Sunday, 28 February 2010


There is light at the end of the tunnel.......

We are in shock.....

........after 3 years and 4 months........

We are going to have visiors........the beds have been made.....the room looks like a hotel (and includes fire evacuations, evacuations, earthquake drills, breakfast menus etc)......
Someone is about to turn 40. He's having a party and of all the people he wanted at his party.....

Grandma and Grandpa are it (your right side - that's Nan on the left (deceased)).
We don't mind our own space......

But we are ready for visitors.....we will make them feel welcome.
Because our little family would love to show their extended family that they really are okay over here in this "scary" (not so much) place.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Have a little Faith

I just finished this book - it is fantastic.

It isn't written for the Jewish faith and it isn't written for the Christian faith. It is just the true story of a guy who was asked to write the eulogy for another man, then decided to find out more about him- the guy he was finding out about just happened to be his Rabbi.
What it definitely isn't is "shoving religion down anyone's throat".
When I was a child I lived in an intensely religious family - you know - God is the guy at the end the table, the third person in any conversation. So I generallly run a mile from anything with a religious theme - but this book - it's not like that - he isn't trying to convert anyone.
It's a 4 hour book - not much of an investment in time. But it will stay with you for a lot longer - and what you remember is the life lessons.

Monday, 22 February 2010


Not sure if this is a conundrum the world over or is specific to a place like Jakarta where families in far flung villages are being supported by working children in big cities.

We have 4 staff that we spend an awful lot of time with. They all speak varying degrees of english, and we get by with zero bahasa, so the varying degrees range from moderate to excellent (not complaining about this, but if they didn't know english we would have been forced to learn more bahasa - we have been spoilt in the true sense of the word).

Now for the most part, I really like my staff. Two of them I like 99.99% of the time, two are similar ages to me and we have about 1 week a month where there is a bit of tension, but it resolves itself and we go on for another 3 weeks of getting along fine (headstrong x 3 does not always work). Either way - we are lucky to have them and that's why after 3 years we have no intention of living here without them - they do their job well. Life with staff is much easier than life without them.

That said, we do enjoy staff free time as it feels different (like we are on our best behaviour when there is someone who is not family with us) - we enjoy breakfast, dinner time and Sundays when we are Staff free. We still appreciate that everything has been done and we can go to school/work on monday with the house looking like chaos and know that it will be pristine by the time we get home. We also love the very occasional car trip where it's just our family, but that doesn't mean that we don't appreciate having a driver - who weaves through traffic, tries shortcuts (I ride shotgun with a map) and avoids motorbikes and gets the family around safely. We also enjoy our holidays that are also - just us, as we will never, ever take anyone with us - they don't want to spend a night away from their family, we aren't going to ask them to.

Anyway - back to my Conundrum. My Nanny is a 23 year old married mother with a two year old. She works very hard 6 days a week and I would not hesitate to name her "worker of the week," every week (and she does so without complaint).

On Saturday she asked for a loan for what is essentially one months salary so that she can buy a handphone for her 14 year old brother. He is in 9th grade and isn't going to school or sleeping at home. He has told her that he will not go to school until he a) gets a motorbike or b) a cool handphone. The culture of Indonesia is such that she sends a lot of money home to her family to look after them (they live in her village 100's of km from Jakarta and there is no old age pension, so adult kids help parents). Her brother refuses to go to school until he recieves this phone - he has missed one month so far.

So - what do I do? The issue isn't the money itself, it's that she works so hard for her money, and this 14 year old is blackmailing her with his own future. I was open mouthed in shock when she told me. She has told him that what he is asking is unfair, she has told him that he is being selfish. But he will not go to school (or sleep at home) until this phone is delivered to him. His own future..... not as important as a hand phone. He has two parents - but she is the one wanting him to complete high school.

I have told her she could have the loan (I don't want him not going to school again to be my fault). But I have asked her to tell him - if he misses one day of school - phone gone for a week. If he misses school for a week - phone gone forever....... but I seriously doubt this will implemented.

Can you think of a smarter, more useful solution? I feel terrible that she is being forced to spend a whole months salary on this. A signed contract saying that he will go to school and if he misses one week she gets the phone back, sounds like a solution, but isn't going to be monitored, so won't work - I am absolutely not buying a handphone for her little brother - I just do not want to open myself to buying it myself- the staff have 7 children and who knows how many sisters/brothers. Yes, I want to help the children of Indonesia - but this isn't what I was meaning.

Please - creative solutions are welcome, but they can't be complicated. Fire away

Sunday, 21 February 2010


The morning after reaching Florence (straight from the snow), we went to Pisa to see the tower we had always heard about. We really should have allowed a full day just to go to Pisa but we underestimated how long it would take to get to La Thuille to Florence.

We went by train from Florence to Pisa, a short 1 hour trip with trains leaving every 30 minutes.

Ipods and DS's work wonders on the trains, I explored the My Chemical Romance cd "The Black Parade" on that trip (I still see the images going past when I listen to the songs). Once in Pisa, it's a 30 minute walk from the station to the tower - yes there are buses but we wanted to see what the town was like.

You have to have a few photo's of behaving a bit stupidly in front of this building. It is a spectacular tower.
I always thought it was just on a bit of a tilt - but this shows just how much it is on a lean. You have to be at least 8 to climb the tower, we figured this must be for a good reason (ie fall through something), so we skipped the climb. There was an excellent system in place for climbing tickets - you go to the ticket office and they give you the 15 minute time slot that the queue is up to (ie, we could buy a ticket for 2 hours time, but could wander around and not line up for 2 hours).

The obligatory photo - sorry. The tower was built as a bell tower for the Duomo and started in 1173. It was lopsided by 3rd story - where they tried to compensate and build up the other side. But the extra weight made it worse and they thought it might fall over, so they reduced the weight in early 2000 so that it was stable.

The battistero behind the duomo was also a stunning building - the whole thing exceptionally gothic. J and I really appreciate anything made of stone, given our background we have an appreciation of the effort that has gone into the construction of a structure this huge (I know, I need to see the pyramids.

This is behind the duomo -look at the angle on that tower.....

The front of the duomo.

A wider shot (I have no idea why this has been taken from the ground - ask one of the kids).

The amazing door on the back of the duomo - it's a romanesque panel that depicts scenes from the life of Christ and is from the 14th century.

How breathtaking is the detail on this wall?

Another door - another amazingly carved surface.

Just one of many mosaic's. We didn't take the kids inside - there were many other churches they were going to be dragged into - why over do it?

Isn't that amazing?
The walk back was down charming little streets like above. Not tough and almost deserted (guess everyone goes by bus from station to main sights).

The Arno river, just north of the central train station. Looks a bit dreary on a rainy winters day, but rustic to say the least. Stunning buildings on either side (that you can't see). Will go back when this one is a bit older.

Soccer Kids

I always wanted to be a soccer Mum, but this weekend was crazy.

No J unfortunately as he is gone with work. But Bear and C girl had brilliant games yesterday (in that they were close and nail biters) - both got through with wins in the league.

Today we had 3 official games. Bear's got a win so they are through to the next round. Munch is in a C division and they played an A team, that's the luck of the draw unfortunately. We played a local Indonesian school. They showed a lot of mercy and our kids got 3 goals (after the other team got a 5 goal head start - which they kept as a buffer). At the end of our game our kids were disappointed, but not gutted. I'm the coach and am very proud of my kids - they played their heart out and had no subs for the entire game.

C girl played the other big international school. She is in the B division and they played the A division team. When the score was 0-7 and the best team were still in position (ie - no mercy), plus the parents from the other team were laughing so loudly that it was impossible to ignore, the game was stopped. There was still 4 quarters, but the last one was only 3 minutes long. It wasn't all the parents - but unfortunately they were really loud and our kids were really upset about it (plus - why didn't I do anything????). The mercy rule is there for a reason - a loss is a loss at 6 -0, it doesn't need to be 20 - 0, they still learn to lose.

So after that, the C team in the same age group had turned up with no-one to play. So the B team played the fresh and ready C team. Bear got a play and was the first person to score for the game - he's feeling like king at the moment - he's 3-4 years younger than everyone on the pitch. Anyway, both teams finished with a decent score on both sides and heads held high.

The two oldest played 2 hours of football in the blistering heat of Jakarta - have no idea how they do it but I love watching (under the shade of a big umbrella).

Massive bribing in the way of a TRIPLE ice-cream was paid on the way home (you try to convince a 6 year old to stay at football for an extra 1 hour to watch a practice match, after she had already watched an hour long game) - she held my hand on the way off the pitch and asked innocently -"how come your so nice when Dad's away" - um let me see....... I lack imagination.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Borneo - Trip 13

Once upon the time there was an Indian, two Japanese, a Chinese Indonesian and a female it's not the start of a joke. But I just completed another succesful trip to central Kalimantan. Only two nights away from the kids this time as we managed to get a flight instead of drive 10 hours each way. Excellent company as well - so really great time away (flying instead of driving makes the whole experience that much easier).
The food wasn't too bad. Yes they are oranges on the left - so gives you an idea of how big the prawns are.

See those little rectangles on the side of the river - they are toilets. That's right, the prawns are from THIS river. Yum - anyone hungry? Seriously - they taste delicious and who knows what's in ones that you get from other places.

The views on the river are spectacular at sunset/sunrise. It hasn't rained up there for 2 weeks and it is blisteringly hot - Dec and Jan had record rainfall, so it's not a drought. Where we went straddles the equator - this is the first trip I have made where there was no rain for the whole time we were up there. It is a stunning place when there is rain.
Definitely the best part about flying and the mandatory 4+ hour waits in airports, I finished the Millenium Trilogy - OMG, they are fantastic books. I'm not going to be able to pick up another book for at least a few days as I need to savour the ending.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

7 days in Rome

Where we stayed in Rome was fantastic - as you can see from above - Rome may not have had the largest shops - but it had the essentials - above - toy/model shop that sold Lego train track and doll clothes.

We stayed in Largo Argentina - this fountain is 100 steps from our door. The apartment was on the 2nd floor, up a winding, very narrow staircase (yes I did help carry the suitcases, but it was still pretty cute). It was a 1900 building. The fountain is just another example of Rome, turn the corner, there is a another photo moment.

An excellent crepe shop was between our dinner piazzo (compo de fiori) and where we lived. We had dinner at a different resturant every night within the square and the kids got crepes on the way home. That's a 5kg jar - the nutella crepes from here are better than any we have ever had (and we started having them in France 2 1/2 years ago and have them everywhere we go now(including every sunday morning since (thanks to C girl), so we think we are experts now.
Our unit had enough room to swing a cat (or doll). Can't say we spent much daytime in it, but it was warm and adequately furnished.

Our view from the front window. There is a lane in front of the car on the left. Down that lane (no bigger than 2m wide) is the main street (via Arenula) running from the main drag (vittorio Emanuele II) down to the Tevere river. This was a quiet spot but seriously close to bus and tram spots - plus 1 stop from piazza venezia (centre of Rome). Great spot.

Only downside of renting an apartment - you have to clean it before you leave. Lucky we have eager helpers who still think housework is fun (due to lack of experience). This was lounge/Bear bedroom.

Shocking photo right (that's what you get when you hand someone a camera and tell them to take photos to remember it by). Front door on the right, kitchen ahead (taken from the loungeroom).

Kitchen - used for breakfast daily (this is the only time it was ever this clean).

Dining room (only used to rest computers on).

Main bedroom - other end to lounge.
Up to the loft above kitchen (girls room).

Furniture not top of the range - but for 7 days/nights I could not have stayed in a hotel (especially as there doesn't seem to be adjoining rooms).

View from the kitchen window. Would go back tomorrow to this unit. Found it on the B&B accomodation website ( in Rome. Cost 1600 Euro for 7 nights for 5 people - I think that is pretty good for peak period and the privacy it gave us. It didn't have internet or washing machine/dryer - but we found both a few blocks away, life would have been easier if we had it (due to J's ongoing work commitments while on holidays). Funnily it didn't have a TV -itw as in the middle of changing from analog to digital - not sure why that makes a difference - but we unplugged the one at the snow, so not sure we would have used it anyway.

It was our 16th wedding anniversary on the 1st Jan. I was a little hungover after having too much to drink the night before (new years eve outside the colluseum). After a 2 hour lunch with the kids in the quaint area of Trastevere, we leisurley took them home (discovering more treasures on the way) and then walked around the massive block of the colluseum/Roman Forum & Circo Massimo (the place where they did the chairot races) in a light rain while the kids watched a dvd at the unit (yes - we are bad parents (but we were only 10 minutes away if they rang).
So not only was our trip to Italy each other's xmas presents, it was also our anniversary presents as well - I can't imagine getting anything else that I would have loved more.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Dubbo Zoo 2004 & Ironman 2005

One thousand years ago (september 2004) we hardly ever went on holiday, we were so busy working and surviving the week that we didn't think about holidays - it was almost like they were not important. Every year we went to Forster for the Ironman for one week. And twice (over 13 years of friendship) we went away for the weekend with our best friends. One weekend we went to Dubbo Zoo. It was a really fun weekend.

Fashion obviously wasn't a high priority. J was obviously experiencing hair tolerance (as in I would plead that he doesn't shave it off and he took pity on me and didn't for a few months).

But our kids grew up together. The seven of them, although not spending week days together, did spend every sunday together as a bare minimum. They were very close. When we left they actually thought that they were cousins.
Dubbo Zoo is a great place for bike riding. We cycled around (and a few of us raced the others back to the hotel (and we won thanks to the one way road system around the zoo). It was a lot of fun and I can't for the life of me work out why we didn't do more weekends away.

We always knew she was going to walk all over us - but we had no idea how much.

But she has big shoes to fill.

These twins entertaining themselves thoroughly at home.
Not that they caused that much mischief together. (This was at Forster).

Or left their big sister out of anything. (This is just before reading a book before bed).
The twins on the verandah of our unit at Forster. We rented the same unit for 7 years (until 2nd last Ironman - the last was moved to Port Macquarie) - it was situated in the middle of the cycle/running circuit - perfect location when you need to watch some of the race while your babies napped (and this was not counted as seeing him - he had to see us for one of those sightings).
C girl with her camera - a lot can be said for giving a 5 year old a camera.

On a dolpin watch tour - they obviously didn't get chips too often. We did see some dolphins.
The last ever photo of my baby as a baby. 2 days before turning the big 2 years old.

I think it is really obvious they are related - isn't it (love the eyes).

We always enjoyed the swimming in the ocean (that's as deep as we got -it was April)

With J's sister and husband (now), we had supporting down to an art. We saw him a total of 12 times during the race - yes we had to run on occassion to see him between the end of the ride and the start of the run, but he knew we were behind him - always greeted us with a smile (plus when the race is 10-12 hours long, you've got to make it as interesting as possible for the kids).

After a 3.8km swim, 182km bike ride and 4 km left to run (after 38km), he always stopped and said hello.
This holiday marked the end of an era for us. I had finally resigned from where I had started as a graduate and had 3 maternity leaves, but otherwise lived and breathed the place in every waking moment (even on maternity leave). I had been there 11 years and it took a year to get over the grief of leaving my friends (I loved the work challenge, made even more fun by working with people I really liked). I moved to a promotion , supposedly the job of my dreams . But it was too many hours, the company were doing too many things I couldn't live with and I realised I wasn't ready to deal with that side of business. This week in Forster was a turning point for our lives - and the start of "family holidays". In this photo, none of us had a passport. 18 months later, we had moved overseas to live (after volunteering).