Before I start this new post I owe everyone an explanation on my silence for the last 2 months: I had a major hardware problem with my new laptop that was followed by a complete crash of my operation system. I know many of you wondered what had happened to me and kindly sent me emails to request new postings, so I have to explain that my technology challenges made me lose my computer for a month. Then…. I went for 2 weeks on vacation in Bangkok and Bali with my brother Pierre, followed by another special visitor (also called Pierre), a fabulous week of business in Sydney Australia or shall I call it “temptation island”!
Through out my technical challenge, I lost the entire blog I had just finished writing on being a “Big Tall Girl in a Girly Girly World”. I got discouraged when I saw everything wiped out and decided to redo it at a later date. Anyways, what I have figured out through this “chill out” period gave me a new perspective on the girly topic and my opinion evolved during this two month period. I will put the “girly world” post on the ice for the moment and will resume it with a better analysis later on this year.Meanwhile I am full of fabulous images and memories of my trips to Thailand, Indonesia and Australia.
So much has happened in my life in the last 7 weeks that my head still spins. They are all good things that I am very grateful for, so I decided to call my new post: Terima kasih Bali and matur suksma Ubud. Terima kasih in Indonesian (language very close to bahasa Malaysian) means “thank you”, but in Balinese, the local language of Bali, thank you is: Suksma and Matur Suksma means “thank you very much”. In Thailand, the same expression is khorb koon ka.
Regardless of the country you are in, these grateful words should be accompanied by a gesture of your two hands joined at the chin and a humble salute from the head. This peaceful custom of many countries of Asia is one of the elements that make the Asian peoples so down to earth and so lovable: they are everything but arrogant! It is also what will get you around and will get you the gratitude of these amazing peoples.
What I want to thank Bangkok for is for showing me crudely and without shame some reality of Asia. A cultural chock that I had not yet experienced. The worst and the best all at once. Also I am thankful for the exchange of an outstanding amount of energy: Every day, Bangkok ruthlessly sucked my energy and generously gave me back as much in return through its beat and kindness.
The J.J. market (as the locals call it) is one of the most exciting shopping experience I had the privilege of living: You can buy a decorative basket, a Buddha, furniture pieces, art, the best freshly squeezed orange juice of your life, clothing or the fur skin of an endangered tiger specie, all in one of the many lanes of this huge local market. It can easily take up to two days to visit all the stalls of this outdoor market and since two days is all you have, you promise yourself to come back again…. and again!
The Jatuchak (J.J. or Chatuchak) is a market that is built and teared down every weekend was originally created to encourage local handy craft artists. Although the market still counts an impressive amount of local craftsmen, it has evolved to become a shopping heaven for designers and people like me. Thanks a million to my friend Julie for giving us a private tour of this shopping jungle and to have brought us to eat the best Pad Thai I could dream of.(http://www.bangkokpicture.com/pictures/jatuchak05.php)
Spending 3 days in Bangkok was a rich lesson of humility, and a fascinating understanding of the intertwined communication system that was developed through time as a survival tool for its population. Each person on the street from the tuk tuk driver, the official guard at the King’s palace gate to the rich merchant of emeralds is interrelated. A splendid supply chain to generate business to one another. Bangkok will gently extract every loose Thai bat a tourist has, but will do it in a kind and informative way, using an intelligent choreography of eye contacts, gestures, pre-negotiated patterns and interconnection based on human solidarity. As my brother Pierre would so rightly say: If you have a problem with this intelligent survival extortion system when you are a wealthy North American, go see “Doctor Get-over-it” and move on.
Bangkok is a city of extremes: In one day, my brother and I witnessed the greatest poverty I had seen in my life (I know India is worst but I have not seen it) and finished the day in the most spectacular bar restaurant (Sirocco, also called “the Dome”) located on the roof of the tallest building of Thailand (Estate building). http://www.thedomebkk.com/web/corp_about.html
Kindness, gentle smiles and beautiful people who successfully kept their dignity through the challenges of life is my in-printed image of my recent trips. In Bali, a simple “Thank you”, “Hello” and “Good morning” in their language will bring you the world and as a bonus, if you want to bargain the price of the world… they will love you for it.
My brother (contrary to me) does not like to bargain, particularly when the people he is trying to buy from hardly make a basic living.
-How much for this bag?-$200,000 rupiahs ($25)
- OK! says my brother
- No Sir!, answered the lady who hand makes those beautiful batik bags, I say a price and you say one than I say another price, we go like this until we agree on a price!
- I am OK with the price answered my brother, I don’t want to negotiate.
- Ya! but Sir it is the game, this is the way we set prices in Indonesia.
This is where I barged in and said:
- OK, I will give you $30,000 rupiahs for the big bag.
- Ah! no Mam, it is too low, they are hand made by me and it takes a long time.
-OK, I will give you $40K, final price.
- All right Mam, $50,000, but I will make no profit on it.
My brother looked at me savoring my victory with a smile on my face, I was proud of my bargaining drill, when I heard him say:
- $50,000 rupiahs is $5.00 Canadian and I don’t understand that someone can live selling her hard work for so little. What is $25 (the original price) worth to you Helene?
For a moment I felt he was right and I did feel cheap, but the lady was happy to have sold 2 bags (each $5.00) and 2 belts (I negotiated as well). I could see in her face the satisfaction of having played the game and the legendary Balinese smile made her face glow again. We then went next door to a good French restaurant where we blew a small fortune on wine and great food. I don’t remember well the taste of the wine, nor the flavour of the Tuareg couscous we ate , yet I love and see the $5.00 bag I gave to Annabelle every day and it is a reminder of how people of Bali know more about kindness and generosity than I will ever do.
My next visit in Bali will be in April for my boyfriend’s birthday, and I already know that I will play the game again just to see their beautiful eyes and smiles light up the room, but I will ensure that I stop before I ruthlessly eat the shirt (or the sarong) off a poor woman’s back or get a carved wood piece of art for $7 when the man took almost an hour to carve it before my eyes.
Bali brought peace to my hectic life and I could not get enough of its beauty. My brother Pierre and I hired a private guide called Madé, to visit the entire island from left to right, from North to South. The rice fields surrounding Ubud become pieces of art when mixed with the end of day sunlight and each village has its own specialty of Handy craft: a village for the stone carving, one for the wood carving, one for the bricks in which houses are built and one for the roof tiles. There are as many different crafts as there are villages and my brother had such a good laugh when we saw the village specialized in fake antics. They are really good at it!
Our private tour guide Madé is the second child of his family. In Bali a first born child is called Wayan, the second: Madé, the third: Nyoman, the fourth: Ketuk and at five, you start over the list adding Balik to the name Wayan. The fifth one is therefore called Wayan Balik and the list repeats itself. Women and men are called the same and all you need to add to the name is “i” (or “e” if you pronounce it in English) to the man’s name and “ni” (pronounced knee) for the woman: Ni Madé and i Madé for the man.
-So Madé, what do you do with your beautiful family on the weekend?
I always ask because I am curious to find out the resemblance or the difference of life style when visiting other countries. I want to know everything about cultures and traditional customs.
-Do you gather with friends over dinner or you bring the kids to the park, tell me about your free time with your family? I followed to say.
Madé looked at me with a puzzled face and answered:
- We work every day of our lives and we don’t have weekends or vacations like you do in America. I am tired and when I come home, the little time we have we use it to take care of the necessary things for our house and family.
Madé’s wife takes care of a silk and batik boutique in the centre of Ubud. I bought a silk sarong from her and did not try to bring the price down this time around. She is a stunning beauty with a smile and a personality bigger than life. My expert brother Pierre kept on telling Madé that he married Miss Bali and that no one comes close to the beauty of his young wife, anywhere on the island of Bali. Madé was rightfully very proud and we could not resist to capture this beautiful family in photo.
Hopefully, one day, Madé and his gorgeous family of two kids will make their dream of owning a boutique come true, but meanwhile if I can tell enough people to use Madé as a private tour guide when visiting Bali, I will have succeeded to contribute a little bit in shaping their dream. I know what it is to dream and to make it happen. It only takes a magic wan and I am lucky enough to have found one!
Now Australia! I cannot say enough about the beauty of Sydney. If the rest of Australia is populated with as many beautiful peoples as Sydney, I can only think they should have called it “temptation island”. From the moment I took the Airbus 380 (yes I did!), I felt like a 4 course gourmet meal to their eyes. As much as Singapore men are shy and will not directly look at a woman, Australians are the complete opposite. If any single girls feel discouraged with men in their part of the world, spend the money on a plane ticket to Australia, the land of Marlboro man! The best ego booster a woman can get.
Let me clarify something, the adjective “Marlboro man” does not mean that they smoke cigarettes, it means they look like the man in the advertising. If I wanted to put a ratio figure to the ad, I would say that 25% of Sydney’s population is absolutely gorgeous!! Women too (especially when they are young).
The minute I would step out of the hotel, the interaction would start:
- May I help you with anything? Perhaps you can tell me where you wish to go and I will guide you Miss. Says the Marlboro man with a look that revealed he was also a surfer when he was off his advertising billboard’s duty. He looked at me straight in the eyes and I knew he was not kidding, nor working for the city.
- I’ll be all right, I am just looking to understand the schedule of the ferries to go to “Manly” beach (real name of this beach and perfect name too).
Now I can hear all my girlfriends wondering why I pushed him away the way I did and perhaps one could think that there are so many gorgeous man in Australia that you can afford to think “I will start flirting tomorrow”. The truth is that I had committed to a serious relationship the month prior to my trip to Australia and this was the ultimate test to see if my decision was the right one.
I survived the test of “temptation island” and my boyfriend Pierre was a real man himself to have survived my business trip to Australia, while he was traveling himself to Los Angeles and Denver. There was no doubt that he had a few sweat while hearing me savoring all the details of my multiple Marlboro interactions during the week.
But Sydney on its own, is just breath taking. I had a night cruise with customers that I cannot erase from my mind and over a week’s time, I had the opportunity of walking many portions of this fabulous city. I felt as if I was in Canada: very similar in climate (except for our vicious winters), in structure and in mentality. I felt like home in Australia! It was a great feeling. I could live there tomorrow.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see that my work was well known in Australia and that they where waiting for me to help them implement my strategies. I also was the MC of the worldwide Premier Partners Convention and a speaker at the event. During this conference I heard one of the most inspiring speech from Li Cunxin (his book is called “Mao’s last dancer”), the most fabulous story of how determination, work and focus can break the greatest barriers of life. After his speech, you could have heard the tears dropping from the 300 peoples in the room. I had the pleasant job of going back on stage to break the ice and continue the conference. This was a small barrier compare to his.
Overall it was a fantastic trip and at a certain moment, I felt a bit euphoric: I was in Australia, for myself and not for anyone else, at the other end of the planet, living my international dream and being recognized for my work, all at once…with Sydney as a background.
Laying on the beach of Bondi with my ipod in my ears and surfers running around me, I thought to myself: Terima kasih life, matur suksma la vie! …..then, I text messaged Pierre because happiness reaches its peak when it is shared!
Here is Madé’s phone number in Bali if you decide to go live your own trip.
Once you are in Bali, you dial it the way it is written above.
P.S: Some of the pictures are mine, some are from my brother Pierre as I lost many of mine in the wipe out of my computer. He is a much better photographer than me anyways. Some photos of me are from Pierre Rouleau.