When things get better, I’m going to see a temple, skip through the rice fields or, at the very least, find a patch of land that isn’t built on and loaded with people. I want to roam freely along a fresh terrain that isn’t black with city dirt and doesn’t have mopeds swarming around me like a wasps’ nest.
The hectic streets of Kuta, Legian, Denpasar, and the districts that border these areas are not for the faint-hearted. And, to be honest, they’re really not for a single Mom pushing a four-year-old in a stroller while carrying a toddler. It is a challenge of epic proportions whichever way we leave the hotel.
On foot, I have to calculate the timing of crossing the road literally weaving in and out of vehicles. I feel like a pack mule loaded with weight. The stroller is starting to squeak and creak under the pressure. It’s been around the world a few times already after all.
Cataleya shrieks as the mopeds speed by blowing her hair or a shop door suddenly opens and Valentino is either simply perched on my arm pulling me down or struggling to break free and run around the hair-raising streets.
By car, well, that’s a whole new level of stress that tends to leave me shaking and pale. Mainly tolerant and used to making up the rules as you go along, yesterday, I got the middle finger from a wildly impatient Balinese taxi driver.
It was a red rag to a bull. Little sh**. The best part? He had nowhere to go after he’d done that. The traffic was dense and unmoving.
And he flipped off the wrong tourist.
I was enraged. I opened the door of my car and let a seething hot cascade of wrath fall upon him. How would he like to travel with two tiny children alone, one extremely sick? Who did he think he was? How can you be so evil to someone you don’t know and who hasn’t done any wrong? (And, well, plenty of expletives from the very best of all the countries I’ve lived in).
I think I even threatened him with physical violence. I can’t remember, that was yesterday already and in this vortex of time, we’ve already lived a hundred lives in a little over a week and changed hotels four times.
At Least the Balinese People Are Friendly
Yeah. The Balinese people are friendly.
I can’t and won’t judge that statement yet because I have been unable to see much beyond the labyrinth of craziness around Kuta and the capital. But, I’m not getting the vibe that everyone told me about.
They sure do smile a lot. But smiling a lot doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re friendly. It may simply be a muscle spasm or a cultural impulse.
It’s a really just mixed bag like everywhere else. Of course, compare the hospitality to the abrupt (to the point of rude) Spanish and there is no competition; Bali wins hands down. But, people don’t help you here like they do in South America or even in England. They smile like Cheshire cats and are extremely welcoming as you sweat profusely carrying bags, kids, and strollers–with no offer of help.
Ask for help and they immediately mobilize. Perhaps it’s not in their culture to offer help where it isn’t asked or to invade a stranger’s personal space. Maybe they don’t do it for their own women. I’m not sure.
I may have been unlucky, too, and it could be restrained to the touristy areas where inhabitants are always fed up with the visiting foreign swathes. When my daughter is well and we can roam further afield to authentic Bali, it will be fairer to make a sounder judgment.
But road rage is certainly universal.
Big Garden Corner, Bali
Since she’s forbidden to go into the pool (although, we’re not taking that advice to the letter) and it’s now beyond impossible keeping two wound up children inside an apartment, I searched for things to do with kids in Bali.
That brought up a list of unmissable activities including white water rafting, ziplining, canopy climbing in the jungle, and Asia’s largest water park. All perfectly suitable for a sick four-year-old and a toddler.
I had to dig deeper.
Eventually, I found a place that seemed to offer more or less what I needed.
Shady gardens, majestic stone animal sculptures, a playground, a restaurant, splash park, and lofty elephants made out of soda cans. Of course, like anywhere else here, it took forever to get there, but it was worth the trek.
It was a thriving and pleasant green oasis in the middle of the endless chaos. And both the kids ended up enjoying the slides in the water.
Being Blond in Asia
I will never forget Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore in the 80s. I suppose that people didn’t travel so much then. The internet wasn’t born, and the people in these regions couldn’t help themselves from reaching out and touching my hair.
I was a blond child. And it was annoying, even a little bit frightening. I was touched and grabbed without permission everywhere we went.
Today, as the mother of one very blond and impossibly adorable child, I see that things have changed–but not so much.
The women still squeal with delight when they set eyes on Valentino. They whisper among themselves and ask me if they can hold him or take a photo with him.
I wonder how many mantlepieces my son will appear on around the world.
I used to ask myself the same question.
The truth is, for as hard as it is to care for them both (last night I was held hostage in the middle of a king-size bed between two children sleeping horizontally, kicking me in the face, and waking every time I tried to move their feet), Valentino’s smile and cuddles are part of what’s keeping me going right now.
Pumping five medications three times a day into Cataleya is harrowing.
I keep saying I don’t think I’ve done anything harder–and then things keep getting harder.
Trying to get such a headstrong little girl to take so many meds is breaking my heart. Bribery, promises, threats, and some physical violence, too, I am afraid to say.
Whatever the hell it takes to get her to take the medicine and not end up being hospitalized… It’s awful and we both end up screaming.
(Just to clarify, “physical violence” involves me pinning her down and forcing her mouth open, not beating her or something more sinister)
What Happens Next
We return to the hospital on Wednesday. Whatever the doctor’s verdict is, we’ll take it from there. She seems better, she has had almost two whole days without fever and she’s way less sleepy than before. But, I totally missed this. I had no idea she had a respiratory problem and I sleep with her every night.
I’m hesitant to say what happens next to be completely honest. We need her to be well. We need to know that she won’t fall again and that Valentino won’t follow. In the meantime, we’re grasping at the good things about being in a land far far away that serves Happy Meals with rice.