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”.

Thecayas Short Film Festival 2015

LittleB got a stop-motion animation kit from his Auntie for Christmas this year, and he has already started putting it to good use.

I managed to acquire exclusive distribution rights to his first two films (since they were made using my iPad), and I’m pleased to say they tied for first place in our inaugural family film festival. So, without further delay, for your viewing pleasure: Meeting on Mars and Mad Science.

Meeting on Mars: Two spaceships meet on Mars, and alien hijinks ensue.

Mad Science: Trouble is brewing at the lab, and only a daring helicopter rescue can save our heroes.

Hopefully these will be worth thousands of dollars when he grows up to be the next Hitchcock/Spielberg/Nolan.

Flores fun – part 6: bored kids

This is what happens when you go on an off-the-grid trip and the camera is the only toy they have around.

Ok, this isn't so bad
Ok, this isn’t so bad
Well, a little close, but still a pretty cool picture
Well, a little close, but still a pretty cool picture
Mirror effect, I actually like this one
Mirror effect, I actually like this one
So this is where Apple got its commercials from!
So this is where Apple got its commercials from!
Well, this is getting a little bit weird. Like a strange watercolor painting from the early 2000s
Well, this is getting a little bit weird. Like a strange watercolor painting from the early 2000s
Looking artistic and pensive
Looking artistic and pensive
These squares definitely aren't the best option for portraits
These squares definitely aren’t the best option for portraits
Well, this one is pretty nice
Well, this one is pretty nice
But this shade of lipstick just isn't flattering
But this shade of lipstick just isn’t flattering
What happened to the chin/face ratio in this one??
What happened to the chin/face ratio in this one??
B definitely got the short straw on these photos... this is... very unflattering
B definitely got the short straw on these photos… this is… very unflattering
Good lord, this is just frightening. Creepy Santa?
Good lord, this is just frightening. Creepy Santa?

Next time maybe we should bring a few more things to do…

Kebun Raya – Chaperone edition

Well, now that we’re done with the weeks and weeks of updates about our holidays in ANZ (That’s “Australia-New Zealand” for you Northern Hemisphere people, or as we in the Southern Hemisphere like to derogatorily call you, “Northems”), life has sort of settled back into our old rut. Well, not EXACTLY into our old rut, but the new rut seems awfully familiar to the old one. I think they’re related. They’re at least cousins.

One thing that has changed, however, is that I have a TON of time on my hands. I finished up my work contract here in Bogor just before the in-laws arrived for Christmas, and from the day we got back home from sunny Auckland, I’ve been trying to find things to fill that time up. I’ve watched a lot of hockey, granted, but the other thing I’ve started to do is to help out at the kids’ school. It’s a small school, but they do quite a bit of field trips, and I was invited along as a chaperone for LittleB’s class as we took the kids on a tour of Bogor’s botanical gardens, Kebun Raya.

As we were loading into the bus on our way to the gardens, I realized how attached folks here are to the culture of “school uniforms” – despite the permission form specifically allowing kids to wear regular clothes on this field trip, LittleB was the only one to wear “casual” clothes… every other kid had elected to wear their school uniform instead of their regular clothes!

Other than the uniform snafu, the trip went as well and as predictable as one could expect:

  • the kids went crazy and touched every single plant within arm’s reach
  • the loud and rambunctious kids were louder and more rambunctious when given more space to do so
  • quiet and introspective kids can be coerced into being loud and rambunctious with a healthy dose of peer pressure
  • we almost got kicked out of the Orchid house because of an impromptu game of Hide and Seek that had started up
  • cactuses are sharp, and some kids won’t believe it, despite your warnings, until they find out for themselves
  • When kids see a frog orgy, they will ask you to take a picture of the frog orgy, and not stop talking about the frog orgy for days and days
  • irrigation canals are not water slides
  • suspension bridges can be scary when 11 kids are jumping on them simultaneously, actively trying to cause a catastrophic failure
  • museum employees are surly and apathetic here too, it’s apparently not just a north american thing
  • Indonesian museums are “charming-yet-underfunded” at their best, and “an unholy hall of twisted godless terrors, haunting you for eternity with long suffering eyes that will sear into your mind and and manifest themselves as your worst nightmares until the sweet embrace of death finally lifts the curse that has steadfastly followed you for nigh all these years” at their worst
  • expat kids are like catnip to Indonesians, who literally cannot help themselves from either pinching cheeks, or asking you what your name is or where you are from. And then asking you to sing for them, apparently.
  • And, finally, I took a bunch of pictures (including several of the frog orgy)!

-B

Bedtime stories

We have a very strict bedtime routine in our family.

It all started when LittleB was a baby. He hated his crib, and would cry all night, forcing us to constantly come in and out of the room or give in and let him sleep with us. Finally, at age one, we decided that it was time for a toddler bed, just to change things up and “start fresh.” So a few days after his first birthday, we moved him from a crib to a mattress on the floor.

At first, it was great! He loved being able to get in and out of the bed on his own. Unfortunately, it meant he got out of the bed on his own, whenever he wanted. Bedtime was suddenly worse! He wouldn’t stay in there by himself, so we started waiting with him, beside his mattress, sort of half sleeping in the bed with him, crunched up on the cold floor, singing songs or reading stories until we were hoarse, waiting for him to pass out so we could sneak away into the night.

After a few months of this, we had enough. It was cry-it-out time. So we put one of those kiddie door handle locks on the inside of his room (he was a tall for a toddler) and abandoned him in there for the night. To make this process more palatable, we set a strict 7-pm bed time, which came with one story, one song, and a few minutes of cuddling. That’s it, then you’re on your own, kid. Eventually this took hold, and we have been blessed with relatively good sleep patterns ever since. And we have continued the bedtime tradition (now with both kids) to this day.

These days, bedtime is usually a lovely moment in the evening, when the kids are settled down and we get to spend some time with them really talking and bonding. Now that LittleB is older, it has become his special few minutes with one of us. Usually we read a couple of chapters of a novel or a few pages of a science fact book, turn off the lights, sing him a song, give a hug and kiss, fix his covers, walk to the door, pause halfway out the doorway to say “Goodnight” one last time, and…

“Mommy?”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Mommy, what existed before the big bang?”

Are you kidding me?? At this juncture of the evening, while I am literally walking out of the room after half an hour together, are you seriously asking me this huge, far-reaching, speculative, basically unanswerable question?? 

Indeed, he is. Every single night. Here are some other doorway doozies he’s dropped on us:

  • Is there such thing as the end of the world? How do people know about it?
  • What would happen if the world stopped spinning?
  • Where did life come from?
  • How did people come to exist?
  • What’s the biggest thing in the whole world? In the universe?
  • What would happen if the sun went out?
  • Is there other life in the universe?
  • How many stars are there?
  • How many earths can you fit inside the entire universe?
  • When you die, how do you become a ghost?

Do I  know what existed before the big bang? Of course not. Maybe I speculate, mumble a couple of things about string theory or dark matter or something, thinking “dear god, make this end so I can go have a gin & tonic and be a human adult for an hour.” Maybe I say something like “I don’t know, buddy, let’s check it on wikipedia tomorrow” or “Neat question, but ohmigod go to sleep already.”

But you know what? I love his questions. Even on the nights when I really want nothing more than to get out of there and decompress on the couch, I usually end up staying there awkwardly, half in the doorway, saying something like “Well, scientists think that before the big bang, there was just nothing. Just a teeny tiny, massively dense ball of matter, and then bang – it suddenly turned into everything! Pretty cool, huh? What do you think about that?”  And then I spend an extra ten minutes (or more) standing there while he peppers me with follow-up questions that I can also barely answer.

Some nights, I’m lucky and he asks the question before I get to the door. Other nights he opens up about his feelings on school or friends or life in general, and we spend those extra minutes talking about how to deal. Sometimes our conversations are more like this one (actually, that’s more like BigB’s conversations with him).

Anyway, I think I’ve learned more from our chats than he has. It’s a great addition to our bedtime routine, and I think we’ll try to keep it alive as long as we can!

Pretty cool, huh?

No-update update

It’s been a while since I updated. Sorry!

I could give you all sorts of excuses as to why I haven’t written lately. Work has been busy, we’ve all been a bit under the weather, and I’ve been feeling a bit lazy. In fact, I think I wore my pyjamas all weekend for the past two weekends in a row. It’s just that time of year, I guess. But mostly I haven’t written lately because I just can’t think of anything exciting to say.

Could it be that the thrill of living abroad has worn off? At the 14-month mark, maybe nothing is new or interesting anymore? Nothing to “write home about” so to speak?

I still see interesting things every day, but I suppose they seem more normal all the time. When I talk to my family back home, I have fewer things to tell them and they have fewer things to ask about. Our day-to-day lives go on as usual – work, school, a bit of shopping, a bit of sleeping – I feel like we’re living our lives the same as we did in Canada, we just happen to be on the other side of the world.

So, what have we been up to lately? Well, our passports are full (already!), so we spent a day sitting the Canadian embassy office last week. That was nice in a familiar sort of way. Similarly, we met up with the local Canadian association president to buy tickets to the Jakarta Canadian Thanksgiving dinner coming up in a few weeks. That was also nice in a familiar sort of way, drinking tea and eating croissants with a lovely lady from Sudbury. A few new families have joined the neighbourhood, so we’re looking forward to expanding our circle of friends. And we are trying to plan some more weekend trips around the country. It’s already been a year and I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of what to see and do!

All in all, not exactly blog post worthy. That being said, I hope we do have some more interesting things to share very soon. So bear with us.

Also, I’m writing this in the car and I just saw a t-shirt with a photo of a generic rapper and the hilarious caption “Amerikan hip-rocker,” so I guess things are looking up!

In the meantime, enjoy these random photos.

The Starbucks guys never get our names right. It's hilarious.
The Starbucks guys never get our names right. It’s hilarious.
Not even close.
Not even close.
The "Canada" shoe store nearby. I don't think there is any connection to Canada, or even shoes for that matter.
The “Canada” shoe store nearby. I don’t think there is any connection to Canada, or even shoes for that matter.
About a week after we got her, Goldie got super ill. We were pretty sure she was going to die, so I took this "dying bird" photo for posterity. Luckily she got better!
About a week after we got her, Goldie got super ill. We were pretty sure she was going to die, so I took this “dying bird” photo for posterity. Luckily she got better!
This spider fell on B at work. He was pretty sure he was going to die. But he got better!
This spider fell on B at work. He was pretty sure he was going to die. But he got better!

Grocery Shopping at Giant

One of the things I miss about Canada is grocery shopping. No, I don’t miss it specifically, but I sure as heck do miss the quality in the variety that you can find at almost any grocery store back home. You could go get groceries (good, healthy food), maybe buy a birthday card for someone, browse some clothes, and for the most part, it was all fresh food, and good quality products. You can go to one enormous store and get pretty much anything you want.

Here in Indonesia, they have… well, they sort of have that. They have Giant. Have you ever thought to yourself “Self, I would love to shop at Walmart more often, but I find that the stuff in their stores is too high in quality”? If so, Giant is the store for you. Giant is like Walmart’s sad, dirty orphan brother that grew up hoarding empty cans “because you can totally re-use these later!”

Without further adieu, I give you: a typical trip to Giant!

Daddy! Let's go to Giant!
Daddy! Let’s go to Giant!
It's this way, Daddy!... We admittedly go to the nicest Giant, it's in the only 'Western Style' mall in Bogor, called Botani Square.
It’s this way, Daddy!… We admittedly go to the nicest Giant, it’s in the only ‘Western Style’ mall in Bogor, called Botani Square.
So at the mall, they're finally installing their first elevator. To give you an idea about just how unsafe a career in construction here is, yes: that is a hand-made ladder, made out of bamboo scraps. And it's 150 feet off the ground.
So at the mall, they’re finally installing their first elevator. To give you an idea about just how unsafe a career in construction here is, yes: that is a hand-made ladder, made out of bamboo scraps. And it’s 150 feet off the ground.
OK, let's start this off with weird groceries: This is egg-flavored jam. It also costs like a dollar. I bet that it's just as disgusting as it sounds. I have no plan on finding out.
OK, let’s start this off with weird groceries: This is egg-flavored jam. It also costs like a dollar. I bet that it’s just as disgusting as it sounds. I have no plan on finding out.
This is an aisle full of instant noodles. There are three aisles that look exactly like this. EVERYONE here eats instant noodles. Mie Goreng in a bag for like 10 cents.
This is an aisle full of instant noodles. There are three aisles that look exactly like this. EVERYONE here eats instant noodles. Mie Goreng in a bag for like 10 cents.
To compare against the rice and noodle aisles: This is the bread section. VERY few people here eat bread. It's barely a thing. We had to buy our own breadmaker so that LittleB can eat soya and egg free bread in the morning.
To compare against the rice and noodle aisles: This is the bread section. VERY few people here eat bread. It’s barely a thing. We had to buy our own breadmaker so that LittleB can eat soya and egg free bread in the morning.
I hope you like rice, because it's the main food here. Aisles and aisles full of rice. TONS of different brands, too. I dunno... it all sort of just tastes like "white" to me, but I guess some people prefer the Bumblebee brand to the Snooty Non-Asian Chef brand?
I hope you like rice, because it’s the main food here. Aisles and aisles full of rice. TONS of different brands, too. I dunno… it all sort of just tastes like “white” to me, but I guess some people prefer the Bumblebee brand to the Snooty Non-Asian Chef brand?
One of the quirky Indonesian features are bags. EVERYTHING comes in bags. This is a bag of cooking oil, but you can get anything you want in super-sized bag-form: oil, laundry detergent, liquid sugar, ketchup, soya sauce... anything.
One of the quirky Indonesian features are bags. EVERYTHING comes in bags. This is a bag of cooking oil, but you can get anything you want in super-sized bag-form: oil, laundry detergent, liquid sugar, ketchup, soya sauce… anything.
In a country that's over 85% Muslim, pork really isn't a thing here. This is the pork section. Funny story: they only recently started carrying pork. I bought some ham whose barcode I guess wasn't yet in the system, and the very Muslim cashier refused to do a price check because she refused to touch the package. She had to call a manager, who used a paper towel to pick it up and take to the meat department to get a price.
In a country that’s over 85% Muslim, pork really isn’t a thing here. This is the pork section. Funny story: they only recently started carrying pork. I bought some ham whose barcode I guess wasn’t yet in the system, and the very Muslim cashier refused to do a price check because she refused to touch the package. She had to call a manager, who used a paper towel to pick it up and take to the meat department to get a price.
Ugh. These are some gross-ass meat balls. I have no idea if they're even meat. They taste like someone mixed barf with gelatin, and made a "meatball" out of that. Unfortunately, it's very popular: you see this stuff at street vendors EVERYWHERE.
Ugh. These are some gross-ass meat balls. I have no idea if they’re even meat. They taste like someone mixed barf with gelatin, and made a “meatball” out of that. Unfortunately, it’s very popular: you see this stuff at street vendors EVERYWHERE.
Oh yeah: they don't refrigerate eggs here. This is just a bunch of eggs... who knows how long they've been there. For all I know, that bottom layer of eggs has been in Indonesia longer than I have.
Oh yeah: they don’t refrigerate eggs here. This is just a bunch of eggs… who knows how long they’ve been there. For all I know, that bottom layer of eggs has been in Indonesia longer than I have.
Apparently, they don't refrigerate chickens here, either. This is just milk crates full of whole chickens. I took this photo at about 1PM, and I assume they'd been there since the store opened at 9AM. They were room-temperature when I touched them.... but they were on sale, so it's ok, right?
Apparently, they don’t refrigerate chickens here, either. This is just milk crates full of whole chickens. I took this photo at about 1PM, and I assume they’d been there since the store opened at 9AM. They were room-temperature when I touched them…. but they were on sale, so it’s ok, right?
This is a close up picture of our shopping cart, that J not only took herself, but insisted I put in this blog post. A picture about a shopping cart in a post about pictures taken from the shopping cart... she's so meta.
This is a close up picture of our shopping cart, that J not only took herself, but insisted I put in this blog post. A picture about a shopping cart in a post about pictures taken from the shopping cart… she’s so meta.
Here is an uncovered cooler full of Chicken Nuggets. OK, I lied, I have no idea if there is any chicken in those nuggets. It's like a box of Cracker Jax: you get a surprise in every serving! Hint: surprise is most likely salmonella.
Here is an uncovered cooler full of Chicken Nuggets. OK, I lied, I have no idea if there is any chicken in those nuggets. It’s like a box of Cracker Jax: you get a surprise in every serving! Hint: surprise is most likely salmonella.
Aw, god damn it. God damned Durians. They smell like a used diaper pulled off of a kid on a "peach-only" diet, and then electrocuted (the diaper, not the kid). Durians smell so bad, and so strongly, that if they're cutting Durians in the fruit section, you can smell it as soon as you enter the mall.
Aw, god damn it. God damned Durians. They smell like a used diaper pulled off of a kid on a “peach-only” diet, and then electrocuted (the diaper, not the kid). Durians smell so bad, and so strongly, that if they’re cutting Durians in the fruit section, you can smell it as soon as you enter the mall.
BEER! What's that? You can buy beer off the shelf in grocery stores in Indonesia, a country so anti-alcohol that they impose a 400% tax on any other liquor? Heck YES! The trade off: all of the beers you see in this picture taste like piss. All of the beer in Indonesia tastes like carbonated piss because Indonesian laws restrict beer sales to only beer brewed in Indonesia, and Indonesians have no frigging clue what they're doing in a brewery.
BEER! What’s that? You can buy beer off the shelf in grocery stores in Indonesia, a country so anti-alcohol that they impose a 400% tax on any other liquor? Heck YES! The trade off: all of the beers you see in this picture taste like piss. All of the beer in Indonesia tastes like carbonated piss because Indonesian laws restrict beer sales to only beer brewed in Indonesia, and Indonesians have no frigging clue what they’re doing in a brewery.
Haha, I had to include this... how often do you go to a toy section and see both the name brand AND it's cheap Chinese knockoff brand being sold side-by-side?!? Literally, they were right next to each other! Nerf: $9.99, Sol: $3.99
Haha, I had to include this… how often do you go to a toy section and see both the name brand AND it’s cheap Chinese knockoff brand being sold side-by-side?!? Literally, they were right next to each other! Nerf: $9.99, SDL: $3.99

Don’t take your local grocery store for granted!

-B

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.

Story time

It’s share time!

The kids wrote some stories:

LittleB

When Mrs O’Malley woke up there were monsters in her backyard. They were blue devils. They scratched their claws on Mrs O’Malley’s boots. Then they flew up on the roof, where they jumped down the chimney. But they landed in boiling hot soup! Their tails burned off, and they flew out of the soup. They went back into the dark, haunted forest and never returned.

LittleB

J

Once upon a time there was a little old woman. She lived in a gingerbread house. It was Halloween and she dressed up like a witch. Then she went back home and got some sleep. And then she woke up and had pancakes. Then she went to school. Then she went back home and she got some new shoes. Then she went back home and tried them on. The end.

Once upon a time there was a little old man and a little old woman and they were camping. Then, the woman found a hedgehog and then she ran away and went to her dad. Then they lived happily ever after in their home. The end.

J

Assembly time

They also had an assembly recently. Enjoy these videos of them being adorable!

Eating Indonesian

Fruit stall in Bali
Fruit stall in Bali

It’s been a quiet couple of weeks since we got home from Yogya. Well, by quiet, I mean hectic in a normal way rather than a noteworthy way. Work is busy, school is back in, plus it seems the whole neighbourhood is sick, or flooded (if you live in Jakarta!). LittleB had a flu bug earlier this week that kept him in bed for a few days. We were hours away from taking him to the hospital, fearing Typhoid or Dengue, when he miraculously got better.

In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about the weird foods I like now that we live in Indonesia. In particular, all the unusual fruits we buy now instead of boring old apples and oranges (well, we still buy those too). So, in no special order, here are some of my favourites (I stole the photos off the internet since I don’t have any handy):

Rambutans

Rambutans are a yummy, hairy fruit that is in season right now. Mounds of them are piled up on the sides of the road around the city, and some are even growing on trees in the neighbourhood. You buy them in the bunch, trying for the reddish coloured ones. To eat them, peel open the soft shell to expose the soft white fruit. It’s a bit like eating hard jello, with a seed in the middle. Not too sweet, they’re just right. Yum!

Rambutans - hairy but delicious!
Rambutans – hairy but delicious!

Dragon fruit

LittleB loves dragonfruit juice. And this is a cool fruit because it comes in two colours – white like in the picture and red fleshed (watch out, it stains!). The texture is a bit like watermelon with less juice, and the seeds remind me of kiwi seeds – a little burst of sour in the middle of the sweet!

Dragon fruit - like watermelon with measles!
Dragon fruit – like watermelon with measles!

Passion fruit

Passion fruit is not that weird, I mean, I’d heard of it before we came here. But for some reason I had only had passion-fruit-flavoured things, never realizing exactly what the fruit looked like. Basically, you crack that sucker open and suck the gooey seeds out. They’re a bit crunchy, surrounded by a squooshy ooze. Fish eggs? Brains? They look gross but taste like yum!

Passion fruit - closest thing to brains you'll eat other than brains!
Passion fruit – closest thing to brains you’ll eat other than brains!

Papaya

Papaya is another one that seems most normal. Certainly it’s not unusual in North America, but again I never realized what it looked like. It’s a big fruit, and inside is a bunch of crazy black seeds like caviar. But don’t eat those! Scrape those out of there and cut it up. It’s going to take you at least 2 days to eat the whole thing. But it’s creamy and soft and tastes exactly like what you think the “tropics” should.

Papaya - bigger than you think it is!
Papaya – bigger than you think it is!

Salak

Salak is a famous local fruit, also called “snakefruit” because of its rough, scaly skin. You peel off the skin and inside are a few white segments of what I can only describe as “dry” white flesh with a pit in the middle of each. It’s a bit weird of a weird flavour and I personally think they smell like sweaty socks. B loves them, though.

Salak fruit - smells like sweaty socks!
Salak fruit – smells like sweaty socks!

Mangosteens

Mangosteens are delicious, but they are in no way similar in flavour or shape or colour to mangoes. If you crack open the purple shell, you’ll find a pocket of white segments that are soft and sweet, with sort of a peach texture. They taste like delicious.

Mangosteens - nothing like mangoes!
Mangosteens – nothing like mangoes!

Star fruit

Star fruit or “blimbing” is popular, apparently native to Indonesia. They’re hard and a bit sour, and I’m still undecided about them. They’re tasty in drinks and I think they are good for salsas, but we haven’t tried that before. Frankly, they just look neat!

Star fruit - now with more star!
Star fruit – now with more star!

Guava

Guavas or “jambu” are not an unusual fruit, but again I think I only really knew it by “flavour” in tropical mixed juices. There are a number of varieties, but I’ve mostly seen this pink fleshed kind. There’s a rumour that they will literally cure malaria… I’m not so sure about that. They are delicious, though.

Guava - now with more delicious pink!
Guava – now with more delicious pink!

Tiny bananas

Tiny bananas or “pisang” are pretty much just bananas, but tiny and awesome.

Tiny bananas - so tiny!
Tiny bananas – so tiny!

Durian

Durian is another local specialty. It is big and stinky and people either love it or hate it. I’ve actually never tried it, but the stink is quite fierce and I’m not sure I can bring myself to eat it. There are signs here telling people that they can’t bring durian into buildings and other places the way 7-11s have signs saying “no shirt, no shoes, no service”. It’s that stinky.

Durian... it's gross
Durian… it’s gross

Is anyone else hungry now??

B-roll

After the excitement of Christmas, and the sad departure of Grandma, it’s been a quiet few days. We’ve been hanging around the house, cleaning up all the new toys and reorganizing a bit, and just enjoying the neighbourhood.

Tomorrow is New Year’s eve, and we’re planning to stick around home. We may head into Jakarta to get a few groceries and check out “teak street” (where all the teak furniture is sold), but we’re not joining any of the festivities. I don’t think we’re quite ready to face Jakarta for New Year’s.

In the meantime, I thought I would share some of our B-roll photos. These are the ones that either didn’t make the cut or were simply capturing the funny things that happen around here.

The kids had a dress-up day at school recently, where they had to come in as what they want to be when they grow up. J wants to be a chef, I hope.
The kids had a dress-up day at school recently, where they had to come in dressed as what they want to be when they grow up. I hope this means J wants to be a chef, otherwise we have an issue.
This "Barbie" has hair that gives me nightmares.
This “Barbie” has hair that gives me nightmares.
When we were Christmas shopping a little while ago, the mall had dedicated a whole level to Spongebob.
When we were Christmas shopping a little while ago, the mall had dedicated a whole level to Spongebob.
While we were walking in the Botanical Gardens, J found this and was very concerned that someone had "left their guts behind."
While we were walking in the Botanical Gardens, J found this and was very concerned that someone had “left their guts behind.”
J being a walrus. It runs in the family.
J being a walrus. It runs in the family.
I don't know what a Gramary Gun is, and I don't want to know.
I don’t know what a Gramary Gun is, and I don’t want to know.
B was so pleased that he "took a picture of taking a picture!" I think it's cute that he thinks he invented the idea... at least it turned out to be a good shot!
B was so pleased that he “took a picture of taking a picture!” I think it’s cute that he thinks he invented the idea… at least it turned out to be a good shot!
This mis-ordered rainbow cake also gives me nightmares.
This mis-ordered rainbow cake also gives me nightmares.
I can't think of a better way to transport a giant bag of tiny baby shoes than this. Other than about a million better ways.
I can’t think of a better way to transport a giant bag of tiny baby shoes than this. Other than about a million better ways.

See you next year!

Sights & Sounds of Bogor: Petting Zoo!

One of the better developments of our move to Indonesia is that J is able to attend school five days a week, a luxury we might not have had back home, as we probably would have enrolled her in 3 day/ week pre-school or something. Here though, we can afford to sign her up for what normally is a phenomenally expensive proposal: a pre-school run by an International Baccalaureate school.

Unfortunately, even at the more expensive schools, the kids still get holidays, which means I have to actually spend time with them all week instead of dropping them off! What are we paying this school for, anyways? to TEACH them something? Haha! What lunacy!

Seriously though, all kidding aside, the kids were off school this week, a brief holiday marking the end of the first term of the school year. We did have some things to do this week like head to Jakarta o buy a new dining table, and do some other shopping around town for essentials, but we did make it out to possibly the only petting zoo south of Jakarta!

LittleB kept running away from the goats when they bleated at him. He thought they were going to jump over the fence and rush him, which they admittedly almost did.
J only wanted to feed this one goat. When other goats tried to get in on the bottle-feeding, J would pull the bottle away and say “NO OTHER GOATS, THIS BOTTLE IS FOR MY BABY GOAT”.

The kids had a blast feeding the goats, it really was a highlight of he trip for them. You had to buy the bottles to feed them, but they were only like fifty cents each, so it didn’t exactly break the bank. I was more than happy to buy a couple.

Behold, the rarest of the rare: the legendary Esquilax – a horse with the head of a guinea pig and a the body… of a guinea pig!

I thought it to be fairly funny that a lot of people were excited about the Guinea Pig pen. Apparently, they’re WAY rare in Indonesia. I didn’t have the heart to tell some of the locals at the farm that the were a dime-a-dozen pet back where we come from. Also: I didn’t have the language to tell them, either, as my Bahasa isn’t at all strong. Also: I’m CRAZY allergic to guinea pigs, so we did not stick around the G-Pig pen too long.

Dang, Sea Otter, that’s some tasty looking fish you got there…

I have no idea why there were Sea Otters at a landlocked petting zoo. We did get there in time for their lunch though: live raw fish, served in a bowl of muddy water. The otters actually fished out live fish, still flip-flapping around in their hands, and ate them. You can see the otter clutching a half-eaten fish in his tiny otter-hands in the above picture. It was gross, and therefore awesome.

“Remember Steve: if we act like chickens, they’ll feed us like chickens. I know you’re nervous Steve, you just gotta believe you’re a chicken, man. If you believe it, they’ll believe it!”

The kids loved feeding the chickens, and by “chickens“, I of course mean “eleven different kinds of birds all fighting the chickens for their food“. I was funny watching the dove-like birds (I never got their English name, and I can’t remember their Indonesian name) fight the chickens for their food. They were incredibly aggressive! They all ate corn, which J thought was popcorn. I couldn’t seem to convince her that it was just feed-grade corn. She now thinks that all farm animals “eat popcorn seeds”.

This cow had super powers, and saved both us and the farm itself from giant robots. We rewarded his heroism with delicious, delicious grass.

LittleB liked feeding the cows, though he reminded everyone within earshot that we also have cows in Canada, but Canadian cows poo a lot more. Like, that is the only way to tell the difference? These cows seemed quite healthy, though, something I wasn’t expecting for such a small urban farm that only charges $1 admission.

I’ll be sure to update with more kid-related activities as they happen: I’m sure there are other animals within a 100km radius that LittleB and J can traumatize!

-B

Because I’m sure some of you have been waiting for this…

S and I were having a brief conversation last night about how living in Indonesia doesn’t really feel all that different than living in Canada. I mean, yes, in many ways it is obviously drastically different (no winter, lots of garbage, different culture, can’t drink the water, the meat sucks, things that are cheap are really cheap and things that are expensive are really expensive, garbage, etc…), but one of the interesting things about living here in Indonesia is that both S and I feel completely the same as we did in Ottawa: it’s not as though living here has changed us in any profound way. I think we chalked it up to the both of us perhaps being more flexible and amenable to our surroundings: we’re fairly easy going, and can adapt well. We don’t necessarily need routines to define us, and we were pretty OK with leaving our comfort zones for this adventure. That, and we’ve become a bit desensitized to some of the radical differences between Canada and Indonesia (the phenomenal wealth imbalance, the complete and utter lack of even the simplest forms of infrastructure of any kind, and so on).

So where is this all going? Well, I wanted to set up the fact that there are some differences out there that are just downright hilarious. More specifically, merchandise!

So, I found these at the local “Giant”. Giant is like what Walmart would be if there were even less regulations on copyright. Case in point: these fake-ass “Beats By Dr Dre” headphones. Normal Beats headphones are ridiculously overpriced at about $150+, and these ones are a whopping 30,000Rp, or… $3. Yep. Three bucks.
This demonstrates two things: counterfeit merchandise can be so cheap that even someone making $200/month can afford it, and Indonesia has a serious inflation issue.
This is a pre-teen jewelry store I found at a mall. It’s like what “Ardene” would be like if you cut the quality by 4/5ths, and you let a bunch of hormonal 16 year olds make the business decisions. You can;t see it very well from the weirdly-lit sign up top, but the store floor banner shows you that this store, for pre-teen / teenagers, in a phenomenally conservative country, is called “Naughty”. And there’s no confusion here, either. Their in-store English promo literature follows through, proclaiming that “slutty is in”, etc… It’s weird that places like these exist in such a socially conservative place, if I had to guess, I’d say that they’re banking on the fact that most Indonesian can’t read English and won’t pick up on it? The whole time I was around it, I felt like keeping my eyes open for windowless vans. Creepy for sure.
Ah, the infatuation with America. It’s everywhere, and it’s awesome, because I was really worried that during my three years here I was going to be deprived of my favorite food: Liberty Red Meal, just like Mom used to make.
I didn’t try this particular dish, but it reminds me of another phenomenon here: Western Food that tastes NOTHING like Western Food. You look at this, and you think “OK, they just have a hilarious name for Spaghetti & Meatballs, but I guarantee that those noodles are Rice noodles, the meatballs taste like a soy-platic hybrid, and the sauce has something to do with fish. Every time – every SINGLE time – we’ve had “Western food”, it just doesn’t taste right. At all. But they try, and it’s appreciated, if not hilarious.
For instance, they have A&W here, and it’s branded as “All American Food”, despite it being awful. Wait, American food is awful. OK then, so they got that one right… but it’s far, far worse than the A&W’s back home.
Haha, this one was awesome. So we were at the Jakarta airport, waiting to go to Singapore, and we came across this place: Old Town White Coffee. I just have no words. Is it a play on the old Dutch Colonial system? Like, a coffee place in Old Town for white people? And the absolute kicker was that it was filled almost exclusively with white people, and all the Indonesians were at a different coffee place about 70 feet down the hall. At least it lived up to it’s name, I guess? Maybe I’m reading too much into it…
This is a shirt you all should recognize: it’s Harrison Ford, reprising his best known role as the fearless treasure hunter Indiana Jon… huh? Wait, what? “Liberal Bravery Jones”. Oh. Aren’t you sure it’s Indian… no? Really? “Bravery Jones”? Look, if you are going to blatantly rip off a half-billion dollar copyrighted character, just own it. Just make a frigging Indiana Jones t-shirt, don’t think you’re being smart by taking one of the greatest movie trilogies of all time (and yes, it’s a trilogy, Crystal Skulls be damned) and making the titular character look like he belongs in a $0.99 iPhone app. You’re stealing intellectual property man, just go all the way.

I’ll probably post another set of pics like these when I have enough of them to make a blog post to dump them all in. Have a good Sunday!
-B

Indonesian Word Of The Day: “Cat Oven”

There was a conspicuous lack of stray cats around this particular Cat Oven.

There are Cat Ovens in Indonesia. All over the place.

There was a conspicuous lack of stray cats around this particular Cat Oven.

I don’t know how to break this to some of you, but Cat Ovens are quite popular here in Indonesia. I have found that there is usually one Cat Oven every couple of city blocks or so, at least on the main strips. Apparently, the competition among them is pretty fierce, so much so that they sometimes employ someone to hang around intersections and try to procure business while cars are stopped at a red light.

They’re not shy about what they do, either, and there is a certain amount of pride at working at a Cat Oven: it’s a much better job than some others, and you are helping keep the streets clean and looking their best.

I’ve seen different Cat Ovens: some are small little shacks that I would be worried about the cleanliness of, others are large, massive facilities about the size of a large gas station, and clearly make sure that they keep themselves in tip-top condition. The cleaner ones, I imagine they are vying for the valuable expat clientele, who it might surprise you use the Cat Ovens far more often than the locals. You would think it were the other way around, right?

Also: “Cat Oven” means “Paint Kiln” – for baking on car detailing/repainting.

Indonesian Word Of The Day: “Macet”

So macet means congestion. As in, traffic congestion.

This is an example of typical traffic in Bogor going at full-speed.

I have a feeling macet is going to be a word that we’re going to come across in Bogor quite a bit. Traffic here is a whole different ballgame compared to what we’re used to back in Canada, and the fact that they drive on the left side of the road is just a small part of a completely different vehicular landscape.

First of all, there are no traffic lines anywhere. No lanes. It’s absolute chaos, yet it’s a very organized chaos. Everyone seems to know where they fit in, how much space they have on the road, and where everyone else is. Now, road awareness is a fairly admirable trait in North America, but here in Indonesia, it’s made even more impressive by the fact that people literally zip in and out of traffic seemingly at will. You need to be paying attention at all times, because there is a 100% chance of having a motorcycle squeeze between two cars, finding a space that wasn’t there mere seconds ago, and cut your car off. Some vehicles will be going 30-40km, others 70km/h. All on the same roads. There are no real speed limits (or none that I can see anywhere / none that seem to be enforced), though if you can get going past 70km/hr anywhere, consider yourself lucky. Which brings me to my next fun travel fact…

CONGESTION. It’s everywhere. And with all the motorcycles fighting the cars and mini-buses (“angkots”) for space on the roads at any point around town, it’s unavoidable. There seem to be certain spots where the congestion is worse than others, though: intersections. Traffic seems to flow fairly well, until you see the glimpse of an intersection on the horizon. Traffic lights mean a sure-fire 10 minute wait, at least. And the funniest part is that drivers don’t seem to pay much attention to the lights themselves, they are more focused on the “traffic directors”, people who dress in plain clothes and carry a whistle, forcing cars around. You’d think they were police, but no. Just random plainclothes Indonesians moving traffic in the busiest intersections I’ve ever seen.

There are even people who make a living doing this: they occupy small intersections with no traffic lights, and literally will move in front of traffic, hand in the air signaling for oncoming traffic to stop and let someone through, in exchange for a few thousand rupiah (around $0.20CDN).

I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it sooner or later, and by get the hang of it, I of course mean pay someone who has been driving in this elaborate labyrinth of asphalt and metal his entire life to do it for me.

-B

There’s lots of fluffs

There are fluffs all over the ground. They’re falling off the trees and it’s like they are snowing. The fluffs get up my nose and tickle!

Fluffs all over the ground near the tennis court
Fluffs all over the ground near the tennis court

The fluffs are big and poofy, and they have seeds in them.

You can see the trees with fluffs on them
You can see the trees with fluffs on them

We looked them up online, and we think they are “Kapok” trees: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceiba_pentandra.

Very cool!

-LittleB