This morning, we had a private yoga class at the villa. Putu, the instructor, is a man of indeterminate age and extraordinary suppleness. I on the other hand am as stiff as a rusty sardine tin. He made us bend and stretch in all sorts of unnatural positions but you get the sense after a while that sitting behind a desk all day isn't what our bodies were meant to do. It was difficult - at least for me - but the birds were there in full force encouraging us with song. "Always make smile to your body" was Putu's opening instruction. I'll try to remember that.
We spent this morning rafting along the Ayung River in Bali. It's the longest river on the island and starts in the mountains in the north and travels some 75 km before emptying itself into the Bandung Strait. Ayung, I'm told means beautiful, and it most certainly was. We hiked through the forest and down a steep gorge with the aid of concrete steps someone had thoughtfully cut into the hillside. I heard a repetitive squawking that got louder as we went and I had to ask the guide, "Is that a bird?" The guide's name was Spunky by the way and he's been a river guide for 20 years. Walking up and down the gorge every day hasn't helped him lose much weight because he's as round as a barrel and laughs like he's overflowing with good things. So he laughed at my question. "That's not a bird, that's a water pump!" You know you're close to paradise when a water pump sounds just like a bird.
The Ayung is gentle, at least along the stretch we were on. The rapids soon dissipate, as if they'd never been angry and threatening in the first place, leaving the water to meander slowly through the gorge. Most of the other rafters were Chinese - we had a couple from Hunan Province in our boat - and they have this annoying habit of splashing each other by smacking their oars onto the water. That seemed to be the highlight of their day and left me wishing I knew how to say "Cut that out!" in Mandarin.
One stretch of the river is absolutely breathtaking. A magnificent frieze of moss covered sculptures depicting the pantheon of Hindu belief is carved into the wall of the gorge and right down to the water. The sight was so beautiful and unexpected, everyone went quiet and even the Chinese forgot to splash each other for a while. Now and then a little kiosk beckoned from the river bank where you could buy a drink or a snack. Further downstream, the Ayung winds its way through opulent hotels with pristine lawns and ornate gazebos for their guests to dine in luxury. We were done around lunchtime and had an excellent buffet lunch before climbing back out of the gorge. Now my daughter wants us to take an Indonesian chef back with us or at the very least, buy our helper in Johannesburg an Indonesian cook book. Somehow I don't think her cooking will ever improve but that's a story for another day.
Today was our first day in Bali, having flown in this morning from Singapore. Some aspects of the drive from Denpasar Airport to Ubud where we're staying, are distinctly African. Small craft shops spill over onto the road and rather like Benin, there are motorcyclists everywhere. I saw a young female rider with one hand grasping the handlebar while with the other she held a cell phone to her ear. Reckless but not particularly remarkable I hear you say. I must add she had a toddler balanced between the handlebars while she chatted away on her mobile. She was very lovely though as most Balinese women seem to be and reinforces my theory that beautiful women get away with pretty much anything they choose to get away with.
The other day my daughter went off to Great Zimbabwe on a school trip. It's in Zimbabwe in case you were wondering. She's 12 years old and goes to the French school here in Johannesburg. Before the trip the teacher in charge organised a rather heated question and answer session to give details about the excursion. She got to the part where she read out the names of the teachers who would be going along with the kids. This was all in the interest of reassuring the parents, most of whom are French expatriates, that they would in fact see their children again.
She called out "Madame Dupont," to a murmur of Gallic appreciation. Likewise Madame Clichy. And Madame Thiam. Then she called out the name of Madame Z and a small boy in the back of the hall shouted out at the top of his voice,
I guess Madame Z isn't his favourite teacher. A bientôt.
Yesterday I watched Arsenal huff and puff and eventually lose in the FA Cup to a woeful Blackburn Rovers. As tomorrow is my birthday, I've decided to give the Gunners a gift of the deadly striker they so desperately need. Moi.
So how about it Mr. Wenger? I wouldn't cost anything close to what you paid for Chamakh, Bendtner or Gervinho and there's a good chance I'd score a few of the sitters they've missed over the years. And if I show up late for training it would only be because I was still counting my last week's wages. Actually you could even pay me once a month, like a real world employee. What's that? You don't offer contracts to over forties? Who's been spreading rumours now? I'm not a day older than Gervinho and I don't have two left feet.
Yesterday I went to a wedding. I'd mentored Edward in the past although I'm sure I didn't teach him anything. His wife Noma is absolutely exquisite. However there's one thing I never told Edward during our mentoring sessions and that is the Secret to a Long and Happy Marriage. Since Edward and Noma are only a few hours into their lifelong journey, its only fitting that I share this gem of wisdom with them now.
An old man who'd been married for sixty years was asked, "How have you managed to stay happily married for so long?" The old man was a little deaf by then so they had to repeat the question and louder than before.
"Tell us, what is the secret to a long and happy marriage?".
The old man replied, "It's actually very simple. Very early on in our marriage we decided that I would take all the Major decisions and my wife would take all the Minor decisions." Seeing his listeners still didn't understand, the old man added, "You see, in sixty years of marriage, we've never had to make a Major decision."
I guess the photo says it all. Later today when Ghana's Black Stars take on the Blue Sharks of Cape Verde, the nation will come to a standstill. As no doubt the Cape Verde islanders will as well. In Accra you can almost do without a television set or a radio whenever the Black Stars play. The city falls eerily silent during the game then all of a sudden, you hear a loud cheer or a devastating groan and you're left in no doubt as to the score. My prediction for this afternoon? Three Cheers and One Groan.
"If this is the dream God has placed in your heart, who are you to doubt?"