Thursday, April 29, 2010

forgive me for I have sinned

Forgive me father for I have sinned.  It has been 25 years since my last confession and I humbly admit that this afternoon I cracked and scoffed three vegan pancakes.   It was a premeditated sin, requiring me to bike ride to the shop for flour, sift and stir, ignite the gas and watch with glee as the batter bubbled like a crumpet. Some people snort coke or drink gin; I make pancakes.  

I drenched mine in lemon juice, honey and ginger marmalade.  Oh my, the sweet joys.  A lack of fruit drove me to this deviation.  The bananas and papaya we have are rock hard, and the only sweet things in the house are royal icing cake decorations!  After lunch I tried brushing my teeth, raking the yard, swimming; but still the burning desire for sugar remained.  The addicted monkey mind wouldn't let go.

 For the record, here is the recipe.  I substituted coconut cream & water for soy milk :

Fluffy Vegan Pancakes
2 C flour
1 t bi-carb soda
1 t baking powder
1 C coconut cream
1 C water
1 t lemon juice
1 T honey

Sift together flour, soda & baking powder. 
Combine coconut cream, water, honey and lemon juice.
Add wet mix to dry and whisk.
Cook in a non-stick pan to your desired size (makes 5 large pancakes)
Enjoy with a smile.


Monday, April 26, 2010

food metres & the coconut jigsaw

There are food miles, and then there are food metres.  The coconut in today’s story travelled a total distance of 3 meters vertically and 4 metres horizontally from treetop to plate.  

Coconut trees are valuable assets, passed down through generations.  The first trees were planted about 30 years ago as a government incentive to feed the villagers and their animals.  Vacant crown land was divided into 6 metre strips and the occasional random square, and the planting began.  In today’s real  estate climate, a potential leasee has to round up the owners of each strip of land, find out who wants to lease their little bit, and then get them to agree on a price.  Easier said than done.  When the parcel of land is signed over, it does not include the coconuts trees.  These remain the property of the owner, and they have full access rights.  A case of being able to have your coconut and eat it too.   If a coconut falls, it is our responsibility to gather it at the foot of the trunk for future collection.  Do not make the mistake - as I did once - of putting them all in one neat pile off to the side.  Shock, horror, how do we know who owns each coconut?  Serious faux pas.

Two of the village elders arrive to gather coconuts for their pigs.  Pak Johannus climbs, while Pak Hanus collects and offers encouragement.  Pak Johannus is an agile 68 years old with four pigs and five kids.  Pak Hanus is our adopted local grandad who belies his 77 years with a spritely step and the occasional jog in pursuit of fish or a strong cup of coffee.  He is an expert net weaver, with the patience and focus of a monk, and likes to sleep in a grass hut on the beach to get away from his wife.  He owns two t-shirts, both recieved free from political campaigns, and they double as a hat in the heat of the day.  

Pak Hanus opens a coconut for me and I use the strips of tender young meat as the inspiration for lunch. Everything except for the avocado (which came from the mainland) was sourced within 15 kms.  Tossed with wild basil, carrot, bayam (amaranth) leaves, tomato & lemon juice.  Selamat makan.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

a long commute

A new service has arrived by way of roving vegetable women.   Each day they walk 9km to our village, make house calls to sell greens and peanuts until their baskets are empty, then wander home again.   

Mumma Fena is 56 years old and strides with a spring in her step.  On a good day she can make 50,000rps (A$6), and get her quota of exercise, social interaction and fresh air.   I am quite sure she is not concerned by the rate of the Indonesian rupiah on the world market, the price of Air Asia tickets or whether her shirt matches her thongs.  If she has rice, she has life.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

no power, no tower

Our usual 12 hour power allocation has been thwarted for the third consecutive night , and we are back to the old days of candles and a kero lantern.  A thumping diesel generator supplies power from 6pm to midnight, then the battery storage from solar kicks in until 6am.  Someone forgot to maintain the generator and we are left with a semi-useful power supply in the wee hours.  Not enough to freeze water to keep the fridge cold during the day, but enough to charge up the computer and phone, the latter rendered useless by the lack of power to the phone tower.  Priorities must be made to appease the good lord, so last nights power was reallocated to run the PA system and organ for the marathon church service. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

the fine art of sitting

It is socially acceptable for locals to plonk themselves in our house and watch the entertaining activity as we go about our daily life.  In the early days it was common, however we are no longer as unique, and they realize we still engage in prosaic chores, albeit with more gadgets and quirky techniques.

There are some that still welcome the opportunity to “play” at our house and flick through a book or magazine.  Today we have Pak Alex from a neighbouring island, who does a trade in ikat weavings and silver jewellery.  Since Louise bought a cloth from him last year, he likes to drop in to see if we have any new guests.  He is tiny man with a shocking spine defect that means he walks like a crumpled letter “S”.  Alex has recently acquired a mobile phone and insists we swap numbers before he leaves.  Ten minutes later we get a call to say he has made it to his next destination.  I can see where this is going...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bali Spirit Festival

On the way through Bali we stopped off in Ubud to attend the Bali Spirit Festival; a four day celebration of yoga, dance and world music.  Hundreds of lithe human pretzels, glowing in Lululemon attire and snacking on vegan brownies.  My kind of scene.   As my theme for the year is expansion, I chose to attend workshops outside my normal scope of body movement:  “qi gong iron shirt & iron body”, zenthai shiatsu”, “hot apple yoga, “shamanism, evolution, total freedom & astanga” and “yoga meets ecstatic dance.”  The latter had me a little worried when the instruction was to make love to the ground.  Not only was the grass itchy, but I felt like a total unit!  I was relieved when we got onto the ribbon twirling and skipping with gay abandon.  The festival pulls some big name teachers, including Eion Finn, Shiva Rea, Twee Merrigan, Danny Paradise, Katy Appleton & Duncan Wong.  Their signature classes were matt room only - elbow to elbow - which seriously hampers a zealous sun salutation.  It required strict focus on one’s dristi to ignore the puddles of sweat on my neighbour’s mat, the stinky foot in my face and blinding view of a free hanging ‘member’.  Just for the record, I don’t sweat, I gently perspire.

Tom was happy to do his own downward dog at the villa then join me for the evening music gig.  One night was a washout, and we spent half our time dodging waterfalls behind the counter of the merchandise tent.  The headline act was Ganga Girl from Australia; a tribal dance blend of didg, drums and vocal.   Fuse this with contemporary Balinese gamelan, stage it in front of temple gates and spot-lit frangipani and you have the elements of a memorable event.  It will be on again in March 2011, so book in now for a chance to investigate different movement practices and find your inner elbow.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

off my trolley

Behold the bicycle shopping cart.  The transport revolution has arrived.  We brought over an old golf buggy cart, turned it upside down and bolted on a box that we found washed up on the beach.  It fell off twice on its maiden voyage, and so requires a slight modification.

 Things are looking up in the food department.  Word must be out that the vegans are in town.  Along with the usual suspects, our larder is stocked with avocados, tempeh, tofu, papapa, wild honey and tomatoes. Plus, I snuck in some sesame seed slice to support the local economy.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

big brother is watching

The police drop by while Tom is out having his first grovel in the shoulder high surf.  They are young and polite, apologise for the disturbance and keep their motorbike helmets on for the duration of their visit.  It is customary to check in with the kepala desa (village chief) and the police upon arrival, and give them a copy of your passport and expected length of stay.  That way, if there is any “what what”, they know where to find us.
Five years ago there was only one resident policeman; now there are 25, and a new police station with living quarters was built last year to house them.  It is local rumour that the increased force is to dampen any ideas the nearby army may have about showing off their strength.  It is comforting to know we have the police on our side of the channel.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

around the bend...but not that bend

Our food supply would make Old Mother Hubbard blush, so I borrow Benja’s crappy motorbike and go shopping.  The road is potholed and rocky, and every bump is like sitting atop a jackhammer.  I confirm with three people the location of the Saturday market – yes the main corner, 90 degree bend – and as I fear when I arrive at an empty marketplace, it is not THAT corner, but the less conspicuous left turn onto a dirt track twenty minutes before.  I make a quick u-turn and arrive at the market just to see the only avocados being bought by the owner of the homestay where we used to live.  I tell her my hard luck story about missing the road, and she simply shrugs and says “oh well, you arrive too late.”   There are only one bunch of bananas, some spring onions, bayam greens and limes for my effort. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

boiled goat or radioactive biscuits?

It is hot. Energy zapping hot. Lay-motionless-and-sweat-hot. The water in the lagoon is warm, and is like swimming in a pool of wee. It rinses off the sweat, but is far from refreshing.

I make my first visit to the shop and I am so hungry that the radioactive packaged biscuits are starting to look like food. I read the odd label to shock myself and wonder again how an entire shop can contain nothing vibrant and fresh. On display in the new glass cabinet, next to the fluorescent puffed balls of hydrolyzed poison, are some bun like offerings. Anything that can remain in a stable state in this heat surely cannot be edible. I return home for a salad of carrot, greens and cucumber.

Our nearest neighbour, Long John, has arrived from the Gold Coast and saved the day with a bunch of bananas. The few we had left were so mushy they went to the goats. We try to ration them for a few days, but they ripen at an alarming rate, and without 24hr power we can’t freeze them for smoothies.

We are invited to a “building site party” of a house that Tom designed. It is customary to acknowledge certain stages of the project – foundations, walls, roof – and on offer is boiled goat and rice. Gee sorry, I have an appointment to scrub the toilet.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

all care cleaning

By midday the house is clean and most things have been aired our, repacked and reorganised. I am averting my gaze from the yard, which is another mountain altogether. I take time to sit back with a book and a cup of tea, assuming a position that will be familiar in the months to come.

Monday, April 5, 2010

lean times at the market

The mess must wait while we attend the weekly market. At this time of year the variety of fruit and vegies is limited, and I wonder what the hell I am going to make with what’s available. The spoiled West Australian taste buds and coddled mind are confronted by the reality of little choice and finite quantity. The locals rely on rice as the staple for every meal. Take this out of the equation and we are left with five pathetic carrots, six seedy cucumbers, a big bag of bayam (amaranth leaves), six Asian eggplant (not our favourite raw veggie), a pumpkin, eight small slabs of tempeh, two knobs of ginger and about 50 bananas. Gourmet raw this is not. Luckily we are aiming more for 80:10:10 (, but the lack of fruit is an obstacle to success.

Greg, the American manager of the village resort, drops in to welcome us back. He senses that the house will not be clean by sunset, and invites us to dinner.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

home to the filth & decay

The hotel kitchen does not have any fruit; only eggs and cardboard bread that would survive an atomic bomb. So with no brekky, we leave for the ferry terminal and the promise of home by early afternoon. The “Strait of Death” is glassy, a bonus of traveling at this time of year, when the lack of wind and swell make the conditions far from menacing.

We are met at the wharf by Nixon, our regular bemo driver, who barely raises the corners of his mouth in greeting. A wet fish handshake and we are on the road. We stop in the island’s main town for an uninspiring lunch of rice with green beans, and visit the new marketplace to stock up for dinner. The middle of the island received reasonable rain over the wet season, but as we travel south, the green recedes to brown and the land is almost as parched as in July.

Home, sweet home is a mess. The decay over five months is astounding; if you left for over a year there would be a ruin to return to. Goats got into the back garden and ate what little green they could find and termites attacked the tank stand, two floorboards, the daybed and the island cupboard. Everything is covered in a film of dirt and salt scum, with piles of gecko & cockroach shit, dead ants, spiders and rust. The furious scurry of roaches from their nest in our bathroom cupboard nearly sets off a panic attack, and the smell of the waterfall of shit down the shelves has scarred my olfactory sense.

The job ahead is overwhelming and I want to run home to my mummy and a nice cup of tea. Tom is equally fraught; however we set ourselves short term goals and begin. My aim is to get the bedroom ready before dark, while Tom takes down the tarps and tin cocooning the main house. By sunset, the bedroom is habitable, with a clean mosquito net and new sheets. The kitchen is still a no-go zone, so we take our meager ingredients to Gerry’s house next door and use his facilities.

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