Archives for category: life

photo 1Anyone following my Instagram posts (@newcarolyn) over this last year, will have noticed I have been using the hashtag #simplethings quite often.

It is my way to remind myself to stop and appreciate the simple but not so ‘ordinary’ things around me, to look for the special in the everyday. The things that I have here and now. A simple meal with friends, a glass of bubbles with new friends, a good cup of coffee, a beautiful sunset…

A handful of shells found on the beach… 4985f9803fce11e3bf8122000a1fd13e_8

A little gift for no reason…

Tasty, homemade guacamole…

photo 2It is a reminder that looking out for the special in the everyday is a better way to look at life –  rather then thinking the everyday is just something to be endured until that something ‘special’ comes along. ‘If I can just get through this work day, then I’ll be OK’… ‘I just have to keep going until my next day off or my next vacation…’

I don’t always manage it very well. I still get caught up in everyday things… In work that I think is ‘too’ important… With the little things that I turn into big things… In the future, rather than the present…photo-5

It’s not that I am a particularly unappreciative or negative person! It’s just I find myself too easily not taking in the moment, thinking about too many things at once, and getting caught up in things I don’t need to worry about. This is my time to make a conscious decision to change that. Although changing habits can be difficult!

photo-6Mmmm… And then there’s my camera – sometimes it’s important to remember that it’s OK NOT to take that photo! Just to appreciate the moment too! 🙂



Ok, so this month I’m celebrating the fact that I’ve had my Sri Lankan driving licence for a year, and I think I have finally worked out the ‘unofficial’ road rules! Ha!


1. There is no need to use an indicator – unless you’re in the right lane, and you want to turn left. Then you must use the right indicator.

colombo-182. There is no need to turn on your headlights until way after the sun has set. And then put them on high beam and keep them on high beam – no matter what.

3. It is OK to overtake 4 cars, 2 trucks and an ox cart on a bend with a double white line, and expect everyone to slam on the brakes and pull over to the side of the road when you have to squeeze back in because there is a speeding bus coming the other way.

4. It is not mandatory to follow lane markings – the middle of the road is an extra lane, the side of the road is an extra lane.colombo-3

5. As a bus driver you don’t have to worry about bus stops – you can stop anywhere.  Actually you don’t even have to stop – the conductor will pull the passengers on as they run along side the bus.

6. One way roads – as long as you choose which one way you’re going, you’re fine!

three wheeler-17. Use of horn is mandatory – and has many meanings – I’m behind you, I’m overtaking, I’m turning, get a move on, watch out! It is particularly important to use when the car in front of you cannot move – but you want to let them know they need to get out of your way!

8. As soon as you see the police, slam on the brakes, and go 20 km below the speed limit. As soon as you’ve passed them, go back to doing 20 km over the speed limit!

9. If you have to ride a bicycle at night, make sure the bike has no lights, that you’re wearing dark clothing, and that you’re riding on the wrong side of the road.

10. But in the end – you can’t take this post, or driving in Sri Lanka too seriously! 🙂 You have to just go with the flow!colombo-9



Well, actually, maybe that should read ‘The president came to town on my birthday’… The difference a preposition makes in the English language! 🙂

The Road Development Authority here in Sri Lanka, with a generous loan from the Chinese government, has been redoing the road along the Kalpitiya Peninsula – from Palavi to Kalpitiya, about a 40 km stretch. And it has finally been finished! The official opening was the 23rd February – my birthday. And the president was in town to officiate the opening and we somehow managed to get VIP tickets to the event! What an event to add to my special day! Ha!

After showing our VIP invitations, and a thorough frisk and search by the security officers, we were seated on the special white chairs at the front of the giant marquee that had been set up in the market area in the local town Norochchalai. I had put on my ‘conservative’ dress for the event – covering my shoulders and my knees. But was still getting a few stares – partly because I was the only obviously ‘white’ person there!  1000s from nearby villages were there to have a chance to see the president – but only a few had received VIP invitations for the white seats!

As he arrived with his entourage, and a huge media contingent (this was a big PR opportunity!),  the noise and excitement from the crowd mounted, and we were asked to move closer to the front. And then came the speeches. Whilst I did not understand most of them, I certainly felt the fervour that was being created by the various speakers as they extolled the great work the president is doing in Sri Lanka.

A representative from the Chinese consulate spoke on behalf of the Chinese government. His speech went between Mandarin and English. And every time he spoke English all the cameras zoomed around to focus on me! It was quite hilarious although I had to keep my poised and interested face on for those shots! Apparently we even made it to the 6 o’clock news!

Then it was the president’s turn to speak and the crowd became very passionate and began to surge forward through the makeshift barrier into the VIP area. He even finished his speech with some Tamil – the language spoken widely in this area of Sri Lanka. As he finished, and we stood up to leave as well, the crowd finally broke through and there was a rush to get closer to the president. I was caught for a moment in the crush until his security staff held back the crowd and we were given safe passage out of the throng!

The road was closed to traffic as the entourage continued further north. So we walked back into town. What a little adventure to add to my birthday! 🙂

Ah, the joys of the postal service here in Sri Lanka! I do love it really! The paperwork, the bureaucracy, the non-existent queuing system…

Every transaction is handled manually – nothing is computerised – with hand written ledger books, and copious amounts of carbon paper for all the required copies.

Even at our little branch in Norochchalai, if the doors to the offices behind the main counter are open I love looking at all the piles of paperwork and imagining how long they’ve been there and old they are! And wondering what happens to it all?!

photoAnd of course, no transaction is simple. Whilst postage certainly is not expensive – it’s less than 20 cents to send a postcard anywhere in the world, and a letter to Australia costs about 70 cents – it is made a little more complicated because of all the combinations of stamps required to make that 85 rupee! I sent a birthday card to my brother-in-law recently and the envelope ended up being more than half covered! Somehow I think the address was still visible.

And then, if they don’t have enough change, you get more stamps back! For next time?!photo-3

There is no queuing system. One clerk can be dealing with several customers at once, and your personal space can feel a little compromised. You finally get to the ‘front’ of the queue and think you have the clerk’s attention for your five letters – but for every one action she does for you she deals with someone else who is reaching over and around you, or leaning over the counter in front of you. Fortunately most of the time it works without too much drama!

If you want to send anything registered – well, that will double the time you’re at the post office as you deal with several clerks and more paperwork!

And then once you get all the stamps for your letters, you have to keep them in the correct combinations and take them back to the other counter to paste them all on the envelopes! Sticky fingers…

photo-2The other day I had to pick up a parcel that had been sent from Australia. Sometimes they just get delivered, other times no, you have to go to the central office and pick them up paying any applicable fees and import duties and taxes, etc. How this is decided I’m still not sure about.

Jude, the trusty tuk-tuk driver, picked me up and took me to the main office in Colombo. He has done this before and knew the order of all the counters we had to go to and helped with any translation that was needed.  We were one of the first ones there that morning – hopefully a good sign, hopefully this would mean we wouldn’t be there that long! First, to the clerk who was still straightening out yesterday’s carbon paper ready for the triplicate copies needed. That lot of paperwork done and then passed on to the next clerk. ID recorded, and my signature on every page. Then asked to sit and wait. Finally number 7 was called and to a new counter. I had to wait for them to locate my package, and then they opened it in front of me. Upon seeing the contents someone then somehow decided on the taxes and fees associated with the contents. They resealed the package in front of me – but it was still not mine! Onto the next counter… And I had to wait whilst she finished ruling up her ledger book and organizing her pens and rulers and pencils for the day. I paid the fees and still had to wait as I could see the parcel sitting on the floor behind her. But it was not her job to give it to me. We had to wait until some ‘underling’ was available to pick it up and then give it me – with the clerk who I had just dealt with checking all paperwork again! And then finally it was mine!! All quite comical really!

As a system it somehow manages to work quite well and certainly keeps a lot of people employed – including the carbon paper manufacturing company!

driving licence

driving licence

So it was time to get a Sri Lankan driving licence. And on paper it all sounded so simple – take your current driving licence, and your passport with your visa to the Department of Motor Traffic, and with an exchange of paperwork, a temporary or lifelong licence will be issued.

Well, I should have known, that as with any bureaucratic process nothing is that easy or quick! Yes, Carolyn, just think about how long a visit to the post office can take; or how long you waited at the department of immigration to extend your visa!

So, I tried to get through the process this morning…

Jude, the tuk-tuk driver, picked me up at 8.30. I didn’t realise quite where we were going or how long it would take to get there! By the time we got there, and parked in the midst of all the buses, cars, and tuk-tuks with giant ‘L’ plates on them, we had to make our way through the 100s waiting for their driving tests.  But we were there for a different purpose so we wouldn’t get caught up with that?

Mmm… apparently not. We all had to go for a medical check up, so I had to join the end of the queue. With only 1 doctor who was already running late.

We heard about a clinic 15 minutes back closer to the Colombo. So off we went in the tuk-tuk again. Of course, for this particular medical check, you can’t go to any doctor or clinic – they have to be approved by the Department of Motor Traffic. So there aren’t many around! We finally found it. I was very unceremoniously whisked in to be weighed and measured, and then sent to the counter to pay for this part of the process, and wait for the next step. By the time we left there, we had been going for over 2 hours and were no closer to getting a licence!

At that stage, I gave up on the process for the day – if we had gone back to the Department of Motor Traffic, I’d still be waiting there now! And I had appointments and other things scheduled for the day.

So Jude and I have a plan – now that we know the process, know where everything is, and have found out the opening times, we will start extra early when I am next in Colombo to conquer the Sri Lankan driving licence process once and for all!



eb3c7fc092e411e2b2fd22000a9e0875_6Made is a young man in Ubud, working as a guide and motorbike driver to support his family. Always with a big smile on his face, one of the happiest guys I know. Always with a goal, a plan to improve things for his family. Always willing to do whatever and go wherever for his guests.

I first met Made 4 years ago when I was staying along Monkey Forest Road in Ubud, making one of my regular trips to Bali – often on the way to or from Australia as a respite between the craziness of work in London or New York, and the busyness of catching up with family and friends at home.

He offered me a ride on his motorbike to one of my favourite Ubud hangouts – Jazz Cafe. Whilst living in Jakarta I quickly became a frequent user of ojeks – motorbike taxis – so readily took him up on his offer.blessing-1

Since then we have done many a trip together – local trips to temples and markets around town; trips further afield, exploring the island with friends and a second bike; even trips to and from the airport (although if I have too much luggage or travelling with a friend, Made arranges a car and driver).

people-2Made’s father died several years ago and although Made is the 2nd eldest (hence the Balinese name Made!), he has taken responsibility for his family. His older brother, Wayan, is not well and not able to maintain a job or bring in a regular income. His mother is a day labourer and does her bit to bring in money to look after elderly grandparents.

Made has worked very hard over the years, making improvements to the family compound, as well as saving to purchase a second bike – this means he can rent one to guests, or bring in another driver to do day trips for 2. He dreams of owning a car, and maybe opening a guesthouse on the land behind the family compound.

He keeps in touch with guests (and he calls them guests, not clients – which I think makes it much more personal!) through text messaging, Facebook and email. And clients, old and new, soon become friends!sal-1

I have visited his family compound many times, having tea and cake with his mother, and playing with his cousin’s daughter, Wayan. Made has also opened up many opportunities for me to explore and further understand Balinese culture. I have been to special temple ceremonies with him, and last year Sal and I had the privilege of attending a cremation ceremony – a very significant event for Balinese – we felt very honoured to be involved.

So next time you’re in Bali – say hello to Made for me!

galungan-7Today is Galungan – a very important festival in the Balinese year.

Galungan recognizes good (Dharma) over evil (Adharma) with people acknowledging the creator of the earth, and offering sacrifices of food and flowers to ancestors within village temples and family compounds. 1st galungan-1

galungan-2Each family/compound has a responsibility to create a penjor for the entrance to their home, as well as contributing offerings to the family and village temples.  Preparation takes many days, and the local markets are always busy in the period leading up to Galungan.

Many events occur before and after Galungan. Tomorrow everyone will spend time visiting family and close friends. It all culminates in Kuningan in 10 days time. Kuningan means yellow and on this day the Balinese will make special offerings of yellow rice. 1st galungan-3

1st galungan-4

As the year has 210 days, I was also fortunate enough to be here for Galungan last year as well! I was invited to join Made as he visited several village temples to share his family’s offerings. It was a busy, bustling time, nothing too formal! Families, all dressed up in sarongs and kabayas, knelt in temple compounds, offering their gifts and receiving blessings, before chatting to friends and moving onto the next temple. What a privilege to be involved.

1st galungan-2