Great Canadia 2015: Ottawa fams & jams

Whenever we head home to Ottawa, our main vacation goal is to see all the family. And visiting in the summer means hot days and sticky nights, farm-fresh strawberries and corn, barbecues every weekend, backyard sprinklers and downtown festivals. Unfortunately, it also means a lot of family & friends are away on vacation. So we never get to see all the people we hope to see. This summer was no exception. I think we managed to see maybe 6 friends in total? Sorry, everyone else! But you can always *cough cough* come to Switzerland *cough cough*.

We still had a glorious few weeks enjoying the summery summertime in Ottawa. It’s the season when everything is bright and awake, with the sun suspended high in the sky for 18+ a day, and everyone spends their evenings on the patio with a drink in hand to soak up as much of the sunset as possible.

B and the kids arrived a few weeks before I did and got to enjoy the first strawberry picking of the year, visit some kid play zones and splash on the beach. It was a great chance for them to catch up with Grandma L, who left shortly after to spend the summer on the east coast.

Once I arrived, we tried to fill our time with some more ‘touristy’ activities, since we were on our own most days while our parents or friends were working or otherwise busy. B and I managed to catch a show at the Ottawa Bluesfest – Dropkick Murphys and The Tragically Hip. It was great music… but we were totally, absolutely 100% rained out. I have never been so cold and soaked in my life. I think my body actually forced a reset at one point during the concert, because I fell asleep standing up for like 2 songs and didn’t realize it. But it was worth it!

B also took the opportunity to enjoy a football game at the new Ottawa stadium. He took about 400 pictures and short video clips, which I narrowed down to just two. You’re welcome.

One of my favorite things about Ottawa in the summer are the downtown festivals. One weekend, it was RibFest, which is exactly what it sounds: a bunch of rib stands selling copious amounts of ribs. We had a great time stuffing ourselves, and the kids discovered their love of grilled meat…

But visiting is always bittersweet. All we’re left with are a few photos with the family, trying to keep our memories fresh while we wait for the next time we can see each other. But still, it is always worth it!

 

Until we meet again

This is it, my last day in Indonesia. I have a lot of goodbyes to make, and I’ll get to them all soon. But I have a whole team full of goodbyes that are especially hard to make, and I want to do them first.

I don’t really talk about work on this blog, not because I don’t have wonderful things going on there, but rather because I try to maintain a line between work life and home life for my own sanity and privacy. And this blog is about my friends, my family, my thoughts, and lately it seems – mostly my travel photos.

However, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have such a great work experience while living here, and it is owing to this amazing, creative and caring group of people on my team. Over the past three years, each one of them has crossed over the line from my work life to my personal life, and now I am happy to include them in this blog as forever a part of my family.

They made this sweet and funny video for me:

So this is my little thanks to them.

Anto, Erisa, Dodi
Anto, Erisa, Dodi
Dodi, Vidya, Yahya, Wigid, Eko, Edli
Dodi, Vidya, Yahya, Wigid, Eko, Edli
Gideon (looking serious), Yahya, Dodi
Gideon (looking serious), Yahya, Dodi
Everyone after a night of bowling
Everyone after a night of bowling
Everyone - Serious
Everyone – Serious
Everyone - Silly
Everyone – Silly
Sarong makes it official
Sarong makes it official
Group hug
Group hug

 

I’ll miss you all! Sampai jumpa lagi.

From the archives: Superhero scavenger hunt!

Longer ago than I care to admit, a couple of genius friends in the neighborhood decided to have a party. But it was not just any old regular party – first of all, it was a sad occasion because one of the genius friends was leaving town for bigger and better things down in NZ. But what better way to go out than with a bang?

They decided to craft an epic neighborhood scavenger hunt, where all the players had a couple of hours to run around town like crazy people and collect points for completing tasks along the way. Now, how would you make this more complicated than it sounds? One: have it in Bogor, Indonesia, with a bunch of people possessing varying levels of language skills, and where we’re all a bit crazy to the locals anyway. Two: have it in Bogor, Indonesia, where getting 0.5 km down the road can take hours in traffic and there’s really nothing here anyway. Three: have it in Bogor, Indonesia, where it pours rain most of the time. Oh, and don’t forget, four: dress everyone up as superheroes!

Now, we’re a pretty adventurous family. And there happens to be four of us, so I guess we’re our own built-in scavenger hunting team. And when it comes to superheroes, there’s a pretty obvious family superhero team just waiting to be us: the Incredibles! So we put on our best red shirts and masks, dressed a doll up like baby Jak-Jak, and hit the town.

The Incredi-Cayas
The Incredi-Cayas
Our X-Men rivals
Our X-Men rivals

And now, some of the tasks that we put ourselves through that afternoon:

One member of your team has to ride in a shopping cart and try to prevent crime in the store.
One member of your team has to ride in a shopping cart and try to prevent crime in the store.
A member of your team has to help a street vendor prepare some food.
A member of your team has to help a street vendor prepare some food.
All members of your team have to eat durian!
All members of your team have to eat durian!
Get 1 point for every donut you can stack on a team member's head. Go donut-head!
Get 1 point for every donut you can stack on a team member’s head. Go donut-head!
Capture a photograph of one of your team members flying like superman.
Capture a photograph of one of your team members flying like superman.
Entertain the locals at a street corner.
Entertain the locals at a street corner.
Stop at a park and do superhero tai chi.
Stop at a park and do superhero tai chi.
Find some locals who want to fight crime with you.
Find some locals who want to fight crime with you.
Photograph your superhero team mate relaxing at a spa or massage parlor.
Photograph your superhero team mate relaxing at a spa or massage parlor.

It was a pretty crazy day. Tensions ran high! We were the only team who had to stop at home for a “time-out”. In the end, we managed quite a few of the tasks, but we were pretty sure we didn’t win. But, then – when the tally came through, B’s giant pile of donut face put us over the edge with a whopping extra 16 points! We were the winners!

All in good fun, we left the day with great memories, plus I’ll always remember our friend for putting on such a unique party.

Countdown to summer!

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:

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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.

The older kids playing gamelan fusion
The older kids playing gamelan fusion
The teachers putting on a show
The teachers putting on a show
The preschool kids dancing to k-pop
The preschool kids dancing to k-pop
The whole school (almost) doing a happy dance
The whole school (almost) doing a happy dance
Pot luck international dinner
Pot luck international dinner
B's class playing gamelan
B’s class playing gamelan
B with a gamelan xylophone
B with a gamelan xylophone
J rocking the star tambourine
J rocking the star tambourine
Final assembly group dance
Final assembly group dance

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!

Bangka retreat

March was a busy one – hard to find time to write!

I cracked open the month with a quick work retreat to Pangkal Pinang, the capital of Bangka, which is a small island just east of Sumatra. Although we were only there for two nights, we packed in the activities. Our days were filled with retreat sessions but we managed to enjoy a welcome dinner by the pool (with karaoke) and an evening dinner on the beach (…with karaoke). I even managed to get away for lunch with a few colleagues – we were looking for some seafood or perhaps some pork dishes (apparently both items that Bangka is known for), but somehow we ended up with a meal made entirely of different preparations of pork belly. I mean, I like pork belly, in moderation, but not when it is the only dish available… At least the beach views we enjoyed later on made up for it!

Meanwhile, the kids were busy at school with trips and assemblies and plays. And we capped off the month with Grandma’s arrival and a trip to Bali! Coming up next…

Party on Wayne, Party on Garth

Last week was our annual meeting at work. This means a long week of meetings, visiting colleagues, working group sessions and other exhausting activities. But the fun happens at the end of the week during the celebration night festivities. You might remember that last year it was a masquerade theme. This year was “back to the 90s.”  We definitely suit the 90s theme better!

The night opened with a bunch of 90s clips and a trivia game. Then we were entertained by a group of breakdancers and a Macarena contest. B went up with the HR team. It was awesome.

Back to the 90s!
Back to the 90s!
Local breakdancing troupe. I'm pretty sure one of them was about 10 years old.
Local breakdancing troupe. I’m pretty sure one of them was about 10 years old.
Hammer time
Hammer time
Can you see him?
Can you see him?
Macarena, yeah!
Macarena, yeah!

The night also had a costume contest. We decided to dress up as Wayne and Garth. For some reason, it’s very difficult to find fake wigs here – in fact, most of the Indonesians we asked about it thought we were crazy or giggled at us until we gave up. Luckily, my hair is close enough to pass for Wayne, but B’s “hair” does not work for Garth. So he spent the whole afternoon before the party painstakingly shaping pipe cleaners to his head and tying on clumps of yellow wool. And it turned out really well! One girl said ‘That looks like something from Wayne’s World!” So I guess it was convincing. Too bad we lost to a group of sexy TMNT girls, which, frankly, is more of an 80s thing (1984, to be exact, or 1987 if you go by the show). There were also some guys dressed up as the Mario bros. C’mon people, get your decades right!

Party on, Garth
Party on, Garth
90s friends
90s friends

Later on that night, I decided to hop on stage and sing Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You.’ It was fun to perform again – I’ve been missing it. Also, I hadn’t told anyone at work that I could sing, so that was a fun little reveal. B promised that he would sing the Dirty Dancing duet with me next year. I’m writing it here so he can never forget! Another couple sang “Endless Love” and someone did “Enter Sandman” – it was good times.

Otherwise, this week was also a national holiday here: Idul Adha, the festival of sacrifice. Basically, everyone buys a goat and kills it in their driveway. We decided to have Canadian Thanksgiving instead! There are a total of three other canucks here, so we all got together to talk Canadian for the night. We had chicken, mashed potatoes, maple squash, beets and carrots, beans, cranberry sauce, and I managed to make a very tasty pumpkin pie in our toaster oven (even though it wouldn’t close all the way shut. I had to turn that sucker a bunch). We all had a great time, and I definitely heard the word “aboot” at least once. It was also the most food I’ve seen the kids eat at dinner in a long time.

Chicken, potatoes, beets, homemade buns, salad, wine... yum!
Chicken, potatoes, beets, homemade buns, salad, wine… yum!
Thanksgiving kid
Thanksgiving kid
Her favorite thing: chicken on a bone
Her favorite thing: chicken on a bone
Passed out from eating so much food. Cute!
Passed out from eating so much food. Cute!

New family and etc etc

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.

Time for your close-up, Mayor Wilson
Time for your close-up, Mayor Wilson
Wondering why my iPhone is in the cage with her
Wondering why my iPhone is in the cage with her
Biting the hand that feeds her
Biting the hand that feeds her

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.

J the king
J the king
B dressed as "Clive", who apparently wears this suit and likes alligators
B dressed as “Clive”, who apparently wears this suit and likes alligators

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!

The J Song
The J Song

P.S. Special shout-out to those of you who get the Mayor Goldie Wilson reference!

School wrap-up

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.

They put up an outdoor stage for the event. Pretty sweet!
They put up an outdoor stage for the event. Pretty sweet!
There's something not quite right with that maple leaf.... at least we were represented!
There’s something not quite right with that maple leaf…. at least we were represented!

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!

Daddy & daughter
Daddy & daughter
Post-Swing stardom
Post-Swing stardom

Bring on the summer holidays!

Rome: the friends

Rome was a whirlwind of amazing sightseeing, delicious food, plentiful drinks, wonderful friends and of course a bit of work thrown in. I was attending a conference with other technical representatives from our partner organizations around the world. There’s something special about the common experience, knowledge and natural disposition of folk in the same types of jobs that makes it easy to get along instantly – really, I guess it’s just nice to be among your own people!

A colleague from work and I arrived early Sunday morning after a grueling 16-hr flight. Nevertheless, we managed to meet up with half a dozen others at the hotel and we headed off for a tour of Rome proper. It was a lovely, sunny day, although not as warm as spring should be. Ok for me though! That day we saw many famous places – Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Novana, Sant’Angelo Bridge, St. Peter’s Square. It was also just a great time wandering around with new friends.

The rest of the week consisted of long days in our conference sessions followed by many late nights trying to make the most of the eternal city. On Monday, one friend and I missed the train home from the conference (mostly due to the free-flowing wine at the kick-off cocktail party after the session); we just owned it – drank the rest of the wine while waiting for the next train, headed into the city center, had dinner at a little pasta place steps from the Pantheon, and wandered back to the Trevi fountain to snap some evening pictures. I thought maybe there would be fewer tourists at midnight, but I was wrong!

The hotel organized by the conference was not near the city center, rather it was in the suburbs and, as we found out, not very close to many good restaurants. We had seen one pizza place nearby, so on Tuesday we thought we could grab a few pizzas and bottles of wine and hole up in one of our hotel rooms. About 7 or 8 of us headed out on the hunt, only to discover that the pizza place was out of pizza. I don’t know how that is even possible… in Italy. Anyway, we spent the next hour wandering around trying to find a suitable replacement. Eventually we split up to divide and conquer: one group looked for pizza and the other was in charge of wine and accessories. I was team wine. We arrived at the wine store (re: grocery store) 5 minutes to close and they had already locked the doors, alas! The game was afoot. Luckily, further down the street we ran into a few other friends who had seen a restaurant/deli around the corner. We bought a few dusty bottles from the top shelf, and with our wine in hand, we met up with the pizza crew back at the hotel and piled into Codrin’s room for a raucous evening.

Wednesday night, we were determined to have better luck. First of all, we wanted to bring a UK friend into the fold, so we figured a beer night was in order. One of the local attendees volunteered to take us to some of her favorite places in town. She found a fantastic pizza place, where I ordered the most delicious pizza known to man: it involved truffle paste. Then we spent the rest of the night drinking beer in an “Irish pub” down the way.

The conference organizers put together an official group dinner on Thursday. By now, a core group of us (the “back of the bus gang”) had become very good at drinking and causing ruckus together, so this was bound to be a fantastic night. Sure enough, as 25 of us (and one misplaced Italian family) piled into a tiny Sardinian restaurant, good fun ensued. Several rounds of wine, many speeches and an impromptu talent show later, we brought down the house. The remaining group who could keep up headed out for a nightcap at a nearby bar. More fun ensued.

Friday night, after stopping for some goods at Eataly, four of us took a tour of the Vatican museum. Incredible. Unfortunately, we got split up in the crowds and two of us spent half an hour waiting for the others in the Sistine Chapel. I’m not complaining – if you’re going to spend half an hour waiting somewhere, it should be there. But it was getting late so we abandoned them and headed back to the hotel. The others made it back eventually as well, so no harm done. They did miss the Raphael Rooms, though!

All good things come to end… On Saturday, a few of us headed back downtown before our flight to stock up on food and gifts. It was a rainy, blah day, mirroring how I felt about leaving. But at least I managed to pack about half of Italy into my suitcase to enjoy back home (including 2 jars of truffle paste!).

 

School times

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:

Playing gamelan drums
Playing gamelan drums

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.

LittleB showing off his class
LittleB showing off his class

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.

J with her friends
J with her friends
J's class singing "twinkle twinkle chocolate bar" - it's a favourite
J’s class singing “twinkle twinkle chocolate bar” – it’s a favourite

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).

So, overall, I guess school is okay!

Sari Roti

When I was a kid, I always loved the ice cream truck, watching it drive through the neighborhood playing its happy song. It was like the siren call of summer.

I suppose the fantasy has faded a bit since then. Now as an adult, I’m just irrationally angry at vehicles that play music. At least an ice cream truck plays chimey, happy tunes, and you only hear them once in a while. But what if that ice cream truck drove past your house twice a day, once at 7 am and once at 7 pm? And what if instead of ice cream truck music it played an annoying 10 second loop of high-pitched voices in another language? What if instead of an ice cream truck, it was a Sari Roti motorbike, playing this?

Yeah. That’s all true.

So you might ask, what is Sari Roti? Well, it’s some kind of bread. But I assume most of the items are filled with surprise banana. We don’t buy them.

There are some other guys who pass by as well. One of them comes round at about 10 pm, dragging his noodle cart and banging chopsticks on the metal pans. Another one walks past in the middle of the day selling brooms and cleaning supplies. He doesn’t have chimes or pans – he just whoops. Like, “whoop, whoop, whoop.” I’m not kidding.

But the Sari Roti jingle is by far the winner. It will haunt all our dreams for the rest of our lives. You know that scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit when the evil Christopher Lloyd finds Roger by tapping out only the first part of “shave and a haircut…”? Well, if one of us whistles or hums the first part of the tune, someone else must finish it.

I suggest you watch the video a few more times. At the crack of dawn.

NYC extravaganza – part 2

Despite our very long Saturday, we still managed to wake up early and head out for some more sightseeing on Sunday morning. After a disappointing breakfast at a greasy diner, we walked into Central Park for a quick tour on our way to the Museum of Natural History.

The museum, of course, is featured in such classics as “Night at the Museum” and “Night at the Museum II” (or is that the Smithsonian?). Anyway, it was huge. We barely saw 10% of it before we were museumed out. We left to wander the city a bit more, and mostly to buy some giant cookies from a local bakery.

That afternoon, my friend J arrived to join us. We headed up to Macy’s (so I could check out its original set of wooden escalators!). Then we had a very filling and delicious dinner at Keen’s Steakhouse, followed by an evening on the Empire State Building.

The next day was grey and very rainy. We decided to head underground for a subway tour. After checking out Grand Central Station, we took the subway downtown for a stop at the 9/11 memorial. That was a very complicated experience, involving several security checks and a lot of walking. But the memorial fountains were incredibly moving.

Then we walked up to Washington Square Park and saw the NYU campus. After dropping my tired parents off at the hotel, J and I went back to Central Park to take a look at some of the other sights. Later that night, we all headed to a showing of Rock of Ages. It was the kind of show you don’t want to watch with your mom, but it turns out mine likes face-melting hair metal and crude jokes!

My parents headed home Tuesday morning, and J and I spent the next three days at our work conference. It was also a lot of fun, and we had some good network (i.e. drinking) sessions during the week. One night involved giant slices of cheesecake from a dirty times square diner. The perfect end to our NYC experience!

Diwali – the Festival of Lights

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!

J and her best friend making silly faces.
Candle centerpiece
Lighting the candles
Stairs of candles
These are the ‘candles’ the kids made for the party.
Delicious food, beautiful clothes
And a dance slash fashion show!

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!

Selamat Thanksgiving!

Hello family and friends! I’m so happy to report that we finally have internet at home, and we’re (mostly) settled into our new house. It’s been a very busy, very long week. So I have lots to tell you and plenty of pictures! We’ll see how many I can upload.

When I left off earlier, we had just signed the lease and were looking forward to moving in. That was last weekend. We checked out of my work’s guest house/motel on Sunday morning, with fingers crossed that we would be able to get into the house that afternoon. The owners weren’t sure they would have everything out in time.

In the meantime, LittleB had been invited to a classmate’s birthday party, taking place at the kids’ fun centre/arcade at the mall. So we went there for the party and to buy a few essentials for a night’s stay at the house. The party was crazy! Imagine a bunch of kids, filled with sugar, running crazy in a party room in the middle of a noisy arcade. And this was Asia-level noise, so you basically couldn’t talk over the screaming kids’ music and screaming kids. Also, as some of you may remember from my post about brunch in Jakarta, there is an obsession with costumed figures visiting parties. We had a rather dingy-looking Dot? I’m not even sure. And LittleB managed to clock the birthday boy’s dad over the head with his pinata stick. We’re never going to get invited back! After all the candy and a poorly managed game of musical chairs, the kids headed out into the gym zone to run around crazy.

The gathering before the party storm
The kids all made a beeline for the balloon tree
The most elaborate Ben 10 cake ever made. Oh, and a photobomb by the creepy Dot (?) character
Pinata scramble! This very inadequately captures the chaos that was actually involved in this
All J got from the pinata was a tiny bear. But she loves it
LittleB in the bowels of the ball room
J playing on a spinner
No arcade is complete without a creepy batman ride!

That afternoon, we found out that we couldn’t get into the house. Yikes. Luckily, we had some very nice friends willing to put us up for the night. They’re here from England for a year, with a daughter in J’s class and a toddler boy. It was another night of crazy kids running around – thank goodness for face paints! Good for at least 48 seconds of quiet.

Butterfly J
Vampire B

On Tuesday, we got notice that we could go get the photos done for our Indonesian driving licences. The secretary at work said that the driver would know where the place was, and another colleague said it was very easy – just walk in, say your name, and it’s done. Ok, that’s sounds easy enough. So we head off. Now, one complication: we don’t speak Indonesian very well yet, and our driver does not speak English. After some back and forth, and gesturing, we figure out how to tell him to take us to the police station. He drops us off at what we assume is the front entrance, but of course, as soon as we walk into this tiny room filled with smoke and two sketchy guys sitting at a filthy card table…. we figure we’re in the wrong place. Luckily, I have learned enough of the language to say “Photo??” (hah, actually it’s the same word), and they send us down the hall. The next room had a nice lady cop in it, who sent us further down the hall. Finally, we get to a hallway filled with locals and tiny kiosk windows that was obviously the right place. But now what? I furiously start translating all the signs above the kiosks, and figure out how to say “appointment” in the language. Eventually we make it to a tiny sitting room that seems to be the right place. B gets up enough courage to announce our arrival to the guys in the window. Five minutes later, we’ve been fingerprinted and photographed, given our new identities, and sent on our way. No one else was out of there nearly as fast. I think we’ve just perpetuated someone’s belief that foreigners are entitled pricks. To be fair, the waiting room was pretty horrible. Enjoy the photo!

I was trying to be subtle, so it’s hard to see much. But it was packed, filthy, and mildly depressing.

In the middle of all this, my work had its annual meeting. This is when all the staff from the regions and here at headquarters come in for a week of brainstorming, learning sessions, and administrative housekeeping. So I had long days, lots of tasty food, and just a bit of stress! Thankfully, they know how to put on a good show. We all went to a “masquerade” party on the Friday night. It was lots of fun – dinner, drinks, African dancing! B took the kids home around 9, and let me stay out to dance the night away. I met lots of new friends, learned some interesting things, and I can’t wait for next year.

All face painted (again) for the masquerade!
Bat kid
This is the sports hall – normally a very unassuming place. Hooray for cheap labour and materials!
Our friends from the African offices doing a traditional dance
And everyone else dancing!

Now on to the house! We’re renting it from a rather rich family who own a lot of property in the area – in fact, the owner’s parents live right behind us (in a mansion) and the brother is next door. It’s a townhouse-style place, as in, it is connected to the ones next door, but it’s an injustice to call it a townhouse. There are two floors and a mid-level den, 15-foot ceilings, four bedrooms, two kitchens, five bathrooms, two-car garage, three balconies, and maids’ quarters. It is partially furnished with some couches and a master bedroom set, not at all our style, but in good condition. We’ve hired a housekeeper/cook, who is very lovely, and the kids already like her. We also accidentally hired out from under another person at my work, since they only had her part time… whoops! And we have a driver, because, although we have our local licences, I don’t think either of us is ready to drive here yet.

P.S. I promised you I would tell you about banana surprise. It’s exactly what it sounds: for some reason the food here is often filled with “surprise banana”. For example, you buy a normal-looking bun from the cafeteria. Inside? Surprise banana! Quite literally a whole banana wrapped up in there. Want some breakfast foods? Surprise, deep fried bananas with cheese on top. It’s become a running joke now. Everyone tells to watch out for “surprise durian” when they come into season… gross.