Archives for posts with tag: lifestyle

‘You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.’

Miriam Adeney

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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!

ImageProxy.mvcBali!

I arrived back a few days ago, and even though this time I arrived at the new international terminal, it was still the same as I left the air conditioning – straight into the sights, smells, heat, and noise that can only be Bali!

Into a taxi and another way that you know you’re back in Bali – the questions! ‘Where are you from?’, ‘Where are you going?’, ‘Are you married/do you have a boyfriend?’, and if you happen to say yes to that one, then the inevitable ‘Do you have children? How many?’seminyak sunset-1

And one thing to know about Balinese culture, and more generally Indonesian culture, is that for these questions (and many others) even if you want to say ‘No!’, the polite answer is ‘Not yet – belum.’ As there’s always a chance!!

seminyak -4These questions are not prying and are not considered too personal – it’s just a way of placing you, of working out how you fit in a culture that is very family and community oriented. Although the one about children is a big one! Having several children, and particularly boys, is such an important part of Balinese culture, a way for things to continue.

Elizabeth Gilbert, and whatever you think of her, or ‘the’ book, describes the ‘questioning’ well:galungan penjor-1

“When you are walking down the road in Bali and you pass a stranger, the very first question he or she will ask you is, “Where are you going?” The second question is, “Where are you coming from?” To a Westerner, this can seem like a rather invasive inquiry from a perfect stranger, but they’re just trying to get an orientation on you, trying to insert you into the grid for the purposes of security and comfort. If you tell them that you don’t know where you’re going, or that you’re just wandering about randomly, you might instigate a bit of distress in the heart of your new Balinese friend. It’s far better to pick some kind of specific direction – anywhere – just so everybody feels better.galungan-6

The third question a Balinese will almost certainly ask you is, “Are you married?” Again, it’s a positioning and orienting inquiry. It’s necessary for them to know this, to make sure that you are completely in order in your life. They really want you to say yes. it’s such a relief to them when you say yes. If you’re single, it’s better not to say so directly. And I really recommend that you not mention your divorce at all, if you happen to have had one. It just makes the Balinese so worried. The only thing your solitude proves to them is your perilous dislocation from the grid. If you are a single woman traveling through Bali and somebody asks you, “Are you married?” the best possible answer is: “Not yet.” This is a polite way of saying, “No,” while indicating your optimistic intentions to get that taken care of just as soon as you can.

Even if you are eighty years old, or a lesbian, or a strident feminist, or a nun, or an eighty-year-old strident feminist lesbian nun who has never been married and never intends to get married, the politest possible answer is still: “Not yet.”

― Elizabeth GilbertEat, Pray, Love

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/748041-when-you-are-walking-down-the-road-in-bali-and

seminyak beach-4As many of you know, I’ve been to Bali many times. Almost too many times to count now! For many years I avoided it – thinking it was full of Australians that projected an image that I didn’t want to be associated with! And don’t worry – there is that element! But Bali is so much more!

This time, I’m just here for a few days staying in the bustling ‘Australian enclave’ of Seminyak. For a bit of shopping, some great food, and the opportunity to hang out in a place I know well, where I feel very comfortable, where I can get around on the back of a motorbike, where I have enough Indonesian still to be taken seriously and not considered a naive tourist! But I’ve done Bali in many other ways too – Lavina and the north coast for a totally different perspective; Ubud and the hills for markets, and temples, and cooler temperatures; …

1st galungan-5Staying in Seminyak, you could easily be in any touristy Asian city. But scratch the surface and the real Bali is still there…

The old lady preparing the offerings that are used daily for the little temples dotted in front of businesses and residences; the old galungan-7man working the rice padi one block behind the bustling street; the car full of boys and men all dressed in traditional sarongs heading to a ceremony; the penjor that line the streets – not just for the sake of the tourists but to commemorate the recent Galungan festival; the kakilimas selling street food in front of the 5 star restaurant; and of course, the questions that get asked as soon as you start chatting to a local!

Thanks again Bali for being what I needed when I needed it!

I don’t know whether it was the jetlag or the rain that woke me. Either way, I am sitting on the verandah as day breaks here in Ubud. It all happens rather quickly in a place this close to the equator. One moment it is dark, the next the sky pales and nearby shapes become discernible. It doesn’t come completely unbidden though as the birds and the cocks sense the change and begin their morning calls.

It is the end of the rainy season, although there can still be sudden tropical downpours. The rain has now stopped, but the air is still heavy with its dampness, and the dripping from the buildings and greenery echoes its fall, albeit in a quieter, slowing way. I am surrounded on three sides by foliage. It gives one a sense of privacy in a place that can otherwise seem always full of people. It also hints at the wilderness that, if left unchecked, could easily take over. It looks like it has been here for many years – but I know such plants can seemingly grow inches overnight and a garden does not take long to become established.

The motorbikes buzz up and down Jalan Bisma as the working day has already begun for many. I will go for a wander soon. Firstly stopping to visit the temple with beautiful lotus flowers, continuing my quest for the perfect photo! And then the ‘morning’ market. I like it at this time  – full of locals preparing for their day. Purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables, prepared food, sweets,and drinks, as well as flowers and baskets for the offerings to be made during the day. It changes rapidly about mid-morning to become the ‘tourist’ market with sarongs, and batik, and wooden carvings, and packaged spices. The prices change, the atmosphere changes.

It is still cool enough at this time of the morning to need a light covering. That will change rapidly, and humidity will instead add its cloak to the day. There is not much planned. After my walk and breakfast, I will stroll along Monkey Forest Road, and turn at the soccer field to my usual place for a morning coffee and, if room, a cinnamon scroll.  Wifi is available, a place to sit with no pressure to move on, and an opportunity to watch all the nearby goings-on.

What better place to appreciate the here and now, to enjoy just ‘being’, without getting caught up in the past or the future…