Shaking Hands in Indonesia {Friday Faves}

Sometimes, on occasions delightful and uncommon, I sneak away for a few hours and sit in a cafe with my book or my computer. 

Regardless of whether I’m producing words or consuming them, I spend a lot of time looking up, stealing glimpses of life going on around me. I watching people working, catching up, chatting, meditating with a coffee, and discussing million dollar business on a Tuesday morning. I love watching the comings and goings of the advantaged of this vast and diverse city.

One of my favourite things to observe is the way people in Java greet each other. Two people meet, they catch eyes, smile softly, and offer each other a hand to shake. Each then touches his right hand to his chest, welcoming the other’s greeting into his heart.

This greeting, it’s like an acknowledge of the unmistakable beauty in each of us, and it makes my heart swell each time I witness it. It's one of many beautiful gestures of kindness I've witnessed since moving here.


So, now tell me something you love about where you live.

So, I'm a birth brat, okay?

You guys, I think Japan has ruined me. RUINED!


I’m now officially a spoiled rotten birth brat, and that’s all there is about that.


I had a lot of anxiety regarding prenatal care in Japan. Part of that was due to legitimate gripes (here’s one GREAT OMGHATTTEEEEE example), and part of that was your run of the mill first-time-momhood-holy-shit-this-kid-is-being-born-in-a-foreign-country-what-am-I-even-doing-oh-gawd stuff. While I still look back on the prenatal care I received with a mixture of quaint affection and downright frustration, the birth experience and post-natal care was amazing. Like really.


Stella was born in a birth centre. There were several OBGYNs on staff, plus a full house of midwives and nurses there to attend to my every need. 


I laboured comfortably in a big, bright room. I didn’t have to be hooked up to any monitors; I could move around, choosing positions that felt good. I could eat and drink whatever I wanted. And though I had no interest in food for the majority of my labour, the nurses still brought me trays with beautifully presented bentos, which I’m pretty sure my husband ate? Probably?


A midwife was assigned to help me through the entirety of my labour, and she stayed with me almost the whole time I was doing the hard work of bringing a human into the world. She monitored the baby closely but was always working around what made me feel the least horrible. When the option of moving to the delivery room with a hospital bed was floated, and I was all …NOPE…, there was no further discussion of that foolhardy idea. 


So, the birth was great. But then the after care? That’s when shit got golden.


Can we talk, for a moment, about a huge, luxury 5 star hotel room, which I shared with zero people? And maybe some aromatherapy treatment? And how ‘bout in-house postnatal massages included in the “package”? And food so good that I was actually kind of stoked for mealtimes, which in a hospital setting is like, huh?


(Also, it should be noted that upon registration at this birth centre, I had a 45 minute long interview re. my dietary preferences. I’m not kidding. There was a whole meeting with a kitchen representative and a midwife to go over exactly what I, as a non-fish-eating person, would in fact consume. I don’t know if food is given similar weight in other birthing institutions in Japan, but it was serious business at this place. Serious. Business.)


I stayed at the birth centre for a full five-day recovery period. Which is on the short side of things in Japan. Most women stay seven days for a normal birth. And it was great. There was always someone around to help me if I needed help, and if I didn’t need anything, there were no interruptions or intrusive midnight vials checks. 



Now, cut to Jakarta. 


On Monday, I went on a tour of the hospital where I plan to birth this baby boy. It was nice. Clean, airy, bright. I’ll have a private room. The nurses were super friendly and encouraging. They’re down with my natural birth hopes and general hippie nonsense, and seem generally accommodating and totally fine. 


I should be all, THIS IS AMAZING CAPSLOCK!!!1111!!! But actually I’m like….but where is my aromatherapy treatment? Where’s the massage room?  And what about the artfully designed, perfectly appointed recovery rooms? The twinkle-star light feature? And the wabi-sabi bento boxes? No? Well, how EXACTLY, do you expect me to have a baby without them? Huh???!  



Of course I am beyond thankful that I can go to this hospital in Jakarta; it’s one of the best, and a far step better than what most Indonesian women experience. It’s even better than what I’d have if I were in North America. 


But, Japan, you sure did set my standards pretty high. So basically, god help me if I ever have to birth a human in North America. 






The Case for The Solo Babymoon

I never went on a babymoon when I was pregnant with Stella. Such is the way with pregnancies that happen right after you move to a new country, I guess. 


I never really went on a honeymoon. (Unless, of course, you count a whirlwind trip around Switzerland with my husband. And aunty. And parents. And come to think of it, NO I don’t not count that as an official honeymoon.) Such is the way with visa marriages, I guess. There’s usually time pressures and financial constraints that preclude indulgences like an actual marriage proposal, a wedding planned in more than ten days, and a honeymoon. 



Still, by forgoing these various ____moons, I’ve felt like I’ve missed out on a vital cultural experience. I always felt a little resentful of that.


Until this week, when I created a new category of ____moon. The Solo Babymoon.


I spent a blissful couple of days alone in Ubud, and I realised that we’re all doing it wrong.  Forget a babymoon for your first pregnancy. Forget a honeymoon, even. Instead, cash in your relaxation tickets when you really need some time out. Take a babymoon for subsequent kids. And leave your husband at home.



Certainly I can see an argument for requiring a period of connection, recovery and relaxation after a big wedding. And spending a little time time bonding with your partner as you prepare for your life to be completely turned upside-down by a new little human, well, it’s a nice little idea, isn’t it?




But you know when you REALLY need some relaxing time? When you’re growing an inside human person while simultaneously raising a demanding outside human person who objects vehemently  to such everyday tasks as putting on clothing, eating food, and, resting our bodies, and walking out of the door. 


It is only AFTER experiencing the rigours of parenthood that one can truly enjoy a self-indulgent weekend away.


Despite the fact that the conditions of my life allow me significantly more time to myself than most of my North American counterparts, I don’t really take it. I don’t go out for dinners. I don’t go shopping. I don’t get my nails done. I don’t hang out with girlfriends. I hardly go to the gym because I feel like that would mean taking time from my kid, and maybe sacrificing plans to make a wholesome dinner. Which is absurd, but there you go.


It is within this context that I decided to take some time out. (Also, I thought a trial run spending a night or two away from Mummy would be a good exercise for Stella, thanks Emily for the suggestion!)


So, after an extended weekend with Stella and the Chef on the beech in Bali, I took off to Ubud. Alone. Blissfully Alone.


Objectively, this trip was nothing special. I stayed at a pretty simple AirBnB. I hung out. There was no champagne, no caviar (PS, *vom*), no hot stone massages, or languid days by the pool. But I got to spend two doing what I wanted. When wanted. How I wanted. 


I woke up with my natural rhythms. I took an extended breakfast. I walked, (WALKED!) through the rice fields down to the city. I stopped to take pictures. I pushed nothing, and carried only what I wanted to carry. 


I met a bloggy friend. Had lunch with a good book. I poked in and out of shops, leisurely and at my own direction. I got a foot massage, and ate an extrordinary dinner.



I don’t think I have breathed this deeply or felt this calm in years. (Probably three and a half???)


Of course I missed my girl like crazy, and when we talked over FaceTime, I wanted to be transported home where I could squeeze her and tickle her and tuck her into bed. 


But, I was alone. Blissfully, alone. The kind of alone that one is only able to appreciate after spending an extended period of time being never alone. I worried not about other’s whims, desires, levels of fatigue, or patience. I did not chase after a small person or negotiate the conditions in which it would be acceptable to walk 50 more meters. I did not subjugate my desire to go into yet another organic yoga clothing emporium for fear of inflicting tremendous irritation upon my husband. 


Instead, I did what I wanted to do. I went into that organic yoga sore. And then into an aromatherapy shop. And after that, I spent 20 minutes examining deliciously wabi-sabi hand carved mahogany plates, debating the merits of a rectangular or square shape. And that was perfection. 



Why the Solo Babymoon is not a widespread cultural phenomenon, I’ll never know. It is not until you actually have a pre-existing child that you really “need” the luxury of a babymoon. And it is not until you’ve spent nearly all of your waking (and sleeping!) time worrying about the whims of others that you can truly appreciate being on your own. So. ladies. Band together. Join me in proclaiming the merits of solitude. Lets make this, the solo Babymoon, nay, the Mommymoon, a rite of passage, a cultural phenomenon equal to the honeymoon to which every woman is entitled. 


Babymoon, Take One.

Our little family has escaped the big city for a babymoon of sorts. We're spending an extended weekend together in Bali.

Believe it or not, this is the first real family vacation we've ever been on. I mean, like the first trip in seven years where it's been just us, with no program, no family to see, nowhere to go, and nothing to do but take afternoon naps.

Since we've been out of the city, I've been walking slower, and breathing deeper. Tantrums don't get to me. Sitting down to play comes easy. We've let go of the rules and forgotten about schedules (as evidenced by the fact that the Chef watched our kid beginning to lose her everloving mind, and realized at the same moment that we'd failed to feed her breakfast. Or lunch.)

We're enjoying this. Every minute of it.


Jakarta Organic Farm Homestay {Travel Files}

I think we find the perfect little Jakarta mini-break destination. This little organic farm and homestay serves up some of the freshest, most delicious, innovative food you'll find in all of Indonesia. (Can I just say that pesto made with basil, parsley and coconut cream was a life changing bite of goodness?)

Lodges Ekologica at Portibi Farms: Tops in the Jakarta Organic Farm Homestay situation. 

Stella and I headed out of the city with a group of friends and a gaggle of kiddos. 

We slept in beautiful cabins, paragons of Indo-hipster design esthetic. There were three-year-olds dancing to records, little boys eagerly feeding logs into a fire that roasted our sate, a nocturnal visit from a civet, vegetable harvests, and constant sequels of children running in the grass, barefoot and gleefully dirty. If you know anything about Jakarta, you know that this is basically the perfect antidote to our lovely, crazy city.

Stella was basically as happy as happy can be, reveling in the freedom offered by life in the "crunchry side". With vast tracts of grass, fresh air, and a partner in crime, my big little girl suddenly became this independent, self-reliant human person. 

For more prefect and artful images of this epic weekend, see my talented friend's website. PS, she books family shoots. So if you're local, get in touch.



Oh, and yes, my child DID wear the same dress for three days straight. I had to peel the thing off of her once we got back into the city. But I guess that's a sign of love? Dress c/o Matilda Jane.


If you Go:


  • Honestly, I couldn't think of a better mini-gateway from Jakarta than Portibi Farms This Jakarta Organic Farm Homestay offers good food, great hospitality, and lovely, lovely, fresh air.


  • All meals are included in the room rate. Which is good news, because there's not much around except trees, and nature. But I couldn't imagine wanting to eat anywhere else, frankly.


  • Like most places in Indonesia, it can get surprisingly noisy at night. Particularly if you're here on a Friday evening, the mosques in the village below are quite persistent in their reminders to pray. Bring ear plugs.


  • Expect a back to nature experience. There will be bugs. And okay, the occasional civet cat. But no bigs. Just bring some mosquito spray. 


  • While kid-friendly, (there's a little play structure / climbing frame for kids to run themselves ragged on, and the owners are more than gracious and accommodating of little ones) small people with terrible risk assessment skills (read: the under three set) will need to be closely supervised. There are balconies without railings, and the occasional steep drop-off.



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Mondays, Redux.

Image c/o Viveash Photography. If you're looking for family photography in Jakarta, look no further. 

So Mondays. I told you they can be good. I mean, can there be anything better than sleeping till eight, lazing about with my people, and eating risotto for dinner? Actually, yes. Maybe. Doing all of this in post-holiday love haze. 

Even better than that still? Having little gems like this image waiting in my inbox post-bedtime. Stella and I went away for the weekend with Jakarta's most totally rad photographer, and look! She took pictures of our holiday! Which!? Amazing. Can't believe my luck. 

So. Mondays. You're doing right by me.

Now, as promised, the winner of the Matilda Jane giveaway is....AMANDA! I'll be in touch.

Wishing you equally splendid starts to your week! 

Oh, hey? Could you send me some blog love by voting here? Thanks!

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My Blueprint for Taxi Drivers Makes Me Unhappy And Other Tales of Expat Woe.




Yesterday was one of those days. Call them China days, or Indo days, expat days, or HULKSMASH EVERYDAMNTHIGN days, whatever. It was one. And tt started, as these days often do, in the back of a taxi. 


I was taking Stella to school. I gave the driver the street name and neighbourhood, and asked him if he knew it. I took his noncommittal silence as an affirmation, that yes, he did indeed know know the place and would guide us there directly. But it wasn't long before I resized, by way of a series of turns in random directions, that he had know idea where our destination was in relation to where we were, but didn't feel like it would be appropriate to, you know, ask me if he should turn left or right at the next intersection.


ARRGGGG! SO ANNOYING! Why wouldn't he TELL me if he didn't know the place? Why wouldn't he ask me where to turn? Why did he just turn left there???? Geeze! Taxi drivers are the worst!  So leotarded!!!! 


Not long after, we hit traffic. Because of course we did. A tiny crossing had the whole road tied up in knots, and we were stuck for twenty minutes. As the stoplight flashed red, drivers raced forward, hopping to make it across the three lanes of poorly designed intersection before traffic started flowing in the other direction. The result? Traffic locked down. Cars facing each of the four compass points jammed in the middle of an intersection and no one able to move anywhere. 


COME ON, you guys. This is basic. Even someone who bought their licence knows red means stop and green means go. If you'd just follow THE RULES, this wouldn't happen. Only jerks stop their cars in the middle of an intersection. You're making me late for all important outside time at preschool , I'm missing mom chat time, and this is obviously a super important, really critical, total big deal problem.


So yea. Two internal tantrums even before nine o'clock in the morning.  


Tony Robbins has this concept about blueprints. Your blueprint is your worldview. It's your understanding of how you, should be, how others should act, and how the world should function. If you think people should hold doors open for you, that's part of your blueprint. If you think that the work day should start at 9 AM and finish at 5 PM, that's part of your blueprint.

When you encounter situations that contradict your blueprint, you feel negative emotions: frustrationation, anger, annoyance, unhappiness.  


My blueprint about the flow of vehicles in an intersection is based entirely upon my North American understudying of traffic. And guess what? That blueprint is totally invalid in Indonesia. (...Duh...)


I can't change the way traffic flows in this country (although don't think for a moment I haven't considered jumping out of the taxi and directing cars at that particular intersection, with extra special vitriol saved for those GD motorcycles, who are like TOTALLY THE WORST at following traffic rules. Because I have. Obviously. A lot. I even have ideas about what I should wear, and where I might find a traffic directing wand.)


The only thing I can change is my idea about how traffic flows. (Hint: IT DOESNT!!!!!) I can only change my blueprint.


But that's kind of a hard thing to do. Like, uhhhhhh, where do I start?


Do any of you have stories about blueprints contradicting reality, be they expat-related or otherwise? Have any of you successfully changed your blueprint? Tips? Ideas? Suggestions? Rants? Let me have them!

Idul Adha in Jakarta

Selamat Idul Adha! 

Yesterday we celebrated Eid al-Adha, (or Idul Adha as it's known here in Indoneisa.) 

Idul Adha in Jakarta is a big deal, second only to Eid al-Fitr (Idul Fitri), which marks the end of Ramadan (Lebaran), as a major religious holiday. Idul Adha commemorates the willingness of Ibrihim to sacrifice his own son in obedience to God. Traditionally men and women dress in white, and cows, goats or sheep are sacrificed. The meat is then butchered and given to the poor. 

Admittedly, our celebration was non-traditional in the sense that it involved neither sacrifice of domestic animals nor any ritual prayers, but instead, a trip to the newly opened H&M and lunch at a Japanese restaurant. But still.  

But the night before the big holiday, well that was something. Jalan Sudirman, the main thoroughfare that cuts through the city was closed to traffic late Monday afternoon, as thousands of drummers gathered to welcome nightfall and the beginning of Idul Adha. 

Of course Stella and I wanted to be part of the action, so out we went!

The mood was buoyant, and we got lots of high fives and "Hello Misters!" We stayed out till dark, taking advantage of a rare opportunity for an evening stroll. Then we came home and watched as a parade of thousands of torches and the occasional fire breather passed along the street below our building. 

Prayer songs rang out all night long, and we slept fitfully but happily. 

Jakarta, sometimes you just kill it. 


Hash House Harriers Kids Run in Jakarta

I love big city living. I do. I love hustle and bustle, concrete, and that invigorating chaos that comes with millions of people jammed together, all trying to be humans right on top of each other. I'll even take the air pollution that comes with bajajs and busses of varying degrees of roadworthiness, because that's what makes a city, you know? 


But once in a while I need to hear a bird sing. I need a dose of fresh air and a little green space. 


So, when a friend tipped us off to the Hash House Harriers and their monthly kids' runs. And we were in. Oh were we in. 


Mr. Chef was stuck at work all weekend, so a trip out to the country was the perfect distraction. We rented a car, rounded up some friends, and headed out to the jungle (where jungle means moderately developed housing estate with some cassava fields, and a few mountain bike trails, but you know? there were trees, and streams, and dirt and birds, and I'll just take what I can get, thankyouverymuch.)


From what I can gather about the Hash House Harriers in Jakarta, they're a group of people who like running and and like beer. A lot? 


And the Hash House Harriers kids' runs follow a similar theme: you set the kids loose in the jungle, run them around for a while, and then meet back at the starting point to shotgun sodas. Oh, and in case you were concerned, there IS INDEED beer for the parents. 


The run was pretty short. And was entirely more a walk than a run. Or in Stella's case a cary? Question mark? "Carwy me, mama!" And I figured that was fine because I do have a bit of an exercise deficit, so, why not? So I carried my 14 KG kid all along the trail, stopping to practice leaping off mountain bike jumps and gather "tickle sticks" which grown up people call "grass". 


(A propos of nothing, it should be noted that Stella is providing an excellent example interpreting this autumn's major trend of pattern mixing for the tropical jungle context. And while moccasins do not make the most practical jungle walking footwear, they do look totally rad, and they went on her feet without a fight, so who am I to argue?)

We ended the run hot and sweaty, but totally happy with red cheeks and fresh air in our lungs. Nature is, like, totally the best and stuff.


If you're local and want to join the Jakarta Junior Hash House Harriers, they run the last Sunday of the month. The run is held at different sites around Jakarta, usually not much more than an hour outside the city. You can contact Greg Fletcher at He'll get you on the list.  

My 20 Week Ultrasound in Singapore

This picture has kind of nothing to do with anything except that it's in the Singapore Airport, and it's Stella and she's kind of the best, so. 

I'd gotten pretty used to the laid-back approach to pre-nantal care in Jakarta. I go to my clinic, pee on a PH stick, get my blood pressure checked, get weighed (they don't even COMMENT on my enormous weight gain, TAKE THAT, Japan), and then pop in for a quick visit with the Doc. It's a brief "Hello, how are you, any problems, okay ultrasound time!" And then we're done.


(This compared to my Japanese appointments which always had an elaborate ritual of blood tests, cups of pee, belly exam and measurements, and scolding for being too fat.)


When I showed up at the clinic in Singapore for my anomaly scan, I had to go through the  registration process. They ask a lot of questions. Like they want to know every detail about both parents' lives, occupation, place of employment, and religion. RELIGION??? What? Excuse me. How exactly does this impact my medical care?


Oh, and another favourite of mine: "Name of husband/guardian."


Guardian??? GUARDIAN? Is this real life? Is this the 21st century, Singapore? What you're saying is that if I didn't have a husband I'd need a GUARDIAN?? And anyway, how exactly does my marital / guardianship status influence the doctor's ability to evaluate my pregnancy???


Because I'm such a pedantic peach, I obviously took this is an opportunity to point out the absurdity of this question, but passive aggressively because that's how I roll. So I circled that offending part of the registration form and cover it in exclamation points. You know.



Anyway, my Singapore doctor did not bring up either my religion or my guardianship status. Thank Feminism. He did, however, complete a super thorough exam of the baby, the likes of which I'd never before experienced either in Japan or here in Jakarta.


It's funny. When I went into see a doctor while on vacation in Canada when I was pregnant with Stella for reasons having to do with FIRST TIME MOTHER FREAKING OUT, all the doctor did was to have a little chat, have the nurse get out the doppler, and take a quick listen. Brush hands and done.


In Japan, and here in Jakarta, it's all ultrasounds all the time. Wanna see if you're really preg? Let's do an ultrasound at six weeks! Eight week appointment? Ultrasound. Worried about your pregnancy for no good reason? Come in for an ultrasound, NBD! 


And Iet's not joke around, I kind of love that. Before reassuring kicks to the bladder become a regular thing, it's really nice to actually see the baby and know that all is fine. And also, it's great to check in on things later in the pregnancy and make sure that all looks good. You know? I think North America should get on this ultrasound train.


Anyway, my Singapore ultrasound. When it was all finished, the doctor typed up a five (FIVE) page super official report including graphs and measurements and other science things and handed it over along with a DVD containing all the images form the ultrasound. Which totally surprised me. But shouldn't have. Because, duh, it's Singapore. 


What's the deal in the US / Canada / Europe / Elsewhere. Do you get multiple ultrasounds? A five page post scan report? Graphs? Quizzed on your religion and who owns you? Just curious. 


Oh, I've kind of majorly dropped the ball in the Top Baby Blogs department. They reset their numbers and I'm like totally slipping! Can you give us a vote? I'd super appreciate it!!!


Thanks and candy!

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Yet Another Pregnancy Update



Nothing new is really happening on the pregnancy front. I'm growing a human in my body. Just like every other woman who has ever been pregnant. Just regular stuff. 


But what is different this time around is how pregnancy is treated here in Indonesia. So, I got knocked up and then I became an invalid.



Last week I was hanging out with a few other moms. A ball got kicked into a planter, which greatly distressed the children, so I did what was reasonable. Is scaled the vast heights of the raised flower bed (TWO FEET), and stepped over the pants to retrieve the ball. And then I made my descent. 


All this to the great shock of the mothers around me: sharp intakes of breath; admonishments for my negligence; warnings to be careful, outstretched hands helped to brace me as I leapt down, headless of the consequences!!! (Actually, I just bent my knee a bit, and then stepped down. Two feet. People. I mean. I don't think a step, even an especially large step, is going to jostle this kid free of my innards. Just a hunch. And, um, also, biology.) 


People, even those fairly close to me, regularly question my ability to carry my own kid, or lift a bag, or walk 1500 meters. And they're not afraid to tell me that I'll harm my baby if I overexert myself. I get side-eyes at the gym, worried glances, and judgmental looks. 


It seems to me that this notion that a woman's body is week is prevalent here in Indonesia. Take for example the concept of "period leave." Each month women are entitled to two days off due to their monthly cycle. Because oh! these poor girls who experience a natural biological process, they need to take time off work and stay in bed! Or something. 


This is problematic, for all sorts of reasons, but mostly because if you buy into this, then you basically accept the notion that women are inherently delicate and thus less capable than men. Which, arrrg! Sorry I have a uterus! 


(Not actually sorry at all.)



By and large, I'm trying to live like normal (though admittedly I did opt out of cooking a whole lot during the first trimester when nausea was king.) Still, I'm aware of and totally irritated by the sideward looks and judgmental comments. I've been a bit reluctant to hit the gym here, but I'm working on that? Maybe? And I'm doing my best to bite my feminist tongue, because I have complicated feelings about post-colonial guilt, cultural imperialism, pedantic Western-centric world view, and moral relativism. 


But still, I'm going to lift up my kid, even though I'm pregnant, so lay off, k?

Something Good.

I've been leaving hints here and there that I'm working on a new project. It's big. It's terrifying. And totally exhilarating. And I can't wait to tell you about it.

But until then, here's a sneek peak.



I'd LOVE for you to go here, and sign up for the newsletter. I'll send you a mail and let you know when the project is ready. 

Also, can I ask for a favour? Could you share the link to my new website? A post on Facebook, or a tweet, or a link in your blog would totally make my week. I'm excited about this new adventure, and I'd love to share it with as many people as possible.  

Parenting as a Westie in the East is hard, dear internet diary.

The other day, my daughter's nanny came back to work after a few days off. She asked me, "What happened with Stella on Monday morning? Why was she crying?"


Monday morning was totally unremarkable. We went through our usual routine of tidying up the detritus left by the weekend weekend (me), and tantrum-ing over the injustice of being forced to play alone with a room full of educational and aesthetically pleasing wooden toys (not me. Two guesses.)


"I don't remember….ummm, I guess she was crying because I was doing dishes?" I answered. "Or making the bed? Dunno. Why?"


It turns out that one of the hotel housekeepers had heard Stella screeching. She texted our nanny to find out why the child's incompetent mother was incapable of appeasing a innocent three-year-old. 


"I heard Stella crying. I felt so sad!" The housekeeper (who, btw, we love and adore), texted to Stella's nanny.


(Incidentally it's a good thing that the housekeeper in question wasn't around a few hours later when a certain small person was wailing in the hallway for a good 20  minutes because I asked her to walk 25 meters to our apartment door and therefore life is all bullshit.)


But still. COME ON!!! My kid was crying. What's so remarkable about that??? And PS, privacy is also a thing.


In  Indonesia, a screaming kid is kind of remarkable. The typical toddler does not tantrum. Or, at least, does not tantrum to the degree that Western kids do.


Kids here are cajoled and mollified. They are carried around by their caretakers, given sweets, spoon-fed and bottle-fed well into big-kid-dom. Their demands for attention are always acknowledged. Their requests for toys, playtime, or other sorts of entertainment are granted without question. Keep the kid happy. Don't let the kid cry. 


When faced with a crying child, the typical response is to give the kid whatever he wants: iPad? Here you go! Candy, Okay! No problem! All of my attention all of the time? YES! You can have it!


This sounds, on the surface of things, to be a recipe for a total parenting disaster. And were the children in question growing up in a Western context, I'd argue that it would be. But these kids are growing up in Indonesia where culture dictates that little kids can't be left to cry. And it works here. 


But I'm raising a kid according to Western parenting practices, and that means I keep running into cultural conflicts. People regularly question my competency and judging my parenting based on their cultural norms. 


For example, I recently got some serious attitude from my daughter's babysitter because I threw out a crappy, super branded plastic toy that just wasn't my aesthetic jam. My daughter's babysitter thought I was being recklessly wasteful, and mean in denying her access to a great (pirated!) mouse-shaped plaything! I thought I was controlling clutter and making good judgments about what type of toys come into our home.  


Or, when I shield my daughter from unwanted pictures, I think I'm protecting my kid, teaching her that she owns her image; would-be photags think I'm being an asshole, denying them an awesome photo op.


Or when I refuse my child ice cream at 3 PM, I think I'm making good choices about her nutrition; restaurant waiters think I'm being a grinchy miser.  


It all makes me want to announce to everyone,  Hey! Guys! I'm, like, dooin it rite here! Super A++ gold star glitter parenting! Look! It says so in this book!!!


Which is silly. And kind of useless.  


Still, the majority of Indonesians don't have any awareness about this vast parenting cultural chasm between East and West (and frankly, neither did I until I began parenting as a Westie in the East), and so they look at me (or listen at my door as the case may be) and assume that I'm a total parenting dummy, and my crying child is evidence of my cold, cold, bitter heart. And, dear internet diary, this bothers me way more than it should.  

Labour Day in Jakarta

Labour Day isn't actually a holiday in Jakarta, but who are Jakartians to let that small fact stand in the way of a good protest.

People began arriving downtown at 4 am. By mid-morning, the crowds swelled and heaved. Slogans and chants rose up to the sixth floor, and I thought, oh geeze. How am I going to pick my kid up from school. The main gathering point, you see, is right outside our door. Cars could neither enter nor exit, and not a single taxi would drive towards downtown. 

When I picked up my kid from school, I told her, "The traffic is really bad. There's a demo," not expecting her to understand.

She shot back, "Oh! Yes! Stella saw so many police just now!" So, I guess the schema for political activism is already formed in this two year old. 

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project life: week fourteen: Sulawesi + bali

Alternate title: here are a million pictures of our vacation, most of them featuring the back of my child's head.

I was congratulating myself for having made so many images of subjects other than my child. But looking through these, I guess I don't really know what the fluffernutter I am talking about. 

I'm a bit behind on my Project Life sitch, which is mostly due to the fact that my vacation has left me totally and utterly exhausted. Too much fun can do that to a person. So can too may 4 AM wake ups, and too few moments spent alone, which for an introvert like me can result in some pretty major orneriness.  

Nevertheless, a great time was had by all. This kid of mine, she was a real star. After a few nights of pretty dramatic papi-separation-melancholia, she jumped right into the idea of being away from our normal routine, christening each new hotel in which we stayed with a new moniker: Bunaken Home, Tomohon Home, Bali Home, and then back to Jakarta Home. 

I guess that's the nature of expat childhood; you kind of learn that home is not a static place, rather it is where you are together with your family. 

Still, we're both trilled to be back in Jakarta home. Stella is dreaming about choo-choo rides with papi, and I'm thinking about consequential and far-reaching matters in homemaking. Like, OMG, totally want to make something with cream cheese frosting, and maybe I should buy a baking sheet, and lets talk about couches for ever and ever and ever, okay? 

Anyway, enough rambling. Here's what we were up to, two weeks ago. 







the discovery of a guitar at our hotel pretty much made her life // building sand castles and decorating them with coral // left the rainy beach for the rainy highlands // toddler style is inexplicable // jungle behind, ocean in front // an after lunch walk and the sun finally came out // the rim of a volcano // I've always dreamt of sleeping in a bed with mosquito netting. so romantic. (I shared it with my kid and her nanny / my friend. less romantic.) // fish at the market in Tomohon, which was so bonkers I've got to tell you about it one day. //

Linking up for Sunday Stills at The Beatle Shack.

Happy Sunday!

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When I'm on vacation I like to pretend that I'm an oligarch.

Are you getting tired of hearing me talk about adventures in dragging my two-year-old around Indonesia? 

I'm kind of tired, but I think that's because I just spent the last two weeks dragging my two-year-old around Indonesia. 

After our time in North Sulawesi, we spent four days in Bali engaging in what is, quite possibly, the most obnoxious form of tourism. We checked into our super fancy luxury resort (I KNOW, I can't believe they let us in either, but it was free, so) and we didn't leave the hotel property until we checked out. Nearly every waking moment was spent in the pool and / or ocean. Stella learned to swim* and I learned to surf. Which, ps, is the greatest. It's been a life long dream of mine, something that I told myself that I'd do when we moved to Japan ( but instead I got knocked up.) 

*where swimming = wearing a life jacket, and floating independently for 10 seconds, slightly panicked, but not clinging to me for deal life.

We ate pizza pool-side, got nice and golden, and lazed around pretending to be fabulous Russian oligarchs.

But alas, the illusion was shattered by several scatological incidents and an unexpected night swim.

I'll leave the former to your imagination, but as for the latter, here's the deal: While we were enjoying a glass of wine (water for the two-year-old) in the super fabulous club lounge, a certain little person dove head first into the adject fish pond which, as it turns out, happens to be home to one rather substantial monitor lizard. This necessitated a second panicked leap into the pond as I dove in after Stella. I hoisted Stella out before the lizard got wind of our visit to his habitat, and we stood in the middle of the lounge, sopping wet, hearts racing, and totally beyond embarrassed.

I took some solace in the fact that a grown woman managed the same maneuver two nights later and concluded that the whole thing was a result of poor lighting and not an error in parental judgment.

Or something.



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And now I'm blogging from the jungle.

Hi we're in the jungle. Like, really. 

We've been hanging out with black mackaks (real live monkeys!!!), and watching tarsiers (adorable little ewoks + world's smallest primates) hanging out on the edge of volcanoes, (and um, hi, a volcano four KM away from us just erupted. Yesterday.)

So, anyway, that's what's up around these parts. Just thought I'd let you know that we haven't been eaten by pythons.


Hi. This is us in front of a massive jungle tree. Please excuse the jungle attire. Because, you know: jungle. 

Black mackaks. We got to come so close to these little monkeys. And here's a muma and baby, 1 month old! Adorable!

 Jungle flowers on the jungle floor. 


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I lost my good heart and found it again at the park.

It's far too easy to let the frustrations of living here run away with your good heart. The languid chaos of daily life, the injustice and inconvenience make it easy to neglect the truth. Traffic snarls at two PM on a Saturday, a  house with three Roles Rocyces in the garage, or that abiding sense that you've been taken advantage of are enough to stir up disheartenment.
It's easy to let your good heart be gone.

But all you need, really, is a trip to the park where a group of seven year-olds befriend your toddler, and despite  a language barrier they learn each other's names and ages, and then small arms reach behind your girl's waist and hoist her up onto the swings, and when they see she's had enough, they help her down, and guide her up the play structure, shouting, watch out! The baby wants to pass! and lead her over the bridge, and help her down the slide. And when she falls, a girl bends over and brushes off her legs, and a boy crouches down, looks into her eyes, and pats her tenderly on the cheek.
That's all you need, really, to realign your good heart and be reminded that this is a good place where the people are kind, and notwithstanding the traffic and wealth and poverty, people will always show tenderness to a child. 




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An Incomplete List of The Ways In Which I'm an Unfit Parent in Indonesia:

Well, we've finally clawed our way out of that great cave of suffering otherwise known as the Epic Nine Day Fever And Resultant Absence From School and OMG YOU'RE DRIVING ME BONKERS PLEASE STOP WHINING AND TOUCHING ALL THE THINGS. Hooray! Stella's well again! And can go to school! (Just in time for me to get sick, and then discover, at a suspiciously empty looking school-drop off point that, in fact, it's Easter Break. Ummm, duh.)

I play fairly fast and easy with The Gods of Childhood Illness, laughing in the face of germs, dropped toys, and shared drink. You know, it's prison rules in here. I've watched as my blatant disregard for trifectic dangers of cold, wind, and wet hair have been the cause of much anxiety amongst  Indonesian friends and childcare professionals; they side-eye my insouciance and declare it cause of my child's illness. 
And because I'm the ornery type, and can not abide by rules which do not correspond with my world view, I kind of take pleasure in snubbing conventional wisdom.
And so, without further ado, I'd like to present an Incomplete List of The Ways In Which I'm an Unfit Parent in Indonesia:
Upon waking up, I remove my daughter's diaper and wipe her down with a baby wipe. Two if I'm feeling particularly fastidious. Which is ridiculous because everyone knows that she actually requires at least a bum bath, and better yet a proper morning shower with a good thick lather of soap bubbles. 
I do not insist on multiple hand washings during the day, and am lucky if my kid wipes her hands prior to consuming a meal.
  • I did not bathe my child before bed. 
  • I did bathe my child before bed, but did not allow her hair to dry completely. 
  • I allowed my child outside without a sweater, at complete mercy of the equatorial breezes and warm summer temperatures. Neglectfulness, thy name is ME!
  • I let my daughter get rained on. The next day she got a fever. Causality therefore established, and parenting accreditation revoked. 
  • In order to soothe a sore throat and encourage consumption of calories, I allowed my sick girl to eat ice cream and drink cold milk. Both of which are known evils and cause untold episodes of childhood morbidity. 
  • Despite a slight fever, I let my kid splash in a pool. In 32 / 90 degree heat, thereby tempting both fate and further compilations of the illness already brought about by poor parenting choices and exposure to cold / wind / rain.

I dunno. I'm not inclined to buy into the notion that cold / wetness / wind causes illness, the fact that on two sererate occasions my kid got rained on and then got sick (fever, and then higher fever + ear infection) might have me re-evaluating my position on the matter. And so might this, the face of a sick and totaly pissed two-year-old.

My fault. Sorry kid.


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Play across Cultures

On Fridays, we ride the elevator up to our favourite restaurant. As we walk up the path that leads to the outdoor tables, the kitchen begins preparing Stella's food. They know she'll order a margarita pizza and a glass of fresh milk. She's two, and two-year-olds are predictable.

We sit down at the table, greeted by our favourite server. And then the games begin. 

"Is that Baby Honey, Stella? That's my baby. Okay? Give her to me. I'm going to take her home, okay?"

"That's MY milk, Stella. You give me the milk. It's mine, right?"

"Can I have your pizza? Please? Why not? I'm hungry!! I didn't eat lunch. I eat your pizza, okay??!"


I came across a beautiful collection of images by Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti (sorry, I can't remember who lead me to them; somehow via Facebook, I think.) Galimberti traveled around the world and taking images of children with their most prized possessions. In the process, she documented a universal truth of the childhood experience: Play. "No matter at their age, they are pretty all much the same; they just want to play,” says Galimberti.

But Galimberti did find a difference in how children played. Kids from rich countries were more possessive of their toys. Kids from poorer countries were more quick to share. 


I've been thinking about play and cultural context since we arrived here in Indonesia and the games of "that's mine!" started. Always lead by an adult somehow revolving around the idea that the adult would pretend to "take" Stella's toy, these games are vastly different from the sorts that we in North America initiate with our kids.

Play teaches kids all sorts of things. We play peek-a-boo with babies and teach them about object permanence. North American kids play house and learn about social and cultural norms. They play snakes and ladders and learn about following rules, how to win and loose with grace. 

So I wonder what's behind this "that's mine" game in Indonesia. Does it help kids learn about community and relinquishing objects that are needed for the group? Does it teach kids lessons about power and control? Maybe about generosity and giving? 

I'm not too sure. 

I also think about Japan, and how play differed there. When we left, Stella was still too young to be really getting into imaginative play, but I did notice glimpses of small differences with the kids in my general periphery. There was lots of parallel play between big kids, each sitting next to each other playing a video game. And quiet, tender play between mother and child as the mother patiently folded origami for her girl. 

In both cultures I noticed much less of the roughhouse-run-around-screaming-like-a-deranged-monster-and-pretending-to-tickle that I'm cast as "Canadian" play but might just be the kind of play that I prefer. Is that how most North Americans play with their kids? I don't know. I'm kind of totally out of touch with the minutia of North American parenting. 

Anyway, I have no real point here. But I suggest you go look at that photography project.

Also, what have you noticed about the culture, kids, and play?



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