Monday, November 18, 2013

beach reverie

While the pace of western life accelerates in a flurry of infernal busyness, and the time stress tightens like a corset as Christmas draws near, I tend to get slower as the torrid wet season approaches. After eight months on rubber time it can be hard to muster up enough motivation to move anywhere - under stimulation being a converse problem to overload. Each day begins as a blank page, challenging me to be mindful and quiet, while the inner being never shuts up. It can be confronting when the distractions of the typical modern life are stripped away and you realise the commotion is in the mind as it fights with reality. 

See what pondering your navel does? In between times there is always the wind, surf and tides to consider.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

a visa run around

There was a plan and it was good. Then there was a most unexpected incident and the itinerary went spiralling into oblivion, washed away by my tears. I had to dig very deep to accept the reality of the present and release my attachment to the outcome I had envisaged. Our highly anticipated trip to Yunnan province in China was foiled by a single sentence from the smiling immigration secretary at the Chinese embassy in Jakarta.
Do you have your KITAS? (a working visa for Indonesia). 
With a surprised stare we answered no. No KITAS, no Chinese visa. Next please.
The embassy had recently changed the rule, and we were going by the email I had received earlier when a passport and driver's license was all one required. No visa, no China, do not pass go…
In shock, we laughed, I cried and we regrouped with a strong coffee and discussed our options. We had to leave Indonesia the following day as our visa stipulated, so would take the booked flight to Kuala Lumpur. From there we had no plan.

Our Air Asia flights to China were non-rerouteable and non-refundable, a generous donation to their profit, and to book a last minute flight from KL to Bali was cost prohibitive. We are both averse to cities, traffic and noise - the very essence of our time in Jakarta - so were not about to immerse ourselves in the agony of central KL. I had visited Melaka, in the south-west of Malaysia, as a backpacker in 1997 and remembered it fondly. The old town has been UNESCO World Heritage Listed,and with a direct bus link from the airport, we had ourselves a destination.  With a large Chinese population, traditional shophouse architecture and green tea, we could squint and pretend we were in Yunnan, minus the mountains, yaks and snow, but with the added bonus of authentic and ridiculously cheap Indian food. 

One week after leaving our island home we were back, our unused thermals still in the bottom of the bag. We both picked up a horrid flu from excessive exposure to open mouthed coughs and snorts on every mode of transport. My birthday was spent in bed rather than at the foot of a glacier in a Tibetan home stay, and my surprise dinner postponed. Aquaman took it all in his gentle stride, proving he is just that little bit more enlightened than most (or at least me).

Yunnan, you will keep. I have a well thought out itinerary for anyone interested. Wherever you go, there you are.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

300 steps


There is a tourist object on the south coast known as 300 steps. We have been aware of its existence for many years, however it was only this week that we finally made it over the potholes and dubious bridges to climb to the lookout and survey a new horizon. I didn't count the steps, so cannot confirm the accuracy of the title.

The idea of an afternoon outing sounds easy enough, but the reality is that our severe aversion to sitting in vehicles and travelling on headache inducing roads means we generally prefer to radiate out from home within a walk or bike ride distance; but after a while I grow restless. I have a very low tolerance for boredom and yearn for unfamiliar places and the thrill of experiencing the unknown. I long to indulge in the affair of travel and flex my shutter finger, and this desire outweighs the discomfort involved.  Plus there is the joy of sharing it with you my dear bloggies. Where have you been lately?

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the
cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don't know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like
burnt paper.

D.H. Lawrence

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

up the back

This post has been steeping in the mystifying pot of the internet for a week, where I have been unable to access it. After many long frustrating hours it has finally loaded and I am pleased to send it on its way with images from an early morning walk; the old architecture and the new, locals doing their thing, and a couple of four legged friends. 

The season is changing - as southern Australia heads into spring our winds shift onshore and the humidity heralds the beginning of the build up. After 45 days straight with waves Aquaman has been spending a bit more time at the desk this week, where he is dedicated to learning Revit  (computer aided design) and moving out of the dark ages of a pencil and drawing board. No more crinkled drafting paper on humid days or scratching off pen lines with a scalpel. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

a cake for aquaman

I was under strict instructions not to make a fuss for Aquaman's 40th birthday, and I tried, really I did, but the opportunity to bake a cake and get out the teaspoon collection was too much to bare. It was just a little afternoon tea, with no candles or hoo-ha, and only one painfully sung line of happy birthday. The invited guests were instructed to drop in casually between 3pm and 4.30pm, so as to divert attention away from the notion that I had indeed orchestrated a forbidden event. 

The birthday cake was the first one I have baked this season as I don't have an oven, and the idea of attempting a chocolate cake in the camp oven under a midday sun was ludicrous. Instead, I was able to borrow Hildi's oven space. I sifted the dry ingredients into a large bowl, and packaged it up with the wet ingredients and cake tin into my bike basket and carefully cycled into town. Talk about the slow food movement. I had a minor mishap when the almost cooked cake slipped out of my hand and upturned into the oven, losing its tender middle.  Hildi reported the next time she lit the oven it caught fire and smelt suspiciously like burning chocolate. 

Once cooked, the cake was couriered by another friend on her motorbike back to the house. All this time, Tom was meant to be surfing macking six foot waves that I had especially dialled up for his birthday. Unfortunately for him, his nose and that of the board met on his first wave, and Tom came off a bloody second best.  He was quick to suspect a gathering of some ilk when I arranged more than two cups and plates on the table. It is impossible to hide party preparations in a one room shack. I think I was forgiven after the birthday boy polished of his second slab of cake and third donut. 

Happy birthday dear Tom, you are a inspiration and I am honoured to be sharing my days with you. xx 

One Bowl Wonder Chocolate Cake

2 cups plain flour
1 tsp bi-carb soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 - 1 1/2 cups raw sugar (depending on how sweet you like your cake)
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup milk (non-dairy or cow)
2/3 cup canola or coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 mashed bananas plus juice one small lemon (or 2 eggs)
(optional: add half cup of almond meal for a denser cake)

Sift together flour, bi-carb, baking powder, cinnamon and cocoa. Add sugar and salt.
Combine milk, oil and vanilla.
Add bananas and lemon juice (or eggs if non-vegan)
Combine well.
Bake in 20cm round tin for 35-45 mins at 180 degrees until a skewer comes out clean.  
Cool, then turn out onto cake rack and decorate. 

I frosted the cake with a ganache made from coconut cream and melted 70% Lindt dark chocolate, then sprinkled on grated chocolate and smashed up Beng Beng bars (an Indo classic). 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

race round

The hus is a pre-Christian ritual tradition, formerly held to ask the deities for rain, a good harvest or other bounty. Horseman sport the distinctive tilangga hats and ikat cloth, and the horse’s mane, tail and head are decorated; these days with crepe paper and strips of plastic. A woven pandan mat is used in place of a saddle and there are no stirrups. Originally the riders would circle a large tree that was believed to hold secret powers, while today they circle a dusty oval with a few sticks and string to mark the track. Horsemen representing different clans would approach the arena from each cardinal point (representing specific powers) and circle the tree at a fast pace. While riding they whipped their horses and themselves with the thorny young shoots of the lontar palm until blood was drawn.  Drawing first blood was considered highly auspicious. Each clan would present a young coconut to be split by the priest, with the coconut water hitting the earth representing coming rains. 

With the domination of Christianity on the island, the hus has become a spectacle rather than spiritual tradition, held at any time and place. The breaking of the coconut tradition is forbidden as “black magic”and the flagellation has been replaced by a less bloody test of speed and form. The rules appear very loose, and the winners of each round are difficult for the uninitiated to distinguish. Races are based on maintaining a specific gait or outright speed, with prizes awarded for best decorated horse and rider. Lively gong music is played to arouse greater speed and bravery, and the crowd cheers with high pitched yips and yodels that western men find impossible to replicate.  Tourists are encouraged to have a ride, with inevitable spills into the dust as six foot Aussies drag their feet beside the squat Timor ponies. As far as I am aware, there has never been a female rider, and with my complete lack of horsewomanship, I won’t be the first. 

Thanks for Libby House of the Lualemba Indigo Foundation for organizing this year’s local hus and providing information about the tradition. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

a moveable feast


After the indulgences of Bali, I was happy to return to the raw vegan sensibility - fresh, ripe, organic fruit and vegies, sprouts, seeds and occasional nuts. Simple, grain free, unprocessed, with nil by mouth other than herbal tea after sunset (which is 5.45pm here at 11 degrees south). The exceptions to our raw diet are a small amount of tempeh (an Indonesian delicacy made by fermenting soya beans), steamed sweet potato and dry grilled eggplant. 

Aquaman strung together an impressive 25 days caffeine free, whereas I crumbled after nine - my longest stint totally caffeine free (with not even green tea) for at least ten years. I was shocked by the mental space hijacked with thoughts of coffee, the internal struggle to stay away from the bean and leaf, and the feelings of deprivation as I drank another rooibos. Giving up yoghurt and cheese was much easier. It was pathetic, annoying and I was napping like a wombat. Behold the power of a single shot.  Lord knows how I’d react to anything stronger, or if I had a three-cups-a-day habit. 

We are fortunate to have some foodie friends that aren’t afraid to have vegans at the table, and this week has been a culinary sensation of epic proportions.  Firstly, a lunch next door with our newest neighbours, a Moroccan/Israeli living in Bali and his Italian friend. Cue falafel with tahini dressing, the most hummus ever to be served on the island, mixed salads, toasted rye bread, grilled eggplant with chilli, and floods of olive oil.  All served beneath a shady coconut leaf cabana with a white sand floor. 


After 24 hours to recover from the surfeit of garlic, we attended the annual Lodge afternoon tea, with its much anticipated menu of Balinese black rice pudding with coconut milk and banana, hot donuts and tea. Yes I said donuts. As in “I want to wash myself with a sponge on a stick” kind of calories. It is my one deliberate fried food item of the year, and I ate it with as much mindfulness as I could muster among the animated conversation. 

We had a 48 hour sabbatical after the donuts and before the third invitation; a glorious raw meal with our friends Colin and Linda. Despite an unexpected break in power supply, Linda came through with her promise of banana and pistachio “semi-freddo”; the exclamation mark to a poetic stanza of ingredients.

Back in the days of no refrigeration and smoky pots of rice cooked over an open fire, I couldn’t imagine ever seeing a pinenut or mizuna leaf in this environment. A splash of balsamic vinegar at someone’s house was a luxury to be savored for weeks. Now we have rocket and fancy lettuce, miso, walnuts, dates and Lindt chocolate. They are all still carefully rationed, but I am grateful for their mere existence and the generosity of friends who share their supplies.
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