Shopping haul! What £100 will buy you in Bali

I’m always fascinated with the contents of other people’s fridges and shopping trolleys. I love this book that has photographs of a month’s worth of food in different countries around the world. So when International Currency Exchange asked if I’d be interested participating in their expat challenge, to see how far the British pound will stretch across the world and how much I could buy for £100, I jumped at the chance (you don’t have to ask me twice to go shopping)!

Disclaimer – I bought all this stuff at different times and in different places. I’d never spend £100 in one go unless I was buying furniture or something. We also don’t have much space in our kitchen and tend to buy stuff as we need it rather than doing one big shop once every couple of weeks.

Fruit & veg from 2 different supermarkets (one in Ubud, one in Kuta):

fruit-veg

  • Bananas – 17,671rp (£0.90)
  • Red pepper – 9,672rp (£0.49)
  • 1kg Local oranges -12,000rp (£0.61)
  • Broccoli – 10,000rp (£0.51)
  • Granny Smith apples 28,535rp (£1.45)
  • 1.4kg Mangoes 29,635rp (£1.51)
  • Grapes – 25,155rp (£1.28)
  • White cabbage – 12,540rp (£0.64)
  • 500g Tomatoes – 9,000rp (£0.46)
  • Avocado – 8,424rp (£0.43)
  • 500g Aubergines – 5,200rp (£0.26)
  • 1 kg Carrots – 14,000rp (£0.71)
  • Sweet potatoes – 13,000 (£0.66)
  • Dodol (a kind of candy made with coconut cream, rice flour and dried fruit) – 6,194rp (£0.32)

total = £14.19

Store cupboard groceries:

groceries

  • 4 cartons of milk @ 16,000 64,000 (£3.25)
  • yogurt – 41,500 (£2.11)
  • honey -63,400 (£3.22)
  • Jam – 51,350 (£2.61)
  • coconut cream – 8,820 (£0.45)
  • flour – 10, 230 (£0.52)
  • 10 Eggs – 15,500 (£0.79)
  • 250g coffee (not pictured) 16,650 (£0.85)
  • bread (I normally make bread because the local stuff is so awful and not terribly cheap but I was feeling lazy) 8,500 (£0.43)

total = £14.23

From market (We don’t shop in the market often – I can’t be bothered with the hassle. But I always get coconut oil there):

market

  • coconut oil 15,000 (£0.76)
  • cakes 5,000 (£0.25)
  • Mangoes (yes more mangoes! It’s mango season – have to make the most of it!) 15,000 (£0.76)

total £1.77

Random bits and pieces:

random-stuff

  • 20 nappies (Only Maya still wears nappies at nights – she doesn’t even stir if she wets in her sleep and will just sleep on, soaked from head to toe – advice if you have any?!!) – 95,000rp (£4.84)
  • 10 microfibre clothes – 96,000rp (£4.89)
  • Jacket for Kiran – 100,000rp (£5.09)
  • Dress for Maya – 95,000rp (£4.84)
  • Garden trowel – 44,100rp (£2.25)
  • Hair dye – 108,000rp (£5.50)
  • Contact lens solution – 59,000rp (£3.01)

total = £30.42

dinner

Dinner for two (Fish with rice and water spinach, 1 glass ice tea, 1 glass wine) – 195,500rp (£9.96)

3 x 5GB internet sim cards @ 60,000rp each (£9.17)

My biggest monthly expenditure (after rent and health insurance) is on internet. I actually have no idea what I’m spending – I usually buy ones with more data on which work out a bit cheaper and I think I’m using over 60GB a month at the moment. Yikes :( I miss cheap fast unlimited internet. Also these ones I get sent over directly from Jakarta because in Bali it costs me 100,000rp for 3GB. No picture because… they’re sim cards – you know what they look like.

Bali Budda splurge! I normally avoid shopping here because everything is so expensive and I spend a fortune (and it’s full of hippies) but it’s one of the few places to get decent baked goods and western/healthy ingredients …

balibudda

  • butter 45,000rp (£2.32)
  • Balsamic vinegar 46,00rp (£2.37)
  • Local mozerella 46,000rp (£2.37)
  • wholewheat flour (finally!!! been looking for this everywhere although i didn’t check the price before I bought it and I definitely won’t be buying it again. As you can see from my previous shopping, this is 10x the cost of normal flour. Bah.) 96,000 (£4.95)
  • dried apricots 19,000 (£0.98)
  • honey oat cookies 25,000 (£1.29)
  • peanut butter 35,000 (£1.80)
  • raisins 15,000 (£0.77)
  • Granola 25,000 (£1.29)
  • Rabbit not included

total including tax 387,200 (£19.97)

Final total = £99.71

So there you go – how to blow £100 in Bali. Money goes suprisingly fast – I’ve been away for so long that I don’t have any concept of prices in the UK any more but I feel like Bali is not as cheap as everyone thinks it is. Yes maybe if you do all your shopping in the market and live off rice and vegetables and tempe, but that gets boring fast, trust me. Western and imported food is expensive here I think, plus there can be a big difference between shops. Ubud, where I live is now the most expensive place to live in Bali. My sister in law won’t even shop in the local market here anymore – she does all her food shopping at a supermaket in Denpasar where the food is fresher and prices are more reasonable. I try to get down to do a big shop at one of the big supermarkets down south but it takes up the best part of a day and is a real hassle. It’s probably worth it though looking at some of the things I bought there – those grapes would have been double the price in Ubud.

I’d be interested in how these prices stack up against other places around the world (and Indonesia – anyone from Jakarta want to chip in? Erica? Eric? Ha, just realised you both have the same name….

Thanks again to International Currency Exchange for letting me go shopping! Want to see what I can get for £1,000 next? :p

Home Sweet Home – our house in Bali

house1I was inspired by decided to totally copy Simone and give you a little peek at our home in Bali. You’ve seen bits and pieces in photos since we moved but I never did a house tour – actually I was kind of waiting until the house was ready but as we’ve been here 8 months now, I don’t think that’s going to happen. We still haven’t gotten around to buying any furniture (or rather we prefer to sit on the floor and spend the money on other things) and the only room I’ve managed to repaint is the living room. Oh well, I guess it’s good that I’ll have some “before” pictures incase I suddenly become rich and get the opportunity to redecorate.

As you can see, we’re in the rice fields which is my favourite thing about living here. We’re not as isolated as it looks in this picture though – there are lots of other houses just out of the frame and they’re building another house in the rice field to the left so we’ll have neighbours on both sides soon.

house2This is our bedroom where I basically live, on the computer most of the time. We all sleep in here – the kids have both co-slept from birth and it’s just easier that way. We’ll probably move them into their own room eventually (we have 4 potential bedrooms) but the stairs are kind of dangerous so i prefer to keep them downstairs for now

house4And this is the living room, or more accurately playroom as it’s full of toys and not much else. I really want to buy a sofa but haven’t found one I like yet (ok I haven’t been looking that hard). I never watch TV but the kids watch dvds on it sometimes (though they prefer my computer of course! Here you can see their workbench, baskets of soft toys blocks and play food, doll house, books and wooden train set in the plastic box on the right.

house5More toys under the stairs – more blocks, plastic animals, cars, some stacking toys, dolls and dressing up clothes. This bit gets made into a den with the addition of a sheet quite often. Oh and we have 2 cushions instead of a sofa :p

house3The storage/junk room where we keep our clothes and all the kids art and craft materials. I have dreams about making the spare room upstairs a dedicated art and crafting room one day but for now everything lives in here and gets brought out when they ask for it.

house9Our teeny tiny kitchen with no cupboards or workspace. To be honest, not much cooking goes on in this kitchen! To the back is the bathroom, which I didn’t take a photo of but it’s pretty boring. It’s a hybrid western/indo bathroom with a bath and shower but also a mandi (to bathe indonesian style you scoop water over yourself from a deep tub and also flush the toilet with this water)

house6jpgUp the stairs which double up as DVD shelves!

house10 house11This is the biggest and best room in the house and we don’t use it! I work up here sometimes and do yoga up here but it’s empty most of the time. I’m thinking this would make an amazing art and craft studio/homeschool room – what do you think? There’s a small shower room and toilet in the corner. Next door is Kadek’s room which is just the same as this but slightly smaller. Kadek started out working for us but is now more like our lodger… she does a little bit of cleaning in exchange for free rent and meals while she’s at high school. She’s out most of the day which suits me as I like having the place to myself!

house13Out the front we have a few trees (including avocado) and a porch area that I’d also like to put some seating and a table on. Sigh – one day!

house12and the garden round the side which used to have a lawn and loads of plants until the stupid ducks ate everything! One weird thing about this house is that it doesn’t have a temple – the owner owns the house next door and the temple is there even though technically they should both have a temple because there’s a wall between them! We still do offerings so haven’t been attacked by any evil spirits yet!

house14And right outside the front gate is the best bit :)

We grew a chicken! (sad ending)

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Made has always had a thing for having lots of animals around. In fact I think it’s a Balinese thing – most family compounds  will be home to a few dogs, a family of chickens and various other creatures. New visitors to Bali are often woken by the many cockerels that seem to have no concept of when it’s night or day – in fact it’s important for families to own at least one fighting cock as ceremonial cock fights are an important part of temple ceremonies and the male representative from every family is required to bring one – if they don’t have one they borrow one!

Anyway, in the time I’ve known Made we’ve gone through many many chickens, ducks, puppies, even a squirrel. None of them last very long and eventually either die, wander off or are stolen. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll have seen the two ducks that we had as pets for the last 6 months or so – raised from babies they ended up being the bane of my life, eating every single green thing in the garden (including all the grass so now we have a big patch of soil instead of a lawn) and pooing everywhere. When the girl duck started laying eggs I was happy they were at last being useful but then they ran away and decided to join the herd (flock?) of ducks that were being farmed in the rice fields. The farmer kept bringing them back but then the girl duck died suddenly (the farmer brought her back, said she was sick and she was dead within 1o minutes. The boy duck was supposed to be sacrificed for a ceremony but made couldn’t bring himself to do it so he ended up living back at the inlaws for another few months… I think he’s still there now.

So I’m not a big fan of chickens, especially the stupid loud cockerels but they make Made happy so whatever. We’ve gone through several since we’ve been at the new house, all boys that eventually lose in a cock fight and meet their demise. He came home one day with a white chicken not intended for fighting but because it “looked pretty”. It surprised us both when it started laying eggs (Made thought it was a boy). Being a small chicken, it lay rather small eggs so instead of eating them, Made decided to try raising chickens. See our ghetto nesting box:

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Yes that is a wastepaper bin lined with newspaper.

So the dutiful chicken sat on her eggs, barely coming out to eat or stretch her legs for around 21 days. If felt much longer and I was  convinced that all the eggs were duds and we were going to end up with a depressed chicken. But to my surprise I came home one morning after a night over at the inlaws and found a tiny black and white chick running around the yard!

None of the other eggs hatched so the mother hen only had one little one to look after and she took to motherhood well, sheltering her baby under her wing and shooing us off if we got too close. The little chick seemed to be happy and healthy but then I found him dead on the ground when he was about 2 weeks old :( He was still in the place where they slept and had been running around fine the night before so I’m inclined to think that the mother smothered him by accident :(

I knew nothing about chicken rearing before this but after doing a little research, the death rate for baby chicks seems to be fairly high so it’s not too surprising, although a bit of a shame as we only had one and he was so cute! I guess we will just wait for the mama hen to get broody again and try again – it’s nice that it’s so easy and we just provide somewhere safe and dry to nest and let her get on with it! I always thought you needed a load of expensive equipment for raising chickens…

Here are a few more photos. RIP baby chick!

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Not For Sale Part 2

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We’ve lived in our new home for one full cycle of the rice growth now. We arrived in November when the fields were newly harvested, waterlogged and muddy. Let our teenage ducks out to paddle and eat worms all day. Watched the farmers plant the new crop and it grow from seedlings to lush green fields and then fade to golden yellow again. Chatted with the harvesters as they cut and thresh the crop. Hidden indoors from the columns of spiraling smoke as the husks are burned back down into the earth.

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Made was speaking to the farmer yesterday who said that this land in front of our house has already been rented out and no doubt it won’t be long before there’s yet another house being built. The road we’re on is already unrecognizable from how it was 4 years ago when we built our wooden house. Once mostly rice fields with a house dotted here and there, it’s now just another housing estate.

How long before the rest of the green is gobbled up into a sea of concrete? I guess we’ll just enjoy it while it lasts and I’ll make the effort to get up earlier more often to enjoy scenes like the sunrise this morning:

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You can read my first “Not for Sale” post here.

5 Tips for Wannabe Bali Expats

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I get a lot of emails from people thinking or planning on moving to Bali, asking me advice about various things. I always reply to emails (although sometimes it takes me months! But I’m getting better…) so please feel free to contact me in the comments or by email if you need advice. I love hearing from people who’ve found my blog when they’re looking “how to escape” themselves.

Not everyone knows that I’m an accidental expat. That is, I never intended to move to Bali. Oh sure, I was pretty adamant that I would be leaving the UK and probably (hopefully) not coming back but I really had no clue that I’d end up living on a little tropical island. So I didn’t really have chance to think about the issues that come with being an expat here.

This worked for me, obviously, but it’s not necessarily a strategy I recommend. I see posts in public forums all the time from people filled with enthusiasm about a move to Bali because they’ve worked it up to be some amazing paradise in their head (sometimes not even been here on holiday) and then they’re inevitably in for a bit of a shock when it comes to actually living here.

I recently contributed an expat tip to the expat resources page at HiFX and it’s made me think about other tips that I would give people who are thinking about starting a new life in Bali.

1. Set up an income stream in your home country before moving. Lots of people come over here with the vague idea of starting a business but in fact it’s very difficult (and expensive) for expats to set up a business or work in Indonesia. Yes lots of people do it but the government are cracking down on people working here without a visa and it’s definitely not something I’d recommend. Instead it’s better if you can have some kind of income from back home, whether that’s a pension, rental income or a business run from somewhere else.

2. Learn Indonesian. Duh. But you’d be surprised how many expats don’t make an effort to learn the basics. I knew no Indonesian when I got here and it’s taken me a long time to catch up. Indonesian is a really easy language to learn and it will make your life so much easier if you can speak a bit of it before you come out here.

3. Throw out your watch. There’s an expression in Indonesian – “jam karet” or “rubber time”. Basically the idea that time expands to suit you. It’s something that comes from lazy island life where there are no seasons to mark the passage of time. Get used to things not happening when they’re supposed to and taking longer than they should. You’ll also be held up randomly by ceremony processions blocking the traffic – sit back and enjoy the view!

4. Keep your wits about you. I’m amazed at the way people seem to throw away all common sense as soon as they land here. You’d never dream of handing over your life savings to a stranger back home right? And yet I hear so many stories of people who’ve been taken for a ride because they’ve been stupid. A good rule of thumb is not to do anything that you wouldn’t do at home. Yes the Balinese people are lovely, friendly and helpful but Bali has its fair share of bad apples, just like anywhere else in the world. Don’t be a sucker.

5. Don’t arrange long-term accommodation over the internet. This ties in with the above point. If you rent a house here you’ll be expected to pay 6 months or a year’s rent in advance. If you hand the money over without seeing what you’re getting, you could be in for a bit of a shock. It’s fine to make enquiries before you arrive but don’t plan anything long term before you see it. You’ll generally get better deals by searching around in person anyway.

Ok that’s enough for today :) I’ll save the rest for another post but please feel free to add to the list in the comments!

How to eat with locals in Bali

2014-03-14 15.23.01Some of the best and most memorable experiences I had when I was travelling were from getting off the tourist trail and meeting locals. I had a fabulous dinner with a Cambodian family (complete with deep fried tarantulas!!) who were getting ready for a ceremony. Of course let’s not forget the handsome local I met in Bali who changed my life forever :P (that would be my husband!)

Locals cook the best food, know the best places to go (that aren’t in the guidebook) and it’s just generally fascinating and heartwarming to have a proper conversation with someone who lives in the country you’re visiting. I made sure to do this in every country I visited from Nepal to Thailand to Vietnam.

The only problem is that it can be quite hard to meet locals unless you have an existing contact. Safety is also an issue – it’s not always advisable to go off with someone you’ve just met in the street and you really have to use your street smarts to weigh up if it’s a genuine offer of friendship (and turning it down would make you miss out on an amazing experience) or if you’re putting yourself in danger.

So when I heard about Withlocals, I just thought it was a wonderful idea and why had nobody come up with it before? The website connects you, the traveller, with locals in countries all over Asia for experiences including meals, tours and other activities. It’s a much more personal experience than booking a tour with a company and you get the opportunity to forge real connections and friendships with people who can explain more about their culture and lifestyle in the country you’re visiting.

After browsing the available options in Bali, we decided to book a homestyle Javanese meal with Dotty. We chose this experience because we thought she sounded interesting to talk to (we were right!) and Javanese food would make a nice change from Balinese food for me.

IMG_2339 2014-03-14 15.22.24 2014-03-14 15.30.12 IMG_2356 IMG_2350 IMG_2349 2014-03-14 15.34.51 IMG_2361We’d arrived pretty late due to a mixup with directions but were still welcomed graciously into Dotty’s home. Her house was beautiful (the photos really don’t do it justice!) and was located on top of a hill with sweeping rice field views. She also runs a B&B from her home, which you can book through airbnb. We ate upstairs for the fantastic view and then had tea downstairs.

As we were so late, we were starving when we got there, which was a good thing as there was so much to eat! We had a real feast of sweet soy chicken, tempe, sweetcorn fritters, curried eggs and this vegetable which is my favourite – they call it jepang here in Bali. We ate until we were stuffed and there was still loads leftover.

After lunch we had papaya and the most amazing lemongrass tea made with cinnamon, ginger and palm sugar.

While the food was amazing, what really made the experience was Dotty herself. She was incredibly welcoming and friendly and fascinating to talk to. After living in Jakarta, Australia, and now Bali (and having grownup children living in the UK among other places) she’s got a really metropolitan view on the world and it was fascinating discussing her life and the differences between Bali and Jakarta.

We had a lovely afternoon and i could have really stayed chatting well into the evening but our poor taxi driver had been waiting for us for over 2 hours :p

Anyway, definitely a great experience and excellent value for money and if you’re travelling anywhere in Asia I’d strongly recommend seeing what experiences you can do from the Withlocals website (I’m going to be listing Made on there soon if you need a Bali tour guide!)

Visa woes

visa-indonesiaIt’s getting to that annoying time of year when I get a load of bills at once – all my domains are up for renewal, my health insurance expires and of course, I have to get a new visa to stay in Indonesia.

Like many longterm expats in Bali, I’m staying on a KITAS visa. This allows me to stay for one year without having to visit immigration every month like the 6-month sosbud visa. A KITAS is normally a working visa but I have the “ikut suami” or spouse-sponsored version which means I’m not allowed to work as my husband is supposedly supporting me.  A big HA to that!

Anyway like many things in this country, applying for visas is rife with corruption. I choose to get my KITAS through a local agent as they make it so difficult for people who try to do it themselves that it’s just not worth the hassle. The official price of a KITAS is 700,000rp but going through an agent you’re going to be paying 3-4 million. For that fee the agent sorts out all the paperwork for you, deals with (and bribes) all the officials and generally makes everything easier. If you don’t know of any local agencies or you want to plan ahead there are a number of online alternatives you can use.

I’ve seen people crying in frustration at immigration because they’ve tried to apply for their visa on their own. It should be a simple task but they make it as hard as possible, calling you back to sign another bit of paper several times and making you wait for hours to get your passport or fingerprints taken (with an agent you’re straight to the front of the queue).

I’ve been more than happy to pay for the convenience and lack of stress. However this year I really wanted to apply for a KITAP. A KITAP is a semi-permanent residence visa, valid for 5 years to anyone who’s been living in the country for at least 5 years. I was actually eligible for this visa years ago as they changed the law so that people married to Indonesians would only have to wait 2 years but what’s law and what Bali immigration will let you do are two different things.

I called my agent to ask him his price for arranging a KITAP – TWENTY FIVE MILLION RUPIAH!!! or about 2k USD. This is just pure insanity, especially considering the official price of a KITAP is about 3 million. I could try and go down the road of applying for it on my own but to be honest, i really don’t think i have the mental energy. Think i’m just going to suck it up and pay my agent for another KITAS.

Things like this get really annoying about living in Bali. Everything can be arranged – for a price. The laws surrounding immigration and mixed marriages are highly frustrating. Not that the UK is much better in this regard at the moment but I really think they should make things easier for those who are married to Indonesians. Letting me (or at least my husband) own land and allowing our kids to have dual citizenship would be a good start.

Improvements are happening slowly so I’m hoping by hanging on, it will be a lot easier for me to get my visa  a couple of years down the line. Maybe they’ll even invent a proper lifetime visa without having to give up my British citizenship. Wishful thinking? Sigh…

 

That time a monkey stole my glasses…

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So I’ve just been sorting out my photos from the end of last year in preparation for backing them up (one of the things I am aiming to do more regularly this year!) and I realised I never told you all this little story from the end of the year.

A couple of weeks before Christmas I took a day trip out with my dad to do some sightseeing in Nusa Dua before having a yummy fish dinner in Jimbaran and then going to collect Sue (his wife) at the airport. I rarely make it down to this part of Bali and dad’s never been there before so it was  a fun excursion for both of us.

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After checking out the beach at Padang Padang (which is the ‘Ubud beach’ in the movie Eat Pray Love, despite it being a 2 hour drive from Ubud) we headed to Uluwatu . Uluwatu is a temple perched high on the cliffs of the south coast of Bali. It’s also overrun with monkeys. Now monkeys are not an usual site in Bali, in fact probably the most famous monkeys in Bali are the ones in Ubud’s very own monkey forest. However the monkeys at Uluwatu are somewhat different from their Ubud cousins… (the monkeys pictured above at Padang Padang are much cuter by the way!)

Of course you always have to be careful with wild animals and avoid getting too close, showing them food etc etc but in general the monkeys in Ubud monkey forest are pretty friendly. Give them a banana and they’ll be your best friend. The Uluwatu monkeys however, give them a monkey and they’ll snatch it off you, hiss at you and then throw the peel in your face.

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We’d been warned by two different people on the way up to be careful with our glasses as apparently the monkeys like stealing them so I was on high guard. I prefer to keep my distance anyway as being jumped on by a monkey is not an experience I wish to have again (see below for previous experience at Sangeh monkey forest). Normally I wear contact lenses but for some reason I didn’t this day. Take note, if you’re going anywhere in Bali where there are monkeys, WEAR CONTACTS!!!

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So I was minding my own business, taking a picture of the cliffs when this huge monkey runs out of nowhere and snatches my glasses right off my face! I try to grab them back but he hisses and tries to scratch me. My dad tries to get them but he’s now baring his teeth and looking pretty threatening. By this point we’ve attracted quite a bit of attention and a few other tourists come over and try to tempt him into swapping my glasses for a banana but he’s not giving them back. Then he decides to bite off the plastic around the bit that goes over your ear. I give up, realising i’m not going to get them back and resign myself to walking around half-blind for the rest of the day. Hey, at least it wasn’t my camera!

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15 minutes later I’m sitting near the top waiting for my dad to finish taking some photos and a guy comes over and hands me my glasses (plastic bit missing but otherwise ok!) no idea how he managed to get them back but I was very grateful!

Telling this story to my dad’s friend who also lives in Bali and he told us of the much worse fate of another tourist when he was visiting Uluwatu. A monkey snatched his glasses and ran up a tree, snapped them in half and threw them at him. While he was distracted by this, another monkey stole his phone. A baby monkey then ran up his leg and he kicked it off at which point he was attacked by all the adult monkeys biting him. Apparently the monkeys at Uluwatu are particularly vicious little bastards – you have been warned!!!

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Nice weather for ducks

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One of the nicest things about living in our own place is that we’re not subjected to the in-laws strange ideas about child rearing (like children must never play in water because it will make them deathly ill).

We’re right at the start of the rainy season and we’ve been experiencing afternoon downpours for a couple of weeks. After being cooped up inside for a couple of hours during a particularly torrential rainstorm, I let the kids outside to play once it had slowed to a drizzle. Maya has an extra interest in splashing in puddles at the moment due to her obsession with Peppa Pig (she’s also started calling me mummy pig?!)

Happy kids, happy ducks and lots of mud. What’s not to love?

Blood, babies and the realities of expat healthcare in Bali

IMG_1256A newborn Kiran, already angry – he screamed non-stop for an hour after being born.

Bear with me on the gory title, I’m going somewhere with this.

I was inspired to write this by a campaign that was going around on my Facebook news feed yesterday about a Russian woman living in Bali who had lost her unborn baby during her last month of pregnancy due to complications and was now in Sanglah hospital in a coma, fighting for her life. The campaign was to try and find as many people as possible to give B+ blood to increase her chances of survival. I just checked in on the story now to find that she has sadly died, leaving her husband and 4-year-old daughter. So utterly tragic.

Would she have lived if she was in a different country, perhaps with a readily available blood bank? Impossible to say but this problem comes up time and time again. Bali does simply not have enough blood and if, god forbid, you ever get into a serious accident or have a life-threatening illness that requires a blood transfusion, there is a good chance you will need people to donate “on demand”.

And people do get into accidents – motorbike accidents usually. Then childbirth is another big risk. I hemorrhaged after having Kiran, luckily not badly enough to need donated blood but it’s definitely something to consider in advance if you’re planning to have a baby here. I’m in the lucky position of having AB+ blood which means I can receive donations from any other blood type, but others are not so fortunate.

Pregnant women with a rhesus negative blood type are particularly at risk as it is in critically short supply in Bali. While around 15% of Caucasians have rhesus negative blood, only 1% of Asians do. The problem is a real one and I’ve heard of women shipping in blood from Singapore in preparation for labour, in case of complications.

The Red Cross maintains a register of rhesus negative donors in Bali and if you plan to live here for any significant length of time, I would urge you to make sure you know your blood type and add yourself to the register so you can be contacted when a supply is needed. My ‘lucky’ AB blood is almost useless as it can only be donated to other AB types.

From time to time incidents like the poor Russian girl come up and I do think about those of us who have chosen to live in countries less developed than the ones we come from and the risks we are taking. Bali’s medical care is improving but is still way behind the likes of Malaysia and Singapore and expats with serious conditions are usually flown out of the country.

It never really occurred to me to go back to the UK or go anywhere else to give birth – there are some good hospitals here, with well-trained doctors (although maybe a little on the laid back side – read Erica’s account of the differences between Jakarta and Singapore). They just don’t always have the resources that other countries do when things go wrong. As expats we’re often spoiled with hospitals that look like 5-star hotels with service to match. It’s easy to forget that most of the rest of the country don’t have access to these facilities – the maternal mortality rate in Indonesia is one of the highest in Southeast Asia.

If you’re interested in donating Rh-negative blood while you’re travelling in Bali, you can contact the Red Cross or Kim Patra. If you’d like to donate to a cause to improve healthcare access to pregnant women in Indonesia, Bumi Sehat is a wonderful organisation.

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