Jen has left the building

This week has been a week of lasts for me. Fortunately in this case the lasts also mean a new beginning as I finished up my job this week to start a new one in a week’s time. UPDATE: It’s now a week later and I seriously thought I’d published this post!

Yesterday was an unseasonably warm winter’s day and I enjoyed my last walk with my colleague around the River Torrens. I took my mobile phone with me to capture some images because the trees look glorious in their winter bareness and with the sun shining on their naked branches, well I just wanted to remember that.

Near River Torrens

I’m moving to work on the other side of the city so this part of the river won’t be as accessible to me.

River Torrens

I’ll really miss this walk. It’s a good chance to get out of the office, get some exercise and get back to work feeling renewed and refreshed.

It’s also baby swan season. I don’t know how a baby swan could ever have been mistaken for an ugly duckling.

Baby swan

I start my new job tomorrow and while I’m kinda nervous I’m really excited too. I have been busy in the last week and stories about that are to come.

Bali – the shopping

Dreamland Beach shopping

Before I went to Bali I didn’t envisage myself being an avid shopper and while I didn’t go over the top, I did indulge. After all, old habits die hard. The first shopping expedition I went on I didn’t buy ONE thing for myself. I got some clothes for my son and a couple of t-shirts for The Surfer upon his request as he’d not taken many clothes with him and he was watching the children.

As we were staying near Kuta we went to the Discovery shopping centre opposite Waterbom Park and they had sales on in a department store and on my mental shopping list were summer clothes for JJ as I know that he hasn’t got many things that will fit him for our next summer. Consequently I hadn’t brought many clothes over for him so it was a case of having to buy stuff for him. I got a couple of pairs of shorts and a couple of t-shirts for the equivalent of about $10 Australian each and as they were good quality clothes I was pretty happy with that.

While on the department store tangent I ended up buying three pairs of bras in another place. Bra shopping there compared to here is quite different. For a start, they have absolutely loads of stock and they have loads of stock that was on special. As I like buying things on special here the choice of stock is nearly always limited and my size in bras just isn’t around. The other thing was that there were people to help dig out the correct size for me, they didn’t fit me, but at least I had lots of things to try on. So I have three brand spanking new pairs of bras and let me tell you that trying things on in a warm dressing room when you’re a bit sweaty is hard work.

I didn’t bother with trying to buy other clothes because of the sizes. I’m an average sized Australian woman, about a 12-16 depending on what the item or brand is, and Balinese women are a lot more petite so clothes are catered more for them. And really, I have a pile of skirts and tops in my wardrobes and drawers at home – do I really need more?

It took me a couple of days to even contemplate doing the haggling thing. I’ve done it before in Israel and India but that was a long time ago so I had to build up mentally for it. I had a massage on the beach one day and in addition to people massaging, there’s people trying to sell you stuff too. On the beach near our hotel the women all wore caps with their name on it. They’d bend down before me and tell me their name and ask me my name so they could try and strike a rapport with me. If they’d had their way they would have been talking to me while I had my massage but I asked that I not be disturbed during it and I would be more than happy to talk business after the massage.

It’s all very well trying to do business with one person at a time but everyone wants to sell you some stuff so while you’re trying to look at one lot of things there’s someone else there asking you to look at their items. It can get very confusing and I wonder if that’s not their ploy?

I loved this sign. Not only did it have my name, the shop has set prices and No Bullshit.

Jenny shop - no bullshit and set price

I enjoyed the whole process of haggling the few times I did it in Bali. You choose your items and then you ask how much. They always give you an inflated price and you counter with a really low price. They fall about the floor laughing at your first offer and they come down a bit from their original price and so on and so forth. This process can take a while so you want to be pretty sure you actually want the stuff you’re haggling for. But it’s all done in good humour and usually everyone walks away happy at the end.

On one of our last days we were in Kuta and we’d all separated but I wanted to buy some sarongs and things as presents and I thought buying in bulk would be the go so I called The Surfer and arranged to meet up with him. We walked down to Kuta Centre and JJ was ahead of me holding a kite we’d just bought. A man came out of a shop and took JJ’s hand and took him inside the shop. I didn’t freak out as I might have in another place and when I caught up with him the man was trying to sell JJ some string for the kite. I couldn’t be bothered buying string when  I knew we could get it at home so told him I wasn’t interested. The whole time were at Kuta Centre this man was still trying to sell me string.

After some shopping

The Surfer was already at a shop and had made his purchases. When he told me how much he’d paid I thought he’d paid way too much but hey, it’s his money. However I had hoped we could do a deal with my purchases as well. I picked out some sarongs, some bags and a dress. A dress that one of the stallholders told me would fit a large woman because it was stretchy. Not a very good salesman as I could have been very offended by this but he obviously didn’t realise that western woman can be a bit funny about their size. I ended up settling on a price and at least at this stage they’d offered me a chair and some water so I was comfortable. Maybe that’s what they do to get more money from you!

A couple of days later I went with The Surfer to a beach stall so he could buy a couple more things and I’m sure that if I wasn’t there he would have paid a lot more. As it was, the stallholder chucked in a couple of extra things so we probably still paid a good price. It was probably the best business she did all day. It would be a lonely existence in a little hut on the beach and quite windy too as we were down near Nusa Dua and it was constantly windy there.

I had some room to spare in my suitcase at the end of the trip so obviously I didn’t go overboard but I was pretty happy with my purchases, and I even managed to buy some presents for people.

2010 might be MY year

I’ve been at my current employer for about 16 and a half years now, minus the nine months I took off when I had my son. I’ve jokingly said to colleagues that the rate I’m going I’d be there for the rest of my working life. And why not? I have a pretty interesting job, the working conditions are pretty good, the superannuation is great and there’s plenty of opportunity to move around.

The thing is, though, that I’ve been getting restless. While my job is pretty interesting it’s not exactly what I would like to do forever so I’d been looking around.

About two months ago I saw a job for a Digital Consultant advertised on Twitter. I ummed and aaahhed about whether or not to apply but eventually did. I got an interview which I really enjoyed. I went to Bali and was contacted while over there for a second interview and then a few agonising days later I found out I got the job.

Back to the first interview. Two very good friends gave me a mock interview the day prior and I’d written down some things on paper because I didn’t want my nervous interview brain to make me lost for words. When I brought out this piece of paper I showed them how organised I was. But to even get to this interview was a mighty effort in itself.

It was on a Friday which normally wouldn’t be a problem but it was also a pupil free day at my son’s school. I’d planned for us to spend the day together and then I had to try and arrange childcare which isn’t always easy. I eventually managed to find a friend who was able to have him and hopped in the car to go drop him off but the car wouldn’t start because the battery that I thought had a bit more life left in it finally went flat. I had one hour to go before the interview.

In situations like this my brain immediately kicks in and I quickly run through all the possible scenarios. That involved going inside and ringing up my babysitter. Her son answered (he also had a pupil free day) and told me she was in the shower. I rang another friend who lives close by cause I thought she could help but the call went to voicemail. I rang a third person and she was home and available to come and get me and look after JJ also. I rang back the first babysitter and told her not to worry about having JJ, explaining why.

I made into the city with 15 or so minutes to spare.

So, I’m leaving a very large organisation of some 3000 staff for a small privately owned organisation of about 12 staff and I can’t wait. I can’t predict how it will all turn out but I’m SO ready for a change and I feel like this is absolutely the right thing to do for myself at the moment.

As I gave four weeks notice – far too long as I’ve now realised – I’ve had plenty of time to tidy things up and get myself ready for the next job. One of those things is getting a cleaner to do my house once a week. I’m trialling a couple of people at the moment so hope to settle on someone pretty soon. This is also something I’ve been thinking about for a while and especially ever since I’ve been seeing The Surfer my time at home has been limited so I’ve had to clean when I get the chance and not put it off for the next day like I always used to.

I’ve got one week left at my current job then I’ve got a week off inbetween the old and new job. I’m taking JJ out of school for four days so we can go to Melbourne. I’ve booked our flights and a hotel in the city and I’m looking forward to having this time away and with him. It sounds like there’s some great exhibitions on at the moment in Melbourne, ie the Titanic artefact exhbition and the Tim Burton exhibition.

My Bali posts will resume after this. I’ve got a couple left. I know it’s a month since we got back but I’ve got to drag out the memories somehow.

Bali – the food

Bumbu Bali food

In a nutshell we ate very well in Bali. It was great not to have to cook at all. Our breakfasts were included as part of the hotel accommodation and in the first hotel we stayed in it was more varied than the second hotel with the mix of western and Asian food but by the end I was sick of trying to decide what to have. Generally I had an omelette from the egg station, some toast and something else like a pancake or a danish. So I ate a lot more for breakfasts than I usually do when at home. Unfortunately the coffee was awful and apparently the tea was weak in both our hotels.

One morning I was standing at the toaster and two pieces came out that looked just like what I’d put in and when I asked a person nearby if they were his he got quite defensive about the fact that they were his and that there was plenty of food to go around you know. Ok, I was just making an observation, not trying to get into a fight or anything.

Because we ate such big breakfasts we usually didn’t eat much for lunch or had quite a late lunch and then by dinner time we were ready to indulge again at a nearby restaurant. We had dinner one night at the hotel which was included in our package and it wasn’t very nice at all. It was a seafood buffet and the fish at these buffet’s was mostly overdone and not very tasty. Also, one of our party got Bali belly from a seafood salad he ate which was really unfortunate especially as it was on the last day and we had a 1am flight the next morning to come back home.

There were a couple of standout meals. One was in a restaurant opposite our hotel in Tuban. We chose some fresh seafood from out the front and they cooked it on the grill before serving it to us. I had prawns, The Surfer had the best snapper I’ve ever tasted which would have been enough to feed two people and my friend had chili crab. It was absolutely delicious.

Chefs at Bumbu Bali

The other standout meal was a Bumbu Bali near Nusa Dua. In retrospect we should have had the kids babysat so we could really enjoy the feast, the taste, the smells, the dancing and everything. But we didn’t. We still managed to enjoy ourselves once the kids settled down a bit. I liked that everytime a group walked in there would be a sing-song greeting ‘selamat malam’ which means good evening. While we were eating the music and dancing started which kept the kids occupied a bit too.

The image at the top of this post was JJ’s and L’s food. By the time ours came I was ready to devour it, not take photos of it. It was so delicious and I’m glad we ate here towards the end of our stay because it would have tainted our experiences at other places. The meal was probably the most expensive we had in Bali but one that was definitely worth it. The photo above are the chefs at Bumbu Bali who aren’t hidden away in a kitchen.

At restaurants I expected to have more Indonesian food choices but most restaurants tried to cater for all types of tastes so there’d be pizza, pasta etc, ie more western food. This was a bit disappointing although we did go to an Italian restaurant in our hotel where the food was absolutely delicious. I hadn’t been expecting that.

What I really really liked about eating out in Bali was the service. Because there were essentially two groups of us we could split the bill. That is one family ordered on one bill and we’d order on the other. We got used to saying right at the beginning that we were ordering for bill 1 and they were ordering for bill 2. It made paying at the end of the meal so much easier and because we were away for two weeks it saved us having to worry about meal IOUs. We already had to do that for transport and a couple of times when it got confusing I was able to organise the money so it all worked out. Usually money handling confounds me but I left my travel companions confounded a couple of times about what had just happened. I jokingly said I should become a money exchanger because some of them have quite dodgy practises (not that mine were).

Spongebob Squarepants sandwich

Most restaurants also had a kids menu and this was my favourite looking meal out of all of them. Guess who it is.

Now I can’t have a food post in a foreign land without mentioning what happens to it at the other end. Don’t worry, I won’t go into graphic descriptions of Bali Belly. I didn’t get this at all. In fact it was the opposite. I’m usually very regular and to not be regular was a bit distressing and quite uncomfortable. I ended up buying a box of green tea bags because green tea helps me but even that didn’t really work. Towards the end of the two weeks I feel like I hardly ate at all because I felt so constantly full and that was really annoying. You’ll be pleased to know that I’m all back to normal again, and my stomach’s come down to it’s normal size.

Apologies for ending on a more of a non-food note for this post but it’s all gotta end up somewhere!

Bali – transport

Kuta Square

As with any travels, transport around your holiday destination is important otherwise you’d never go anywhere. When we stayed near Kuta it wasn’t really an issue because for local travel you just pull over a Blue Taksi and for short trips they’re very economical. We were about half a kilometre from Waterbom Park and the Centro shopping Centre and at first the thought of catching a taxi was not right to me because normally I would walk that far.

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After a couple of days though I was hopping into cabs like a seasoned pro because it was hot, because we had kids with us, because the footpaths in Bali aren’t easy to walk on, and because it wasn’t too expensive. From our hotel to the shopping centre only cost about 5000 Rupiah and the most we paid to Kuta Square was about 17,000 Rupiah (just over $2 Australian) so not much at all. There’s so many of these Blue Taksi’s they don’t seem to mind very short trips and they also didn’t mind three adults and three kids piling into the one taxi. It wouldn’t happen over here.

For the longer trips you need to arrange transport in a non-metered cab as it works out more economical and you have a guarantee of transport to and from and around your destination. We ended up doing this quite a bit and in some cases we may have paid too much and in other cases we got a really good deal.

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When we transferred from our first to our second hotel we got chatting to a taksi driver and his uncle had a car that could take us for 175,000 Rupiah. We then found out that this trip should cost us no more than 100,000 Rupiah. As we couldn’t contact the driver to cancel I negotiated the next morning a drop in price. I felt a bit guilty at first but then we ended up giving this driver a LOT of our business and buying him some McDonald’s for him and his family (well The Surfer paid for most of it). I wouldn’t normally buy McDonald’s for anyone but it was obviously a treat for him and he was good to us. In the image above shows The Surfer and our main driver Ayok.

For instance we rang him not long after the hotel transfer and asked how much it would be to to Bali Safari and Marine Park for the day. He told me it would normally be 300,000 Rupiah but he’d only charge us 200,000. We were gone for a long day’s worth and he drove us there and back – the whole trip taking three hours altogether due to traffic – and waited around for us all day. I gather at these places that drivers earn some sort of commission so hopefully that made it more worth his while.

Our day trip to Ubud – driving there, back and to a friend’s place near Ubud – we paid 300,000 Rupiah and we found out afterwards that it should have been closer to 500,000 (around $70 Australian).

Whether we underpaid the transport drivers or not they were always happy as they were really glad to just have the work. They were good with the kids and were always quite chatty and helpful with unpacking and/or packing the car. This was brought home to me when we arrived home in Adelaide and our taxi driver sat in his seat while we got all our luggage out. Perhaps if we’d tipped him he would have helped but I really noticed that he didn’t offer to help.

The other main mode of transport in Bali is the motorbike or scooter. It’s cheaper to run and takes less time to get from A to B in heavy traffic because heavy traffic it is. Even though the main roads have their lanes marked there is no regard for this whatsoever. Where there should only be two lanes of traffic there were three lanes of cars and scooters zipping inbetween and around cars when they could. We saw some westerners riding scooters but for the short time we were there I didn’t get on a bike at all.

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Unfortunately we witnessed a tragic accident on the way home from celebrating my son’s birthday at Waterbom Park one afternoon. The traffic had been flowing fairly well until it noticeably slowed down. I looked out the window up ahead and saw two bodies lying on the road. Lots of people were standing around looking and the bodies weren’t moving. We diverted the kids eyes and drove slowly past. Two people, probably riding a scooter, had been clipped by a passing car (which we saw ahead) and I gathered that they’d also been run over. It was an awful end to what had been a pretty good day for us, but it was obviously worse for these two people and their families.

Even though the traffic is chaos I didn’t have my foot on an imaginary brake the whole time I was in a car because everyone seems to know what’s going on. It always freaked me out to see scooters pull out into oncoming traffic without looking though. Our drivers usually honked their horn if they thought someone ahead should know that someone was coming up close behind them but generally it seemed to be a rule of give way to what’s ahead of you and don’t drive too fast. I didn’t see any evidence of road rage at all. I think everyone who is a road rage perpetrator should be sent to drive in a country like this to see how existing on a road with other people can work.

I’ll never forget coming home from the Bali Safari and Marine Park. It was dusk and it must have been around knock off time. Lots of people were trying to cross the road that we were driving on and we noticed one woman riding a scooter with a huge load on her head that she managed to balance while getting across the really busy road. It’s amazing what scooters can carry – people’s livliehoods and their whole families (often without wearing helmets).

Bali – the beginning

What's that mum?

After six months in the planning and waiting we left for Denpassar just over two weeks ago. I don’t mind getting up early when it involves holiday travel so 6.30am on a public holiday Monday was okay with me.

After a pretty uneventful flight we landed. I haven’t travelled overseas for ten years so was a tad apprehensive about what awaited. After leaving here in winter we arrived in warm weather so the warmer layers came off straight away while we waited for immigration etc to just get out of the airport. Without taking jeans etc off it was still hot but this we had to endure for a little while yet.

Bintang baby

We arrived at the hotel and couldn’t get into our room straight away so immediately ordered some drinks. The Surfer and I had a Bintang (the first of many throughout the trip – especially handy after we ran out of duty free alcohol).

We finally checked in and changed straight into our bathers for a swim in the very warm pool. I say that because the next hotel we stayed in didn’t have a very warm pool. It wasn’t freezing but it was noticeably cooler.

Ramada Bintang Bali resort Tuban

Leaving the sanctuary of the hotel later, we were hit with one of the busiest parts of Tuban/Kuta. It took me back nearly 20 years ago to when I was India so it wasn’t quite so out there a feeling for me as it could have been. It still took me a couple of days to acclimatise to the weather and the different culture. And the money, the money. One of our dollars buys about 7000 rupiah which is just really hard to get your head around at the beginning. I changed $50 Australian and it got me about 350,000 rupiah and throughout the whole trip I kept getting 100,000 and 10,000 notes mixed up which was rather embarrassing.

I must say that I wasn’t as hassled by people wanting to sell me stuff as I thought I might have been except for when I walked onto the beach from the hotel. I’m saving that story for another day though.

Patterns

I’m still writing a Bali post (and it will be one of a few) but I had to share these two photos with you.

They were taken from the plane when flying over north western Australai somewhere en route to Bali.

I find the patterns endlessly fascinating and like a fire, I could stare at them for a long time.

After rain