Monday, June 25, 2007

Extreme Bocce

This past weekend, a friend of ours who works at the embassy invited us to this retreat that the embassy owns up in the mountains south of Jakarta. The area's only 55 miles away, so tons of people from Jakarta go up there on the weekends to get away from the city and enjoy the cooler weather. The only bad side is that because so many people go up there, it took 3 hours to get there and then 3 hours back.

It's a really cool place with immaculately manicured lawns, a frigid swimming pool and two houses. Eleven of us went up there on Saturday morning and spent two days playing bocce ball, croquet, board games, etc. It was really fun to get to meet and hang out with some other people our age who don't work at the embassy.

It's a little hard to describe why it's such a great place until you live in a city like Jakarta where there's no green space, no clean air, and no peace and quiet. We've only been here a few weeks, but it felt so nice to be in a place where you really felt like you could relax.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

And then it rained...

During our first two weeks in Jakarta, we didn't see a drop of rain. It's the dry season right now, but we were still really surprised. But our luck could only hold out so long...

Yesterday while we were still at work, we had a downpour for about an hour. It was 2:30 p.m., but it looked almost like night time it was so dark. It wasn't the hardest rain I've ever seen, but it was up there. And then after about an hour, it pretty much stopped.

A little while later, an email came out saying that there had been flooding in various parts of the city and that we should plan for a longer commute. So far, our thoughts on traffic had been that people make it out to be a lot worse than it is. Of course, we're only a mile or two from the embassy, so we have a short commute. Don't get me wrong, traffic is always bad. There are no lanes in the roads and even if there were, I doubt anyone would pay attention.

But yesterday with the rain, traffic was bad...really bad. To go the mile or so that we live from the embassy took about 35 minutes. We could have walked faster (not that you can really walk here). The rainy season is going to be interesting!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

How did we ever survive before?

Following pretty much everybody we know here, we hired a woman to work in our home last Thursday. She cleans, does all our laundry and ironing, shops and does some cooking for us. In Indonesia, almost everyone who is middle-class or above has domestic help. We found Ibu Tati because she worked for another embassy employee who recently departed Jakarta.

While we pay Tati quite a bit more than the normal salary, it is just a fraction of what you would pay for help in the States. No doubt we are feeding her entire extended family and then some.

It's so nice to come home from work and have all our clothes folded and put away, the apartment immaculately clean, and a stocked fridge. It really makes us wonder how we'll ever survive once we leave...

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Long Awaited Conclusion

As I said before, I tried to finish telling the story about our trip to Indonesia last spring when we stayed with families and traveled all over Java and Bali with our teachers. I'm going to try and finish it now, so bear with me for jumping around in time.

As I mentioned before, the family we stayed with in Bali was incredibly generous and nice. But in some ways, that was the problem too. We began to feel a little smothered because they didn't want to let us take a taxi anywhere, and because we were in the center of the island we couldn't walk anywhere. On the day I was recovering from my durian experience, Hillary and I decided that we needed a change of address for our last few days in Bali. We decided we wanted to be by the beach, so we looked in our guide book and found a couple cheap hotels that we could stay in for $30 a night. But before we moved over to the cheap hotel, we decided to call Stan, who we'd met in Bandung, because he said that he was a part owner in a nice hotel in Bali and could get us a good rate.

When I called Stan, he said he'd see what he could do to find us a cheap room. He called me back and told me that he didn't want us to stay at the hotel because they'd have to charge us. However, a house that he owned with a friend was vacant. He gave me the number of the driver who he keeps employed year round and told me that he was happy to help. I told him he was far too generous, but I knew we'd insult him if we turned his offer down. We told the family we'd been staying with of our plans. They were a little hurt I think, but they insisted on driving us over to our new digs...

The place was incredible! It had five huge bedrooms, three set on one side of the pool and two set on the other. Each bedroom had an outdoor bathroom with either a big bathtub or a nice shower. The pool had a waterfall cascading into it and there were two huge covered patios with couches. On one of the patios, there was a full size kitchen and dining table. There were also two beautiful birds in cages that repeated Indonesian phrases!

We spent four days at the place, which was a short walk from the beach and several restaurants. There was also a salon across the street where you could get...... you guessed it, a massage for $5. It was definitely a nice place to spend our first anniversary.

On our last night there, the family we'd stayed with the first four days picked us up and took us to a chinese restaurant we'd eaten at previously with them. They gave us some very nice jewelry that they said they'd had specially made, as they own a jewelry shop. For me she had a bracelet with waves on it to commemorate my surfing experience. I think it represented the entire trip, because like a wave, there were peaks and troughs.

If you want to see other photos from the trip that didn't make it onto the blog, click here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fantasy World

On Saturday, Hillary and I were invited by a group of the Indonesians who work in our office to join them for a day at Indonesia's amusement park, Dunia Fantasi, in North Jakarta. It was a really fun time getting to hang out with them and great for getting to know them better since we'll work with them everyday. They're a pretty entertaining group of mostly 20 something year olds with a few more seasoned veterans thrown in to oversee the mix.

It was pretty funny to see some of the rides they had set up. It seemed like most of them were recycled from other countries. That definitely made it a little more nervewracking to hop on a roller coaster. On one of the rides that was a swinging boat, we sat down in front of a plaque that said the ride was built in West Germany. I suppose it's better than it having been built in East Germany or Russia, but still alarming since W. Germany hasn't been around since the 80's. We survived though, so all in all, a good day.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A new home on the other side of the world

There may have been some confusion about the blog, but I'll try and clear it up. For the last 3 months, I've been writing about the trip that Hillary and I took to Indonesia for 3 weeks in March. I had hoped to finish telling that story before we left for our real move to Indonesia, but I took too long. There are only a few posts left to finish that tale, but I wanted to get this thing current for once.

We arrived in Jakarta on Wednesday morning to begin our two year assignment here. After flying from Washington to San Francisco to Tokyo to Singapore, we finally made it. We spent about 22 hours actually flying, not including layovers. Just a hop, skip and a jump away, right?

We started moving into our apartment, a 3 bedroom/ 2 bath apartment on the 14th floor of a luxury apartment building in central Jakarta. The view is great when not obscured by smog. I'm going to break protocol, and post this without Hillary editing it first, so my apologies if it's rambling, but I wanted to let everyone know that we made it here safely. The adventure is just beginning...