Stuff day!

Our shipment finally arrived today… And there was much rejoicing!

Thank goodness.

Four months is a long time to be away from your stuff. I was seriously questioning why we even bothered shipping it all – a whole quarter of a year without it is surely a sign that we didn’t really need it in the first place?

Well, we really did need it. Here are the “before” pictures of our sad, empty, echoey apartment:

The shipping truck arrived right at 8 am as we were told, which in itself was amazing. Swiss clockwork is still a novelty to us. We watched them open up the container, and it was thankfully only half full. I was already having a bit of a panic attack about everything not fitting, and it was only made worse when a 40-foot container drove up this morning.

These guys were super efficient. They only took about 2 hours to bring everything in. Of course, as the rooms started getting fuller and fuller with boxes, I was again seriously questioning our life decisions. But then as we started unpacking and getting rid of the mountains of cardboard, our apartment started to come to life.

A few stowaways came along: half a cockroach, some termite pellets, possibly some pinworms in our favorite teak shelf, and plenty of cobwebs. Everything smells vaguely of Jakarta – stale smoke, citrus soap, and a hint of halitosis. And it’s amazing! It finally feels just like home.

Move n holidays

As you know, we found a new house in Jakarta, and we’ll be moving in August. It’s a four-bedroom house with a pool and a large kitchen and plenty of open living space. I was a bit worried that we wouldn’t have enough furniture to actually fill the house. Then I started making a list of the things we need to put on a truck and figured out that somehow, in the mere two years of being here, we’ve collected more stuff than we’ve ever had before! The truck I booked might actually need to make two trips. It’ll probably look something like this:

He is literally holding those poles on with the force of his will.
He is literally holding those poles on with the force of his will.

Or maybe we will get really lucky and it will look like this:

What. Is. This. Is it some kind of modded flatbed? and good god, is that a man in a fishing chair driving it? No way...
What. Is. This. Is it some kind of modded flatbed? and good god, is that a man in a fishing chair driving it? No way…
...Yes, yes that is a man in fishing chair driving it. Oh, and he's trying to put on a rain slicker at the same time, going 80 km/hr. Fantastic!
…Yes, yes that is a man in fishing chair driving it. Oh, and he’s trying to put on a rain slicker at the same time, going 80 km/hr. Fantastic!

Because we managed to figure out the housing situation in a reasonable time, we decided to organize a last-minute trip out of town before the move. Because I really, really need a vacation. So where can you go in Southeast Asia that is reasonably cheap and easy to arrange on short notice? Vietnam is top of my list, but flights + visas are quite expensive and I just didn’t have time to sort out tours, train tickets, etc. Cambodia would also be nice, but a trip to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh is not really longer than a few days and my minimum required vacation dose is as least 7 days. Laos? Also near the top of my list, but there’s no way to get there other than going through Vietnam or Thailand, and that increases cost if we’re not taking longer to visit those places as well. So, Thailand! Recent military coup, driving down tourist costs and vacationers? Check. Cheap flights on Malaysia Airlines via Kuala Lumpur? Check. Nothing can go wrong with this plan! Nothing.

So we booked ourselves a week in a beach villa on an island off the coast of Krabi. We packed up the bare minimum of clothes into a couple of carry-ons and we’re going off the grid! I’m looking forward to lying on the beach, lying by the pool, lying in the villa, walking down to the restaurant and eating fresh thai seafood every day, exploring the beach shops for silks and spices. Maaaaybe we’ll take a day for some kyaking or cave exploring or elephant rides. And if we don’t do anything but nap all day in the sunshine, I won’t regret a thing.

Spring cleaning in Indonesia

We have never been the tidiest family, and partly that’s just because we’re not so fussy about it. I guess what I mean is, we do like having our things organized, but we’re too lazy to be bothered to do it. So what I really liked about moving here was that we brought almost nothing with us. Less stuff = less mess. Of course, as the year has passed, we’ve accumulated more things, and we’re starting to reach the saturation point of our storage space. With our relatively careless lifestyle plus no sensible filing system, our things are starting to just kind of pile up on top of surfaces or get mixed together in jumbly drawers.

It’s really starting to get hard to find things. I mean, everyone misplaces their keys or glasses, but normal things are starting to get lost in our stuff sinkhole… for example, all of the scissors, 3/4 of our coasters, the doohickey for the kitchen gadget thingy. Weird stuff.

This makes it sound like our house is some kind of horrible sty. In fact, it’s spotless. Of course, this leads to root of the problem. We employ a lovely lady who helps keep our house clean, but she has zero clue about where things belong. So she does her best to clean up by putting things “away” wherever she can, without any kind of sense. Those receipts we left on the counter? They go into a Ziploc bag, put into the silverware drawer. All of the ipod cords we were using on the bedside table? Put into a folder with some nail clippers and business cards and moved to the bottom shelf of the wardrobe. The lego pieces left on the stairs? They show up a few days later in the cutlery holder of dish rack.

So maybe this is our fault for not having established a filing system for her to follow? Maybe it’s that, bless her, our cleaner just quite literally does not know what some of our things are and can’t figure out the categories of things that go together? I guess I just assumed that anyone, anywhere, would be able to tell “which one of these things doesn’t belong” – but apparently that’s not a universal ability.

This came to a head this week during the great “broken camera saga.” The camera, as previously mentioned, has been in a bag of rice for a while. Well, we wanted to test it again this weekend but could not find the battery anywhere. I swear I put the battery on the desk only the day before, but of course, it was not there when we wanted to use it. I assumed it was in a bag of random items, filed away in a drawer somewhere, so we spent the whole day today unpacking all the drawers and cabinets and re-sorting everything into sensible categories. Still no battery.

It was a good exercise nonetheless, and one that every household needs to do once in a while. It’s a good chance to find things that you’ve been looking for or be reminded of paperwork that needs doing. In our case, we’ve managed to free up a whole box of Ziploc bags! I also managed to throw out a horde of tiny straws that J was saving from her juice boxes. Maybe I should tidy more often…

Tomorrow’s mission is sorting the kids’ toys. Wish me luck!

Enjoy this unrelated photo of a dude holding a row of giant concrete cylinders onto a moving truck by the sheer force of his will:

Am I worse than he is for having taken this photo while driving? Yikes!
Am I worse than he is for having taken this photo while driving? Yikes!



Hunting the house

Now that we’ve settled into a bit of a routine as far as work and school goes, it has been time to get down to our pressing life business: house hunting.

In Canada, renting a house/apartment is fairly easy. You search online, check out ads in the paper, look around a bit, pay the landlord a small deposit – and voila you have accommodation. For comparison, let me try to detail the steps involved with renting a house here.

1. Learn Bahasa Indonesia, because the landlords, caretakers, groundskeepers, etc., do not speak English and are exceedingly unhelpful when it comes to the gesture-based language we’ve been using.

2. Get hold of the local house agent/language teacher who has cornered the expat rental market. But still expect to find houses on your own because she’s never going to get in touch with you.

3. Literally walk up and down streets, knocking on doors and forcing your cell number on the locals. Also, harass your new co-workers until they take pity on you and help.

4. Find a house you like. Check for termites (as in, check to see how many termites, since there are always termites), check for appliances (unlike termites, there are never appliances), check the hot water (there is never hot water), and try to find out whether the crazy guy in the yard is your new inherited help or just a squatter. Use gestures.

5. Negotiate the price…. and then pay it all at once for the whole year! Make sure you agree on all the fixes/changes you want done in advance, because once you’ve given them your money and something goes wrong… well, tough shit.

6. Move in and hope for the best!

All this aside, the prices are reasonable, and you can get a lot for your money. We’ve seen places that range anywhere from 60 million rupiah/year (approx. US$6000/yr) to US$1650/mo. But please, let me show you some examples:

Here’s a typical mid-range front entrance. We also captured a photo of the elusive rental agent!
A nice kitchen, upper range. Not the nicest we’ve seen, although it does have a fridge!
Another nice kitchen. This one is particularly western. I should point out that Indonesians have a “dry” kitchen and a “wet” kitchen – the dry one is mostly for show, and the wet one is hidden away in the back, for the cook to do her work without interrupting the household.
Lots of windows, always good.
Now this is more like it. There is always a free flow between indoors/outdoors here. So basically this is the dining room.
Love these little hidden gardens. They’re always part of the hallways and wide spaces in the houses.
A typical mid-range bedroom. No, this is not the master bedroom.
Love it! Bathtubs are rare, especially nice ones.
A gorgeous Balinese door frame.
The best part of these high-end houses are the wide, open spaces! Oh, did I mention this is the garage? Seriously, the garage.
……Aaaaaaand, here’s what 60 million rupiahs/year gets you. B stopped taking pictures after this because the landlady was cleaning out what appeared to be garbage left behind by squatters.

By the way, we’re currently somewhere between steps 3 and 4. A few houses have caught our attention, but unfortunately, we didn’t take any pictures of them. As soon as we’re serious about something, we’ll let you know!

Out and about

We’ve spent the last few days acting like real locals. First, we attended a celebration for Indonesia’s Independence Day at my work on Friday night. Then we visited with friends, went to the mall and toured around the city a bit on Saturday. Tomorrow, we’re looking forward to a family picnic day by the pool and then a dinner with some more friends. It’s like we live here or something!

Time to regale you with a bunch of pictures:

School and friends

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.

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:

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.

Coming up next: another “word of the day”.