I wondered why…

I wondered why I was suddenly getting all these emails from PR companies wanting me to promote travel products on this blog.

Turns out that the official blog of Queensland has listed me as number three in their post on the ‘41 Australian travel blogs and bloggers to follow in 2013‘. Thanks Queensland, I really appreciate it! It’s always nice to get appreciation for what I’m writing.

But somewhat ironically, they linked to me just as I have returned back to Australia and put the backpack in the cupboard for a while!

I hope the blog is still useful for travellers though. You might want to check out the Indonesia, Bali, Malaysia, Timor-Leste, or USA categories for travel photos and tips.

Also, Travelfish is an excellent resource for SE Asia travellers.

Five years of betty loves blogging!

It’s basically almost nearly been five years since I started this blog.  Crazy!

I’ve had other blogs in the past, but this one has been the one I’ve kept for the longest and it has probably also been the most interesting, probably more by the virtue of my having the opportunity to go to interesting places rather than by any specific effort to be interesting.  Plus my photos have gotten better too I think!

Since starting this blog I’ve lived in Sydney, Jakarta, Washington, Canberra and Dili…. that’s five cities in five years.  Hmm.  I really am a gypsy.  It’s (on the whole) been fun though!

I might try to pull some old posts from one of my old blogs when I was in Europe and put them in here too for posterity.  Actually, I think I first mentioned that I was going to do that about five years ago when I started this blog, and I still haven’t…. so we’ll see.

I’m a working non-family, how about you?

Barely a day goes by without our faithful leader, PM Julia Gillard, or our faithful swimsuit-model-wannabe-leader Mr Abbott, dropping the “W.F.” bomb. Working families. Sometimes it is “H.W.F”, or hardworking families, when they feel like sticking it to all those out there who self-identify as lazy. Which is nobody.

We’ve seen plenty of this recently. Depending on who is talking, working families will either feel nothing from the carbon tax or will be reduced to begging on street corners to scrape together enough spare change to afford to turn on the plasma long enough to watch Masterchef each night.

According to every single one of our political leaders, their policies will never, ever negatively impact on working families. The concerns of working families are paramount to both sides of the political spectrum. All in all, it seems that working families alone yield the total sum of political power in the country. No matter your views on the carbon tax, they are grazing on a pretty sweet political paddock (and generating a fair bit of greenhouse gas in the process) in terms of their ability to influence.

However, this raises an important question. Ummm… WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF US? Funnily enough, some Australians don’t actually fit into the much-loved yet problematic “working families” category of swing voter. Let’s try to break it down, even though it’s actually fairly difficult to pigeonhole an entire population with any degree of accuracy.

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Dangdut Detox

After a week of carbon pricing BS, sometimes you just need some DANGDUT. Goyang lagi yuuuuuk! Ah!

And really, my trials and tribulations reading The Daily Telegraph and the like are nothing compared to what Inul Daratista has had to go through for the right to shake her booty (aka goyang, or ‘drilling’).

Which of her jumpsuits is your favourite?  I love the yellow.

I’m a bit too tired to translate the whole song, but the gist of it is that Inul is sarcastically apologising to her critics for being too “seksi”… then shaking her booty all up in their faces with dramatic electric guitar riffs.

My favourite line is this:

“Ada yang bilang/ dangdut tak goyang/ bagai sayur tanpa garam /kurang enak/kurang sedap”
Rough translation: “Some say dangdut (the name of this genre of music) without goyang (shaking/drilling/gyrating in Inul’s distinctive style) is like vegetables without salt – less than delicious, not pleasurable.”

Another great line, that perhaps explains why I am drawn to watching Inul’s hypnotic gyrations:
“Seribu satu macam problema/ sejenak kita lupakan saja/ lihat goyang Inul / semoga terhibur sayang”
English: “One thousands types of problems are forgotten in a moment when we watch Inul (the singer) goyang (shake). I hope you are entertained, darling/honey.”

Carbon fatigue

I’ve had a super hectic week, and a large chunk of it has involved reading freight trains full of mainstream media content on the carbon tax announcement.  I’ve also been attending a conference at the ANU on the Asia-Pacific, with a particular focus on China.

I should start by saying that I took a pretty in-depth class on Climate Change Policy and Economics at the ANU this year, so I would say I am relatively informed on the carbon tax issue, though not a climate change specialist by any means (or an economist). I have an interest in market-based carbon pricing initiatives and international architectures for climate response.  I’ve tried to make a real push this year to really inform myself on climate change, as I don’t think it is an issue that is going to go away and the dynamics at the international level between developed and developing countries on issues such as allocations and offset schemes particularly interest me.

That being said, drowning in the mainstream media coverage around this issue has just been exhausting and depressing. The lack of balance, the lack of analysis, the lack of anything except pulling random numbers out of the scheme and quoting industry leaders screaming about job losses (in sectors that are quite frankly unlikely to see any shift in demand for at least a decade or so, carbon price or not, or sectors that are relatively inelastic in terms of demand, raking in large profits over the past few years and unable to move offshore *cough cough* i.e. THE AUSTRALIAN ELECTRICITY SECTOR THAT IS NOT POOR *cough cough*).

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Two exciting photo related things…

The lovely Mark has featured my image on his blog and has picked a wonderful piece of new music to go along with it.  Pop on over to his great new blog, Music Sounds Better With a View, which pairs photography and new music together, to have a look and a listen!  Thanks for featuring my image!  I love the track you chose to go with it!

Also, in other exciting photo-related news…

This image was handpicked a few days back by the photo editor at RedBubble and was featured on their front page!  I took this on my little point and shoot down in Dupont Circle station one night when I was waiting for the metro… I actually think I may have been slightly intoxicated at the time due to sangria consumption.  But it has been appreciated apparently, which is nice! (I still haven’t sold ANY prints on RedBubble though… don’t think it is exactly a moneyspinner lol).

There’s a clip of the image on the front page.  You can view the image on RedBubble by clicking here.

Perhaps the most heartening about this was that I took this photo on my little point and shoot that I keep in my handbag, not my fancy-pants SLR that got stolen.  It’s a good reminder that I should keep shooting even though I only have very back-t0-basics equipment right now…

NYC Barbershop

This barbershop group were singing up a storm outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.  They were pretty great and a lot of people started gathering on the steps to watch.

The singers were very expressive, and warmed up my mood after I had been wandering around the city being assaulted by the wintry wind.  I also heard some other great street performers during my brief visit to NYC, including the Subway Mariachi Band, who invaded subway carriages singing funny songs, and some amazing African drummers.

A quick search on YouTube showed that they are a regular fixture in the city.

Kasihan Indonesia

Photograph by Slamet Riyadi, AP

Sorry for the upsetting image.  It was so powerful I couldn’t pass it up.

Poor Indonesia.  Mt Merapi, a volcano in Central Java, not too far from Yogyakarta, continues to belch hot ash and gases into the air, creating more internally displaced persons and more deaths.

Read more on the NY Times

Read more on Jakarta Globe

See this video on YouTube of the ash covered towns following one of the earlier eruptions.

Some pictures of Merapi from when I visited the area in April.

The victims of the tsunami that recently hit the Mentawai islands, off Padang in West Sumatra, following an earthquake are struggling too.  Read more at The Jakarta Globe. The death toll is estimated at some 427 people.  The isolated Mentawai islands were already impoverished before the wave hit, with high incidences of malaria and other diseases.

If you want to help, there are a few ways to donate.

Surf Aid International, based in Padang and with a long relationship working in the Mentawai islands to fight malaria, is collecting donations to help those who have lost their homes.

You can also donate to support the work to help those displaced or injured in the areas affected by the Merapi eruption.

The Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia)  has a campaign running for those in Indonesia to donate.

I haven’t found a reputable way I am willing to endorse for people in Australia to donate for Merapi yet… if anyone knows a good one, please let me know.

A contact at the embassy here in DC suggested Indonesia Relief USA for those who are stateside and want to help out with a donation.

I’ve visited many sites of former (or ongoing like Sidoarjo..) disasters in Indonesia, including Banda Aceh, Pangandaran and Bukit Lawang.  Indonesia has faced far, far, far, far more disasters than it deserves, but the people are resilient and strong, so I know that with assistance, those affected by these latest disasters will be able to get back on their feet.

I just hope Mt Merapi calms down as soon as possible, and no more lives are lost.  And to all my friends in Yogyakarta, and all my journalist friends covering the story, please stay safe x

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

Rally
Where’s Wally? (Or Where’s Waldo, if you happen to be American)

Yes, I along with every other moderate or left leaning or politically aware 20-something or 30-something or older DC-ite was down at the National Mall on Saturday for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

It was jam packed.  Nobody can seem to agree on crowd estimates, but it was big.  Obviously not Obama inauguration big and probably not “I have a dream…” big, but still sizeable.  The Metro system couldn’t cope at all… from Columbia Heights, where I live, all the buses were full and the queue at the metro station was backed up to the escalators.  I ended up having to walk the 7km to the National Mall… and it was almost like a procession, gathering people along 14th St as everyone trudged along, grumbling about Metro’s lameness along the way but also talking excitedly about politics and stuff.

Once I got down there, very late mind you, there was no way I could get anywhere near close to the center of the action or a view of the stage.  But there was still plenty to look at.  Crazy costumes (the rally fell on the Halloween weekend) and funny protest signs were all over the place.

Rally

Rally

Some great signs included:
- “Run spell cek on sign”
- “I want a sandwich”
- “Let’s just pretend I give a shit and leave it at that”
- “I’m already regretting having to carry a sign around all day”
- and “I should be doing my paper right now.” One that I could relate to especially.

Rally

View of the crowd towards the National Mall

So, the crowd was fun and friendly, the weather was a nice sunny but chilly Fall day and some of the jokes were funny, even though I couldn’t hear much from where I was… it was all very muffled, they needed more speakers for that size of crowd.

But what was this all about?

That’s a good question.  I wasn’t really sure when I was down there… but I couldn’t hear a lot.  Some people at the rally were definitely mocking the vocal minority (especially the tea party) and using very “meta” and “ironic” signs to express their thoughts and feelings that the majority of them were too busy to be out waving signs every weekend, or weren’t radically minded, yet those that shout the loudest fill the most time on the nation’s 24 hour news cable channels.

There seemed to be a feeling that more unity was required in the country and that media coverage and politics needed to be less divisive… there were signs making points that taxes were actually required to pay for things like education.  There were also some people actually supporting government (perhaps not that surprising in DC, I guess…). The age range at the rally was really diverse… it really went across the spectrum.  I’d say there were more 20-somethings and 30-somethings than any other group, but other age groups were certainly representing.

I didn’t really see any tea partiers… which surprised me a little, as I thought they would try and hijack it to do something crazy or whatever.

Then there were some people down there and I’m not sure what they were trying to do.  There were quite a few people with signs to legalize marijuana (and quite a few wafts of that substance could be detected on the frosty Fall breeze, I might add…).  I didn’t know if they were trying to be really meta, because nearly all big protests have members of the pro-pot lobby showing up, or whether they were being totally serious.

But overall, it seemed like an upbeat crowd who seemed grateful of the invitation to come out and show by their physical presence that they were unhappy with the political situation in their country, unhappy with the mainstream media coverage of politics and would like rationality to make a comeback in the public sphere.

The atmosphere in DC last weekend was just buzzing… so many people had friends who had come into town to crash on sofas or floors so they could attend the rally, there were Halloween parties, there were people around everywhere and there were joke protest signs strewn around the city in the windows of take out stores and cafes.  All in all, it felt like some sort of cumulative catharsis for the moderates and lefties in a country that has been going through a bit of a rough patch.

But then the midterm elections happened on Tuesday, and the mood in DC seemed to drop again after that…  and Fox News keeps on hatin’, so I’m not sure whether it actually had any real, tangible impact beyond being a one-off support group meeting for the wry and the restless.

Mousemobile

Our family owns a little red Hyundai.

For a while it was mine.  I had it up in Sydney, zipping around to interviews and to take photographs, with my straightened newsreader cut hair in a snappy little outfit.

After a couple of years in an office job where I never had to leave the office, my snappy dressing toned down dramatically… but the car is the one that really let itself go while I was in the tropics.  It was not entirely Mr Hyundai’s fault though I have to say.

When I went to Indonesia, the red Hyundai became my brother’s vehicle of choice. In fact, “when I moved to Indonesia” was the last time the car had been cleaned until I came back from Indonesia.  It was filled with crap, and still jetlagged, I took it and cleaned it out so I could drive it up to Sydney.  Hard yakka.

Five weeks later, my bro has filled it with so much rubbish and crap again that I would be ashamed to take any non-relative passengers in it again.

But tonight, when I was driving up to work, a new level of disgusting was reached.

A chip packet STARTED MOVING.  Something was thrashing around inside it.  THERE WAS A MOUSE IN THE DAMN CAR!!!

I squealed so much, thank god I was only a block or so from work.  It was also fortunate I was at traffic lights when it started moving around, otherwise I may have crashed the car out of shock.

Regular readers may remember how much I hate being in enclosed spaces with rodents.  I was not impressed.

I have no idea how it got in there.  But at least my bro is cleaning the car now.

Nanna was a bicyclist

My nanna has dementia.  It’s getting worse.  Some days she is OK, some days she is terrible, driving my poor uncle, who is selflessly caring for her full time, understandably crazy.

It’s a sad disease, especially when it impacts younger people.  But it can also be oddly hysterically funny.  It feels wrong to laugh at, but until there is some sort of cure, those caring for someone with the disease deserve to be able to see the lighter side of it, I feel, if only to keep their own sanity.  Answering the same questions over again every five minutes is frustrating even for just a few hours, let alone every day.

My grandmother’s sister suffered from Alzheimer’s, and I remember as a child thinking it quite hilarious when she would take dirty dishes, “dry” them with a tea towel and then put them away in the cupboard as if they had been washed, forgetting the crucial step of actually washing them.  That being said, I wasn’t the one that had to go through the cupboards to find the dirty plates, often with chunks of food still on them, and clean up the mess.  I also wasn’t tasked with having to try and tactfully dissuade her from helping out with the dishes anymore.

But my grandmother takes the hilarity to a whole new level.  Nanna’s latest annoyance is the failure of my mother to return her bicycle, which my mother borrowed when she grew out of her child bike and needed a new ride up to the high school when she was aged 12, circa 1972.  The bike got many years of use.  When we were young kids, mum and dad took us out on rides on the bike, which by then had a child seat fastened on the back.  But it is now 2010, some 38 years after the original loan, and Nanna wants the bike back.  So she can go riding.  Even though she is very elderly and has troubles hobbling around the house.

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Like the photos? Now you can have one on your wall.

Tiger Tiger, PenangPrints of some of my photographs are now available to buy at RedBubble!  If you want to spice up a wall or can’t think of a good gift for someone, check it out!

I’ve tried to pick photos that I think would look good on walls and for interior design-y type stuff… but they also print postcards.  Maybe they could be used for dinner party invitations or something fun like that!  Who knows!  It’s up to you!

The prices are very reasonable and any purchase you make will be helping me a little with my education costs :)

If there’s any photos from the blog which you want as a print, but are not yet in my RedBubble gallery, let me know and I’ll get it organised.

Get browsing over here.  Pass it on to your friends if you think they might be interested!

Tiger picture is from a temple in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.

Bits and bobs

cooking-34 Contrary to popular belief, I am doing some freelancing on the road.  It’s the type of freelancing I would class as “hardly investigative”, but it’s been keeping me occupied and badly paid, just like if I had a real journalism job.

So here’s a few links to some recent writings.

1.  Remember, ages ago, I alluded to actually telling you all about how much I enjoyed attending the Casa Luna cooking school in Ubud, Bali?  Well, I ended up writing about it for the Jakarta Globe, so you can read about it all over there.  The picture on the left shows some of the dishes that we made in class… so yummy!

2.  I wrote a (according to some commentators) rather humorous piece for the Jakarta Globe called “I love you Indonesia, but please stop trying to kill me.” It’s written in the style of a monologue to a slightly abusive lover.  You can read it here.

3.  During my stint at language school in Yogyakarta, I wrote a piece of mind article about the rewards of studying Bahasa Indonesia.  You can also read that one over here at the Jakarta Globe.

The main project I’ve been working on over the last fortnight isn’t live yet, but when it is… I’ll let you all know.  All five of you that read the blog.

On an entirely different note, does anyone have any pointers for boosting my blog traffic?  Because this is not a niche blog and is more of a “whatever” blog, it’s hard to promote… and I love writing posts and taking photos for it, but the traffic numbers and comments are so few :(

Need some joy? Kick a poo!!

food-2

Need some fun in your day?  Need some joy?  Need to develop a new hobby without the expense of purchasing a football?  Or maybe you just need a good beverage inspired by the world’s most biodegradable sporting equipment.

KICK A POO JOY JUICE IS FOR YOU!!!

Spotted today in a coffee shop here in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia… a huge banner for Kickapoo Joy Juice.  What a name.

I also have no idea what they are doing on that illustration on the can.  Barbequeing themselves?  The levitating elephant might be pooping and the other guy kicking?  I dunno.

Immature I know, but I’m the same girl that laughed for days after discovering Poo brand tofu in Jakarta.

Their Website doesn’t seem to be working though, so I can’t find out more.  How sad.