Sunday 24 January 2010

Man up

Some interesting threads have come together for me over the last few weeks. They have not changed my life profoundly but they have forced me to re-think some aspects of who I am and where I fit into life and society and ultimately what I want out of at least one aspect of my life and therefore who I am.
We are talking about sex, sexuality, companionship and love.
The first thread was late in the year before Christmas. I was involved in a rather pointed discussion with 2 ladies about my lack of ability to snare a girlfriend. This discussion was definitely alcohol infused. I also know that these people care for me. Therefore I take no affront at the discussion and bear no ill will to these people. Their motivation was concern and I know and understand and appreciate that.
The gist of this discussion was that to attract women that I needed to "man up". That I give out vibes that I am gay. That I should lose the earring (left ear) and the shirts with grandfather collars and be more of a man.
I suspect that some of this was fuelled by a third person who had said, behind my back, that if I was to have any hope with her that I would need to lose the earring for a start.
Actually the next time I saw these people they apologised realising that they had probably crossed a line and were feeling bad about how they had got their message across. As I said I bear no ill will.
This did give me pause to think. For the record I am not gay. Many of my friends and associates are, I have had plenty of opportunity to explore that part of me if I wanted to, but males simply do not interest me in a sexual fashion. So I wondered what women really want and quickly realised that men have been trying to work this out for probably thousands of years, so my thoughts are not going to contribute to the debate.
I see myself as a kind, sensitive caring person. Interested in the well being of others, sometimes at my own expense. Not wanting to cause hurt or be hurt. Respectful of women, their rights and their struggle to achieve what they consider equality. The various women's magazines call that a SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy) although I suspect that that expression is now out of favour. All that I can deduce from what I see and hear is that Women "say" that they want a SNAG but in reality are more attracted to the Neanderthal approach.
I decided from that thought process, which was over several days, that I was not going to "man up" and I would retain the earring and grandfather collars and be me.
The second thread that adds to this topic is due to me spending much time over the last few weeks in close company of "real men". These men are, according to themselves, very successful with women, or at least were so in the past. The ones that I am referring to are married, have dependent children, have wives that they profess to love and hold positions of power and responsibility in the companies that they work for. In the time that I was with them they ogled every women that went by. They rated their physical attributes, they talked incessantly about how it was now x days since they rooted their wives and had a pressure building up. They looked at people who were definitely below the age of consent and gave them approval ratings.
I have to say that I partly fell into this, even though I was cringing inside. I respect women. Yes I do look at women and think that they are attractive or not. And while I have done so in the past, I no longer judge a women on how good I think that she will be in the sack.
As a side track I did wonder whether those of us present fell under the spell of an Alpha Male. There was definitely one there. There is so much psychology going on in this scenario. To be considered part of the "team" the sub alpha males need to be seen to support the alpha. The alpha in turn needs to be aggressive and dominant to prove that he is actually the alpha, not only to those around him but himself also. Not supporting the alpha can be political suicide. So did we all tag along to avoid unpleasantries? I don't know.
Anyway back to the thread. This very masculine testosterone fuelled scenario made me think once more about what women want. Do women really want an alpha male, sweet talking them, then a bit of wham bang thank you mam, before he heads back to his wife and children. I would like to think not but it seems like they might.
So once again I reaffirmed that I will be me. I wont be a male misogynist pig. I wont conform to being a male Neanderthal. I won't change from having earrings and grandfather collars. I will be me and if that is not attracive to women then I will go to my grave considering that I had the moral ascendancy if not the physical one.
Ladies you need to work out what you really want.
And to finish this topic you may be wondering what I do want from a relationship. Bad luck that is a topic for another day.

Saturday 9 January 2010

Bali, Sanur - Day 7 - Thursday

Here I sit having breakfast. The restaurant has no walls and other than the roof it is open to the elements. Outside the bounds of the restaurant it is raining, quite heavily. The restaurant is on a raised platform, so the rivulets of water running across the ground outside possess no threat to comfort. It is warm and I sit here in shorts and shirt quite comfortable, despite getting wet as I left my room to get to the eating area. Water flows along the ground outside.
My waiter has informed me that my accommodation package includes an American Breakfast. This proves to be remarkably good. Freshly prepared Pineapple Juice, I could hear the blender in the background, a plate of fruit salad, 2 poached eggs, a slice of (fried) ham, toast and the highlight a remarkably good and fresh all Butter Croissant. Despite feelings of guilt at the high fat content, I ate it with great enjoyment.
I had just returned from a long walk along the promenade that follows the beach. Despite an early start I missed the actual sunrise. At this time of day the air is relatively cool and long walks and runs are possible. Local hotel staff were preparing their hotels for the day's business. On the beach areas they were dusting off the sun lounges and re-laying cushions and mats on them. Beaches were being swept clean of leaves and other debris and rubbish. Local fishermen were standing in the shallows casting their nets, and I paused to watch 2 people beating the water and trying to drive the smaller fish into a waiting net.The eating and drinking places and vendors were starting to remove their covers and restock shelves and fridges for the day ahead. An early opening warung was serving food and drink mainly to local staff. I was passed by runners, joggers, walkers and cyclists. These were mainly tourists from the nearby hotels, but this promenade also serves as a thoroughfare for the locals Balinese as they go about their business.
Fishing boats line the shore, at this time of the day it is quiet and peaceful. Later in the day this area will swarm with people trying to sell drinks, carvings, souvenirs, massages and en treatments to go and see their shop. A walk along the promenade at this stage is an exercise in patience, as you are followed by these vendors and almost every step there is someone trying to sell you something. This is one of the more ugly sides of this island paradise. As I walk I hear a noise above and turn to look. Above me the top of a palm tree is swaying and suddenly a palm frond falls to the ground. I realise that there is a man up the top hidden amongst the fronds, pruning the larger/older ones.
This is a good relaxing holiday
Later in the day I venture out and talk with some of the ladies wanting to give you massages and take you to their shop. They tell me that they work on commission for the shop owners and make some money on each sale. They use emotional blackmail to force me to buy something. They tell me that they are poor, they have made no money today, could I just buy something as they need to be able to buy food, there are few tourists here at the moment. Some of this is no doubt true but what their real situation is I do not know. Is it right or wrong to pay 120,000 Rupiah (AUS $15) for a sarong that you know sells to a local for 1/3 that price. You would pay much more at home. Do you ruin things for the next tourist if you pay too much? does it matter? There are many arguments about the rights and wrongs of this style of bartering and "fleecing" tourists. But does it matter, I can spend more on a glass of beer at home than I am giving these people.
Maybe I shouldn't have such thoughts over breakfast?

Bali, Ubud & Sanur - Day 5 & 6

Today, day 5, was recovery. The Martini's had caused serious damage. A day basically in bed and I had little appetite for anything. By the evening however I had recovered enough to venture out again for Dinner. This was at Banute. A beautifully presented restaurant with a guitar player/singer in the background. The meals were beautifully presented too, it looked like they were going to be lovely, I had Chicken Sate, Balinese style and Gado Gado salad. However the food did not live up to the presentation it was rather bland and tasteless. I had to drown it in Chilli sauce to breathe life into it.
One of those days to write off and get back on track with later.
Day 6 - Thursday - Ubud to Sanur
I walked up Campuhan again this morning for my exercise. Other than that we lazed by the pool before checking out of Tjampuhan and heading for our new temporary home, La Taverna, in Sanur. The trip was uneventful and we arrived early afternoon, which allowed time for a late lunch, beers and some lazing around. Dinner was late at a nearby restaurant and then we headed out for a late night massage (keep your minds out of the gutter this was a nice massage).

Bali, Ubud - Day 4 - Tuesday

This morning I walked through the centre of Ubud and explored the back streets. I had been in Ubud in 1986 but there was very little familiar to me after this time. There was also very little to trigger any memories. Basically like visiting a new place. (Do we call that a Goldfish memory?) What I did remember as being different is the attitude of the local people. Back in 1986 a white person visiting was still fairly uncommon and people of all ages would stop you in the street and say hello and ask "from where are you going?" The grammar wasn't good but any answer "I am going to..." or "I come from" seemed to suffice as an answer. In fact I took up smoking (again) at this stage as I found it deterred attention. On a hot day if you wanted a rest and sat down or rested somewhere you were invariably approached to see if you were OK. This was lovely but became a pain when all you wanted was to catch your breath or appreciate a view or street scene. I soon discovered that resting was perfectly acceptable if you were smoking a cigarette, it was something that made sense in the local culture and people were not concerned that something was wrong. The Balinese still seem very polite and friendly, but tourists are much more common now, so you are not approaced as often.
Any way, in present day Ubud, I discovered a large central produce (farmers) market towards the centre. This sold an amazing array of meats, vegetables, fruit, herbs and spices. There was very little that you could not obtain in the way of fresh produce here. It was busy and crowded. Later in the day I discovered that the produce vendors left and it became more like a flea market with locally manufactured goods such as baskets, clothing, household items, kitchen utensils, tourist goods and too many others to name.
Later that day Phil and I became a bit adventurous and visited the local Monkey Forest, a large tourist attraction. During my first visit here it was simply a path through the forest which contained monkeys. Even so it was considered unique and a local attraction. Nowadays it features wide pathways, guards at the gate collecting entrance fees and vendors willing to sell you fruit for the monkeys. Peanuts not allowed, I am not sure why.
After that we needed a restorative beer, lunch and decided on a massage in a place over the road from where we had lunch.
With hindsight a poor choice. One of the massage beds collapsed under Phil as he sat on it to mount it. While we got our massages, the owner demanded compensation from Phil and I was concerned that things were going to get ugly. Phil shut him up with some Rupiah, but far less than he wanted. Neither Phil nor I believed that we needed to compensate the owner, quality of his beds is his problem. I had a quick look at the bed and to my mind the bed broke at a knot in the wood, which was a weak spot in the original construction. Still I don't blame the guy for trying to extract money, but at home that would not be considered reasonable.
Any way we decided a bit later to go to Krasa Kafe for the Sunset drinks. We caught a cab up there and asked the driver to wait for us. The sunset never transpired as it was overcast but we did share couple of plates of Spring Rolls. These were so good that we ordered a third plate. The spring rolls were made fresh on the spot. After ordering the waitress went back to the bar/kitchen area and you could hear her chopping vegetables and pounding the ingredients and then the rolls being cooked. They were served fresh with a lovely home made chilli sauce. Magificent. We sent some other people up the next day to experience them and they reported the same delight at their taste and quality.Possibly the most memorable part of the trip?
On the way back we decided to eat BBQ at Naughty Nuri's Warung. The full story of this meal and aftermath will never be told. Suffice to say that the BBQ ribs were excellent and the Martini's made from rocket fuel. This place does come with a warning to be ignored at your peril.

Friday 8 January 2010

Bali, Ubud - Day 3 - Monday

Surprisingly enough this was almost a rehash of day 2.
My walk this day took me into the Temple on the Hotel Grounds. This was approached by a narrow set of rather slippery stairs and then across the river below via a decrepit footbridge. The path itself was difficult to locate as you had to apprach a shrine, then bypass the shrine on a faint path that looked like it would go nowhere. It all felt very Indiana Jones.
After exploring the Temple I found a path heading towards Campuhan Ridge. This turned out to be a well known local "Trek". The path followed the ridge on the opposite side of the river to the Hotel and vaguely parallel to the previous days walk, although on the opposite side of the river. As this path was not built up it presented photo opportunities for landscapes and views across the valley back to our hotel and other dwellings. Toward the top once again you could see rice paddies across a second valley. The path crossed fields of grass, which I later realised is cut and used to make thatching for the roofs. The path ended suddenly at a little cul de sac at the end of a road. The houses here were obviously expensive and very well designed. The path now continued along the road and after passing more houses, small homestays and artist shops it opened out at an expanse of rice paddys.
This would be a lovely spot at sunset I thought to myself if you could get a seat with a view and a beer. Oddly enough someone else had a similar idea and a little further along the road I came across Karsa Kafe which advertised food and drinks and suggested that I could go back for sunset drinks.
I stopped and had a coffee. The local "koppi" which is boiling water pored over coffee grinds, stirred and then allowed to settle. You filter the grinds through your teeth or hope that the bulk of them have settled down. (Note to self - don't stir the coffee before drinking it). I was very impressed with the view from here as the Cafe is right on the edge of the paddies and truly is a splendid view of the young rice, reflections off the water, the mist shrouded hills in the background and the workers in the fields.
I returned back down the hill and rejoined Phil for breakfast. Pool, lunch, the second half of the bottle of Gin, Dinner very similar to yesterday. Oh did I nearly forget to mention a 1 hour full body massage down by the river? We were lulled to sleep by the tender ministrations of the masseuse, the relaxation and the river noises only metres away.

Bali - Ubud Day 2 - Sunday

A slow start to the day - after all why rush?
I took a long walk before breakfast and explored along Jalan Raya Tjampuhan, heading roughly north along the main road from the hotel.This led slowly uphill, paralelling the nearby river. I imagine the road to be very typical of the area, it is relatively narrow full of cars scooters and pedestrians.
A footpath exists on each side of the road, houses, hotels and restaurants( Warungs) are interspersed amongst the local shops. But you can still get your sarongs, carvings and other nick nacks along here.
The road followed a ridge and at the top it flattened out. Here there were small rice paddys although they were not extensive. Ducks were also kept amongst the paddys and the local crispy duck in the restaurants is super.
Returning to the hotel I breakfasted. Oh well, the diet went out the window as soon as I was offered a freshly made Omellette. Fresh eggs, fresh fillings and cooked in front of you, this was a temptation too good to refuse.
Lunch was taken further up the hill at a small warung in a group of shops that also boasted a large supermarket. Lunch was simply selected by pointing to a variety of cooked meats and vegetables in a bain marie and was served with rice on a plate. All very civilised, all very tasty and I had no qualms about risks of "Bali Belly". Of course the large Bali Bintang was required to wash this down.
Phil and I then raided the Supermarket for fresh fruit, a bucket, ice, tonic water and underwear for me as I had discovered that I had forgotten to pack any. The bucket and ice was required to keep the drinks cool as it appears that our accomodation was lacking such things as fridges and TV's.
Throughout the day we spent time by the pool and congregated for drinks at my unit later that afternoon. Dinner was held in Ubud at the Lotus Restaurant. Once again in the middle of a blackout but this was our first chance to sample the local Crispy Duck and it was as I mentioned above simply superb.

Monday 4 January 2010

Bali - January 2010

My first visit to Bali was in 1986. I spent a few weeks backpacking around Bali and Java. A different time and place and my memories of detail have faded. Some general memories remain buried and I have surprised myself with quickly remembering some words and phrases and some of the geography. This has certainly lain dormant and buried in my mind. What this means however is that I am seeing Bali with almost fresh eyes.
I am staying in a nice resort in Ubud. Hotel Tjampuhan & Spa is a lovely quiet place. The hotel is built along one side of a valley and spreads along the steeply sloped valley with a river down below. One can hear the sound of water flowing in the stillness of night. The Hotel itself is a series of dwellings connected by a network of paths. Fate has put me at almost the furthest point from reception which is a short walk along a series of narrow paths up and down steps that I have christened "the goat track". It isn't an arduous walk but surprising in it's length.
Down below me is the river and a swimming pool fed by a spring.The pool water is clear and the water temperature is comparitively cool but by no means cold, it provides welcome relief from the heat of the day.A network of paths lead from here through the grounds past fish ponds, gardens and the other units to end up at the main pool and bar plus the spa facilities. Overall this place is very tranquil and calm.
Wildlife is plentiful with lizards regularly seen on the paths, some playful squirrels in the trees and birds of which pigeons seem to be most common, but not the only ones. The ponds contain gold fish and bats fly around in the evening collecting small flying insects
Day 1 - SaturdayFor me it was arrival after the flight from Brisbane. Not a long flight as things go from Australia but uncomfortable due to the thin padding on the seats.(There are compromises with the cheap airlines). It was easy to negotiate at the taxi rank to hire a cab to get here, a journey of about 75 minutes in a nicely presented and modern airconditioned vehicle.
After checking in I repaired to my room and found bathers for a cooling dip in the pool. I had just decided to get some supplies (cold beer) when Phil arrived and while he checked in I collected the beer (hey no fridges in the rooms!) and we caught up. A little later we migrated to the pool bar and idly chatted up the bar staff. Two attractive local girls. Later still we headed out to dinner and had a pleasant meal in Ubud at a place which had been recommended by someone at the pool bar.
The Bludger is definately bludging

Friday 1 January 2010

Holidays - Annual Leave

I am on holiday from work.The only thing is that I am not exactly sure when my holiday starts
Did it start when I left work yesterday? Did it start when I had that first sit down and drink after I got home? Did it start when I got to a friend's place and felt the exhaustion hit me? Or did it start when I fell asleep on the couch after NYE celebrations?
I don't feel like I am on holiday yet. This morning I was up early went for a walk and have worked in the garden since. What passes as a lawn area to mow. After recent rains the weeds are growing out of control and need taming as I won't be around for the next 3 weekends to control them. Also a pile of laundry to do, so that I have clean clothes when I drop back in for a half day to offload holiday clothes and pick up work clothes. Maybe my holiday has started now?
However it still doesn't feel like it. I have to pack and organise myself for both an OS holiday and then an immediate work trip on my return. I also have some loose ends to complete for work.
Maybe the holiday will start tonight when the organising, packing and cleaning is complete and I can sit down and relax? Maybe it starts when the Taxi picks me up tomorrow? Maybe it starts when I pass through Immigration - you can't get me after that! Maybe it starts when the plane takes off? Maybe it starts when I arrive in Bali? Or is it after I reach my accommodation and have that first beer by the side of the pool?
I don't know. But it certainly doesn't feel like a holiday yet!