Happy Hari Ibu, Ibu!

My dearest Ibu,

Although I am too small to say it, I want to tell you how much I really, really love you. I know you work very hard and you know that I miss you all the time when you are at work.

I always, always ask Daddy where you are and when you’ll be back and I often look out of the window to see if I can see you in your office. I know you’re not too far away, but sometimes it’s so hard for me to wait for you and I miss you at nights if you’re late.

But I understand that you are doing your job for me and for our family and that you’re putting in so much effort and time just for us. I know that you miss me because Daddy tells me, and he tells me how much you love me.

I love you too, Ibu. I know I can be naughty and a handful, but I’m small and bursting with energy and I can’t help myself sometimes. Sometimes I cry and sometimes I make your life harder. And I’m very sorry, Ibu. I do try my hardest to please you but sometimes I’m just overwhelmed with life.

I know that Daddy teaches me to laugh and to have fun, but you teach me how to be a young gentleman, and you give me your wisdom and teach me right from wrong. Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand but I always try, and I always love you even if I seem not to.

You and Daddy often joke about how I’ve inherited the worst from both of you, but I hope that as time goes on and I get bigger and bigger that you will see that I’ve also got some of your best bits, like your sense of humor, your work ethic, your maturity, your understanding, and most of all your ability to love and be loved. (And to forgive! – Daddy made me put that bit in. He also mentioned your common sense, which he said he doesn’t have much of.)

I hope you will keep this message for me to read when I grow up and for you to treasure if times get tough. I want to be by your side all the time – your little boy always, however big I grow! I will always love you, Ibu, and I just want to say a big thank-you from the bottom of my tiny little (but very loving!) heart for all that you do for me now and for always.

Happy Hari Ibu, Ibu!

Your Rayven

 

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10 + 1 why I am in love with Matt Leppard by Rebecca Leppard

1. It is not beyond him to make up the bed, mop the kid’s accidental poop off the floor or out of the bath, and carry my feminine purse around the mall if I need to carry the kid.

2. He asks me if I want anything for breakfast and then makes it and puts on chilli flakes automatically.

3. He shoves vitamins on my lazy mouth every morning to make sure that I’m not gonna be ill during the flu season, which seems to happen every month these days! But when I am ill, he is my doctor and he is my nurse.

4. He lends his hears to my shouty mouth when I am angry and/or aggravated for a vast variety of reasons: a shopkeeper not giving the answer I need, a taxi driver not knowing the way, politicians say idiotic things on TV, someone wasting the tap water, and every single work problem.

5. He will dance with the silliest moves just to make me laugh and try to forget all the above.

6. He reads the Bible and understands it.

7. He supports my causes. Even when we have so little, his generous heart never discourage me to give whatever that we have spare.

8. He is funny. And he is funny the British way, which is my kind of funny.

9. He watches Fashion Police as religiously as I do.

10. He is handsome in my eyes but not in his.

+1 He is not only the father of my child but he really fathers my son so well that the kid literally jumps up and down welcoming him back from workL only for him, not me. And that is the kind of man one should marry. How lucky am I?

The kind of man one should marry.

The kind of man one should marry.

Happy anniversary, honey!

The last few years of my life have been full of so much change and turmoil, it’s hard to remember that it was only three years ago that Rebecca and I tied the knot. In between that momentous and overwhelmingly joyous occasion and today, we’ve all but lost my mother to a dreadful brain disorder, lost my grandmother, my sister has battled (and beaten) cancer, we have had to up sticks and move home at very short notice, and, of course, given birth and reared our active, playful, boisterous and definitely full-on 2-year-old son, Rayven.

Today (April 7) marks our third anniversary. And Rebecca will be the first to tell you — and I will be first to admit — that I am generally bad with cards and presents, while Rebecca excels not only at selecting imaginative and appropriate gifts, but also in fashioning the most creative home-made cards possible. She is the consummate planner and most thoughtful partner.

But I do have a gift, I think, and that’s the gift of words, so this is my message to Rebecca on this day; I hope she gets to read it.

First off, I am grateful that she agreed to marry me in the first place. Our engagement wasn’t much of a success because of me: I fluffed the proposal in spite of having a unique engagement gift in the form of my grandmother’s antique ring. What an idiot, and all through lack of planning and bad execution.

Then we had my parents out in December 2011, a trip they barely survived (partly because of AirAsia’s shabby long-haul service) and which involved them attending an Indonesian-style engagement party that must have been overwhelming to them (it was to me). It’s a testament to Rebecca’s organizational skills and their endurance that we all lived to tell the tale after.

Secondly, I have Rebecca – and only Rebecca – to thank for organizing and executing the wedding. Now that I’ve been in Indonesia for some time and seen how things work, or rather how they don’t work much of the time, it’s all the more impressive that she was able to handle everything from selecting the invites to choosing the catering. I recall that I selected some of the music for the after-party and did some food tasting, but generally I was an observer of the Rebecca-as-professional-planner show.

I still don’t know how much it all cost: I daren’t ask. But Rebecca is CFO of our family unit (see how much I rely on her?) and she balanced it all out so that we paid for our reasonably lavish wedding without having to ask anyone to contribute financially. It was a marvellous day, resplendent in sunshine, smiles and love. From the service sheet to the piano melody of “In My Life” by the Beatles (“our” song) that played as she walked down the aisle, it all went like clockwork. And it was all down to Rebecca – even helping with everything from my best man buying a suit in Bali at the last minute to helping my sister and my nephew with their Bali orientation program.

Since that time, I’ve grown to rely on, and love, Rebecca even more than I did then. She always describes herself as unlikeable, but to me, she is more than likeable: she is a wife and mother to two boys. She is a reliable wing-man; an honest confessor; a trusted advisor; and, of course, a valued co-parent. I have to confess that even though I have spent far more time with Rayven than she has, it’s Rebecca’s influence that has driven most of his accomplishments to date, including calling me “daddy.”

When she accepted her current job, I have to admit that I wasn’t happy with the decision, but she has balanced the role of mother and wife with being a communications director with aplomb. And we couldn’t have survived my recent six months of unemployment if she hadn’t been working. She also took the lead on our two trips to the UK, and organizes every trip we make to Bali, plus my Singapore visa trips, and our fantastic trip to the Gili islands a year or so ago.

So without playing down my role too much, you can see how much Rebecca shoulders in our partnership. She thinks I don’t notice, but that’s only because I am not the most demonstrative partner (although I am getting better). I do notice, appreciate and thank her for all she has done and continues to do, from the bottom of my heart.

Honey, I love you with all my being. Thanks for being there for this flawed, imperfect man. Here’s to three years and to many more happy times ahead.

With love, Matthew (and a kiss from Rayven)

Happiest day of my life so far

Happiest day of my life so far, along with the birth of our son

Cry baby cry*

Ahh, you poor, poor, dear, dear soul, baby Ray. Tortured and tormented by hidden demons of discomfort and distention. Confounded by climate settings of cool, medium and hot. Stressed by overbearing relatives half the time and left all alone—the loneliest person in the world—the other half. Serenity, wherefore art thou?

Why do newborn babies cry so much? It’s an oft-asked question, the Internet tells me. It’s because crying is the only form of communication they have, I read, and because life outside the womb is so jarringly shocking. I know and agree because I too was a testy tot once upon a time 43 years ago. Apparently I cried for three years non-stop, which is an awful load of old colics.

But really. No, really. Is it really necessary for newborns to shriek so violently for no apparent reason? Surely it would be better if humans were born able to speak and point and nod and indicate rather than just crap and cry? I can’t see the logic in them being born so unusually useless. It’s a tricky question both for evolutionists (are humans as evolved as they should and could be) and also for creationists (why were baby humans built so bad).

As to me and to Rebecca? We just muddle on. The most heartbreaking thing is that while I hate to wish my life away, I am looking towards the 2- to 3-month mark when Ray becomes an infant and not a newborn. But, as they say, I’ll never get those three months back. Perhaps best just to put up and shut up. Which is what I’d like Ray to do, if only he understood logic and sense… Bless his little heart, of course.

One of these has reasons to be happy. The other is a muppet.

One of these has reasons to be happy. The other is a muppet.

*Sang along to the Beatles song of the same name

Sigh… First-world problems

This morning I found myself suffering from increased anxiety on the way to work (as opposed to my usual background anxiety), because the music compilation CD I had made featured some rather indulgent prog rock excesses. (If you must know, it was Yes’s early-seventies masterpiece Close to the Edge. And yeah, yeah, yeah: I’ve heard all the comments before. Don’t even start.)

The cause of the anxiety? That my Indonesian driver would think I have weird tastes, since the music is somewhat annoying to many (most) people. Twenty-minute symphonic rock masterpieces with complex time signatures, tight harmonies and monophonic Moog synths don’t always span cultural differences I’ve found.

So there I was, worried that my driver will think less of me because of my eclectic tastes. Then the CD started jumping and it also became a battle of wits and wills as to whether I tell him to turn it off, or he tried to move it to the next track, and who’d do which first.

All in all, these trips are quite eventful for me in terms of mentally grappling with in-car entertainment choices, among other things (like do I open the sunroof today?). But this is, of course, what we term a “first world problem.” And it got me thinking about other such issues Rebecca and I regularly encounter in our somewhat cosseted life here in Jakarta.

One example would be my almost continual battle with the staff at our serviced apartment over the number of fresh towels they give us. I need at least two: one for my regular swims in the adjoining huge swimming pool, and one for post-shower, plus a small one for my face.

Most times they leave only one big one, leading me to curse and mutter under my breath about inadequate towelage and how-complicated-can-it-be comments to anyone in earshot (that means Rebecca, who normally filters these sorts of things out).

And the staff always, always leave free soap and shampoo when we don’t need any, since we always take the free amenities at all the five-star hotels we visit. It’s something of a chore to collect up all the freebies and redistribute them to family and friends. Elsewhere in our serviced apartment, a faulty humidifier occasionally means the air in the bedroom is dry and gives us sore throats and sneezes.

There are more. To list them all would be exhaustive (and I’m already drained from having to lift to my mouth the cup of hot tea that the office maid brings to my desk every hour), but they include: really chilly shopping malls as well as over-zealous salespeople with no product knowledge. There’s also the loud housekeeping service every morning; a (free in the room) washing machine that makes annoying beeping noises; and the perennial problem of the fact that our apartment lifts often take a little bit too long to arrive.

Of course, reading the above would make you think we’re a couple of whining ingrates, which we are from time to time, I will freely admit. And though much of it was written with tongue firmly in cheek, all the examples are real in that we’ve both moaned about them (and when I say “both” I mean mostly me).

As to my driver? He supports a large family on a fraction of my salary, and works very long days with a smile and with humility, even through the mind-bending tedium of a lengthy Pink Floyd epic at 5:30pm in gridlocked traffic. I learn a lot from observing him. And more often than not these days, I simply don’t ask him to put the music on to save us both. It’s the kindest thing for both our sakes.

 

My secretary forgot to change my amusing cat calendar date. Now I have to do it myself. Tis a hard life to be sure.

Cunning trilinguist

I just ordered a cup of coffee in Bahasa Indonesia And this without hand gestures, broken English and confusion on all sides. A small victory of sorts.

When I first got together with Rebecca, learning Indonesian was not (I hate to say) a major priority. She is basically natively fluent in English, albeit with a cute American accent, and a journalist (in both languages) and PR pro. Communication was never an issue.

But having met her family in April and having now moved here, and commanding a staff of 72 Indonesians and one Malayasian, learning the local lingo has become a must. As with Thai, I think it also shows a certain respect for the country one is a guest in.

Bless her little white cotton socks (she does have some), Rebecca did teach me the basics, and while she perhaps thought I didn’t take it seriously, I still remember them. But two lessons down and I am starting to get to grips with conversational Bahasa. Yes, I still talk “like a robot” (she says) since I have to recall each word: sentence construction is not easy for me yet. But hey, it’s two hours of lessons and I can still ask for coffee, tea, and so on.

I feel quite proud of myself. In Thailand, it was three years before I could hold an actual conversation. And that was simply: “Barman, 10 more pints!”

I do remember Thai, and I can still speak it I think. But I do have to simply “turn off” the Thai in my head and switch to a Bahasa head.

*As written in coffee shop outside Bank Mayapada on Forbes Indonesia business… See attached pic! Now onwards into a meeting with some rich people!

Writing this, before Forbes meeting

Bali’s Best Bites

The island of the gods has a bewildering array of dining options—from street food to fine dining. Here, Fredina Rebecca chooses the choicest eight of the best of the bunch

Last year, a so-called friend made a somewhat disparaging comment: “Rebecca, doing what you do for a living, I’m surprised you’re not a fat, raging alcoholic.” I did wonder that myself—five kilos of weight gain and partial sobriety are nothing if you see how the hospitality industry spoils me. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Of course, being based in Bali and getting assignments like this one (“eat as much as you can then sit down and write about it”) don’t help. But what’s a girl to do? So I loosened my jeans a little and set off wondering: just how will I fit into my wedding dress next year?

AUTHENTIC

Raja’s

Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa, Nusa Dua

Award-winning Raja’s brings you the best—and only—authentic fine-dining Balinese cuisine on the island. Served in an immaculate poolside setting by attentive wait staff, the must-try here is the bebek betutu, slow-cooked (roasted) whole duck marinated in 16 Balinese spices for a reasonable AU$45. Newly appointed Australian executive chef Geoff Clark is at the helm, making Raja’s a recommended stop on any itinerary as he fine-tunes the menu. Balinese chef Mudana also told me that only one couple had ever finished the duck completely, so I did my best (it was so spicy) and hoped my next stop would offer up simple salads.

FRENCH

Métis

Jln. Petitenget No.6, Seminyak

OK, so this one’s not exactly simple: basking in the light of consistently rave reviews, Métis—a candidate for the reputable Miele Guide to dining—is arguably one of the best in the area, if not the island itself. Chef/owner Nicolas “Doudou” Tourneville was previously at the internationally famous Kafe Warisan. The prices tend to reflect the quality (a three-course meal with wine can come in at $200++ per head), but don’t be put off splurging here: the lily-pond atmosphere, the rice field, the jazz trumpet accompaniment and service are all worth savoring. The restaurant also played host to a cooking competition between WTA tennis champions Aravane Rezai and Kimiko Date-Krumm last year. Note to self: do more exercise…

STREET FOOD

Warung Babi Guling Sari Kembar

Jln. Teuku Umar Barat, Kerobokan

Bali is one of the top destinations for quality street food, with this warung (café) serving some of the best babi guling (suckling pig) in Bali—it was certainly a favourite of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain when he visited Warung Babi Guling Bu Oka in Ubud. But if you stay in the Seminyak area, you don’t have to go all the way to Ubud: this warung is 10 minutes away from Métis. You’ll be paying around AU$3 for a plate of pork meat, pork fat and almost everything else over rice with a glass of iced tea. My personal advice? Fast for half a day before visiting.

SEAFOOD

Omang Omang

Bali Hyatt, Sanur

My next stop was seafood—a slight respite from succulent meats and desserts, but no less delicious. One of the prime seafood outlets in Bali, Omang Omang is located in the Bali Hyatt hotel in one of the quietest areas in Sanur (there are two Hyatts on the island, so get the right one). The grill is housed in a traditional fisherman’s beach house with a thatched roof, lending it a briny feel, while the gardens and pool remind you that you’re actually dining in five-star luxury. The crowd here tends to be somewhat mature, so don’t expect 24/7 partying (and let’s face it, we all need somewhere peaceful to dine sometimes).

INTERNATIONAL

Rumours

Jln. Laksmana No. 100, Seminyak

A little more casual than Ultimo, it’s more famous neighbour, Rumours is the perfect place for fine dining in a comfortable atmosphere. Located on Seminyak’s stylish strip, across from Amadea Resort & Villas, this recently renovated and reopened eatery is the ideal venue to visit with your mates for succulent steaks, perfect pizza and imaginative salad dishes. Cool tunes from the DJs add to the relaxed ambience of the place, and you’ll only find friendly service at Rumours. I recommend the wagyu steak (AU$12) washed down with strawberry daiquiris (AU$7 a pop), and the chocolate mousse (AU$5). The next day I ran five kilos, nearly passed out, and decided to abstain from chocolate for a while—definitely a few hours.

COMFORT FOOD

Flapjacks

Various locations in South Bali

Love banana pancakes? Course you do, so what better place to head to than this hip and funky pancake chain. The array of pancakes, waffles, crepes and more makes it a true temptation. However, it’s the all-day breakfast with its Make Your Own Omelette innovation that may grab your attention. I managed to drag my rumbling tummy away from the comfort food, though, and was delighted with the chicken salad. Note that in the past year, Flapjacks has opened outlets close to many popular hotels and attractions, like Waterbom Park (Kuta), Mall Bali Galeria (Kuta), Bali Hyatt (Sanur), and Amadea Resort (Seminyak).

POOLSIDE

H2O and The Upper Deck

Bali Dynasty Resort, Kuta

H2O is the newest addition to the premier, beachside Bali Dynasty Resort. This stylish poolside eatery serves a sumptuous buffet-style breakfast, while lunchtime diners have access to an extensive à la carte menu consisting of tasty snacks, pastas, pizzas, and more wholesome main courses. My personal recommendation is the tasty chicken casadilla, which will set you back AU$11. And my personal must-do is to come for sunset and head to second floor (called the Upper Deck) for tapas and cocktails. Hotel guests will also love the themed buffet dinners, which start at AU$18 per person. Tip: children under 12 eat free when accompanied with the same number of paying adults.

CASUAL/BEACHSIDE

Salt of the Earth

Jln. Raya Pantai, Kuta

Salt of the Earth is the epitome of casual Kuta beachside dining and located within walking distance of Harris Resort Kuta. Seemingly open all hours, this is one to visit for breakfast followed by a day of splashy beach fun, and then back for dinner. Renowned for its seafood platter with ice-cold vodka shots, I would also highly recommend the tapas or the lamb. Salt of the Earth has very recently been joined by Mocean, which offers a more intense party atmosphere, with lite bites and choice cuts of laidback vibes. And with one of those serendipitous moments that writers rarely get, I literally just received a reminder about Mocean’s grand opening party. I’m off—waistline be damned!

Published in TravelTalk Australia, June 2011