Worlds Apart


I’m warning you now that this is going to be one of those rambling stream of consciousness type posts, so if you’d rather just skip knowing what my mind goes through at midnight on a Tuesday, go right ahead.

Tomorrow is Galungan and as usual has been preceded by weeks of preparations and stress about lack of money and why I’m not helping and what’s going to happen when Made’s mother is too old to do all the ceremonial stuff. It’s very sad but the longer I’m here, the less I enjoy anything to do with Balinese Hinduism. I think in essence, it is a very beautiful religion and makes a lot of sense but I find myself turning away more and more each day. In fact I realise now that I pretty much hate Galungan due to all the stress and subsequent arguments it causes, which is a real shame as it is supposed to be the biggest celebration on the Balinese calendar.

The fact is that Galungan and other big ceremonies may seem colourful and exciting to visitors but for the Balinese, or rather the Balinese women, they are a LOT of work. Work on top of taking care of the children, looking after the home and doing their normal paid work. Made’s mother has been preparing offerings for months and once Galungan and Kuningan are over, it will just be onto getting ready for the next ceremony.

I think the idea behind doing offerings to show your thanks for everything the world has given you is a great one. The simple daily offerings can be a joy to do. However backbreaking work for weeks on end and families getting into debt just so they can make a load of offerings for some big ceremony that will be thrown away or eaten at the end of the day – why?

Sometimes I feel like the longer I’m here, the less I understand and I don’t even try to understand anymore. I’m used to the fact that Made will be moody and quick-tempered in the weeks running up to a big ceremony. I’m used to walking on eggshells until it’s over with and we can go back to normal, that is until the next ceremony.

Stress, stress and more stress. Stress about his mother working so hard with no support, stress about having no money, stress about me being on my computer all the time trying to make money. We go round and round in circles and get nowhere.

There is so much that I want to do. I have about a million business ideas and about an hour a day to put them into practice. And of course I use that time in exchange for money so we can keep limping along until the next month. I don’t want this blog to just be pictures – I have a million words dying to get out (if you couldn’t tell by what you’ve read so far) but there just isn’t any time to sit down and write when I should be doing something else. I want to draw but in my free time I work and feel guilty that I’m working and not weaving palm leaves or studying the Hindu vedas or something.

I never really realised how hard it would be being in a multicultural relationship before we got married. After having kids, things only get harder because while you may be willing to compromise when it comes to yourself, everyone just wants the best for their children. When you have conflicting ideas about what is best, of course it is bound to lead to arguments.

I’m trying to pick my battles and be less obsessed over the things that don’t really matter. I no longer glare and slam doors when I see my in-laws chasing Maya around with a bowl of rice – I just sigh, hand them a spoon and let them get on with it. But some things just seem to wind me up more and more and I don’t even know if it’s really a cultural thing or just me disagreeing with them.

For example, I hate the way they lie to Maya. I hate how they will say they’ll take her swimming or to see the monkeys when really they just want to say anything that will get her dressed and out of the door. I hate how they just give children whatever they want if there’s the slightest hint of a tantrum. I’m not harsh in my parenting style but I really don’t want to be raising little spoiled brats.

I’m not even really sure what my point is here but sometimes I feel like I’m an alien just landed on this planet and I look around and think “who ARE these people?”. Yesterday I cut a good 6 inches off my hair and I’m still waiting for someone to comment or even notice it. Is that normal? Maybe it’s not polite to comment on someone’s appearance here? But no because every time I go out, someone is sure to tell me that I’m getting too skinny. Maybe they’re just worried that I cut my hair off because I’m going slightly crazy and maybe that isn’t too far from the truth.

I do love my life here most of the time but wow, is it hard. I know I should be trying harder to fit in, to learn more, to do more but I have two small children crying for my attention, a mountain of credit card debt and not enough hours in the day. I’m so behind on everything at the moment, it’s not even funny. I feel like I’ve been working harder and harder these last few weeks and yet I’m getting less and less done. I can’t even stay on top of my project 365 photos.

Anyway I guess I should get some sleep so I can wake up too late (ie after 4am) and get glared at again and apologise silently for not being born the perfect Balinese housewife. But tomorrow is Galungan so maybe things will improve for a while until the next ceremony rolls around again. Such is life.

This post is brought to you by my rapidly degenerating grip on reality and the fact I’m up way after my normal bed time supposed to be catching up on work that is already 2 days late but I’m blogging instead. I rock.

The Sound of Silence – Nyepi, New Year in Bali

I’m writing this post on Nyepi Eve but I’m scheduling it to post tomorrow, on the day itself. Why not write it tomorrow? The traditions surrounding New Year here are unique to Bali – a day of silence where no one leaves the house, no lights or electricity are used and the island appears abandoned to all but the birds and animals that share it as their home. The TV signal is scrambled but our banjar doesn’t go as far as cutting the electric. However I’m going to try to mark the occasion by taking the opportunity to have a day off my computer until boredom wins out, at least.

I think Nyepi is probaby my favourite ceremony of them all. Hindu or not, nobody gets the chance to ignore Nyepi in Bali. The airport is closed, there are no cars on the roads, tourists are trapped in their hotels and the night is the blackest of black with a million shining stars free of pollution from electric lights and traffic fumes.

There is just something really special about taking a day off from everything and I feel so lucky to be here every time Nyepi rolls around. Another new year (1935 according to the Balinese Saka calendar), another chance for a fresh start. No distant traffic to spoil the silence and a day for the earth to exist naturally. What a great way to start the year, don’t you think?

On Nyepi eve we parade Ogoh Ogoh – effigies of demonic entities around the village and make a lot of noise to scare away any malevolent spirits. The hope is that when they return, there’ll be no sign of human life and they’ll go away to bother someone else.

Maya and Kiran were both very excited by the Ogoh Ogoh this year and have been watching them being made in the village with great excitement for weeks. I left Maya with Made after watching the parade set off and then Kiran and I returned home to bash some pots and pans and get those evil spirits out. 

nyepi9 nyepi8 nyepi6 nyepi5 nyepi4 nyepi2 nyepi1 nyepi10

Here’s to another year of life and love in Bali.

Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries – Tradition

IMG_2827Tradition is everything in Bali. It’s the reason we live with my husband’s parents in a small village, rather than getting a place of our own. It’s the reason my children’s first names are the same as all the other children in Bali – Putu and Made, meaning first and second child. Tradition has governed our lives here in everything from our wedding to the birth of our children.

Every home in Bali has its own family temple and every day offerings are placed around this temple and the family compound. Every day – rain or shine. The normal everyday offerings are simple trays made from palm leaves filled with flowers and a sweet or biscuit. On auspicious days like full moon and new moon or on ceremony days, much more elaborate offerings are carried out.

I first learned to make these simple offerings a few months after our wedding and I did them every day when I was pregnant with Maya. After having children, my ability to carry out tasks like this in solitude was greatly reduced and I tended to leave it to Made’s mother while I rocked and entertained my babies. Recently though, I’ve taken to popping Kiran in a sling and doing the offerings myself in the morning. It’s a lovely meditative way to start the day and fills the compound with the scent of flowers and incense smoke.










IMG_2839The offerings are usually topped with small cookies or crackers and Kiran was rather indignant when I didn’t give him one.


Biscuit in mouth and all is right with the world again!

IMG_2863Today was also a special day for Kiran – in addition to their Otonan ceremony every 210 days, a small blessing ceremony is held for children every month with offerings of fruit and cakes. Kiran could barely contain his excitement at the shiny red apples

IMG_2992One of the places where we make offerings every day are the stones outside the entrance to our home that mark the place where their placentas were buried after birth. These stones receive special treatment during the first few months of life, being washed with the baby’s bath water and given a small sweet or cake offering whenever the baby is taken out of the house. Today Kiran’s stone received special offerings.


Now Kiran is walking everywhere, I don’t know how much longer he’ll be content to be carried around in a sling but I enjoy these little moments while they last.


I wear Kiran in a Sakura Bloom Essential Silk Sling in Aubergine/Fig

This post is part 5 of a 6 part series for the Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries. We are one of 15 families documenting our babywearing experience over a six month period. You can follow the Sling Diaries on Pinterest, Facebook or Tumblr. You can read all my other blog posts for the sling diaries here.


IMG_2402-1Maya – it was her 4th Otonan today, a ceremony held every 210 days. She’s now 2 Balinese years old

zKiran – cheeky boy is always sticking his tongue out at m!


Home life in Bali






I should have been in bed a couple of hours ago but as I’m not, here are a few snaps from around the house today

tipat (compressed rice) from the morning offerings for the new moon // preparing offerings for Maya’s otonan tomorrow // drinking water that comes with its own mantra.




Maya – It’s Hari Raya Saraswati, the day of celebrating the goddess of books and learning. Today she goes to school in her temple clothing.


Kiran – he caught Maya’s virus and was up in the night with a fever and vomiting but still wants to play and read books. Sweet boy.

Spiritual Protection

Every house in Bali has a shrine like the one pictured either outside the entrance to the home, or just inside, facing the entrance. Every day offerings are placed on this shrine for protection from any evil spirits that may try to wander inside. You’ll also never find a path leading straight into a Balinese home – apparently bad spirits can’t turn corners so putting the entrance on the side of the path is usually enough deterrent. Some houses have an extra small wall just inside the entrance so you need to turn left or right to enter the compound – sort of like a double lock I suppose?

Our shrine was looking a bit worse for wear after the building work carrying on right next to it and some chunks had been knocked off and stuck back on with cement. If a Balinese person comes into more money than usual, you can pretty much guarantee it will be spent on improving the temple and shrines in the home before anything else. Made decided we needed a new one and so a new one we got.

I’m not usually a superstitious person but after being in Bali for just a short while, I can guarantee you’ll be thinking twice about the existence of ghosts, spirits and demons. Our kitchen now is open and lit up brightly at night. When I go to get water out of the fridge, I have my back to the dark alleyway and some nights I could swear I hear a sinister hissing noise over my shoulder. I’m happy to do whatever is required to keep our home free from any malevolent spirits. Plus it gives me an excuse to post some more cute pictures of my kids.

Kiran’s First Otonan

You may have noticed that my baby is more bald than usual. This is because last week we celebrated Kiran’s first otonan – a ceremony marking his birth every 6 Balinese months or 210 days. Many Balinese people (particularly older people) don’t celebrate or don’t even know when their birthday is but their otonan will always be marked with a special ceremony.

This isn’t a big ceremony like the 3 bulanan, just a quick blessing at home with the family. However for the first otonan, the hair of the baby must be completely shaved off as a cleansing ritual to prepare the baby for his first temple visits. Kiran didn’t have much hair to begin with so he doesn’t look that different. Maya looked really funny and we flew out to England a few days after her otonan and I was worried what people would think about my skinhead baby! Kiran’s already been on his first temple visit and he’ll gradually work his way around all the village temples, ending with the Pura Dalem (cemetery temple). Maya is still not old enough to go there yet so I’m guessing it’s after the 4th Otonan.

Of course, having had two bald babies at exactly the same age gives me excellent opportunity to compare photos without the hair confusing things. The first thing I said when Kiran was born was “He doesn’t look like Maya!” and I think they were quite different babies for the first few months. Now Kiran is getting older I think he’s starting to look a bit more like Maya. What do you think?

Ngambe Ceremony

We recently had the ngambe ceremony for the new kitchen and office. This is a blessing ceremony that is done whenever a new house is built or a building is changed significantly. Seems to have worked on my office anyway as I’ve had so much work recently I haven’t had time for anything else!

Selamat Hari Raya Galungan

It’s been a busy couple of weeks around these parts lately. We recently had the ngambe  ceremony for the new kitchen and office; Kiran’s first Otonan; My 32nd birthday and Made’s the day after;  Mama and both kids came down with fever and sickness virus one after the other (papa has escaped so far); and a lot of freelance work for me. I have a few posts to catch up on but for now I’m just popping in to say Happy Galungan!

Galungan is often described as Balinese Christmas and, while it doesn’t resemble any kind of western Christmas, I guess the basics are the same – families get together, there is lots of cooking, lots of eating and celebration. Every home displays a tall bamboo penjor outside the entrance which I guess could be considered the Balinese version of a Christmas tree.

The Galungan period lasts for 10 days, during which time the spirits of the family ancestors return to the family temple to visit. The last day is Kuningan, on which they return. It also symbolises the victory of good (dharma) over evil.

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