Saturday, August 23, 2014

Village tour in Bogor

Adelaide and I had quite an adventure on Saturday.  We spent the entire day in Bogor experiencing traditional Sudanese village life.  We rode about an hour and a half south of Jakarta on the toll road.  I can't help but mention how ridiculously nice the highway was.  We drove on beautifully landscaped parkway style roads and up to modern toll booth, Addie asked, "Are you sure we're still in Indonesia?"  I had to laugh.  It is unbelievable how nice the infrastructure is here.

It was a wonderfully kid-friendly day.  We learned how to play a local instrument, took a tour of the local village and their homes, mucked around in rice paddies and planted rice, washed a water buffalo, posed in traditional Sudanese Indonesian dress clothing, ate a traditional meal, painted farmer hats, made pandan leaf puppets, and made traditional rice flour cookies.  It was such a lovely introduction to one of the cultures in Indonesia.

Now the photos.  It's so fun photographing our new adventures in Indonesia.

Rice paddies

The water buffalo named Bintang (meaning star)
Addie in the traditional women's dress costume.
Planting rice
Washing Bintang
Lunch: tofu, chicken, soup, rice crackers and rice.  
Exotic flowers
Local foliage.  

Making panda leaf puppets

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Jakarta is full of shopping malls.  Luxurious Western style, air-conditioned shopping malls.  Having just spent so much time in America (and shopping for most of it), we aren't really interested in spending our first days in Indonesia at the mall.  My first phone call to a neighbor was to ask her suggestion for where we could find local handicrafts or art for sale.  Something that felt truly Indonesian.

I'm a huge proponent of buying a souvenir right away when moving to a new country.  It's a fun way to immediately feel like you are apart of the community and you tend to buy things in your first few weeks that you would likely pass up months and years down the road.  I like being able to look back at our first purchases with fondness.  Before you've seen too much of everything, it's fun to put something pretty in your home.

My neighbor pointed us to Pasaraya which happens to be a huge multi-story mall (go figure) of locally made goods.  One entire floor was of batik fabric, shirts, dresses, table linens etc.  Another floor was household decor and art.  The bottom floor was a specialty grocery store, market style food vendors and Indonesian coffee.  We spent most of our time searching for the perfect first batik shirts for Justin and dresses for the girls.

We ate at a quiet Indonesian cafe where I had my first truly Indonesian meal of beef rendang.  It's a lovely coconut curry beef stew over rice.  Spicy and delicious.  The girls had fried rice and chicken.  They were hit with a little more spice than they are used to so we taught them to follow each bit with the pickled vegetable salad that was served with the meal to cool down their mouths. Ashlynn doesn't mind the spice.  She takes a bite, chews and breathes through her mouth muttering "spicy" over and over.  But she always goes back for another bite.  We all had iced tea sweetened with condensed milk to accompany the meal.

We explored a bit more and I purchased a hand woven ikat patterned tablecloth and table runner.  On first glance, the ikat patterns are a bit more casual and usable in a modern dinning room than some of the more formal Indonesian batik patterns.  I'm on a mission to find batik for my dinning room.  For now the ikat is perfect.

The girls enjoyed picking out patterns and styles for themselves.  I forced them to pose with their new dresses when we got home.  I imagine we'll have a closet full of batik apparel in a few years.
As you can see I am still sorting out the best locations in our apartment for photos.  Lots of shadows on this one.  But they are still cute.

pancake and pool Saturdays

I had a few days to get our home sorted out before I started work full-time. It was quite ambitious for me to give myself only 5 working days (2 of those spent checking in at the embassy) to get everything settled at home with a nanny and driver and schools etc. I had to hit the ground running and my saving grace was having hired a pembantu (the Indonesian name for a nanny/maid/cook) before I arrived via email. Her name is Aunty, and I'm sure you'll here loads more about her. We've already fallen in love with her.

Anyhow, Thursday and Friday of last week were relatively free. They were also the last two weekdays I had with my girls at home before our life got significantly busier with school and work. We decided to explore our apartment complex a bit while Ashlynn was napping.
Note the amazing apple Ash is eating
We live in a fairly new highrise apartment complex. There are multiple apartment towers, underground garages, opulent lobbies, and two large pools as well as a small playground, and a very well equipped gym. While the apartment is rather small for our family of five, it's a very comfortable place to live and it won't be hard to make it feel like home. Addie, Bella and I wound ourselves around to the other apartment tower, through the brick-oven pizza place (we tried it-only in a pinch ever again), farm to table grocer (perfect place to grab eggs, onions, apples-the basics if we run out), up the stairs and past the smaller fitness center to an outdoor pool that sits up on the second floor terrace. 

We weren't prepared to swim so we just lounged a bit in the chairs and enjoyed the view. It was another moment where I couldn't help smiling. The pool is very pretty and has tile planters built into the water with mature trees. The tree cover over the pool provides shade and dappled light. It's a tiny little oasis. The girls and I immediately decreed we would swim here every Saturday morning after our favorite family breakfast of Justin's from-scratch pancakes and real maple syrup.

Two days later, on our very first Saturday morning in Jakarta, after only 6 days in our new home, Justin made his famous pancakes (with ingredients I bought at the local stores-real maple syrup from the commissary), he brewed a pot of our new favorite Indonesian coffee (quite an easy transition from Ethiopian coffee to Indonesian coffee). Once we'd had our fill, we put on our suits and took a dip in the oasis pool. Not a bad tradition to start!

Live from Jakarta

Flowers that fall front the trees at our pool.  
It took ten days for us to get internet at our new apartment in Jakarta.   I actually wrote this blog post on the second and third day after we arrived in Jakarta.  Technically, we've only been in this country for two weeks but it's amazing what a difference a week can make!  We're entirely settled in at this point but I still want to share my first thoughts on our new home.    
Once again home with embassy furniture.  It's oddly comforting!
My thoughts on day 2:

It's hard to think of a proper introduction on my blog for our new life in Indonesia. So much has happened since we left Ethiopia and yet it's still so close to our every thought. One thing that is an interesting feeling is just how comfortable and normal it feels to once again, be in a third world country. It's also wonderfully familiar to be in SE Asia. Many of experiences we're having are very reminiscent of our time in Manila, Philippines. Ethiopia is so different from Indonesia but all one does upon arrival in a new country is compare it to the country you were coming from. We have enormous grins on our faces every day in Jakarta. When comparing Jakarta to Addis Ababa it's easy for Jakarta to come out on top. I'm sure this city has it's own set of challenges but for our family, coming from Addis Ababa, we can't see anything but the positive. We've only been here since Sunday, August 3, so we haven't seen much, but so far everything is so nice. It's wonderfully easy settling into a country where the roads are clean and well made, the city is crowded with a growing economy, grocery stores are full of everything we could ever need and the Indonesian people are wonderfully friendly.
My favorite part of our new apartment.  Our closet.
Some very small things that have made us very excited about our life in Indonesia:

Immediately getting beef pho for lunch after just a few hours of sleep in our new apartment
Walking into the Hypermarket at Lippo Mall (which I can see from my apartment window), and seeing rows and rows of fresh produce, entire refrigerated sections of chicken, beef, milk, yogurt and imported cheese, as well as staples like peanut butter, olive oil, and cereal. And this was the low-end grocery store.

Seeing the eager friendly faces of Indonesians when they see our sweet girls.

Lippo Mall has a Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, and Mod. It's so nice to see familiar brands.

Nannies with white nurse-like uniforms, carrying the toddler, and pushing the stroller, while Mom walks empty handed. To clarify, it made me smile because it's something we're used to seeing in the Philippines, it's just as ridiculous in Jakarta as it was in Manila.
My least favorite part of our new apartment.  The Asian mini fridge.
Siting on our embassy issued couches watching our welcome kit TV felt wonderfully familiar.

The ache in my feet and ankles after a day of walking on our all-marble floored apartment.

Amazing New Zealand apples at the grocery store. I know I'm from Washington State-home of awesome apples, but I love New Zealand apples. They are so crunchy!

When my new Indonesian pembatu (nanny/cook/maid), Aunty, arrived and immediately displayed super human patience with my 3 year old and a book of stickers. SE Asian women are the most patient human beings on earth.

When the girls and I returned from the playground and the floors were sparkling and the laundry was folded. Day 1 of housekeeper-win!
Batik shopping on weekend 1
Fireworks every single night. Gotta love all the fireworks in Asia.

Pools, gym, playground, sauna, cafe, mini mart, produce stand are all within our apartment building.

Meeting ladies who lunch, Jakarta style.

KFC delivery men on motorbikes!

Dumping a quarter of our first bottle of water on the floor, since it's been so long since we've used a commercial water dispenser. I sort of miss the endless supply of water the distiller in Addis provided.

No travelers tummy! Maybe our guts are just used to the changes. We've also had conflicting advice about properly washing our vegetables and fruits. Our sponsor washes only with bottled water. Other people insist on vegetable detergent and bleach. We followed our sponsors advice and ate our first few fruit and vegetable heavy meals without washing and rinsing with bleach or detergent and have had absolutely no issues. Yay for stainless steel stomachs and not having to bleach soak our food!

Eggs come pre-washed in plastic egg cartons. Oh be joyful!

Food Network on our cable package! No way!

It's fun to see and experience so many of these things similar to Manila. It's great to be back in SE Asia. We have tons to explore in this new country. We aren't entirely naive honeymooners though. We know this lovely dreamy phase will pass. For now there are only a few things I can see, I might have trouble with.
We have noticed that the language barrier is fairly significant. After a few days, I still cannot decipher what “hello” and “thank you” in Bahasa is. With the chaos of the first few days, I haven't even had a chance to look it up!

The traffic is pretty epic and from what I've deduced, this keeps people from exploring and getting out. It tends to overtake people's lives here. If you live in the North, close to the embassy, you stay there. If you live in the South, close to the schools, you socialize there. Which means there is a good portion of the embassy community you likely won't get to know very well.

I've also found it to be true that a larger post may provide more efficient services but looses much of the small community feel. I'm already missing the idea of knowing every single family at post and automatically rounding up all the moms with little girls to be our immediate friends. That's not to say we haven't met wonderfully lovely families. We are going to have lots of good friends here, I can already tell. 

More to come!