Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Turning Balinese

So, I haven't updated in a long time. I had lots of thoughts on my time in India to share...I have such fond memories of India and am really looking forward to spending some more time in the country in October/November.

But meanwhile, there's so much fun to be had here in Bali. The first thoughts I had were about perspective and how different it can be in a short few years. Last time I came to Bali I thought the traffic was intense and hectic but after India, the roads here seem quite relaxed, casual and peaceful, still a bit loose on the rules but definently a dream after Bangalore!!! After arriving and spending a few relaxing days in Kuta I headed up to Jules village in Baturiti. Its lovely and cool up here in the mountains and it took me only a day or two to adjust to the crowing roosters and general village noise early in the morning... I absorbed myself into the rhythm of the village life and preparations for the ceremony, peeling enormous mounds of garlic and onion, getting stuck into the never ending piles of washing up and clothes washing... clean clothes are such a commodity when you are washing everything by hand!! and babysitting the kids as Jules rushed down to the markets over and over again gathering supplies for the mountain of offerings that were beginning to pile up down at the temporary temple the men built for the occasion. The language is difficult but I am improving; I am confusing quite a lot of people because I am speaking a mix of Bahasa and Balinese but they get the drift!!!

I spent some time with the women folding the offerings and preparing food..it's quite difficult becuase the ladies demonstrate only once with their hands flying and then giggle as inevitably I get my pandanus in a tangle!! Luckily Jules as taken some time to show me the more simple weaving and I have mastered some of those... After a few days the family arrived and things really got into swing. I covered myself in glory by catching the dragonfly required for the offering but then the next hour had a fall from grace as just before the ceremony it was noticed that the crab was missing. I had knocked the pot a few days before and not realising the significance had forgotten to tell anyone about it. With all the tremendous effort and expense that had gone into the cermony I was worried that all the good luck could be undone by the loss of the crab. Luckily the priest had a solution as Jules was justifiably a little upset... Louie did not have his head shaved and there will need to be another ceremony in a year and a half with the crab..Apparently I have to return and catch it. Well Bali is such a lovely place there'll be no complaints from me!!!

The cermony was full of lots of great dancing and performance and some great gamelan bands, Jules really put on a great party and with the extra time I have spent in the village I was able to participate more fully in the various tasks that had to be undertaken during the day. Greeting visitors with Om Swastiastyu and a fresh brew of Bali Coffee and a sweetcake. I took the gift they brought (each one the same; sugar, rice and noodles) and added it to the piles and then filled their baskets with cooked food from the enormous feast on offer.

It has been fun watching Mahuni, Jules three year old daughter adjust to life in Bali. One of the things I didnt consider before I arrived was the language.. after I arrived she switched back to mostly speaking English, leaving her poor grandma out in the cold. I felt bad for this because her grandma sees so little of her... but after a few days the penny dropped and she worked out that I don't speak Indonesian and that Grandma doesnt speak English but that she could speak both..clever little girl. I am always asking her for translations. The best one was when I said it was 'Panas Kali' and asked her what it meant in English. She responded 'Enormous Panas' (but pronounced it Penis!!) Hehheeh. It means Very Hot, so she was so close but yet so far!!!

I spent some time after the ceremony travelling around with Will's brother Ben on a bike that he rented. We toured through Lovina, Amed and Sanur and had a really great time. A few times we met up with some other family and friends and generally enjoyed a lot of nice meals, laughs, massages and bintang... Ben and I travelled together for a week and got along really well and it was so nice to have the freedom of the bike. He was a great driver, experienced rider and it put my mind at ease, which thanks to my father and his stories of bike accidents was full of all sorts of horror scenarios!! (thanks Dad! lol.)

I am back in the village now, reimersed in ceremonies...of course this is Bali. There are ceremonies all the time, I have been to cermonies for the car, ceremonies for the land, cremations and currenly we are in the middle of a three day village ceremony...but I enjoy it. It is nice to sit in a temple contemplating the universe and tucking flowers behind my ear, reminding myself to be grateful for all the things I have done and all those I am still to do....

Friday, July 10, 2009

When it rains, sometimes it pours...

The monsoon rains have arrived, the dirty dusty streets are transformed! Into a mudbath! Its slippery and treacherous, especially at night and walking through the pooled water is not recommended, you never know what is in it to start with, but you also run the risk of falling through the open manholes that you could skirt before but now cant see.... i dont even want to think about all those exposed electric wires...

Luckily the part of Bangalore where we live and work has escaped most of the deluge and my slippey slidey escapades in my ever squelchy thongs are not a feature of every waking, moving moment... the temperature has cooled somewhat due to the thick cloud cover and it is the most perfect pleasant weather, a totally comfortable 25, beanie weather for bangalorites!!

The days go along with surprising speed in the routine of daily life at Janaagraha. I came second in the netball tipping comp at the office back in the 'gong and was able to explain the tipping comp concept to the office here at janaagraha. It might be my greatest legacy in India yet!! The inaugral Indian Premier League Cricket tipping competition!!

Other than these more light hearted pursuits I am learning about just how broken government in India is...bribes and buck passing. The other day I paid a visit to the Slum Clearance Board, a dirty building in an outer Bangalore suburb, where as I climbed the stairs my eyes began to water from the stench of ammonia... very cleverly, the doorless toilets were positioned at each floor directly off the stair well and in their neglected and unkept state, the pee seemingly flowed down the stairs to create an overwhelming stink... this government office made the modest janaagraha facilities look like a palace.

There were very few computers in the Department and officers sat at old fashioned desks pouring over huge ledgers that reminded me of the old shipment ledgers CSR used in the 1940s. It was grey and sparse with big old steel green cupboards where presumably the ancient ledgers are carefully stored each night. As the only colourful feature, the small hindu temple on the far wall with the flashing neon lights surrounding it caught my eye as it blinked its dedication to ganesha in alternating reds, greens and yellows, surely bringing perspacity and harmony to the humble office. We had come to ask a simple question and were ushered into a manager's office where we sat to wait our turn to speak with him on chairs positioned across from his desk as if we were sitting down to some kind of concert or performance. The officer was quite happy to talk at length about what the other departments were responsible for, but when i asked him what is was that his department was responsible for (several times) all I got was the silent and smiling head waggle... although we did get an answer to our question, were the statistics listed on the website up to date and complete? Yes and No; No and Yes!

And that is such a big part of the problem, departments with overlapping authorities and responsibilities so that problems and issues can be dodged and flicked and not responded to, you could go round in circles for months until you grow old and grey just trying to find out which department is responsible for fixing the pavement outside your house. An Indian bureaucrat is the buck passing genius, it is done with great style and flair and a good deal of pushiness is required to negotiate the murky depths of governance in this big city...

the same pushiness that is required to buy food, get tickets or be served in any way. Please forgive me if on my return home I push through the queque at the ticket counter for Harry Potter Six, wildly thrust my money over others heads while chatting on my phone, simutaneously positioning my elbow in a throng clearing thrust while barking my order to the cashier... I promise you I will do it with a smile, (even if its a little self-satisfied that I won the battle and got served ahead of you)...

On the other hand there are times when my white skin or foreign status clears the way and I get priority service... like at the sari sale, when I was pushed up onto the platform where only the staff usually stand and pushed and pulled into an array of fancy saris and then ushered and cajoled to the head of the ridicuously long line to pay and leave with the minimum of fuss. (I dont know at these moments whether to be hugely relieved at the hours saved or hideously embarrassed and apologetic to the woman who was (before I arrived) at the front of the queque and has no doubt taken the good part of two hours to get there.)

The celebrity foreigner thing has given me some pause to think over the past week...I am still being stared at and getting my photo taken and at each class I now have 60 girls clamouring for an autograph...seriously today I got a bit worried I wasnt going to get out the classroom without security detail... hehehe. It made me wonder if deep down it might be part of the reason I like India so much, the ability to go anywhere, get into clubs and overpriced shops, being treated like a princess with people rushing to open and close doors for you..and I decided no; its not. Id trade all of that in less than a second for the pleasure of not having to feel awkward every time the maid meets my eyes for a millisecond, raises her hand to her heart in a traditional namaste greeting and then scurries away as if she is not supposed to look at me at all...or to not have to walk past the tea lady who sits in the hall and stares at nothing while waiting until tea time so she can make me a cup of tea, or seeing people sweep the street in bare feet or have children kiss my feet hoping for a few rupees.....

i love india because despite all its difficulties the people have spirit and cheekiness and it is a colourful and infectious place, it makes me be assertive and confident (an especially important trait for road crossing) ... and it is changing, the caste system is heavily entrenched but it seems at times to be slowly washing away; it will take a lot of time to acheive equality here but I hope in that respect that every time it rains a little bit of equality in India it pours...

and as for the bureaucratic jungle, it desperately needs to be washed away in a great big biblical flood....

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Temples and Load-shedding

On the weekend, a group of about seven of us volunteers took a day trip to the temples of Belur, Halebid and Shravanabelago. They are all about a thousand years old. The temples are covered in the most intricate array of soapstone carvings, with detail that is totally astonishing and magnificent. We had a lovely day and great company. Santoosh, a friend from the office accompanied us and provided us with great conversation, ranging from Australia's no uranium for India policy to baksheesh (bribe payments) and urban planning schemes and governance, and of course Michael Jackson... we watched Kannada films on the bus together, they are sooo corny but entertaining in their own way, even as the language shifts between Kannada, Hindi and English. However it still puzzles me why on buses right across Asia, and now I realise the sub-continent as well, that the volume has to be so so loud!!

At Janaagraha I have been involved in teaching the civic education to program to some students at a nearby school. They are in about year seven, all girls. They are a really lovely bunch of kids, eager to learn and even more eager to ask me questions about Australia... They have about sixty kids in the class, in a room about 4 x 20m (I am not good at estimating distance, so I might be wrong!). The children all wear their hair in two plaits with large ribbons (its universal, I didnt see a single exception on a scan of the room) and crowd onto benches, about five or five to a bench. There is no room to move about at all. We had a great time taking them through the concepts of civic governance and participation, explaining the government structure in India and talking about the problems they face in their neighbourhoods.

Then we moved onto Australia.... they wanted to know the lot! What do we eat - kangaroo, ewww!!! (funnily enough that is their word for Australians), who is my favourite Australian cricket player, luckily in the brief silence, one small girl answered for me - Gilchrist!!! Yes yes thats my favourite I said, which got a cheer. Favourite Indian cricket player?? I stumbled over that one, luckily enough I said it was the really good bowler one and the girls answered for me... Singh!!

The girls wanted to know all sorts of obscure things and had a great excitement to be speaking with a foreigner. I am still an object of curiosity on the streets of Bangalore. At first I found the staring quite intimidating, unsmiling as it was, but I hardly notice it anymore. In fact today, I stared too!; as a foreigner, with her long reddish blonde hair streaming out from under her helmet rode past us on her bike in Bangalore traffic this morning. As we toured the temple complexes we also found ourselves the object of a great deal of foreigner induced amusement. Sara, with her gorgeous shoulder length red hair and porcelain white skin, and I were requested to feature in many happy snaps of the temple visiting Indians, and our smiling faces will be grinning out from family albums across the State...(it gets a little irritating after a time, but how can you say no?)

Of course, the begging is always hard but it hasnt been too much, the actual grabbing and tugging on your arm is not done in many other parts of the world and can be a little disconcerting. The heart wrenching guilt never leaves you though as you step away from the old lady or small boy who is asking for food and into a restaurant, where the most delicious food in jean busting quantities is to be served...

The country side is quite dry as still we wait for rain. Now the city has rolling power shortages as they cope with lower water in the hydro-electric dams. At first the power shortages were although common, quite short and not too annoying! In fact, I thought they were quite quaint. But now that they roll through for six to eight hours a day (and fifteen in rural areas) they are really irritating. I am beginning to understand why there are generators at all the fancy shops and houses and the whirr as they snap on as the main snaps off is becoming an all too common feature. For us, it means no hot water at home and more time on the roof of the office waiting for the computers to switch back on..... oh and I now use the stairs to climb the five flights to the office for fear of becoming stuck in the lift during one of the sudden load-shedding events!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Waiting for rain...in Bangalore

In the horizons at the edges of this city, that stretches as far as the eye can see in every direction, an endless maze of half constructed houses and occasional cluster of higher buildings. Through the brown-grey haze, enormous cumulous clouds are forming. The steaminess lulls me into an afternoon sleepiness that is almost impossible to shake even with the gentle cooling breeze of the office fans and the stirring air that seeps in occasionally through the open window; this same window that permits the sound of honking car horns and the tinny rattle of auto rickshaws to filter up as a few stories below they navigate the pot holes, animals, pedestrians and each other with alarming speed and chaotic precision. The colourful, aromatic and spicy lunch time feasts don’t help my sleepy mood.

The humidity is building on some days to a point where you can feel your body straining to experience the cool relief of a shower of rain, a shower that hasn’t yet arrived. But I’m not complaining, I love the steamy sleepy heat, especially now that I have discarded my too hot tight shirts and jeans, packed in the middle of a Sydney winter where I couldn’t quite imagine the enveloping warmness of an Indian summer, for cotton kurtas and loose cotton ‘MC Hammer’ pants. Bangalore is one of the mildest places in India, it’s usually about 30 degrees each day; a world away from the 40 plus heat of Delhi at this time of the year. But still, down on the streets of this city, frogs and trees are being married in full Hindu tradition, as an appeasement to the god Varuna, to bring on the late-coming monsoon rains.

What can I say about Bangalore India? A place of incredible contrasts. It's a busy and chaotic city with streets lined with ancient banyan and tamarind trees, rich and poor, hungry and fat, grey and yet colourful!! The Hindu and Catholic women are like beautiful shimmering rays of brightness in the city, their chuppatis thrown backwards over their shoulders and streaming behind them in a dazzling array of primary colours as, alongside black burka wearing women and the (slightly controversial) modern woman in jeans and tight tees, they expertly manoeuvre their way through the hair-raising traffic, the rubbish strewn sidewalks, the sleeping stray dogs and cud-chewing cows lazing by the road sides.

The city is a patchwork of busy lives, from IT business executives, McDonalds, KFC and exclusive stores to bare footed rubbish sweepers, corner sellers, beggars and those who live in the partially constructed buildings and shanties that dot the paths and roads. Walking to work from our original accommodation required a certain amount of guts and blind faith to cross the road and pass through the tunnel under the railway – which we nicknamed “Hell Pass” as it involved edging along the tunnel wall with cars, buses, trucks and rickshaws which bottle necked at the entrance and thus filled the tunnel to a total capacity almost literally brushing past us with only inches to spare as we made our way along its edge. I am still amazed at how everyone spewed into and got spat out the other end of the tunnel intact each morning.

We are now staying a short twenty to forty minute rickshaw ride from work, and have finally begun to have consistent success at getting the driver to turn on the meter, paying only a ten rupee ‘foreigner premium’ on top. The ride is a bumpy charge through crowded streets, often on the wrong side of the road (even when there is a divider) inches away from the wheels of trucks, buses, motorbikes, other rickshaws and donkey carts that crowd the deeply pot holed and badly built roads. Traffic lights are a rarity in this city of over 6 million so at each intersection a delicate dance of intersecting traffic takes place. It takes an iron focus on your destination and many stops and starts but each time everyone manages to navigate the whirlpool of traffic and resume the break neck pace, screeching to a stop to re-perform the dance each time at a road narrowing or unmanageable pot-hole.

I’m not sure the commute is worth it every day but we are staying in a really lovely part of town in a beautiful house with a retired Dr and her twenty four year old son, Vivek. We managed to rent rooms here for only $184 per month and we have a shower, t.v and hot running water!! Vivek is a bit of a party animal and so far has shown us only the pubs and ‘beer buffets’ (yep. all you can drink) dotting the streets where we live. Indian hospitality is first class, although having a beautiful Nepalese security man who runs to open the gate with a huge smile each time I enter and leave and a maid who receives a ‘tongue lashing’ from the homeowner each morning is a little weird.

The work they do at Janaagraha is varied but it all relates to trying to create a better city for the citizens who continue to drift in from the poorer rural villages. It is a monumental task. The sidewalks are littered with holes that drop straight down to the rat infested drains that run beneath the city and every second day or so it seems a story about a child who has fallen down the drain and been swept to their death features in the newspaper. It is amazing; workers walk away leaving enormous holes and often the granite drain coverings move or rock as you walk across them, (yes people have come a cropper on what looks like solid ground) there are perilous holes and uncovered electric wires everywhere, deeply rutted streets and rubbish dumps that spew across major arterial roads; yet when a monkey falls off a wire to its death there is an immediate burial and ritual and a huge public movement to have a shrine built at the site of the fall. So when a child falls to their death on the sidewalk it is hard to understand why the government is not galvanised into action. (I think the answer lies in its bureaucratic remoteness from the people) Janaagraha is working towards solutions, but the answers are more complex. There is a new monorail currently being built across the city from north to south and east to west to try to alleviate the traffic nightmare but it is expected to be completed in 2020.

Janaagraha advocate and try to work with the government to keep them accountable and to try and keep city initiatives on track. The city connect program they run has as one of its aims, getting school students on buses and taking parents cars off the road. The new bus pass system will send an SMS to the parent when the child boards the bus and when they get off. (I hope they can find it through the avalanche of spam SMS’s you get on your Indian sim card!! PS. no wonder the call centres are all based here; I can call home to Australia for less than what it calls me to ring you from there) - but that’s India: a place of complete contrasts, like the office where I work where there is no air conditioning and the computers don’t have USB ports, yet the employees sign on and off each day using a fingerprint scan technology. I am working on drafting laws to create the equivalent of local council wards so that people in the cities have a mechanism of access to the municipal councils. Currently, through their One Billion Votes (yes, literally! It took me a little while to comprehend that this was not a figurative number) campaign they have identified that the citizens are mobilised (ie shrine sites for monkeys and angry editorials about the state of the sidewalks) but when they seek to make a change they hit a rock hard solid bureaucratic wall. For instance, if the Council suddenly stops collecting your garbage you currently have no way of making your complaints known officially.

A world of rules and no rules; (its hard to explain) - where you can drink and dance but never together and there are pubs and clubs everywhere but the cops enforce an 11.30pm curfew so house parties are all the rage. The people however have such a disarming charm that I am falling in love with India. I’ll explain some more next post, this one has been long enough!! And elle; if you’ve managed to read this far! Hehehe (I don’t think you will have!) – I’ll put up some pretty pictures on the next instalment!!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Heart full of Happiness

The soft crunch of a rattan ball being kicked across the street, gentle chirping crickets, the tinny rev of a motorcycle and the soft voices calling tuk tuk and sabidee (hello), the shy giggles from the young girl in the door way of her house, loud music being pumped from a stack of speakers heralding another chinese new year party and the soft sounds of the latest thai soap opera that spill from almost every house and shop along the street. In one of the temples monks have continued their soft chant punctuated intermittently by the gentle tingle of bells and as always the howl of a littany of barking dogs, the gentle clank of cutlery and soft dinner talk and the sizzle of the street stall vendors tending the sticky rice and other numerous 'delicacies'...this is the soundscape of Vientiane at night.

It is my last night in Laos and it has been a slow and easy day. After making a wide detour of the many massage places and herbal saunas to which I have become (already was) addicted and nursing my bruises from the last very 'relaxing' and perhaps a little over-enthusiastic lao traditional massage, today I relaxed with my book by the shores of the Mekong looking across at Thailand, almost close enough to swim. I feel relaxed and at peace with Asia although it has not been an easy relationship for me...every day I have struggled with bearing witness to so much poverty and hardship while carrying on with the comparably trivial business of being a tourist... I have thought long and hard about the merits of capitalism and how it can increase a standard of living but then also about the impact when money becomes a ruling factor in life at the expense of the artfulness and spiritual exercise of living...I have battled with the slowness and inefficiency of asian service and looked within myself to try and understand why it is that I am almost always in a hurry or feel impatient... i have struggled with the heat and the pervading smell of sewer and garbage only to turn the corner and be meet with the sweet aroma of fresh jasmine garlands and slowly burning incense... and on top of all that I really don't like eating fish...i really dont get the fascination with it or why fish sauce has to go in Everything! solution more chilli...woolah - the cooking is good (maybe. when my mouth cools down and i stop sweating)!! Asia has also taught me that you just cant have it all; the shower must have pressure or be hot - never both. oh well, better than a bucket and at least my money buys me that choice...

There is so much going on here. I often feel so overstimulated that I get bored...I look at the animals (great place to come after writing an honours paper on animal rights) and feel their neglect and often hunger and pain and I hate watching them get caught and killed for dinner but then again they have their freedom and a better life than many many animals get at home in cages. Pigs in asia get to roll in the dust, eat your shit and generally do what pigs do, chickens scratch in the dust and dogs roam the streets in packs being.. well dogs.

Its definitely a difficult relationship but one with more love than hate...there are lots of rules; generally disregarded; and there is a gentle fun-loving happiness within the lao people that is infectious... you would be hard pressed to go for more than ten minutes without hearing the sound of laughter...of course the politics and the history are more complicated and I doubt I'll ever come close to understanding that even if I stayed ten years...but these are the kind of people who make new bells for their temple out of unexploded ordinance..

so after a day relaxing and an hour this evening of vipassana at a temple, after contemplating my navel and all the contradications that asia has to offer, i go home with a heart full of happiness as the monk who practised english with me yesterday morning had hoped for me...

....lets hope it lasts through the two day cheap flight epic journey home....

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Nothing to Report!!

The pace of life in laos is slow, especially on a Sunday so there is nothing to report; other than that I am glad the smile on my face lasted the entire eight hour public bus journey with the young kids pulling my hair and pinching my skin (all smiles and giggles) as the only foreigner on the bus I wasnt left alone for even a second....tonight i'll be on the overnight VIP foreigner bus to Vientiane......

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Scary Lao Ghosts

I am sitting in the sun at a really beautiful eco-lodge waiting for my German friends to return from their morning elephant ride; I can hear the sploshing of water buffalo behind me slowly moving through the wetlands munching the grass with big rhythmic ripping sounds and the gentle tingle of the cowbells tied around their necks makes a soft, melodic and beautiful accompaniment to the chirping crickets and bird twitter. Over the past few days we have been trekking through the Xe Pian protected area with a Lao guide enjoying the jungle and the Brun minority villages along the way. We have tried so many different kinds of bush foods (including the base compound for paracetomol) that I have lost track, some, like the fresh raw cardamon stem or the red leaves that tasted like those sour lollies (I forget the name) were tasty, others like the bush bean were not so good. We stayed overnight at a village called Ta Ong in the forest with a project that is trying to convince the villagers that they can make money from tourism instead of poaching the sun bear, asiatic bear and tiger that still lives in their forest...last year they cut down a really large swath of forest to grow more sticky rice (the national dish that gets eaten at EVERY meal) since then there are no more yellow-cheeked gibbons. Although the village guide made no admissions our english-speaking lao guide from town suspects the gibbons were eaten...so there is still plenty of convincing to be done...
We arrived the day after an old man in the village had died and many villagers were frightened of the ghost that was said to be still hanging around the village. This particular village still practise animism as well as buddhism and had strong beliefs that the dead persons ghost was still around. No-one would walk alone for the next few days until the body had been removed from the house and the correct ceremony to convince the ghost that the person was dead now and to leave the village had been performed...the children were really scared and the adults seemed to enjoy provoking them by proclaiming sightings in nearby trees and then laughing at the reactions... it seemed to actually be quite a lot of fun.
We had dinner with a local family but then the generator was started and a chinese movie was played...the whole village seemed quite addicted to the television so we went to bed early because it was difficult to compete with the movie... also we had had a long walk and were a little tired and the interaction was difficult; the children often cried in fear if 'the long noses' came too close so getting the community to relax around us was quite a challenge (but we did manage a few laughs mostly by trying [and spectacularly failing] to learn a famous lao song)...

In the middle of the night I needed to get up for the toilet and as I made my way outside in the moonlight I could hear the ceremony not too far away, the pounding drums and calls and screams of the villagers spooked me out and I had to pee right beside the house rather than walk alone for 100 metres to the toilet...yep. I got scared of the lao ghost.

As I lay awake back in my bed I listened for a long time to the animistic calls and drumming of the village ceremony and as it mixed with the night sounds of the jungle I felt peaceful and transported to an otherwordly moment in time. I felt I was listening to a living and breathing history, a timeless tradition that has been echoing throughout the jungle hills for a long long time. It was a beautiful way to drift back to sleep....

My fear made for a great deal of mirth in the morning and the villagers seemed thoroughly entertained by my reluctance to walk alone...then they explained that the lao ghost is afraid of the long nose foreigner who of course is much taller and bigger than the lao ghost.... but whether taller wins - well, I'm still not convinced and with my time over I am certain that I still would have watered the plants near the room rather than make that 100 metre toilet run in the dark and take my chances with the ghost....