Friday, December 28, 2007

This is Indonesia

I realize that we've been a little remiss in talking about life here in general. We've had some amazing travel, which is always fun to talk about, but I hope this new series will be entertaining.

When you live in a place like Indonesia, a lot of the time, things just don't make sense. Those of us who live here use a few phrases so that we can just shrug our shoulders and go on with life. This new series will try to describe the meaning of "This is Indonesia" or more commonly, "T.I.I."

We haven't been invited to any weddings yet, but we've heard a lot about all that goes into them for wealthy families here. A wedding is even more of a social statement here than it is in the U.S. While we usually send a save the date card months in advance and then the invitation weeks in advance, Indonesians try to have the invitation arrive as close to the date as possible. The reason for this is that when you receive a wedding invitation in the mail, you normally just throw it in a container you keep by your door. Then when the weekend comes around, you look through the stack and see if there are any events you need to attend. Of course, if you sent your invitation too long ago, it'd be buried in the stack and your special day might be forgotten.

In that same spirit, I interviewed a couple planning to honeymoon in the U.S. next year and they handed me their wedding invitation. It was about 4 inches by 6 inches and at least an inch thick. It opened to reveal a very fancy inviation, but on the outside, it was surrounded in denim complete with pockets and a zipper to look like blue jeans. Not only do you want to keep your invitation at the top of the pile, you want it to be memorable. T.I.I.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Four Nights in Bangkok

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we did what all good Americans do and took a weekend trip to Bangkok. We had worried before we went there that it was not going to feel like much of a vacation going from one big Asian city to another, but Bangkok is really nice. It's still a developing South East Asian city in many ways, but at the same time, nothing like Jakarta. It's clean and organized, nice sidewalks, great public transportation, etc...

We waited too long to book a cheap hotel, so we cracked open the piggy bank and stayed at the J.W. Marriott. It was an awesome hotel. We also ended up getting a mini suite as they were out of non-smoking regular rooms, so it made staying there really worth it.

I had heard that sex is on display and for sale in Bangkok, but we were shocked by how in your face it really is. Near our hotel in the area called Nana, there are prostitutes on every corner and in every bar. They even have "strip clubs" where the girls stand on stage in a bikini top and thong with a number pinned to their chest, presumably so that you can just say what number you want to order for the night. We also found a bar called Hillary Bar on the same street!

One really cool thing we did was eat at this restaurant called Vertigo. It's on the very top (62nd floor) of the Banyan Tree Hotel. It's a converted heli pad that's now a trendy bar and restaurant. It's completely open air, so our table had a rail, a small hedge, another rail and then a straight drop of more than 600 feet. Not for the acrophobics! It is definitely the most unique and coolest dining experience we've had.

Another thing that made our trip was we found a place with homemade corn tortillas, carnitas, barbacoa, margaritas, the whole bit. It was awesome.
Oh yeah, we saw some temples and stuff, too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Marine Ball

Every year the Embassy hosts the Marine Ball. It's held to honor the marines and celebrate their anniversary, but it's also a chance to dress up and dance with a 5-course meal and an open bar! John and I went to the Marine Ball in Athens in 2001. However, because September 11th had just happened, they held it at the Ambassador's residence for security reasons. It worked well as Athens is a significantly smaller post than Jakarta. This was much different, as it was held in a big hotel ballroom with a ton of people.

Some friends decided to have a pre-party beforehand, so we were all ready to go by 4:30 in the afternoon! Everybody joked it felt like prom. By the time we left the ball at almost 1:00 in the morning, I decided my feet have never hurt quite that much before.

It's not often you get the chance to see co-workers and friends all dressed up (with real bow ties!) Our friend Alex is the marine in the picture with us. Each marine is posted in Jakarta for just one year, so we've already had to say goodbye to a few.