The Best Books for Learning Indonesian

As an intellectual friend, an intimidating chap who can be cerebral in several languages and do the basics in a handful more, observed, “Indonesian really is the Lego bricks of languages.” And it really is: not just because it’s so easy for English speakers to pronounce, but because you can, quite literally, stick prefixes and suffixes and base words together, just as if you were playing with Lego. (If you’re new to Indonesian, do read my post on basic Indonesian, here.) That said, as with any language, Indonesian does require learning. So, in the hope of discovering the best books for learning Indonesian, I’ve reviewed a range of language learning books from Tuttle, the publishing group that also runs Periplus, the lovely little bookshops you’ll see in Bali and the biggest Indonesian cities ....more

41: A Difficult Birthday

As birthdays go, 40 was, surprisingly, OK. I think turning 40 is OK for most women, provided you’re vaguely “well-preserved”, simply because it sounds so definitively middle-aged you’re just pleased you don’t look like Patty Croker yet. You take a look at yourself in the mirror, establish that your arse still sticks out above your thighs rather than dangling around your knees, your boobs aren’t golf balls in a sock but, actually, really not bad for this oh-so-very advanced age, find your stomach a lot flatter than it deserves to be, given you’re in your fifth decade, have a child, and last went to a gym during the late 1990s for about five minutes before you popped out for a fag and never came back, and go, “Woo! ...more

Is THIS the Biggest Environmental Issue Facing Indonesia?

Ladies, gentlemen, environmentalists. Allow me to introduce the Aqua cup, or “Aqua gelas”, a single-use, single-cup serving of water that is designed to be thrown away. This, if you believe some foreigners, is the single biggest environmental issue – quite possibly the biggest issue of ANY KIND AT ALL – facing Indonesia ....more

Five Reasons You Should Totally Dive Malapascua

We loved diving Malapascua, a pretty, white-sand island off Cebu, in the Philippines. And, frankly, it would be hard not to. Malapascua is one of those dive spots that has something for pretty much everyone: from sharks to seahorses, from tech walls and wrecks to gorgeous little islands for folk who’d just like to snorkel, eat barbecue and drink beer ....more

How Does High School Work After Homeschooling While Travelling?

A lot has been written about how easy it is – or otherwise! – to do education on the road. But nobody seems to have written much about how unschooling, or world schooling, or homeschooling while travelling, actually converts into school ....more

I’m Not in a Hurry for My Child to Grow out of Making Sandcastles

I went down to the beach this afternoon, on the request of a friend’s toddler, to see what my spawn and his friends were up to. (We’re in the Gilis, and they’d gone snorkelling, and I suppose some people might also have wanted to check they hadn’t been swept away, or whatever, though that would be overkill with three.) Anywise, one of the three was snorkelling. The other two were, with impressively focused concentration and much animated discussion, digging and fortifying a hole in the sand ....more

On Reading Brave New World in Singapore

Brave New World is one of those books that… Well, I won’t exactly say that everyone has read it, but I’d imagine most people feel vaguely guilty that they haven’t read it, and mean to rectify this omission at the first opportunity, honest, and will totes get around to reading it some time very soon, and may well have had it on the Kindle for a while. Or maybe everybody HAS read it, apart from me. Anywise, Brave New World is the sort of book that should be on the school curriculum, along with 1984, and Fahrenheit 451, but isn’t, perhaps because of the sex and the drugs, perhaps because of the rather patchy prose ....more

Two Nyepi Resolutions

Tomorrow is Nyepi. That’s the Hindu day of silence on Bali, when everyone has to pretend they’ve left the island so Bali’s not terribly intelligent demons give up and go wherever demons live. (I’m not terribly good on Balinese cosmology: a Balinese friend I’ll call Bisnis did try and explain the two calendars, but then she got stuck and had to ask her dad, and whenever I ask her about the gods I kind of glaze over and lose focus, and I never finished the book I bought about it all either.) Anywise, Nyepi is taken seriously here (as I’ve mentioned before) ....more

There Are Some Conversations You Only Have on Bali…

Life on Bali is many things, but it’s never dull. Here’s snapshots of a few conversations here in Canggu, which remains a far cry from Kensington – thank god! “So, they went back to her village to buy an island ....more

Toraja: Just Plain Mental

In January, we went back to Toraja, the highland area of Sulawesi that’s famous for its gory funerals, not to mention burying babies in trees. And, my god, even by Indonesian standards, even after tourist development, Toraja still has a WTF factor that’s quite extraordinary. By which I mean that folk hanging out their laundry in front of sacrificial buffalo skulls barely raises an eyebrow ....more