All’s Well That Ends Well

20111010-203725.jpgDone and dusted! The 2011 Ubud Writers Festival draws to a close with a big shin-dig at the Blanco Museum. Not quite the white walls and empty room I was expecting…Come on, it’s called the “Blanco” Museum! Instead, we were greeted by an enormous statue and a monumental building enmeshed within an ornate exotic garden. Spectacular!

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After the speeches, we were entertained by fire dancers and possibly the most amazing band on the entire island! Gotta find out who those guys were, because man, they were sensational. Lucky Oceans was a guest member on slide guitar, but the main singer had charisma, charm, energy, a booming throaty sound like velvet and blues and was an amazing trumpet player as well. A really awesome night to end out the festival.

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Foreign Correspondents

preparations.jpgOur final day of volunteer events at the Ubud Writers Festival. This time, I’m MC-ing a Literary Lunch with Alexander McCall Smith at the magnificently exotic, Maya Ubud Resort and Spa and Fiona is assisting with checking tickets at the door. Jaw-droppingly A-mazing place, nestled away in the mountains of Ubud…(insert “drool” here).

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This is my most nerve-racking of all our events, because Alexander McCall Smith is one of their biggest draw cards. He’s written over 60 books! More than I’ve read in my entire life!! (Who am I kidding?…10 books is more than I’ve read in my entire life…8 maybe?). He’s most famous for his No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which has now also been made into a TV series. Remarkable man, and very amusing.

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The other highlight for me, is that the moderator leading the conversation today, is none other than renown respected Aussie journalist and TV Host, Jennifer Byrne, and reading her resume, you could easily confuse her with G.I. Jane! What an incredible life she’s led. And super lovely, smart and approachable…but that’s enough about Fiona 😉 (Who am I kidding?…there could never be enough of Fiona).

I feel incredibly privileged to be rubbing shoulders and working with such respected and inspiring people, at least, that’s what they said about working with me 🙂

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Show us your Betelnuts!

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A lightning dash to Ubud in the rain at night, for our 2nd official volunteering event, the Sounds Of Seasons with Paul Kelly Fundraiser, raising funds for next year’s Ubud Writers Festival.

We’ve only just had time to breathe, finishing up our earlier event at Biku in Seminyak,

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then dashing up to look for and check into our hotel in the wilds of Ubud, the Casa Ganesha Hotel (once again, Google maps and Ubud; like Kate Moss and donuts – they just don’t mix. And frankly, where’d you find a glass big enough?), then high-tailing it to the event at Betelnut – Noodle, Satay Bar & Music Lounge. Which was infinitely better than the music bar and noodle lounge. You can’t believe how difficult it is sitting on a lounge made from noodles, especially in white pants!

But we’re buzzed and charged, because we’re spending our night with Paul Kelly!!

Nina, the event coordinator, placed us specifically in this event because she knew what great fans we are. How nice…and cool, of her. She said it’s mostly all Aussie volunteers on that night, so you should have a blast! And what a night it was!!…

…(insert crickets “chirping” here)

Turns out, she had us running the silent auction…outside…the venue! What the? So all us Aussie’s, specially placed so we could have a blast with Paul Kelly…ended up with a just a breeze from the local drunks, outside. Awesome!!

Mind you, it did have it’s perks. We did meet a myriad of weird, crazy and lovely people. Basically, we had all kinds of donated prizes that people would stagger out and write down a bid on. At the end of the night, whoever had the highest bid on that item, wins that prize. So, we had all kinds of people to talk, laugh and poke fun at…but that’s enough about me 🙂

Lovely people, like 70yr old, Sally Sweetapple (yes, that’s her real name). And the crazy woman who almost bid on everything and damn well almost won everything (last seen fleeing from her husband and trying to eat and swallow all her credit card statements). Me old mate, Steve Bisley, wandered out for a chat or two and we did make friends with another Aussie in the group, a professional photographer named Sally.

As I said, it did have it’s perks because running the silent auction meant, we could bid on anything we wanted. And so it is, that I won a 4 hour music studio session and night for two in a beautiful villa, for a measly $100. Watch out for my demo, coming soon!!

Ballzup @ Biku

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Here it is, our first official event of the Ubud Writers Festival…High Tea with Juan Gabriel Vasquez at the Biku Tea House in Seminyak.

I can hardly keep my mobile to my ear at the crackling expletives being choked down the crackling phone line, worthy of any old sea-dog, but hardly expected from the beautiful mouth of a Princess!

Thank god we live just round the corner. A major mix-up with the sound guys. They were supposed to setup last night and the Biku staff waited until midnight but no-one showed. They finally turned up 2 hrs before the gig, but can’t setup because they’re in the middle of serving lunch. If it wasn’t for Fiona and her melodic soothing charms, it might have been, “off with their heads!”

Tempers were soothed, ego’s were stroked…but that’s enough about me.

The gig went on as planned except for one thing…the audience. Where the hell were they? 28 seats booked and paid for, but 18 of them didn’t show up! We held things off for half an hour before kicking into it, and boy, did those guys ever miss out, BIG TIME!!

The conversation between our moderator, Geoffrey Williams (ex General Manager of the Australian Film Institute and Chambermade Opera Co.), and Juan Gabriel Vasquez, was absolutely captivating. And the audience was thrilled to have an up close and personal, intimate experience with the author, but again…that’s enough about me.

This man’s life, his views and opinions not only sounded like rich dark chocolate flowing smoothly through his lips, but was filled with more conviction, understanding and heartfelt sentiment, than a soft caramely-nougat centre. He spoke with a worldly knowledge far beyond his years and I couldn’t believe he was younger than me (I jealously suspect he copied off his Grandfather’s exam paper). He spoke so passionately about his life and growing up in Columbia, but I was disappointed that not once, did he mention the cigars, quirky-eye and trench coat…oh wait, I think that was Columbo. Peter Falk’s TV detective from the 70’s…my bad.

The actual event itself, went quite swimmingly. As would be expected, being helmed by Captain Jack (Fiona) Sparrow, we were definitely in safe hands. And dappling a little spanish into my MC announcements, was certainly acknowledged and appreciated by our Columbian guest author…if only he spoke Spanish.

A great afternoon was had by all…now, quickly Robin…to the Batmobile! A quick change back into our tea bags, to brave the journey in the rain and the night on our scooter to our next gig in a couple hours…all the way back up in Ubud!

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Paul Kelly makes us cry over gravy…

So the 2011 Ubud Writers Festival has kicked off. The events we’re involved with are a couple days away, so we had time to come up to Ubud to take in a couple of events that were of significant interest to us. However, there was some apprehension because it must have been laundry day for “the man upstairs”, as it was bucketing down, on the island of the Gods. Not a problem for us of course, because we’ve got a scooter!…Oh, wait…

A quick duck into the local Carrefour Department Store on the way, and quicker than you can type who’s-a-weather-beaten-dork-then?…

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…Problem Solved!

It’s amazing how many brightly coloured ponchos were suddenly on the road. Like a Walt Disney symphony of magical dancing tea-bags…on ice!(well…wet wheels, perhaps?)

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By the time we got to Ubud, the rain had temporarily cleared and I introduced myself and my beautiful wife, to the incredibly humble, yet incredibly talented (sounds a little bit like me?), Paul Kelly, before he began his riveting conversation about the release of his book, How to Make Gravy. And privied us (is that even a word?) to a spellbinding mini-acoustic concert, to boot. The link below gives a great account of the entire session.

Paul Kelly makes us cry over gravy… | 2011 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival | Nandurin Karang Awak | Cultivate the Land Within.

Paul Kelly

Interestingly (to us, at least), was that actor, Steve Bisley, sat opposite us and was also there to enjoy the session. He must have known Paul Kelly, as he gave him a cheeky pinch on the bum as he walked past…although, he also groped a pineapple and made out with an origami swan, so I could’ve been mistaken.

Spent the afternoon being entertained by some funny panelists including Australia’s, Corinne Grant, a Sri-Lankan writer who thought he’d written a serious book and suddenly found himself on a comedy panel, a “Guido-esque” Iraqian who lives in Holland and is only famous in his street…not for his writing, but for his long black hair (not common with Dutch folk), and a very comical MC who looked Indian, had a well-rounded English accent and lives in Hong Kong (so no telling where he was from), and their subject for discussion? The delicate art of putting humour on the page…was hardly (if at all), even discussed.

More rain on the way home, but thanks to our newly acquired uber-sexy teabags, we were drier than a dead dingo’s donger!

Offering to the Gods

An interesting morning so far. Woke up to the joyous feeling of rumbles & nausea, which can only mean one thing…either I was pregnant or I had gastro? Either way, I’m about to scare the crap out of myself and seeing as I’m a man, then the latter is most probable.

The main issue is, we have a long ride to Ubud this afternoon & if things don’t clear up by then, well…at least we’ll be able to follow our tracks back home! Or rather, my tracks.

So we had breakfast at Biku (the Princess’s Tea House), to test the PA system for Saturday’s event, and it was very slow going, making sure not to rock the boat. Wheatgrass shots & peppermint tea certainly did the trick…for a little while.

On the scooter on our way home, just two corners away from leaving Biku, Fiona must have thought she was married to James Bond, as I ejector-seated myself off the bike, with a double twist in the half pike position onto my hands and knees, leaning over the open drain on the side of the road…and made a very colorful… offering to the gods!

Thank god my helmet visor was up, or I could have had a front row seat to Jason & His Techni-coloured Dreamcoat.

Anyway, feeling much better now after getting that off my chest (or out of my system), and just so you’re not completely turned off…here’s a picture of a kitten 🙂

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Princess and the TEA (not pea)

Today we had a meeting with Lily Wayodo from the Ubud Writers Festival, at the infamous Biku Tea House in Seminyak. Infamous not only for it’s incredible High Tea with delectable scones with jam and cream, delicious cakes and pastries, assortments of fine finger sandwiches and occasional tarot readings. It’s infamy mainly lies in the fact that it is owned by Asri Kerthyasa. Otherwise known as…The Princess of Bali.

In reality, she was originally a kindergarten teacher from Sydney, named Jane Gillespie, who married her Balinese Prince Charming (Prince Tjokorda Raka Kerthyasa), when she was 24 years old in 1978. They were on the cover of Womens Weekly and everything!

You can read more about her incredibly interesting story here…Once Upon A Time

We met her because Fiona is Event Supervisor for High Tea with Juan Gabriel Vasquez, a literary high-tea afternoon conversation event as part of the Ubud Writers Festival, of which, I will also be MC. The event is on next Saturday and is being held at the Biku Tea House. We met with Asri and Lily to go over all the formalities.

Another interesting article about her here…It’s Good to be the Princess!

Talk about down to earth, I actually had no idea she was a Princess until after we met with her. I might have been distracted by the gold and jewellery. Or maybe it was the sword? She actually schooled me in the art of Balinese etiquette, teaching me the correct way to finish a meal and to be very careful about how you say the word “full”. The Indonesian word means “full”, but in Balinsese, means…erection!

Oh, Your Majesty…behave yourself!

InterContinental

Today we met up with Lily Wardoyo from the Ubud Writers Festival, at The InterContinental Bali Resort in Jimbaran Bay. To get there, we weaved our way through the Bali traffic, like…somebody that weaves things really, really good…like…some kind of…weaver…in a motorbike helmet…on a scooter…with someone else on the back. If there was such a person, then we would be it.

Navigating the traffic is like learning a dance. Sometimes it’s hip-hop, sometimes a graceful waltz. You flow and ebb with the rhythm and timing is everything. Oh, and try not to smack into anyone.

And if your GPS maps fail you because you can’t get reception on your phone, then you can always just follow the guy in front with Intercontinental Resort, emblazoned on the back of his jacket. Hopefully he’s on his way to work and not just wearing someone else’s jacket.

The Intercontinental Bali Resort is BEAUTIFUL. Humongous lobby and three swimming pools just inches from the ocean. Along with Lily, we met with Dewi Anggraini, Director of Public Relations, and Nyoman Winatha, Director of Conference & Events, who were just lovely. We discussed the details of the event we’ll be organising there which will be a Literary Dinner Conversation with Alexander McCall Smith, who is the author of The 44 Scotland Street Series, The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency Series, The Sunday Philosophy Club Series and LA’s Orchestra Saves The World.

Should be an entertaining night, if we have any say in the matter…which we do 🙂

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Back to Legian for a beer with Gusti at The Legends Bar before zooming down to Petitenget beach for dinner on the beach at the beautiful La Lucchiola restaurant. Yet, another magic day.

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From here to Eternity….or Ubud (whichever is closer)

So we had a meeting set for last Friday to meet Lily and Nina from the Ubud Writer’s Festival, in the beautiful township of Ubud, which is home to the Monkey Forest and the King’s Palace and is a huge artists community.

So we biked it up to Ubud. About 32kms and approx 42 mins according to Google maps. According to Lifeintherealworld maps, however, it took about 2 hrs to get there. One thing about Bali, “all roads lead to Ubud”…except the one we were on. We knew we were on the wrong road after passing the sign that read…You are now leaving Kansas and I knew then, we weren’t in Kansas no more.

Fortunately, we got back on the right road and made it into Ubud only to discover the street we needed to go down, was blocked off for a ceremony.  Like rats sniffing out cheese in a maze, we had to meander our way through the labyrinth of streets to finally arrive at the UWF Head Office, which coincidentally, smelled of cheese? Maybe not.

Ubud Views

Our meeting went well, we’ve been asked to run an event in Kerobokan and another possible event in Jimbaran Bay, as well as a few MC-ing gigs that might be required. So that will be fun. We lunched next door with beautiful views of the hills overlooking a large swimming pool before another ball breaking ride back home.

Fiona's SunburnThe ride back home only took an hour and a half, and boy, were our butts (and my perineum) sore. Not to mention, Fiona forgot to slip-slop-slap…Yowzer!!