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Archive for December, 2009

Arrival in Noosa, Queensland, Australia. It strikes me first how much freedom of movement I am getting compared to Bali. In Bali, it is suicidal to cycle, it is nearly impossible to jog on non existant trails, you cannot walk to do your groceries (non existant or damage curb), etc… In Noosa, cycling lanes, first class beaches, perfect road conditions, modern aquatic centres and SPACE to move. In just a few days, I have tried to surf on a long board and on a body board, I have made a short run on the beach (and built sand castles as well as digging big holes), cycled along the coast, got a swim course in a renowned Aquatic Centre and attempted to walk on a slackline.

Noosa is an outdoor and sport paradise. I just feel being at the right place to complete recovery after my knee injury last june. In short, I have never been to a place where climate and infrastructure were both so good to give perfect conditions to practice literally any sport. I enjoy it so much, that I have not thought of spending a day in the National Parks, to see kangaroos or Koalas or do a city trip to Brisbane.

The whole family feels good and relaxed. We have rediscovered how to spend great days at the beach. Beach are just awesome in the area. Just sand and waves. No sea urchin, no plastic bags swimming on the surface, no broken glass…Ok…a few nasty sharks…but that’s it. I never defined myself as being a person that likes to spend days at the beach. But here, I found out that one needs a good list a gadget to enjoy a day at beach. The list starts with a beach shelter providing enough shade and protecting from the wind (and the sound of the wind), a good picnic box, enough fluid, a body board, a long board, a bucket, a shovel. Armed with all this, we do not see time passes and suddenly lifeguards are leaving the beach, telling us that it is 16:30, time to go home for the aperitif.

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Why Singapore? Simply because there is no Star Alliance flight that goes directly to Brisbane…or, more honestly, because we wanted to splurge for a few hours after 2 months of good but rather basic lifestyle in Bali. We had seriously put our feet down on shopping bonanzas and other consumerism instincts and we now had to let the dogs out! We check into a Hilton Club Suite and a Paul Smith shirt + a pair of Bose travel-loudspeakers later we go to the lounge to taste some sparkly fluids plus a ton of raw fish delicacies. Yessss!!! one would say…but no…this would have been too easy… Daughter No1 and No2 decide to have one of the most miserable day since the beginning of the trip. So what was meant to be a recovery in luxury ended in a crisis meeting to see how we could limit damage. After deliberation, we nonetheless decide to go out at night with our two little terrorists (to try) to enjoy the Christmas feeling on Orchard Road. It is not as kitsch as Hong Kong…quite tasteful actually (just the 150 Decibel Xmas-progressive house DJ in front of the Wheelock Mall is rather unsettling). We enter the Takashimaya Shopping Centre and suddenly stand in front of the biggest Xmas tree we have ever seen. Perfect opportunity to take a family pic. We ask One Professional-Looking-Nikon-Holding-Tourist to frame us in front of this monster and we are not disappointed. The gentleman takes a real pleasure to make pictures of a European family.

We spend a good night in those gorgeous beds and feel ready for another round of Xmas shopping and hair-dressing in Singapore. The result is all too foreseeable. A Madame Visa in terrible mood, but Alain’s eyes are gleaming in front of his new gadgets and Isabel is looking awesome after a 3 hour hair cut and treatment.

We leave early to the airport. It is, the only airport where I want to check in at least 4-5 hours before departure. And we did well to plan an early check-in. At the baggage check-in, we are first told that we should have applied for Visas for Australia :-(….but Singapore is up to its reputation. 20 minutes and few desks later, the entire family has got nice shiny visas. We did well to plan an early check-in, because we found a great bouncing castle and kids jumped around FOREVER (which made them sleep so deeply for the entire trip to Brisbane – thank you Shangi Airport, thank you bouncing castle!). We did well to plan an early check-in, because it gave is a last opportunity to stuff our carry-on luggage with some last-minute “great” x-mas deals for the entire family including two super flashy pair of Flip-Crocs or Crocs-Flops. In the end, Singapore remains for us the World Shopping Capital of this world and we took shamelessly advantage of it til stepping in the plane.

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On of the best decisions we made in Bali for us and for our children was to put them in School. Pelangi School turned out to be the greatest educational institute we have seen so far; holistic, bilingual, non-dogmatic, fantastic!  Manon & Zoé made some friends and through them we built a good network of friends. Saturday, December 12th was the grand opening of the first playground in Ubud. A great opportunity to see for a last time all children and parents before leaving for Singapore and then Brisbane, Queensland – Australia. A Playground Opening may not sound very appealing, but again, this is Bali, this is Ubud, this is Pelangi School and you know it is going to be something special and it was.

Local bands came playing, There were so many activities, kids did not know what to starts with. Face painting, school shows, Marimba ensemble and dance, pedagogic drumming class and of course all the slides a playground has to offer.

When time came to say good-bye, we realised that we were leaving something really big behind. It was difficult to realise that 2 months in Ubud was coming to an end. A big thank you to all teachers, goodbye Pelangi School…Goodbye Bali, we will miss many parts of it.

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Thanks to Manon & Zoé and our Yoga classes, we started to build an interesting network of people in Bali. We were invited this week-end to participate to a trip to Lembongan. Most of the participants had kids the same age as Manon & Zoé and most of them are Westerners living in Bali. After a taxi ride down to Sanur from Ubud and from Sanur an outrigger boat ride to the Island, we arrive at Mainski, a small surfer’s place with reasonably priced accommodation. Its has an infinity pool facing the beach and the sea. The kids, of course, do not admire the infinity part of it and just jump in together. That will become the main playground for the week-end. We get to know all the people gathered for this week-end and realise that most of them have their kids studying at the famous “Green School” of Bali. It is a sustainable project that aims to prepare the new generation for a greener world in 2025. It is quite fascinating to talk to those people coming from very different background but bound by a same project. All have a very refreshing mindset. Isa and I have decidedto pay a visit now to this school to meet the people again but also to build our own idea about this school.

Anyway, the week-end was of course not only about sharing expat experience. We discover the island on motorbikes, we went swimming and snorkeling and some ride perfect waves breaking in front of the hotel. We discover a beautiful lounge at a secluded beach with mangroves as well as other restaurant the served great food (Linda’s Place), which we never expected on such an island. Overall, probably the best week-end we had on Bali so far.

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Wherever you stand in Bali in the morning, you can spot the magnificent 3154m high Gunung Agung volcano. It is not only a volcano that last erupted in 1963 it is also a holy place where all spirit of Balinese Ancestors dwell. This mountain is also of great significance in the Indus religion. I have been watching this mountain for the last 5 weeks, waiting for a perfect day and some people who would attempt the climb without guide with me. I finally find 2 Yoga friends, Steven and Rebecca that are willing to wake up at 04:30. We drive at the foot of the mountain (1500m) and from there start the 1600m climb. It is a 4km, 40% straight-shot without switchbacks. The first part, up to 1800m is very lush. The second part until 2400m is mostly pine trees and other conifers. The last part reminded me strongly of Lanzarote: a bare, black, rocky landscape. The last meters are a bit more difficult but the reward at the top is great. A beautiful large crater of ochre and reddish rocks. At the bottom a few pools with muddy water. It is 10:30. We are at the top with a great feeling of satisfaction. The air is fresh & crisp. A welcome change from the constant high humidity back down in Ubud  .

The climb was in many ways rewarding. Yes there was this beautiful crater, but it was also a fantastic day to spend with friends, talking about nothing and everything. Last but not least a great fitness training to strengthen my knee and although going down was taxing for the knees, it felt good to know that it can hold again this type of effort.  Another 3 weeks and I will be able to start running again!!!

I look every morning at Gunung Agung from our veranda in Ubud. It is not an objective anymore, it has become part of my world, a kind of acquaintance. I am quite sure everyone feels this way with mountains. Once you have been on top of it you look at it differently, knowing the price and the reward.

(The Gunung Agung Pic is not my own)

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I enter Ganesha second-hand bookshop in Ubud and after finding some Winnie the Pooh for the kids and the Lost Symbol for my wife, I find this small book from Guillaume Musso whose cover attracted me. My first surprise when I opened the book is to read that it has sold over 1 million times over the world!!!…and of course I have never heard of it. In short, it deals with death, the importance of making peace with its entourage, giving thanks to the most important people in your life and get ready for an irreversible and inevitable event. This book has moved me in its simplicity. I will recommend this to my friends. It is on one hand very far from a self-help book but at the same time, it is one…

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I received this book from a dear friend who travelled Scotland and decided to offer me a book written by a local author rather than one of those souvenirs that would collect dust somewhere on my shelves. I found it a very good and sweet idea. He couldn’t know  this book would eventually turn out to be the worst crime-fiction I have ever read. The alcoholic, marginal, cynical, know-better detective Rebus maybe an attractive character for some, a anti-hero of some sort, I just find it so dull. His attempt to tie his whodunit plot to some real political events (G8, London bombing, Irak war) is quite miserable and not convincing. His attempt to denounce corruption between the economic and political system and the dirty ties with rogue developing countries are so stereotypical and again fit only marginally to the plot. I most probably do not do Ian Rankin justice but this is the first and only book I will read from him. After reading the Naming of the Dead, it is hard to understand how the author collected some awards for his other books.

If you have bought or received this book, do yourself a favour, don’t read it.

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