Sunday, 27 September 2015

Plastic Paradise


Can you imagine a world where all your containers are made from natural materials like banana leaf or bamboo, without the need for plastic bags or Styrofoam cups? 

banana leaf used as a container

Do you remember grocery shopping with your grandma and her woven straw basket? Well, this was the reality in Indonesia up until a few years ago. The sad reality today is that the locals have no clue of how to dispose of a plastic water bottle or a used chocolate wrapper or the Pop Mie Styrofoam cup (instant noodles)…hence their constant presence by the roadside, on beaches, in rivers.

Packaging must be one of the earth's worst enemies today.

While unpacking the domestic appliances we bought for our new home, it was no surprise that there would be several layers of plastic packaging. However, the quantity was outrageous. It took me well over 2 hours to remove every bit of plastic around the free-standing cooker. Every inch of the cooker was sealed in plastic (the sticky kind). There was plastic actually screwed in to the appliance! 

To add insult to injury, all the bathroom fittings came with their very own sticker label not only on the packaging but also on the products themselves. This meant copious amounts of rubbing with thinner to remove all the sticky parts.

And the glass panes for the windows also came with their own individual sticker.

Suggestion to retailers in Indonesia..."please provide us with a means of disposing of all the unnecessary packaging"

Tip: Make sure to have lots of thinner to hand when unpacking brand new house stuff; it makes sticker removal slightly easier.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Windows and Doors

"Freedom is the open window through which pours the sunlight of the spirit and human dignity" Herbert Hoover

On the subject of windows, we had endless deliberations on whether to have windows or doors around the facade of the house. The house was entirely open on three sides. Would we build walls or retain the openness? Would we have a front door or would we simply access the kitchen and downstairs bedroom from outside? Being located at beach/street level, privacy is something we had to bear in mind.

We were quite enamoured with the idea of floor to ceiling aluminium sliding doors. Of course these come in various levels of quality and cost. For this we would need specialist fitters to measure and fit the aluminium doors. These would have to come all the way from Bali.

After days of discussion, we decided to look into the local window/glass suppliers. We found out that the glass thickness available here is the thinnest you could possibly get. After being assured that aluminium doors/windows in white colour were available, we asked to see a sample of the work. We were shown a DVD shop with aluminium doors...the quality is akin to that of the very first aluminium I ever remember back home in the 80s. The type that rattles with large gaps between the doors and can be easily bashed in. It is these instances that remind you that you are in a developing country.

wooden door frame is installed in bedroom

So we ended up opting for wooden windows made on site. Teak is widely available in Sumbawa. It was our wood of choice as it is a hard wood that termites struggle to penetrate. 

lots of windows!
masking tape in place

Moreover, as the frame of the house is not perfectly straight, the windows are all different in size. The next decision was whether to stick with the wood finish or paint the windows white. We opted for white paint on all the downstairs fixtures and kept the wooden look on the first floor. This meant that the paint was splattered in tiny dots all over the window panes. Thinner came in handy once again! In order to prevent further spots, I told the guys to use masking tape on the windows while they painted...little did I know that the tape would end up sticking to the glass.

bedroom doors are fitted in place

bedroom doors ready to be painted

voila! the final look

Anther consideration was whether to have curtains or blinds on the windows/ doors. The local curtain tailor has limited materials and probably limited experience of western style curtains. Having set my mind on a nautical look, I was keen on navy blue-and-white striped curtains. So I ventured into Jalan Sulawesi in the commercial heart of crazy Denpasar (Bali). This is where the textile merchants are located. Shop after shop of lovely fabrics but not the navy blue and white I had in mind. Out of nowhere a Balinese woman came to my rescue and escorted me to a few shops but to no avail. Eventually we went to a specialist curtain shop and had a look at a few sample booklets. Just as we were about to leave the shop, the owner managed to find a tiny booklet of stripy fabrics. And there it was...the navy blue and white cotton. Today it hangs proudly in the bedroom.

nautical look achieved

And the front door is a beautiful heavy teak door which was inspired by a photo on Pinterest. The result is amazing!

Tip: No matter how challenging it may be to find the right solution, do not let anything phase you.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Sea

"The SEA, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever" (Jacques Cousteau)

Growing up in Malta, I spent my summers at the beach. The sea is its own world.
It offers a plethora of activities from sailing to surfing to snorkeling and scuba diving.

The first time I scuba dived it felt as if time stood still in the underwater world. It felt utterly peaceful. No worries. No stress. Life just floats past you.

I travelled to many locations just to witness the beauty of the marine world. Little did I know that I would get to live so close to it.  When we went out on an exploratory snorkeling session outside our new house, we were surprised to see a wide array of tropical fish. It was breathtaking.  As we ventured out further, however, I witnessed something even more breathtaking. I was mesmerized watching the fish when out of the corner of my eye I could feel a large fish swimming in the distance. I turned round to see a white tip reef shark around 2.5 metres in length swimming in the opposite direction. I surfaced like a lightning bolt to call out to my partner who was snorkeling a short distance away. For some reason, not having the perceived ‘protection’ of my scuba gear made me fear the shark. On many occasions I have scuba dived with sharks and even followed them for photo opportunities but this time the feeling was different.

As I snorkeled closer to shore the following day I observed a strange object moving under a coral reef. After several minutes I figured out that I was observing the tail of a sting ray, as it flew out from under the reef and swam hurriedly away.

These sightings are a promise of greater discoveries to be made as we embark on our Sumbawa adventure!

Tip: Always carry a snorkel with you to the beach; you never know what surprises await you underwater