Easter in Jakarta

Note: No pictures are contained in this post. When you have security checking your purse as you enter church grounds the last thing you want to do is whip out the camera and start snapping shots. Also, the cradle Catholic in me has a hard enough time clapping in church, let alone taking pictures, the nuns might be watching!

BACKSTORY:  Religion is big in Indonesia. The first of five ideologic principles of the secular government is “Belief in the one and only God”. In a nation that is 90% Muslim one would think this means religious intolerance but it is actually the opposite. There are six recognized religions in Indonesia; Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Confucianism, Protestant, and Catholic. Of the 14 public holidays this year, 1 is government (Independence Day), 4 are New Years (January 1, Chinese New Year, Day of Silence/Hindu New Year, and Islamic New Year) and 9…yes 9 are religious holidays. Crazier still is that Christians actually get 3 of those (Christmas, Good Friday, and the Ascension of Christ.) Easter doesn’t need to be a public holiday since it always falls on a Sunday, which is traditionally a non-working day.  By the way, in case you skimmed over it, look back at that list, Good Friday and the Ascension????  Some Christians in the U.S. are lucky to get off early on Good Friday and even Catholic schools are open on the Ascension, but here the entire country takes the day off.

–  For those with curious minds, the other 6 holidays include Buddha’s birthday and 4 Muslim holidays that require 5 days. Idul Fitri gets 2 days and considering that it falls at the end of a month of fasting it is probably well deserved.

So we started our Easter celebration on Holy Thursday at the English speaking Mass. It was held at 2:00 pm. The church is located not far from Scott’s office on a busy street in an urban area. They had white sheeting woven in the fence next to the sidewalk to conceal the outdoor seating. The area between the fence and the church was covered in large tenting (like you would find at an outdoor wedding) and chairs were set up with television monitors to see the inside of the church. There was only one entrance from the street so that you can go through security, checking bags and waving metal detector wands. Unlike some of the cursory exams at the malls, these guys were pretty thorough in checking bags.

We were fortunate that day to score inside seats. There were many people that were also early and the church was full 30 minutes before Mass. As noted this was an English speaking Mass so I anticipated a lot of “Westerners”. However, more than half were Indonesian. The rest were truly a mix of cultures. There were Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Indian, African, and a few of us “Westerners” thrown in the mix. Several people had traditional clothing on from their home country. One thing we noted was that several of the Indonesians around us removed their shoes once in the pews. Indonesian culture requires removing your shoes upon entering a house and the Muslims remove their shoes before going to the Mosque so maybe it is a cultural thing….interesting nonetheless.

On Good Friday the service was at 11:00 am. We arrived 45 minutes before and, after going through security again, were astonished to find the church already full and the overflow seats outside filling as well. We found seats outside that were halfway between the church and the street. At 15 minutes before the service the overflow was full and people were bringing out small plastic stools to sit upon. Basing my calculations on our section of seating (100 chairs) and the number of sections around the building there were probably about 1200 people there that day. Amazing! The service was good but the music had us longing for home. Maybe it was the sound system that was lacking.

The “You’re In Indonesia Now” moment came just before noon. Friday is the big prayer day for Muslims. Not only do they broadcast the call to prayer but a homily as well. So about 45 minutes into our service the call to prayer began. There were probably two Mosques close by so you had two different speakers going. Add to that the street noise with cars and the buses and the bike bell (think little kid’s tricycle bell) ringing at regular intervals as the bike vendor circled the block selling drinks from his bike. We were singing and venerating the cross. Welcome to Jakarta!

Easter Sunday came on Saturday for us. We were told the English speaking Mass on Sunday would spill into the streets so we chose Easter Vigil…on Saturday…at 1:00 pm. Nothing like the Service of Light with the new fire in the middle of the day. Anyway, we arrived an hour early on Saturday and were able to get seats inside. The Mass was very nice. Holding lit candles in a wood church that was packed with people with very few exits into the street was a little scary at times but the music was improved, the sermon was unique and interactive (we sang snippets of songs during it to help the priest make his points), and the fellowship of worship on our most Holy day was uplifting and a blessing. To top it all off we saw my dear friend and her family as we exited and I got to hear about dyeing eggs from a sweet 5 year old. Almost like home….almost.

No Easter celebration would be complete without food so on Easter Sunday we went to a nearby hotel for a Super Brunch. There were tables set up in every available space that could be found. We reserved a table in one of the bar areas that was less crowded. (We luckily made advance reservations as it was fully booked.) Over 120 different dishes were served and wine and champagne were free flowing. There was caviar and sushi, desserts to die for and carving stations for beef, turkey, and ham. Soups, salads, and international foods. Pasta stations and traditional Javanese food. If you could think of it, it was there.

All in all it was a great experience. Even though we could have gone away for the long weekend, I am glad we stayed and had Easter here. Unforgettable.

Shopping Yogyakarta

Sorry it took me several days (weeks!) to finish blogging about our trip to Yogyakarta. Several distractions including Easter came up but that is for another post….soon, I promise.

So, by Sunday afternoon we had done just about all the sight-seeing that was on our list. Initially I had asked Scott if there was time for a tour of a batik factory but he was less than enthusiastic and so it was tabled for another trip. (In his mind this was a trip I would take with other women thus releasing him from ever having to go to a factory at all.)  Imagine my delight (and his surprise) when our guide told us we would be visiting a batik factory!!

Once again reality slammed up against expectations. Like Scott, I imagined a factory would be a large building or several buildings with machinery and mechanical conveyor belts and huge vats of dye and other such stuff needed to create the bolts of batik fabric that then are made into shirts, dresses, scarves, etc. Nope. Not so. Not even close. We stopped in front of some buildings that looked like houses and a store. We headed down a hallway (or alley?) between two buildings making a couple of turns and ended up in a room. One room…not much bigger than some of the gymnasiums I have seen at Texas high schools. That whole room was the factory.

Okay, let me back up a bit and tell you a little about batik. The process of making batik is wax-resistant dyeing of cloth. Wax is applied to the fabric first in the desired pattern and then the piece is dipped into dye. Wherever there is wax the dye will not penetrate the material. This process can be repeated several times for a particular piece depending on the desired number of colors and the overall pattern. There are many traditional patterns. Some patterns are used for weddings, some for funerals, and some are reserved exclusively for the Sultan and his family.

 

There are three main ways to apply the wax to the fabric. The most time consuming and most traditional way is by canting. Think of a cross  between a pipe and an old fashioned ink pen. The bowl of the canting pen is filled with wax and, following a pattern drawn onto the fabric, the wax is carefully drawn. (Talk about having a steady hand!) The second way is by using copper “stamps”. Dipped into wax and then stamped onto the fabric this is quicker and gives a more uniform look to the pattern. The stamps are applied by hand. The third way is to “paint” the wax on. This is used when large areas need to be covered.

 

Okay, back to the factory. This was the Sunday of a holiday weekend and close to lunch time so there were not the usual amount of workers. Several women sat on stools in front of fabric doing the hand canting, applying the hot wax to the fabric. Along one side there was a man using a copper stamp to apply the wax. Our guide took us around showing us different patterns and the process to making batik. There were several large dye vats in the middle of the room. There was another gentleman painting the fabric to achieve a more complex pattern. In one corner was a huge pot where the finished fabrics were being dipped in hot water to melt off the wax. The wax rises to the surface where it is skimmed off and put in a large pile of used wax. The man then scoops out the fabric and hangs it to dry. Further on were finished pieces hanging in another area to dry from the dye before being “de-waxed”. Fascinating the simplicity of this operation, just as it has been done in Java for many centuries. After visiting the factory we exited through a store where the finished material is available for sale. They also have shirts, dresses, scarves and wall hangings for purchase. After seeing the amount of work that goes into it, the price did not seem to be as expensive as we previously thought. Scott found a shirt and I bought a lovely scarf to remember our trip.

We ate lunch at a restaurant that was near a silversmith. We got to watch as they twisted the silver (made there) into filigree patterns as simple as earrings and as intricate as sailboats. This too requires a steady hand and much patience. Some of the best silver comes from Yogyakarta. There is a whole area just outside the city known for their silver. Time did not allow us to visit there but the city does offer many silver shops as well. The choice of silver items for sale is overwhelming. It seemed as if there was not much that they could not make!

Our next stop was the bird market. Once inside the city, the market was moved further out after an epidemic of bird flu. In Javanese culture owning a bird is very important for a man as entertainment after a long day of work. It is said that your bird understands your moods. There are many birds in the market as well as everything you would need, cages, food, etc. The name is  misleading as birds are not the only animals sold here. You can buy bats, snakes, monkeys, squirrels, fish, etc. Many of the animals sold can be used for medicinal purposes such controlling acne or reducing high blood pressure. I didn’t ask too many questions here and pretty much stayed creeped out most of the time.

 

After that adventure we made a quick stop to buy boxes of Bakpia. This is a filled pastry-like food for which Yogya is known. The store was packed and some of the varieties were quickly running out. Personally I liked the chocolate and the cheese. The original is a favorite of Indonesians….green bean. We brought back several boxes to give to our staff and the apartment staff as well as coworkers in the office. A big hit!

We ended our day at Malioboro. When you tell people you are going to Yogyakarta this is one of the places they ask you if you are planning on seeing. It is actually a long street that is filled with handicraft/souvenir stores. There are also many stalls in the streets with handicrafts and food. At sundown the food vendors begin to set up their stalls in earnest and this is the late-night spot to catch a bite to eat. There are many becak (three-wheeled, pedal-powered carts) that will happily take you about the city or from one end of Malioboro to the other. The street is crowded and there are many vendors. It was definitely something to see and a perfect stop if your souvenir list is long and your wallet thin. There are many good deals to be had if you are willing to spend the time and negotiate. We just enjoyed walking about and people watching. It was a long day and we were thankful to return to our hotel that night.

Pool at the hotel

Our flight the next day wasn’t until 2:00 and so we decided to end our busy weekend by treating our battered bodies to a massage. The hotel had a traditional Javanese spa that was very good. A great way to prepare for our return trip. As stated before the airport is very small, only four gates, so everyone just sits in a big room and waits until they are called to walk out to their planes. It can be a bit confusing as, unlike the Jakarta airport, it is all in bahasa Indonesia but we are pretty good at numbers and after hearing the announcements over and over you get the idea of when it is your turn to go.

 

We look forward to returning this summer to Yogya when the kids come to visit. I can’t wait to go back. Definitely a must-see if you are ever in Indonesia.

Fire Mountain and Prambanan

After a memorable morning on Borobudur Scott and I were picked up by our guide for the next couple of days. Agus came highly recommended and with him came Kiran, our driver. We settled into the car and headed for Prambanan, the Hindu temple supposedly started by the Hindu King that finished Borobudur. After some discussion of the plans for the next day and a half we decided to stop on our way to visit Mount Merapi (Gunung Merapi in Indonesian meaning Fire Mountain).

A popular way to visit Merapi includes a hike through the night to see the sunrise from the top. We may eventually try this but this trip we limited it to trying to get close enough to get pictures of the top. (No luck as the clouds rolled in as we did.) Along the way Agus pointed out the destruction that occurred during the last eruption of Merapi in 2010. Although it was not as large or deadly as the one in 2006 (under 400 deaths in 2010 compared to over 5000 in 2006), it was devastating to the villages it destroyed. There are many new bridges over the dry rivers of ash and stone caused by the lava flow.

 

We headed up the mountain first in the car and stopped at what looked like a village in the beginning of rebuilding. There were many vendors selling food, handicrafts, and souvenirs. It had a temporary feel of a carnival midway. We headed up a little to where a river used to flow trying to get a good angle for a picture. We climbed down into a ravine caused by the lava flow. Walking in the ash was similar to walking on sand and about as unstable at times. Luckily there are many rocks also that were spewed from the volcano and a kind young man that offered us a bamboo stick to hold onto as we climbed down the very last (and steepest) part of the hill. Once in the ravine we explored a bit, Scott studying the lava rocks that surrounded us. We waited a bit to get some pictures but my lingering cough (a souvenir of the pollen in Houston on our trip back in March) and our desire to see Prambanan moved us to head back to the car.

 

 

 

 

Aside: Further down the ravine was a large dump truck and several workers loading the very large stones that will be used to build new houses and buildings. Both Borobudur and Prambanan are built from stones like this, spit out of Merapi over the centuries. Equally fascinating to the historical link of their work was the myriad of OSHA violations we noted. Several of the men wore flipflops. None had gloves, safety goggles or any kind of protective clothing. Two workers lifted a stone, the one smoking a cigarette steadying it while the other put it on his head! (No hardhat.) Then he walked over the uneven ground to load it in the truck. This is not unusual to see in construction around Indonesia.

So we went back to the car and decided to stop for lunch before heading to Prambanan. It was a good opportunity for Agus and Kiran to pray. Agus quickly helped us order as there was no English on the menu and then left us to our own devices. Our limited bahasa Indonesia is much more evident when we are faced with Indonesians that have no English. The restaurant was amazing though. Each table was in an open hut of its own built over water that had many fish swimming around. There were mats to sit on and low tables at which to eat. We had chosen a fish that was their specialty, white rice, and cooked spinach. Scott also had a fish soup that he said was really good. Feeling quite Javanese I ate Indonesian style, using my right hand. Messy but good! This was one of those times that we look at each other and marvel at the blessings of the experiences we are having.

 

 

 

Finally we were on our way to Prambanan. This Hindu temple is no longer active but the public holiday on Friday that awarded us a long weekend was the Hindu Day of Silence. Friday there had been a ceremony at the temple in honor of their holy day. Like Borobudur, Prambanan is a national treasure and designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It has many parallels to Borobudur other than legend. It was built in the 9th century. Originally there were 240 temples on the grounds. Some speculate it was built to honor the shift in religious dominance from Buddhist to Hindu in Central Java. It was also abandoned probably due to the eruptions of Mount Merapi and the shift of political power to East Java. Also rediscovered by the British at the 1800s its restoration was begun in the 1930s and completed in the 1950s.

In the center there are 3 main east-facing temples dedicated to Shiva, Visnu, and Brahma. In front of them and west-facing are the temples dedicated to the modes of transportation for these 3 gods. There are 2 small temples on the north and south ends. This center area is the most holy and surrounded by a wall. Surrounding the wall in what would have been the second area of the complex are the ruins of 224 lesser temples. Mostly just distinct piles of stones, their reconstruction cannot be completed since many of the original stones were taken by locals to use of other purposes over the centuries. This area also is surrounded by a wall and there is a third area that it is speculated housed buildings to support the temple. There are no ruins in this area.

 

Sadly only a few of the temples were open to the public. Following the eruption of Merapi in 2006 there was an earthquake that did significant damage to the temples. Only recently has any of them been open so we felt fortunate to have been able to view the insides of the ones we did. Surrounding the temples there are bas reliefs telling Hindu stories. It is fascinating how precise the carving is in the stone. It is said that the birds depicted in some of the reliefs can be identified by scientists because they are so accurately carved. Amazing!

Aside: Beyond the river that borders one side of the temple was a camp ground with many tents. The Indonesian version of Boy Scouts were having a “jamboree” type weekend because of the holiday. While I prefer the A/C of my hotel to their very open tents, it would be rather awesome to camp in the shadow of the temple!

 

Okay, so now that I have put y’all entirely to sleep with my history lesson, I will share one of the funnies from the trip. As earlier, there were many students at Prambanan and we were stopped and asked for pictures a few times on the way to the main temple area. Scott especially has a hard time saying no and soon Agus and I  were wandering ahead of him as Agus talked about the history. At one point he started laughing and when I asked him what was so funny he said that there were 2 young girls  following us arguing about whether they should ask me for a picture. The one wanted to but her friend said, “No. She is with her bodyguard!”  I did end up taking a picture with them and their friends and was interviewed and recorded on someone’s phone. Such must be the life of a celebrity!

 

Again I will plead with anyone reading this to blog to go to our Photo Album link and look at the wonderful pictures of this incredible monument.

Borobudur Monument

This past weekend we traveled to Jogjakarta in Central Java. We had a holiday on Friday but didn’t leave until the afternoon because flights were quite full as this is also Spring Break for the International Schools in Jakarta. Our first destination was Borobudur, about an hour north of the city.

We took a car from the airport to the Manohara Hotel at the foot of the Temple and arrived about 4:30 in the afternoon. It is the only hotel on  the Sanctuary grounds and was originally built as a cultural center for archaeologists to come to study and workshop about Borobudur and other nearby temples. We signed up for a sunrise tour and were given our tickets for Saturday morning. They included admission for Friday as well but the park closes each day at 5:00 and we thought we would just head to our room. As former lodging for archaeologists the rooms are small and simple but clean. Deciding that the A/C needed some time to cool the room Scott grabbed his camera and we headed towards the temple with the hopes to get some pictures from the bottom of the hill. To our surprise (and delight) they let us in 10 minutes before closing. By this time most of the tourists were gone and only a few groups and visitors remained. As we did not expect to be allowed admission, we had not gotten the requisite sarongs to wear on the temple so we walked around the base, taking the opportunity to get some fantastic pictures.

This is a holy place and although it is now more of a historical site and a national treasure, you can still feel a sense of peace, awe, and spirituality there. We strolled about until most of the visitors were coming off the temple and queuing up at the exit. We spotted a young man with the hotel logo on his shirt and approached him as to how to proceed through the exit and back to the hotel. He told us we had a special gate on the other side and led us over there, stopping to let Scott take a few pictures and even taking one of us. On the way down some vendors selling Buddha heads and souvenir books spotted us and immediately began to badger us to buy. Scott made the mistake of engaging one persistent fellow, Johan, in conversation and promised him that he would buy from him on Saturday. (Fortunately Johan was nowhere to be seen on Saturday and so we are (thankfully) without a cement Buddha head in our souvenir collection!)

 

Our room was now cool and we were hungry so we headed towards the restaurant, stopping by the desk to request an English-speaking guide for the morning. The open pavilions that house the restaurants and the reception desk are beautiful examples of Javanese architecture. From our table we could see the sun setting behind the temple. The food was much better than we had anticipated. In the center of the building there were many traditional musical instruments and a young man who played and sang traditional Javanese songs. He very patiently taught a young girl how to accompany him on one of the other instruments. Relaxed and full, we headed back to our room to try to get to sleep early.

 

 

The 4:00 am wake up call was a bit rough but at 4:30 we were in the reception pavilion with many other guests putting on our sarongs and collecting our flashlights. (Luckily we brought our own as mine did not work.) Since the park itself does not open until 6:00 am this is the only way to see the sunrise and guests from other hotels arrived to join our group.  The sunrise tour is a bit misleading as it offers no guides in any language and should maybe be called the sunrise entrance. We were aware of this and had contracted to have a private guide with us. Pak Budi introduced himself and we started up towards the temple. Many people headed straight up to the top but although it was dark, Pak Budi stopped on several of the levels to point out some of the reliefs carved into the sides of the temple. We arrived at the top about 50 minutes before sunrise. The sun is a star and on that day her paparazzi awaited her. Many people had cameras at ready, checking lighting levels, setting up tripods. We found a quiet place that was not too crowded and although Scott did want to get pictures of the sunrise we were a little put off by the lack of reverence we saw in some of the visitors.

 

Soon after sunrise Pak Budi found us and took us to several spots just to get pictures. His father had been a restoration worker on the temple and a photographer and he had a great eye for some of the magnificent ways to capture the beauty of the temple. After he felt certain that he had done his best as a photographic guide, he began to move us around the temple, explaining the history, the legend, and the surrounding landscapes. He was quite funny and loved to reference American movies.

There are over 500 Buddha statues on the temple. The position of the Buddha and the level it sits on determines the hand position of the statue. Pak Budi and I did Tai Chi as a way of learning the six positions. The left hand is almost always at the waist, palm up.

 

  • Right hand palm down – calling the Earth to witness. (East facing lower levels)
  • Right hand palm forward (“stop” position) – imparting fearlessness, courage. (North facing lower levels)
  • Right hand palm up – charity and good works. (South facing lower levels)
  • Right hand palm up on top of left, close to the body – meditation. (West facing lower levels)
  • Right hand thumb and first finger making a circle (ok sign) – teaching or reasoning, virtue. (All Buddhas on the top levels regardless of direction facing)
  • Right ring finger to left ring finger close to the body – turning the wheel of life. (All Buddhas in the Stupas on the three upper levels)

The history of Borobudur is not exact and we found several accounts and legends about who built it. (One was that a giant built it and then went to sleep becoming a mountain range to the north.) It seems agreed upon that it was built in the 8th century and took about 75 years to complete. My favorite and the one that seems most plausible based on history is that a Buddhist Sultan had it built as a way to show the people the teachings of Buddha (using the reliefs as “picture bibles”.) The top levels were for the priests and people could progress up the 10 levels as they became “enlightened”. However, he was old and the work was not completed. His daughter, the Buddhist Queen married the Hindu King that also lived in the area. The Sultan asked his son-in-law to complete his temple and the Hindu King did so to honor the wishes of his father-in-law. However, the Hindu King felt a longing in his soul to honor his gods and after completing Borobudur, he began construction of Prambanan nearby. He had a small Buddhist temple built on the corner of that complex to honor his queen and to protect the Buddhist monks. He could not finish his temple either and so it was left to his son-in-law to finish.

By the time we were more than halfway through our tour, the temple was becoming crowded with other visitors and large groups of school children (middle school and high school age.) We were stopped often and asked to take pictures with the children. A few times our guide had to intercede so that we could move along in the tour. Apparently there are many small villages where people have not seen a “real” Westerner. Some just wanted pictures. Other groups of children we met had assignments to practice their English and would ask questions about where we were from and what food we liked in Indonesia. Scott and I were amused by it although after a while I think it irritated the guide. It gave us a chance to practice a little of our bahasa Indonesia too.

We made it back to the hotel in time for a wonderful breakfast, still within site of the monument. After a short nap (for me) we checked out, meeting our guide for the rest of the weekend, Agus. What was only a few hours that morning seemed like so much more. Plans for a return visit are already underway!

Quick Facts about Borobudur:

  • Built in the 8th century
  • Indonesian name is Candi Borobudur (pronounced Chandi)
  • Borobudur is not technically a temple as there is no way to enter the monument. It is built over a hill or small mountain.
  • There are over 2500 bas reliefs, some decorative and some story telling
  • There are 10 levels including the Stupa at the top of the monument. That Stupa is thought to return the counting to zero, a perfect circle, and therefore representative of Nirvana
  • There were originally 504 Buddha statues. Many are damage and some missing. All statues are seated in the “lotus” position.
  • There are 72 Stupas that are distributed on the three upper levels in descending multiples of 8. (The number 8 has no beginning and no end.)
  • The Stupas on Borobudur are perforated. Those on the lower levels have diamond-shaped holes representing instability and those on the upper level have square holes to signify being more grounded.
  • A Stupa is representative of Buddhas holy mind. The Stupas on Borobudur differ from traditional stupas. This was thought to be artistic license of the builders injecting a bit of Javanese culture into the construction. Each Stupa houses a statue of Buddha but it is unclear whether or not they once held holy relics as well.
  • Borobudur and the surrounding area was thought to be abandoned in the 10th or 11th century when the center of power was moved from Central Java to East Java. It is speculated that this was due to volcanic eruptions from several local volcanoes.
  • Restoration was first undertaken in the 1900s. Since then a major renovation funded by UNESCO was done in 1972 and small restorations done in 1985 after a bombing and in 2010 after volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Merapi covered the entire monument in about an inch of debris. The monument was closed while workers removed not only surface ash but removed stones from the terraces in order to clean out debris from the drainage system and then painstakingly returned them to their original place.

Disclaimer: Although I have checked some of the facts as they were told to me, do not hold me to any academic accuracy as I am but a poor gullible tourist that sometimes prefers conjecture over the words “nobody knows.”

Please, please, please go to the Photo Album section of our blog to see many more beautiful pictures of Borobudur. The almost 200 pictures there are less than half of what we took during our time on the monument. Some of the surrounding landscape is equally breathtaking!

In Defense of Shopping

In Jakarta it is almost an expectation and belief that expat women shop…a lot…maybe even daily. I would love to dispel that rumor with stories of feeding the poor at soup kitchens, rocking babies, building houses, etc but the truth is that there is a lot of truth to it. Some people say it is an obligation to shop as a way to stimulate the economy but that just sounds to me like an interesting marketing tactic.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of social welfare activities being performed by expats. Some work through the American Women’s Association or other organizations raising money and delivering food, one woman I know teaches English as a second language, some volunteer and run the Jakarta version of the Humane Society, rescuing unwanted and abused pets, and many with school age children volunteer at the schools just like they would in the States and maybe even more since they cannot get work permits here.

But we do shop.

First I must clarify that there is a difference between shopping and buying and not every shopping trip ends up costing money. Some are just walking around looking at items for sale, pricing things you think you want, keeping lists of places that have items you know you want. Scott buys and I shop. When he knows what he wants he makes a bee-line straight for it and before I can look at something sparkly or cute, he has his purchase in hand and is moving towards the door! That is buying and although my son teases me that is my pasttime of choice, I do far more shopping than buying.

So how does one defend the fixation on shopping by expat women that does not sound frivolous, shallow, or a waste of time? The answer is simple: Shopping in Jakarta (or any foreign country) is a learning experience, a scavenger hunt of sorts. We lack the common knowledge that each of us holds in our home countries. If I am looking for something in the States I can easily narrow my search in my mind. Low priced items that are not necessarily the highest quality can be found at Target or Walmart. A step up from that would be Kohl’s, JCPenney, or Sears. Higher yet Macy’s, Dillards, Nordstroms, Lord & Taylor. High end/most expensive might be boutiques or custom made. Yes I know quality and price do not go hand in hand but for most items it is a place to start, a guideline of sorts. Knowledge seeps into your brain whether you know it or not and if you ask someone where to get just about anything they will be able to give a few suggestions. Even men have a sense of where to shop.

It is that exact knowlege that an expat lacks in a foreign country. Add to that the fact that in Jakarta there are more malls than Houston has Starbucks (yes…exaggeration but not by much) full of stores that are new, brands that are new, and prices that are sometimes hard to compare. Now factor in that many of the places you actually WANT to buy from are small shops with no advertisement but a sign outside a small building on a busy cramped street that may or may not give a clue as to what they sell, no internet search to find what you want and an ever-changing inventory of items. Then, just to spice things up throw in the fact that many items are custom made here, not because they are high end or exclusive but because there are many talented artisans that are supported by the local community.

In short, we must spend time to learn where to find what we want, educate ourselves on the history behind Indonesian handicrafts, figure out what a fair price is for things we have never seen, and learn which stores or sellers to trust. We also hunt for some common items that are not so common here.

So, if you hear me talk about shopping several times a week or I am excited because a friend made a recommendation for a new shop I have never been to, do not judge me as shallow or frivolous. I am learning a lot about Indonesia handicrafts, interacting with local people and practicing my bahasa Indonesia, and I am supporting the local economy when I buy something. I figure after a few years here I will need to do less shopping but I hope not, discovering the small shops around Jakarta is always challenging and entertaining.

Singapore – Some Fun Facts

Singapore is an island north of Jakarta. It sits just east of the Indonesian island of Sumatra and south of the country Malaysia. On some maps it may seem to be part of the same land mass as Malaysia but there is indeed water separating them, although not much. Singapore was a former colony of Great Britain. It was important as a shipping port between China and markets to the West. In order to get a foothold in an area that was dominated by the Dutch, Singapore was created as a free port, which of course was a brilliant move that created much growth. The Singapore River at one time was a bustling place of trade and had much history with many different cultures. However, it was filthy and nasty. Sometime in the 1970’s the government set out to clean up the river, moving out traditional trading spots and within 10 years the river was clean enough to swim in. (It is illegal to do so though.) The riverfront suffered from this change and the bustling river life was gone. Now the riverfront has been transformed with shoppes, restaurants, and bars. It is a great place to walk about and has reinvented itself into a tourist destination.

Still today, Singapore is a place of many diverse people. Singapore has four official languages. English is taught in schools as the first language and used in government. Malay, Mandarin Chinese, and Tamil (Indian) are also taught in schools as second languages depending on the ethnicity of the child’s father. Most signs are written in all four languages and announcements on the subway were also given in all four languages.

Singapore is a very safe and clean country. As a visitor it was wonderful to breathe the fresh air and walk on clean streets. The cleanliness comes at a price though. There are many laws you must be careful not to break when in Singapore. Spitting on the ground is illegal. Chewing gum is banned. You cannot buy it or bring it in for your personal use. I have seen differing opinions on whether or not it is actually illegal to chew gum if somehow it magically appeared in your mouth. Apparently it interfered with the doors of the subway and that was unacceptable so….no gum. Littering is very bad too. There are high fines for littering. For Singaporeans a second offense could get them a couple hours of litter clean up with a bright vest and a possible invitation for the media to witness with the thought that shaming them will stop their littering ways.

They are very proud of their subway system, the MRT, and rightfully so. It is efficient, clean, and brightly lit. The fine for eating in the station, on the platforms, or in the trains is 500 SGD (Singapore dollars). If caught smoking it is 1000 SGD! Smoking is banned in most places except for bars/clubs/discos type places. You can only smoke 50 feet from a building entrance. I did not see one person walking and smoking (not sure if it is legal or not.) Mostly there were certain trash receptacles with ashtrays on top and smokers would gather around those to smoke. That being said, I didn’t really see a lot of smokers in general.

There are a few other bizarre laws that were not posted on signs anywhere but that I came across when looking into the whole chewing gum thing. It is against the law (and can result in fines and public caning) to not flush the toilet in a public restroom when you are finished. Apparently this is randomly checked. I did not see any Potty Police around the bathrooms that we used but one does not take chances in a foreign country. You cannot walk around naked in your house. All nudity falls under pornography so leave your smut magazines at the border please, they too are illegal. Connecting to a Wi-Fi hotspot that is unsecured is considered hacking and is punishable.

As in most Asian cultures, public displays of affection (PDAs) are frowned upon. Of course Singapore goes a bit further and you can be fined for “outraging modesty” if you are overly affectionate in public. They expand this conservativeness as well with laws against homosexuality. Although there is not a state religion, religion is taken quite serious in Singapore. You can be fined or put in jail for ridiculing or making disparaging remarks about religion. Racial slurs follow suit. No bullying here. (Unless it is government sanctioned I guess.)

They are serious about their laws, which is probably why it is such a safe city to move around. There were signs in Chinatown that reminded shoppers in the crowded market that “Low Crime does not mean No Crime.” No place is perfect. Upon entering the plane there was a sign that stated that “Singapore has the death penalty for drug use, possession, or trafficking.” Gotta love a country that lays it right out there.

In doing some research to decide what to see while we were there we read mixed reviews on what one writer called “the Disney-fication” of Singapore. It is clear that this is a city/state that has realized its worth as a vacation destination. (It was listed last week as one of the top 10 most expensive places to vacation.) I never felt like I was in an amusement park while there (with the exception of the auto-Brit voice on the train)  unless you say that having clear signs, clean sidewalks, and an excellent transit system is “park-like”. I will reserve my opinions until we have visited a few more times and see all that Singapore has to offer.

I will say that it is a delightful city. I am not sure that the freedoms given up to maintain the cleanliness of the city are all that bad. Then again I am not addicted to drugs, cigarettes, or gum. I always flush the toilet and have never been prone to streaking in public or private so my freedoms were not infringed upon. Many of these are just good manners. In the past I have questioned whether or not you can legislate morality. In Singapore it seems you can.

PS: If you travel to Singapore there is no need to ask for the International Terminal at Changi Airport when you are ready to go home. All flights are international. There are no domestic flights on this island….

PPS: Changi Airport is truly one of the most beautiful airports I have ever traveled through. There is not a place inside or out that does not have architectural features or some live plant growing from it. It is a gem.

 

Singapore Surprise

There is nothing like returning from a vacation to find you are going on another one! I arrived back in Jakarta last Wednesday night, after spending five wonderful weeks in the States. Before I could sit down and put my feet up or begin to think about unpacking Scott surprised me with the news that we were going to Singapore for the long weekend. Monday was a “red calendar day”, which means a public holiday, in honor of Chinese New Year. (Apparently there are 3-4 New Years celebrated in Indonesia.) Better yet, he had gotten us tickets to see the musical Wicked, which I have been wanting to go see for a long time.

Lucky for me I had had a 13-hour layover in Doha, Qatar on my way back and between that and sleeping on the plane I was almost back on time. There was no time for jet lag. I spent Thursday unpacking, putting away, and repacking since we were leaving Friday at noon. I did find some time to have lunch with Princess Mani and the Jamu Princess. It was a brief reunion but good to catch up.

Friday found us back at the airport and on our way to Singapore with only a short delay due to weather or traffic control or some such nonsense. No business class on this flight. The 1.5 hour flight felt more like being on a full bus. We flew Garuda Airlines, which is Indonesian. Despite the short trip, we were served juice before we took off and a meal and drinks during the flight. Hot food with utensils. What they lack in leg room they make up for in service.

After checking into our hotel we went in search of dinner. We didn’t want to go too far since I was still dragging a bit. Luckily we were staying in a shopping district. The streets were full of people. The weather was perfect and the air clean. It reminded both of us of Rome at night. We found an Italian bistro on the sidewalk and had some pizza and a bottle of wine. The wine was good and the pizza okay but it was such a change to be able to eat outside.

 On Saturday we headed on the subway to the Botanic Gardens. It was not as either of  us expected. Free to the public, it seemed more of a huge park than a garden. There were many people running/jogging, children riding their bicycles, and families sitting in the grass enjoying the day. The weather was hot but there was plenty of shade. It is the kind of place that makes you want to take up running. We stopped at the Visitor’s Center to get some cold water and take a breather and then headed for the Orchid Garden.

 

 

We had been to an Orchid House on our trip to Bogor last October and enjoyed the beauty of them. The Orchid Gardens in Singapore were not free but we willingly paid the entrance fee (after buying me a big-brimmed hat in the gift shop). The flowers were magnificent. Scott’s new camera got plenty of use as one area seemed more beautiful than the next. (Take a look at our photo album section for Singapore. There are far too many pictures to put into this post.) We enjoyed our time, walking all over to make sure we did not miss anything. When we finished with the orchids we decided that, although we could spend an entire day in the Botanic Gardens, it was time to move one.

 

 

 

We hopped back on the subway and headed to Chinatown. With the Chinese New Year on Monday this was definitely the place to be and the time to be there. Many stalls lined the streets selling everything from traditional foods to fireworks to good luck charms. (The year of the Dragon is considered to not be very good so there are many things to buy to ensure prosperity and good health.) We headed down a side street and found a restaurant that looked rather crowded. (It is how we pick places to eat when we are somewhere new. We figure it is safe.) This turned out to be a good stop. Singapore is known for “Chili Crabs.” Although not listed as such we did choose a crab pot and some fried spare ribs. It was a good combination. The crab pot was full of crabs, shrimp, and veggies (and something else that could have been a potato or tofu or some vegetable I have yet to come across but it was really good!) I try not to ask too many questions, I may not like the answers.

 

With our stomach’s full and a picture taken of the restaurant so that we can find it again sometime, we headed down one of the main streets on the edge of Chinatown. Here we found the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore. Called Sri Mariamman Temple it is incredible in the decorations. (Once again check our photo album for more pictures.)The entrance tower has six levels of sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses. They are painted with bright colors. We removed our shoes and left them outside and entered the temple. We had to pay a small tax for Scott to use his camera and although the shrines are covered, for the most part it is an open-air worship site. We took many pictures of the painted statues all around the courtyard area. While meaning no disrespect to the Hindu religion, the colorfulness of the statues reminded me of the carousel horses of my childhood. Sorry, it is my only reference from which to try to explain how vivid the colors were.

 

After that we headed back into Chinatown to get some boxes of a famous barbecue pork and beef that is sort of like jerky. Intending to buy it for some Chinese friends, we now regret after tasting it that we did not buy it fresh and that we did not buy more! Yum! It was called Bee Cheng Hiang and will be a return stop next time we go! We have found an outlet here in Jakarta nearby in the meantime. The crowds seemed to thin out for a bit and allowed us to look past the booths to the buildings behind. These are Victorian in style and would be worth coming to see even if it was not Chinese New Year.

 

At this point it was time to make our way back to the hotel. We headed back down into the subway and found the trains we needed. The Singapore train system is really incredible. It is clean (no eating or drinking in the train or terminal) and well organized. It is brightly lit and easy to follow. We did giggle about the woman’s voice with the British accent saying “Please give way to alighting passengers before entering.” Another favorite was “Mind the platform gap.” We shouldn’t make fun. It was great to be in a country where we spoke the language and could read all the signs and didn’t fear getting lost but the auto-Brit lady was humorous! We hit the gelato stand at the top of the train exit on our way to the hotel. Just in time, as we got into the hotel the skies opened and it poured. We decided to wait out the rain in the lounge and have a drink and the complimentary “light snacks”, which are more heavy appetizers or light dinner. We got to see a double rainbow. (Nobody cried….but it was seen as a good omen.) At that point the day caught up with both of us and we headed back to our room for an early night.

 

Sunday morning was quite busy in Singapore with Chinese New Year’s Eve. After a full breakfast at the buffet downstairs we were back in the subway and headed for the Singapore River area. We walked along the river, following a guide Scott had printed about what to see and do. In a bit of a turn around we found ourselves at the Asian Civilisations Museum. Due to the New Year, it was free admission, so of course we headed in to take a look. We did not see all of it but what we did see was beautiful and breathtaking.  One exhibit was the Tang Shipwreck. A 9th Century ship that was discovered off the coast of Indonesia. The museum has acquired many of the ceramics and gold that were recovered. The ship was coming from China probably to trade in the Middle East or beyond. There were over 50,000 small ceramic plates still intact. One of the displays let you touch three pieces of items found. Can you imagine touching something that was 1,000 years old? Crazy and awesome! After we saw quite a bit of the museum it was time to move on.

 

We headed back down along the river to a restaurant called Jumbo. It is one of the places known for the Chili Crabs. We shared a pot which were very good. Having lived in Louisiana were were familiar with the eating of crabs but the sauce made it especially challenging and the bibs were a huge plus. Although tasty, I was partial to the ones we had in Chinatown on Saturday. I have heard there is a place here in Jakarta that has good crabs. I think this bears a little more research!  We wandered along the river some more, just enjoying the day. The plan had been to head to Little India but we decided it could wait for another visit. We headed back to the hotel to get ready for Wicked!

The Marina Bay Sands Resort in Singapore is an incredible complex. Convention center, shopping mall (super-sized), casino, restaurants, and two theaters along with a hotel and amusement complex sprawl along the Singapore waterfront. The hotel has three towers 55 stories high. Upon these three towers sits a ship….yes, a ship. It has an infinity pool, restaurants, observation deck and I am not sure what else but it is incredible to behold. We arrived several hours before the show began to pick up our tickets and to have a look around. We stopped at the TWG tea shoppe to buy my favorite tea (Paris-Singapore) and then headed to check out the casino. It was nice but small compared to Vegas standards. It requires a passport as Singaporean citizens are only allowed entrance if they join a club. We walked out of there even, which is not usually the case and went to find a quick bite before the show. Ironically we ended up at the TWG Tea Restaurant. We just wanted something small since we had a late lunch. Quiche and salads and Scott got to try the Paris-Singapore tea. Wonderful food, fresh, light, and exactly what we wanted.

Then it was time for the show. Scott outdid himself with tickets in the fourth row center on an end. (Those who know me well know how important an end seat is.) The show itself was performed by the Australian cast and was delightful. Everything I had hoped and more. When it was over we left the theater and made our way to the hotel to see if we could get to the observation deck. It was closed but one of the restaurant/bars was still taking patrons if you wanted a drink. We lucked into a spot on the railing overlooking the water where fireworks were ready to go off. Drinks were expensive….really expensive…. but how often can you say you were 57 floors up on a ship overlooking Chinese New Year celebration? And then came the rain. With 10 minutes until midnight the skies opened and the wind blew rain in that sideways way that cuts right through you. Eventually everyone was driven into the bar and the glass doors closed against the storm. Unlike regular New Year’s, there was no countdown within the bar. The music played, some people were dancing, others trying to get close to the glass. The first burst of red from the outside was an indication that indeed the Year of the Dragon had begun. Whether intentional or because of the weather, the fireworks were few and over  practically before beginning. Scott and I beat a hasty retreat and lucked into an alternate elevator putting us in the taxi queue before the masses arrived. Our wait was at least 20 minutes. I cannot imagine how long some people waited that night. According to our driver the rain on New Year’s is considered good luck by the Chinese.

 

Monday morning we packed and had breakfast before heading to the airport for an 11:30 flight. The city was quiet as is usually the case on New Year’s Day. We felt like we had spent a week in Singapore, having packed in as much as possible. We do have a list of things still to see and the proximity to Jakarta will mean more visits in the future. We still have to see Sentosa Island, Little India, and the Long Bar at Raffles where the Singapore Sling was created. Although served at many places, I did not order a Singapore Sling while we were there. Maybe next time. For me, my Singapore Surprise was much, much better!

Through the Looking Glass

Happy New Year! I apologize for being away from the blog for so long but I had an idea that Longhorn Tales from Asia should be about Asia. Upon returning to Asia I have changed my mind and promise to never let the blog go without an entry for that long. Therefore occasionally you will be subjected to just my random rantings about things I perceive to be worthy of writing about (or that annoy, amuse, or inspire me!)

Where did I go for five weeks? Through the looking glass of course! Actually it was an extended stay in the States over the holidays with lots of family time but in some ways not unlike Alice’s trip in Lewis Carroll’s novel. Same but different. We are new to this living abroad experience so I am not sure if it is me or it is a common phenomenon. Regardless, jumping through the looking glass is an adventure in itself.

I did not anticipate the confused reality of our situation. We left the sunny days of Jakarta for the cool crispness of a Texas winter. We changed our shorts and sandals for jeans and boots. We left a very insulated existence of an expat in a foreign country to being surrounded by family, friends, and neighbors that we have known for a very long time. Having only been overseas for a short time, in some ways it was as if we picked up exactly where we left off. Like college students returning after their first semester we  came “home.” Of course as any college student will tell you, the duality of that situation sometimes makes you question the true definition of home.

Some people same home is where the heart is. Nice sentiment for Hallmark but I doubt there is truly anyone in our modern world that can pinpoint one geographical location to their heart. Families scatter over the generations, friends relocate, and the internet allows us to meet and interact daily with people all over the world. My heart is many places with the people I love and care about. So where is home? I have pondered it a lot and still a definitive answer alludes me. If we are lucky maybe “home” is wherever we make it, in many places, at the same time, coexisting on both sides of the looking glass.

As time goes by I wonder if the traveling back and forth will always make me feel like Alice, living in a surreal duality or if I will become more comfortable with it. The truth is I missed Jakarta and our life here when I was in the States. I am glad to be back so that now I can miss the other side. This isn’t the case of the “grass is always greener,” or a longing for what you don’t have. It is just an appreciation for what lies on both sides of the mirror.

 

December in Lombok

So for our second annual First Weekend in December trip, Scott booked three days in Lombok. I was quite surprised and excited to go. All our American friends ask if we have been to Bali or plan on going to Bali. We will eventually make the trip to mark it off the bucket list but according to all our friends in  Indonesia, Lombok is the Bali of 15 years ago and is the real place to go. We left Friday evening for the 1.5 hour flight southwest.

 

 

We arrived in Lombok Friday night about 9:00 pm (Lombok is an hour ahead of Jakarta time.) The airport is brand new and after getting our luggage we headed out hoping that the hotel car service was waiting. (Yay for our misspelled name on one of the signs!) Our driver led us to our transportation…surprise… a black Toyota Kijang Innova! (Exactly the same as the one we own. It did seem a bit surreal to get in, almost as if we hadn’t left Jakarta at all.) It did not take long to know that this was indeed not Jakarta, no traffic!

The road we traveled rarely had another car on it. I was confused at first because our driver stayed to the middle of the road as much as possible until we could see that people were sitting on the sides of the road and sometimes right on the road itself. Young people just hanging out on a Friday night. A bit unsafe for my taste but our driver expected it. The sky was full of stars and the only light around was the moon and the headlights of our car.

I knew we were staying at the Novotel, a European chain to my knowledge. I was expecting something like a Marriott/Holiday Inn/Hilton but with palm trees. Imagine our surprise when the reception desk was outside under a thatched roof. Too dark to really see much, we followed the bellboy with our luggage on several different paths in between other thatched buildings to the gate to our villa. Yes! Himself sprung for a villa with a private pool on the beach! Incredible.

After unpacking we headed down the beach to the hotel bar. It was a slow Friday night and we enjoyed the sound of the surf and sipped our drinks under a clear sky full of stars. (Living in the city and even in Houston you don’t get to see stars like this…brilliant.) After a few drinks we headed back to the villa for a dip in the pool. It was a humid night so the water felt good although a little warm. We were surprised when a hotel employee showed up in the yard to pick fresh mint that grew there. I guess I wasn’t the only one drinking mojitos that night.

In the morning we had breakfast in the restaurant. All buildings are open with just roofs covering them. It was a buffet and we watched as the staff worked preparing the beach and smoothing the sand. The beach borders a lagoon-like area with the waves breaking about 200 yards offshore. Very calm and clear. After breakfast we stopped by the spa to book massages for the afternoon and then decided to take a walk and left the property to climb a nearby hill that overlooked the beach and the ocean. From there you could also see a public beach that was probably more of a place for surfers. It wasn’t long before the locals spotted us and headed our way with food to sell. We beat a hasty retreat as the word “no” is taken as a jumping off point for negotiations. We cooled off from our hike with another swim in the pool. It was great how convenient it was.

 

The massages were really good. It was Scott’s first time and so I was a little worried but I think he is hooked now. He booked us massages and body scrubs for the next day. Calmed and relaxed we headed to the beach. The sand here is strange, more like tiny pebbles, rather rice-sized. The water stays shallow all the way out to the break and there were some people fishing further out. Snorkeling and scuba diving are big business here. We talked to a dive instructor who said it was a perfect place for beginners. We plan on booking that the next time we go.

As the day wound down locals (mostly children) came by on the beach selling everything from t-shirts to sarongs to bracelets to coconuts. They are quite aggressive if you give them any sign of interest and sometimes even if you don’t. They are not allowed to come closer than a certain point on the sand. I made the mistake of buying a couple of bracelets from one of the little girls that seemed more interested in playing with her friends than selling. I was instantly harrassed by the other girls that I had said no to. For the second time that day retreat seemed the best option and so we headed back to the villa to clean up.

One of the employees had told us about a tour to watch the sunset but when we went to the meeting place we found out he was mistaken so we walked back to the beach to watch from there. It was gorgeous. Sort of like a Corona commercial.  I have not seen Scott so relaxed in a long time. Eventually the sun began its journey to the other side of the world and we headed to dinner. A seafood buffet with live music. The food was pretty good, the music even better, and the service awesome. There was a night market on the beach that was rather small and mostly t-shirts and sarongs so we passed on that since my stomach was a bit upset and we had plans for an early morning in the local city market.

Needless to say it was the best 24 hours I may have ever spent on a vacation. The next 18 hours were not so good. Being accustomed to the safety of food preparation in our home and Jakarta restaurants I had let my guard down. I have traveled Food Poison Lane before and this was no different. We travel with a medical kit but even the maximum dose of Imodium did not help. By morning Scott was looking for a doctor or a flight home. The doctor was out of town and his assistant could not understand Scott so she hung up. The closest hospital was 1.5 hours away and the flights back to Jakarta were booked. Of course by now the worst of it was over and I was just exhausted.

Scott canceled our trip to the city. (It was raining pretty hard so we didn’t feel like we missed much.) He canceled our spa treatments but I convinced him to go back and at least get a massage while I slept. He signed up for a hot rock massage and is now requesting the names of the Jakarta spas that my friends recommend! I drank lots of water and some rehydration stuff in the kit that sort of tasted like the salt water you gargle with except it was cold instead of warm and I didn’t get to spit it out! By the afternoon I was feeling human, had practiced my bahasa Indonesia with the houseman, and was ready to get some fresh air.

We signed up for a monkey walk and I didn’t want to miss it. Luckily it was just Scott, I, and the guide. We walked around one of the hills near the hotel past a public beach to another lagoon like area. Our guide had a basket of peanuts for us to feed the monkeys. Nearby were several bungalows belonging to locals. The guide started calling to the monkeys but no luck. He chatted with some of the locals who said they were further around the bend so we went there. On the beach there was a large family of several generations I guess out for a Sunday picnic. A few children called for the monkeys too. Finally when we were about to give up one monkey showed up. Scott bought a coconut from one of the local boys. (He looked about 8 but carried a machete about the size of his arm to open the coconut.) Apparently monkeys like coconut as much as nuts and soon the monkey came over and started drinking out of the coconut. I guess the word got out on the hill and some of his friends joined him. Soon there were about 10-12 monkeys and they would take the peanuts right out of your hand! It was so cool. They were fast at getting them and faster at eating. Scott bought two more coconuts and they had a feast.

 

 

 

We had our fun so Scott asked the guide if the small children from the family that had been watching us would like to feed the monkeys too. He seemed surprised at the request but asked and of course the kids jumped at the chance. Even some of the teenage girls got in on it and soon we were chatting with the family about where we were from and where we lived. (Thank goodness that was our lesson last week with the bahasa Indonesia teacher!) Of course we had to get a couple of pictures. We took a group shot with our camera but one of the teenagers had a phone and I think we took a picture with almost everyone individually. The girls really wanted to stand next to Scott and hold his arm. I am not sure which was more fun, the monkeys or the interaction with this wonderful family.

With the peanut basket empty and the pictures all taken we headed back. I was exhausted but happy and Scott also had a good time. He went for a swim and I took a nap and then once again we sat and watched the sunset. Not bad for a day we thought was ruined. Scott did switch our Monday afternoon flight to morning since we were still not 100% sure it was food poisoning. We ordered room service for dinner. (I had steamed rice and bananas.)

 

 

 

We called for the car service to pick us up at 5:00 am for a 6:55 flight, set our alarms and went to bed. Did I mention before that Lombok is an hour ahead? Yep, you guessed it, the phone hadn’t adjusted time. Luckily I was still getting up several times in the night and woke Scott the final time when he realized that it was 5:20 am and not 4:20!!! Yikes! We threw the last minute stuff in the suitcase, brushed our teeth, got dressed (Scott threw a hat on his head) and we raced for the front. The bellman and driver took the suitcases, moving too slow for my taste and Scott went to turn in the key. The driver asked me why I was so frightened. “We slept too much and now we are late,” was my reply. He and the bellman laughed and the bellman said. “No worries, the crew is here!” What? Like they were the A-team or something? What did that mean? Mario Andretti was going to get us to the airport? I guess I still had a frightened look on my face so he repeated. “The crew is here. Garuda Airlines. The pilot stayed here. They are eating breakfast still.” Oh…..that’s what he meant! No worries!

The rest of the trip home was relatively smooth. We had to upgrade to executive class because they were the only seats available and we sat across the aisle from someone important since a bunch of people getting on the plane bowed to him or shook his hand. (Later our driver told us it was a General because his driver and security detail were waiting for him.) We headed straight for the clinic where I had to drink more rehydration solution. This time it was warm and orange flavored. Think warm Tang with salt and you get the picture. Yuck! Back home I slept for most of the day. Later this week my tests for parasites and bacterial infection came back negative confirming the likelihood of food poisoning. I think that term is offensive to the Indonesian people because everyone kept saying I had eaten something that did not agree with my digestion. You think?

So our weekend trip to paradise will still go down as one of the best weekends. Can’t wait to see what Scott comes up with next year. Whatever it is I think I will pass on the salad!