What has always annoyed me since I moved in Bali in September 2007 is the HUGE challenge to find a place in Bali.

First of all, the number of the houses is not in series.

One example among so many is when I did my first live interview to a widow of a Bali bombing victim. Her sort-of office was located at Jalan Pemogan 135. I went with my boss there on a motorbike. It took us less than ten minutes to reach Jalan Pemogan, and 30 minutes to find the correct house with that 135 number.

For instance we saw a house numbered 25, the house next to it could be 69, and the one in front of it is 255! When we stopped and asked the people if they happened to know where the house number 135 was, they would suggest you directions which if you followed, you still couldn't get to see the right house. When you got back to them and told them that they gave you a wrong direction. They would say, "Oh... you mean number 135??? I don't know then."
So first lesson, don't really count on what they people say. They mean good by helping you give direction. But they just don't tell you that they don't know the place, which is a better way to do it if you really don't know it.

Smarter people whom you might approach may explain to you that the system of numbering houses in Bali is that... there is no system. If you have an empty block of land, and you build a house in the middle of it, because you are the first one to build there, you will put number one for your house. And then another house is built afterwards and it's located in the corner of the land block and let's say it's 20 metres from the first house, you'll give number two to it. Another house is built next to the first house, the owner can't give number two to the house, because the second house built has already taken it. So you have to put number three.

Then what you have to do when you get a Balinese address from someone is to ask which banjar1 it belongs to. Balinese recognize the name of banjar more than numbered houses.

Second difficulty is the pronunciation used when giving or given a direction.

Balinese pronounce the /p/ sound with /f/ and the /f/ and /v/ sounds with /p/.

There was this one time when I had to meet Vincent in a restaurant in Kuta in May last year. I took a taxi and told the driver that I wanted to go to restoran Sungai. Then he said, "Aaah, I think I know the place! It sells siput2." I was going like, "Are you serious? They serve snails???" And he said, yeah, yeah. And so I thought, this is what it costs to date a French guy. They eat weird stuff.

Arriving there I saw that it was a SEAFOOD restaurant! He pronounced seafood "siput" [read: see-put], which means snail in Bahasa Indonesia.

So the lesson learnt is: be aware that they might say something that you might think it was one thing, but it was actually another thing. So if you had to go to a house of Block F, they would say it was Block EP. And if it was Block P, you might hear it Block V. So to be safe, just ask them to write down the complete address!

It goes the same with the English pronunciation.

I wanted to go to Citibank office yesterday and the day before. I went to the only one I knew on Jalan Teuku Umar. But the security guard said that for the department that I was looking for, it was in another office. I didn't recognize the name of the street he was giving me. So he kindly gave me the direction to it:

"From here, you just go straight and pass the Simpang Enam statue. After that you will see Bank Kamanuel on your left side. There is road next to it. Turn left and you'll find the other Citibank office."

"Sorry, what bank again? Kamanuel?"

"Yes. There's a big yellow sign in front of the bank. You can't miss it."

"But I've never heard a bank called Kamanuel. You sure it existed?"

"Yes, yes. I'm very sure. It's there!"

I started my motorbike, but I turned again to him after relating the word that I heard with something else that made more sense (the yellow sign is also in my consideration), "You sure it's not Common Wealth Bank?"

"No! It's Kamanuel, Kamanuel!"

"Okay, thanks!"

Then I drove really, really slowly to locate this Kamanuel Bank so I wouldn't miss it. And after some time I found this yellow Common Wealth sign on my left hand side with an alley next to it. The alley leads to a sight of the blue Citibank sign.

So it was indeed the Common Wealth Bank. [Sigh]


1 - Banjar is the lowest Balinese administration system. It is something like RT/RW in Java or Sumatra. Or maybe it can be freely translated to village. [Please correct me if I'm wrong]

2 - Siput = snail.
The poll has been closed for a while now. But we'd like to thank you very much for voting.

So the question was:

"Vincent and I are in the crossroads of choices. He got 2 job offers in Canada and France, but at the same time, we also want to live in Indonesia. But there is no guarantee that he will get a job here. What should we do? Where should we stay?"

That was written before he arrived in Bali on December 13th last year. We were very confused and Vincent especially was nervous because he had a NIL hope but just being with me by moving to Indonesia. He had no job offer or whatsoever. The financial crisis was on the way to our country. A lot of workers had been laid off and a lot of expats were sent home because companies couldn't manage to pay them their standard wage. It was even hardened by the fact that his then-boss wanted him to stay and sort of bribed him that he could earn double if he stayed in Strasbourg. In the mean time, a Canadian client of his offered him the what-he-called-his dream job in Canada, the country he loves the most.

So the result of the voting says that 3 persons thought that we should move to Montreal, Canada. 2 thought that we should be in Strasbourg, France.

The fact is Vincent has been employed as a project manager in Barefoot Multimedia, Bali-based company. So although noone voted for Bali, we're staying in Bali.

I do not know who voted those, but I should comment on the most votes on Canada: Do you realise how cold and hot it is there??? It could be like -40 degree celcius in the winter and +40 in summer! I'd die in the winter!!!

Michelle has been in Bali for 3 weeks now. She mostly stays with her mother, but like twice or thrice a week she stays at my place.

It's so much fun to have her here and I think she's been really a good girl.

She went to the beach for the first time 2 weeks ago and she bragged that she could swim. Swimming here means dipping her body in the sea and having someone hold her while she was floating.

Vincent is surprisingly patient with her. It is also amazing to see that he actually cares about her a lot. He cannot approve her certain behaviours (chewing food soundly, picking up her nose or taking someone else's food or thing without permission... I agree but come on, she's just four years old and she's on holiday!) but in overall, I think Michelle is having fun here and she's certainly surrounded by the people who love her.

My mother misses her a lot, though. The first days Michelle was here, she kept calling everyday to check how Michelle was. And a lot of times too she would lobby either me or Ita to take her back to Surabaya soon.

Oh well, she eventually has to. But for the time being, it is good to have her here.