Boobs, buffalo and Bali

EVERYONE keeps telling me I’ll meet a man when I least expect it, and so it was that I stumbled across Driftwood. On this particular evening I wasn’t looking to meet someone, I was on my way to the toilet after an especially hedonistic night with mates, on the beach, at Lombok.

He resembled some flotsam that had washed up on the beach at high tide. Picture Shaggy from Scooby Doo (both in name and nature) a sarong worn commando (he offered to show me his Mystery Machine), and a suspected lifetime of illegal, green, leafy material, and you’ve pretty much met Driftwood. My girlfriends swear I was swooshing my hair as I spoke to him at the bar, enroute to the dunny. I maintain it was the tropical heat making my hair stick to the nape of my neck that was causing what looked like a primitive sexual overture on my part. Suffice to say, I continued on towards the toilet – replete with coconut door handles not unlike boobs – and Driftwood stayed at the bar, except for the end of the evening when he sauntered past and kissed my head with his whiskey breath.

It had already been a bit of a colourful day on this remote Indonesian island which many liken to Bali “20 years ago”.  We’d visited a traditional village that morning for a cooking demonstration, but I had failed to read the bit which stated we’d be eating what we cooked. Which would have been OK, had it not been for the flies, the heat, and what appeared to be rancid buffalo. What to do? Risk offending the village people, or risk becoming sick?

And so I came up with the only plausible solution at the time. I told my guide I had “women’s issues” and I needed to go back to the hotel…and I needed to take not one, but three of my friends with me. In my defence, I am a woman and I have plenty of issues, so it wasn’t exactly a lie. And here’s where it became even more interesting. For the brave souls who stayed on, not only was there buffalo on the menu, but one of the village grandmothers was breastfeeding her grandson. She wouldn’t have been a day younger than 80. Given the choice between the buffalo and grandma, I am not ashamed to say I would have taken Option B.

Back at the hotel, the party continues. One of my friends – for the sake of this story let’s call her Jodi – gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom in her room. She walks out the front door instead and locks herself out into the humid night. There’s cocktails on the beach at sunset, limbo competitions and a slew of satay. Nick’s private pool party is all bean bags and bonhomie.

But there’s a serious side to this trip as well. It’s shortly after the tenth anniversary of the Bali bombing and we’re in Indonesia for the Australian Society of Travel Writers annual conference. Guest speaker Australian Janet De Neefe is talking about how she conceived the Ubud Writers Festival following the act of terrorism which claimed the lives of 88 Australians.

Janet, who went to Bali on a holiday 25 years ago and met her husband on the second day, describes the long weeks and months after the bombing and its effect on Indonesia and its much-needed tourism.

 “Suddenly, everything stops. It is like the end of the party. The place is deserted and everyone is gone,” she says.

 “I had to do something. It was my turn to make a contribution. Bali had been very good to me…we’ve got terrorism on our toes, let’s think of an event that is really meaningful.

 “I suddenly thought ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’. Bring in the people who are fearless. Bring in the writers.”

The first Ubud Writers Festival Through Darkness to Light attracted an audience of 300. This year, more than 25,000 people were drawn to Ubud which Janet describes as “the exotic tropics in its most native sense…exquisite.”

Next year, she hopes to attract Colin Firth, yes, Mr Darcy, to the festival.

I am swept up in the romance of her words, her festival and her adopted country. Days later, I arrive in Bali itself and am humbled by a conversation I have with a Balinese man who works at the resort pool.

“You from Australia? We love Australians. After the Bali bombings, everyone stopped coming, except the Australians. You kept coming.”

I think about what I sometimes call the “ugly Australian tourist” in Bali who drinks too much, is way too loud, and is flat out finding some bare skin for yet another tattoo. So I am surprised and delighted at how the Balinese still view most Australians.

And perhaps it’s as simple as that. Maybe Australian travellers to Bali are as crucially predictable as the tide. We sweep in and we sweep out. 

Just ask Driftwood.

 The Global Goddess would like to thank the ASTW for a terrific conference and the Novotel Lombok and Garuda Indonesia for their outstanding hospitality, patience and assistance. For more information go to; And a special shout out to Novotel Lombok General Manager Brian – the Vasse Felix was worth every drop!


You’re naughty, Ketut

There’d hardly be an Australian who, by now, didn’t know of that clever car insurance advertisement featuring Rhonda and her Indonesian waiter, Ketut. For those overseas readers, it’s one of the most popular ads on television, as the hapless holidaying Rhonda flirts shamelessly with Ketut on a Balinese beach. Lobster red with sunburn, apart from her white rimmed eyes which have been hidden by her sunnies, Ketut tells Rhonda: “You look so hot today, like a sunrise.”

Now, I don’t want to brag, but before this ad was even aired, six months ago I was in a similar situation to Rhonda in Bali. And given I’m going back there next week, it seems timely to share my good fortune.

It was Easter and my mate Trish and I had flown down to escape the clutches of oppressive Singapore, where we’d both been working. Trish, a typical POM, promptly plonked herself on the nearest lounge chair overlooking the ocean, and proceeded to fry her lily white body for the next four days. I think I saw her go in the water once. She was a handy holiday companion, however, rising before dawn to beat the Germans to the sun lounges, bagging us two of the best, and then meeting me for breakfast. Only a European knows how to play that dangerous little game.

Each day Trish would frazzle up a storm, come to sunset drinks all glowing and glowering with sunburn, and proceed to do it all over again the next day. I, on the other hand, am a typical Australian who experienced a lifetime of sunshine in my youth, and now sits under a tree wearing something akin to a Burqa. That is, if I’m not in the water, which is often. But each to their own, it worked for us, and we had a fabulous time.

In between dips one day, Trish and I had a boozy beachside lunch, and it was at that point I met my own Ketut. A Balinese waiter approached our table, and once he established from where I had hailed, he replied: “Ah, Australia, kangaroo, sexy.” At this point Trish and I both looked at it each other in bemusement. Not sure if Trish had ever seen a kangaroo in the wild before, but I certainly had, and I’m not entirely certain “sexy” is how you would describe Skippy.

“Sexy?” I asked the waiter, a little incredulously.

He, in turn, looked confused, and replied: “Not kangaroo, I meant Coca Cola. Coca Cola very sexy.” And then, as if to explain, he looked at my body, and in thin air, traced the curves as one would an old-fashioned glass Coke bottle.

And then he promptly departed.

For the rest of the trip, whenever Trish was looking for me in the ocean or the pool, she simply needed to think of a bottle of Coke, and up I’d pop. Since my time as a Coke bottle in Bali, I have returned to Australia to live, and as we speak Trish is packing her belongings to return to the UK.

Meanwhile, Rhonda and Ketut have become such celebrities Down Under, that they will be joining the likes of Nicole Kidman and Prince Charles on the Melbourne Cup racing social circuit. For those who don’t know, Rhonda is Western Australian actress Mandy McElhinney and Ketut is Melbourne forklift driver Kadek Mahardika. I suspect neither will ever have to work again.

I won’t be in Melbourne for the Cup this year, but I will certainly be in Bali next week, unfortunately without Trish. So save me an umbrella Rhonda and Ketut.  The Coke bottle is arriving and she’s ready to hit the beach. Like a sunrise.

That nasty “F” word

MY 12-year-old niece broke it off with her “boyfriend” this week, telling me yesterday: “He acts one way around me, and another around his friends.” “Ah, mixed messages,” I told Miss Twelve, who didn’t quite understand the concept, despite deeply feeling the hurt. “He was shocked,” she added. And who said feminism was dead?

If we needed any convincing that feminism wasn’t dead it was this week’s outstanding performance by Prime Minister Julia Gillard who stood up for herself, and the women of Australia, to Opposition Leader Tony Abbott. In her 15-minute speech in Federal Parliament during which Gillard never once stumbled, she did what was a long-time coming. She told the man who has taunted her with cruel jibes among which have included standing in front of a banner which labelled her a “witch” and a “bitch”, that she would “not be lectured about sexisim by this man”. Regardless of your politics, I implore anyone who hasn’t seen it to go to YouTube and see exactly the kind of mettle of which a woman scorned is made.

The best Abbott could do this week was trot out his wife and three daughters as a poor example of how this somehow made him a feminist. The mere fact he did this was a sexist act in itself. It’s a bit like telling someone “my neighbour is gay/indigenous/disabled”. Worst of all for Abbott, even if this did score him a couple of cheap political points, with possibly another year to run before the Federal Election, he’s potentially pulled out his trump card a little prematurely. So now he has to rely on his character. 

Let me be very clear. This is not a political post. I, like many other Australians, have been deeply disappointed by the argy bargy and broken promises of both sides of the Parliament in recent times. Yet, sometime in the next 12 months, I will have the opportunity (a result of feminism) to choose one side. This is a blog about feminism. It’s a blog about basic human rights.

We live in interesting times. Despite the fact 60% of university undergraduates are women, in 2012, Australian women earn approximately 17.5% less than men. We’ve all been privy to the recent abhorrent behaviour of a certain football club’s end-of-year antics and their lewd comments towards a female television reporter who was simply doing her job. And then there’s a certain male radio announcer who decried Australian women as “destroying the joint.”

Globally, things are far worse. This week in Indonesia, a 14-year-old school girl victim of child trafficking was expelled from her school because she had “tarnished the school’s reputation.” In Pakistan, a 14-year-old girl is fighting for her life after being shot in the head by the Taliban. Her crime? She believed women should be allowed an education.

I’ve always been proud to call myself a feminist and for anyone who wonders what this means to me, it means I think women should be receive the same pay as men for the same work; that they should be able to walk down the street in whatever they choose without fear or favour; and they should be afforded the same opportunities as men. Women should be treated with the same respect as men.

And yet, in recent times, even I’ve been led to believe there is something wrong with me. This week, when a male friend sent me a private email making a lewd comment about my breasts, I was deeply offended. I told him so, and he apologised, yet it didn’t stop me choosing the baggiest blouses to wear all week and slouching my shoulders, something I haven’t done since I was a teenager. Through his comments, I felt that I should somehow be ashamed and embarrassed of my womanhood.

This weekend I’ve found myself waiting for a phone call from a man I’ve never met, who enticed me with the promise of a coffee date. That phone call never came. In the scheme of world events, and how women are treated, it’s nothing. It’s a very First-World problem and possibly even a luxury to have such a light-weight worry. But it still hurts, as did my mate’s comments. As these blokes would never denigrate their male friends like that. And doesn’t it simply come down to that? It’s not whether you are male or female. It’s how you would treat another human being.

This week, through Prime Minister Gillard, and people like my 12-year-old niece who wouldn’t have a clue what a feminist was, we saw a glimmer of hope. A spark.

Maybe feminism isn’t dead after all. Like myself, after 40 odd years fighting the good fight, perhaps she’s just been having a long-deserved beauty sleep. And there is nothing wrong with that.




Nice day for a white wedding

HE shared the same name as a major Italian city and was a journalist, which ticked two boxes: he had an interesting moniker and could spell. So, it was without hesitation that I decided to go on a date with a friend of one of my male mates. Unfortunately, he also looked like a garden gnome, replete with round belly, long, sharp nose, pointy ears and glasses. Twenty minutes into the date, during which the gnome spent twenty minutes looking at my breasts (in his defence he was also short so was eye level with my cleavage) the gnome decided I wasn’t up to standard and promptly left. The gnome later told my male mate that I wasn’t “like a supermodel”.

Imagine my delight yesterday, three years later, when my male mate got married and, along with the obligatory pervy uncle with the wife 30 years his junior on the guest list, appeared the gnome. Now, I knew the gnome was going to be at the wedding, and would like to say I deliberately chose to wear my sexiest off-the-shoulder red number, but truth-be-told, it was the only decent wedding attire I had. What I didn’t know was that two of my girlfriends, one I hadn’t seen in months, and another in a decade, would also turn up at the wedding in similar red dresses. So, rather than looking single and sexy, I looked like one third of the Pointer Sisters and I’m pretty sure everyone was wondering what our first act would be.

The gnome turned up in an ill-fitting suit where the pants and sleeves were too long and his pants had faded prematurely in relation to his suit jacket. I would be lying if I said when he lit up a cigarette just as a petrol tanker drove past that I didn’t harbour a brief fantasy of a random explosion, but I figured that might put a dampener on the wedding celebrations.

Also on the guest list were a bunch of rather dowdy wives who all looked like they’d been to the same hairdresser and there had been a special on mousy brown hair colour, a horrible fringe, and a perpetual frown.

I, on the other hand, love weddings, and adopt the all-Australian attitude that you take the cost of what you spend on the gift, multiply this by a factor of five, and then proceed to redeem your gift cost by drinking as much alcohol as possible. This is also possibly why the groom put my girlfriends and I on the table up the back of the room, behind a post. Which suited me fine, as we were also the closest to the dance floor.


During the evening the gnome, who is still single – clearly Brisbane has a dearth of supermodels looking to date gnomes – spent several hours looking longingly in my direction, according to my girlfriends. Either that, or he had never seen an Australian woman drink so much Sav Blanc and still be standing.

It was all going so well, and I was out front, in the middle of the dance floor teaching the relatives from country South Australia how to do Nutbush City Limits (it’s kick, kick, clap and THEN turn people!), when the gnome decided to grab his jacket and depart. It was only 8.30pm so I can only assume he had double booked his night and was off to entertain at a children’s party. Again, either that, or he had caught a glimpse of my beige control underwear which was doing a mighty fine job keeping my tummy, bum and thighs in check, thus confirming his suspicions that I am not a supermodel.

The night continued and the mousy brown brigade continued to sit with their cat’s bum faces. They were less-than-impressed when I accidently broke a glass while alternatively playing the drums on the table and a glass with a spoon. And even less impressed when that crazy Korean Psy’s Gangnam Style came on and I busted out some moves (and possibly my dress).

By the end of the night it was just me and one of my Pointer Sisters left on the dance floor, all cat’s bums and gnomes long-since departed.

I limped home with bleeding feet, reeking of sweat, and hair all mussed up which in my opinion, are all the hallmarks of a splendid evening. I had quite simply, had a ball and realise it’s moments like these it can be great fun being single.

I imagine the mousy browns have probably awoken this morning without a hair out of place, their faces fixed firmly in a line of disappointment, arranging to meet each other for a cappuccino and discuss that outrageous lady in red.

As for the gnome, I checked in my garden this morning just to be sure and there was no trace of him. Given it’s just over two months to Christmas, I guess he’s busy getting ready to be Santa’s little helper.