SRI LANKA: When history repeats itself

SRI LANKA: When history repeats itself

I haven’t hugged my oldest daughter in almost three years. It will be three full years in October. I will never forget the last hug we had at the immigrations desk in the Phuket airport when the officials were checking her travel documents.

She was happy to be going back to see my sisters and her friends and I knew it was the best plan of action for her. Now all that has worn off and I just miss her terribly.

There are situations in my life that make it hard for me to go and visit so I just wait and wait for the day that it will magically happen.

The little ones see their sister on skype once in a while but it gets harder for me every time. The smallest one asks when we can go ride horses with my sisters; one of them is a junior jockey and the other wants to be a veterinarian. My son wants to visit the city where his big sister lived as a baby in the mountains of Peru.

I sent my daughter off on a plane to Peru on her own when she was almost 15.

The author's daughter when she was 10 years old.

The author’s daughter when she was 10 years old.

My mom sent me off on a plane to Peru on my own when I was 17 and I since then (21 years) I have seen her for two weeks every year at most. I though that this experience would make me tougher for the situation with my daughter but I was wrong; what it has done is make me feel what my mother felt. This feeling is a complete emotional disaster.

I used to write hate letters to my mom for sending me away. My mom did it in the hopes of giving me a more stable life, my daughter asked to go back because she missed her old life. She is stronger than me, definitely smarter than me and I respect that so much.

She wants to be a musician and an orchestra conductor. I couldn’t be more in awe of that. She plays the piano piece she is practicing with for her music college exam over skype sometimes. She does so well. She is excited about going to the conservatory and studies hard to get good grades. She is lucky to not have as many hang ups as me.

Every few months I get messages from people saying how they ran into her and what a wonderful and beautiful young woman she is. My mom used to get messages about how irresponsible and crazy I was, with an unhealthy dose of drug use that was obvious in my demeanor. I even get messages that say, she isn’t crazy like you were.

Thankfully even when history repeats itself it isn’t all exactly the same. I am happy about that. I am happy she feels comfortable in the place where she is at; I never did and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

This is an original article by World Mom Orana Velarde in Sri Lanka

Orana Velarde

Orana is a Writer, Artist, Mother and Wife; Peruvian Expat currently living in Kyiv, Ukraine with her husband and children. She works as a writer, designer and social media manager for diverse organizations around the world.

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SRI LANKA: Monsoon season arrives with Facebook Safety Checks

SRI LANKA: Monsoon season arrives with Facebook Safety Checks

Monsoon season is on the brink.

To make things interesting there was a Tropical Depression that started in Sri Lanka and made its way to India, flooding everything in it’s path. It turns out that “Flooding in Sri Lanka” made it to the Facebook Safety Check system and I promptly marked my family as “safe”.

There have unfortunately been a lot of displaced families and ruined homes. Landslides and too much water put Sri Lanka on the news. If you would like to donate to the flood victims please visit the site for YAMU that offers plenty of options for helping from abroad. Our family is in a safe area.

The two days of intense rain that cause the flooding got me thinking of how I always remember an occurrence of strong rain about every place I have lived in.

There are few things I like more than being inside at night with all the lights off and a thunderstorm raging. The way the lightning shines on everything for just a second; it’s like a dangerous magic sparkle.

The first time I ever saw real heavy rain was in Miami when I was 9 years old. I couldn’t believe that so much water could fall from the sky at once. In Lima, our rain was more like spittle in the air, making everything damp instead of washing away grime. The trees got moist but never really clean so the leaves stayed dirty from the soot that never washed away.

The rain in Miami was ruthless, it soaked you in seconds if you got caught outside, parks and streets flooded, the sky would explode in light and the wind would whistle between the houses. When I was 12 we experienced Hurricane Andrew and even if it was a bit scary, I fell in love with heavy rain. Since then, every place I have traveled to or lived in has been marked by episodes of rain.

When my oldest daughter was little, we lived in Cusco, a city in the Andes where rains are quite special. Rainbows are an every day occurrence and sun showers always took our breath away. Once in a while it would hail and the streets would get covered in little rivulets of ice pellets. I loved those days; the sound of hail hitting the roof was so loud we couldn’t hear each other talk.

When I left Cusco, the thing I missed the most was the beautiful cotton like clouds that formed against the crisp blue sky. I didn’t see those again until we arrived in Bangkok. What a sight, giant billowy formations over skyscrapers intertwined with wispy fingers over a deep blue sky that would suddenly turn grey and break loose like a thousand waterfalls. Rain so powerful that you couldn’t see the buildings across the street.

My kids have never been afraid of thunder and lightning, they get excited when they hear the rumbling getting closer and closer as a storm moves in. We watch from the window trying to guess where the next flash of lightning will strike.

Just another afternoon in Sri Lanka

A video posted by Crazy Little Family Adventure (@oranavelarde) on

I read a book once about a hippy commune in Goa, India. I clearly recall that the foreigners would disappear every year during the monsoon season. What a magical word, “monsoon”.

I didn’t realize the magnitude of a monsoon until we arrived in Phuket. The floods were maddening, the wind overpowering, the rains could last for days on end with no breaks or openings in the sky. Those were long, needless to say, wet days.

In the book Goa Freaks, the people that leave for the monsoon are the foreigners; obviously the locals stay. I am living this firsthand in Sri Lanka and the thing that surprises me the most is how people just go on with their lives, wading through the flood. The women in soaked saris going to work or getting things done without a care in the world. The strong rains are so common that it does not stop people from living. Life is just a little wet here on the shores of the Bengal Sea.

Is there a weather phenomenon that has stayed with you through time? Are your children scared of thunderstorms?

If you would like to donate to the Sri Lanka Flood Relief, please visit YAMU, there are plenty of online “from abroad” options if you are not in Sri Lanka

This is an original World Moms Blog post by Orana Velarde, Peruvian mother in Sri Lanka

Orana Velarde

Orana is a Writer, Artist, Mother and Wife; Peruvian Expat currently living in Kyiv, Ukraine with her husband and children. She works as a writer, designer and social media manager for diverse organizations around the world.

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Indonesia: Nyepi – Day of Silence and Reflection

Indonesia: Nyepi – Day of Silence and Reflection

March is a special month in Bali. Depending on the cycles of the moon, every year a specific day in March marks the special Nyepi celebration; a cultural phenomenon that leaves a mark in your soul no matter who you are or where you are from.12071761_10154707036094298_659663334_n

Every Saka Lunar Year, the Balinese people celebrate Nyepi, a day of complete silence, peace and contemplation. In stark contrast, the night before is the Ogoh Ogoh parade, a festivity full of loud sounds, crowds and spirited dancing. A few days prior to that is the Melasti celebration, during which temple gods are taken to the ocean for purification. Bali is known for daily rituals and celebrations of many kinds, but the week of Melasti and Nyepi are quite special.

If you are in Bali for Nyepi day, even if you are not Balinese, you must stay inside your house and make very little noise. No cars roam the streets and the airport is closed for 24 hours. At night, you cannot turn on your lights except for one or two candles. There is to be no work, no revelry and no cooking. Of course expats can cook inside our house just not a barbecue or with all the lights on.

Last week on March 9th, we experienced our second Nyepi in Bali and it was a little nicer than the first time. Last year our son was worried that he wouldn’t be able to talk for an entire day but felt better once our Balinese friend told him that children can talk but have to try really hard to not scream or create any scandal. This time we knew what to expect and were actually pretty excited.

You know what the best part of Nyepi is? The way the sky looks once the sun goes down.

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This morning I told my kids that I was going to write an article about Nyepi and asked them to tell me what their favorite thing about Nyepi was. My son said the Ogoh Ogohs and the eclipse. Indonesia was the one lucky spot on earth to experience the full solar eclipse on the same day as Nyepi. Unfortunately the full effect was only seen in other islands of Indonesia, not in Bali. The color of the sky did change a little bit and my son got up early in the morning to see that, even if he had gone to bed late from seeing the Ogoh Ogoh parade the night before!

My daughter said she liked the giant Ogoh Ogoh that was displayed in the beach neighborhood close to our house. In all truth we all liked it because it was huge, red, demonishly funny and had really big titties!

The Ogoh Ogohs are sculptures made of bamboo and Styrofoam that represent the demons and bad energy that has accumulated throughout the year. The night before silent day, all the Ogoh Ogohs; small ones made by groups of kids and really big ones made by the neighborhood groups area paraded on the streets for everyone’s enjoyment. The largest Ogoh Ogoh parade is in the city center in the Island’s capital Denpasar, but really the entire island participates in the Ogoh Ogoh parades. The tradition is that after the festivities the Ogoh Ogohs are burned to represent getting rid of all bad energy, but lately they are being made with non-organic materials and the Ogoh Ogoh stay displayed on street corners.

We don’t know if we will be in Bali for the next Nyepi, but what we do know is that we will never forget the feeling of waking up on Nyepi morning and not hearing traffic, or music, or people talking in their patios.

The silence is trickled with bird songs and frogs. The night sky resembles the sky you would see in the desert or high up in the mountains. A usually scarcely starred sky becomes the milky way’s playground to the naked eye.

It surprises me when I hear of people leaving Bali due to Nyepi, like one day in silence and peace could be so difficult or not worth doing. I wonder if my kids will remember how special Nyepi is and will come back to Bali when they are older and have kids of their own.

Do you have similar cultural festivals where you live? Is there a festival of silence? 

Photo Credit to the author.

Orana Velarde

Orana is a Writer, Artist, Mother and Wife; Peruvian Expat currently living in Kyiv, Ukraine with her husband and children. She works as a writer, designer and social media manager for diverse organizations around the world.

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INDONESIA: Life Without The Privilege Of Domestic Help

INDONESIA: Life Without The Privilege Of Domestic Help

I was born in Peru in 1978, when I was very little I spent a lot of time at my nonna’s (grandmother’s) house. I remember sitting with her in the bedroom while she talked with Antonina, the cook that had come upstairs to plan the day’s meals. My grandmother would ask if there were enough ingredients for something and Antonina would tell her what was missing. They would write a list, count out some money and then the cook would go off to the markets to get all she needed for lunch and dinner that day. In her apron she carried the handwritten recipe book; the page with the chosen recipe and some cash.

A woman posing with her child and domestic help

The author with her mom and grandmother.

After my nonna was dressed and ready to go and do some kind of activity, the upstairs maid was already making the beds and cleaning the bathrooms. Downstairs, the first floor maid was dusting or sweeping while the gardener took out weeds from the flowerbeds and the butler served breakfast. The chauffeur was in the kitchen drinking coffee with the seamstress. My nonno was already at the table with his newspaper and his coffee.

I remember all these things as if they were normal; a complete part of my nonna’s house. I didn’t think it strange that there were so many people doing so many different things around the house. This is the way my mom grew up, and that’s what I experienced until the age of 9.

The house I lived in with my mom was not like this, we “only” had a maid and a nanny. Little did I know that just these two people were a huge help!

I have moved away from Peru twice in my life, to the United States when I was 10 and then to Southeast Asia when I was 35. When I was 11, we didn’t have a maid, or a nanny or a cook or a gardener. Instead I had a very tired mom who would try and make me clean my room or throw away the trash or wash the dishes. Everything seemed so foreign and annoying. Then because of visa complications and jobs that were lost, my mother was the one cleaning houses for money. It’s funny how things can turn around like that.

When I went back to Peru to live with my aunt, she had two maids, a gardener, a washing lady, a front street guard and a handyman that painted or fixed things on a regular basis. When I went to live on my own in Cusco, the house I went to live in had a cook, a maid, a chauffer, a gardener and also a fix it all handyman. Back in Lima the first thing I did was hire a maid, and she stayed with me for 8 long and wonderful years.

Three and a half years ago we moved to Asia without our lovely maid and suddenly I had to do it all! Well wasn’t that a freaking shock! I remember walking into our house in Laos and stressing over the dust on the floor, and the ants, and the windows not being squeaky clean or beautifully see through! We did end up hiring a maid for the three months in Luang Prabang, mainly because I was extremely pregnant and the shock was way too big for me.

When we moved to Bangkok I started doing it all myself without help and my most vivid memory regarding this change was how I would stress out, over my 13 year old daughter not helping me out! Well how could I complain, she had grown up with a maid and nanny too, they did everything for her (and me). That was a harsh slap in the face, it was like reliving when I was a teenager and my own mom freaking out, over me not helping her out.

Domestic help in the kitchen

Domestic help in the kitchen

My mom learned the hard way, I learned the hard way and my daughter learned the hard way too. You will not always have the help you were accustomed to, you will not always be able to just sit back and wait for lunch to be served.

Those privileges are not always accessible, and for me now, they seem almost superfluous. I also feel that no one could ever be like Sabina, my maid of 8 years, she was like family to me, as I am sure my nonna’s cook was to her.

A few days ago I was at the indoor playground with my two kids, the cafeteria has some tables and sometimes they are not enough to seat all the parents and nannies that accompany the children so often, the tables are shared. While we were in the outdoor area playing on the swings, a Balinese woman sat at the table where we had our water bottles and snacks. I got to talking to her when we came back in to refresh in the Air Conditioning. She is a Stay at Home Mom that is finishing her masters in Law but only because she’s “bored”. She has a nanny who is also the cook and the maid in her house. The nanny was the one playing with her son in the playground while she shopped for clothes on her laptop.

She was amazed at how I would actually play with my kids, she said she really disliked playing with her son, that she got bored very fast. She asked how much videos I let them watch and told me how her family would judge her if her son watched “too much” YouTube. This conversation put a lot of things into perspective for me. It really isn’t about where you live that decides if you will have domestic help or not, it’s the way you are brought up and what your priorities are.

I remember in Peru knowing of families that did not have that much income but nevertheless had a maid or nanny and other families with nice houses and higher paying jobs that decided that they did not want a nanny at all and at most had a cleaning lady come to their house once a week. The Balinese woman in the playground told me that that’s the way it’s done here, you have a maid and a nanny and a cook even if you are a Stay at Home Mom. Exactly like my nonna.

My husband offers to pay for nannies and cooks and maids all the time when I complain of being tired of the work but I keep on saying “no”.

I have finally given in to a cleaning lady who comes three times a week to do the mopping and bathroom scrubbing. I also managed to get a gardener so now my front garden and backyard are looking beautiful. I have made “friends” with a couple taxi drivers so essentially I have a chauffeur. What I still don’t have is a nanny, and that might take a long time for me to feel comfortable with.

The need for Domestic Help I have come to realize is totally a psychological thing, you get it if you feel you need or want it.

If you can’t afford it then you pass the days wishing you could have it. If you have it, then you pass the days thinking of how you are wronging your kids by not being with them as much as other moms. It’s a lesson to learn and find balance in how you manage your house and kids. I feel that I am still learning.

What is the “domestic-help” scenario at your own place? And what is your take on it?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by World Mom, Orana Velarde in Bali, Indonesia. 

Photo credits to the author.

Orana Velarde

Orana is a Writer, Artist, Mother and Wife; Peruvian Expat currently living in Kyiv, Ukraine with her husband and children. She works as a writer, designer and social media manager for diverse organizations around the world.

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EYE ON CULTURE: INDONESIA: Magical Icons of Bali

EYE ON CULTURE: INDONESIA: Magical Icons of Bali

Sit back and take a trip with us to the Pacific, where World Mom, Orana Velarde, reports on the majestic Balinese culture…

Every place in the world has icons that represent it, an image recreated in all sorts of knickknacks and souvenirs for visitors to take home; usually a part of the culture that has much more meaning than can be inferred from a multicolored T-Shirt or fridge magnet. When visiting Paris, it is the Eiffel Tower. But since our family moved to the island of Bali, we have become acquainted with the cultural icons and mythical ceremonial creatures, Barong and Rangda, that ti s known for.

Barong Mask 1

Barong is the king of all the spirits that strive for good on the island and looks like a mix between a dog and a lion covered with long thick hair and fiery eyes adorned with sparkly mirrors. His ultimate enemy is the evil widow witch, Rangda, with whom he fights to restore balance to the universe. She is embodied as an old disfigured woman with a long evil tongue, huge beady eyes and clawed fingers.

Mask

The most common representation of the Barong and his enemy Rangda is the Barong dance, in which dancers dress as the creatures to tell the story of the vengeful widow (Rangda) whom fueled by fury sets out to destroy the entire village that defied her. The village emissary fights her with good magic and turns into the Barong, saving the soldiers and the villagers from Rangda’s evil wrath.

For the sake of mass tourism, there are Barong dances held every night in the artist town of Ubud, but the original Calonarang ceremony and dance is only held in village temples and accompanied by spiritual trances and ritual offerings. These can last hours and late into the night, with a procession to the village graveyard and lots of Gamelan music.

It is believed that once you are at the ceremony you cannot leave, because the spirits are roaming the village and you wouldn’t want to run into them.

Just like there are tourist-centered Barong dances, there is also a mass production of Barong and Rangda masks for tourists to buy and for hotels and other cultural places to use as decoration. But the masks and costumes that are worn to animate the Barong and the Rangda are ceremonially crafted and hold all kinds of special connotations. The barong masks can only be made from the wood of the Pule Tree and permission must be asked of the spirits before the tree is cut down.

Most temples grow their own Pule tree so that when it is large enough, they can use it to make Barong masks that will belong to the temple.Out of one tree, depending on the size, two or three Barong masks can be crafted; these will be the Barong of that temple as if they were brothers. Once every Balinese year (210 days) they must come back to the temple for a Calonarang ceremony. When not in use, the ceremonial masks are wrapped in cloth and put away in baskets to keep the magic contained.

A few months ago my husband was invited to a real Barong dance (shown below) in a village about an hour away from our home. He told me it was one of the most surreal experiences he had ever had. The dancers were in trance and the masks and costumes of Barong and Rangda were impressively powerful. The ceremony lasted all night and ended almost at dawn.

Barong Dance

And my kiddos love finding Barong masks all over the island. They like it even more when they find an entire Barong costume in a holding podium so they can climb inside it.

Kids in Balinese Mask

Barong and Rangda have become symbols for the island of Bali, just like the Eiffel tower for Paris and Macchu Picchu for Peru. If you are ever in Bali you should definitely see a Barong dance, but if you by chance get invited to a Calonarang Ceremony, be prepared for the experience of a lifetime.

What is your city, town or region known for where you live? What graces the local souvenirs?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by World Mom, Orana Velarde in Bali, Indonesia. 

Photo credits to the author. 

Orana Velarde

Orana is a Writer, Artist, Mother and Wife; Peruvian Expat currently living in Kyiv, Ukraine with her husband and children. She works as a writer, designer and social media manager for diverse organizations around the world.

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