metaphortunate: (Default)
On both of our flights back from Bali I had fish for dinner. 22 hours in transit, they give you two dinners. Dinner was fish, which struck me as ludicrous, fish being the water animals that they are; these fish lived their lives, probably, at around 0 feet altitude, and were killed chopped up filleted flash frozen and eventually eaten at 32,000 feet above sea level by a person traveling halfway around the world in less than a day. These are strange, strange days and I wonder if my son will see the end of them. Peak oil and all, you know. Maybe as an old man he will bore his own children with pictures of himself as a mosquito-bitten yet still adorable toddler in a climate way too hot for him being swarmed by people who live in a place you can't get to in less than a day anymore, at least not if you're not in the military or similar, professions which employ very few toddlers.

The Balinese adore the crap out of toddlers, by the way. And babies. When we were reading up on Bali (a place to which we took a one-year-old for family reasons which don't need to be explored at this juncture), we read that the Balinese are very fond of babies, which I found reassuring, which reassurance I needed because I was really dreading two solid days of airplane travel with a baby, not to mention the week of Bali itself. "Fond" does not cover the half of it. Everywhere we went:
- adults, usually but not always women, grabbed his little elbow or shook his little hand or grabbed his little foot and played hide-and-seek with him and beamed at him and needed to know how old he was and his name and sex and so on
- every SINGLE person with a baby or very young child needed to point him out to the baby and get the baby to shake his hand or "kiss" him
- older children were fascinated by him and would swarm him on their own or drag their own parents over to him
- waitresses in restaurants would scoop him up out of the high chair and take him off to the kitchen to show him things

(A bit weirdly given this, we saw almost no Balinese babies. We reciprocally went gaga over the ones we did see, but mostly it was kids of about three or four and up. Apparently the Balinese mostly keep their babies at home till they're older.)

Everybody needed to know how old he was because apparently there's a ceremony of some sort around a Balinese kid's first birthday where their little feet are allowed to touch the ground for the first time? We got conflicting stories, but the gist seems to be that Balinese babies are carried all the time for their first year. I wish I'd gotten to see more of them, because I remain confused about the fact that they are carried all the time (I saw slings) and yet apparently they don't use diapers. EC is great and all, very ecologically correct, but does it really work when the kid is strapped to your body constantly? Like, on a moped? Do you just live with getting peed on a lot?

In one way traveling with the Junebug was great because instead of just being a troupe of sweaty awkward tourists we were the entourage for a tiny rockstar, the bearers of welcome baby awesomeness. In another way it made everything harder because: look. I might be willing to careen through Crete in the back seat of a taxi with no seatbelts whatsoever and a driver who believes he is a leaf on the wind, in the acceptance that if I die at least I die clutching my lover's hand in one of the most beautiful late afternoons I've ever seen. But making that decision for my baby is another animal entirely. This time we traveled with a carseat. So we hired only vehicles with at least some seatbelts, so we could strap him in. No renting bicycles to tool around the Sanur boardwalk in, no mopeds for us, no ad hoc rides from some random car owner in the middle of Ubud offering transport for a few thousand rupiah. All around our van entire families were zooming around on mopeds, baby slung to mother riding in front of father with big brother tucked up on the handlebars and big sister hanging on behind. I'm sure that's how the Balinese drivers and hotel employees who helped us ferry their own families around; but they helped us keep our own little bug suited up in his protective steel shell. You don't want to travel halfway around the world to live exactly like you do at home but where do you draw the line? How much foreignness are you willing to accept?

The tourist industry in Bali doesn't believe you're willing to accept much. Everyplace we ate had hamburger and sandwiches on the menus, which were in English and/or French. This is partly because we ate at fancy places, not roadside warung. But the reason we ate at fancy places and not roadside warung was because that's what there was within walking distance of the places we stayed, and because on the days we hired a driver, despite the fact that his English was near-perfect, we were unable to communicate to him that we didn't need to go to a fancy place with flower arrangements that was 45 minutes away, we would have been happier to stop anywhere selling food within the next 15 minutes. I don't mean to complain. We never got Bali belly, which is something I was especially worried about with the Junebug. I am perfectly willing to trade authenticity, which is not something I believe in anyway, for a non-dehydrated baby or even just for not having to take care of a baby while shitting my own guts out. It bugged the shit out of my brother-out-law though. He is one of those tourists that it itches like fire ants to be able to see any other tourists, his highest praise for anyplace we saw was that it was "where the locals went." He wants to fit in despite the fact that he is an eight-foot-tall white guy with REI performance clothes, enormous mutton-chop sideburns, and three different cameras. He is also extremely friendly and cheerful and talks to everybody and was probably the most welcome member of our group after the Junebug, but my Christ, he never puts those cameras down. This trip was basically the opposite of what he liked. We did not keep it real. Bali is very clear about where it will make it easy for you as a tourist to go: roads lined with stone carvings, wood carvings, cheap batik-themed prints, all identical, for miles: and what it will make it easy for you as a tourist to do: buy sarongs, bags, sunglasses, massages, carved coconut trinkets, hamburgers, etc., etc.

Surely someone must enjoy this. There must be people who enjoy being driven to large warehouses where someone gives you an extremely practiced spiel about the Ancient Craft of Balinese Woodcarving and then encourages you to wander around shelves and shelves of the same tasteless art they produce from Indonesia to Guatemala or a spiel about the Ancient Craft of Batik and then encourages you to wander around piles and piles of cheap printed shirts and quilted bags made in China. If tourists didn't shell out money for this sort of thing, it wouldn't exist, right? Giant carved wooden eagles and poorly made little boxes and "primitive" bird sculptures familiar from a hundred motel lobbies - someone must greet these things with acquisitiveness and delight. Someone must be the financial justification for these places' enormous parking lots. But who?

We did not buy anything at the warehouses, though we could not convince our driver that they were not where we wanted to go. We did not buy any massages. I don't know why. It became funnier as we all got stiff necks from sleeping on strange beds and carrying the baby around all day, but we didn't. Maybe the language barrier? A massage is a fairly intimate thing, and we got used to asking people for something, and them cheerfully assenting, and then it becoming clear that they had no idea what we had asked or that something else was going to happen entirely. That's a bit of a daunting idea, with massage. Kind of the opposite of relaxing. Mr. E spent the month before we left doing a Pimsleur course in Indonesian, but it only helped a little. (Along those lines, if you ever go to Bali, guidebooks will point out that not every place to stay will offer hot water and that you should make sure to ask in advance whether they do. My advice is not to bother because, whether or not they say they do, they won't. The hot water heater will be broken or unpredictable or simply The Water Heater Not Appearing In This Room. You get used to the cold water pretty fast anyway.) I did buy some cheap sarongs, at the beach where Mr. E saved my life, because I had meant to buy one or two cheap sarongs anyway, and because I told the woman selling them that I would buy her sarong if she would tell the women selling beaded bracelets and sunglasses and massages and other sarongs and the guy selling paintings and the guy selling flutes that we had bought all the tat we needed to buy that day and were not in the market for any more. I think it worked for about an hour, which is to say we got to skip two rounds of hard sell. Bali is very serious about the hard sell - in the tourist areas. One day we got up early and went to the village market in Padang Bai, which is where the Balinese sell oranges and mangoes and snake fruit and toys and ube puffs and hundreds of other unidentified things to each other, and nobody bugged us at all. They just smiled at the baby. Despite the fact that we were flashing cameras in full tourist regalia. Apparently there is a hard sell zone, and a non hard sell zone, and if you are out of the hard sell zone, it's not worth the bother.

(What happened at the beach: one day we got up early to get there before the vendors and hawkers, and I tried to go snorkeling with poorly fitting equipment while Mr. E stayed on the sand with the baby, and I got out past the breakers before I lost a fin. And discovered that I couldn't get it back. And discovered that I couldn't get back in. And got bashed and bashed against the coral and rocks by the waves. And panicked. And screamed for help. And Mr. E asked the guy who rented the chaise lounges by the beach for help, to which the guy said, "Can you swim?" So he held the Junebug while Mr. E swam out to me. Luckily I didn't so much need someone to tow me back as I needed someone to help me not wash further out while I caught my breath and stopped panicking, which Mr. E did, and then we swam back together. Maybe I could have gotten it together on my own. Maybe if I had been pulled further out I could have made it to one of the boats at the mouth of the lagoon. Maybe they would have helped. I'm glad I don't know. My foot and leg looks like I got mauled, and I had to spend one entire day off my feet because it hurt so bad, and basically, don't go swimming alone in rough water with borrowed equipment because you think it would make you a wuss not to at least give it a shot at your one chance snorkeling on your vacation.)

Another part of the reason I didn't buy much stuff, though, was cognitive dissonance. I don't know why. I should be used to this. It is the world I grew up in. I was born in a city and raised in the suburbs, by immigrant parents who tried to visit home as much as they could. It is entirely possible that I encountered fish at 30,000 feet before I ever saw fish swimming in the ocean. Why does it strike me as strange? Why does it strike me as strange that:
- on the domestic floor of the Balinese airport, in the bathrooms, there are helpful informational stickers on the doors of the stalls showing a crossed-out drawing of a person squatting on a western-style toilet and a circled drawing of a person sitting on the toilet, with the caption - in Indonesian only - "Yes, really!"
- but upstairs, in the international floor, there are outlets for Prada, Jurlique, Ralph Lauren, beautiful silk sarongs, all the whiskey in the world.
This is global capitalism - I grew up here! I should be used to the way tourism distorts local economies. People go to Bali to see the rice fields but there are hotels built now where the rice fields used to be and the locals don't mind because you make a shitload more money carrying bags in those hotels than you would have working in the rice fields. One of our drivers told us there are so many Americans now living in Ubud that they call it "Balifornia". One of the times that a waitress swooped the Junebug off to the kitchen in search of baby adventures, he came back clutching an apple bearing a sticker: "Product of USA". Mr. E says he's just happy we're exporting food. I can't believe the apple didn't come from New Zealand, like the ones I saw in the market down the street from my apartment today. But I know this is the way it works. Last week Washington apples were cheaper for some reason so they showed up in Bali. It makes sense, as long as the oil holds out. Why does it strike me as strange. I don't know.

Other than that: chickens are everywhere, you will hear roosters crowing at all hours of the day and night, the roosters in large wicker cages are for cockfighting, which is a much-loved pastime; the monkeys are macaques and they are ninjas, we saw them steal glasses off people's faces and shoes off people's feet, and eat them; I've never seen anyplace so profligate of flowers; this was my first trip out of Christendom, which was stranger to me than I had expected; and the Junebug took his first unsupported steps. End of vacation, glad to be home.
metaphortunate: (Default)
There is probably a long German word that means "shame-of-parents-who-bring-a-crying-child-on-the-train".

The Junebug was remarkably chill about the nine-hour time difference. He napped when he felt like it and slept more or less when we wanted to, with the exception that he wanted to be up from about 12 to 2 am every night. That was the good news. The bad news was that he dealt with his jetlag via massive, unceasing, explosive pooping. He also outgrew his diapers on this trip. He pooped on everything he owned for the first half of the trip or so until we accidentally bought bigger diapers and discovered that they did not leak.

He also outgrew swaddling on the trip. It's very frustrating because once he is asleep swaddling still keeps him asleep longer but if he is not yet asleep and we swaddle him it drives him nuts with frustration now.

His big thing now is practicing his raspberry. Although it's less a raspberry and more a spraying everything around him with spit. As Mr. E said on the plane, "I didn't hear him sneeze and yet suddenly it was raining on me."

He loves being sung to. So thank god his Granny B was there, because both Mr. E and I had bad sore throats and could not sing at all for a few days there. I probably still shouldn't be singing, it's probably terrible for my throat. But this is life triage.

Oh, the grandparents. So they watched him while we were at the wedding, and this meant I think that he got a solid eight hours of television in their hotel room. Which I find hilarious and appropriate, because we don't let him watch TV. Clearly he will be spoiled by his grandparents and that is correct and as it should be.

Granny B pushed the Junebug and his stroller around Harrods and I think it was the highlight of her year. She showed him all the shiny things - they were decorated for Christmas, there were quite a lot of shiny things - and apparently they both enjoyed the hell out of themselves. Mr. E and I and [profile] jumpeekittee and her Z hung out in Harrods' tea shop and drank very good tea and champagne and ate crumpets and fancy salmon sandwiches and tiny delicious trifle with a teeny little eyedropper of booze stuck in it to soak the cake part with.

I think maybe that if I hadn't been sick and if Mr. E hadn't gotten sick, I would count this trip a success. Of course, the next time we're both not sick will probably be in two years or so. I'm really rethinking this idea we had of going to my mom's house for Christmas, unfortunately. I know my mom will visit me instead. But if I don't go, then I won't get to see J., or my brother, or my dad & co. And that would suck.

Still, you know, we did make it to the wedding. And it is worth something to be there on the happiest day of your friend's life. (He said it was.) Especially since I think England has him for good at this point, that sort of thing matters.

And it was a lovely, lovely wedding. I like going to weddings now that I myself am married. You get to spend 40 minutes or so during the service thinking about the nature of marriage. Part of the nature of marriage of course is that there are a lot of things to get done every day and so you don't necessarily take a lot of time out to sit down and ponder the nature of this crazy thing you're doing. It's nice to be reminded. Also it always makes me want to get serious makeouts going with my guy, because I didn't want to get married for so long that actually being ~married~ to him has something of a taboo feel when I take the time to think about it, and that's pretty hot. So that's fun too.

It was a combination Church of England/Jewish wedding. I think basically everybody but the groom and his immediate family were kind of confused, but hey, we were game. The officiant especially did a fabulous job. And it was lovely to see A & A so happy.

Was reminded that there's no way to be pretty enough to escape from the girl insecurities when this lovely tall blonde at our table told a story - twice - there was a lot of wine going around - about how her sister was the pretty one in the family. They try to tell you that you would feel better if you were prettier, but it's a lie, that is not the way out.

Still, if you want me to be at my smiliest for the rest of the day, maybe don't loom a foot and a half over me, look down, and boom "Hey! Did you know you're going grey?"(I did already, yes.)

We went on the London Eye. I have no fear of heights and it was so tall that even I went whoa.

The wedding was at one of those big old English houses built 500 years ago that the Queen stayed in one time. The wedding itself took place in the chapel, and the party wandered through the rest of the house. It was gorgeous. We had to leave earlyish because of the exploding boobs problem, but we got to stay through the delicious food and the first dance.

Must remember never to eat in pubs in London. The food is gross.

On the way out we took a red-eye and that was perfect. The Junebug slept for most of it. On the way back unfortunately we didn't, and he...didn't.

Today I am actually dizzy with jetlag. Today has sucked so bad. Today is so fired. Tonight will be worse. I love the little guy but today I don't want to be a mom. Just for one day.


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metaphortunate son

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