My brother, Michael, arrived on the 26th with his girlfriend. They are staying in my house until after New Year. My sister is staying here, too. So there is a bunch of loud people in this normally-quiet house. To be honest, it's good to have them here. With the alarming rate of what I've been going through this year, the cheerful shouts from my siblings are a good remedy. Such an oxymoron, but it's true.

Anyway, we were excited. And we spent their first day talking and talking. My brother and his girlfriend were tired from the 11-hour bus journey so they spent the rest of the day sleeping and relaxing. Only in the afternoon they went out shopping for Christmas gifts. We were planning to have a Christmas dinner in the evening and changing presents. My cousin was invited, too.

I cooked a super delicious Poulet Poivre that Vincent's mom taught me when she was here in July. I'll have to put the recipe in my kitchen blog soon so you can also practise it at home. It's dead simple but extremely delicious. For dessert I made crepe with strawberry sauce and sprinkles of icing sugar. Everybody was very happy with them. My sister and brother even almost fought for the last piece of chicken, but I reminded them that it was supposed to be for my cousin. Anyway, he didn't come at all in the end, not even the next day... The presents were just lying around there in the living room. Too bad.

Anyway, these are the photos I took of the Christmas dinner.
Christmas presents. Only mine were wrapped in  real gift wrappers. The others went economical with the unused paper

Michael and Merlin

Dinner's main course: Poulet Poivre, mashed potatoes, rice

The reunion of the siblings

Ita got a purse, a fancy toothbrush container and a hat

Michael got a pair of surf shorts, a bag, and a pair of sandals

Merlin got a bottle of sandalwood massage oil, a bag and a pair of shorts

I got a necklace, a pair of sandals and a flower hair pin

Then we have the dessert, a crepe with strawberry sauce
Merry Christmas, All!!!!!
Enjoy the funny video to brighten up your Christmas day.
I have been trying hard to finish all projects today so that I won't have to work during the Christmas week. But of course something had to come up.

It started with my mother's fight with Ita this morning. Basically it was a plain misunderstanding (stupid things come out from SMS communication, I really don't understand why people prefer SMSes than talking directly). Then my mother called me to rant about it. As usual, it didn't stop there. If there was no drama in my family, it wouldn't be my family. This is what she had to say:

"I've had enough of this life. All my children failed me. Including you. None of them would listen to what I say, leave alone doing it. I'm a failed mother and I am ashamed of it. I'm tired of this life and if God want to take me, He can do it any time now."

I told her she was exaggerating things. It was just a misunderstanding and she didn't need to go that far saying those things. Besides, it's Christmas...

"Christmas is dead to me. Christmas is in your heart and I don't feel any peace, not from any of you behaving like what you want, hurting me all the time this year."

I asked her how I hurt her. And why didn't I know that I hurt my own mother? What did I say?

"Remember when I asked you about your status with Vincent? It was your second anniversary and yes, I was happy for you. But when I asked you if it was going anywhere, you were mad at me and you accused me that I was rushing you into marriage, that it was your life and you had all rights to decide it like you wanted. You said whether you wanted to marry him or just forever be his girlfriend, that was your own problem. I had no voice or whatsoever to decide your life. I'd remember that and I never asked you anymore about that. But it hurt my feelings."

Yeah, I think I did say those things. Not in the way she explained to me, but it was more or less the idea that I said. I asked her if she was interested in knowing what I felt back then when she asked me that. She said no. But truthfully, even I got sick of those questions. Me, the very me who goes for the real things in life, who thinks that a signed black-and-white paper is just a seal of a commitment of two lovers in love, who doesn't want to rush things, who expects that if a marriage happens, it has to happen because we both want it and not that we are socially forced by others. But it's just too much. I'd hear that a hundred times every time I went back to Surabaya. I'd hear that from my happily married former boss. I'd hear that from my pembantu and the surrounding Balinese people who were questioning my relationship status. I already put a blindfold and earplugs so that I wouldn't have to see their smirk and listen to their thoughts. I'd do anything to stay in this relationship I cherished so much that it stayed alive as long as we could keep it alive. Besides, I honestly don't care what people think. None of them.

But I do care about what my mother thinks. It is still my life and I am the one to decide it where it should go. But never did I want to hurt her. And it seemed plain impossible to make her understand that marriage was not a necessity. Not the end of the deal. Not when you still see so many people cheating on their spouses under the so-called marriage. Not when there are children involved. Yes, it would be nice to be married one day, but if I ever want to do that, I want it to happen for the right reasons! Ideally not because I am carrying a man's child and that's why I have to get married. She was married twice and she was not happy in either of them. Why couldn't she understand that? At the very least, when you are not married, it is less complicated to break up if you think that man is not for you. Right?

But she is right for one thing. Christmas is in your heart. And I don't feel it. As much as I have wanted to get the Christmas spirit this year, it was already dying when Vincent flew to France. He is my family now. One of the few most important people in my life. But even with that notion, I spent some time doubting it this year. And now my mother is sad, my sister is pissed, my brother is out of luck, my cousin feels neglected and I am terribly sad and lonely.

It is officially the worst Christmas ever.

Happy Mother's Day, dear Mum. I love you so much.
I am being very slow with updating this post series. There has been so much going on in my life recently.

Alright, back to Lembongan. This is the last part of the 2-day-1-night stay in Lembongan. Basically, I loved the place. It's tranquil, the people are nice, a bit poorer than the south of Bali but it gives you the feeling that you returned to Bali 10 years ago, the forests smell so fresh and nice, and the beaches are incredibly beautiful though those in the southern parts are hardly swimmable due to the big waves.

Dream Beach
However, I did not see any single ATM in Lembongan. Pam and I brought just enough money for a backpacking style trip. But it appeared that either you could go rock bottom cheap on the island, or have a luxurious one. The cheap term refers to staying the night at the local's houses with even less than basic facilities (a very small, dusty room and a small separate Indonesian-style bathroom with Turkish toilet). Hotels came in the price around Rp 500,000 a night but are cool ones. We'd really love to stay the night at the Dream Beach hotel, but since they did not accept credit cards and we could not withdraw money, we couldn't opt that one. We could, but then we couldn't eat nice food (we would have to go to warungs and drink ice tea, which is normally fine but we wanted to pamper ourselves too). So we got ourselves a Balinese host and an incredibly small room that we would just use to sleep. The rest of our time we spent it at Scallywags or Café Pandan sipping cocktails, swimming in the ocean and the swimmingpool and enjoying the lovely scenery. Scallywags is probably the only place in the south that accepts credit card. That was why we spent much time there. Great food, great service, great scenery, free swimming pool. Bank, surprise me with the bills in the end of the month. ;)

Anyway, we had such a great time. We both needed this gateaway. Pam was going through a lot of shit on her dating issues, and my relationship was also kind of shaky (plus the other small sweats like guests and family). And Lembongan did a great job to shift us away from all the negative thoughts. It felt like heaven being in a place where nobody knew you.

I should do one of these travels again in the near future. I'm always a travelling person more than a drinking-at-the-bars one. And the fact is, as much as you want to make somebody happy, it doesn't work if you don't make yourself happy first.

And I've decided: next travel is to Munduk and other places in the north of Bali. For now enjoy the photo souvenirs I took in Lembongan.
Cafe Pandan, Dream Beach

Fishing village near the pier

Even chicken fascinates you when you are on holiday

Hello, Chicken!

Sunset at Scallywags

Sunset from Scallywags

Drinking Cosmopolitan while enjoying the sunset

An hour without any moving wind, it felt good to dip your feet in the pool

Polka dot, featured by Banana Boat.

South Lembongan
As soon as I got off the boat and walked around the fishing village near the pier, I got this weird feeling like I was returned to the 80's. Not the western 80's with the side ponytails hairstyle for women and mohawks for men. But the Indonesian 80's. The greens, the houses, the children playing on the small streets. If you get inside an inhabitant's house, some of which rent rooms for visitors, you'll see women sweeping the yard with a sapu lidi (a sort of Indonesian style rake) and old-fashioned bedrooms and bathrooms with old furniture.

Anyway, I didn't do any research before leaving since the idea of going to Lembongan came from Pam just a few hours before we actually had to leave (it's really her style...). But I knew that the island was small and I thought it was best to rent a motorcycle first, then go around to find a good site to hang around for 2 or 3 days, and get an accommodation somewhere near.

Typical motorbike in Nusa Lembongan
So we got one motorbike not far from the pier, which later on appeared to be a real crappy motorbike. I hurt my right arm riding it for only an hour and I hurt the whole shoulders by the time I had to go back to Bali. But then I looked around and it seemed that almost all of the motorcycles in Lembongan are as crooked as the one I rented. Most of them don't have license plates on both front and back parts and they hardly function, really. Mine stopped in the middle of the forest when I was not with Pam and I literally freaked out! Some foreigners with their rented scooters passed me by and though they knew that I was in trouble with the motorbike, nobody stopped to help. Until there was this man coming with a bike looking even more broken than mine stopped before me and helped me start up my motorbike. He tried without any success. Another older man stopped too and both of them tried to get my motorbike to start. After half an hour full of sweat, it finally worked!!! I thanked both of them, especially the old man since he was actually the one who managed to fix it, and asked them what I could offer as a return. They said it was okay. It was only normal to help someone in trouble in the middle of a forest that had no such thing like a mechanic shop in near distance.

Very nice. However, being skeptical as any big city girl would, I kept thinking what the catch was. But for the moment I left them and felt thankful and grateful that I didn't have to get stranded in a forest alone in a new island I just explored for a few hours.
I have no idea why in the past 3 years living in Bali never had I once thought to go to Lembongan island. It's not far and hardly tiring to reach. And it is very beautiful, too. The best of it is that it is not as crowded as Bali!

My friend Pam and I left for Lembongan early in the morning. We went to Sanur, where the boats to the island departed. Traditional boat trips are available at 7:00 and 10:30. The board says that the fare using these boats is Rp 60,000. But we arrived at 8 in Sanur, so we missed the first boat. The second one seemed too long to catch. So we asked the fare for the speed boat. The guy behind the counter said it was Rp 75,000. It didn't make sense! Why is it only Rp 15,000 difference between the normal boat (an hour ride) and the speed boat (half an hour ride)? Anyway, we took that since the next speed boat left at 9 and we saved half an hour of sea trip. However, as I was about to pay them, 2 guys cut my line asking for 2 tickets and paying with only Rp 100,000. What the hell? I was determined to find out what the normal practice was here.

As we were about to climb to the speed boat, again, some guys cut my way and I almost fell to the sea. THESE PEOPLE NEEDED SOME SCHOOLING ON MANNERS! I couldn't believe I kept getting that at the early start of my weekend getaway journey!

Anyway, the speed boat was too full. Some people had to stand even. I whispered to Pam, "There is no way these guys were paying 75,000 each. They don't look like they had the money OR if they wanted to spare that much money for one-way boat trip." Pam whispered back to me, "Yeah, and the boat was way too full. Let's hope it wouldn't crash before reaching the island."

In the meantime, the little boy next to me kept vomitting because of sea sick. I had to look away.

It wasn't a bad boat trip in the end. I loved the feeling of my hair being blown by the sea wind, and the morning was lovely. I could see a range of mountains from afar and when I looked back, I saw a crazy amount of sea water being splashed by the motor of the boat.

30 minutes later we arrived in Lembongan and our feet stepped on clear sea and clean white sand. Such an uplifting thing after leaving Sanur's dirty black sandy beach. So...

Hello, Lembongan!
I didn't know that it existed until my recent visit in Lembongan Island. I'm wondering how it tastes...

I have had too many ups and downs this year. More than once I thought that I couldn't work things out, that things were getting out of hands, and that I was unhappy.

And I was never unhappy since I recovered from my hardest period after my dad died in 1997.

I am looking around me now... at the best ammenities that surround me, at the spacious house with the lovely gadgets that fill it in, at the bamboo tree next to the huge window in my living room where the birds chirp happily, at the man who I trust to love me. They are all that I ever wanted. But ironically I feel lonely anyway.

I do have friends. But this year has treated us so badly that none of us could be more positive than the others to at least influence our mood to a better one (except Carol, but she was just passing by, the Morrocan deserted life has her). I saw them brokenhearted. I saw myself brokenhearted. Their lives were sort of falling apart, while mine was hanging on a tight rope.

When things were getting slightly better, there was always something that stood in the way to ruin it. It has been an endless, annoying, tiring emotional journey.

And I am still here... because in a rather strange way, I believe if I can survive this year, next year there will be a great reward waiting for me and the people around me.

So yes, unlike the other Decembers I have ever had so far (not even the December of the year when my father died), I am not looking forward to the festivities and the funs. Because somehow I know it won't be fun.

I just can't wait to get over the month and get to 2011.