Archive for the ‘Storys’ Category

Adventures in Bali

The journey started in the departure lounge at Singapore Airport. I had grown used to the friendly Singaporians around me and fine with having no idea what most of them were saying, enjoying my little tourist bubble. Then I find myself in room full of Australians and Americans – surrounded by English and accents and things I understand and this makes me a little sad. I kind of liked not being in Kansas any more.

I spent the majority flight drawing bear diagrams and listening to Yo La Tengo. I was apprehensive. My desision to go to Bali was made on the spur of the moment which is so many ways is not me. I like my travel at the very least sketched in with a base coat. I had bought a ticket on this flight merely the day before yesterday.

The original plan was to terrorise* Europe with some friends. Their flight hadn’t even left Sydney but they had a plan B. You see, they may not consider themselves so but my friends are really very well connected. They happen to be friends with a lass who manages a resort spa in Bali.

And this lovely lass heard about their plight and offered them a cheap semi-holiday. And having never met me in her life, she also offered it to me as well. Internet, this chick is awesome.

So when we found out that no, we would not be meeting on Paris. We decided to meet in Bali. We would drown our sorrows with sunshine, then figgure out where to go next. Which is how I found myself nervously perched in an uncomfrtable budget airline prepairing to land at Denpasaar airport.

Nothing makes you feel more like a terrorist than landing in Bali. The queues you must wait in, the money you must pay. The adreniline of getting though customs without being mistakingly arrested for drug smuggling had made me giddy so I was caught off guard by the official looking young fellow in a shirt asking me if thist was my first time in Bali. Just so you all know (because I didn’t) these guys are porters who carry your bag for a small fee. I totally got suckered. I could carry my own bag and he wouldn’t let me, I had to pay him to give me my bag back and leave me alone. Apparently this is just the way Bali is and once you get over the fact that you’re being ripped off and and relax a little things become more pleasant.

After that it was a nervous cab ride to the resort, and then a nervous discussion with a bell man about how no, I was not a guest at the hotel, yes I was staying with a friend who worked at the hotel. His eyes lit up “Ah you are Miss Tess! Wait one moment please thank you!” And he ran away from me as if I had told him I had ebola. So, I waited, getting more and more nervous. The other hotel staff had started giving me curious looks. Im just standing there In the lobby of this amazing hotel and I can see they’re just itching to run over to help.

But as fast as he had disappeared he returned with a two very familiar faces and one not so familiar.

There was relieved hugging and happy introductions and many “thankyous!” and “good to see yous!” and I was whisked though a maze of shops, hotel rooms, pools of Koi, flowerbeds, and sculptures to the suites. Damn, I was staying in Bali, in an awesome hotel, in the suites, for basically nothing. During the walk to the room I’m pretty sure I was internally high fiving myself all the way.

Thus commenced six days of eating amazing food, dipping in and out of amazing pools, drinking waaaaay too much and generally having an awesome time. I’m a little embarrassed to say that we didn’t venture out far from the resort. There was a night out were we drank even more and visited hilariously dodgy night clubs in Kuta. And a day or two where we ventured out to Nusa Dua to take advantage of a very favourable exchange rate.

Speaking of shopping and embarrassing, I struggled profoundly with using the local currency – the Rupea. It could have been due to my being slightly tipsy a lot of the time. Or maybe the amount of zeros on the end of everything (usually three, sometimes four). Or possibly because of my being slightly tipsy a lot of the time.

This confusion cumulated in me waving a 20 000 Rupea note and telling my friends a bit too loudly “I’ll pay, I’ll pay!” only being told that “That’s worth about $2 dumbass” (the word dumbass was not actually used, but it definitely a synonym). I spent the rest of my time asking sheepishly “is this enough?”.

My stay in Bali tragically cumulated in the loss of my Credit card. A call to my bank and a flight home. Yes, this particular holiday of mine was 100% Egyptian tomb, witch doctor, African American hoodoo cursed.

Listing the various and many ways that things went awry would just make me sad and that would be doing a great disservice to my stay in Bali. So instead I’ll finish with a list of things that one should do if one manages to get their ass to Bali.

  • Put on that one fancy dress that you’ve got smooshed at the bottom of your bag, go to Ku De Ta and drink as many cocktails as your personal constitution will allow.
  • Parasailing. Seriously. And while you’re up there make sure you take in the view.
  • Spend an entire day poolside, get to know your local pool boy. Accept any complements he throws your day as genuine, because even if you know better – it’ll make you feel great.
  • Wake up early for a yoga class on the roof of your hotel. Enjoy the reflection of your bum at various ridiculous angles. Afterwards enjoy the tiny-humming-birds-in-the-muscles feeling.
  • Make a habit out of attending cocktails at 5. Get to know your waiter there too.

* Just to be clear – because I’ve read a few stories of wacko police forces arresting folk for using the T word in jest, Im gonna be real clear here – by terrorise I mean eating lots of local food, drinking lots of local booze, maybe doing some really bad dancing then passing out not quite in my hotel bed. There may be some beltching, but no bombs.


I think it was when the elevator arrived on the Emirates floor that I knew I wouldn’t be going. There was a man in a suit and a name tag surrounded by people, he was talking to an Indian fellow who was complaining that his family got free accommodation in Dubai so why did he have to pay here?

There was a family nearby sitting on the floor, mum was leaning on dads shoulder, little brother and little sister were asleep in their parents laps drooping like dolls. A teenager complained to to her father that the battery to her iPod had just like gone flat and that this was lame and could they please just go back to the hotel because they were playing Sex in the City soon on tv and she’d only seen that episode ‘like-once’.

( ↑ This dude had the very worst job in the world that day)

I approached a man that had a funny lopsided sad smile and asked where the back of the queue, he pointed at a little machine and told me I could get a number.

The counter was up to 62, I got 183. I sat down on the floor next to a woman reading a guide book.

After about 40 minutes I tried talking to the man in the suit with the name tag who was still surrounded by people. He took one look at my itinerary and smiled a grimace at me.

“I don’t think your connection from Dubai to Paris will fly. There is a possiblity that we won’t even be allowed to put you on the flight TO Dubai. ”

Heart, meet my shoes.

“Can I get a different flight?”

“I’m going to have to wait in this queue for a refund?”

I went to take my spot back on the floor when the lady who had been sitting next to me with the guide book handed me her number.

“I don’t need to wait” she said. Her accent was French.

“Are you sure?”

She handed the peice of paper to me, it was 103. I thanked her profusely and she turned and headed for the elevator. I just want to say in case that lovely lady by chance reads this. Thank you again.

At this stage it was up to 72 or similar. Phil and I whiled away the time playing monopoly on my iPhone. And I occasionally would call out the number on the screen, fufilling an vauge urge to help this tired mass of people around me.

When my number was called I jumped up like I had won bingo.

The lady at the counter’s name was Margret. She had a gold nametag and had already dealt with many bingo winners today and clearly the excitement had worn off. She squinted at my itinerary.

“I can send this to the Melbourne office, they will give you a refund” she then stamped and stuck and wrote stuff all over my itnarary. Told me thankyou and motioned for me to leave.

My bingo prize didn’t seem as exciting as when my number was called – what kind of idiot gets excited about NOT going to Europe.

That night in the hotel in Singapore just after I had gotten into bed I felt sad, then annoyed then I totally paniced. What if my flight flew? What if the Emirates man was wrong? I had been waiting for this for 5 months. What if I had just given away my only chance to see Paris? What if the volcano never goes away and the only way to travel in the future is on curise liners stuffed with old folk?

Im pretty sure that volcano-stunted-holidays are very much a first world issue and that really I should have been ok with being in Singapore in the first place. But I wasn’t ok with it, so I had a bit of a moment. I know there are starving kids out there and some Americans dont know where it is on a map but I really really wanted to go to Europe. And I wasn’t going to Europe. And that sucked, so I cried.

When things were blue

Way back when I was in Barcelona in April last year I suffered from a serious bout of home sickness and loneliness. My tour had ended four days earlier, I had spent the previous three wandering to places I had visited with the tour and wanted a better look at. That morning though I woke up and suddenly really didn’t want to struggle though that day.

I really struggled with not being able to communicate with others properly. To understand and be understood. I had just past 2 weeks of misunderstandings and apologetic smiles, I’d had enough. I guilted myself out of bed (you’re in Barcelona! get your ass out of bed), narrowly got in for last servings of breaky at the hotel. Moped along the Moll d’Espanya and around Bari Gothic feeling entirely miserable. Miserable that I couldn’t speak, miserable that I was alone, miserable that I was miserable, ad infiatum…

My last few days there were a compete sook fest. Here’s a photo of me at a cafe in Port Vell looking like a prize emo.

Self portrait at Starbucks, Port Vell

I wandered around that beautiful city in a complete daze.

And at the airport, I was relieved. I was going home. This horrible feeling in my head would have no reason to be there and I could go back to normal.

29 hours of transit later and I feel worse. Much worse. And everything hung on me, everything made me feel worse. The customs men told me off for the undeclared half of a mars bar in my carry on (the other half was eaten in Singapore). My parents mucked up the time my plane landed so there was no one to pick me up. My room had been packed up and prettified for the impending house sale. Phil was away in South America and I felt like I had no home any more.

So, I spent  a good 2 days in bed. Even if I wanted to be awake I couldn’t be. Turns out I get terrible jetlag.

I think the biggest thing about this very short phase was how much I didn’t want anyone to know about it. Even afterwards, I was complely convinced of two things; that talking about it would make it ‘real’ and a problem, and that people would look down on me for being depressed. I mean really, what did I have to be sad about – I was on holiday, in Barcelona and I’d just bought 3 pairs of awesome shoes.

It was embarrassing.
I mean, there are folks out there who don’t  even know how to spell Barcelona.

I didn’t talk to anyone about it, just slept, ate and floated around my house. Went to work and floated around there too.

Then one morning I went for a run.

The sun wasn’t up yet, the sky was clear – I could see the stars. I ran along the beach and the bay was glassy, there was no wind, no chill in the air. It was my first run since coming back.

I absolutely glided along the pavement, I may as well have had wings. And when I got back home, I was sweaty and tired but my funk had gone.

Just like that.

• • •

This post was originally inspired by the Plinky Prompt “If you could get any tattoo for just a week, what would it be?”. At around this time I was reading Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson. The story has a small tangent about a Jewish folk tale . The crux of which is the the question “What object can make a joyous man miserable, but a miserable man joyous…” and the answer “A ring with the engraving ‘gam zeh yaavor 'This too shall pass'‘ (This too shall pass)”. The phrase became a bit of a mantra for me at this time. The tattoo would be the previously mentioned Hebrew phrase around the base of my right hand index finger.

Chalk arrows and having no plans

I had a little bit of a magical Saturday this weekend. One of those first day of summer holidays days; you wake up and the possibilities of what could be done stretch before you in a landscape of gold and ruby prettiness.

And since Im one of those people who count sleeping in a gift from above, this Saturday I slept in. Gloriously snoozed as the birds woke up, had a shower, fed the kids. jumped into their trees and sang until I was gently awake.

The original plans for Saturday were built around the need for Phil to go into the city to fix up his car registration due to his laptop blowing up the night before. However on waking it was discovered that dates were read poorly and that the car would keep for one more week.

Being liberated from our original task put us on the spot, we were showered, dressed, but had no car rego to fix. So being the creative sparks we are and being tired of all our local breakfast haunts, we decided to bop into the city anyway.

This decision found us in the shiny, but mostly empty Docklands. It’s an area designed for huge crowds. But as huge crowds don’t inhabit the area on generic Saturday mornings, it was mostly ours.

We cruised the breakfast choices along the waterfront for a little while, marveling at the pretty architecture, ugly architecture, and general emptiness of the place until happening on a shiny place overhanging the water.

For this part of our journey, all there is to say is NOM NOM NOM. Phil had the big breakky, I had the BLT. Then we waddled out.

I let the universe know that a tram right about nowish would be really convenient, as over breakfast we had decided to go check out a fancy suit for phil in a fancy spot on the other side of town. And lo, I turned around, an a tram with a destination matching ours trundled into view, giving us just the right amount of time to get ourselves and our full stomachs to the tram stop.

We inspected the suit but decided that it would have looked much better with a pin stripe rather than a check. Meandering through various lane ways, I exclaimed ‘where are we’ and ‘I’ve never been here before’ so many times I may as well have been in another country.

The giant empty place, walking around the alley and the giant breakfast had made us weary, so we turned our sails from home and hopped on a train.

Hopping off a stop too soon so we could stroll in the sun. I spied a chalk arrow on the ground.

“I feel like playing follow the arrows”

To wit Phil spun me in the direction of the arrow and we walked heads down in search of the next one. We had found 5 when we saw the pub in the distance and Phil mused that if the arrows lead there we would just have to stop for a beer. One or two more arrows in the right direction and we were there, and yes, there were chalk arrows pointing into the pub door.

‘But they’re drawn in a different stye” I cried.
“Dosn’t matter, the arrows say beer”
I checked for more arrows in the right direction.
“Did you set this up?”
But Phil replied in the negative.

We sat outside in the sun watching the traffic, sipping beer and musing about nothing much. After letting the day and the beer soak in, we picked ourselves up and wandered home.