Wedding once upon a time

Weddings are such a funny thing. You spend months or years preparing, dropping wads of cash to make every detail perfect, thinking ahead and dreaming about every moment, and then suddenly you get one blip of a day and it’s all over.

Luckily for us, twelve years ago today, we were two poor and practical kids who didn’t know what we were doing. The days of Pinterest and hipster wedding sites were far in the future. And we were the first of our cohort to get married, so we had no one to compare ourselves to and no real expectations of how the day should go. I remember buying a wedding planner book – yes, seriously, a real book – just to make sure we covered all the important bases, you know, like pants and cake. But it was all rather low stress planning and we did it for very little cost.

Although it was the early days of internet shopping, we managed to find a great local venue (a rustic farm that has since become a posh and pricey wedding location) and an officiant who would do the kind of non-denominational ceremony we wanted. Other things like the flowers and cake we got through word of mouth connections, and friends and family pulled through with some great favors on photography, music, decorations, homemade wine, and general helpfulness.

I think we did everything right, for us at least. It was charming, simple, small, casual. We decided on a luncheon partly to save money but also because it’s more our style – we’re not dancers and certainly didn’t need a DJ party, so going back to the family house for evening drinks and socializing suited us just fine. The ceremony was short and sweet, accompanied by traditional fiddle music and some lovely readings by our wedding party. We made handfasting vows, and if I could remember them I’d share them.

Despite all the planning, some things still went awry: it was grey and rainy,  so our outdoor ceremony on the picturesque garden steps was moved into a barn with a drywall backdrop instead; our romantic horse & buggy ride (which we paid extra for) was so cold that we asked them to turn around after only 5 minutes; we somehow didn’t think about arranging a ride home from the venue for the two of us since we arrived separately, but managed to squeeze into a car with friends; and sometimes I wish we had made a video of the ceremony, since after a dozen years the whole thing is kind of just a foggy blur. But in truth, when would we watch it? We’re living our life together every moment, and one single day is hardly the biggest part of it. I’m thankful that we didn’t go into debt for some lavish wedding that we would still be forgetting this far into the future.

It was the perfect way to kick off the past 12 years and the many more to come. Here’s to love!

 

 

A few of our favorite (Indonesian) things

Even though we’ve started settling into life here in Switzerland, Indonesia is still on my mind. I asked the family to list some of their most favourite and least favourite things about living there, and here they are, in no particular order:

My most favourite:

  • Random backyard fireworks. Sure, it was sometimes annoying to be woken up at 2 am by something that sounds a lot like a gunshot, but it was always made up for by the fact that we got to enjoy backyard fireworks. Fireworks make every day a holiday!
  • Cicaks. I loved those little guys, skittering around the house and purring squeakily from behind the furniture. It was like a whole houseful of our own lizard pets.
  • Thunderstorms. I never got tired of the big thunderstorms in Bogor. Even after our house got hit and all our electronics were fried, I still loved the blinding lightning and rumbling fury of the thunder rolling by.
  • “Belum”. I love this Indonesian word. It means “not yet”, as in “Have you eaten nasi goreng before?” The answer is not “no”, because there’s a chance that someday in the future you will eat it, so the answer is “not yet”. Beautiful logic.
  • Swimming, diving, nature, jungles, sunsets. What an amazing place to learn to dive and snorkel. For sure, I have been spoiled for swimming in the rest of the world. And living in a rainforest was amazing. The rare sunsets were always a wonderful treat on the drive home.
  • Movie theatres. Where else can you see a new release movie for under $5, in assigned seating, and for a few bucks more, sit in a theatre filled with lazyboy chairs??

LittleB’s most favourite:

  • Visiting cultural places, like Borobudur. I definitely agree, it was wonderful to see so much culture and history, and such a variety of art and style throughout the country. Let me expand this one to say Batik as well. What a beautiful art form – and I collected way too much of it!
  • Discount prices. Can’t deny him this one – things were very reasonably priced!
  • The people. Of course! I definitely agree wholeheartedly. More on this later.

J’s most favourite:

  • When our house is attached to another house
  • I love you
  • The colors of the Indonesian flag
  • When we are near malls so we can get to malls easier
  • Going to Canada at Christmas

I don’t think she really understood the question…

So what are we not going to miss?

  • Open, enormous gutters. Absolutely. Those things were smelly, filled with garbage and regularly on fire. I was always paranoid the kids were going to fall in and die. I even heard a story about a friend of a friend who fell in and later died from some kind of awful disease. And along with this goes the fact that there are really no sidewalks. Impossible to walk anywhere, and when you do, you risk falling into a gutter or getting hit by traffic.
  • Garbage. This goes without saying. Burning garbage, street garbage, litter everywhere. People picking through garbage. It’s horrible.
  • Water quality. The water was terrible. I’m sure we shaved several years off our lives from the heavy metals and toxins in the water. For a while I thought I was allergic to my shampoo because every time I had a shower, my face would turn red and feel burned, but after I switched shampoo multiple times, I realized it was just the water itself… I’m still having a hard time drinking from the tap and rinsing my mouth after brushing my teeth.
  • Flooding. What do you get when your gutters are full of garbage and there is a tropical downpour? Toxic flooding. Everywhere. All the time. Definitely not going to miss this one.
  • Traffic. See above. I will never, ever complain about normal rush hour traffic again. Three hours or more in a car every day was quite literally killing me.
  • Bugs. Actually, I rather liked the bugs. I mean, even scorpions in my office… it’s cool, right? I did hate the termite swarms, though. I always thought I might suck one in and choke to death on its lacy wings, gah.
  • Over-the-top kids’ birthday parties. Good lord, these were the stuff of nightmares. Take 50 hyper kids, plus their screaming siblings, plus their nannies, then stick them in a room filled with loud music, sugary food and balloons and someone dressed up like a cartoon character from 1974 and you have a seizure-inducing party room from hell.

What about some funny things?

    • Weird habits. For some reason the kids picked up the habit of sitting on the toilet with the toilet seat up. Like, bare bottom to porcelain rim. Weirdos. They also eat everything with their fingers, and we’re currently raging battles at every meal to get them to use cutlery. And they just Will. Not. Wear. Shirts. At home. Ever. Argh! Hopefully the coming Swiss winter will cure them of that habit.
    • Accents. The kids went through phases of speaking with different accents, depending on their teachers, friends, and school assistants. J’s gone through British, Australian and Kiwi, and we’re still trying to get her to say “th” properly (it sounds more like a “d” in her mini-Indonesian accent). LittleB has managed to sound fairly Canadian, but has perfect pronunciation for Australian cities and European football players, so really, I guess that’s a plus.
    • Everything-cycles. These guys who put EVERYTHING on their scooters. It was just flabbergasting. Toilets, tires, gas canisters… I never saw one in an accident, but I’m sure it happened all the time.
    • Engrish mistakes. You know what I’m talking about. It never stopped being funny.
    • DVDs. Every (slightly illegal) DVD we bought for 60 cents had the exact same rating and length: rated R and 109 minutes. It’s like they just used the same template or something! Particularly funny on the kids movies.

But of course, the thing we’re going to miss the most are all the people we met and amazing friendships we forged there. Indonesia is full of the most sincere, light-hearted and deeply caring people I have ever known. My face ached every day from all the smiling.

And we met so many friends from around the world… I can’t possibly even begin to list them all. Here is a small sampling of the many goodbyes we shared, and so many more that we didn’t photograph.

I’m sure there are a lot more things we could list here, and maybe someday I will. But for now, I’ll answer the question “Are you actually ready to say goodbye to Indonesia?” with “Belum”.

Winter holiday highlights: Ottawa

Our Christmas holidays were lovely. It had been over a year since we last visited home, and even longer since we had seen winter! The plan was to spend almost a month relaxing in Ottawa with family and friends, making the most of wintry days playing in the yard and wintry nights sitting by the fire.

We headed out of Jakarta on an early Saturday morning, laden with suitcases full of gifts and only the bare necessities – since none of our current wardrobes were at all suitable for the weather in Canada. Luckily we had managed to buy some long pants and a few sweaters in Bogor, so we could at least make it from the airport to the house when we arrived. But wearing socks for the first time in two years was a bit weird.

The flights were relatively smooth, other than a few panicked hours in Hong Kong when we thought our flight would be late and we would miss our next connection in Vancouver. But it turned out fine, and the 35 hours passed like a breeze. A very long, very boring, incredibly painful breeze filled with hours of cramped seats, terrible movies, inedible food and whining children. But we made it.

Our first week home was also filled with boring things like visiting the dentist. Twice, for the family members who had a cavity. Three times, for those with two cavities. And we battled jet lag for quite a while, waking up to watch movies at 2 in the morning. Ah, who am I kidding – it was the holidays – we probably would have done that anyway!

It snowed just when we arrived, and the kids were so excited. We took them tobogganing. J cried the whole time, complained that LittleB was “throwing sand at her” and went to play at the snowy swing set instead. LittleB face-planted at the bottom of the hill and sprawled there for the rest of the time. BigB smacked his knee on some ice riding down the hill on a kiddie saucer and limped for the rest of our trip. But I had a good time, though!

Obviously the big ticket item was Christmas. My sister and her family came to stay as well, and we had a busy schedule of visiting friends and family throughout the week. Christmas is always a busy time for us, since we have so much family in the same city – and we have to carefully plan our days to get in a dinner and presents with all of them. The upside is that we get dinner and presents with all of them. We also visited an old-fashioned Christmas village, where we got to meet Québécois Santa, see thousands of Christmas lights on old-timey buildings and eat toasted marshmallows at the firepit. We also managed to see a number of good friends.

Before we left the city, we decided to do some tourist activities so we didn’t feel like we had wasted our entire vacation sitting around drinking Bailey’s (that doesn’t sound too bad, actually). Of course, on the week we decided to take the kids to the museums, they were all closed for annual maintenance. We did manage to visit the art gallery for an M.C. Escher show, which was very neat. But it was on the coldest day of the year so far (-37 C with the windchill). We made the poor kids walk about 10 minutes to the gallery – that was a mistake. J started crying uncontrollably and LittleB had a panic attack when he saw BigB’s mustache getting ice on it. But we stopped for beaver tails and hot chocolate, which every Ottawan knows is the only cure for a cold day in Canada. Everything worked out fine.

The night before we were meant to leave, the whole family came down with a stomach bug. We managed to change our flights at the 11th hour and got a whole extra weekend of time. So we headed over to the Nature Museum to see the dinosaurs and stuffed birds and stuff. We also managed to squeeze out a few more restaurant trips and extra goodbyes.

Too soon it was time to head home for real, to the home that has all our stuff. The highlights I carried home with me, other than a bunch of new underwear and kids’ medicine: easy shopping, nice restaurants, driving on the wrong side of the road, new babies, craft beer, personal space, silent snowy nights, ham, and bacon.

I think my only regret is that I didn’t get any one-on-one time with my sister. Our kids kept us both busy, and we had too many family gatherings eating up our days and nights. Luckily, we just planned a last-minute Thelma-and-Louise trip to Paris in a few weeks, so I guess that worked out for the best!!

We miss you, Ottawa. See you next time!

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.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that we really miss here. There’s no way to replace it – it’s so linked to home: the season, the colors, the smells. A perfect autumn morning, waking up early to bake some pies, sharing the afternoon with family, maybe taking a hike through the bright fall forest, playing a game of pick-up hockey or football in the crisp evening air. Spending the evening eating and laughing, ending the night a little rosy and so full of turkey that it’s hard to breathe.

The past few years, we’ve done a little thanksgiving with our Canadian friends in the area. This year, we had a few Aussie additions, but they were made welcome nonetheless. We found a turkey (imported from Utah!), dug up my mom’s stuffing recipe, bought $18 cans of pumpkin for pie, sourced a can of cranberry sauce. Instead of a hike, we swam; instead of football, we had a mini ukulele jam. But we still spent the night eating and laughing, getting rosy and ending the night too full to breathe.

It was lovely, but it wasn’t quite the same as being home. We’ll miss you all this weekend – Happy Thanksgiving from Indonesia!

-The Cayas

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!

J turns 5!

Dear Sweetie,

I can’t believe you’re already 5 years old! I realize that’s not very old in the grand scheme of things, but it’s the perfect number of years for so many things – a university degree, a healthy run on Broadway, establishing a successful small business, a tasty block of cheddar.

Over the past five years, you’ve put up with daddy’s ceaseless teasing; joined in our overbearing weekend pillow fights and wrestling; sat through endless re-watchings of Ghostbusters and The Three Amigos; laughed at every silly story we’ve told that ends with someone being poked in the eyeball and dies; and managed to choke down your vegetables when we fight with you to eat them at dinner.

And we’ve tried to be patient as we’ve watched you spill every single drink, ever; sat through endless re-watchings of Tinkerbell, Tangled and (most recently) Frozen; as you’ve whined or cried across at least 8 different countries; as you’ve fallen asleep in so many awkward places and we’ve had to carry your dead weight up and down stairs, on and off airplanes and buses, trains, cars, sketchy tuktuks; and we’ve put band-aids on you at least once a week for the past 5 years as you’ve fallen on literally every possible surface in the world.

In your five years, we’ve seen you grow from an adorable little baby into a beautiful young girl. You’ve shared our strange adventures with joy and laughter, and you have lit up our days since the very first moment. It’s both exciting and frightening to see you growing so fast. Soon you’ll be doing things on your own and we’ll be sad to lose our baby, but even prouder of you than we are now.

Happy birthday!

Love Mommy & Daddy

Birthday celebrations spanned a few days, from birthday morning presents to a nice family dinner, to a full blow-out party with all the neighborhood friends. It was a fun time, but I’m not sorry we won’t have to do it again for (almost) another year!

Aussie Adventure Part 5 – Harbour tour

New Year’s day was our last day in Sydney. It was also my Dad’s birthday. We decided to go our separate ways for the day (since we got a lot more sleep than my parents did the night before), so we headed out early in the morning to catch a ferry ride around the harbour. We were planning to meet up with some friends near Luna Park – but unfortunately, the ferry changed its schedule without warning, so we missed our scheduled meeting! We wandered around the north shore for a while, trying to find internet access so we could contact them, but no luck.

The ferry tour was nice, though. We saw all the cool harbour views, closeups of the opera house and bridge, plus the tour guide pointed out some famous people’s houses and cool sights. I really needed to know where Oprah’s Sydney mansion was. The rest of the people on the boat with us were Japanese tourists, and spent their entire trip taking photographs of the sun – see, there was a bit of moisture in the air that day, and it made kind of a cool rainbow ring around the sun. It was okay, I guess. But they were super into it, taking weird-angled pictures of themselves with “V” signs or thumbs up, pointing at the sun. I’m talking an hour-long photo shoot of this. I’m not sure most of those are going to turn out, guys, cause, you know, you’re photographing directly into the sun

That night, we all wanted to have something special for dinner because of the whole final night/birthday/new year thing. So we headed down to a food area near the hotel. We walked and walked, not really finding anything good, so we stopped at the last place on the street, mostly because it looked ok and we did not want to walk any more. But OH MAN we hit the jackpot. It was this fantastic little French place with the best food I have eaten in my life. We all had steaks or lamb, and the kids had some yummy pasta. The owner even gave the kids some complimentary homemade gelato for eating all their veggies. If you are going to Sydney, tell me and I will give you directions to this place. A few nights previously, we ate at a Thai restaurant on the same strip. It was also some of the best food I’d ever eaten. Sydney knows how to do food right!

All in all, it was a really great visit. I would go back to Sydney in a second. I could even see myself living there – it was like a laid-back NYC, except, you know, with skin cancer. But I guess for now I’ll settle on watching their NYE fireworks on TV again this year.

 

Aussie Adventure Part 1 – Blue Mountain Christmas

Our first day in Australia, we woke to a grey Christmas Eve morning, but excited to pack up the van and drive a few hours west into the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are not exactly mountains, rather a higher-elevation chain of sandstone foothills just outside of Sydney. Indeed, I was expecting something a bit more… mountainous… but actually the region is almost tropical. I guess having driven through the Canadian Rockies many times makes other mountains just look like adorable little hills. The Blue Mountains are still beautiful, though!

The drive up was rather uneventful. The day stayed rainy and misty, so we didn’t manage to do any kind of sightseeing along the way, even though the route we took was apparently teeming with “breathtaking views” of valleys, forests and cliffs. Mostly we just saw fog, clouds and mist. But before long, we made it to the cottage and settled ourselves in for a cozy few days.

We rented a lovely little cottage in Katoomba. It was a large enough town to have decent shopping and restaurants, but small enough that we had a nice break from big city life. The cottage itself was just the right size – room for six to sleep, a modern kitchen, woodstove in the sitting room, and an updated bathroom complete with a claw-foot tub. Perfect for a Christmas getaway!

Even though we had celebrated an early Christmas before the trip, we still had another Christmas Eve birthday cake for LittleB and little visit from Santa the next morning. I guess he figured out that we were travelling… Us parents and grandparents celebrated Christmas Eve festivities with a fridge full of wine and beer, a BBQ full of steaks and an all-night game of Hearts.

The gloomy weather stuck around into the afternoon of Christmas Day, but we decided to try a bit of local sightseeing. Our cottage was situated directly on a tour route with many lookouts and famous sites – like the Three Sisters. The first stop we made was at the Cliff View lookout, so we were, understandably, excited for some cliff views. Not so much.

Next, we drove down to Echo Point to see the Three Sisters. But we could barely see the parking lot. We didn’t even bother stopping. Instead, we headed back to the cottage for an afternoon beside the fire!

Fortunately, the next day, the weather cooperated and we managed to do several hours of touring and exploring within Katoomba and beyond. First we revisited the Cliff View lookout and saw many lovely cliffs. We also ran into some bush firefighters on patrol, and they told us a cool story about the Dog Face rock. Then we took a peek at the Three Sisters, along with several bus loads of tourists.

That afternoon, we drove further west to check out the Blackheath area and beyond, seeing many more cliffs and some fire-ravaged hillsides. Most memorable, we took a tour off the beaten path to visit “One Tree Hill” – the highest point of the area, and we were looking forward to a view from the top. Well, it turned out to be a water tower and some scraggly trees, without any view at all! We also checked out an area that had suffered from wild fires in November – the burned trees and colours looked almost like Autumn. Only, you know, burned up.

On our last day, we packed up and shipped out, stopping at two more lookouts on the way. At the last site, we spent nearly an hour watching the morning mist burn off as the sun heated up the valley below. It was magical.

At the end of the road, we passed back down the mountain and into Sydney for a week of sightseeing.

Pre-holidays holiday fun

Before I can get into trip details, I have to share a few pesky little things that happened in December called “overseas visitors” and “Christmas” and “LittleB’s birthday”.

First of all, mid-December was especially exciting because my parents came to visit! They arrived on the last day of school, but wisely chose to stay in and sleep off their 30-hour flight rather than go to the end-of-term assembly. What’s that? You would have gone, out of grandparental obligation? Well, the next time you are sleep deprived on the wrong side of the world, I will force you to watch two hours of awkward elementary school kids performing off-key songs and dancing to Gangnam Style. Or as J planned to do: bounce a basketball and sing “Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar?” by Sharon, Lois and Bram at the same time (she can’t do either very well).

One of many ballerinas...
One of many ballerinas…
One of many gangnam dancers
One of many gangnam dancers

Unfortunately, my parents were here for the week before our travels when I was fresh off bed rest from my horrible back injury – so I wasn’t able to take off much time, having used up all my work goodwill the previous week. B got the lucky job of showing them around town. This consisted of going to the one mall, swimming at my work and touring the botanical gardens. Surprise, they managed to accomplish all three that week!

We always like going to the botanical gardens here. They’re so strangely unkempt. As if someone just put a fence around a normal forest and started charging admission. There are some nice areas, like the orchid house and the great lawn (it is literally just a big lawn), but the rest is rather overgrown and, frankly, a little boring. To be fair, I’ve heard that there are a number of unusual species kept there, which would probably be more exciting if I knew anything about unusual species of tropical trees. I don’t. Instead, we are usually the exciting thing for the locals – and as usual, everyone wants a picture with us instead of the trees. When B took my parents, they were swarmed by local students who, for some bizarre reason, were trying to get my father to sing for them. My father is not a singer, and I’m certain he doesn’t look like any Indonesian singers, so I have no idea why this was even a thing. Who randomly asks strangers to sing for them? Indonesian school kids, that’s who. (He declined.)

Swimming with grandma and grandpa
Swimming with grandma and grandpa
Testing
Testing out our new underwater camera
Like I said... a bit unkempt
Like I said… a bit unkempt
The Great Lawn
The Great Lawn
Swarmed by kiddos
Swarmed by kiddos

We also took my parents for a swanky Christmas brunch at a hotel in Jarkarta. Those are always a good excuse to eat too much. At least they had some really impressive Christmas decorations!

Huge Christmas decorations in a Jakarta hotel
Huge Christmas decorations in a Jakarta hotel

Because we were leaving for our travels on Dec 22, we would be on the road for both Christmas and LittleB’s birthday. I decided it would be best if we had those celebrations beforehand – I’d like to say it was because having Christmas at home is more special, but really I just didn’t want to bother bringing presents with me either there or back home again. So… I wrote a special letter to Santa asking him to have Christmas early, on Dec 21. As it turned out, he was happy to comply! Christmas morning was fun, with some nice presents for the kids and some Baileys for the adults. We did LittleB’s birthday early too, and he got a nice little haul for turning 7!

7 time
7 time
Grandpa couldn't eat the icing, so we cut out a piece beforehand
Grandpa couldn’t eat the icing, so we cut out a piece beforehand
Percy Jackson books!
Percy Jackson books!
"You bought me a box of yeast??"
“You bought me a box of yeast??”
"Oh yay, it's an iPod!"
“Oh yay, it’s an iPod, not yeast after all!”
Calm before the storm
Calm before the storm
Stockings!
Stockings!
Presents!
Presents!
The great opening begins
The great opening begins
Opening up
Opening up
Do you want this?
Do you want this?
Grandparent presents
Grandparent presents
Christmas cuddles
Christmas cuddles
Yay, more books!
Yay, more books!
This is my "now I have to clean up all this crap" face
This is my “now I have to clean up all this crap” face

On Sunday, we piled into a van I rented from work (our car was too small for all of us) and headed to the airport. Now, we have missed a flight before so we’re a bit airport-wary, and many other folks had been saying the airport traffic was really bad around then, so we left about 7 hours early for the flight. Of course, that was the one day when no one else was on the road, so it only took us an hour to get there. There’s not much to do in the Jakarta airport. We stood around for a while… we watched tour groups of Indonesian pilgrims pile through the airport… the kids cried a bit… finally check-in opened… then we spent another few hours waiting on the other side… Anyway, we eventually made it to Sydney!

Waiting....
Waiting….

Our first night in Sydney was rather uneventful. We picked up a van from the airport, and after B nearly had his fingers cut off by slamming them in the car door, we headed into the city. We had the morning to kill before we could check into our hotel on the outskirts of town. We booked something farther out because we were heading West into the Blue Mountains the next day, so staying downtown would have been silly. Anyway, it turned out we stayed in the sort of low-income, industrial area of the suburbs. Food options were a bit limited, but we managed to find our way to the Chinatown area and enjoyed some awesome bbq pork buns, as well as a really tasty Italian dinner nearby. We needed to conserve our energy for the real fun when we headed out the next day! But that’s the next post. Stay tuned!

Overdue holidays

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!

The Dread Pirate J
The Dread Pirate J
Tin Tin and Snowy
Tin Tin and Snowy
Trick or Treating at our house!
Trick or Treating at our house!
Time for some goodies!
Time for some goodies!
Wrong season at the Halloween potluck dinner...
Wrong season at the Halloween potluck dinner…

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!

Here’s a map to make you jealous.

Canadian Thanksgiving – the real one!

Last weekend, we headed into Jakarta for the real Canadian Thanksgiving in Indonesia. Organized by the local Jakarta Canadians group, it was a traditional turkey dinner held at a downtown hotel.

The menu was very tasty: roast turkey and gravy, mashed potatoes, carrots & peas, brussels sprouts with bacon, roasted pumpkin, cranberry sauce, and a selection of desserts that included tiny pumpkin tarts very close to the real thing! The only thing missing was my mom’s stuffing recipe.

It was a great night. Two of our other Canadian friends came along, as well as a handful of wanna-be Canadian friends. Oh, I should mention that there was free alcohol for most of the night, so the party was well lubricated.

We figured that since we have whiny kids who fall asleep at 7 pm, we should book a room in the hotel and just stay overnight. It was brilliant. Sure enough, J fell asleep before dinner even started, and LittleB spent most of the evening playing gameboy under the table. We were able to put them to bed halfway through the evening and then come back down to continue the party!

Planning for this overnight, I decided to take the leap and drive into Jakarta on my own. It actually wasn’t too bad. As I’m discovering, it’s not the traffic that makes driving difficult, it’s that unless you have the routes memorized, it’s impossible to find your way around. And you can’t trust GPS. Google maps was sure that the hotel was located somewhere on some crazy backroad that you couldn’t access, so after many stops for directions at coffee shops and every foreign-looking person on the street, we finally found the place by chance. I also successfully made it home the next day, despite waking up with a hangover at 5 am. Thanks, kids.

 

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!

Cottage & Tea

It’s been a busy couple of weeks!

I had a friend visiting from the UK, mainly for work, but we were able to enjoy a few great nights out during the week. More exciting, we took him up to the “cottage” that my work maintains in the mountains nearby. Ostensibly this is a place where you could hold work retreats and have a bit of isolation, but really I think employees just rent it out for party weekends – which is exactly what we did!

Let’s backtrack a bit, though. Last year, we had a really great masquerade party at the end of our Annual Meeting. During the course of the night, I won the door prize, which turned out to be a free night at the cottage. Until now, we had never been able to find a time to go up, but the certificate was expiring in October, so it was becoming a bit desperate. Luckily, with our friend in town and some other friends interested in joining, it was perfect timing.

We headed up after work on Friday, only getting trapped in about an hour’s worth of traffic. So it only took us 2.5 hours to drive the 25 km to the cottage – a holiday miracle! The cottage is located up in the Puncak area, which is nestled into the side of the local volcano and generally considered vacation country. It is much cooler than the city, and the cottage itself is quite private. Calling it a cottage is not really fair – it’s more like a small mansion, with four bedrooms and a huge living space. There were 7 adults and the 2 kids, and we fit very comfortably. It apparently sleeps 16 if you pull out all the extra bedding and mattresses.

After we arrived, we enjoyed a great evening of drinking and impromptu ukulele karaoke. In the morning, we lounged around and the kids had fun exploring the area. In the afternoon, we took a little hike up the hillside to a nearby tea plantation. The guide said it would be about a 40 minute walk, so we figured that wasn’t a big deal. He neglected to tell us that it was literally 40 minutes up a cliff. It was a bit of a workout! I really shouldn’t have drank that Smirnoff Ice right before we left. Anyway, after braving the rainforest, a few mosquito bites, a couple of leech attacks, some major kid whining and several long rests, we made it to the top. And it was worth it!

The view was a bit cloudy, but it was cool and lovely, with a breeze washing over us. We enjoyed the scenery for a while, took a meander up an old cobblestone path and rescued LittleB when he tripped and gouged his knee skin off on said cobblestone path. We had to peel the skin back and rinse it out with water, bleh. But he’s a trooper.

Soon the rain clouds were threatening so we headed back down. It was a bit slower going with the kids, who tended to build up too much speed and start tumbling, but we made it. We only found one leech on our friend after arriving home, and we blasted that sucker with salt – it was science in action. Afterwards, we took a swim in the still-filling pool, which unfortunately was a bit grimy, but we did find some frog eggs! We kept them in a jar and watched them grow over the weekend. More science in action!

On Sunday, we relaxed and swam some more, in the now-filled-and-cleaned pool. We headed home in the afternoon, again getting stuck in some initial stand-still traffic, but once it got going, we made it home in about 2 hours or so.

Definitely worth it, and I think we’ll be making a regular weekend out of it!

 

Going West!

Here we are, at the airport again, but this time we’re on our way back to the other side of the world!

It’s been a long week of wrapping up projects, clearing out inboxes, packing suitcases (well, ok, that only happened a few hours ago), and the other typical running around before an extended trip. It’s been fun, though. This past weekend, we had an afternoon of swimming and and our second biannual neighbouhood poker night. I lost. 😦

Our first stop is NYC for a few days, then we head to great white north to eat bacon, see friends and family, buy toiletries and go to the dentist. In that order.

Anyway, time to go. LittleB just broke a plate in Starbucks, because we’re that family.

See you on the other side!

Pokerface
Pokerface
Money shot
Money shot

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!).

 

J turns 4

Happy Birthday Sweetie!

We had a fun neighbourhood party on the weekend where we bbq’d too much meat, drank too much beer and ate too many cupcakes. It was great.

Then today we had a little family party and opened the family gifts I’ve been hoarding since Grandma’s visit and my trip to NY. I also cooked a Hello Kitty cake that apparently did not solidify all the way through, but it was ok with lots of icing! That’s all she eats of the cake anyway.

We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled Sri Lanka posts in a couple of days. In the meantime, enjoy these pictures while I go sleep off my sugar coma.

 

Swimming and fun

Lately we’ve been enjoying what I assume is Spring here. The rainy season seems to have ebbed, and the sky has been clear and blue every day (except for the 10 or hours when it rains in the evening and night, of course). We can finally see the full ring of mountains that surround the city, and they’re beautiful.

Of course, beautiful days mean more swimming. And spring days mean more birthday parties. Around here, we combine the two!

Jumping in
Jumping in
Swim kids
Swim kids
On the flutterboard
On the flutterboard
Enjoying the shallow edge
Enjoying the shallow edge
Martial arts underwater
Martial arts underwater
This is me at the end of a cannonball jump
This is me at the end of a cannonball jump
J's first fully-submerged jump!
J’s first fully-submerged jump!
Friend's 4th birthday party
Friend’s 4th birthday party
She had My Little Pony cupcakes
She had My Little Pony cupcakes
I think J ate about 4 of them. But if she only eats the icing, does it still count?
I think J ate about 4 of them. But if she only eats the icing, does it still count?
The whole gang
The whole gang
J's friends and the birthday girl
J’s friends and the birthday girl
Cupcake mustache!
Cupcake mustache!

On the road again

Well, folks, it’s been a while since the last update. Sorry!

But I’ve found a few free moments at the Jakarta airport, so I will try to give you a rundown of the happenings lately.

The past two weeks have been a busy, regular routine. Both kids (and frankly, everyone in town) caught some kind of stomach bug/flu/cold that took them out for a while. But luckily it was not dengue or typhoid fever as I generally suspect. I’ve heard of a few cases of dengue, but we’ve made it through safely so far. It’s also been raining. A lot. Jakarta keeps flooding, though Bogor has been fine. It has increased commuting times, so most of my energy disappears in those long drives.

We went into the city last weekend for yet another fancy brunch. This one was a “jazzy” lunch at the Ritz Carlton. It doesn’t get jazzier or ritzier than that – fancy little foods, foie gras on everything, and a bunch of seafood. I didn’t try the oysters, but it was just as well because everyone who did was a bit ill the next day. I guess even class doesn’t stave off salmonella.

Brunch out

After brunch, we visited the “totally legal” DVD mall, and stocked up on something like 60 discs. Granted, most of them were blockbusters like “Mulan II” and “Meet the Robinsons”, but at least the kids were happy. Also, they cost like Rp. 6000 each, so it is pretty hard to overspend. We managed to get a few adult movies (not that kind), and some new releases, so we feel a bit more in touch with cinematic reality.

Earlier in the weekend, we started up what will hopefully become a regular poker night in the neighbourhood. I won. (It paid for brunch.)

20130207-220941.jpg

20130207-221107.jpg

20130207-221116.jpg

Otherwise, I’ve been busy this week planning some trips, including the one I’m about to take. A work-related conference is bringing me to NYC for the week, and my family and best friend are coming down from Canada to meet me! So I couldn’t ask for a better vacation/trip. Exciting work, friendly faces, exploring the big apple. Expect some more travel posts soon!

Also, we’ve decided to take a spring trip to Sri Lanka with the family. So we’ll be visiting for about 10 days over easter. This has taken a lot of organizing (and money), but it’s going to be fantastic. We’re doing it all: beaches, safaris, tea country, culture. Expect even more travel posts soon!

All in all, things are going well. This country is starting to feel like home now, and sitting here in the airport before my trip is already making me homesick for Indonesia. Or maybe I just miss these cuties already.

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20130207-221047.jpg

I might check in later from Doha. Otherwise, see you on the other side of the world!

Holiday roundup

This has been a busy week again. Wednesday was the last day of school, and I was hoping to take off Thursday and Friday – that didn’t work out so well. We did go for some last-minute shopping on Thursday, but then I got called into work and thus ended my vacation days.

But we have been gearing up for the holidays! B and I and his mom had a marathon present wrapping session earlier in the week, and I think everything is ready for Mr. Nick tomorrow night. Our neighbourhood friends are planning a rather big dinner on Christmas eve, and we’re bringing pie and a ham… tough to do without an oven! So we’re borrowing a slow cooker for the ham and cooking the pies at the host’s house, and hopefully it will work out. It had better, because the ham was $60 and each apple cost $4. I think they’re plated with gold foil or something.

Yesterday, we decided to take Grandma for a little trip through the botanical gardens. We spent a while touring the Orchid garden and wandering around a few fountains and fields.

Today, we went swimming at my work (again). But this time it was bittersweet. Our best friends in the neighbourhood decided very suddenly and unexpectedly to go home for Christmas (to the UK) and they won’t be coming back. J is a bit devastated, because their daughter was in her class and they spent every waking second together. I guess we’ll be visiting jolly old London sometime soon! Anyway, they fly out tonight, so this was our last swim together. Luckily we brought our handy underwater camera and managed to get a few pictures.

P.S. I’ll post again soon with exiting Christmas photos! Until then, enjoy this photo of us with moustaches:

We drew moustaches on each other. J is rocking the cowboy, LittleB is a dastardly villain, and I have the full goatee.
We drew moustaches on each other. J is rocking the cowboy, LittleB is a dastardly villain, and I have the full goatee.

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!

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!

Happy Halloween!

Today is Halloween! Which, unfortunately, in Indonesia, is not a big deal. In fact, it’s not celebrated at all. Luckily there are enough expats that we still had a little celebration of our own, complete with costumes, candies, and a haunted house!

The kids have been excited for Halloween for weeks. Ever since we moved here, LittleB has been going on and on about dressing up as a Ghostbuster, and J wanted to be the Stay Puft Marshmallow man. It seemed like a good idea until we discovered how difficult it is to find costumes here. B spent the last few weeks scouring the stores, trying to come up with things to wear. We eventually found and made enough pieces of LittleB’s costume – he went as Ray Stantz – but J’s was impossible. Instead, we found her a little dress that looked just like Tinkerbell.

Ray and Tinkerbell from the front.
Ray and Tinkerbell from the back.

B and I were another story. All he managed to find for us was a pair of capes. With a bit of face paint and creative beard shaving, I went as a sort of day of the dead creature and he went as an evil magician. I think it turned out pretty well! I know mine was good because I made a kid cry.

Evil magician.
Day of the dead.

Now, for the entertainment: one of our new friends down the street put on a very elaborate party. There were games for the kids: bobbing for apples, a very complicated string maze through the bedrooms, guess the body parts (you know, brains, intestines etc), and a whole spread of disgusting food.

A tray of poop and cups full of boogers on a stick.
Cockroaches, kitty litter, and worms in dirt
Dirty diaper dip. B couldn’t even eat it.
Tinkerbell and her friend Merida from Brave.
For this game, you had to balance an eyeball on a spoon and get it into a bucket on the other side of the room.
Decorations – I don’t know where they got the pumpkin!
Back at home, checking out the loot. Good times!

All in all, it was a great night. The kids had a great time with their friends and we filled up on poop and cockroaches.

I hope your Halloween will be just as fun!!

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.

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: