Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

The air is full of smoke; motorcycles are roaring up and down the streets. Fireworks are going off all around us down the beach, across to Nusa Penida. Earlier today, we saw the fireworks salesmen on the street, hawking their wares. It's quite a party. The good thing is that the celebration started at sundown - so even the early diners got to see a little of the action.

We got our beach side table early. I've resorted to wearing a mumu type of thing - the only garment that works in the heat. My dress was $10.00 from the shop across the street. A glass of terrible Bali wine is just about the same price. Alcohol is pretty expensive, but I'm saving so much money on clothing - what the hell. 

I ordered the sauteed prawns. The cone o' rice appears frequently on plates here in Candidasa. 

Richard had the pork ribs with cheese potatoes. A restrained portion which allowed for a bit of festive dessert - a frozen passion fruit, lemon cake with turmeric caramel sauce. Very good flavor combination. It looks like a hunk of cheesecake but it was actually a frozen mousse. 

My little Canon camera has a fireworks setting - here's the result. Pretty laughable.

The last sunset of 2014 here in Bali. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Dread - my old friend returns.

Only two more days in Candidasa; we're well rested and fully acclimated - ready for our two companions to join us on the second. They're flying in from Singapore with only two overnights for jet lag catch-up. They'll be tired.

New Year celebrations are underway in town. The ghastly fireworks will be blasting tonight.

From my seat I can see the tops of the "spider" boats anchored outside the villa. In the morning, I watch the Balinese boat and dive operators transferring a pile of equipment from the beach to the boats: motors, tanks, scuba suits, flippers, gas tanks and masks. Like ants dismantling a large insect, the pile diminishes a bit at a time and is re-organized into piles on the boats. After a short time, the divers appear, laughing, joking, wearing colorful t-shirts and bathing suits - ready for a wonderful day.
I don't like watching them; a sense of dread seizes me whenever and wherever I see divers. Fighting the urge to stand up and yell, "Don't go!", I hunker down and try to think of something else. Hopeless. only takes a couple of minutes to drown. Most of the time, when a person is not getting air underwater, they don't flail around and give others lots of warning. They often just go still - and it can happen almost instantly. I would never, ever trust diving equipment anywhere outside of the U.S. I'd never, ever trust the so-called dive masters to competently watch over their divers. The buddy system helps but it's not good enough. In my opinion, every diver should have a on one. Actually, in my opinion everyone is better off leaving the whole thing to Jacques Cousteau. You can see beautiful fish in great numbers in any of hundreds of excellent videos. Why take the chance? On terra firma, no matter what thrill you seek, even under the worst of circumstances if you can breathe, even if every bone in your body is broken, or you're burned over 80% of your body or you're beaten half to death or shot full of holes, you might still survive. Not so underwater. You can be 100% alive one minute and 100% dead the next. 

When Richard and Rene went snorkeling off Angel Island, they jumped into the water fitted out with their snorkel gear. Richard had a problem with his fins and returned to the boat to re-organize himself. Meanwhile Rene, a strong swimmer and very experienced snorkler, couldn't see Richard and decided to head out alone to an area behind large rocks, out of sight of all of us. Richard jumped back in and as he snorkled I did not remove my eyes from him for even one second. Every once in a while, he'd dive down out of sight. I watched even more intently and cursed myself for not bringing binoculars. After 30 minutes or so, Richard had enough and climbed back on the boat. The boat chugged around the corner and we found that Rene was in moderate distress. He hadn't been able to fight the current and get back around the corner. He was OK but tired. It could have been a disaster. People panic; he was seriously over weight. Who knows what other problems he might have had? It was seriously careless to allow him to get out of sight. When I say "we" I mean the boat/dive guys who were responsible for our safety. They were all hooked up with ear buds and while Rene and Richard were snorkeling, they were getting lunch together and doing boat related chores; they were not watching the snorklers. Having experienced a fatality myself during a diving expedition I should have known better than to let Rene get out of sight. In my own defense, I was pre-occupied with keeping my anxiety in check and my full attention riveted on Richard's back. My point here is that people get very, very casual about safety. Boredom sets in after doing the same thing hundreds of times when nothing has happened. They simply don't realize how fast a disaster can occur. Or maybe they do realize but think as the young always do, that they are beyond the reach of disaster. Too smart for that; too lucky; too quick; too skilled.

A jolly Australian family was having their 10 year olds certified to scuba dive at Angel Island. I was shocked that children of that age are allowed to participate in such a risky and in my point of view, dangerous sport. Actually statistically speaking, I'm all wet...diving has a better safety record than driving a car. Sorry - in this case the facts be damned; they don't count at all to assuage the stubborn fear lodged deep inside my brain. 

I was going to write about my own terrible experience, but my churning stomach is signaling me that I've gone far enough. On to happier thoughts on the eve of a New Year. 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Just a few photos

Giant island devouring cloud over Candidasa last evening. I added a texture to this photo and I think it looks a bit like a Japanese tsunami painting.

Mural is from the hot dog stand across the street.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Magpie Tales #251

Is it too obvious a question to ask: Why is the sign beige? Perhaps the color in the photo faded out? Menacing looking to me, the black storefront repels; I'd look elsewhere for things of a feminine nature. Other than the "Sale" sign, the pinkest objet I see is a hangman's noose looped over the bar. Dangling almost directly over the hairless, featureless mannequin it looks alive, just waiting to drop around her neck and snap her off her pins. All those little drawers I imagine to be lures to the feminine nature; we cannot resist the siren call of orderliness and might expect to find inside, tiny buttons, pretty hair clips, lipstick mirrors, spools of thread. Instead I imagine miniature ghastlies: barbed rings, studs, chastity locks, muffles, dog collars, piercing needles, staples, mangles, masks, small bones, animal teeth, dried bat wings.  Out of sight, waiting patiently, sits Monsieur P. INK like something out of "The Little Shop of Horrors" all tentacles and pointy teeth, smelly and sticky, wheezing and gurgling asking luridly, "See anything you like sweetheart?".

Big Rain

Every morning we eat breakfast on the patio. This morning, we almost finished before the rain started. It looked like another pitter patter which would peter out quickly, but it's turned into a good soak. Bali needs the rain; they are short of water. People who live in remote areas are having to carry water jugs into towns to fill up and carry them back home, sometimes for miles.

The rain cools everything off which is just fine with us. We see Balinese riding by on motorcycles wearing ski jackets in the evenings, when the temperature is still over 80. They must feel freezing today.
We are just comfortable.

The AirAsia flight disappearance is a very sad event. Tourism is already down here; no doubt the accident will scare off some more business. The price of everything has increased dramatically because the price of gas has gone up. Yes, up! ....while the rest of the world is enjoying lower prices. The government has been subsidizing gas for decades and they finally decided to remove the price subsidy. It's affected everything. 

Today I start reading our book club's selection for the month, "Butterflies in November". The story is set in Iceland which should prove doubly interesting when read in the tropics. Maybe I'll read about snow and ice and freezing cold in the pool after the rain stops.

I grew up in an area rife with Icelandic people. I love Icelandic names - always found them lovely on the ear. To refresh my memory about the naming system I checked out Wiki and learned that in Iceland there are to this day laws governing how one can name a person or what names can be adopted. The customary names in Iceland are patrilineal ie. John's daughter would be known as Johnsdottir; John's son would be known as Johnson. The author of our book is clearly Olaf's daughter. 

From Wikipedia: First names not previously used in Iceland must be approved by the Icelandic Naming Committee (Icelandic:Mannanafnanefnd) before being used.[3] The criterion for acceptance of names is whether or not they can be easily incorporated into the Icelandic language. They must contain only letters found in the Icelandic alphabet (with some exceptions, such as Cýrus), where the most unusual are þ and ð, and they must be able to be declined according to the language’s grammatical case system, which in practice means that they must be able to take a genitive form in accordance with Icelandic rules. Gender-inappropriate names are normally not allowed; however, in January 2013, a 15-year-old girl named Blær (a masculine noun in Icelandic) was allowed to keep this name in a court decision that overruled an initial rejection by the naming committee.[4]

Photos are before and during the rain.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Warung Boni

We ate in a local warung tonight for dinner. $14.00 for two San Miguels, a large water, 2 entrees, rice and desserts. Balinese music played softly in the background; roosters crowed; gecko's hee hawed. It was like Bali used to be and delightful. Our host, Boni, owner of the warung (small restaurant), picked us up at the villa and delivered us back, full and content. 

I had the Soto Ayam and Richard had the fish. The food was fine; the place is a favorite of Trip Advisor contributors, rated as number 1 or number 2 in Candidasa. Boni started his business with two tables two years ago. Now he has 4 or 5 tables - Connie his wife cooks and the daughter waits tables. It's one of those off the beaten path places, despite the rave reviews, that you feel a little smug about finding. It's on a back road with a charming setting - Boni told us monkeys visit them every morning, looking for hand outs, clambering around. It's that kind of place. 

Boni's small son Krishna, aged three, sat in the front seat on the ride back and kind of crawled around - no seat belt, no car seat, no worries. I'm so used to seeing kids strapped in and lashed down that it almost shocked me. But not quite - people still smoke here; ride motorcycles without helmets; eat food fried in lard. It's a different world. 

 They are hospitable to a are warmly greeted, carefully seated- the service was fast and efficient, but still friendly. When we left, they almost carried us down the stairs, shook our hands, wished us well and invited us back. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Ceremony day in Bali

No papaya for breakfast today. Wayan, our manager, does the shopping in the morning and could find little to none in the markets. There's a big ceremony on and the fruit is used in offerings. It's all been snatched up by the people who are temple-bound. We've seen women in the streets making little bamboo trays in which they put flowers, small change and fruit. Offerings range from very simple to incredibly complex sky-scrapers affairs incorporating whole fruit and bouquets of flowers. Watching the women carry these constructions on their heads we are always amazed at their sense of balance and their excellent posture.

We'll be going to the local temple today wearing our sarongs and sashes as religious custom dictates. It'll be a big day all over Bali. 

Hot Dog stand

My 900th post - a landmark for me. Some people easily knock out this many in a single year...I've been at this since 2007. A slow poke. 

I've wrung about all I can from the subject material around the villa. Candidasa has only one road running through it and the town is empty of tourists, so I'm having to stretch for writing inspiration.

Having too much time on your hands is a luxury few enjoy any more - it's a condition in which we temporarily find ourselves. I've gone back and read many of my old blogs and am horrified to see the number of typos and grammatical errors I've managed to make. And I'm not even mentioning the lack of style and absence of wit in most of my posts. It's enough to make you thrwo, er throw in the towle, make that towel. 

The hot dog stand across the street might elicit a chuckle or two from someone. It's been the beneficiary of many positive Trip Advisor reviews. The host is an affable Australian about our age who sits half naked in the front shouting out a hearty hello to passers-by. We stopped in while he was chatting up a couple of youngish Australian cuties. They seemed to be hanging on his every word. His naked chest made me somewhat uncomfortable as he was sporting the unmistakeable breastlets of a long time marijuana smoker. I guess I can't stand the competition.

He's apparently got the knack of the "harmless old guy" routine. I envy him that - there is no female equivalent of this persona....nearest thing I can come up with is Auntie Mame. Oh, but I just remembered Maude, from "Harold and Maude". She was ancient, also harmless, unorthodox and incredibly appealing. However even, Merle Gordon at her most charmante, couldn't get away with sitting on the sidewalk half naked, touting people into lunch. 

We had the hot dog and chips. Costco has nothing to worry about - the hot dog was otherworldly, as you might expect. The chips were marginal; in their defense, they stayed incredibly hot for a long time.
The sign furthest to the left announces "Our famous Aussie Ham Burger" with Aussie beetroot. I've never thought much of this peculiar (to us) addition to a burger. Give me a regular pickle any old day.
The camel dropping garnish, should you be interested, was only available on the Middle Eastern plate.

The "no nasi goreng" joke is funny when you've been here for a while as it's the most commonly consumed item in Indonesia. While often delicious (depending on the rendition you've stumbled on) you quickly tire of it. Funny how after only a few days of eating the same food, our omnivorish nature drives us off looking for something else to eat. Anything. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

The party's over......

The party at Le Zat, the restaurant next door to us, was cancelled. As we ate there (early diners) we watched the clouds building up across the water over Nusa Penida. On the beach, the sound checks were going on, tables were festively set, last minute Christmas decorations were being arranged. As we watched Nusa Penida we could see the rain falling on the island. Spots of sun shone on the green hills sporadically as huge clouds billowed up. The rain started moving toward us.

When I saw the picture below, I thought I looked as if I was pointing out the all too obvious. "Looks like rain tonight folks!"

Lightning crackled across the sky and thunder boomed. We finished our dinner and returned to our villa, sat on the deck and watched the storm's progress.

Next door the sound checks stopped and we didn't hear a peep from that direction for the rest of the evening. There was no peace and quiet however. The "jokin and smokin' boys", sacks of unbridled testosterone, who hang around the parking lot next door apparently spent their life's savings on fireworks. We endured an hour or so of bangs, swooshes and whistles as they shot the cursed, noisy things into the sky. Finally they gave it up, hopped on their bikes and blasted out of there. Good riddance.

All that Madame du Barry soup next door! I wonder what they'll do with it. 

Making Woody Allen proud

"That's the biggest roach I've ever seen!". Richard was amazed at the size of the creature clinging to my shoulder. I'd felt it drop on me with a small shudder. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a black spot and a leg. Immediately I felt that icky, creepy revulsion that flashes across your brain warning you that an unwanted hitch hiker is somewhere on your corpus.

"Eeeek, eeek, yuk, GET IT OFF ME", I yelled, jumping out of bed and slapping at my shoulders. 

We swatted if off and Richard ran for the insect killer spray, somewhere downstairs. "Keep an eye on it!", he said. So I sat, keeping an eye on it. After a few minutes, he appeared and sprayed the thing which quickly ducked out of range under the bed. We caught sight of it again behind the curtains whereupon I grabbed the nearest magazine, rolled it up and smote the creature a terrible blow, rendering it dead instantly. The smoting was swift and terrible and I'm rather proud of it.

Woody Allen would be pleased too. I always think of him when I have to kill an insect. The magazine closest at hand was the New Yorker and the last thing the roach saw was the Dec. 1st cover. Most of the ways a roach meets it's maker are not so pretty. Our roach was dispatched in Bali, in a room with a view and likely caught a few cleverly written words right at the end. 

Early Christmas dinner

Sunset blazing.

The early diners beating the crowds and noise.

Grilled mahi mahi on a bed of shredded green papaya.

I love U"being changed to Merry Christmas.
A tiny bit left of Christmas sunset.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve in Candi

Dinner at Vince's was festive. We ate too much of course. Most of the restaurants were empty..with touts out on the street trying to talk the rare passer-by into entering. Very sad to see but tourist numbers are down for some reason.

A Christmas present to ourselves..a Javanese shadow puppet made of leather. Old. It will be hard to carry home.

Hot and cold water? Oh boy..all the comforts of home.

Western clothing..larger sizes.

No durian in here. Delicious only in ice cream which is so cold it suppresses the volatiles. It's just too stinky for me!

Next door to us, the place serves a perfect lime squash with such care taken with the garnish. It's hard to limit yourself to just one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Almost Christmas Eve

Here we sit waiting for the pig's knuckle at Le 48. Richard is talking about the Wallace line. His beard is glinting a bit; you can see silver along his jaw line. I like the beard so far - he's not so sure.

Things are heating up around here in anticipation of Christmas. The restaurants have set menus.
There is no news. I've almost finished reading "The Boys in the Boat" - very entertaining. 
Into the pool again to cool off.

Views around here from our deck out to the ocean and back to the villa.