Sarah Jane Doe

Category Archives: Ubud

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’).

I can haz party?


I’m going to a party. A big party. The kind of house (luxury villa *cough*) party you see in the movies – hosted by DJs who’ve flown in to Ubud with their friends and followers and models and drivers and the models’ luggage and drivers for the models’ luggage. I’m not on the door per se, but my brother is (of course he is – from about three different directions) and I suppose I could pass for some kind of agency chaperone for one of the youngest beauties if there’s any trouble. Anyway, it’s great news because I LOVE PARTIES. Parties are boss.

I have been attending and enjoying parties my whole life. Ages three to ten were particularly hectic. My brother and I were on the exbrat scene, and we hit it pretty hard.  It was always tough to calm down during Monday nap-hour after Primary Colours 101 or Macaroni and Paste: Drying Times, when your head was still full of the action, the music, the sweets, the games. You gotta put a little distance between you and that Canadian kid, you’d tell yourself, his reading level is so not where it should be. Yes, he plays the tambourine like it’s Bowie to his Jagger, but that’s not enough. When the Korean twins celebrate their fifth, they aren’t gonna mess around with the guest list and you know this. Start saving your Great Work! stickers for them and hey, check out that Play-doh they’re always snacking on. Shared diet tips are a great in.

Sometimes I confuse how much I truly love going to parties with having a party, and I say things like ‘let’s have a party!’ and then I do things like invite people to have a party. Crazy, right? Because suddenly I’m having a party. And I can’t be allowed to have parties. This having-a-party thing attacks me so often you’d think I’d learn not to do it but, unfortunately, it’s still happening. If you are ever invited to one of my parties (if that’s not already all of you reading this, stick around a few days) here are some tips to help us both get through one.

Don’t arrive early. (Or on time. Or close to on time.) Startled and trying to cover it with false bonhomie, I will scream your name so loud that your family members in other states and countries will flinch and shiver and worry about you. I will then steer you around my house/other unlucky venue for the next hour while I apologise for everything in it; for its lameness and its poor lighting, for the cleanliness and quality of the substrate and garden tap, and I will insist you are going to have a shit time and I’ll apologise for this too. At the same time I will fixate on various guests you may know or have heard of who haven’t arrived yet and insist to you they are definitely coming, and perhaps we should call them every few minutes – call their friends, their boss, the police, check for downed bridges, whatever – to make sure they are seconds, seconds away from coming to your aid.

Don’t arrive late. I will believe I forgot to invite you and I’ll invite you another sixty times using all of your numbers and devices and a carrier pigeon with a razor sharp beak. I will also send the police to check for you and I will further torture the already-arrived guests by having them search the internet, emergency frequencies, and satellite imagery from weather monitoring stations to establish for certain that there are no downed bridges.

Don’t arrive. If you come to my party I will forever believe you had a terrible night filled with the kind of insufficient heating/cooling/ice/music/drinks/food/games/dancing/conversation/hook-ups/lighting and lolly-bags that will make you think I’m bad at parties and, ergo, a bad person. To save you the further awkwardness of ending things first, I’ll have to cut you loose the next day and we’ll never be friends again*.

*Note: in this case ‘again’ means until I forget I can’t have parties, which is usually such a short duration of time that you won’t have noticed we aren’t friends anymore. This is actually great because I like to have parties and I’d SO love you to come.