Sarah Jane Doe

Category Archives: Paradise

New moon party

I’ve been pestered for photos of the special Ubud party I tailed my brother to last Saturday night. Turns out the only publishable one I have is of the new moon, visible through the clouds hanging over the trees on our mysterious route there (complete with secret hand-drawn map).

This moon was the only light to reach into the absolute darkness of the jungle on what turned out to be just a short ride from my tiny new home in the heart of town. After much giggling and carry on, including several false starts, false arrivals, and me learning the bahasa Indonesia for ‘I’ve got a little problem in the back’ (my front-seated brother to the driver, often and unfairly) we finally hit the mark and turned with purpose onto a single lane cut straight across an inland ocean of floating rice crops.

Tiny fireflies turned into fields of ‘lampu’; little covered candles that numbered into the high hundreds. Our new Swiss friend Alejandro later described the end of his ride on his scooter through the same darkness to come upon the phalanx of gracious, uniformed attendants greeting us at the front of the huge main house as ‘beautiful…’ in an accent that serves the meaning much better than if you imagine mine.

Inside, one of the guest DJs played a particularly inspired swinghouse set and smiling staff refilled drinks in a whirl of iridescent limes and sparkling ice cubes. The pool glowed in the exact same shade of  blue as the Bombay Sapphire bottles clinking around it, but much more than high-quality liquor and fancy water features, the luxury of sheer space cannot be overstated. All around us the still, high water in the paddy fields reflected the new moon like endless tiny mirrors on an Indian cushion, and we were all we could see of the world until the darkest edges of the jungle. A glowing heart of music and pinwheeling limbs on a tiled platform high above radiating terraces, it seemed quite possible that we were all there was, and this was the only party on the planet. Yes, it was smugalicious.

And so it went on until one by one the littlest flowers begin to wilt, falling gently into tiny sparkling heaps of stardust and sequins on the cabana chairs and pool lounges dotting the large estate. Not one Cinderalla misplaced her Loubs, but Very Expensive bags overloaded with smart gadgetry and scented like duty-free counters lay abandoned all over the place, and I spend a good twenty minutes reuniting the soft, fleshy petals of quilted Chanel with the correct Sleeping Beauty after deciding I was clearly the Fairy Godmother of the piece.

Somewhere in all the excitable kissing and meeting and greeting and sloshing of drinks a (probably very limited edition, elite, single origin) flu virus was also passed around. So this Saturday night I’ll be enjoying my cocktail of antibiotics, distilled water, paracetamol and pseudoephedrine alone in my room, but if I turn the music up and close my eyes, I can still picture the new moon and the lampu, and that’s enough*. For now.

Note: by ‘enough’ I mean please-send-six-boxes-of-Nurophen-Plus-and-the-next-four-seasons-of-Friday-Night-Lights-terimah-kasih.

The trouble with trouble in paradise

I’ve been dying to use the title ‘trouble in paradise’ for quite some time now. Exciting, isn’t it? The juxtaposition? Trouble! Egads man, where? Paradise! (dramatically sharp intake of breath) But by Jove, that’s the very last place you’d expect to find it! And just like the Twisty-and-Fanta shellacked readers of the Herald Sun, I still get a shiver every time I see ‘trouble in paradise’ writ large in Times New Roman.

I forget where I first read it. It was probably a re-issued Nancy Drew title, or perhaps the local paper in the Sydney seaside suburb where I spent my adolescence. It’s the kind of phrase the avid reader/junior writer regurgitates with ease and pleasure for use in a school assignment. I remember itching to pull it out during my first job as a journalist for a small newspaper in South West Florida. The paper was circulated amongst honeymooners and retirees on a beautiful barrier island, and contained a lot of earnest stories about the superior quality and affordability of holiday accommodation and eateries. Looking for real action, I ‘embedded’ myself for 24 hours with the emergency services at the local fire-station.

All kinds of unexpected things happened during each of those hours, and I went back to the office ready to pump out an authentically shiver-laden ‘trouble in paradise’ piece, only to discover that I wasn’t allowed to write any of the good bits (‘You want tourists and snow-birds to read this? Are you gosh-darn kidding me? Show it to advertising – those guys sure need a laugh today’) so it came out with a ridiculously long and bland title (slapped on by our roundly-despised acting editor) that went something like ’24 hours with people who are allowed to use sirens and can cut your car in half please drive carefully on our island home turn to page 11 for your Dairy Queen voucher’. Thwarted.

So here I am in paradise; real, proper Paradise™ with faultless weather, swaying palms and exotically beautiful inhabitants who smile all the time and wear colourful costumes and get about with a lot of things on their head like tropical fruit and monkeys. And where’s that editor now, mm? Hopefully not still correcting someone else’s film review from ‘on celluloid’ to ‘on cellulose’ and then claiming this to be the fault of her ‘Apple MacIntyre’s spellchecker’ when a hundred emails are received from nasty old Republicans with too much time on their hands joyfully denouncing the author’s apparent ineptitude at discerning between film and paperstock.  Nope, she’s nowhere to be found and it’s highly unlikely she’s even heard of Webby Logs, so here it is:

Trouble in Paradise.

I’m a big lover of both frogs and fireflies, and at first I was thrilled with sightings of each of these creatures in the dark, swaying paddy fields of Ubud at night. But now? Well, there are just so many of both that I fear I might tire of them, and nothing spells ‘trouble’ quite like ‘passé-firefly’.

One of my chief reading-over-coffee pleasures is a physical copy of The New York Times; a newspaper where they still have those super-fancy extras like sub-editors, and journalists who travel outside the tri-state area and stuff. I can’t find it anywhere in Melbourne so it was a very pleasant surprise to discover that I can get daily copies here in tiny Ubud for about $3 from a hawker up on the main street. However, what was a simple joy has now become fraught and complex – today my new friend Alejandro told me about a lovely bakery where I can get copies for free and spend my $3 on a smoked salmon sandwich with fresh sourdough while I do. So now every time I read it I have to feel guilty that the poor streetseller has probably lost my business for the next few months, while I ingest a totally non-macro-Zen-Ubud recipe of fluffy white bread and Philly. Thanks Bali. Way to make me feel disgusted with myself yet again.

Finally (because I’d hate to disturb you with any more outrages, gentle readers) the relief at having a kilo of my dirty clothes returned to my room washed and pressed for $2 evaporated when I ripped open the plastic to discover that the smell of a thousand colliding artificial fragrances did not. After a restless sleep last night in PJs that inspired a kind of olfactory claustrophobia akin to having my head stuck in a feedbag of laundry powder, I anticipated the showdown with the host of my domicile this morning when I’d have to try to explain that I wished my clothing to be less clean in future. After rehearsing various scenarios and fretting about the outcome, I presented the complaint using words from two languages plus a little dance and some rending of the fabric on my back and was told ‘OK, you want not so strong smell? OK, OK, so sorry, no problem!’ All that catastrophising for nothing! What, does he think I do that kind of worrying for free? Ubud – writers’ paradise? Maybe. But with trouble, I tell you. With a lot of trouble*.

*Note: the use of the word trouble in this instance may actually be limited to things that, outside Paradise™ would be labelled ‘minor annoyances’ or ‘petty grievances’ (abbreviated simply to ‘petty’).

Room for coffee and deserve?

sarahjanedoe in Ubud

Room for coffee and deserve?

It’s been less than a week since I ran away from winter and started this blog in Bali. Each day that’s passed has seen a gradual loss of order, makeup and clothing. The thousand cords accompanying hyper-modern life (all my devices apparently need to talk to each other if not to the wall socket, and they require a career puppeteer’s worth of wires to do so) are now out of the careful figure-eights I learned at film school and into a mess of squid-ink linguine in my bag.  Day two saw the abandonment of perfume, day three concealer, and by day four using my duty-free mascara purchase seemed as ridiculous as applying any of these things and hopping into the shower. Even regular underwear has now migrated to the deep space in my luggage occupied by on-plane woollens and chic silk dresses designated optimistically as ‘For France’.

The gain column is much larger. Embarrassingly large. I think that adverb is why it’s been so hard to write about. And why the collective noun for riches is often ‘an embarrassment.’ Too many beautiful things are happening (and/or being eaten) over here in Bali. Sunshiney roads and vintage cars deliver us to suckling pig and lobster dumplings, sunsets and new friends, Baja fish tacos and fresh sugar cane spritzers, ceremonies, house parties, deep jungle pools and airy mountain-top retreats. Every hour of the day brings a new treasure more shiny than the last. And it’s been making me uncomfortable. Do you really want to know how perfect my tamarind and lemongrass juice was this morning? How wonderful Alejandro’s coffee was at Bar Luna? Or how many colours a simple frangipani can arrive on your doorstep in? Do I really want to write about it?

In the middle of happy baby pose at the incredibly beautiful Yoga Barn yesterday, our incredibly beautiful instructor asked the incredibly beautiful bodies in attendance to feel the incredible beauty of where we were; to feel the warmth and softness of the air, to see the lotus blooming on the water-ponds around us, to understand the blessing of living in Ubud and practising yoga. And my growing discomfort ratcheted up to stomach-ache level. Then she said something that gave me the name for it. ‘Feel the magic of this place,’ she said, ‘and know that you deserve to be here.’

I do. Feel the magic. Get that I deserve it. But doesn’t everyone? Deserve means to be worthy, to be entitled, not by chance or luck but work and merit. There were roughly thirty souls getting bent and blessed out in the Yoga Barn yesterday. It seemed like a lot at the time, but it’s pitifully few. It might not be everyone’s idea of the perfect afternoon, but it must be for many more than were there. Don’t most people deserve to feel limber and luxurious, loved and limitless in tropical paradise on a Tuesday afternoon? I worked hard for it, but I know that most people work much harder than I do. So when does everyone else get their great coffee and deserve? And is it wasteful of me not to enjoy it for this reason? Or do I turn into an unthinking lotus-eater* the second that I do?

*Note: deep-fried lotus-root is currently one of my favourite Bali bar snacks. It may be too late in the literal sense.