Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Indonesia is not a nanny state like the countries I spent the last 30 plus years in.  If I buy a hairdryer here there will not be a sticker advising me not to stand in the shower and use it, I must use my own common sense to assess that running water and electrical products don’t go together.  This country will not warn me that I should not drive with my new sun shield in place, that my Windex window cleaner is not fit for human consumption or that my microwave is not to be used for drying pets.   In Indonesia they assume that I can probably work these things out for myself and therefore keep myself safe. Well that is what I thought prior to Sunday.

Safety standards here are very different to those in Australia, New Zealand and generally anywhere in the western world.  I have come to except it as normal that my power points spark during an electrical storm, scared the hell out of me the first time but I am used to it now.   It has taken a year and many destroyed electrical items but I have also grasped the fact that turning something off at the power point does not mean that it is off and that the only way to make sure the hair straightner will not remain on until it over heats and dies is to unplug it at the wall.  Apparently my house is not earthed, there is no automatic blowing of fuses when something goes awry electrically and every time I plug or unplug something I hope for the best. 

Why is the lack of safety warnings and precautions relevant to this blog, well read on.  Sunday afternoon my house caught fire!!!!! Well okay it wasn’t exactly the entire house, just a small part, but it had the potential to burn the whole house down.  Home alone, sitting back relaxing there is a loud bang and suddenly flames appear from the roof fan in my lounge.  After it registered that oh shit that’s not good I managed to jump up off my chair, trip over the golf clubs in the middle of the floor, launch onto the coffee table and beat the flames with ------- a tea towel.   I know - a tea towel - really, what the hell was I thinking.  The tea towel and I did manage to beat the flames out, the only casualties the plastic on the fan and the now burnt and holey piece of fabric that was left in my hand.  With a sense of kick arseness I relaxed with a vodka admiring my quick reflexes and fire fighting skill.  However, the remainder of the evening was spent stressing that my house was going to burn down around me. 

The next day a small army of men descended on my house and replaced every light bulb (hmmm), serviced every air con (not the problem boys), checked every conceivable appliance (including the sink??????)  and were preparing to leave when in my best Bahasa Indonesian I mentioned that I think they were actually meant to be repairing the fan.  This is where it all goes bad and leads me to think that those safety warning tags should perhaps be used in this country also.  One gentleman places a shiny metal ladder under the fan while three others hold it steady.  Without turning off any power he proceeds to stick a screw driver into the mass of electrical stuff.  Hmmmm, I know this cannot end well and encourage Princess Pants to step away from the impending disaster.  After lots of head shaking (by me and them), he pulls out some duct tape,  sticks the melted wires back in place (yep you read that correctly), reattaches the fan to the roof, climbs down the ladder and announces to me with a big smile on his face “bagus Ibu” (good lady).  I think at this point my jaw hit the ground and I had a look of dumb confusion on my face.   I gathered myself and replied that no, not good, not fixed.   My maid has at this stage left for the day so I am left to try to explain in an odd mix of Bahasa, English and hand signals that he didn’t fix the fan and had just stuck it back together with tape.  I thought I was making myself very clear, obviously not as the word  “sudah” (already) was said a lot as this ‘electrician’ pointed at the fan.  He couldn’t see my problem; he had already fixed the fan.  Apparently my lack of knowledge of the local language and my hand signals (or maybe it was the look of WTF on my face) was amusing to all the men working in the house as they all came to investigate the crazy white lady, trying to give instructions.  They eventually gave up on me and packed up their tool boxes, thanked me and left. 

Needless to say instructions have been given that the fan is to remain OFF at all times and there will be an influx of smoke detectors arriving at Batu Putih 4 as soon as I can arrange them. Perhaps safety tags are not such a bad idea and may have come about from somebody actually doing something as stupid as using the hair dryer in the shower.   I now believe that screw drivers in this county should carry a warning tag that states “do not use on live electrical wiring” and that duct tape maybe needs a tag saying “this product is not fire resistant”.   I am hoping my fan stays attached to the roof and that I no longer need my new found fire fighting skills but am not counting on it.









Thursday, October 17, 2013


I am a Kiwi; I call New Zealand my place of birth and my home.   Growing up in New Zealand earthquakes were the norm, we had emergency kits ready and dealt with them if they hit.  Luckily for me I never had to suffer through the aftermath of a large earthquake.  Small tremors were more than enough for me to develop a healthy respect for the power of Mother Nature.  I cried as friends, family and the community I lived in as a Uni student were dealt the devastating earthquake that destroyed the beautiful city of Christchurch and her surrounding towns.  I watched as TV images showed buildings I knew smashed on the sidewalk and those ever so brave men and woman of the emergency services risking everything in the endeavour to help others. 

 I am also a little bit Australian – my adopted home for 11 years is a beautiful country.  I am lucky to have seen so much of it.  My little brother has also adopted Australia as his home and lives in one of the most beautiful parts, the Blue Mountains.   As I sit and type this I am chatting to my little brother, he lives in a small town which at the moment is situated between two huge bush fires.  Once I got hold of him, discovered he was still there and had not evacuated I set about giving him a lecture to be safe and leave early.  He assures me he is fine, the wind is changing and currently the fires are not heading towards him.  As glad as I am for his current state of safety (which is dependent on the whim of the weather), my concern turns to those men and woman on the front line.  Houses are burning, acre after acre of beautiful country is being destroyed and there can be no doubt that the men and woman of the emergency services and RFS have left their own families to fight these fires.  Don’t even get me started on the idiots who think arson is a fun way to pass the time, standing back and watching as their handy work destroys lives and communities.    There are currently 100 fires burning across NSW which means 100’s of emergency workers are at risk.  The emergency workers will be the last to leave those areas where others are evacuated from they will stay until the fire is out or is beyond all control.  They will see horrific things as communities’ burn, as wild life is decimated, they may suffer injury and the sad reality is that they may pay the ultimate price.
I want to thank every emergency worker that is currently ensuring the safety of my little brother and the communities that are suffering through this bushfire season.  I want to acknowledge the workers who without hesitation gear up and race into any situation, regardless of it been an earthquake ruined city, a flooded town or a bushfire disaster.  You are the brave men and woman that we should all be so very proud of.  I take my hat off to you all, be safe.
 Please feel free to comment below on any of my blogs.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


So Princess Pants hit me with a curly one this week.  I have mulled it over and over in my head and still have no real answer for her.  I have raised my daughter to enjoy life.  She fishes, wrestles with friends and is more than happy to get down and dirty in the mud.  She has been known to dissect the contents of a fish’s stomach and not flinch (much to my horror) and can hit a golf ball with the best of them.  She likes shoes and handbags (think she got that from me), never says no to a bit of pampering and massage and can shop till she drops when we travel.  I thought she was well rounded, not a girly girl but not a tom boy either – somewhere in the middle a nice balance of both.  Well apparently society is starting to dictate how she should be (yep, even here in the jungle social pressure is alive and well). 

We are busy on a math lesson when Princess Pants comes out with “why does everyone say I’m pretty?” I of course respond with “because you are so beautiful inside and out”.  That is when she went in for the kill – “but that’s not what they mean mum, they just mean I am pretty on the outside.” Hmmm where do I go from there?  She is correct, as we travelled through Cambodia the Khmer people were delighted with PP and told her how pretty and beautiful she was.  A young man (thinking PP was older than she was) proceeded to flirt with her telling her how lovely she was and so beautiful (my reaction to PP being flirted with is an entire blog on its own).  Here in Borneo we often hear the word cantik (pretty) said about PP and it has never really bothered me.

So I try to do the correct mummy thing (god knows what that is) and ask her how it makes her feel that people think she is beautiful.  To my horror she said she likes it. Okay, fair enough but wait for it, she likes it “because it’s important to be beautiful”.  WHAT is what I wanted to shout?  Instead I stayed calm, took a deep breath and asked her what she meant.  Apparently in the eyes of my 9 year old the world is pretty simple.  Here is how she explained it to me. 

“Nobody likes ugly things, movie stars are never ugly mum, they can’t be it is their job to be pretty. It is much more important to be pretty if you are a girl though.” My knuckles began to turn white as I gripped the table and tried to not show my devastation.   Why do you think that I asked not sure I really wanted to hear her answer.  “That is what boys want.  If you want a boyfriend or husband then you need to look pretty”.  I respond with oh that isn’t true, boys like girls to be smart, clever and independent.  PP comes back with “maybe that was what it was like when you were a young, but now you have to be pretty.  I can be smart for getting a job but if you are beautiful then you can get an even better job and then boys will like you more.  You will be beautiful and have a good job.” WTF by this stage the bottle of vodka on the bench is looking like an option and I am struggling to maintain my good mummy composure. 

My brain was in overtime trying to find a response but apparently the conversation was over.  PP put her head down, completed her math lesson then ran off to paint her nails.  I sat at the table wondering how this messed up image of life as a girl had entered my baby’s head.  She is correct though, society tells us that beautiful is best, we are blasted with images and advertising on how to make ourselves look more beautiful and sadly that has translated a horrible message to my 9 year old.  I think I still have a chance to change her perception until I needed to get some things from the shop.  I was heading out the door and was reminded by PP that I might want to put some make up on because I look so much prettier with it.  We watched the All Blacks play the Springboks last night. In a room full of men I cheered, cursed and barracked for my boys in black, PP was embarrassed.  She told me that it is not attractive to be so outspoken and loud.     I am clearly losing the battle, I will keep fighting and try to teach in  my daughter that how you look is not the most important thing but sadly I think society has a stronger influence than me at the moment.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I intended to brag about my exciting adventures in Cambodia during this blog but that will have to wait.  I received news yesterday that tore at my heart.  A close friend lost her father, she had no time to prepare for the impact or say goodbye, he simply left her house after a visit and never made it home.   After receiving the news I sat at the dining room table, not sure how to comfort a friend when I was so far away.  A phone call, a text an email, none of these seem enough when you know someone is experiencing so much heart ache . As I dwelt on how best to support my friend my thoughts turned to my own dad. 

I remember been a teenager when I read that the first man a girl falls in love with is her father.  I imagine I was fairly repulsed at the time, how ridiculous and gross that sounded.  Fast forward to today and I know this phrase is true.  My dad is one of the most amazing men I know.  As a little girl I wrestled on the floor with my brother and sister, in fits of laughter as my dad tickled us. I remember a man who could build or fix anything in his shed. He would meet us at the school gates when he could, buying us ice creams on the walk home.  As a little girl he was the strongest man I knew able to wipe away a tear, brush the dust off after a fall, hoist me on his shoulders and make my world better. 

As I grew up my dad’s love for me never faltered even when my teenage ways surely tested his patience.  There are something’s in life that a father never wants his daughter to experience but when my world imploded at 15 my dad was right there.  He held my hand, never leaving my side and was a pillar of strength as I did my best to move on with my life.  I never knew how my dad felt at that time, never asked him, just knew he was there doing his best to help his daughter and as I sit here I don’t think I have ever told my dad how much his strength meant to me. 

I grew up and moved cities, visiting when I could, dad never more than a phone call away.  I
moved countries, travelled the world and dad was still right there when I needed him.  When Princess Pants was born, my father was one of the first people to hold her.  He held the most precious thing in my world so gently.  I have a photo of him with her in his arms she is barely 3 days old the look of love in my dad’s eyes as looks at her in the photo melts my heart.  I am so lucky that Princess Pants has such an amazing relationship with her Poppa, and I know he will love her and support her in the same ways he has always done for me.

As I sit here and reflect I know that phrase is true.  I fell in love with my dad as a young girl, and as I have grown so has my understanding of the first man I loved.  My father is the one person who I felt has never judged me or any of the stupid things I have done, he has always loved me unconditionally and has been someone I could always count on.  He may no longer be able to hoist me on to his shoulders but a hug from dad definitely makes the world seem a better place. 

Friday, August 30, 2013


There are only a few moments in my life that have taken my breath away.  The moment I held my new born daughter in my arms, my first real kiss, standing at the top of a run preparing to board down freshly fallen powder snow and when my daughter does something that truly astounds me.  These moments that are not easily forgotten, they are etched in my memory forever.  I experienced another of these breath taking moments in Yogyakarta, it took me totally by surprise and I was unprepared for the impact of it. 

The alarm woke us at 3am (Princess Pants was less than impressed), and we prepared ourselves for the arrival of our driver, our destination Borobudur Temple.  Borobudur is a huge mandala and is the world’s biggest Buddhist monument.  It was built sometime between 778 – 856AD but was abandoned within less than a century.  Not long after it was abandoned, the huge volcano that shadows Borobudur erupted and covered it in volcanic ash, hiding it for centuries.  It was rediscovered in 1908 but not fully excavated or restored until 1975.

Okay enough with the history lesson, you get the idea – this place has been through its share of adventure – abandoned, buried, excavated and restored.  Friends had told me this place was amazing and not to be missed, so I knew it was going to be a good trip.  We drove for an hour through villages as they slowly came to life. Rice paddies and traditional markets were beginning to stir as our driver weaved through the early morning traffic and ox carts. 
Tickets were brought and sarongs were wrapped around our waists by the temple custodians.  We followed the path through a beautiful garden and there in front of us was this incredible mandala.  There was fog around us and even though there were other tourists if felt quite eerie, everyone was remarkably quiet, I think we were all struck by the beauty of the site.  We climbed level after level of crudely cut stone stairs and finally stood at the top of the 31.5 metre temple.  We turned and stared out over this amazing island of Java.  The temple and path fell away and below us a misty fog shrouded the palm trees that lined the path and Gunung Merapi (volcano) stood proudly in front of us.  The sun crept up the path and hit the temple, I was in awe.  I know it sounds cliché but I am lost for words at how to describe the moment.  Princess Pants wrapped me in a hug and we both stood appreciating the spectacle we were seeing. 
I know I wasn’t the only one who felt in awe, the other tourists around us were all glued to where they stood taking in the moment.  I don’t know if it was this place steeped in so much history, the calm meditative aura of the Buddhists or the fact that Princess Pants and I were experiencing something amazing together but I was blown away.  We stood there for a while appreciating the beauty and mystique of this place, before we resorted back to being tourists. 

We posed for photos amongst the 432 stone Buddha and 72 stupas, walked around each terrace as we wound our way down the 10 levels and oohed and arghhed over the reliefs carved into the
rocks.  When we made it to the bottom we stood back and once again appreciated the incredible achievement of the men who built this place.  Our feeling of peace and tranquillity was not long lived and was quickly shattered as we made our way down the exit path.  We were swarmed by men selling all manner of trinkets and souvenirs.  When I say swarmed I mean it, they circled us and moved in thrusting postcards, statues and all manner of things at us.  At the pleading of Princess Pants we parted with way too much rupiah and left with postcards, batik painted cards, books and a stone temple.  I am sure the totes were laughing at my terrible bartering skills, as I handed over their asking price rather than battle
with them for a discount.  Perhaps it was the calmness that I felt from that moment at the temple or the fact that I was hungry for breakfast but I didn’t care and wished them a good day of sales before heading back to find our driver. 
I will never forget that moment on top of Borobudur and am glad that Princess Pants got to experience it also.  The crazy instabilities of this world and the busy chaos of Yogyakarta were left far from our minds as we glimpsed a truly magical moment.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Sometimes getting out of the jungle is essential.  Apart from encounters with the wild life things are pretty much usually the same day in and day out here.  When hubby announced he must go to Jakarta for work I decided to take Princess Pants on an adventure.  We arrived in Yogyakarta which is often spelled and said in different ways such as Jogjakarta, Yogya, or Jogja for short.  
I would like to say the 45 minute flight from Jakarta was enjoyable but alas it wasn’t.  Somehow as we approached the airport we hit the wake of a training air force jet.  Hitting the wake of another plane creates a rather loud bang and causes a sudden jolt of the plane.  Princess Pants and an elderly woman next to me (along with many others) freaked out. 
As much as I felt panicked I managed to calm both of them down as we did appear to still be flying normally.  The pilot came on and announced the cause (jet wake) and that the air force jets were using the air space and that we needed to go in to a holding pattern.  After an hour of flying in a holding pattern two questions were in my head – “how the hell were we so close to another plane that we crossed its wake and who was in the wrong place – us or the training pilots?  I half expected to see a jet cruise past the wing of our plane.   I had no answers to those questions and when we landed I breathed a sigh of relief.  We had made it safely to Yogyakarta.

Yogyakarta is located in the middle of Java Island, still in Indonesia but a different island to where we call home.  To say I loved it the moment we landed would be a lie, it has the same hot, humid air that feels suffocating when mixed with the dust and fumes of the city.  Walking into the Novotel and feeling the air con was fantastic, sipping a cocktail by the pool was even better.  At the pleading of Princess Pants we left the comforts of the pool and went exploring for the evening.  The sights and sounds of Yogyakarta overwhelmed us as we stepped outside the hotel doors.  We grabbed a taxi and did what I always do when travelling alone, find some interesting little place to eat and watch the world go by. 

As we roamed the city, I had somehow forgotten that I had nine year old Princess Pants with me. Princess Pants grabbed my hand and informed me she didn’t feel so safe wandering the darkened streets.  After a brief conversation she explained that she was worried that if something happened to us, daddy wouldn’t be there to save us.  Hmmmm – I pulled on my super mummy face and promised her I would kick anyone’s arse that gave us trouble.  She laughed, probably like you are but my bravado seemed to do the trick.  This conversation did make me realise that I was no longer a 20 year old back packer able to travel to dodgy cafes and wander dark streets as the desire took me.  I was now a responsible mummy and needed to ensure that Princess Pants felt safe. 

I ditched the dodgy cafe and we headed to a very clean and respectable restaurant, I could see Princess Pants felt a lot happier.  After an amazing sate ayam and Corona (Sprite for Princess Pants) we headed back to the hotel to prepare for our early morning adventure to Borobudur Temple, getting up at 3am was not going to be fun.

Monday, August 12, 2013


I would like to introduce you to a few of my close neighbours here in Sangatta.  They keep to themselves and are never intrusive.  They are some of the best neighbours I’ve ever had (apart from the Mendi Drive crew).  They don’t join me for vodka’s in the afternoon but that’s okay, I am happy to sit on my veranda and watch them go about their business.  The mum’s are pretty protective and make a noise similar to blowing a raspberry when they are cranky with our presence.  We have watched them build nests (which they sleep in for only one night), destroy Jackfruit with one bite, and care for their babies in much the same way any parent would. 
Princess Pants and I had a particularly close encounter with these neighbours one afternoon.  This specific afternoon we had watched the mother and baby feed in the Jackfruit tree at the end of the drive, as she sat atop the tree munching her way through some fruit I decided it was time to head inside. Princess Pants and I began to head down the drive and at that same moment the mum decided to climb down from her tree.  As we stood about a metre a way from each other I felt panic rise in me, she was all muscle and I’m imagining pretty fast when she wanted to be.  She was a big mamma and was only a bit shorter than me when she stood up.  I pushed Princess Pants behind me (to protect her I guess) and when I looked up I was surprised to see the mamma orang-utan doing the same thing to her baby.  There was a moment of eye contact before we both backed away, me down the drive and her back to the jungle.  I guess no matter what the species a mum will protect her baby if she senses danger. 

We are very lucky to be able to experience the awesomeness of having orang-utans so close to us.  We look forward to hearing the cracking of branches which signals the afternoon arrival of our neighbours and enjoy watching them as they watch us.  These experiences are priceless and won’t soon be forgotten by Princess Pants or I, life in Sangatta has its perks.