Build Diary 13 – We can see our villa!

It’s been an exciting fortnight as the land changed from looking like a terraced former rice field to becoming a level building site. We can even see the footprint of the villa now! However, currency fluctuations may blow our budget and I’m stuck in bed with a nasty case of dengue fever.

Build update


The last couple of weeks involved digging deep foundations. However, the land was still sloping like the rice field that it used to be. Now it’s time to level the land. I had seen this done for construction in Bali many times and different materials can be used. Often times, hard rubbish from one construction site (e.g. big pieces of broken concrete) is used in a new build to level out the land under the slab.

However, as we wanted strong foundations so the house can withstand earthquakes, we chose to use large pieces of limestone. So over a period of a few days, 8 massive dump trucks filled with limestone backed onto our site and levelled out the land. Instantly, the site turned white!

Recently, the workers have been preparing the pool foundations. Have a look below at how much they have been able to do in under 2 weeks.

Bali Interiors Build Diary 13 pool foundations
Bali Interiors Build Diary 13 pool foundations

Before                                                                                                                        After

Money money money!


We arranged to pay for our build in stages. First, we need to transfer money into our Indonesian bank account to pay for each stage. Then we pay our builder Agus. I have a healthy distrust for banks and financial systems in general. I was in Argentina when the economy collapsed in 2001 – banks closed, people lost their life’s savings, unemployment and poverty skyrocketed. This documentary is a fascinating look at the everyday repercussions of that collapse.

Over the last couple of months, the Australian dollar has been dropping against the Indonesian Rupiah. Usually, it sits at around 10,000, now it dropped to about 9000. Doesn’t sound like much when you’re changing $100, but when you’re building a house, it’s a huge difference! Suddenly our costs have gone up 10%. I hadn’t even thought about this possibility when I was budgeting for the build. Our extremely tight budget just got tighter! Fingers crossed the exchange rate changes back to favour us.

Unfortunately, the worst was yet to come……..

Bali Interiors Build Diary 13 exchange rate

The big drop off at the end of the graph is not doing us any favours

Fever all through the night


A few days ago I started feeling really lethargic. Everyone who knows me knows that I enjoy a nap more than most! But this was different, I suddenly had no energy. A fever kicked in, as well as aches and pains, a rash, and an endless headache. I waited another day or two, hoping it was one of those tropical viruses that come and go within 24 hours, but it didn’t stop. So I called over the doctor (I was too weak to ride to her clinic) who suspected Dengue fever. A blood test confirmed it.

It’s been over 10 days and I’m still not feeling great. The first week was intense. I stayed in bed for 5 days, and only braved my way downstairs to the sofa at the end of the first week. Even then, I didn’t have the energy to move from the sofa. The doctor has come every second day to take blood and check my levels. Although they showed that I did have dengue, my levels weren’t so that I needed to go to hospital. That was a relief.

Dengue isn’t fun at all. Zero energy, headaches, sleeping all day (I feel like I’ve turned into a koala), and being woken regularly to drink liquids. The doctor recommended 4 litres of water a day. Lots and lots of glasses of water, with the occasional coconut and each morning I have what is possibly my least favourite drink of all time – papaya leaf extract.


Home remedies


Supposedly, papaya leaf is good for dengue fever. Take the leaves of a papaya tree and blend them up with some water. Remove the leaves and keep the gross green liquid. Then drink. It tastes even worse than it sounds. But it’s a home remedy that has been used forever here, so I’ve got to rely on local knowledge.

There’s something quite romantic about using home remedies (even though this one tastes like drinking weeds). I remember being stuck in the middle of a tiny coastal village in India and my husband was bitten by a centipede the size of a TV remote control in the middle of the night. With pain shooting through his arm, we informed the locals by drawing a picture of what happened on the dirt floor of their simple restaurant. They immediately made a paste out of turmeric and water, which worked a charm.

A couple of months ago when I was riding my scoter with my son. We flew into a massive wasp that stung him on the arm. As soon as we got home, I made the same paste and it worked to sooth the sting and reduce the swelling. So I guess it’s practical as well as romantic!


Where is home?


I was back in Argentina for a few weeks while this preliminary work has been happening. I timed this trip for the early stages of the build as there’s not much I need to do at the build. Once the slab is done and the construction of the above ground part of the construction occurs, I’ll need to be on site every day to make sure everything goes to plan and make a myriad of decisions. Now was a good time to visit “home”.

Home can be a shifting concept. I think I’m lucky to have a number of homes. I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, a city of 10million. It’s a massive urban environment, called “La Cuidad de la Furia” (The City of Fury) by my favourite Argentinian band, Soda Stereo. Check out the architecture of the city (and some classic 80s moves) in this music video.

Bali Interiors Build Diary 13 streets of Buenos Aires
Bali Interiors Build Diary 13 streets of Buenos Aires
Bali Interiors Build Diary 13 streets of Buenos Aires
Bali Interiors Build Diary 13 streets of Buenos Aires
Bali Interiors Build Diary 13 streets of Buenos Aires
Bali Interiors Build Diary 13 streets of Buenos Aires

“I see fear on their faces. There are no fables in the city of fury” is a quite an ominous lyric! It doesn’t represent my childhood, but there’s no doubt that Buenos Aires can be a tough city. Very different to the idyllic tropical childhood my kids are lucky to have in Bali! Buenos Aires was my home until I finished high school.

I had met my husband when I was 17. He was 19, Australian, and travelling through Argentina at the time. Love is powerful, and I knew immediately I had found my “media naranja” (literally “half orange”, but translates best as soulmate). I moved to Australia at 18.

Bali Interiors Build Diary 13 media naranja

Moving to Australia


It was a big decision to leave home, but my parents raised me to be curious so I was keen to explore. Young people in Argentina often remain in their parents’ home until they marry, so it was not a common path to leave home as a teen and go to the other side of the world. For most Argies in the 90s, Australia was a faraway land of koalas and kangaroos, and not much else.

I arrived in Australia and we jumped in a convoy with my then-future-husband’s hippy mates heading north. 16 hours later we arrived at the Woodford Folk Festival. That was just the start of an amazing summer. I was sold – Australia was the place for me!


Married (very) young


We got married when I was 19 (seems so crazy now!) and I lived in Sydney for about 20 years – made friends, studied, started businesses, became a citizen, bought a home, had kids. I planted roots and Australia became my home. I guess I had 2 homes then as I would regularly visit friends and family in Argentina, or my family would come and see me.

Now I feel like I have another home in Bali – I have friends and a community, and soon, our own villa. Now I’m lucky enough to feel at home in 3 places. Perhaps the foundations of our home are symbolic of the roots I am planting here in Bali.




  1. Flavia February 14, 2020

    What a beautiful story, Sheila! I really travel with you as I read your stories. I haven’t been to Australia yet, but being a Brazilian flight attendant, working for Varig, Argentina was a must. Now, living in Hong Kong, Bali is our favorite place to go every year. Thanks for sharing!

    1. baliinteriors February 15, 2020

      Thanks so much Flavia! I am glad that you can share my experience. I love Brazil too – I remember having a great New Years’ Eve on Copacabana beach with everyone dressed in white. Such a fun time!


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