Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 - A year in review

I am writing this blog on the cusp of 2016. It's been a good year, with big ups and downs. Since I haven't blogged for a long time I thought I'd publish our calendar pictures for the remainder, which is nice a synopsis of the rest of our year. 

Wishing you all a Happy 2016, and many blessings in the New Year. 

In May Peter, Margo and I saw some Dutch Heritage. Here we see the old Dutch drawbridge from 1912 (about?) It’s not safe to walk across, but we did anyway.  I later made it back to St. Louis, but not in time for the They Might be Giants concert that Katherine and Christopher really enjoyed. The family took Bob to church for one last time. Bob is a member of our church whom we picked up and dropped off at church every Sunday about six years. All of the Kirbys made it to the Renaissance Fair where we met up with Christopher’s friends Max, John, and Alex. Christopher played his baritone in an outdoor school concert after which we got a picture of the middle school sign, and Katherine had a last meeting with her Girl Scout troop

June was a month of travel and packing and getting set up again. The kids got a last use of their backyard swing, and before our stuff was picked up the house was a mess of boxes and partially disassemble furniture. Before leaving we all made sure to photograph some of the favorites in the house, like the dragon painted on Christopher’s wall. The kids and I flew together while James flew separately transporting Smokey the cat (no pictures, he hides a lot). The airline tickets that we got from the government did not allow a cat to travel with us. We got an unexpected layover in Seoul Korea, where everyone was tired, but we got a nice room in The Nest Hotel. One of the first things we did in Jakarta was get a new local kitten named Carmine. Her legs were almost as big as all the rest of her body, but she grew into them pretty quick with good food.

 In July Christopher turned 13 and we took him to Chili’s for his birthday dinner. A lot of western food chains are represented in Jakarta – it is a very big city. At home he got a home baked gluten free four layer chocolate cake which was enjoyed by all. Our big event for the month was a trip to see Krakatoa, or at least what is left after a volcanic explosion removed the island and made the loudest sound in human history. First we went to spend a few days at an Indonesian national park. Most of our time was spent on a little island called Deer Island. There were some nice cabins – nice but a little run down. Wild animals hung out near the cabins all the time, deer, monkeys, and some pigs too. We went with some other members of the American community and James got a nice night photo on the beach with Jonathan, you can see that we are very close to Java proper – that is it in the background. Later we took a boat trip over to the main national park to see some of the wildlife, but we didn’t see any. Our guide thought it was because they had been scared away by some students’ science experiment – brightly colored bug catchers spread through the grasslands. We got a picture of Katherine on the beach at sunset and the dock on the Java side. You can see Deer Island in the background, the dock is pointed at it. After that we went to the new Krakatoa Island called ‘Child of Krakatoa’, which only came out of the waves around 1912. You can see me showing off her muscles with a piece of lava stone. Carmine continued to grow and continued to be cute

In August the kids and James went to the Maritime museum and took very similar pictures as the ones I took earlier in the year. Turns out that it just isn’t well enough lit inside to get good pictures in most places. Still worth visiting though. We finally got our stuff that had been shipped from St. Louis! But then we realized just how much stuff we had. You can see that Katherine’s bed is almost completely hidden by the boxes in her room. Carmine loved ‘helping’ unwrap all the stuff. Lots of paper and boxes to play with – not enough mice. Christopher is very happy to have a cat that will cuddle with him. The kids started school at ACG Jakarta where they have to wear a school uniform. In Jakarta uniforms mean batik and shorts. Finally, some good use was made out of the playground slide that is next to our house with the help of a garden hose.

Carmine the cat is fascinated by water anywhere. Being a Jakarta cat bred for generations to look for food anywhere she is probably hoping for fish. Poor kitty. Near our house there is a metro under construction and an extremely interesting scaffold has been setup. No idea how it is supposed to work; there is a very large statue about 40 feet in fcat tree to save the furniture James looked all over to find lumber. No Home Depots here, but he did find a little shop where you could go and pet cats for a small fee. We call it the Rent-A-Cat place. Katherine and I took a tour and saw the famous Istiqlal  Mosque and the Jakarta Cathedral

We had a trip to Bali and Komodo Island scheduled for October, but James got Med Evaced to Singapore instead to have a kidney stone removed. Indonesian Medical facilities are not always the same quality we’re used to, and you can’t be sure that you will get the good doctors. The rest of the family decided not to go without him and had a stay-cation instead. James was too out of it to get pictures in Singapore. We did manage to make a trip to the Situs Megalith in Cianjur, a site that may be older than the pyramids. On the way we checked out a hand dug train tunnel in Lampegan from 1882 that is still in use. We had a nice scenic stop on the way back to change a flat tire. We celebrated Oktoberfest at a local German restaurant with some embassy people. For Halloween James and Katherine went to help at the American club and James was very happy to not be the only adult who dressed up. Later the kids got some trick or treating done in our little American complex. Jim and Katherine visited the Rent-A-Cat lounge where Katherine spend time with a big orange guy who was huge and kind of resembled a mountain lion.

November is the season of Thanksgiving, and the Marine Ball. I took Katherine to the Marine Ball this year which gave us both a chance to dress up and look beautiful.
Carmine decided that one of the most comfortable places to rest in the house is on top of the towel rack. 
We all enjoyed a wonderful gluten free Thanksgiving dinner where Katherine certainly ate her fill and afterwards Christopher got tickled by Dad, and a pair of dancing lizards after which they played chess.

I had a business trip to Singapore in December, and managed to see a lot in one afternoon. Singapore has an especially cool Ferris wheel. 
The whole family helped decorate our Christmas tree this year – including the new kitten. Since it is an artificial tree we can set it up early and keep it up all season without fear of mess or browning. Advent calendars are hard to come by locally so we made our own by printing out foldable paper houses numbered 1 through 24 and hiding chocolate in them. A lot of fun.

Christmas brought another intimate family weekend as we spend our time in our jammies playing the computer games that Santa brought.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Helping kids learn to brush

125 pairs of toddler shoes
This morning Helping Hands Club visited a preschool in a Kampung near Jakarta. There were 125 preschoolers who sang a welcome song to us and we were presented with flowers. We had brought coloring activities and bubbles to keep the kids interested after they learned about brushing their teeth while their parents attended a presentation on health issues.
Bubbles are always fun
At the end of our visit, we gave each child a goody with a toothbrush, a bottle of mouthwash, and Oreos.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

We went to Bandung last weekend. Left Jakarta on Friday afternoon and came back on Sunday. It was a fun adventure that I recommend to anybody with a moderate sense of adventure. We did not shop.....
I tried to book train tickets (6:15PM train) online on Tuesday evening from the comfort of my lazy chair at the  Kerata-api website, but they only take Indonesian credit cards so that did not work. The next day, I tried to book it through a travel agent, but now the 6:15PM train was sold out. The next morning they had not booked it, and now the 4:30PM train had also sold out.....
I called the Kerata-api (their phone number is: 121 from anywhere in Indonesia) and after going over the whole itinerary the nice young woman told me I had to go pay at any Indomart because she could not take my foreign credit card over the phone (groan....) I went to the ATM and over lunch I went to the station and paid cash for the tickets. They are very efficient, if you can figure out that you should not spend 15 minutes waiting in the same day purchase line but go directly to the reservation window......

On Saturday we took a trip to Tankuban Perahu, the local volcano in Bandung. It's a dormant volcano with 12 craters, but only a few are accessible to the public. This is because the rest spew toxic fumes and you should not be near that. We paid extra for a guide who walked us to a smaller crater and we played around in there for a while. At some point I sat down for a photo and the stone I was leaning against was HOT!! and then my glasses fogged up too.

We also visited Ciater Hot Springs park. Our guide wanted to drop us off on the fancy side, but we did not want to swim so he suggested we go in on the 'local' side. It's a lot cheaper and we'd get a taste of what Indonesians do for their Saturday entertainment. It turns out they sit in hot springs and have picnics. It was nice, the pools were clean, and if you are in Bandung it's worth a visit, especially if you are there with children. Our guide recommended staying away from it during local holidays and over school breaks. He said it gets pretty packed when we were there it was not too busy.
Afterwards we visited a Luwak farm in Lembang and I got to hold a Luwak beast. They seemed well cared for and certainly the one I held was cute as a button and I wanted to take it home. Instead, I bought some coffee.

We finished our Bandung tour with a cultural performance by Udjo school. We saw a 15 minutes Wayang performance (instead of the usual 7 hours....), several song and dance pieces and we got to play an angklung. The angklung is a traditional Indonesian music instrument that is made of bamboo. Then we bought pizza and went back to our hotel room. The next morning we left Bandung.

The trip was very pleasant for me. My travel partners were afflicted by new and exciting bugs taking up residence and that was not so fun. They decided to go on to Yogjakarta anyway and had a good time as well.

Now for the pictures.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Dell employs some really nice people and some real jerks

A few weeks ago the hard drive on my Alienware M11X R3 crashed. One night, while I was playing Talos, my screen locked and then there was a sound like a paperclip rattling around in the space where my hard drive is located. Uh-oh... sure enough when I tried to restart my laptop it came up with nothing. The BIOS detected a hard drive, but it never booted. Just sat there with the little white cursor blinking at me like it was 1989. The next morning I tried to restart it and didn't get much further. It would boot, but the paperclip was in between me and my operating system, like Clippy in a bad Word Document holding you back from further edits.
I contacted Dell and after a few phone calls they referred me to the out of warranty department, which is what I asked for in the first phone call, but they were all so nice that I won't complain about their incompetence in their 'transfer to the out of warranty department' skills. The guy in that department, however, was a jerk. He sounded like he was from Mexico (the smart and well-educated kind, not your average street sweeper; it could even have been an ex co-worker from my last job for all I know. He sounded like he thought he knew what he was doing), and he proceeded to give me the impression that I was an idiot for not making restore media. I won't deny that he was right, but he didn't need to point it out. I was calling for help and offered to pay for that. He must have missed the customer service briefing upon entry in employment. Telling me that I should have done this or that when I obviously didn't was redundant and humiliating enough that I declined the offer to purchase restore media on DVD and hung up on him. It made me feel a little better, hanging up on a jerk. My laptop does not have a DVD player. What is the point of offering me something I can't use after you just put me through a lecture on how I should have made restore media? This is supposed to be helpful? He told me that Dell no longer offered restore media on USB for this model laptop. Really? How much trouble is it to stick it all on a usb stick and charge me a lot of money (which I was willing to pay) for that?
I ended up asking Jim to help me. Since we pay big bucks to AT&T for a huge pipeline, and I only get a dribble in my apartment here in Jakarta, I thought he could get me a bootable USB Windows restore thingy-doo-hickey. And my darling husband came through and I was able to restore my laptop and now I am about to play The Talos Principle again. Which I shall write about another time because it's done downloading now.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Quilty quilt...

I finished the pieces for the top side of my quilt. I made a huge mistake by, like, the third block and did not notice until I was much, much, further into the work. So instead of fixing 8 blocks, I think I'm going to leave it like this. Whaddayathink?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hunting Sunrise at Galunggung

Last weekend I joined a MeetUp group and visited Galunggung volcano near Tasikmalaya, a couple of campungs and a Hindu Temple. We were supposed to leave Jakarta at nine o'clock on Friday evening, drive for 6 hours and be at the volcano before sunrise, so we could sprint up the 641 steps to watch the sun rise from behind the beautiful Javanese landscape. I enjoyed the trip a lot, but we never caught up with that sunrise.
We left Jakarta with almost an hour delay, and then it took us much longer to get to the mountain than was anticipated. As in most countries around the world, schools have a mid-year break here, which started that night. It seemed that half of Jakarta was trying to get out of town that Friday and we were in a traffic jam that never seemed to end. Then the driver got lost a few times (nothing too major) and we stopped to ask for directions. This made up for getting lost; imagine a man asking for directions. He was immediately redeemed in my eyes. We finally made it to the mountain around six am.
Even though we were late, it was still a majestic sight. The sun had been up for about an hour and the mist hanging over the land and creeping around the hills was beautiful to see. You could see for miles.

We hiked up the 614 steps and the view at the top was also stunning. It took my breath away. The mountain is really a volcano which erupted last in 1982. Oregon State has a very nice page about that event here. There is a lake at the bottom of the crater with a few shelters where you can spend the night.
There are also waterfalls, which you can't really see in the pictures, but you can when you're there. The place is set up for tourists, and you can get refreshments at the top when you're spent from running up the mountain. You can buy food and souvenirs at the bottom of the mountain. There is also a traditional (yes, one of those squatting thingies) toilet at the parking lot. It was maintained and clean when I was there. If you are in West Java, this is a trip worth taking.

After we were done oohing and aaahing, we continued our trip with a visit to Kampung Naga. This is a kampung where the people who live there made a choice to have electricity go to but not into the village. They all looked happy, healthy, and thriving without computers. I can't imaging living without it, but I'll have to say that even the goats enjoyed being petted (they were not tied down), and the chickens weren't afraid of people either. The kids in the village weren't shy either. Here is a picture of the two 'buleh' visitors with the girls, who had just come home from school. they though it was tremendously funny when I asked for a picture of them after they made about 100 of me.... :-)

 The village also choose to not have running water. This is a picture of their toilet. There are less than 200 people living in this Kampong. The runoff gets filtered through several ponds, most of which contain fish, after which it is used to fertilize the rice paddies. I bought a kilo of the stuff. I'll let you know what happens when I eat it. I've seen plans for gray water systems, but never saw one implemented. The tree hugger in me was rejoicing to see a practical implementation of a 'leave no trail' life style. 

Our final stop was at a Hindu Temple, Cangkuang Temple. It's on an island and you can only get there by boat. It was finished in 1996 (I think) and it's beautifully covered with moss. They have public prayers, and welcome visitors. Like most Indonesian cultural sites, it's underfunded and crowded, but still beautiful. They keep their equipment in working order by improvising. Like in this picture, where they re-use a laundry soap bucket. Nifty, no? 
I challenged myself by buying deep-fried goodness from a street vendor. He took one look at me and prepared me a fresh batch of the dough sticks. I thought that was sweet. The treat was sweet and tasty. 

We returned to Jakarta around 9PM on Saturday. We decided that taking a taxi, which would have taken close to an hour because of the traffic, was for sissies and so we took the bus. Which took nearly an hour.... Laugh at me and go figure. 

Here is a link to the whole slide show with all of my pictures from the trip. Have fun watching.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fast Food in Indonesia, Monas and Botanical Garden visit

Apparently last week was a busy week. I probably need to study more and lay off the monuments a tad. However, I made some nice pictures to share with y'all. Here we go. 

First off, I went to my first Fast Food outlet. A co-worker and I had a yearning for pizza while we were wandering around in Pacific Plaza Mall one night last week. On my way in I had seen a lady carrying three pizza boxes out, obviously she was doing take-away that night. We looked and looked and could not find the pizza place from the name on her boxes, or any pizza parlor at all. But then we saw Wendy's and had a change of heart. I ate a halfway decent fast food burger and some good fries. They fry everything in palm oil here, and it's tasty. 

October 2nd is Batik Day in Indonesia. When I opened Google, I saw this doodle. Nice work, Google :)  One of our local employees got permission for our group to visit Monas for a photo op, showing off our batik outfits. I don't have a picture to post here, but rest assured that we all looked our finest. Monas is the National Monument of Indonesia. It's usually open to the public, but the elevator can hold only 11 people so I never ventured up to the top. OK, I admit that since the few public spaces here in Jakarta are so busy on weekends that I have not ventured to Monas yet, so this was my first visit. 

As with any high monument, there were beautiful views and, special for Jakarta, a nice cool and gentle breeze. We were shown around by an English speaking guide, who was able to answer all of our questions and tell us a bit of history of Jakarta and Indonesia. Many of our locally employed staff had not been at Monas since the obligatory school visit (hey, is that a universal thing?), and we all enjoyed the visit quite a bit. 

 There was a photograph of the surrounding area located above the window and I made a picture of the embassy side (S-3) The parking lot is now sadly a construction zone, which you can see clearly in the picture above, but it makes a nice comparison.
I like the stark architecture with the long straight lines and the lack of decoration on the monument. The surrounding area was covered in historic pictorials, done in stone. This picture was a sad selfie and so I cropped myself out of it to show you the wall I was standing in front of. I'm wearing batik, of course. Monas, like any place in Indonesia (it seems) is rife with cats; they are everywhere. This one was looking like a scraggly poor little thing. Most of them are cautious but not really scared of people. I think they are tolerated because people have a the idea they help with keeping the rat population down, but I'm not so sure about that. The other day I was walking home when I passed a rat the size of a two month old kitten who yelled at me that I should not be there. Or something to that effect. After he was done, he turned around and ran away. It was comical, if it weren't that it was a rat at dusk. In broad view. And it probably carried rabies. But I got my shots, so I should be good with that, at least.
I'm not sure what the story is behind this decoration. I passed it on the way out and it's a huge urn with what looks like gods all around it. It was made of sandstone and I liked it very much.

On Saturday a group of us visited the Bogor Botanical Gardens. It's a very old botanical garden, established at the end of the 19th century by a German botanist. the place is huge and we walked nine miles that day. We left Jakarta at nine am by commuter train. This was a trip. We paid 10,000IDR (about a dollar) for a swipe card like you'd find in any metropolis. The price of the card included the price of the trip. Our return trip was 5000IDR (about fifty cents), and when we turned in our cards at the end of the day, we got 5000IDR back. So for one buck, we traveled 80 miles. 

 One of the first things I saw after we got to Bogor was this armed statue pointing his gun at an ice cream parlor. I don't know what the explanation was, but it was interesting how he truly was pointing his gun at that poor little hat-shaped building.
caption: Give me your ice cream or else?

The entrance to the gardens was a bit further than indicated on their website. The gate that was listed as 'main gate' was not actually open and we had to walk a little further down. Luckily we all wore decent walking shoes so it was not bad at all. Only one of us had thought to bring an umbrella as sun protection, although I was able to borrow some sunscreen from somebody else. I still have to buy my first sun screen, even though I've been here for almost three months.

The botanical garden is famous for its lilypond, but it must not be the season (remember that it's now 'early spring' here LOL) and there were few lily pads and they were holey.

         We saw different stuff, though. Lots of pretty statues, and of course the obligatory trash in the water... That was not a pretty picture, and it made me wonder why they don't clean it up. Maybe they are understaffed. 

 Here I am standing next to a tree that looked very old. It had a plackard on it that says 1866, so I think it was planted way back then. It must have been 80 or 100 feet tall. No clue what it was. Many trees had signs but  I was not able to read them or they were in Latin only and sometimes only in Indonesian.

On the way out I saw the cutest, cutest little building. It was better maintained than most and it turned out to be a bathroom.