Of laundry, death and a Balinese wedding

Fresh from the soggy task of hanging out the laundry, I am thinking of my childhood friend, Snowbell, who rushed back from across the planet after learning that her father died suddenly on Sunday. His funeral happened today. Doing laundry is drudgery, but it looks different after you consider its finite nature, being something that you do for living people. Once someone is dead, you wouldn’t be able to do laundry for them even if you wanted to.

I am also thinking of another friend, Tango, who will be doing laundry for two from now on, as she got married on Sunday (what an eventful day You gave us, dear Lord), in Bali, and that was the reason we went there.

I don’t put up identity-revealing pictures here, but I’d like to show you a little of the beauty of that wedding in these two strategically blurred shots. My internal temperamental artist persona compels me to note here that the bokeh was achieved at the time of shooting, and not through Photoshop filters.

The ceremony - done Balinese style - took place on the grounds of the Royal Pita Maha in the late afternoon. It was hot and cloudy and there was a carpet of frangipani flowers leading the couple to the altar. You can't make out the details, but here the bridesmaid and best man are holding a cord up while the couple completes the ceremony, and in the meantime, the guests are getting ready to throw flower petals.

Part Two of the wedding took place in another courtyard:

Our outdoor dinner was graced by Balinese dancers and live music. There was fine food and wine, a purple chocolate wedding cake, floating candles and good company. Some mosquitoes too, but that can hardly be helped in Bali. Note to self: next time, bring citronella.

At the risk of rousing superstitious ire for linking a wedding and a death, I can’t help but think of how very different Tango and Snowbell must have been feeling at the precise same moment. For all our frenetic activity, we walk the same timeline with totally unique experiences, and, in that way, live and die quite alone. Yes, we can choose to share ourselves with people or admit the omnipresence of God, but one is purely subjective and the other is mindbendingly universal, and neither changes the fact that right now, this moment, what you are and what you think and feel, cannot be appreciated by any other human being as clearly as you do.

Still, let’s end this post on a light-hearted note, because, like it or not, with all its drama, life is also funny. I have just the thing to prove that, in the form of the Balinese answer to the Angry Birds, which I saw as part of the decor at the Royal Pita Maha.

"You think them boyds wuz angry? You ain't met us yet."

And if angry pigs aren’t quite your thing, you have the option of some pretty pissed-off frogs.

"Croak. We don't do ribbit."

But guess who’s picking off the competition in the next alleyway.

"Yup, birds RULE, amphibian."

November 24, 2011 at 19:17 2 comments

Our Bali base: Nefatari Villas

Mr. Manx and I are back from Ubud in Bali, fat as a couple of pigs from all the good eating, and peppered with more mozzie bites than we’ve had all the rest of the year combined.

Arriving at Denpasar airport was a nightmare because several planes touched down at about the same time and the signage at Customs was frankly lousy. We witnessed much queue-cutting and selective blindness to fellow humans (nice to know that this is not restricted to Singaporeans), and the airport officials were either pathologically slow or outright rude.

The nice thing about an unprepossessing start is that things generally get better from there. Faith shaken, we were slightly nervous about whether our ride from the airport would show up, but our chauffeur was practically the first thing we laid our eyes on upon leaving the building, and events improved markedly from then on. This pickup was a much-appreciated service from Nefatari Villas, which was recommended by Orange (the first thing he raved about was the ability to swim nuddies as each villa comes with its own private pool). My rave would be how you can ask for transport to and from anywhere in central Ubud, up till ten at night (wow!), and at no additional charge (wow wow!). It’s not as if the transport vehicle is some half-assed motorbike either; the villa runs six vans at the level of the Toyota Innova for this purpose. 

Here’s a quickfire gallery of Villa Jepun, one of Nefatari’s nine villas, which we stayed at for two nights:

With reference to the middle picture, the shower, tub and toilet bowl (which is not shown for aesthetic reasons) were all outdoors - a truly novel experience for us. Unfortunately for him, Mr. Manx was once attacked by a wasp while utilizing said toilet bowl. Much screaming ensued.

 The food provided at Nefatari was good too:

The first picture shows a funky little pot containing black-as-sin Balinese coffee. The middle picture shows Nefatari's famous banana pancakes, topped with palm sugar syrup, which you can order delivered to your villa for breakfast and are totally yummy. The right-most picture shows a platter of bebek betutu, an evil-looking mutilated duck carcass that has been slow-smoked in spices and is utterly delicious, and very good with the local Bintang beer.

Speaking of food, do you remember learning about food webs in school? The mash-up of arrows showing who gets to eat who if everyone finds themselves in the same room? This is what I consider the predominant food web in Bali:

We saw a huge gecko in our villa trying to bite the head off another gecko one-tenth its size, so, yeah, I reckon that geckos eat geckos. Also, they are bullies.

They even got into our sugar bowl:

Kidding! You gotta give it to whoever designed this sugar bowl. Perhaps they reasoned that a ferocious-looking, pre-occupying statuette would keep the real McCoys away. After all, bullies are insecure at heart, right?

Coming up on the next Bali installment: the REAL reason we went. Stay tuned.

November 23, 2011 at 20:43 Leave a comment

Going to Bali tomorrow!

Excited!
 
There is, however, a reality check:
 

Ah, crap.

November 19, 2011 at 08:59 2 comments

Holy mucal crustacean!

I hate to belabour the point, but my lunchtime Facebook checks have just acquired a punitive element.

Why pay for the cream when you can cut out the middleman?

November 18, 2011 at 13:45 Leave a comment

I love to go a-wandering

This has been a travel-happy year so far. I went to England with Mr. Manx in May, to make up for the awful aborted trip last year.

This is a horse having a bad day at the Horse Guards Parade. If I'd been the horse I'd have been cranky too, being photographed by all these crazy tourists. Damn you, crazy tourists!

Then I went to Melbourne in July and had a great time with my pseudonymed friends Mr. and Mrs. Monty (and their two tiny Montettes – let’s call them Hontette and Sontette), Camellia and Tinman. 

A glorious ramble through the National Gallery of Victoria and the Queen Victoria Park led to this lamp-post overlooking the Yarra River (which I’m just mentioning for reference; you can’t actually see it in this picture, sorry). I can’t swear to it, but this was probably along St Kilda Road. I think.

I thought that was going to be it for the year, but as it turns out, in the span of the next few weeks I will be taking short trips to Bali and Hanoi. I’m really excited because I love travelling and taking strange new photographs. On the other hand, I really hate flying and am terribly unprepared (planned itinerary – nope; changed money – oops; packed luggage – eh)… but that’s kinda part of the fun sometimes, isn’t it?

November 17, 2011 at 12:41 4 comments

The following material is incompatible with mealtimes

Here’s what my lunchtime Facebook trawl dredged up today:

Blink. SNAIL CREAM???

Mr. Manx will testify that I’m the sort of idiot who, when confronted with a bottle of baby powder, can be counted on to say something like, “What, made from real babies?”

In the same spirit, I clicked on the snail cream link to find:

Mmm... snail cream... ecstasy...

Oh yeah, made from real snail slime.  Urgh.

This is an indication for cognitive reframing – I am someone who enjoys eating chicken feet, fish eyeballs and liver sashimi, and who’s had nice cooling drinks made from grated antelope horn and bird saliva, and who believes in daily topical applications of fermented rice filtrate. Slathering snail mucus on one’s face is not so bad.

… Not working. Urgh.

November 16, 2011 at 13:30 2 comments

I have been waiting…

… for a certain opportunity for some time. Like all true and truly big opportunities, this one is a mixed bag that has been bunging around the inside of my head and and is being the cause of much inexpressible anxiety. This is the first chance that I’ve had to sit down and try to put it into words.

If it works out, I will be headed to the UK for a year. I realize that in the big picture of modern technology that’s kinda like strolling out for next week’s groceries (no, wait, sorry, nowadays people order next week’s groceries online, right? I am so behind), but to this dinosauress it is a big deal. I have never lived abroad or alone before, unless you count things like conferences, in which case then yeah, I have a great track record of fending for myself in various Hilton hotels for up to five days at a stretch.

<Waaaaaaahhhh!!!>

So why do I want to go? Because it will mean a year’s experience in aspects of psychiatry that are little-known to Singapore. I would learn stuff that could help my tiny department-to-be (it’s technically not even one yet) grow. In that process I would also have to learn to be more independent. Lug my own groceries home. Make new friends. Figure out appliances. Fill my fridge with nine different brands of cider. Cook more than instant noodles (or maybe not; I have been told that I eat worse than a bachelor). The prospect of these things fills me with frickin’ dread… and then I think, but I can go to London and see a musical – maybe even Shrek. To Paris again, where they have the best salted caramel chocolate in the world. To visit my friends living in Cambridge.

To have the adventure of a lifetime, basically.

And then I hear a snarky little internal voice going, yeah, but what if you hate it after the first week? Or get homesick? Or just plain sick? What if you decide that you can’t stand the cold? Or the accents? And ooh… what about the fact that KFC IN THE UK DOESN”T DO HOT N’ CRISPY CHICKEN?

<Waaaaaaahhhh!!!>

Welcome to the inside of my head, Dear Reader.

This internal cacophony has been going on for something like ten months now, and I am hoping for some direction in a couple of weeks, when the result of my application should come out. If it fails then I will cheer myself up with the bunch of activities I can only put on hold now, like helping out in various dear folks’ weddings, or continuing my yoga classes. If it succeeds then I will… well, go.

Now I need me some fried chicken and beer for dinner tonight.

November 15, 2011 at 17:06 6 comments

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Welcome to my blog!


My blog-name is Katie but I will not respond if you call me that in real life because it's not my real name. Yes, I do practise virtual-world paranoia. No, I do not enjoy stalkers. But I do enjoy writing and having folks reading said writing, so welcome to my world. It's nice to meet you.

Playing in my head over and over again argh

I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song (Jim Croce)

Book(s) of the moment

Hogfather (Terry Pratchett)

Books read in 2010 and 2011

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling) - 'cos the movie's coming out!
Frankenstein: Lost Souls (Dean Koontz) - ah, bugger, it's part of a series! Now I hafta find all the books...
Dismantled (Jennifer McMahon) - oh, good one
Tigerlily's Orchids (Ruth Rendell)
Shutter Island (Dennis LeHane) - reminds me too much of work
Holy Fools (Joanne Harris) - it's official: I prefer her scary books
A Series of Unfortunate Events; The Unauthorized Autobiography; The Beatrice Letters (Lemony Snicket)
The Little Friend (Donna Tartt)
The main books - 11 so far - of the Southern Vampire series; the Aurora Teagarden series except for A Fool & His Honey - that makes it 7; Sweet & Deadly (Charlaine Harris)
The Woman in Black (Susan Hill)
Full Dark, No Stars (Stephen King)
Room: A Novel (Emma Donaghue)
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
The Bachman Books (Stephen King)
Men At Arms (Terry Pratchett)
Carpe Jugulum (Terry Pratchett)
The Fifth Elephant (Terry Pratchett)
Beauty (Robin McKinley)
The Sandman, Vol 1 (Neil Gaiman)
The Burden (Agatha Christie) - her crime novels are waaay better
Snuff (Terry Pratchett)

Visit my photoblog!

I started my first photoblog on 3 May, 2009. Each post features one picture, with a little story of how it came about. Do take a look by clicking on: Manx Pictures
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Disclaimers: 1) I cannot help but bitch about work sometimes, but everything here comes under the realm of personal remarks, and nothing here is said in my professional capacity. Nor does anything here reflect the opinion of the institutions that employ me. This is just me shooting off. 2) Most identities have been anonymized, particularly those of folks I know on a personal basis. Same goes for my workplaces. However, commercial and public places and figures remain named. Otherwise some things just wouldn't make sense. 3) Links and sources have been provided where appropriate and possible. They are not meant to challenge anyone's ownership. If this causes any discomfort or offence, please let me know.

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