WILD ADVENTURE MUM

the blog

“I showed her pictures of Leke Leke. She was sold. I packed snacks and the hiking carrier for Eia and we piled into our cars 30 minutes later.”

You pronounce it “Leky Leky“. Just fyi….

We visit aaaaaaalot of waterfalls. By now you should know how much I love getting outside with the kids and waterfall walks are really accessible here since there are a gazillion waterfalls in Bali. For me hiking to a waterfall is a “two birds with one stone” jobby – it exercises Marley (our golden retriever), it tires out the kids but gives them something to work towards on our walk (maybe a swim, definitely some kind of food treat when we get there!) and being in nature keeps me happy and sane! Ok, that’s three but fck it!

There are loads of waterfalls in Bali that aren’t much of a walk, you literally fall out the car and there they are but I like the ones that feel a bit more wild. With proper walk ins. That make you sweat! The other week my friend Michelle wanted to do a waterfall walk with her son and us and asked me where we could go since I’m the waterfall adventure obsessed mum in the group. The criteria was “one with a proper walk and within an hours drive of our house” in Sanur. I showed her pictures of Leke Leke. She was sold. I packed snacks and the hiking carrier for Eia and we piled into our cars 30 minutes later.

Leke Leke is one of my favourite waterfall walks to do with the kids & one we go back to over & over again. It also gets really busy in non covid times cause its super popular with content creators taking the same photos that 309760758763 other travel couples have taken every day since Eat, Pray, Love and the instagram effect landed in Bali. Come on guys, be original! Seriously, go check the instagram hashtag if you don’t believe me 🙂

Waterfall selfie complete with a couple of the instagrammers we stumbled upon!

The last time we visited we stumbled upon a couple of travel couples taking some sexy pics. I don’t think theres a better contraception method for a young couple than a couple of red faced, sweaty mums, boobs ruined from breastfeeding, appearing out of the jungle with 3 sweaty kids in tow! Be safe kids or you’ll end up in our boat 😛 To be fair, they were all really, really sweet kids. I actually feel bad that we probably put them off “physical activity” for a bit! Anyhoo, I’m being mean. Honest. But mean…..so lets move on!

Leke Leke is a stunning Bali must see so here’s some stuff I’ve gleaned from our many visits to prep you before you go with your own kids…

It’s 50K IDR for access. Small kids (I wanna say under 5’s…?) go for free! Theres a little ticket booth next to the parking. While we’re on that note, there’s not a huge amount of space for parking. I managed to park my soccer mum car with no trouble lately only because the island is so quiet. It’d be best to have a driver drop you off & pick you up (sounds lavish but very normal in Bali for travellers!) or take a moped, which sounds crazy but also very normal in Bali to use bikes as people carriers!

To reach the waterfall, you take a bunch of steps down the side of the valley, then follow flat(ish) sections of trail, more steps, more trail, cross a bamboo bridge, a few more steps, a bit more trail & then you’re there. Arlo is 3.5 & hewalks the whole way, Eia is 2 & she’s mostly in the hiking carrier – it takes us about 20 mins going down & 30 coming back up to give you an idea of timing. Though if you don’t have little legs with you, you could do it down and up in 20 minutes!

You can visit Leke Leke go all year but it’s best in the dry season (Apr-Oct). The water is clearer & the walk is a bit less humid! Marginally…

Also there’s not a huge amount of space at the base of the falls, it’s pretty much standing room only (it looks quiet in my pics cause covid) but theres often a lot of people at the bottom. I’d say its best to go early but the instagram crowd have got that down pat for all the popular spots here so you’ll probably even have company early doors. But we can usually perch on a little stone for our snacks – bring a towel for your bum cause everything is wet from the spray.

Theres a toilet and changing room at the top of the path, next to the warung at the top of the steps. Its closed right now because of covid (the warung, not the toilet!). You can get nice food and refreshments here before or after seeing the waterfall (the warung, not the toilet!) and the view over the jungle is awesome. You need to pay 5K for the pleasure though if you’re not eating there (the toilet, not the warung!) 🙂  

Bonus local mum tip for small kids!! On the way down when you see the sweet old dude with the tiny owl selling coconuts (the guy’s selling coconuts, not the owl 😆) continue along the original path going LEFT & down. He’ll try to encourage you to take his new path past his warung but the steps are too big for little legs & slippery AF! Don’t forget to stop in & see him on the way back up for a coconut! Or local fresh fruit, he usually has passion fruit or salak…..yummmmm…..Arlo loves him cause he loves salak & he always sneaks a little freebie fruit into his hand! Oh and by that I mean Arlo loves salak, not the man. I mean, he (the man) probably loves it too, who knows! But just wanted to be clear. Ok, I think that’s everything. To summarise, Leke Leke is awesome with small kids. Go see it when you’re in Bali. Clear? 🙂

“If you want to have a driver, full staff, nanny, big house….you can, if you’ve got the wallet for it. But you can also have a pretty sweet standard of living as a “not rich” normal person…

I get this question alot and the truth is it can cost as much or as little as you like. If you want to have a driver, full staff, nanny, big house, big pool, beach front or epic views – you can, if you’ve got the wallet for it. But you can also have a pretty sweet standard of living as a not rich, normal person with a few special comforts that are waaaaay more affordable here than in the west. I’m gonna break it down for you…

Housing

We call them villas here dahling 🙂 Firstly if you’re thinking of moving to Bali long term, you should know – foreigners can’t technically “own” property in Indonesia. Not freehold anyway. You can rent short term (usually done yearly) or you can leasehold a property for 30-50 years which is how many Bali expat locals “buy” property in the long term. For the purposes of this post, I’m just gonna focus on short term rentals since that’s what I get most questions about. Its not an easy answer cause like anywhere its gonna depend on location, size, age of the property blah blah blah but if you work on about 12-15 million IDR per month (150-180 million IDR/year) for a 3 bed villa with a pool and go from there (up or down depending on the factors I already mentioned) that should give you a realistic place to start.

Staff

This can be a luxury or a norm. Its very normal to have staff at home here but how much help you have depends on how much help you want. If you have a pool, a pool guy is a must! Our guy comes 3 times a week (for a half hour) and charges us 600k IDR per month and our pool is always crystal clear! We have a lovely couple that work in our home – cleaning, cooking, laundry, gardening – 6 days a week, 8.30-12.30pm but most people I know who have staff have them in for a full day. Ibu and Pak Ketut (aforementioned lovely couple) work for us but they are more than just staff to us, they are our Bali family. Their youngest son is friends with Arlo, we went to their daughters wedding, attended the blessing of their first grandchild and they’ve taken care of us when we got so sick with food poisoning we couldn’t take care of ourselves, never mind the kids. We don’t have a nanny but Ibu watches the kids when we need a babysitter at night or even during the day when I need it and Hardin’s working away. I’d be lost without them – the kids adore them and they adore the kids.

Bills

Wifi, electric and a cash handshake with the bin men are about our total house bills each month. We don’t have a tv package so our wifi is internet only for 500k per month. And electric mostly depends on how much you run the pool pump, enjoy air conditioning and leave lights on but we have a four bedroom house with no walls, so AC is in the bedrooms only at night and the pool pump is on a timer so our electric is usually around 1.5million IDR/month.

Cars

Having a driver is normal for some people and we did when we first arrived but I found it expensive and I don’t like the feeling of not fully having my independence so I drive myself now. Renting a car each month is about 3-3.6 million rupiah but motorbikes are cheaper at about 500k per month. We have the car for most stuff that involves the kids and keep the bike for trips around town or for us without the kids.

With Ibu and Pak Ketut at their daughters wedding almost 2 years ago – god, Eia was so bald!!! Hehehe!
Fuel

Cheap as chips. I can fill my soccer mum car for a little over £10 and the motorbike is peanuts!

Groceries & Eating Out

If you shop in the really western super markets, expect western prices. Same goes for restaurants. But THE best thing about Indonesia when it comes to food is the local markets for fresh produce and the small warungs for tasty, cheap Indonesian food! If you shop at the market, you have to barter well! Ibu goes to the market for us and gets fruit, veg, meat, eggs etc when we need it but more recently we’ve been getting deliveries straight from the market and farmers, ordering from Bali No Plastic. Its cheap, easy and the fruit and veg is sooooooo good!

Schooling

Our kids aren’t school age and they don’t go to preschool but if you’re an expat in Indonesia this is gonna be one of your biggest expenses! If you’re kids aren’t Indonesian, they can’t attend public state schools which means you’re gonna be paying for private schools or international schools. Like I said, we’re not there yet so I don’t know first hand the costs and it will depend on which school you choose but preschool and kindergarten seems to start from a few thousand dollars per year/per child right up to tens of thousands of dollars per year/per child for high school. Yikes!

Healthcare

This also depends on many factors but we’re all healthy, no pre existings and our quotes for full cover with med evac ranged from £5000 per year for the whole family to £20,000 per year! FML! If you don’t have insurance, you better have savings cause when you go to hospital the first thing they’re gonna ask for is your credit card details. I grew up in Scotland with the NHS – people don’t always have great things to say about it but for me, it was a gift from god. Paying up front for health care has been one of my hardest adjustments here! So if anyone back in the UK is reading this and works for the NHS or knows someone that does – thank you from the bottom of my heart for your service. I miss you!!!!!!

I think that’s pretty much everything! I’ve probably missed some stuff but this is the main points me thinks! Bottom line – Bali isn’t as cheap as it once was or people think it still is but our standard of living is definitely higher here in many ways cause its still cheaper than the west. We have a pool here – couldn’t afford that in Scotland! Though I think its called ice there 😛 jokes! But, seriously…

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…

…300m from the summit was probably NOT the best time for Nikki to drop into the conversation that “this was where I got to last time when the earthquake hit, I had to drop to my belly and then hightail it off the mountain before getting caught in a landslide!” ooooookay then. Good talk.

hiking mount abang

Mount Abang is the third highest peak in Bali and forms part of the Batur Caldera Rim, overlooking the spectacular Danau Batur (Lake Batur). I’d heard that the Abang trail was pretty rough in places, not one for small kids, especially a backpack toddler so when my friend Nikki suggested we do it without kids last year, I jumped at the chance. Ok technically it wasn’t without kids. Her daughter joined us but she’s 11 and a total badass and I only said its not one for small kids so….

We left Sanur at 6am and the drive up to Bangli at the time of the morning was pretty quick. We were on the trail by 8am. The first section of the hike is a pretty easy going gradual uphill through the jungle with insane views down to the lake and across to neighbouring Mount Batur – one of Bali’s active volcanos. The massive lava field of black rock and what looks like (but probably isn’t) scorched earth is easily seen when viewed from above, saaaaayyy when you’re hiking Abang? Very cool.

After a half hour or so of walking, we reached the first little temple and after this, the trail started to get a little bit more sketchy and then a lot more sketchy all the way to the summit. Batur is famous for its sunrise hikes. Made for tourists, its a relatively straightforward trail to the top with constant switchbacks to handle the gradual increases in altitude. Yeh, Abang isn’t like that. It takes the path of least resistance, straight to the top and its pretty steep and loose in places. This is definitely not a hike for the rainy season because it’d be dangerously muddy and slippy for about two thirds of the trail where it gets dodgy AF.

We did it in early October after it’d had many months to dry out – not only was it right at the end of the dry season but the wet season 2019/20 had been one of the driest and hottest for years and still there was the odd muddy patch thanks to the moisture the mountain sucks out of the mist and passing clouds. So yeh, you’re gonna wanna save this hike for any time between April – October, but June – September would be the best months I reckon.

You come across the second temple after about another hour or so of hiking, nestled on a flat, open section of the trail. By this point, you’ll be sweating like a nun in a cucumber field (the fact its the dry season won’t save you, its still sweaty going at this altitude!) and have probably been scrambling a bit on your hands and knees, desperately looking for vines to use as handles to pull yourself up the steep sections. Well, settle in. There’s a bit more of that to go before you reach the summit.

Speaking of which, 300m from the summit was probably NOT the best time for Nikki to drop into the conversation that “this was where I got to last time when the earthquake hit, I had to drop to my belly and then hightail it off the mountain before getting caught in a landslide!” ooooookay then. Good talk. Shortly after that bombshell we reached the summit, which is marked by another temple. At that point, my amazement at the fact that people carried the deconstructed temple up that trail was only second to my amazement at the epic view across to Amed on the east coast, Candidasa to the south of us and to neighbouring Mount Agung – Bali’s largest volcano – right next to Mount Abang.

All the way up the trail you get little teases of the spectacular views through the trees but on a clear day, you’re really in for a treat at the top with that view. It gets a bit chilly at the summit when the wind picks up and your sweat dries so pack a long sleeve. I packed a jacket 😀 hey, we live here – 23C is cold to me 😀

Your knees and thighs are gonna feel it on the way back down – its a good burn. Its a rewarding “I’ve hiked hard” burn. Its definitely faster going down than up but be careful, its slippy and loose under foot and I ended up on my arse at least twice accidentally and multiple times voluntarily to navigate some particularly dodgy areas.

Its not really a hike for little kids, I couldn’t take Arlo (3.5) and Eia (almost 2) yet but a strong 7 year old could probably manage it. Basically the older and fitter the kid the better! Hiking through what becomes a tropical cloud garden with lake and volcano views on either side – who doesn’t want to experience that? The fact I managed to escape my parenting responsibilities for a half day and enjoy a quiet hike was a bonus 🙂

The other morning I was picking the brain of a friend about hikes off the beaten path suitable for young kids and completely unrelated, she dropped this gem into the conversation. We had nothing planned that afternoon so I chucked the kids in the car and went to look for it…we found it. We also found ourselves slap bang in the middle of a full moon ceremony! Let me start at the beginning….

Taman Beji Griya is located in Desa Punggul, a little shy of an hours car ride north from Sanur. Google maps took me almost right to it but when I entered the village I saw a sign for Taman Beji Griya Waterfall and promptly parked beside another car on the side of the road. After 20 mins walking with the kids on a paved path above padi fields (and negotiating our way through a bit of jungle on a vaguely there trail to get around the bit of the path that had been swept away!) we arrived at a car park and trail head for the waterfall. Oops. My bad. But the additional walk was spectacular – no regrets!

In Bali, you have to pay a small to fee access a lot of the waterfalls. Its usually pennies, about 20-50k but the villages need the cash and use it to keep the paths clean and in some places, build infrastructure to make access easier and safer for tourists. Some of the lesser known spots are still wild and free but Beji Griya, you have to pay. So anyways, we arrive at the trailhead to the waterfall and there are easily 200 or so Balinese beautifully dressed in their ceremonial sarongs, men in white shirts and ladies in white lace. Shit. I forgot. Its the full moon. In fact, that day it was a super moon lunar eclipse. Maaaaaaaasssssive deal here! We were greeted in Balinese “Om swastiastu” and I sheepishly asked if we could visit the waterfall when the ceremony was done. But the man said I didn’t have to wait, we were welcome to go down into the canyon while everything was in progress. I just had to wear a sarong and pay to enter. I’m not sure how much it was – 20k maybe – I wasn’t paying attention when he slipped my change into my hand. I was too busy hoisting Eia in the hiking carrier further up my shoulders off my hips to make way for the ladies arms that were wrapping a sarong around my sweaty waist 😀

We went down some stone steps and came to an open ceremonial area full of worshippers – some milling about soaking wet, some queuing in waist deep water to pray at the fountain. I felt like we were intruding a bit but the Balinese are so welcoming, ADORE kids (especially when I tell them our kids are part Indonesian) and were super eager to share this with us so we carried on down the steps into the canyon! Where we joined another queue of people adding offerings to a growing pile of offerings beside the river. The really cool thing about this canyon are all the 3D carvings in the canyon walls – snakes, hands, faces, fish. I thought the kids would love it! Arlo was in to the enormous snakes (imagine the Basilisk from Harry Potter and you’d be close) but I think the tortured faces may have traumatised him. Oops. Again, my bad.

Something else that made this waterfall stand out from any other we’ve visited was the screaming. There was a queue of people waiting to walk under the waterfall, fully clothed and scream, shout or laugh. The first couple of shouts I heard I thought the water must just be cold but I asked the lady in front of me (who so happened to be the one who’s arms had been around my waist 20 minutes previously) what was going on and assuming my Indonesian is as good as I think it is , she said they scream the first time to let out emotions maybe anger, sadness etc and scream the second time to let in joy. Arlo has been, shall we say, challenging these last few weeks – this is exactly what I needed.

They asked if I wanted to join in. Uhhhh, hell yeh I did! I had a lot of parenting rage to externalise, they practically had to drag me backwards out of the waterfall 😀 I’m not sure I got round to the joy part 😀 Oh and did I mention, I still had Eia in the hiking carrier and Arlo holding my hand when I went under? I’m not sure how I thought it’d go but I probably shouldn’t have been shocked that it went down like a lead balloon. Eia especially was seriously unimpressed. Especially since the sodding towel was on the back of the carrier. Oops. My bad! Don’t feel to bad for them though – I took them to soft play the next morning to make up for it. They loooooooove soft play. I hate soft play. We’re totally even.

Eta’s face….massive mum fail!

If you’re ever in the area for a visit or wanna put this on your Bali bucket list, here are the logistics:

Name: Taman Beji Griya Waterfall

Location: Jl. Mawar, Punggul, Kec. Abiansemal, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80352

Entry: There’s an entry fee, I wanna say it was maybe 20k per adult? Definitely not more than 50K. Small kids go free.

Access: a stone staircase takes you down in the little canyon. 5 minutes from the parking, tops. Unless you park in the wrong place like I did 😀

Trail Difficulty: None, unless you’re not good with stairs! Though theres not very many.

Suitable for Small Kids: Absolutely! It’s not a long walk down, they can manage it on their own with a hand hold. Just watch out cause the steps and base of the canyon are slippery! Big and little kids will love the carvings!

Swimming Hole: No but you can stand under the waterfall to cool off and de-stress 😉

Bonus Local Info: The walking track is signposted in each direction when you leave the waterfall. I put a photo above. This is the track we walked along after parking in the wrong place! It’s definitely worth a wander, the views over the padi fields are stunning! And its a super easy track for small kids since its paved, assumably for motorbike access for petani (farmers). PS, don’t forget mozzie spray!

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!

fullsizeoutput_2b9b

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.

fullsizeoutput_31fa

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!

1a22iXEXRhuCfhDpAnQvuw

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!