The kids have been working on a school play all year, a complicated production involving every class and countless practice runs. It is an elaborate storyline, where a boy from a colourless planet travels the stars to find other colours, collecting friends from all the coloured planets, eventually settling on the multicolour planet where they could all live happily ever after in a place where all colours live harmoniously.
One kid was cast as the “Red Frog” and the other as “Tea from the multicolour planet”. We had to send special dance shoes and black pants, and schedule appointments and holidays around dress rehearsal dates. They brought home music and sang the songs in the car, for months. And at last, this was the week of the big show! As it turned out, each of them was cast for a different night, meaning we had to attend the (same) show two nights in a row…
The best thing about school plays are the little kids who have no idea what they’re doing, looking around the room or dancing hilariously out of sync; equally great are the monotone kids who memorised their lines verbatim and deliver them like a robot. Our kids had about two lines each, but were proud to deliver them with gusto. We also loved the cheesy eighties rocket sounds embedded in all the midi music used for the songs.
Night 1: Red Frog makes his début.
Waiting for the show
Rocket taking off
Red frog speaks
Night 2, déjà vu: Tea makes her début.
Rocket takes off again
Red planet again
Blue planet again
Yellow pelicans again
Orange wind again
Purple planet again
Indigo flowers again
Multicolour planet again
I didn’t need to see it twice, but I suppose if the kids ever end up on Broadway, I’ll go more than once, so this school play purgatory was just practice for that. Right??
There’s a tradition here on the last day of school called la Fête des enfants.
The kids spend a few weeks making costumes with their class and then go on a parade around town after school, kind of like a little Halloween party graduation. But the best part is after the parade – a circus fair is set up downtown and the kids get to go on all the rides they want for a few hours, no adults allowed!
J’s class dressed up as jellyfish and LittleB’s as puppies. He was less excited about that. But the parade was adorable, and we were especially lucky because our kids were near the front of the queue – so we got to watch them and go drink at the bar while the rest of the parade was going on. It was a win-win!
It’s been two months now since we moved, and in so many ways the time has flown by. Sure, we’ve had our share of challenges and frustrations, but I think what has surprised us the most is how quickly our new house and school have felt like home. Our old house in Bogor was a lovely building, but B put it best when we moved out: “It felt like we just spent two years living in a hotel lobby.” Something about that place never fit with our lives – it was a bit barren, sterile, unloving, and the space just didn’t flow – maybe the feng chui was off, or it was built on some kind of indian burial ground, or something like that. Anyway, it was nice to be there, but we never really settled in.
Our new place just feels right. Sure, it’s a bit of an upgrade to the house itself: now with a pool, reliable hot water, bigger kitchen, plus we have friends living right next door. And the area is much improved, within walking distance of a big mall, lots of shops and restaurants. Of course that means we’re in a loud, hot, smoggy part of town, but the do evenings cool off and we aren’t bothered too much by the noise. But besides all that, the house feels more like us. Less pretentious? More comfortable? I don’t know. Here are some of my favorite spots in the new house:
The only downside to the move is that now I commute about 3 hours a day. Most days it’s not so bad, and really, I rather like driving myself to and from work. It’s a good chance to unwind and be “off the grid” for a few hours. And so far, I’ve managed to get home within 2 hours of leaving the office. Except for the first night, when there was a freak flooding in our neighborhood and I got trapped for hours on the road. Hopefully that’s an uncommon occurrence…
Meanwhile, the kids have settled into their new school almost instantly. The teachers are all very supportive, and with a bigger school, we’re getting a lot more opportunities to try new activities and have a more varied curriculum.
As for B, he’s settling in too. Jakarta has a lot more to offer for foreigners, and I think he definitely feels more comfortable here.
The last days of school passed in a blur, in the lead up to summer vacation and holidays at work. Suddenly here we are, and I haven’t added an update in a while! So what has happened lately?
Well, most notably, we have decided to move into Jakarta proper, to send the kids to a bigger school and have a few more lifestyle options. So the past few weeks have been packed with exhausting trips into town, looking at places to rent and feeling anxious about the timing and costs. The first place we were most committed to was way outside our budget, even though we knew it would be the nicest choice, being in the same area as our good friends and many other friends – we were just about to sign on when deep down it suddenly felt like the wrong decision. Reluctantly, we decided to keep looking. Luckily, we found another place only days later that was much better suited! A bigger house, with a pool, and within walking distance to a large mall and lots of shops and restaurants. We’re also going to be next-door neighbors with one of my work colleagues, giving me more commuting options. We’ve now finalized that contract and we move in August, right before school starts. Phew!
A few pictures:
Because of our upcoming move, the kids’ last days at school were quite bittersweet. It’s hard to outgrow something and move on. Even though both kids are very excited to start fresh somewhere new – and certainly we are as well – they have lots of friends and, really, family, here who it will be hard to see less often. At least we will still be close enough for weekend visits.
The final big events at school included an “International Arts” night, where the kids put on music and dance shows to celebrate diversity. It turns out that everyone must be Korean, because most of them danced to a k-pop song. Yay diversity! Here are some videos to enjoy:
Apparently J inherited the same missing dance gene as her parents.
The best part is around 2:43 when B gets stabbed by a safety pin and finishes the dance in tears.
We also enjoyed some performances by the teachers and other classes, as well as a pot-luck dinner featuring food from around the world. We brought blueberry pie. Canadian enough? It was the best we could do! The kids also had a final assembly on the last day.
Also because of our looming move, we decided not to make any holiday plans, knowing we could have an unpredictable summer. This was a good decision, because we might need to move or do contract sorting at any moment. But now that the house is sorted, I’m feeling some urgency to book a last-minute trip somewhere! We originally wanted to do an epic trip around Southeast Asia this summer: Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos… but now we might settle on a week on a beach in Thailand. If I can get it organized, that is. It’s a difficult consolation prize, but someone has to suffer through these things!
Well, now that we’re done with the weeks and weeks of updates about our holidays in ANZ (That’s “Australia-New Zealand” for you Northern Hemisphere people, or as we in the Southern Hemisphere like to derogatorily call you, “Northems”), life has sort of settled back into our old rut. Well, not EXACTLY into our old rut, but the new rut seems awfully familiar to the old one. I think they’re related. They’re at least cousins.
One thing that has changed, however, is that I have a TON of time on my hands. I finished up my work contract here in Bogor just before the in-laws arrived for Christmas, and from the day we got back home from sunny Auckland, I’ve been trying to find things to fill that time up. I’ve watched a lot of hockey, granted, but the other thing I’ve started to do is to help out at the kids’ school. It’s a small school, but they do quite a bit of field trips, and I was invited along as a chaperone for LittleB’s class as we took the kids on a tour of Bogor’s botanical gardens, Kebun Raya.
As we were loading into the bus on our way to the gardens, I realized how attached folks here are to the culture of “school uniforms” – despite the permission form specifically allowing kids to wear regular clothes on this field trip, LittleB was the only one to wear “casual” clothes… every other kid had elected to wear their school uniform instead of their regular clothes!
Other than the uniform snafu, the trip went as well and as predictable as one could expect:
the kids went crazy and touched every single plant within arm’s reach
the loud and rambunctious kids were louder and more rambunctious when given more space to do so
quiet and introspective kids can be coerced into being loud and rambunctious with a healthy dose of peer pressure
we almost got kicked out of the Orchid house because of an impromptu game of Hide and Seek that had started up
cactuses are sharp, and some kids won’t believe it, despite your warnings, until they find out for themselves
When kids see a frog orgy, they will ask you to take a picture of the frog orgy, and not stop talking about the frog orgy for days and days
irrigation canals are not water slides
suspension bridges can be scary when 11 kids are jumping on them simultaneously, actively trying to cause a catastrophic failure
museum employees are surly and apathetic here too, it’s apparently not just a north american thing
Indonesian museums are “charming-yet-underfunded” at their best, and “an unholy hall of twisted godless terrors, haunting you for eternity with long suffering eyes that will sear into your mind and and manifest themselves as your worst nightmares until the sweet embrace of death finally lifts the curse that has steadfastly followed you for nigh all these years” at their worst
expat kids are like catnip to Indonesians, who literally cannot help themselves from either pinching cheeks, or asking you what your name is or where you are from. And then asking you to sing for them, apparently.
And, finally, I took a bunch of pictures (including several of the frog orgy)!
I’m trapped at work this weekend to cap off a very busy few weeks (which is why I haven’t updated in a while). Also, we had a bunch of awesome photos from our last couple of weeks on the camera, but we accidentally got it wet and now it is sitting in a bag of rice to (hopefully) be resurrected. So I don’t have anything to share except a few late photos from Halloween!
Anyway, I’m seriously due for a holiday. Luckily, my parents are coming to visit this December and we’ll be heading to Australia and New Zealand for a few weeks!
We rented a lovely little cottage in the Blue Mountains for Christmas, then we spend the week over New Years in Sydney to enjoy food, wine, fireworks. Then we fly to New Zealand and tour around the North Island for ten days, visiting beaches, hot springs, gannets, wineries and even Hobbiton!
Well, we had a rather exciting weekend. No, we didn’t visit a mysterious tropical island, climb a volcano or attend a local festival. In fact, we basically stayed in the whole time. But it was exciting because we got a new family member!
Meet our new pet cockatiel, the Hon. Mayor Goldie Wilson, or just “Goldie” for short.
Our friends found Goldie and her brother at the local bird market. We figure she’s a few months old. She isn’t exactly hand trained, but she is starting to warm up to us. We’ve had her out of the cage a few times, but of course, the kids chasing her around on the floor isn’t doing much to help her disposition. B and I have had birds before so hopefully between us we figure out how to train her better. Also, I’ll get better photos when we have her out of the cage next.
In other news, the kids had a book assembly this past week, where they dressed up like characters from a book. LittleB dressed in his Tae Kwon Do outfit, which is quite literally the only thing he ever wears for dress up. J dressed up as a king.
In more other news, I’ve been working on teaching the kids some music theory lately, since they don’t seem to be getting much of that at school. B’s learning the recorder now, and we each have our own ukuleles to practice on. J wrote a song the other day. Last time I checked, there were no J O V or I notes in the scale, but, hey, she strummed it out on her uke, so who am I to argue!
P.S. Special shout-out to those of you who get the Mayor Goldie Wilson reference!
This week has been the kids’ first week of summer holidays. Yay for them! Boo for us. Well, we love them and everything, and I do like not having to make lunches every morning, but they are going a little stir crazy around the house. There are no summer camps here. And also, it’s always summer here, so the “summer” part of summer holidays is not very exciting.
School ended last Friday with a final assembly and a bunch of class parties. The assembly was sweet, with little songs and plays, but somehow neither of our kids’ classes did anything, so I have nothing to show you. Other than this hilarious shot:
Seriously, though, it’s lovely to be in such international company. And the kids are oblivious to it, which is exactly the way it should be. After assembly, B’s class spent the day playing games and sports in the yard.
J’s class had a party and invited the parents. It was cute, but I got the impression these teachers had not just spent a year teaching 2-4-year-olds. First, they tried to play musical chairs. We all know how well that went – a bit of crying, a lot of confusion, and mostly it was just a bunch of kids wandering around. Then they had a game where the kids had to pass around presents, and then when the music stopped, the one holding the package got to keep it. Again, a bit of crying and a lot of confusion. Plus there were a few sneaky kids who kind of “forgot” to pass along the gift and got to keep it. Luckily there was something for everyone.
After the games, there was a “pot-luck snack” for everyone to enjoy. These things are always terrible. Every single parent sends a pack of donuts or some kind of crazy Indonesian sweets. Because it’s such a great idea to pump your already-so-hyper-they-are-on-the-verge-of-an-epic-tantrum kids full of sugar at 9:30 am. We sent sandwiches. All J ate was a strange jelly cup and the red from a rainbow cake slice. Awesome. So I left her with B and went to work. Heh.
Speaking of work. Some of you may recall that before I moved here, I went on an awesome health kick and lost a lot of baby weight, ate healthy and just generally took better care of myself. Yeah, so that pretty much ended when I got here. It’s no one’s fault but mine, although I would like to blame it on the stress of moving, and settling into a strange place, and having a new job, and not knowing where to shop for healthy food, and eating a lot of fried food and comfort food, and plenty of other things. But all in all, it’s still depressing to have put back on a lot of that weight and stopped eating so carefully.
Anyway, it only took me almost a year, but I’m finally feeling ready to concentrate on myself again! So I’ve been going to the gym at work. I don’t know why I wasn’t going all this time, because it’s great. They have a bunch of cardio machines (which I don’t use, because seriously, my body parts were chosen from the “unfit for cardio” pile), a rack of free weights, several weight machines, and of course stretching space (all of which I do use!). Also, it’s always empty, and it’s lovely to work out in the tropics:
B also started a health kick recently, and purchased some DVDs from the internet. I call them his “man yoga” DVDs, because they are yoga moves taught by a former wrestler. I’m not going to lie, they’re awesome. I’ve never really liked yoga, but I realize now it’s because it was always missing the testosterone that comes from a burly wrestler teacher.
So hopefully with all these powers combined, I can get back into a good routine and keep it forever this time!
In other news, we’re heading to the south coast of Java this weekend to check out the surfing. I mean, we’re not actually going to surf… we’re just checking it out. Maybe we’ll watch some other dudes surf, or more likely, we’ll just dig holes in the sand and maybe try to catch some tiny crabs. I’ll be back with pictures soon!
We’re wrapping up school for the year next week. It’s been busy, fun, challenging, and a little bit strange to settle in here, but overall I think it has gone well. The kids have had a lot of friends come and go, which has been a challenge for them; I guess that’s something they need to get used to in this new life of ours. This year alone, they’ve both lost their first new best friends and then had a hard time getting close to the other kids. Hopefully next year some new students join the school.
As a final celebration, the school put on “International Night” last night, where each class presented a dance or reading about a different culture.
Some of the “cultures” were a bit of a stretch… J’s class did Brazilian Samba, even though none of the them are remotely Brazilian. Still, I think it was a smart move on the part of the teachers, because about the only thing you can coordinate a group of 1.5- to 4-year-olds to do is shake stuff.
Check out the video. J is actually pretty good! Enjoy cameo appearances by “the kid who gives up halfway through” and “the kid who spends the whole time eating his homemade maracas.”
B and his class did a 40s swing dance for their performance. Seemed like a bit of a cop-out to me, but they were good and they enjoyed it. B started slow but really got into it after the first minute or so (he’s wearing teal, in the back row, middle). Warning, the song is about to get stuck in your head for the rest of the day, so be prepared!
We have been very busy lately. B has started work here, which means our days are a bit more hectic. After our Krakatoa trip, we were all a bit under the weather. And then I was away last weekend again. So I hope this coming weekend will be a relaxing one.
In the meantime, we’ve had a few exciting events around here. Last week, the school had a “Swimming Carnival” and LittleB did really well. He won three 2nd-place ribbons and his house team won the whole championship. It was a fun morning!
Then, last weekend, I went with some colleagues to an island off the coast to take my open water diving test. It was a success! We did four dives, and saw lots of great fish and several sea turtles! I think if you are going to learn how to dive, it makes sense to do it somewhere beautiful like Indonesia.
School is over for another term now. The kids are following the international baccalaureate program, and one of the things they need to do is hold ‘student-led’ conferences. So basically, we parents come in for a sort of open house, and our kids are responsible for walking us through the work they’ve done and their accomplishments.
I think this must work better when your kids are a bit older. It was great to see their classes and some of their work, but getting your 6 year old to talk about his school accomplishments is not the easiest thing in the world. But he really enjoyed showing us the music room (we went three times). Here’s a video of him playing gamelan:
At least it’s nice to get some interactivity with the school program and see how things work there. We’re not so happy with the way LittleB is getting along, both socially and academically. He’s been bullied a bit, and the boys in his class are just so aggressive. Especially the entitled little twats around here. I never thought I would be giving life lessons like “If he kicks you first, it’s totally fine to kick him back. But you’re just not allowed to kick him first.” A-one parenting right there.
J’s class was more like an open house, where the kids followed their usual routine and we joined in. It was as expected: games, stories, playing at the sand table.
We had circle time, but I’m pretty sure I spent most of the time beside a kid who had pooped his pants. And then the kids made “sandwiches” to bring home. J gave me some kind of monstrosity of a piece of bread covered with sliced sausages held on by dabs of ketchup and each topped with dabs of mayonnaise. I very generously donated it to the local wild cats near our house. They are adorable, though (the kids, not the cats).
When Mrs O’Malley woke up there were monsters in her backyard. They were blue devils. They scratched their claws on Mrs O’Malley’s boots. Then they flew up on the roof, where they jumped down the chimney. But they landed in boiling hot soup! Their tails burned off, and they flew out of the soup. They went back into the dark, haunted forest and never returned.
Once upon a time there was a little old woman. She lived in a gingerbread house. It was Halloween and she dressed up like a witch. Then she went back home and got some sleep. And then she woke up and had pancakes. Then she went to school. Then she went back home and she got some new shoes. Then she went back home and tried them on. The end.
Once upon a time there was a little old man and a little old woman and they were camping. Then, the woman found a hedgehog and then she ran away and went to her dad. Then they lived happily ever after in their home. The end.
They also had an assembly recently. Enjoy these videos of them being adorable!
The nice thing about being here is the international flavour. Sure, we live in Indonesia, but most of what we do is not Indonesian – yes we like batik and nasi goreng, but we also get to celebrate some of the important events of our other expat friends.
This week it was Diwali – the Indian festival of lights. Honestly, I didn’t know much about it before, and I still don’t know much more after having been to the party. But I do know that we celebrated it at the school with a yummy potluck dinner, lots of beautiful clothes, a bunch of candles, some Bollywood dancing, and fireworks. If that isn’t Diwali, then I don’t care, because it was great!
I also caught an awesome video of LittleB dancing. What’s that you see? The windmill, the army, the Mashed Potato, the Robot, the Running Man, and some b-boy? Yes, the kid’s got a groove!
This has been a busy week chez the Cayas. Both kids started on Monday at the international school, we’ve been (unsuccessfully) house hunting, and we opened a bank account!
At school, J is in a preschool-level class, which she already loves. Even the teachers commented on how she just walked in and started conversations with everyone (i.e., forced the other kids to be friends with her) and how she felt comfortable enough to play right away (i.e., used up all their art supplies). LittleB is in an SK/grade 1 class, which seems to be significantly harder than the schooling he took in Canada. It turns out that you actually have to learn here, and do homework and stuff. I think he’ll figure it out eventually.
The kids in the car – on our way to the first day of school!
J with Ibu Miriam and her classmates. She doesn’t have the uniform yet – we have to bring in some clothes for the tailor to copy. Apparently the style doesn’t matter, just the fabric pattern!
Headed home after a successful first day! Apparently we don’t care as much about LittleB, because I can’t find any more pictures of him…
J will go to school just for the swings!
Next up was our first house hunting trip. The local real estate agent took us to see two houses in the area near the school. I was pretty excited to see some houses, get a baseline for what we want and look at the prices. Unfortunately, it was a bit anti-climactic. We did see two houses, but when I say “see” I mean it quite literally. We were only able to see the outside of the houses, since the caretakers of both places were not there. So the grand culmination of our trip consists of these two photos:
Here is the front door of the house.
And here is the garage door. That is all.
And even after all that, we later found out that this particular house is the infamous “turtle house” – a few other colleagues had come to see it recently and told us that inside there is a showcase of taxidermied birds of paradise and a giant preserved galapagos turtle. I’m more concerned that my kids would actually like to live with those, so I think it’s a pass… At least there was a tiny dead lizard on the front step that the kids enjoyed stomping on, so the trip wasn’t totally wasted.
Then today, we braved the language barrier and headed to the bank to open a local account. I think we managed to open a savings account with something like 4% interest. So we deposited $2 million into it!! Before you get too excited, that’s about CDN$200. It was a big deal, though. I also it connected to B’s cell phone, I think? Or else I signed him up for cat facts, I’m not sure. Anyway, at least now I can actually get paid and we don’t have to hoard cash in our hotel room like the immigrants we are.