People say “people don’t change”. But people do change. And life changes people. Becoming a mother changes you. And having a second child changes mothers.
We moved out here 10 weeks after I had Eia. Arlo was 18 months old. And I still felt vaguely like I’d been kicked in the floof by a friggin horse! In this last year, I’ve been told that I’ve changed. And I have changed. This life has changed me. And here’s the thing. I’m good with it. I’ll take them apples. Because I’m under no obligation to be the person I was a year, a month, a week or even 15 minutes ago. I’m still me. I’m the same but different. After more than a year in Bali, I’ve been looking around at this extraordinary new life and thinking about all the things that’ve changed in my life and how its changed me.
Bullshit. I’m less tolerant of it (a) because my tiny people use up my quota of patience on a daily basis and (b) because here, I’m different. I’m treated different. Not badly. Just not equally. You’d think it’d help that I have an Indonesian surname but that just confuses things further. This is my home now but I will never blend in here because I’m not Indonesian. Theres been more than once that I’ve had to speak up because someone is trying to con me, trying to extort me, trying to cut in line or trying to shout me down thinking I’ll roll over because I’m a foreigner. Little do they know, I’m married to a Batak man and some of his fire has rubbed off on me. Also when you can’t fully speak a language, you have no choice but to cut out the bullshit and be direct. Its soooooo refreshing! I’ve never been a shrinking a violet but this new life has streamlined that part of my character and since becoming a mum, thats become more important than ever. My kids need someone to show them how to be a voice in this world until they find theirs.
Patience. I simultaneously have less and more of it. Nothing happens fast in Indonesia. Life is corrupt. When it works for you, its great. When it doesn’t, its slow AF. So you have to get good with being patient with the slow pace of island life. But then, on the other hand, I find myself struggling to keep my shit together daily as I navigate the toddler years with two kids under three with hubby working away so much. Its swings and roundabouts really….
Open living. Our beach house has no walls – ok, the bedrooms have walls. But the kitchen, dining and living space – totally open to the outside. Its proper tropical living which I absolutely love but some mornings I wake up to discover bat shit on the dining ‘room’ floor (they like to hang out in the eaves of the bamboo roof) and I clean up the shite of enough tiny things in my day to day without this so….like I said….swings and roundabouts. Not to mention snakes and lizards can just mosey the fuck in….little buggers!
Bedtime routine. Dinner. Shower. Put the air con on. Spray the room and under the beds for mosquitos. Bedtime story. Kiss goodnight. Lock the door. Like I said, our house is open living. The kids room opens on to the pool which borders the boundary wall on one side. We lock their door to keep them in for their safety as much as to keep intruders out. Also, we have cameras in the house (and in the kids room) and we sleep with a tyre iron under our bed. I’ve never felt unsafe here but these are crazy times! And I’m alone with the kids. A lot. And some days I have so much rage, I’d like nothing more than to ram a tyre iron up someones shite pipe if they were to get on the wrong side of my wall!
Water. You can’t drink the water here. Unless you want a seriously nasty tummy parasite! We have gallon bottles delivered which we put in an office water cooler type machine in the kitchen. It took me a while to get used to it but a couple of bouts of stomach flu later and lesson well and truly learned! However, some places cheap out on the refills and we once got a bottle of Aqua back with ants in it…..that was…..not so nice. Anyhoo! Back in Scotland, we used to bathe the kids at night. Now we shower them (sometimes if I’m feeling lazy I dunk em in the pool – counts right?) because they insist on using bath toys to scoop up the sodding water to drink and they don’t care about seriously nasty tummy parasites!
Disaster plan. In the same way that most people have a fire plan, we have an earthquake/tsunami plan. We live on the Ring of Fire. In a tsunami red zone. On the beach. You see tsunami evac route signs everywhere here but still, its not something I think on too often but it is something we’ve talked about. We have a go bag in our bedroom with first aid stuff, water, food etc. Every night before I go to bed I put my glasses, phone and keys in exactly the same place so if theres an emergency I know exactly where to reach for them. Official advice says that if an earthquake strikes at night, you should stay in your bed. But I don’t know any mother that could fight the urge to get to her children if they were in danger so day or night, my first move would be to get to the kids. Then, if we’re at home and its possible, we go under the dining table. Its 15cm thick solid wood. Its the best bet in the house. There’s a tsunami warning system here but our house is outwith the reach of the siren. They omitted that little detail in the agents blurb! I read once, experts reckon you have 15-20 minutes here from the moment the shaking stops until the first waves arrive but they only had 9 in Aceh so as soon as the shaking stops, we’d go to high ground immediately. Not all earthquakes cause tsunamis but since theres no way to know, we’d get a shimmy on anyway.
Help. They say it takes a village to raise a child. But we left our village in Scotland. So now we employ one. We don’t have a nanny but we have an awesome couple that work in our home and I’d be lost without them. Granted Pak Ketut turned the pool green this last week, grrrr, but still…they’re a god send. Ibu goes to market for us for fruit, veg and meat etc, she cooks us delicious indonesian meals, cleans, does laundry and adores the kids. Having help at home is the norm in Indonesia, it’s how Hardin was brought up but it wasn’t how I was brought up so I resisted their help in full for ages and I was always embarrassed and awkward to acknowledge their part in our life. But a few months ago, around the time of Eia’s first birthday, me, Hardin and the kids got really really violently sick for 3 days. We were so out of it, we could barely look after our own kids who were also sick but Ibu and Pak Ketut stepped up, round the clock, without us asking. If we didn’t have them, we would’ve been fucked. In the past, I’d have always called my mum and I know it must make her sad that its not her that was there this time but I hope it gives her comfort to know that someone has us. Someone cares. So now, I’ve relaxed into it and I’m so grateful for them. They make the life stuff easier so I can focus on screwing up the kids in my own sweet way!
Change is inevitable. I’m not the person or the mum I thought I’d be a couple of years ago but here we are! We’re always just one decision away from a totally different life eh?