones.  The Great Toilet Paper Famine of 2020 hasn’t reached us yet (bum hose win!) but hysteria has been growing in the capital, Jakarta, as people begin panic buying and the government are talking about locking down the city.  Thankfully in Bali, its yet to get that bad but if things change, an Andrex shortage is the least of my worries.  Indonesia is the 4th most populous country in the world and you can’t drink the tap water.  We have an Aqua water dispenser in the house (think office water machine) which we buy 20L bottles for and if things start to get crazy, clean water would be my first concern.  We always keep a few bottles in the house.  We’re up to 5 now. You can survive for only 3 days without water, but up to 3 weeks without food…a bit melodramatic I know but the UK is fighting over piss paper so let me have this far more legitimate concern.

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Daddy day care

Indonesia has now closed its borders to 8 countries entirely, including the UK and is denying on arrival tourist visas to all.  The British Embassy is calling last orders on British citizens to return to the UK on the last few flights that are leaving in the next day or two.  Like the rest of the world, we are worried for our extended families but if any member of our families back in the UK falls ill from coronavirus or anything else for that matter, we won’t be able to get to them.  Before the World War Z lockdown scenarios were put in place across the globe, I could hop on a plane at a moments notice if the need arose but now with all the border restrictions and quarantines in place, if something happened to a loved one 7000 miles away, the fear of not being able to be with them is very real, no matter how far fetched it may seem.

Like many Indonesian families, we have staff to help around the home with cooking, cleaning, garden and pool maintenance.  In the short time we’ve been here, the lovely couple that work for us have become like a second family.  We attended their daughters wedding, their 5 year old is like a big cousin to Arlo and they WhatsApp me in the middle of the night after an earthquake to make sure we’re ok, so we have agonised over how to handle their presence (if any) at home during this pandemic.  They are Balinese Hindu.  They regularly attend prayers and mass gatherings.  If we’re trying to protect ourselves and society with social distancing and staying at home, are we undoing our efforts if we can’t control the source of bugs under our roof?  But we can’t just send them away.  There are no government hand outs here for the poor or unemployed.  If we ask them to stay away, what will happen to their family with little or no income?  The Balinese are enterprising and we’ve seen a sharp rise in the number of fisherman on the beach as many return to the land while tourism slows so I don’t doubt they’d figure it out, but this is the very time where we need to be looking out for each other.  So they’re staying.  We’ve set up a little makeshift hand washing station at the gate for when they arrive each morning and bought lots of bleach and antibacterial sprays to keep surfaces clean from all our germs, theirs and ours.  We’re still paying their full salaries but we’ve restricted their tasks around here to be ‘less involved’.  Pak Ketut is working outside as usual but in the house, we’ve asked Ibu to continue going to the market and cooking, only.  We’ll clean.  I don’t know if this is a wise course of action or an indulgent, naive one but its the best we can come up with for now.  However, if someone coughs, they’re gone!

Something that is worrying us as much, if not more than the virus, is the risk of social unrest.  Ramadan is just around the corner and people would usually be returning home to their villages except the BNPB (they are Indonesia’s organisation for the prevention of disasters) have created a ‘state of emergency’ until 29 May.  It’s a bit of a grey area, where at the moment, it seems the government is asking, not telling, people to stay put but if it becomes law, people fear riots.  Bali is a Hindu island so we have less to worry about than say Jakarta, but there are plenty of Indonesians here from other islands that will want to leave Bali to visit their family at this time and Indonesia is not a nation of people that will just bend over.  They are like the French on steroids.  I think we’ll all be holding our breath for the next few weeks.  But maybe that’s no bad thing while covid walks among us.

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Not so ‘social’ distancing – waiting in the car with the kiddos while daddy takes Marley to the vet

As if all of that wasn’t reason enough to empty my gin shelf, the rainy season is drawing to a close and the mozzies are bad so dengue fever has been a concern. We spray the rooms, the kids, ourselves and burn spirals to try to avoid bites which may or may not transmit dengue.  For the most part, the hospitals here don’t have a first world standard reputation and if they start to get crowded with coronavirus patients, that standard could fall so my usually very free range kiddos are being reigned in slightly to keep them out of a hospital where, in the current climate, an admission could make them more ill.  However, on the plus side, the quinine in tonic water is said to help prevent mosquito bites so I’m knocking back the G&T like its the end of the world.  Every cloud and all that…

 

 

 

Walking, talking and turds in the toilet.  We tackled the latter of these three parenting milestones recently.  That’s been fun…

In November last year, about a month before his second birthday, Arlo announced at the crack of dawn one morning he needed a ‘doo doo’.  We thought ‘what the hell, no point in ignoring him since we’re gonna have to tackle toilet training soon so…’ and plopped him on the toilet.  And he ‘did did’.  The next day I bought pants and a loo seat.

We had a super relaxed attitude to toilet training.  The general consensus from the wider audience was that ‘he’s too young’ but we live in the tropics, running around butt naked is comfier than a nappy and crapping in the garden is good for the plants so why not, have at it son.  My mother in law was staying with us at the time and she toilet trained her kids in Indonesia when they were really young and if I’m honest, I went along with it at first because it seemed like the thing to do here but I honestly didn’t think it would come to anything and very quickly I felt it was a mistake to try since he seemed to develop an aversion to the toilet almost immediately.  I imagine hanging your tiny ass over a gaping hole is a bit scary to a toddler.  I was ready to shelve the whole thing, trying to save face by agreeing with folk  ‘yeh he probably is too young’ but then I thought lets just try a potty and see what happens.  Hardin wasn’t game.  It’s not really a thing here (unless you’re western) and he wasn’t raised that way.  If I remember correctly, his exact words were “hell no, ewww“.  I bought one anyway.  Bless him, he still thinks he lives in a democracy.  Home alone five days a week and with a baby to boot, the potty gave us convenience which gave us success.  I let him run around naked like a poor mans Mowgli and when he had to go, he could pop himself on it.  It couldn’t handle his adult size jobbies though so the potty became obsolete pretty quickly and we moved back to the toilet seat.  That too got old quickly mostly because mummy kept forgetting to put it on before sitting him on the throne but also they don’t have kiddie seats in public loos so he was gonna have to learn sooner or later.  The loo seat has been relegated to a colourful bathroom decoration now.  Yet more money well spent.  TMI – we’re a family off bum washers and have been washing Arlo’s little tooshie since he was 6 months old so pooping was never much of an issue.  He hates being dirty and he’d been telling us for a while he needed a ‘doo doo’ because he wanted washed asap so he took number 2’s on the toilet in his stride.  At the beginning, wee wee’s were an issue though. He was really good at telling us after the fact, thanks son.  He didn’t want to take a break from playing to empty his bladder so we had a few accidents but we got there.  No, my real issue with potty training was and still is (because lets face it even if you bang it out in two weeks, you’re still on high alert for some time after!) the ‘footnotes‘.  Those ancillary pieces of information, ticks specific to your child and their potty training journey that no one can warn you about.

Ok, TMI again but if you’ve had kids, and I’m specifically looking at you here mummies, you checked your shame at the door as soon as they said ‘ok, lets see how dilated you are‘ so don’t go all prudish on me now.  When I go to the bathroom, I go.  I need and I go.  In and out in 5 minutes, tops.  Wiped, washed, dried, done.  My hubby on the other hand, and he’ll kill me for saying this (its the gins fault honey, I’m under the influence), decides he’ll need to go for a poo on Friday and goes to the loo on Wednesday.  I’ve never known someone to spend so long on the crapper!  God love him.  Its the only place he gets peace,  I’m clearly missing a trick.  Anyway, I digress.  Our son has inherited this trait from his father.  Arlo can go to the bathroom, do his business and then sit and wait for more.  Like.  Fifteen.  Minutes.  More.  And thats a long time when theres a screaming baby in the other room that was interrupted mid feed for her elder siblings bowel evacuation.  Even if he’s clearly finished or maybe doesn’t need a doo-doo at all, he’s decided he wants to go and we’re not moving until he’s done do-ing.  I must say though, when asked repeatedly if he’s finished, his response of ‘no mummy, I wait for more doo-doo to come out‘ is the sweetest thing, I could squeeze the life outta him, its sooooo cute.  Hmm…maybe squeezing him would help, I’ll keep that in mind.  I’m still trying to make him understand that going to the toilet is a calling and not a choice but hey ho, in the meantime I can expect to spend a lot more time staring down the barrel of the crapper.

Leading on from this, my sweet boy likes to hold hands on the toilet.  I haven’t yet decided if its for moral support or something to brace against but he forces me to be at head height for this ritual and mummy isn’t getting any younger and after 15 minutes, I can no longer feel my legs.  At home, I can sit on the floor but in public loos….?  Eh, no!  Which brings me on to my next point.

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Don’t open the door!

Bali is hot.  Bali is humid.  Toilets are small and squatting in one for 15 minutes with a toddler that insists he still has more doo doo to do is sweaty work.  Its gotten so unbearable in the heat that as soon as Arlo even hints at the subject when we’re out, hubs and I call shotgun on who’s gonna take him.  He likes daddy better than me nowadays, the ungrateful little monkey, so I’m currently winning this one, boo ya!  Oh yeh, and this is Indonesia so squat toilets are still a thing.  Helicoptering a squirming two year old who insists he can only go on the potty (since thats what you’ve taught him, ffs!) over a small hole in the ground doesn’t end well.  For his shorts.  Or your sandalled feet.  Enough said.

I mentioned earlier we’re a family of bum washers?  Well, Indonesia is a country of bum washers and every toilet is fitted with what I affectionately refer to as a bum hose.  A little shower head situated next to the loo that serves to wash your bum after a number 2.  But fancy toilets have a built in bidet – a little pipe that is ejected from the back end of the seat upon turning a little handle.  Designed I’m sure, but failing, to be discreet, anyone that has ever been in a toilet cubicle with a toddler will know they insist on touching and turning every little Tom, knob and Harry they come into contact with (as well as licking the sanitary bin given half the chance!) so of course my son found it on his first encounter in a fancy public loo and turned it on just as I turned around after locking the stall door.  The jet is angled upward to make contact with the appropriate orifice however, unfortunately for me it found my face and a wholly inappropriate orifice.  No where in Indonesia is tap water drinkable.  Especially when it comes out of the bum hose.

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Curious George – drying on the line after a bum washing

And as if all of this wasn’t bad enough, Arlo has recently decided that not only does George (as in Curious George, his monkey comforter) need to do-do now, he too needs to hold hands with mummy.  By my calculations, I’m now spending approximately 30 minutes of my day supporting a stuffed monkey through his wee wee’s and doo doo’s.  When did it all go so wrong?!!