Archive | December, 2010

New Year’s Resolution

31 Dec

I may well be here to post all my New Year Resolutions some time soon. It’s  a long list. Something about turning 40 at the end of next year means I feel like I have to make it a year of positive change. That and the fact that with one child at school and no new baby in the house I feel like I SHOULD have a little more time to make resolutions a reality.

BUT that’s for later.

For now, I wanted to share S’s resolution.

He overheard me talking to his Aunty L about resolutions and asked me what it meant.

I explained it. And I asked him what his resolution was.

Without a pause, he told me excitedly ‘No biting!’.

Good one S! Let’s hope that M makes the same resolution.

I’d like 2011 to be a year where I don’t have to explain to a doctor the difference between eczema flare up and sibling teeth marks….

I am sitting her alone with my computer, having polished of  a record 16 Lindt Lindor Balls (relates to one of my resolutions, don’t want any in the house!). The boys are asleep in bed. And the clock is about to strike midnight.

Happy New Year Everyone! I hope that 2011 is a wonderful year for you all.


Welcome to the Jungle

23 Dec

The jungle village that we traveled to is only 80kms from Medan, but it takes almost 3 hours.

The roads are not great and they’ve been carved up by the many palm oil trucks carrying their heavy loads from the  plantations along the way.

The boys didn’t mind the journey. In fact, they were all big fans of the Indonesian road trip because they had pretty much free run of the car. I tried to keep them in seat belts, but without too much success. Baby A was particularly a fan of being able to nurse whenever he pleased (has taken his some convincing on our return that it can’t happen here!).

This particular village is also where I met my husband, so going back is always a special occasion.

But a sad one too. We always remember the more than 200 people who perished when there was a flash flood there in 2002. We were living in London at the time, but we owned a small bookshop cafe which was washed away in the flood too, but fortunately my husband’s family were all safe.

The village has been rebuilt and is looking beautiful once more. The river is crystal clear and borders a large National Park which is home to some of the few surviving wild orangutans in the world. Huge ancient trees line the river and you can’t help but feel  in awe of Mother Nature.

We stayed right at the top end of the village, with our own private little waterfall. Both S and M enjoyed a very ‘brief’ dip in the water but found the power of the waterfall a little hairy.

Twice a day, the orangutan feeding platform is available for tourists to visit for ‘feeding time’. As part of a rehabilitation program, orangutans who were once stolen from the jungle  and have now been released back into the wild are offered food at this feeding platform.

We decided to take in the early morning feed. First we had our own breakfast of fresh tropical fruit, juices and muesli.

Then we walked the short distance to the river crossing.

And waited our turn to cross the river.

Then after registering with the Park ranger, we started the long climb UP to the feeding platform. B (the boys’ dad) and his brother took it in turns to carry S. He really wanted to walk, but it’s a muddy, steep, uphill path with giant tree roots to climb over and puddles, leeches and giant biting ants to avoid. And it’s hot and very humid. It’s pretty much about as far away from ‘accessible’ as you’d imagine.

I had a moment of sadness thinking that there will be a time when S might be too heavy for us to carry him up into the jungle, but then was reminded of the incredible feat of Paralympian Kurt Fearnley who crawled the Kokoda track last year. And I was reminded that I should never say never.

I carried M most of the way who was not so keen on the climb and just wanted to go back to the restaurant for another banana juice. (Baby A stayed back in the guesthouse with Aunty J)

At the feeding platform, sometimes no orangutans turn up, sometimes several do.

We were still catching our breath from the walk up when we could hear the first orangutans moving through the trees above us. They move so gracefully, quietly with just the rustling of leaves alerting us of their arrival.

Their arms are so long. Their grip is so precise. We watched silently as they moved effortlessly from tree to tree right above us. And down to the feeding platform where milk and bananas awaited them.

We were very lucky to have 3 adult orangutans turn up, 2 of which were carrying their infants with them.

S was enthralled by the orangutans – especially when a rather cheeky monkey try to steal their bananas and was quickly shooed away by a young orangutan. S’s giggling even got the attention of the mother orangutan who looked up to see who was making such a racket ;-).

M, on the other hand, spent the WHOLE time playing on his dad’s iPhone….But I am confident on our next visit he will be just that little bit older and he will appreciate it more.

We feel very blessed to have this connection with the jungle and for the boys to be able to have this experience.

Sumatran orangutans are endangered. There are believed to be less than 7000 left in the wild. It’s terrible to think that their numbers are so critical.    Here’s a link in case you’d like to know more about their plight and how to support them. And here’s another which looks also at the fate of the beautiful Indonesian rain forests.

S tells me he wants to help save the orangutans. He wants to raise some money to help protect them.

It would be a terrible thing if the orangutans and the rainforests disappeared forever.

More stories from the kampung…

21 Dec

Despite the illnesses, we did make the most of our time in the kampung.

In the first week we were there, we had a  special celebratory ceremony for baby A. The ceremony involves him swinging in  a cradle while being serenaded by the most beautiful music sung and performed by some of the women from the kampung.

Unlike M who screamed non-stop when we did this with him a few years ago, A loved it. He was mesmerised by the swaying and the music and even fell asleep.

After the music was finished, kakek (grandpa) recited some prayers and then it was time for people to bless him with a mix of leaves, flowers, rice and blessed water. S insisted on blessing his baby brother too, because he said ‘I want him to have a really good life’.

A few days later, the second part of the blessing took place. S still remembered when we did this for M and was really looking forward to it. This part involves inviting poor and orphaned children to our home and giving them a small gift and an envelope with some money in it. S worked hard helping his dad put all the money in the envelopes and enjoyed giving them out.

As you can see, there were plenty of kids in attendance!

We also enjoyed walking around the kampung in the coolness of the evenings (when it wasn’t raining!) and spent a bit of time traveling around the kampung in S and M’s favourite form of transport – becak.

We did a few day trips into Medan and one to a Water park that has not long ago opened. This was a fab day out and I was reminded yet again about just how far S has come and how much he’s benefited from the swimming lessons he’s done this year (we’ve been lucky enough to source a brilliant teacher who runs an ‘Access All Abilities’ program). His confidence in and around the water was so lovely to see.

M, on the other hand, has quite an overconfidence in the water and I had to keep on my toes to make sure he didn’t go off the deep end (literally!).

Both boys loved the little water slides and adored the ‘Lazy River’ which wound around the other pools. A is also proving to be quite a water baby and loved splashing about in the shallows.

I was impressed that the boys’ dad went down the big water slide. I wasn’t brave enough.

We had plans for a few more adventures, but the kids poor health put an end to all of them, except we did head into the jungle for a night. More about that tomorrow!

Life in the kampung

20 Dec

The Indonesian word ‘kampung’ translates as ‘village’, but the SE Asia concept of village is very far removed from the European version. In my husband’s kampung, there are no roads, just dirt (often muddy) paths between the houses, which are built from an assortment of materials, but which are mostly quite humble affairs. Definitely not an air-conditioner in sight. Chickens and the odd goat roam free. So do the kids. And there are LOTS of them. Their laughter and games always filling the air – from early morning til surprisingly late at night.

Everyone knows everyone in a kampung and like many kampung families, my husband’s family is large, so many people in the kampung are somehow related.

It’s always big news when we arrive.

Over the years, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the village. In the early days when it was just my husband and I, I’d find it quite stressful because everyone was shy around me and there was lots of furtive watching and giggling and observing my every move. I found it hard to ‘fit in’ because I was clearly so different from everyone else.

These days, with the children, it’s a very different story. The kids are the focus. No-one really pays that much attention to me anymore and I can blend into the background a bit more easily without feeling like I am under constant scrutiny. And of course we have the mutual topic of conversation now – if there’s one things Indonesians love to talk about, it’s their children :-).

So settling into the village is easier.

We spent most of our time in the village just ‘hanging out’. Highlight for S was being in the ‘shopkeeper’ in the little snack store that the family operates.

Highlight for M was lots of games on the Playstation and rolling about with his cousins, getting lots of tickles, staying up very late and taking the motorbike out for  spins around the village.

Not really. But I am sure he would have liked to.

Highlight for A was all the cuddles and attention. And the baby swing, Indonesian style, which he loved.

Highlight for me was getting time to read my books, eating bananas and papayas that are freshly picked and drinking lots of terong belanda juice (tamarillo).

Not enough time though. The downside of the village is that with such communal, basic living, irregular hours and different diets, kids get sick. And our kids all got sick. Nothing critical, but skin infections, colds, fevers, spews, poos.

In short, a lot of hard work and not enough time to enjoy the peace and the views. And it doesn’t matter how many cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, great aunts and uncles, neighbours and friends you have around who want to help out, when kids are sick, all they want is their mum.

BUT we did have a few special events while we were there of note. I will write about those tomorrow…

Indonesia (Part 1)

12 Dec

Finally, some time to write about our trip.

We flew AirAsia out of Melbourne. Seriously cheap. The cost of the taxi from our home to the airport was more expensive than the cost of one ticket from Melbourne – KL.

I was worried that low cost would mean low quality, but we had no problems at check in, no problems with late flights or lost bags and the service on the plane was fine. There was also no problem with S’s walker and wheelchair, although we know next time to inform check in staff in Melbourne that we need to borrow a wheelchair to meet us off the plane in KL as it’s quite a walk to where you collect the baggage.

Having 3 restless children on an 8 hour flight was quite a challenge, but we can’t blame AirAsia for that ;-).

We arrived in Medan, Sumatra where my in-laws live at 9pm at night. It wasn’t the heat that reminded me most that we were back in Indonesia, it was the smell and haze of clove ‘kretek’ cigarettes in the arrival hall and the lack of haste on the part of the immigration staff.

We spent our first 2 nights at the Aryaduta hotel in Medan. A seriously gorgeous hotel that takes up the top 3 floors of one of the many shopping mall complexes in downtown Medan. I so wish this hotel had existed when I lived in Medan 10 years ago. A beautiful pool, a fabulous restaurant and being up so high, there was no sound of the traffic or chaos of the streets below. The view over the city was great. S, who is always  particularly curious about how many levels a building has, was excited to be staying on the 11th floor. M loved the lifts. They both loved the all you can eat buffet breakfast :-).

And again, it was cheap. The cost of our 2 nights there including incredible buffet breakfasts and one amazing buffet lunch was also less than the price of our taxi to the airport in Melbourne.

I liked the free wireless Internet and the fact that sitting by the pool, we could almost imagine were were in a hotel near the beach in Bali.

I’ll be honest and say that 2 nights of luxury hotel life were not enough for me. It’s been a big year, an exhausting year and I was tired, am STILL tired. I could have happily stayed in the hotel for a week and fully recharged my batteries.

But alas, the trip was all about visiting family, so on the third day we left the hotel and traveled about an hour out of the city to the village where my husband grew up.

It’s a beautiful village alongside a river, with limited vehicle access, beautiful tropical fruit trees galore (rambutan, papaya, bananas and more) and an incredibly friendly community.

We arrived after dark and it was pouring rain. But still, we received a great welcome with everyone smiling and laughing, carrying large umbrellas and helping us carry our bags through the puddles and into our little Indonesian home.

And so the second part of our adventure began.

Checking in

4 Dec

It’s been a while. We’ve been busy.

We spent 3 weeks in Indonesia. Before and after that, we’ve been busy with all our usual therapy, kinder etc and then also school orientation.

Since our return from Indo, we’ve also been busy fighting the fact that S didn’t get the funding for school we were expecting :-(. More about that later.

There will be photos and a write up of our holiday soon.

There are also other things I want to share.

And I will.

I will be catching up on everyone’s blogs over the next few days too.

But not right now.

It’s late and I need sleep.

I just wanted to check in and let everyone know we’re here and we’re OK. Hope you are too :-)


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