Expat life is not always kind. Or warm. It’s -9 degrees Celcius (16 F) here in Moldova as I write this and I long for things tropical and warm, for the feel of the sun on my bare skin.
I’m sure you’ve heard expats or tourists talk about the Indonesian island of Bali. How magical it is, this island of rice paddies and beaches, of temples and festivals, of smiles and serenity.
Bali has something for everyone. You can hide in the idyllic mountains and meditate and hope to levitate; you can cruise from temple to temple and catch a festival almost any day of the year; or you can party with the backpacker crowd, eat magic mushroom omelets, and hang out on the beach.
When my prince and I lived the expat life in Indonesia, on the main island of Java, we spent several weeks on Bali on vacation with our two young daughters. They weren’t into meditating or temple cruising, but the beach held great appeal. Balinese kids loved playing there too, as you can see on this photo, making not sand castles, but sand temples. Go figure. Anyway, come with us on our first day at the beach in Bali; it was a cultural experience.
We’re off to the beach and daughter number one has proudly donned her new bikini. Her Oma in Holland, my mother, gave it to her as a present. She’s nine years old and teenage hormones have not yet stirred from slumber and started their magic in her girlish body. No curves in sight anywhere, no blossoming bosom. The bikini is a string bikini, tiny scraps of fabric covering not very much. But hey, she looks cute.
We’re on a tourist beach near our hotel and there’s lots to look at. Vendors everywhere. You can buy drinks and dresses and sarongs and shells and jewelry and beach mats and secret stuff you don’t want to get caught with. And if you crave a massage, no problem. Coconut oil and the steely hands of a ancient granny are available right here in the sand. Or if you prefer a young male hunk, he’s available too.
I discern a potpourri of languages around me — Australian and English and Swedish and Japanese and German. People of all sizes and shapes are roasting in the sun, many of the females wearing bikini bottoms only.
Me? I’m wearing an elegant one piece number. Not because I am prudish (I’m Dutch), but simply because I want to spare the world the view of my mid-section and the ravages of two pregnancies. (My man will roll his eyes when he reads this. He thinks I’m gorgeous. Love is so blind, don’t you agree?)
So, the girls are messing around in the sand and I’m studying my half-naked sisters nearby, realizing that Mother Nature is very creative if not always kind when it comes to size and shape. Still, whatever your figure, getting an even tan is a noble pursuit, so go for it, is what I say. And as I’m considering this, it occurs to me that daughter number one, although lavishly anointed with sunscreen, is going to end up with some unflattering little triangles on her flat-as-a-dime little-girl chest.
“Listen,” I say to her, “why don’t you take off your bikini top?”
She lifts her blond head. “Why?”
“You can get an even tan that way. See, lots of girls here are topless.”
She looks around at the various topless females. I see her study the plump British girl nearby whose generous foreign breasts glow dangerously white in the tropical sun. My daughter glances back at me, her serious little face all sober contemplation.
“I can’t,” she says. “I’m too young to go topless.”
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Tell me a story, anything to do with kids and their bodies, swim suits, the beach, topless sunning, people watching. Bali!