An Anniversary Already!

I seem to have a long queue of unpublished blog posts lined up in my drafts folder at various stages of completion. There’s one about monkeys. There’s a lengthy and potentially entertaining post about having a pembantu (maid) in progress. There’s one that begins to address the dreaded question ‘What do you do all day?’. There’s another one about our last trip back to the various places we call ‘home’ in Australia. Random words, half finished sentences and poorly formed paragraphs. I intend to get onto it and start hitting ‘publish’ on some of these posts, but for now I’m just going to start somewhere. It’s not at the beginning, and as much as that irritates the perfectionist within, I know that if I don’t make some sort of start, updating this blog will become less and less of a priority.  IMG_7112 Since we returned from Christmas holidays in Australia back to to life in Sumbawa, we’ve been busy catching up with everyone here, and settling back in for another year on ‘The Rock’. That’s right, it’s already been a year! Yesterday our ID badges officially expired and that means it’s exactly 12 months since we first arrived with our lives squashed into the suitcases we towed behind us, and checked in for this adventure. We’ve been to meet with Mr Immigrations down at the port today, to get our fingerprinting re-done, (you know – just incase our fingerprints have changed in the last year), and we’ve handed in our passports for processing again. I’m expecting a lot of knocks on the door in the coming days as my house is inundated by people checking the fire alarms, air conditioners, electrical appliances and whatever else a testing tag can be found on. IMG_7084 This time last year, everything was so different. Actually, when I really think about it – it wasn’t that everything was so different – it just felt so different. It was all new, foreign, uncomfortable, and often awkward. There are still plenty of awkward moments, but we’ve relaxed into our lives here a lot. Malaria is no longer the only thing on my mind when I step outside after dark. I now accept that the filtered water in our house really is for drinking. The monkeys still intimidate me, but I’ve learned that it’s quite acceptable to carry around a handful of rocks, a stick or even a taser, to fend off any aggressive advances. The language barrier isn’t quite as impossible. Just this morning we had a full phone conversation in Indonesian. It wasn’t about the inner workings of a cochlear implant or anything, and I still got some numbers severely mixed up, but it’s coming together.  IMG_7072 We’ve met some amazing people. Perhaps the most valuable addition to my life here in the jungle, has been the friendships I’ve made with the other women who’ve also had to adapt to this lifestyle. We share the same struggles and frustrations. We don’t ask each other what we do all day, because we get it. We understand that not being able to duck down to a supermarket means that so many hours of our days are spent in the kitchen. We talk about food a lot. It’s happening right now. As I write, coconut chicken curries are being discussed in a group Facebook chat window in the background. We all get excited about fresh herbs. Or fresh anything in general really. We have an alert system should there suddenly be fresh broccoli discovered close by. We workout together, we swap stories, we share our resources and we laugh at ourselves. This support network makes life here much more liveable. IMG_7090 It’s been a huge year of new challenges, adventures, and experiences. It has expanded our hearts and given us a fresh perspective. There have been tsunami sirens, geckos, monkeys, reptiles, numerous calls to prayer, sunsets, goats, donkeys, dogs, jungle treks, snake encounters, rain, rice paddies, underwater adventures, golf games and handstands. There were airports, travel days, nervous luggage check-ins, lost bags, language barriers, scenic flights, traffic chaos, near misses, and no-shows. The spectrum of emotions experienced here has been wider than ever before, ranging from heart pounding highs to the lowest of lows and everything in between. There have been colours woven into our lives that only these kind of experiences can weave. I’ve loved it and hated it, all at the same time. Without a doubt though, I’ve had the best year of my life and I’m looking forward to round two!


Home {And why I’m not sure where that is}.

Sometimes I feel like I never want to leave this place. Then there’s a three day power outage (complete with all associated challenges), and stopping myself from packing a bag and leaving immediately becomes a very real struggle.  After three long, hot, hungry days minus an electricity supply last week, I was ready to board a fishing boat and paddle my way out of here, in search of some form of civilisation. The other option was to light a campfire to cook on in the middle of the living room, but the already excessive and unbearable heat in the jungalow living quarters was a sufficient deterrent.

In my last post I indicated that I had some meaningful thoughts to share about this jungle island we’ve called home for the last year. I did, I do – but the challenges of the last week have meant that some of the more positive feelings I had about being here have temporarily gone into hiding and the words I initially intended to write just aren’t flowing. Tomorrow we’re (hopefully) catching the seaplane out of here, to begin the multiple-legged journey back to Australia for Christmas. I should be packing and preparing this jungalow for our departure, but I’m distracted. I’ve been thinking about home. Sometimes I’m not sure where or what ‘home’ is anymore. Occasionally, during the course of conversation, one of us will refer to home, and the other has to enquire as to the location of the home they’re referring to. Photo 17-12-2014 10 11 24 pm  In 24 hours we’re leaving one place that we’ve come to call home, to fly across the ocean and then take a roadtrip to the first place I knew of as ‘home’. At the end of our long and potentially tiresome journey will be the welcoming embrace of the little farm where I grew up and all of the things that are so familiar to me. This is the place where I know every bump in the driveway. I know which tree gives the best views, and I know every good hiding spot. I know where you might find my name or my changing height measurements lightly penciled on the wall. Not a single metre of this property has been left unexplored. It’s peaceful and beautiful, a safe haven and so familiar. Without a doubt, it’s home.

The things is though, this little farm that I know so well is under contract. Soon it will belong to someone else. I may have just one week left to revisit all of the places that trigger special memories. It won’t be long before all the physical reminders of a childhood spent climbing trees, building rafts, and creating adventures in our backyard will be no longer mine to visit. One last chance to stand in the place where I married my best friend.  One last chance to absorb the sites, sounds and smells that are so familiar, in an attempt to keep them in my memory forever.

Knowing that I may well be driving out of that driveway for the very last time in just a couple of weeks is an unbearable thought. Yet, I understand that it must be. Just a year ago we were packing up our own lives, putting our possessions into boxes and preparing to drive away from another place we’d come to call home. Driving away from our Buddy dog, and so many special friends. Always driving away.

I feel like I’m leaving pieces of my heart in a lot of places. home In the past year, I’ve learned a lot about embracing changes. Big changes. Not to be afraid of it. Moving on. Starting new chapters. Letting go. I know there is another big change coming, but if I’m really honest, I don’t feel like I’ve learned enough to know how to navigate this particular change. It’s been coming for a while, but I still feel unprepared for it. I know it’s going to mean I’m confronted with a whole lot of feelings that I don’t particularly look forward to feeling. But change is necessary. It’s a part of life. I’ll be doing my best to breathe through it, roll with it, ride it out, let it go – whatever it takes! See you out the other side!

Sumbawa to Milwaukee, and The 5 Year Old That Travels With Us

As you may have seen or heard, we recently returned from a trip to the US that we were somewhat underprepared for.  It was a work trip for Bazil, over to his head office in Milwaukee where a training conference was taking place. He’s been there a couple of times before on his own, but this time I thought I’d tag along with him, mostly in the hope of bringing back some groceries for the jungalow kitchen! As I explained in my last post, when you live on a remote, developing island – you just don’t turn down any opportunity to visit civilisation. One downside to this particular opportunity though, was that it meant swapping these balmy tropical sea breezes for the frosty subzero temperatures of the northern hemisphere.. wearing only light cotton clothing. IMG_1246 See, here in the jungle there is no requirement for winter clothing of any sort. The only time we experience ‘cold’ here, is when we come in to the air-conditioning from outside with completely sweat saturated clothing. Any warmer layers I did have here originally, were worn back to Australia earlier in the year and left there. Before we left for our arctic adventure to the US, many people here went digging around in the bottom of their just-as-equally-bare winter wardrobes in an attempt to assist us. I borrowed a light cardigan, a size 18 knitted shirt to wear as a dress, and a few other bits and pieces. Before we boarded our plane in Bali, I also managed to find myself a full length pair of yoga pants, some closed in shoes and a piece of fabric to wear as a scarf. IMG_1168 Unfortunately, our best improvisations just weren’t enough. When we stepped outside at Chicago airport, the sudden blast of cold right through to my skin made my sleep deprived mind conclude that I must have inadvertently left every thread of my clothing back in customs. While we sat in a bus shelter looking like a pair of boneheads who had neglected to google the temperature of their holiday destination and pack accordingly, we concluded that an urgent trip to the shops was a necessity. (Note: This may well be the first time Bazil has willingly agreed to enter a clothing store. That’s how cold it was.)

I like travelling, but I really don’t enjoy that actual travelling part. Let me explain. I love exploring places I haven’t been to before. There is nothing quite like the feeling of arriving at a new destination, and feeling that initial assault on your senses as you’re suddenly immersed in the sites, sounds and smells of a foreign place. What I find less than enjoyable is what I refer to as ‘travel days’. Days spent sitting in a seat in the sky, surround by people who, due to a change of air pressure have a digestive system full of noxious gas that will ultimately need to be released. People who think the confined space of economy class is the perfect place to remove their stench containing shoes. Plane toilets. (Shudder). Bumps in the sky that apparently result in questionable puddles all over the floor of plane toilets. Those sock wearers that drag their smelly socks through said puddles, over the top of your feet and any belongings that might be on the floor, and back to their seats. IMG_1364 I don’t usually find sleeping an option, and I get bored with movies. There is something about travel days that bring out the 5 year old inside me. I try to keep myself entertained, fed and out of harms way, but if the flight is a long one, I can get annoying.

I am that person that opens the window shade a fraction every few minutes, flooding the dark cabin with that dazzling bright sunlight in an attempt to cross reference the scenery down below with the geographical information provided on the in-flight maps. I like to share any points of particular interest to my headphone wearing husband, knowing that my discovery will not interest him in the least, and that he’ll be forced to pause his movie, remove the head phones and pretend to find the fact that we’re flying over another frozen river in the middle of Frozen Riversville interesting.

Towards the end of a multiple-leg journey across the skies, I always find myself in a brain fog that leaves me with just one semi-intelligible thought. Must find bed. By the time we finally made our way from Sumbawa to Milwaukee and arrived in a room with a bed, my mind (and body) was so numb that I failed to register that actually getting into the bed would have been more conducive to a restful night’s sleep. See? Annoying.  Untitled-1-copy-3 While the dropping temperature (and the fact that Bazil was at work most days) was a little restricting on our itinerary, there were many highlights and memorable moments. Driving ourselves around was an adventure in itself. Bazil had the wheel, but I can assure you I was driving very vocally from the passenger seat. This is not behaviour I normally feel the need to engage in, but when hurtling down the ‘wrong’ side of the highway in the ‘wrong’ side of the car, I felt it necessary to share constant reminders that we should most definitely ‘keep right, keep right, keep right’.. IMG_1188 During our travels we went and saw The Lion King at Milwaukee Theatre, we attended a game of ice hockey, and we managed to get some tickets to the much anticipated college football game featuring Wisconsin Badgers vs Nebraska Cornhuskers. The crowd of people in this stadium, and their enthusiasm for this game that I knew nothing about was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. The cold we felt on this afternoon, was also unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Sitting in the front row of an open stadium with snow piling up on top of me, sipping from a water bottle that was full of glasslike shards of ice, was a whole new level of complete and utter torturous discomfort. IMG_2371-copy Anyway enough about the cold. I could go on about our travels, but the things I’ve been wanting to share on this blog the most, aren’t about our trip to the US at all.  This blog post has been sitting here kind of blocking my flow for weeks. What I really want to write about is the contrast between life in Sumbawa and life on the other side of the world, and I’m not talking about the difference in temperature. I have a lot of words swirling around in my heart at the moment, sentences that haven’t quite taken form yet. I’ve been trying to capture them and put them down on paper for some time, but I am starting to wonder whether the things I feel here on this island are simply things that just can’t be put into words, they must be felt.

A Confession

I have a confession. This time last week I was over in Bali with a few other jungle island inhabitants on a purely indulgent getaway that involved shopping, eating and shopping some more. I was just going to sneak over there and back without mentioning anything, incase anyone felt the need to point out the fact that it has only been a few weeks since I was last wandering around the streets of Bali. Allow me to explain.

You see, here at West Sumbawa, us girls find that our avenues for participating in any sort of retail therapy (one of the most basic female needs), are extremely limited. Life here is primitive, and if you were to set foot on this island you would understand immediately why even the idea of a shopping mall is laughable. There is no postman either, and while I have found ways to have the occasional parcel sent our way – it’s complicated and time consuming. Additionally, I’ve found that there are more parcels lost in transit than those that do eventually turn up somewhere within a 10km radius of their intended address. IMG_6033 Of course, there are never a shortage of situations in which you might find yourself buying something here at Sumbawa. Often, you will find rupiah being surreptitiously pried from your white “bule” (foreign) hands regardless of whether you were intending to make a transaction or not. It might simply be a fee for having your bags carried, your car washed or for a guided tour you didn’t know you were on. Maybe you’ve inadvertently sent someone scurrying up a palm tree after you expressed your interest in sipping from a fresh, young coconut. Or it could be that you’re forced to buy back your golf balls from a budding entrepreneur who has spent the last hour indiscreetly following you around the golf course on a motorbike, retrieving your wayward balls from places you’re unwilling to enter.

 While these types of encounters are frequent, in my opinion, they do not offer the same satisfaction as a day spent wandering from shop to shop, swiping that little plastic card on your own terms. There is also the added bonus of returning home with more than a few muddy golf balls and a coconut. This is why, when an opportunity presents itself to swap this isolation and shop deprivation for civilisation, and a chance to stock up on supplies – you just don’t turn it down. IMG_0925 (1) For anyone thinking that being able to duck across to Bali at short notice sounds ideal, let me just clarify, it wasn’t all fun. My travelling companions included three small children. Now I know that some people are inclined to put small children in the ‘fun’ category, but as you might have already deduced by the absence of children in my life – I am not one of those people. In fact, spending a few days with three of these dependent little beings may have sent my ovaries into further hiding, unwilling to be involved in the bringing of one of these beings into existence.

There were in-taxi nappy changes that I feel sure would have restored an anosmiac’s sense of smell. Then there was those tiny bladders that brought me to the realisation that instead of going from shop to shop as planned, we were in fact spending our days going from toilet to toilet. There were in-restaurant meltdowns that had me wondering whether disappearing under the tablecloth would be an appropriate course of action. I believe I uttered the phrase ‘hold my hand’ more times in those three days of shopping than I have in all the years I’ve had a man in my life.

The excruciatingly slow pace at which we were able to tick things off of our shopping list meant that every night, we found ourselves each carrying a child who was as responsive (and as heavy) as a sack full of potatoes through the crowded streets of Seminyak. We received many accusing stares from strangers, so obviously mistaking us for irresponsible nightlife lovers who were incapable of organising a babysitter. Unable to explain in an equally expressive glance that we were in fact shop deprived island inhabitants who had just spent the day navigating Bali with three children in tow in an effort to ensure a future supply of bin liners, nappies and ziplock bags, we had no option but to avoid all eye contact. IMG_0960 It turns out that when it comes to sustaining liveable conditions on a remote island, your priorities change. When I’m shopping now, I no longer fill my suitcase with clothes and shoes as I would have in the days before our relocation to a remote island. I now find that a greater percentage of the contents of my jungle bound baggage is edible. Even in the minutes before we were supposed to get into the taxi back to the airport, I found myself run-walking down the deserted streets of Seminyak at 7am in search of some lettuce, a head of broccoli and a fresh loaf of bread. A little further along our return journey, in Lombok – I added a bunch of parsley to my handbag, along with a cold water bottle to keep it fresh. Let’s just say I’m now accustomed to strange looks as my bags pass through x-ray machines during my travels.

 Unfortunately the seaplane was unavailable for our return journey to the jungle, so we spent a whole day travelling by taxi, plane, van, ferry and car with three children who evidently weren’t at all impressed with the travel arrangements. While I’m sure some passengers were relieved to step off of the heaving ferry onto dry land at the end of the day, I was more elated by the realisation that I wasn’t required to take any small human beings home with me. My feelings of relief were so deep that even when we were pulled over by the local traffic authority on the final leg of the journey and my husband kindly informed them that I was an illegal immigrant, I was unmoved.  IMG_0969 Perhaps the most valuable thing I acquired during my Bali break was the information that there is in fact a way around the 10kg seaplane luggage limit. The girls introduced me to a driver, and a courier/freight company that work together to deliver goods of any description from Bali right to our door here at Sumbawa. I thought that was worth sharing even though it effectively means that the very name of my blog is now somewhat invalid. I feel sure that should we have any luggage problems in the future, we will be taking full advantage of this service!

Back to the Bungalow.. er Jungalow

As you know, last week we made the journey back to our little bungalow in the jungle, aka the jungalow. I had capitalised on our stay in Australia by stocking up on all kinds of remote island living necessitates, so we did have some concerns as to how we were going to navigate all of our excess baggage around the 10kg luggage limit on the seaplane leg of our journey. Turns out we had nothing to worry about. Once we’d made an initial (inconvenient and somewhat embarrassing) reshuffling of our luggage in the middle of the floor in Brisbane International Airport, there were no further problems. Straight through security, customs, an uneventful flight and straight through customs at the other end.

As we are now considered temporary residents of Indonesia, we were able to skip the huge ‘foreigner’ queue at customs and walk straight to the ‘national’ desk with our special visas, where there was no line up at all. We were conscious of hundreds of eyes watching us from the other queue that snaked across the room, and we were sure that everyone was waiting for us to realise our ‘mistake’ and have turn around with red faces and go to the back of the line. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t have some of our own concerns about this scenario unfolding, and we breathed a sigh of relief as – to everyone else’s envy, our passports were stamped and approved. Phew.

We had an overnight stop in Bali where we even managed to squeeze a few greens into our luggage, keeping them fresh in the mini-bar fridge overnight. The next morning we returned to the airport – this time to the newly opened domestic terminal where we were the only 2 passengers to board a seaplane to Lombok. Our stopover in Lombok was brief, and we were able to stay on the plane while a few nationals boarded. Unlike us, they had each complied with the 10kg luggage restriction, and thankfully the extra zero that turned our 10kg of luggage into 100kg on the manifest didn’t raise any further questions. Untitled-5 From the air, I saw that a noticeable change had taken place since I had last flown over some of these more remote islands back in June. It’s the dry season here now, and while I knew this – I was shocked at just how much the scenery viewed from above has changed. It’s soooo dry. What was once a lush green carpet of rice has been transformed by the lack of rain and gusty seasonal winds into a bare and brown landscape. IMG_0451 The air was hazy, full of smoke from land and forest fires, and when we arrived back on land, I saw that there was a layer of ash/dust covering everything. Back at the jungalow, I suffered an immediate and intense bout of hay fever that made me want to scratch my eyes out. One of my eyes swelled up horrifically, and I spent the rest of the day and part of the following wearing sunglasses both indoors and outdoors to avoid any untoward speculation as to the cause of my puffy, swollen eye.  THEN-NOW-1 The wind has turned some of the more unprotected parts of the coastline into a sandblasting facility, stripping trees bare and leaving the landscape looking naked. The beach is covered with shells and coral brought to the shore by the wind-influenced currents. The dry heat has sucked all of the colour and chlorophyll out of what was once a dense, green, luscious jungle. Even the hibiscuses outside my kitchen window have disappeared – evidently taken by moisture seeking monkeys. IMG_0596 I’ve received mixed predictions as to when we can expect the skies to open and bring an end to the dry season. While I’m not exactly looking forward to getting caught up in those unpredictable monsoonal downpours again, I hope they come sooner rather than later so that this tropical paradise can burst into life again.

10 Kilograms ++

After a long awkward pause and months of living in limbo, we’re about to hit ‘play’ on our overseas adventure once again, and return back to our jungle island life. We’re off to the airport in the morning, where the logistically challenging journey back to Sumbawa with way too much luggage in tow will begin. We have received information in advance that the little supply shop near our jungalow (which usually caters for our basic food and grocery needs), is in fact rather short on supplies. We’ve heard that even those handy little rolls of 2 ply paper that our Westernised backsides are very much accustomed to, are out of stock. The knowledge that we may be forced to reluctantly explore the functionality of the bidet shower (which currently dangles unused beside our toilet), hasn’t quite been enough to motivate us to stuff our pockets with toilet paper. It does however beg the question – if the shop is out of toilet paper, (one of the more basic necessities) then what else might we find noticeably absent? It is this question that has resulted in a little ‘just incase buying’ and has subsequently caused some complications in the bag packing department. IMG_5739 If you were to visit a tropical island – as you might imagine, the contents of your suitcase would probably include things like a bikini, a kaftan, a sunhat, a pair of sunglasses, some sunscreen, maybe a good book and a beach towel. You probably wouldn’t feel the need to pack a yoghurt maker, polymer clay, cockroach bait, a glue gun, scented candles, coconut oil, blue tack, chia seeds, tomato paste, kale powder, tea bags or brazil nuts. Furthermore, if you knew you were flying part of your journey on a seaplane with a 10kg luggage limit, making a last minute purchase of a drill, circular saw, and jigsaw, (not the cardboard puzzle kind of jigsaw either) would probably not be something that would be high on your priorities.  IMG_2182-copy While getting ourselves and all of our (my) baggage to and through the airport tomorrow will be somewhat challenging, our international flight doesn’t pose a problem as we should be just within our luggage limits. It’s the seaplane leg of our journey on which we may find ourselves involuntarily parted with quite a few kilograms of belongings. I’m hopeful that we can find a way back to the jungalow with our random assortment of ‘necessities’ in tow!

Besides being a little apprehensive about the challenges surrounding our travel arrangements and the 10kg luggage limit, we also have some concerns centred around what exactly we might find when we open the door to our jungalow should we eventually arrive. It’s been a while since our departure from Sumbawa, and the biggest question mark is currently sitting over the fridge and whether it has remained fully functional during our absence. I will be relieved if upon our arrival, we aren’t greeted by any offensive odours when we step inside. I’ll be further relived if there are no squatters – in the form of locals, monkeys, geckos, pythons, mouse-sized cockroaches or any other creature that might have emerged from the bordering jungle and taken up semi permanent residence in the jungalow. Watch this space!

A Backyard Exploration and an Explanation

Last week we went road tripping our way around some of our own backyard – Queensland. We headed northwest into some of the more remote parts of the country where the scenery is somewhat repetitive (dirt, tree, cactus, crow, dirt), and the distance between our points of interest was far enough that calculating whether the fuel level was going to be sufficient to get us to the next fuel station became a necessity. The dusty scenery, the occasional echidna or emu sighting, and the remains of kangaroos and wallabies lying lifeless at frequent intervals along the road were a constant reminder that we were very much in Australia. IMG_5695 We mapped our journey out in such a way that our travels connected the dots between the dwellings of friends and family, and catching up with everyone was made all the more enjoyable with a little motorbike riding, a caravan campout, marshmallows and tea beside a campfire, and perhaps most memorable of all – a morning jog around a farm that resulted in us both being chased by a heard of territorial cows. As we made our way back to the coast later in the week, there were some beach adventures, a little rock climbing, the odd cliff exploration, and a spot of fishing that didn’t result in the catching of any fish. In fact, all I managed to catch myself was a cold which unfortunately resulted in me spending the last days of our journey in bed. IMG_9842 Along the way there were a lot of laughs and many good conversations with old friends. We were entertained as we came to realise that everyone we met up with seemed to have a different understanding of the whole ‘why we’re here and whether we’re going back to Indonesia’ situation. It become increasingly evident that an explanatory blog post was well overdue. We’re not sure where some of the stories we heard originated from, but just to be clear – no, we weren’t chased out of the jungle by machete, there were no rifles pointed at us, Bazil isn’t jobless, and we’re technically not even homeless. And no, we can’t calculate by percentage the likelihood of our return to Indonesia – not now, probably not in the next month or anytime soon. We just don’t know if, or when we’ll be returning. IMG_5580 So here’s the deal in a nutshell. There’s a huge (and rather inconvenient) political debacle taking place currently between the Indonesian government and the mining company Bazil works for. The government has placed an export ban on the mine, which means the mine has been unable to export their product (copper concentrate) since January. At the start of June all storage facilities became full and the mine was forced to stop production indefinitely. If you want to know the latest news, you can find more details here.

All local employees (thousands of them) were sent home on minimum pay, and expats have been reposted to various positions around the world until such time as the situation is resolved (fingers crossed), and we can all return to the jungle. Bazil took a month of annual leave and returned to Australia when he was no longer required onsite. That month has just finished and yesterday he resumed work back in his Hunter Valley office. I’ll join him down there next week, and we’ll carry on just as we have been until we are given further instructions. IMG_5635 We still have the keys to our little jungalow at Sumbawa, and we’re hopeful that some sort of solution is reached and we can return, but it’s not looking like that will happen in a hurry. We’re in limbo, and we’re ok with that. For now, we’re just enjoying some of the conveniences Australia has to offer – conversations where translation isn’t required, an existence that doesn’t require a protective layer of insect repellent mixed with tropical strength sunscreen applied to any area of exposed skin, and hassle free purchases that don’t involve a lengthy and awkward haggle over a few rupiah.

The West Sumbawa Edition of “What I Miss About Wifey!”

This morning I woke up beside my man for the first time in almost 6 weeks. To my surprise, (and confusion) he began murmur in a strangely songlike manner what sounded like a groggy rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’. On the last line, I had the delayed realisation that he was actually serenading me, and that it was in fact my birthday today! In the past weeks I’ve pushed the fact that my birthday has been approaching to the back of my mind, not wanting to feel the ultimate disappointment today should Bazil not have made it back to Australia yesterday. But he made it in the end, and while his presence was the best present I could have received, there was also this: 
Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 9.54.37 am Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 9.54.58 am Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 9.58.53 am Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 9.59.04 am Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 9.59.15 am Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 9.59.33 am Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 9.59.42 am Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 9.59.56 am Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 10.00.07 am Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 10.00.26 am Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 10.00.48 am This thoughtful little compilation so carefully put together made my day. Bazil is very much dominant in using the left, more logical side of his brain. Creativity is not one of his strong points, and knowing that a lot of time and effort would have gone into bringing this gift into existence makes it even more special. I had to laugh as I noted that many of the points Bazil listed as things he missed about me, are the things he always complains most about when we’re together. I’m glad I now have documented evidence that he does in fact support my beach treasure hunting endeavours. I’m sure this will be useful information at some point in the future. :)


Storytime and Stupid Questions

In the jungle, I’d often think about our first return trip to Australia. I’d imagine all of the great stories we’d have to tell, and how much fun we’d have sharing our experiences. As you already know, I made an unexpected trip back to Australia on my own just over a month ago.  I didn’t plan to be here in Australia again so soon, and I didn’t think for a minute that I’d be back on my own. I always assumed that Bazil would be here beside me on our first visit back, and that we’d be telling our story together. In his absence, I know I’ve disappointed many people with my apparent lack of story telling enthusiasm. Storytime is just not the same without him.

In the last month, due to the passing of a dear uncle, there have been more people gathered around the table here on the farm over a meal, or a cup of tea than I would have thought possible. The table has been extended on many occasions, and even the boundaries of the dining room have been extended far into the neighbouring lounge room to accommodate the extra visitors. I’ve seen many people – friends and family, that I haven’t seen for years. There has been a lot of catching up, and not surprisingly I’ve found myself answering a lot of questions. Repetetively. The truth is, I’ve been getting asked the same handful of questions over and over again. IMG_5238 Answering the same questions day after day (and often numerous times within the same day) quickly became tiring. My answers became shorter and more vague each day, and eventually I found myself avoiding the social setting at the table as much as I could. I’d retreat to the kitchen where I’d attempt to appear far too busy for chit chat, with my head buried in a recipe or my hands occupied in a frenzy of frantic chopping, whisking or stirring. There has been no winning for anyone who’s tried to start a conversation with me lately, as I just haven’t felt like talking about it. Any of it. The fact that I’m here on my own. The difficult month it’s been for my family. The situation at the mine in Sumbawa. The Indonesian government. Politics. Whether we’re going back to Indonesia or not. Indonesia in general.

I’ve also been surprised at just how defensive I’ve been feeling of the tropical island we’ve been calling ‘home’.  In the minds of many, Indonesia = Bali, and Bali = Indonesia. Period.  I’ve been frustrated at people assuming they know exactly what every part of ‘Indonesia’ is like either by what they’ve seen/read in the news, or from an unimaginative holiday they’ve taken in Bali.  It goes something like this “Oh, you live in Indonesia do you?” Well when we were in Bali…” and at that point I feel like cupping my hand over their mouth and interjecting with “We don’t live in Bali, we live nowhere near Bali. Sumbawa is a remote island – many parts of it are completely untouched by tourism. You can’t compare the two, you can’t assume you know what it’s like, you don’t understand at all and you shouldn’t draw conclusions about where we’re living by the little you know.” IMG_5232 Which island did you say it was? Sambowa? Soombaya? Sarmbala?
What I most likely said: “It’s Sumbawa, just to the east of Lombok.”

What I most likely wanted to say: (In an exaggeratedly slow manner) “S-U-M-B-A-W-A.”

What’s it been like over there?
What I most likely said:  “It’s been really good.”

What I most likely wanted to say: “One moment while I just condense 6 months of life changing experiences into a sentence that will stop you asking me further uninspired questions.”

Are you glad to be out of there?
What I most likely said: “Yeah, it’s good to be home.”

What I most likely wanted to say: “It’s not like I was escaping a burning building. For a start, you may have noticed that my husband isn’t here. I had to leave him behind, along with the perfect summer weather we were having, that gorgeous aqua water and all of my possessions bar 10kg of luggage.”

Are you missing Barry?
What I most likely said: “No, not at all. Just kidding. it wasn’t an easy goodbye and given a choice, we wouldn’t be apart right now.”

What I most likely wanted to say:  “If you don’t want a sarcastic answer, then don’t ask a stupid question.”

Are you enjoying your time here?
What I most likely said: “Yes, it’s been good.”

What I most likely wanted to say: “Well as you know, it’s been all about the palliative care and recently the funeral of my uncle – so I would hardly call it ‘enjoyable’. Thanks for asking.”

How was it living in the Middle East with the Arabs? Saudi Arabia isn’t it?
What I said: “Sorry, what did you say?”

What I really wanted to say: “Arabs?”  “Middle East?” “Saudi Arabia?”
“Either you are hard of hearing or geography really isn’t your strong point.” IMG_5181-copy-3 I’ve been really grateful to the people I’ve caught up with who have been taking the time to read our blog since the beginning. To anyone who has been following our journey as it’s unfolded, there have been no explanations needed and these encounters have been most enjoyable! Right now as I write this post, Bazil is at Bali International Airport waiting to get on a plane back to Australia. Finally! In less than 12 hours we will be together again, and I will be sure to ease him back into civilisation gradually with some of my best erratic driving, a bit of broken English, a meat pie and maybe a jumper!

A Sudden Departure

With tears welling in my eyes, today I said an unplanned goodbye to this ruggedly beautiful place that I’ve come to call ‘home’. Indefinitely. I also waved goodbye to my man, and as the seaplane bumped out of the harbour with only one of us onboard, the tears broke free from their safe confines behind my sunglasses and ran down my cheeks. I turned my head towards the window of the seaplane, and tried to pull myself together. So many mixed emotions. I’ve been looking forward to a trip back to Australia for weeks. Months even. We were planning to make one in July, it was supposed to be exciting – catching up with friends and family, and being reunited with our Buddy dog.

Unfortunately though, it’s very sad news from home that has brought about my sudden and unexpected departure from the jungle. I don’t have many words. It’s actually just over 24 hours since I booked my flights, and even if there was something to be excited about, I haven’t had time to build up any sort of anticipation whatsoever. So here I am right now, sitting at Bali International airport, waiting to check-in to my overnight flight back to Australia. The seaplane arrived here over 8 hours before my next flight, and now that I’ve had a moment to catch my breath, (and have many hours of similar moments to pass before my midnight flight), I thought I’d post a quick update. That’s about all I’ve got though, see you out the other side!