The school, the house and beyond

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 antique javanese cupboard we bought, showcasing our bottle collection in the sun
The antique javanese cupboard we bought, showcasing our bottle collection in the sun
The giant sofa that is perfect for everyone to nap on at once.
The giant sofa that is perfect for everyone to nap on at once.
The recycled oil drum bookshelf that our friend made - it matches the coffee table!
The recycled oil drum bookshelf that our friend made – it matches the coffee table!
The old lantern I found in the backyard
The old lantern I found in the backyard
The TV room that we accidentally decorated in a southwestern style
The TV room that we accidentally decorated in a southwestern style
Our entire front entrance, dedicated as a board game playing space, decorated with a photo taken by our friend Jim
Our entire front entrance, dedicated as a board game playing space, decorated with a photo taken by our friend Jim
The beanbag chair made out of recycled vinyl billboards we bought for the kids' reading corner
The beanbag chair made out of recycled vinyl billboards we bought for the kids’ reading corner

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…

On my first night driving home to the new house, I got caught in this... for *four* hours. I was seriously questioning life, the universe, and where my decisions had gone so teribly awry.
On my first night driving home to the new house, I got caught in this… for *four* hours. I was seriously questioning life, the universe, and where my decisions had gone so teribly awry.

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.

In his first week at school, he was awarded a certificate for being a "risk-taker" and for being a good classroom helper.
In his first week at school, he was awarded a certificate for being a “risk-taker” and for being a good classroom helper.
His class went on a three-day trip to the safari to study animals. Fun times!
His class went on a three-day trip to the safari to study animals. Fun times!
Organizing 45 8-year-olds to get onto the tour bus at 6:30 am... not so fun times.
Organizing 45 eight-year-olds to get onto the tour bus at 6:30 am… not so fun times.
Kids walking home from school. Most days, B picks them up in cab, and this is the walk down the driveway to our house, after the cab drops them off.
Kids walking home from school. Most days, B picks them up in a cab, and this is the walk down the driveway to our house, after the cab drops them off.
New school, new activities: LittleB signed up for capoeira! J is taking swimming lessons and I think she is now officially part of the dolphin family rather than human.
New school, new activities: LittleB signed up for capoeira! J is taking swimming lessons and I think she is now officially part of the dolphin family rather than human.

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.

Living in Jakarta gives B more social options - more specifically, more guys to play hockey with.
Living in Jakarta gives B more social options – more specifically, more guys to play hockey with.

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.

Lunch out!

I wouldn’t normally do a food post, but I’m just feeling excited because B and I managed to go out for the day without the kids. Grandma was nice enough to watch them for the day while we (mostly) wrapped up our Christmas shopping in Jakarta.

We headed to a huge, central mall called Grand Indonesia. Like most other big malls here, it has a lot of high-end stores and a few big anchor stores, including some toy stores and fancy department stores. The highlight of our day, though, was the nice lunch we had out. Our friend met us and we headed to a restaurant called Social House. It was lovely and delicious, as you can see:

Part of the shopping mall was designed in the style of famous places: New York, Paris, Morocco (under construction):

Mini New York.
Mini New York.
And the Moulin Rouge in mini Paris.
And the Moulin Rouge in mini Paris.

After a long drive home, I was surprised by some beautiful flowers that Grandma bought for us:

The flower guy comes around every Saturday. The white ones are Sedap Malam - they bloom only at night and smell lovely.
The flower guy comes around every Saturday. The white ones are Sedap Malam – they bloom only at night and smell lovely.

I feel like the last few posts make it sound like all we do is shop. That’s only slightly true. But next weekend, we’re visiting this place. And then we have a trip to Yogyakarta planned for early January for a week of language training. So we’ll have lots to say soon!

‘Tis(n’t) the season in Bogor

It is most decidedly not beginning to look a lot like Christmas here. This breaks my heart a little, because Christmas in Canada is my favourite season. I love the smells, the baking, the cozy sweaters, the family game nights, the silent snowfalls, singing carols, and having a glass of wine by the fire with friends. But so far, it still feels like July here. I’m having trouble getting in the mood.

On the other hand, it’s kind of a relief to be free of the pressure – Christmas can be whatever we want it to be here. Minimal presents, simple decorations, less planning and travelling. Really, I’m kind of looking forward to not making a big deal out of it.

That being said, we found ourselves in Jakarta last weekend doing some “Christmas shopping.” Now, this is kind of hard, since the kids come everywhere with us (and spend most of the time whining). So, one of us distracts them while the other tries to search out toys, etc., and buy them surreptitiously. It works best if we’ve already bought something from another store and thus have a bag already. This time, there was no way that was going to work, so we split up to do some separate shopping. B wandered around while I took the kids for ice cream and for a trip on the mall train.

Yes, the mall train. It’s not really as exciting as it sounds – it was a sort of modded golf cart that travelled around the mall on fake sticker tracks. But the kids loved it, and it kept them in one place for 10 minutes, so it’s a win in my book. Even if it did cost us $3 each.

After all that, we didn’t end up buying any presents, but I did snap photos of all the things the kids were eyeing. Santa’s getting a multimedia list this year! We also broke down and bought a little fake tree and decorations. B wasn’t going to leave the store without one. I think we’ll be decorating it this weekend!

Otherwise, we’re all very excited because Grandma is arriving tomorrow morning. The kids are over the moon, and I hope she’s ready for them to sneak into her bed every night this week. I’m excited that they might remember how to not act like wieners since grandma is here, and we might finally get a break. If not, they’re both getting a tooth car for Christmas and nothing else.

Water, water everywhere

Flood in Bogor a few days ago. (This is just representative of how we felt today. We’re none of these people.)

Today was a fun day: we spent the morning and afternoon swimming and BBQing with our friends at the pool. Gorgeous day, lots of sun, lots of meat. It was like a beautiful summer day! Well, that’s like every day here, but today was particularly nice.

After the party, we hung out a friend’s house just down the street for a few hours. While there, the sky opened up and it started pouring – nothing unusual. It was dinner time, but we had brought our umbrellas, so we headed home.

It was pretty wet in the street. And by that I mean, many inches of water were streaming down the middle of road. Ok, we’ll just get a bit wet, no biggie. There aren’t 2-foot deep gutters here for no reason. Once at home, soaked to the bone, we figured we would start dinner and run a bath for the kids. After some time, the water in the bathroom sounded a bit… funny. B and I ran in there, thinking the tub had overflowed or the water was spraying or something. No, instead, the floor drain was literally overflowing from the sewer. Yeah, that’s about as awesome as it sounds.

Luckily, it was clean(ish) water – just storm water, not sewage water. Though I’m not sure there’s a real difference. At least bathrooms here are designed to get completely wet, so a few inches of water on the floor isn’t a big deal. B figured out how to close the drains and major crisis was averted. The water should just drain away on its own.

Then, as we were sitting down to eat, it occurred to B to go check the upstairs bathrooms (there are three up there!). I was pretty sure that there wasn’t enough force from the drains to push all the way up to the third floor, but a check was still a good idea. I heard him get up there and swear. Crap! I ran up.

LittleB’s room was totally flooded. A good two inches of water covered the floor. But, strangely, the bathroom was bone dry. It was flooding in from the balcony! The drain on the balcony had clogged, and water was pouring in from under the door. Luckily again, it was clean(ish) rain water. And his room is sparsely furnished, so we went to work moving everything out and squeegeeing water into his bathroom (which has a drain in the floor). Unfortunately, the only tools we could find were two pieces of styrofoam and one tiny car window squeegee. It was slow work.

Afterwards, LittleB didn’t take very well to my joke about his room being the hallway now. What a baby.

Welcome to the rainy season!

Movie review: Wreck-it-Ralph

This Thursday was the Islamic New Year, giving us a long weekend from school and work. Without a driver, we decided to once again brave the roads on our own and head to the nearby mall. It had been some time since we went to the theatre and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

There’s a theatre chain here called XXI (21), and we’ve seen them in all the big malls. I checked out the website and it looked like there was a matinee showing of Wreck-it-Ralph. Perfect! And it was only $5 per person. Even better!

This time, B decided to drive, and we headed out early to miss the afternoon traffic. We got to the mall early and did a bit of shopping until the theatre opened. Half an hour before the movie we headed in.

Basically, this theatre was exactly like any other – except that it was much better. First, we got to choose our seats at the cash – a very nice feature (and next time we’ll go early to get better ones). The seats were plusher, in better condition, and the trailers started before the actual movie time, so our 12:30 show actually started at 12:30! Did I mention this only cost 5 bucks each, and it was a 3D show??

Oh yeah, and the movie itself was good too. I think this is going to become a regular family activity!

Otherwise, we spent today (Friday) doing a little more shopping in Jakarta for those hard to find items. Like salami. Tomorrow is a family BBQ at my work, so that’ll be fun. We’re making potato salad. B bought a $9 bag of imported bacon bits and has thus proclaimed that his potato salad is going to “blow everyone away.” I’ll let you know!

Shopping in Jakarta

As anticipated, we drove into Jakarta this morning for a day of shopping and fun. Luckily the traffic was in our favour and it only took about an hour and a half to reach the city.

We were headed to a mall where we would meet up with a group of friends at a kids’ play area, followed by lunch and shopping. As we drove up, it became obvious that we were in an expensive part of town at the expensive kind of mall – the 20-foot Gucci and Prada signs on the front were a bit of a give-away.

We arrived first of the group, so we window shopped a while before finding a Marks and Spencer. My new favourite store! I bought a few new shirts to complement the 5 I’ve been rotating through since we moved here. Plus they actually have sizes that fit me and B.

The cavernous mall – yes, it’s at least 6 stories. I’m not sure because I couldn’t even count them all.

After a quick stop for some chai, we brought the kids up to a play zone that was – as usual – mayhem. B drew the long straw and got to wander around the mall while I stayed with the kids in the play centre, circumnavigating playstructures and ball pits for the morning.

All the kids (and parents!) racing cars around an electric track.
The kids wanted to paint some pictures – apparently this was not covered by the admission fee, so I had to pay extra. No worries, it can only be a few dollars, right?
Nope, those masterpieces cost nearly Rp100,000.00 ($10) each. Glad J is so good at painting, because this sucker is going up on the wall for at least 15 years.
B hamming it up in the ball pit, pretending to swim. We don’t seem to have picked up any ticks, so things are looking good.

After a few hours of play, we gathered for a lunch of sushi and gado-gado (that’s like make-your-own-soup at the table), followed by a little more shopping. Then home!

Doesn’t seem like much when I write it out, but it was a busy day, and the 2 hours’ drive home certainly was exhausting. Shopping is such a chore!

Mission: drive myself to work

Completed!

Today is Saturday, which means we don’t usually have our driver and are thus trapped in the neighbourhood. But, we very much wanted to go swimming at my work. What to do? I drove!

This is a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. Everyone is nervous about the traffic when they move here. It is a weaving, confusing dance of motorcycles and angkots, plus the roads run opposite to what we’re used to. Many of our expat friends here have never driven, but many have, and do so on a regular basis. I would much rather be the latter. I’ve been chafing a bit at our dependence on a driver, and certainly it would be nice to make a quick trip to the store on our own should we need to, for example.

So today was the day! Luckily we had some friends going too, so I was able to follow behind them. I was more concerned about the directions than the driving. And actually, I didn’t find the traffic too bad. It’s busy and complex, but relatively slow and low tension. No one is in a rush here, and despite the congestion, everyone is patient. This is not to say I’m ready to drive for hours into Jakarta – we’ll be bringing our driver with us for that tomorrow!

Weekly roundup:

We haven’t posted since Halloween, mostly because nothing very exciting has happened. We did have a second round of Halloween celebrations with the school, where the kids got to “trick or treat” a bit at neighbourhood houses, followed by a dinner and dance at the school. Then last weekend, one of J’s classmates (the daughter of one of my colleagues) had a birthday party. All that partying really took it out of us!

Since then, B’s been under the weather this week with some sort of tropical stomach bug. Someone had amoebic dysentery last week, so hopefully that’s not what he has! Don’t worry, moms, it’s not. But we have heard about a few cases of dengue already starting, which is making me a little nervous. Hopefully we can make it through this season without getting it. In other news, we’re heading into Jakarta tomorrow, mostly just to buy some $10 cheerios at the import grocery store. But we might find something exciting to do while we’re there. Stay tuned!

Here are some b-roll pics from the past few posts for your viewing pleasure:

 

Arrival in Jakarta!

Well, folks, we’ve arrived. It was a very, very long trip.

The short version is YOW > YVR > TPE > JKT. The long version is Friday, August 17, 1855h > Sunday, August 19, 1600h. Don’t ask what happened to Saturday, because I think we lost it somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.

Thankfully, we flew executive class. I could kiss whoever invented VIP lounges and in-flight meals, not to mention the comfy bed-chairs and duvets. Too bad we’ll never be able to afford that again! Seriously though, the kids were troopers through the whole thing. Despite some tears and cabin fever, they’ve been handling it all like pros.

We’ve settled into a hotel in Jakarta for now. It is Idul Fitri this week – what a wonderful time to see the best of the city! The streets are quiet from traffic, filled instead with happy families and nightly fireworks. We’re all still a bit jet-lagged, so meals and bedtimes are flexible. I start work on Wednesday, so hopefully I’m not still totally out of it by then!

In summary, here are some lessons we learned the hard way:

  • Don’t give yourself a shiner right before boarding an overseas flight.
  • If your kid drops a $4 orange juice immediately after purchase in a fancy hotel, you still have to pay for its replacement.
  • Don’t walk anywhere in Jakarta. Instead, rent a mercedes and a driver for less than $30 a day.
  • The toilets don’t work the way you think they do.
  • Try not to spill food all over the expensive turkish rug at your new boss’ house.
  • The Disney Channel is literally everywhere (thank goodness).