Monday, 29 December 2008
We have skiied 8 days so far and have 1 to go (tomorrow). In Whistler the temp got down to -40 degrees celcius at the top of the mountain. It is now nice and warm -12. Well, comparatively. It did snow today, so it's warm enough for snow.
Having a lot of fun. Kids are sleeping 12 hours a night, so we must be doing plenty of activity (Parents sleeping 10).
Today is Sunday, leaving on Thursday. Not looking forward to it. But, guess these things have to end.
Saturday, 20 December 2008
I am C girl and this is C girls word. I will be writing on this website a least once a week. I am looking forward to 2 special celebrations, 1 is my birthday and the other is christmas/x-mas. Right now I am in Canada, I have been skiing for the last week . Yesterday I went skiing with one of my friends from my school in jakarta. He is an amazing skier and so is the rest of his family. If you have a question to ask me, remember I am only 9. Anyway goodbye.
Friday, 12 December 2008
This was Langkawi (Malaysia) at the start of November.
It is time to confess. Once upon a time, there was a Mum who had a husband who went away all the time. There came a point in time during those 7 years, when she may have muttered the words "great, wish I could go away once in a while". Well, stupid woman. She ended up having to go away once in a while for work.
And she HATES it.
She hates it when she knows 1 month in advance (when we arrange the next monthly meeting on site). She HATES knowing that the weekend before will be her last days with her kids and she will miss them for a whole week (and count down the hours until she gets home). She hates knowing that the day/night she gets back she will be completely wiped because she had been in a moving car dodging cars, trucks and motorbikes up until 4am the morning she has come home (and got on a plane at 6). She HATES that she cannot rationalise WHY she HATES it so much.
Anyway - that said - don't expect Part 2 until I have been back to Borneo (mid Jan I think (but hope not).
Friday, 7 November 2008
First thing - you know how much I hate going to Borneo - I can' bring myself to finish it.
Second - we spent the weekend in Langkawi (Bears 7th birthday - Husband - Conference). I spent Wednesday watching the election results.
The tears in my eyes at 12:01 pm when CNN predicted the election results (I was just about to leave to check out). My kids kept asking why I was crying (checking to see that the crazy woman hadn't gotten in).
I have never in my life wished to be an American citizen. But I can truly say that I am very proud for the US to have come so far. Obama did not run on a race campaign, I have read his books, I have followed his story since he was first on Oprah many years ago and she begged him to run.
My kids and I will remember election day 2008 for ever - like one of those defining moments in history.
Friday, 19 September 2008
Something I really wanted to do with this blog was write about the great holidays and adventures we have while living in Indonesia. The hope is that one day, my kids will read this and remember the exciting life they lived while being expats.
One of the unique experiences I have had is travelling through Kalimantan (Borneo) with work. I have done this 7 times now, with no end in site, and each time I go I am filled with dread (I get scared of the car trip - you will see why), but also excitement (it is really interesting).
My last adventure started only 7 hours after getting home from our 4 week mid year holiday. I had started the day before leaving the in laws at 9am. We got to our home here at 9:30pm local time (that's 12:30am where we had started) - a total of 15 1/2 hours of travel - alone, with 3 kids.
The next morning I was up at 4:30am kissing the kids goodbye and made my way back to the airport. I was the last on the plane (there is a really good bookshop there and I was torn between two books).....guess in my own subconcious I was hoping the trip had been cancelled.
We arrived in sunny Banjarmarsin at around 9am local time (8am Jakarta time). Only a brief stop at the last proper toilet (yes it was a squat, and it was foul because there was a toilet blocked next to it (with the door open) - BUT, that's the best toilet for the next 10 hours, so one does not complain.
Off we went in the landcruiser, the driver, my boss and I. For the next 4 hours, travelling just over 200 km, we dodged motorbikes, goats, trucks, buses and people. People everywhere. Where else can you go from 80km to 5km within a km, for hours on end, have kids doing sit ups on the road because the road is the only built up area in the village and even the school is on stilts in the water.
This is where I need to limit myself. I will go on about this if I don't watch myself. Driving through Kalimantan is the most bizare of experiences because.
- The countryside is diverse with people who are getting on with living a life that they have no ability to change - so you feel kind of lucky, here I am listening to music on my ipod, wearing my bvlgari glasses, in a landcruiser, all expenses paid, being paid to do it.
- The kids look like no other kids I have ever seen - they look really, really happy, riding these huge 1950's bikes, playing with friends, running along the road half naked, wrapped in their mothers baby ties (pathetic I don't know the names of these baby holders every mother here owns).
- The women all look so young. It is legal to marry at any age here, and there is no pre marital sex. So people get married at 13 or 14. Motherhood follows quickly.
- The endless villages - the houses just keep going for a good 200km. The mosques turn into catholic churches, then back to mosques. The stilt houses in the swamps become the tiled houses in the rainforests, rubber trees become rain forest, the beauty and the tragedy of the place really is hard to put into words.
- Waiting - there is no other word. Imagine living in a house that was the size of an average western kitchen. Now imagine cleaning it. Okay, now you still have another 8 hours until your husband comes home. Got a book - doubt it, you can't read, you left school to get married......now what? Women wait on the balcony of their homes.....waiting for school to finish, waiting for life to? I don't know.
That's the first 200km down, another 200km to go. This part is full of potholes the size of a house (only a slight exageration (depends on the house you see)), rainforest everywhere. Not as many houses. This is the toughest part of the trip.
It takes between 8 and 10 hours to drive from Banjamarsin to Maura Tewah (central Kalimantan). This was a very good day. We decided with 2 hours left, let's try to get there so we can do the next leg of the journey today, not in the morning.
No sooner had we decided to get there quick, than we came to an abrupt stop. There was a fire in town. I offered to go ahead and see if I could help move the trucks off the road (all traffic had stopped and everyone helps with traffic in Jakarta). I ask the stupid naive questions, is the fire truck in the way - there is no fire truck my boss tells me (he already knows I'm an idiot concerning these things).
Lots of kids with buckets ran past, "but we are in a hurry, come on", more people run past with buckets (the stream was behind us).....10 minutes later the traffic moves, the house is still burning. The road was closed because that was the only place to pull the saved items. They were still smoldering, but had been pulled to the other side of the road.
Only after we went past did I think - hey, I should have taken a photo of this. The whole town was there, not to watch, but to try to stop the fire and try to recover something. Boy, you can feel really selfish sometimes.
We got to Maura Tewah at 4:30. That was really too late to go for a 2 hour boat ride up the river, but, we'd toyed with the idea for the last 2 and 1/2 hours, so we weren't giving up now.
Tuesday, 9 September 2008
No. 1 – Holidays. I would be lying if I didn’t say this. Since living here we have been:
1. Christmas 2006 - 10 days - Lombok
2. Easter 2007 - 6 days - Bali
3. July 2007 - 2 weeks - Paris/London (just C girl and myself)
4. Aug 2007 - 3 weeks - Aus
5. Christmas 2007 - 3 weeks - Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France
6. March - 4 days - Sambolo (west Java) – like camping
7. March - 10 days - Australia
8. May - 8 days - Sambolo (2 separate long weekends)
9. July - 5 days - Sambolo
10. July/Aug - 4 weeks - Australia / NZ
And we are planning on going to Bali at end of Sep and Langkawi at the end of Oct and Canada for xmas. But what is great is this is normal. We took kids to Thailand/Germany when living in Aus and people thought we were a. wasting our money and b. insane for wasting our money. They could not see that we get pleasure out of seeing our kids get pleasure. And that is what holidays are to us....great family fun with all of us (at least as much as hubs job allows).
No. 2 – Attitude.
What am I talking about???? Well, on a recent visit to Australia, I had many a moment in the park contemplating life while the kids played happily. Well, have you ever noticed how people living in Suburbia just don’t look that happy? They look tired, bored, rushed, run hagged by living the life that they have. Do they get to chose this life, or is it the life that they have because there is no alternative?
In Jakarta, and I am only talking about myself and my friends (because the expat life is so different to the life of a local). We chose this life. This is the life we want to live. If the traffic annoys us to much, or something else happens that makes us feel angry or frustrated. We can, when all is said and done – leave. Go to a different life, in our home country or, more excitedly, to another country.
Personally I am a lot happier here than when I was in Aus. I have more time to spend with my family. All day Saturday can be sports day (yes with the kids). All day Sunday can be family day. There is no grocery shopping, washing, cooking, cleaning, mowing or maintaining the house to squeeze into the time that I could have spent with my kids or my husband. I chose this life. This is where I want to be and this is where I am. I live the life of a 1960’s husband. I come home, dinner is on the table, kids are clean and ready for bed. I get to read with them every night and enjoy their company. When they go to bed I then get to chose either to do something on the computer, watch tv, read a book or play a game. Sorry, but I love this life.
No 3. – Affect on the kids.
Have you ever said to your child – if you don’t eat that food I will take it outside and give it to a homeless people and explain that you were unable to eat it because it was the wrong colour/shape/etc.
Well , let me tell you – you only have to say it once before they realize what a great life they are living.
Living in Jakarta has had a great affect on my kids. They now understand that there are children who have nothing, not children who don’t have a Nintendo DS, but NOTHING. When we go somewhere and there is a child wearing rags begging at the car window, my kids understand that they are very, very lucky and that this luck occurred by way of chance (they were born in Australia to their parents).
Don’t get me wrong, they sit there listening to their ipod while playing their Nintendo DS, while looking at these kids, I didn’t say my kids were deep and meaningful. But, they really understand that they have a great life and that there are people a whole lot worse off. They can see outside their bubble enough to know they are on a good thing. Their compassionate side has come through on a few occasions and as they get older their understanding of what they can do to help with grow.
No 4. – Reading
I get to read every morning and every afternoon on the way to and from work. This is such a great thing to be able to do. I don’t have to drive, I can just sit there and read a book, without it cutting into leisure time.
No 5. – The people
It is amazing to see people who have nothing be so happy. Very few people have the worn out look of the Australian Suburban mum. They will happily work 12 hour days for US $100 a month and not even consider complaining. They don’t complain about anything.
The Worst side
No. 1 – The people
How can people be so happy all of the time? It’s unnatural. No, but seriously. Education levels here are very low. It costs about one months salary to put one child through school each year and if you haven’t got a home, you aren’t going to be able to go to school in the first place. Kids leave school at a very young age. Also, people marry very young and have babies straight away. Wives will be deserted by husbands. These women and children collect rubbish (scavengers). It is cruel to see. So the downside is that life here is so tough for a local person. The average salary is US$100 a month, sometimes US$400 if you are educated. Because education levels are low some things are done that a western person finds baffling. This leads to a lot of frustration at times, especially when your children are involved.
No. 2 – The traffic.
Can’t be a blog about Jakarta without traffic. Mind you, if I didn’t have traffic I wouldn’t be able to read so much (I get car sick going fast in a car). Ramadhan is the worst – takes two hours to get home (it’s only one month a year and right now is when it is on). I sit in the front seat with my book, or if we stop (I don’t mind going slow, I just hate stopping) with a road atlas and direct on new roads to try. My poor driver wishes he had someone else who would just sit in the back and fall asleep.
That said, I think driving in Australia is much more frustrating now. People don’t seem to have a gift for merging and there are traffic lights that won’t let you turn right when there is no traffic for 4 km. And what is it about a roundabout that says only 1 car fits?
No. 3 – The weather
30 degrees every day. Rains for 6-8 months, dry for 4 -6 months. The best storms during the rainy season. Sometimes floods that stop you going to work or school. Scrap that – put this up there with the things I like about living here.
Overall, I chose to live here. I don't regret it and I'm not ready to move yet, so don't even suggest it.
Monday, 8 September 2008
So, back to the old story – moving over here.
I won’t pretend that we organized for a big move. I don’t know what we were doing really.
I had left work 5 weeks before moving. I was meant to go through every cupboard and throw stuff out, give away or get ready for a garage sale. Hubby was away 5 weeks straight right up to the last week before we moved so he was as useless as you know what.
I had decided that with my kids in full time daycare for 7 years (for C girl anyway), I was going to ‘enjoy’ having my kids at home as much as possible. I had my two kids home from daycare 4 days a week. C girl got to ride on the bus to and from school (yes, this was a first). We went and visited their (and my) friends a couple of times a week. Feeling like I was on top of my game, I went back to work 1 day a week (what was I thinking??). I had a schedule, each room, x amount of time. I was on a roll. I was on top of this. This isn’t so hard.
Then, 2 weeks before the big day. The phone call – your Mum is very sick….we aren’t operating…going to let it run it’s course. Okay, wonder what I should do….. Luckily my cousin rang a few hours later and told me more of the background behind what had been happening. Phone call from her, 9:30pm Saturday night. Time in car with 3 kids driving the 15 hours to my Mothers town……..7am Sunday morning. It took me 2 days….but that is just one of those things when you have 3 kids and you are driving alone. Number of stops at McDonalds Mc café for a cup of tea and the kids to play and run around – 7 stops.
The following week was a blur. We had my inlaws staying in a winabago out the front. Grandma cooked every dinner….what a gem. We had a garage sale on the Saturday. Had some friends over to help finish off the wine on Sunday. The packers came on Monday morning. Monday night we had dinner at the pub with our dear friends and stayed in a motel. Tuesday, the movers came and took our stuff. We picked up C girl from school. Stayed in motel in Maitland that night and flew out the next day.
Thursday morning – Jakarta – Hotel Kristal – (popular expat hotel –where families come on their way into and out of the country).
We forgot to have money organized in rupiah (big mistake) and shops don’t open until 10am, but room service pulled us through for breakfast. Number of words of bahasa known – zero.
We had a near death experience with Bear while staying there. We are country folk, high rises, elevators, these are all new to us. When waiting for the lift, he climbed up on the window ledge to see the view (level 7). I was a bit distracted with the other two kids (who fight over pressing the elevator button (no kidding). But I just reached out and grabbed his t shirt by instinct. Just as he leaned against the window (that looked locked), it sprang open from the bottom and he started to fall out, but I had him, so it was okay. The lock didn’t work, if you pushed on it, it just let go. When I went to management (some people can understand English luckily) and suggested that they secure all their windows properly I was told that he shouldn’t have been there (correct). I then pointed out that if an expat family had a child die while staying there, that maybe expat families wouldn’t be so happy about staying there in future(correct also). They fixed the window on our level, they didn’t on any other level. Yes, he was banned from climbing on anything ever again and I learnt a valuable lesson. Do not trust an engineering solution while living in a third world country, short cuts are made, check the integrity of everything.
The first thing we needed to do was to organize schooling, housing and my work in that order.
Hubby went to work the first day (after we had sorted out breakfast) – he got there at 10am – we all went with him so the kids could see where he was working and who he was working with.
We looked through the supposedly best school in Jakarta. But C girl was not impressed. We went to look at another school and before we could even finish the tour the kids were begging to go there. There were some downsides to going to that school, but they were convinced that the benefits outweighed the downsides, they promised to never nag about the downsides (and to their credit they never have). Luckily, they still love the school. When going in on the weekend for swimming, sport or social functions, they still say “I love this school”, to which I can only respond……so do I.
Unfortunately we had to wait to be admitted (3 kids is so much harder than 1 child). C girl did one week before Christmas holidays. The other two didn’t start until the beginning of 2007 (when Bear would have started school in Aus anyway).
We went away to Lombok for 10 days over Christmas/New year. When we got back I agreed to a job (there were 3 options). Our nanny and housekeeper started work the same day (don’t knock it until you try it). The kids started school a few days later. We moved into our new house. Then I officially started working full time again. Total time from leaving home in Aus to having furniture unpacked in our new home - 7 weeks.
Sunday, 7 September 2008
Just as a blast from the past, thought I would put some pictures up of the old house. This is the view from the backyard. When we bought the land this whole thing was covered with long grass and bull rushes. Jase, my husband spent many weekends, for many years "reclaiming" the land. We had a lot of fun discovering it.
I spent many hours for the next 7 years mowing this. The most fun was when doing it sideways (across the slope). The rule was, if the engine stops (deadman switch), dial 000 first, then come see if I'm okay. Seriously, it was a lot of fun to mow on the ride on (and I like the thrill of nearly rolling). The block extended to a flat part (where I am standing), where we had lots of kids parties.
The set up for the "farewell" party (35 friends over for a final goodbye).
This shows the backyard pool, but not it's 45 m of retaining wall that we built ourselves (see below). By that I mean, Jason built it, but the kids and I did most of the dirt that when in behind it (40 cubic meters) and we did the concrete for inside the besar blocks ourselves (Baby asleep, 2 year old helping Daddy make the concrete, me placing it carefully in the blocks, 5 year old taking out the air and smoothing it out.
Yes, this photo is pre pool fence (we had a temporary one for 2 years).
The lounge room (well you can see some of the lounge room). Looks neater than I remember.
The old kitchen. I loved this kitchen. For the 9 years we lived in this house, I don't think the kitchen ever looked this clean. I think this is the photo the real estate people took when selling the house.
I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I do believe I can do anything (super mum? - not). So when I got home I sketched up a penciled drawing of what we had seen, including a few of his toys (the red and white plane, the blue and white bus). After a few weeks of doing an hour a day, I was finished (well enough anyway). I should have done shading, I should have done a lot more effort - but I got to that place where he was thrilled, and lets face it - if we were still there I would have had to paint over it by now with a lego city (or used another wall I guess). Anyway - he loved it. Enough energy was put in to not annoy me, but not too much as to take away from really important tasks (like folding washing).
Last photo, the old 'us'. Don't I look stressed. Don't my husband and son look like they are bursting with excitement. This is at the airport. Happy husband and son were about to get on a plane to go to the 2006 world cup (soccer, football, whatever) in Germany. They had 2 1/2 weeks of beer (for my husband) and sightseeing and soccer (not sure what the order was). Except for the first 4 days when there was no contact (his phone ran out of batteries, he didn't have a recharger......., he kept trying to withdraw too much money from the bank and was denied, therefore no money (just enough for our son to eat)....you know, good excuses). From when he left on Sat, the first I heard from him was on the radio (yes the radio), the Newcastle radio station had him as there roving reporter. Australia had just won (Tuesday morning).
Anyway, it's my second post. I am still trying to work out what to call the kids. The youngest childrens nicknames from their dad are Bear (son) and Munchkin (baby girl - who's 5 now) which suits them down to the ground. My oldest daughter's nickname is sweetie, but she is so not sweet, she is a tomboy, soccer playing, rough but georgeous girl, so until I come up with a name I will call her C. So, does that sound fair - C, Bear and Munchkin. What do you think?
Saturday, 6 September 2008
I am writing this blog as a journal for our amazing life that we are currently living as expats in Indonesia. We have been here almost 2 years and although this was something I considered doing, I never got around to it (regular occurence) until today.
Before living in this huge metropolis, we lived in a small country town in NSW Australia, in a house that we had built before having kids. We lived in the same town for 13 years and the same house for 9. We had 3 children while living there and had great jobs and great friends, we were very happy.
But, we were bored. Not bored like hanging around the house with nothing to do....no, we never hung around with nothing to do. We were flat out. Both working full time, 2 children in daycare, 1 child at school (and after and before school care). My husband was away 2 - 4 nights a week and after many years of hanging washing out at 10pm, you have to start to wonder if there is something more to life.
Ah, I can here you say, just give up work. Not so easy. I am a wreck when at home not working (3 maternity leaves have definitely been great tests). I am happiest when I am busy, and work provided the best form of being busy. But enough already, there is busy and there is BUSY.
Anyway, after years of the work monotonous train, you get to a point where you say - enough. Am I enjoying my life. Do I enjoy my kids? Do I enjoy my marriage. What is the point of all this running around.
So we sat down and re-established our goals.
When at Uni (grad 1994), we always planned to move to South Africa after 2 years in the workforce (remote areas are the go for our line of business). But then South Africa became really dangerous and we were lucky enough to move to a great little town in the hunter valley (a nice area of Australia) straight out of uni. Whenever jobs came up in another little town, we just couldn't go (compared to 1 hour from the coast), so we moved jobs in our own little part of the world and stopped thinking about our dream. We climbed the corporate ladder just fine (I even beat my husband to the top). But we were like everyone else in the town, once you got there, you just didn't go (there are around 15 employers in the region so it isn't a limit on the career path to stay in the same town.
So after re-establishing our goals, we were focused. Lets move overseas. We talked to my husbands company and they had roles in Indonesia available quickly. I could also work in the same location (although for a different company (we are not stupid - ie same company), so we were set. We were moving to remote Indonesia. This was April 2006.
We asked our then 7 year old what she thought of the idea of leaving her friends (the ones she had grown up with) and saying goodbye to the only house she had ever known (this included two maltese terriers and a siamese cat). She said - fine, when do we go......and she has never changed her mind (thankfully). The youngest two were only 3 and 4 at the time, so they didn't get to vote.
Then the job came up in Jakarta. Instead of going to a small town in rural Indonesia, we were moving to a city. I had never lived in a city larger than 60,000 (and that was only for Uni), so it was going to be an adventure. We had a look at Balikpapan (city of 1 million - but like a country town) - as well as Jakarta. I got to decide. It didn't take long. I went to Balik first - flies all over the meat in the supermarket. My husbands boss took me to a big shopping centre (joins his office building), I was sold in 5 minutes.
We moved in the November. The only tears that were cried were when we said goodbye to our animals (Astro and Taz (the dogs) stayed together and Madi went to a lovely grandma type) and when the movers told us we had too much stuff and we couldn't take it all with us. Luckily the company were kind and got another shipping container organised. We said goodbye to our house (we sold it two weeks before leaving ) and stored furniture and set off on an adventure.
We went to our bestest friends house for dinner on the way out of town. Had a lot of crying when leaving there (the kids thought they were related for their entire life, we were very close). But we left on target (only there for 2 hours) - and drove to the next town to stay the night (get a clean break in the morning).
We drove to Sydney the next day. Did some duty free shopping. Flew business class and got to Jakarta at midnight (Australian time). Got picked up with two company cars (we had a lot of luggage) and were driven to the hotel that was our home for 2 months (3 bedroom apartment).
It took an hour to get there - no one slept, everyone far too excited. The next morning - the education began.
We had begun our life as Expats and we haven't looked back since.