Saturday, October 31, 2009


We spent a quiet day today as our visit winds down. The boys, naturally, are excited by Halloween without really understanding it. Carter has worn his Darth Vader costume all day. MA’s cold is abating, but D’s intestinal difficulties returned, so we’re 1 for 2.

Briton and Jon hosted a Halloween party for some of the neighborhood children and their supervising adults. Several of the mothers came along with one father and several nannies. It’s a very colonial atmosphere. The kids ran around the house and the immediate neighborhood before almost settling down to dinner – chicken nuggets, corn, salad, French fries and candy corn. As the saying goes, getting them to do anything simultaneously was like herd cats. When the children were finished eating, the parents tried to get them to pose for a group picture. Once this was sort of accomplished, they began marauding in their search for candy. MA joined Jon and Briton while D stayed home to distribute candy to the trick-or-treaters. MA returned around 6:30 because Carter told her she should leave.
One of the neighbors hosted the adults after the kids were in bed, but we opted not to go. Jon said later that he got home at midnight and Briton came sometime after. By midnight, we had been in bed for hours and back up a couple of times. Ahh! The joys of middle age.

a pre-Halloween group hug

Caiden at the party

Carter and the boys eat chicken nuggets

Caiden being goofy

the cats, herded

Friday, October 30, 2009

'Twas the Day Before Halloween

Shooting bubble stuff from their new bubble guns.

Carter with "his" pumpkin, ready for tomorrow.

Caiden is ready, too!

Grandma and Caiden playing this afternoon.

Grandpa and The Boys on a cable car ride on today's outing.

A sweaty Caiden on the cable car ride.

Carter, his hair flying in every direction, on the cable car ride.

Carter and Caiden playing before we left this morning.

Yesterday was sort of a forgotten day. We were going to go to the convention Center for a crafts show and sale, but MA’s cold was so bad that she spent the best part of the day in bed. The boys were both in school and D did not want to leave MA by herself much less abandon her for a craft show, so Briton went by herself. Carter had a half-day of school and was home before Briton arrived with Caiden.

Jon and Briton had a parent-teacher conference at Carter’s school, so we were in charge of the boys. Not. Carter went off after lunch to play with friends in the complex and we played with Caiden after his nap when he would let us. Jon and Briton were both home by 4. Jon is still fighting the amoebic infection and the side effects of the cure. Thursday was his last day one the first medication and he felt like he would rather die than be cured.

No school for the boys today [Friday], so Briton planned an outing to Sea World Indonesia. We finally left at 9:30, half an hour later than planned, sans MA who still feels like death warmed over. We drove for an hour to Ancol on the ocean and in the area near Mangga Dua. Kusnadi dropped us off in front of Sea World which is just one component of an entertainment complex which also includes pools, boating, an amusement park and hotels. Sea World, it turns out, is really an aquarium with exhibits of primarily local aquatic life from rays to sharks to lobsters. The boys were able to pet baby sharks and turtles although the both like walking through the fish tank best. They especially liked the big turtles swimming there, dude.

Of course, the aquarium was too dark for normal pictures and, once again, the rechargeable batteries died after about 20 pictures [including ones taken at home this morning]. D was able to take a few pictures before admitting defeat and buying some AA batteries. From Sea World we walked to the Gondola, a cable car which flies over the park and gives a bird’s-eye view of the complex. It was crowded with children and adults, especially the pool area. Obviously, this is a popular area for locals. In fact, foreigners must be rare because not one but two different women asked to have their pictures taken with D. We didn’t know if it was because of his hat, his beard or his skin color. The same thing happened to him in Tiananman Square in 2006.

Once safely off the cable car, we went to Pizza Hut, also on the park grounds. The boys were boisterous, but no one died. Of course, there was the flying shoe incident; again, there were no injuries and the victim declined to press charges. We staggered home at 2:45, almost 2 hours late for Caiden’s nap. He fought taking it for about 2 seconds, then was gone for the next 90 minutes. Briton and D rested and Carter begged MA to stay awake and play with him. She was thrilled.
After Caiden’s nap, the boys went outside to play with the new bubble-stuff guns Briton had bought at the park. Carter went off with friends; Briton went next door to carve pumpkins; and Caiden played with Ati before coming in and playing with Grandma. This was really her best day ever!

Dinner at 6, followed by roughhousing with Jon and then bed for the boys. Journal updating and other computer stuff for D and Briton respectively. FB wouldn’t load pictures tonight, so they are the lead in tonight’s blog. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Soccer and Swimming

Carter protects the goal, sort of.

Playing a warm-up game of duck-duck-goose.

Look at me!

Splish! Splash! I won't need a bath!

Or a shower.

A Day filled with Grandsons

Our day was not a nightmare but was filled with grandsons. This morning we went with Briton and Caiden to a local playground which includes a small water park. We watched Caiden splash around and then play on the “dry’ equipment. When he was bored with that, we went to Gourmet Garage again for lunch.[Briton=sushi; MA=the chicken burger again; D=fish and chips] Hey, we like the place and Caiden was kept occupied coloring with Grandma. We got him home late for his nap and immediately turned around and went [without Briton] to Carter’s school to watch his soccer practice. The high point here was the duck-duck-goose competition. These kids are the Bad News Bears of soccer, but they seemed to have a good time and to enjoy each other’s company. Socialization trumps athleticism any day.

Carter’s tooth started bothering him on the way home. First he wailed and moaned; then he fell asleep. He keeps getting food caught in one particular spot and won’t be able to see the dentist until next week. Caiden was cranky when we got home and they seemed to take turns until bedtime. Jon, too, is still under the weather. He says that he feels different on his medication but not necessarily better. Briton researched his condition [after all, she has an MA in public health] and told him that such infections are common but only a tiny percentage become as serious as his is. Comforting. MA is still fighting her normal vacation cold, so things are normal.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Pushcart Wars

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Yesterday’s shopping expedition to upscale Pasaraya mall was followed by the movies at Senayen Plaza, maybe. There are two huge shopping malls side by side and they both have Senayen in their names. The one we were in had not only the luxurious movie theater but also a bowling alley and even more upscale shopping. Where Pasaraya was a merchandise-by-floor experience, Senayen was a Western-style indoor mall which included two department stores one of which was Marks and Spencer, the British company. We also saw Prada, Gucci and the usual gamut of expensive stores. Despite the high-end shopping available, the movie was a bargain: although there were no children’s or senior discounts, our four tickets totaled 10,000 rupiah, about $10. Carter’s medium pop corn and soda [shared with Briton] cost about $2.50. Dinner at the dim sum restaurant was about $45 for 5 of us including drinks, another bargain.

Jakarta is a mixed bag, so to speak, in its retail businesses because, in addition to the malls catering to the middle class and wealthy, there are places like Mangga Dua which aim at the lowest of common denominators. Restaurants show the same dichotomy. We have eaten in mid-range establishments in pleasant surroundings and good food and service [Gourmet Garage, Toscana, Koi], but we are surrounded on every street corner [and mid-block, too] with tiny warungs. These are the local greasy spoons, little 10-foot wide hovels selling local food to local people. If the average Mukti-on-the street wants rice or noodles, he can duck into any of 10,000 warungs; they all appear to sell the same food. There are also storefronts offering masakan padang, the local food from the Padang region of Java. The masakan padang is like a buffet because, according to Briton, the food sits out awaiting customers; she says the smart way to pick one of these places is to pick a busy one so there is a better chance that the food is fresh. Even smarter, of course, is to avoid both the masakan padang stalls and the warungs.

There is a third alternative for the hungry Indonesian. There are thousands of pushcarts offering the same cooked-to-order rice and/or noodles as well as other local delicacies. These carts are rather uniform, approximately 2 feet wide, five feet long and equipped with two large wheels and a handlebar. Each has a little propane cooker powered by a tiny gas canister which appears to be less than half the size of the tanks Americans use on their outdoor grills. It never ceases to amaze the casual observer how all of these vendors stay in business or how customers decide which to patronize. We don’t know if there is any customer loyalty or if it would make a difference. In addition to the food vendors, every other square foot of sidewalk is taken up by sellers of notions – cigarettes, soda, phone cards and snacks. Again, each is selling the same products [probably bought from the same suppliers] for the same price.
Interspersed with all of these stalls and pushcarts are “real” stores and restaurants, but there is no order to it. It is a city planner’s nightmare.

Overcast and Amoebic

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yesterday was a quiet day. In the morning, we and Briton went for coffee and pastry before doing a wee bit of grocery shopping at Gourmet Garage. Following that, we picked Caiden up from Day Care School, as we call it, and went home for lunch. The rest of the afternoon was spent working hard at nothing. Jon and Carter had doctor’s appointments in the afternoon, so Jon was home from work early. We found out today that he has an amoebic infection which, unlike D’s fungus, will require him to take a 10-day course of ‘real’ medicine. In the meantime, he can’t have alcohol and will probably be careful about his diet although the latter may be a matter of interest, not necessity. To round out the medical report, MA is now taking antibiotics for her cold, so things are normal.

Today, we let Jon and Carter have a ‘normal’ morning and left them alone during the breakfast/getting off to school routine. We were up with Caiden and kissed him off to school before we went shopping. Today’s foray was to the Pasaraya mall, a gigantic indoor shopping center in which, in the Asian style, each floor is dedicated to a different type of merchandise. Naturally, we started at Starbuck’s but took our drinks with us as we shopped.

Our first destination was the crafts floor which is exactly what it says – an entire floor given over to alleged handicrafts. We bought a mask here two years ago and saw plenty just like it today. By now, however, so many masks look the same that we were careful not to get something that we would discover was already hanging on “the wall.” First, however, MA spent time with Briton looking for gifts for an assortment of people. While they browsed, and purchased, D wandered around looking at masks in the vain hope of finding something unique. We had seen some wooden carvings last week when we were shopping and decided to concentrate on something carved other than a mask. We finally found one we liked: it is a likeness of a woman who, we thought, was part of the Ramayana story we saw in Yogyakarta; however, the clerk told d that it was simply a carving of a woman with a hand mirror. Regardless, we liked it and it is different from everything else in our collection and was only 290,000 rupiah [$30].

D also saw a carving he liked, but it was priced at 725,000 rupiah, about $75 at the current exchange rate. The lowest price we could get for a credit transaction was 580,000 rupiah, so we left for more shopping. Briton was looking for Cars toys to replace one which has apparently disappeared. She was unsuccessful in her search but was able to find Halloween goody bags for the boys to carry when they go trick-or-treating this weekend. From there we went to Rotiboy, home of Briton’s favorite pastry. Since we had to wait 10 minutes for the buns to bake, D went off in search of an ATM and then, armed with plenty of rupiah, he returned for the carving he wanted. The price was now 500,000 for cash, about $50, the most he can remember ever paying for a piece of woodwork. Still, it was 1/3 off the list price, so he was happy. When we got it home, we found a sticker on the back of the piece which priced it at 1,250,000 [approx. $125], so we don’t know if the clerk made a mistake or the tag was wrong; either way, we like the piece.

By the time we got home, Caiden was already down for his nap. We had leftover pizza and Rotiboys for lunch. If we had known how good the Rotiboys were, we would have skipped the pizza.

Once Carter got home, around 2:30, we piled into Greenie, the family van, and headed to the movies to see Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Jon joined us for dinner afterwards; we let him pick the restaurant since it’s his stomach which is currently in distress. As a result, we ate dim sum, small plates, at a restaurant in the shopping center next to the theater. We each had some kind of soup and shared steamed dumplings. We were home by 7:30 – 7:45. Carter went to bed promptly; Briton went off to her book club; and Jon managed to stay awake until 9:45 when he started out for bed.

Tomorrow, we may take Caiden to a playground while Briton is at the gym before taking him out to lunch. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

By the Sea, the Beautiful Sea

Thursday, October 22, 2009

We spent a very quiet day around the house today. Briton and the boys, as well as Ati, have gone to the beach and Jon went to Surabaya in east Java on business, so we had nothing to do and nowhere to go. Although Kusnadi drove back from the beach this morning, arriving here around 1:00 p.m., we stayed in and read all day. The highlight was D’s telling Mariati how to make tuna salad for lunch. We did go out for dinner around 6. Kusnadi drove us to Toscana, an Italian restaurant where we ate 2 years ago. We had a very relaxed dinner and were home by 7:30. [FOOD NOTES: We split an order of bruschetta; MA had meat-stuffed ravioli and D ordered spaghetti Bolognese [meat sauce] for entrees; and we finished with apple strudel and cappuccino for MA and chocolate mousse for D. It was a nice change from Mariati’s Indo/Thai/Pan-asian cuisine].

Jon did not get home until 8:30, a full hour later than he expected, because of traffic. He wasn’t hungry, so we sat and talked while he relaxed with a beer or two. Suddenly it was 10:30, time for everyone to go to bed. D stayed up to read for another hour, then couldn’t get to sleep, so he came into the living room and read until he finished the book around 2 a.m.

Friday, October 23, 2009

With no one to get off to work, we slept in this morning, if you can call 8 o’clock sleeping in. We goofed off, packed for our weekend at the beach and read until 11:30. Kusnadi drove us to Gourmet Garage, a combination grocery store and restaurant. We had lunch a little earlier than usual because we had to leave to get Jon at work at 1:25. MA had a chicken burger which she said was scrumptious and D had a chili dog because they were out of bratwurst. The entire second floor of the building is given over to the restaurant side of the business and there is a lengthy menu which includes sushi as well as Western food and noodle and rice dishes. It is an attractive setting complemented by good food and good service.

After finishing lunch, we went downstairs to pick up some last minute items for the weekend: red peppers, baby carrots, brown [whole wheat] bread and a case of Bin Tang, the local beer. We added 8 cans of “real” Coke for ourselves, not knowing that Briton had already taken some Coke Zero. Kusnadi was waiting for us and we were home before 1 o’clock.

We left the house promptly at 1:25 but ran into terrible traffic, so we were almost 10 minutes late fetching Jon in front of his office. The ensuing 3-1/2 hour drive actually stretched past the four hour mark and we didn’t arrive at the beach until almost 6:30. Jon has developed his own version of the crud; it’s not exactly the same as D’s from last week, but it’s close enough. He felt crappy when we got him and he felt worse when we arrived. He didn’t eat dinner and went to bed very early.

The resort consists of private villas – ours has 4 Spartan bedrooms – and houseboy services. Tonight, the houseboy lit a fire in the adjacent barbecue and cooked steaks Briton had brought from Jakarta while she boiled some fresh corn. Later, the houseboy returned and did the dishes and took out the trash.

We went for a short walk on the beach in the dark. It wasn’t as romantic as it sounds because just as D said, “Be careful, there may be a,” MA fell on her butt. “Drop-off,” he finished. It was about a two foot drop, but luckily, MA fell straight down and ended up sitting on the ledge. It was our last evening foray. We were in bed early although Briton and Ati both went out to visit friends who were staying at the ocean Queen. Briton’s friends are parents of Carter’s friends and others she has met; Ati’s were the other servants. We could do an entire treatise on the social structure of the weekend, but we won’t.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Ocean Queen resort consists of a collection of villas with half of them almost on the beach. In addition to our four bedrooms [D & MA; Jon & Briton; Carter & Caiden; and Ati], there was a large L-shaped area which made a kitchen--dining room—living room area as well as two full bathrooms [with showers but no tubs] and a nice front porch. It was not lovely to look at. “Resort” conjures up images of luxury; the Ocean Queen was more like a summer camp. All of the lights, indoor and out, were CFLs which cast a blue pall over everything.

It was not without its charms, however. In addition to a very nice pool, we were able to see a variety of wildlife. For example, there was a small herd of sheep penned just behind our cottage. The surrounding fence was somewhat portable and it appeared that the sheep were moved in order to equalize their natural grass-cutting. We also had a family of birds which spent its days bring bits and pieces of the lawn to a secret place under the roof of the porch where they were building their own retirement home.

No description of the wildlife would be complete with Vlad, our own little impaler. No one else had a personal bat. Vlad spent parts of each day and evening hanging upside down over the front door. He didn’t bother us and we didn’t bother him. We watched him stretch and groom himself but never saw him fly in or out. Carter was leery of the bat, but Caiden would go look for him. We would all check on him occasionally; after all, he was the only pet we had. Some of the other guests had brought their dogs, but we had a bat. [We discovered Sunday morning, we also had toads or frogs [we were not sure which, but that’s a story for the next entry.]

Jon spent most of the weekend in bed, but the boys had a ball with their friends, especially Carter. We all, minus Jon, went to the pool in the afternoon. D played with Carter in the pool while MA watched from the shade. There were three or four other couples in the group which meant that there was plenty of company for the boy as well as Briton. Later in the afternoon, Jon, Briton, MA, D and Caiden went exploring while Carter played with his friends. All things considered, there were not as many tears or fights as there could have been, and the boys did nothing but eat whenever they got the chance.

For dinner Saturday night, we had giant prawns and red snapper grilled by the in-house restaurant. Jon was still off his feed, so there was enough left for Ati to share with her friends. Everyone was stuffed and happy. It was another early night; all of that fresh air and sunshine can take its toll.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

We had another lazy morning even though we were up at 7 with the boys and Ati. We played; they played; they fought; they watched videos, etc., etc., etc. Briton and the boys went swimming around 9:15 and by 9:30 they were both eating ice cream. Carter demonstrated his progress swimming without floats and then played with his friends. Caiden played with Briton before losing interest in the whole business and returning to the cottage with Ati. D and MA returned, too, to see if Jon needed/wanted any help packing up. He didn’t.

At some this morning, Carter discovered three frogs [toads?] in a water cut-off box next to the cottage. He and we went to watch them for a while but he grew tired of that and went to play with his peeps. After lunch, one of the boys came by before we left and the two boys found one of the frogs in the grass and spent the rest of their time together chasing and tormenting, but not really injuring, the frog. It was such a Tom Sawyer moment.

Okay, we were ready to leave but had so much stuff that Jon had to arrange for a second car to help ferry us back to Jakarta. The second driver was a little old man who seemed to be in a bit of a fog, but who knew what to expect?

The trip out on Friday ended in the dark, so we didn’t get a good view of the road although we could feel all of the twists and turns as Kusnadi brought us safely to the Ocean Queen. Today, we did the trip in reverse. For the first hour, it was like riding the Wild Mouse, an old roller coaster-type of ride known for its sudden tight turns and precipitous drops. If the first rule of the road is don’t pass on a curve and the second is don’t pass on a hill, then the third is that it’s okay to pass on a curve on a hill. We went straight up; we went straight down; we zigged; we zagged. We damn near died a couple of times when we had to yell at Ralph the Driver that there were cars/trucks barreling down on us. Even when the grades were not as steep and the curves not as sharp, we wondered if we would survive the trip.

We stopped twice along the way. Our first stop was to get ice for the cooler; Ralph found a fish market as a source for the ice. The market was fascinating but, of course, smelly, so we couldn’t open the windows for photos. Then Ralph discovered that he didn’t know where he was so Jon called Kusnadi who knew exactly where we were. We turned around and let Kusnadi be line leader since he knew where he was going. At the second stop, for water for Jon and Briton, MA asked D if he wanted anything to drink. “No, I’d rather die with dry underwear,” was his response. We eventually worked our way to the main road which consisted of bumper-to-bumper traffic for about 20 miles. Once again, Indo drivers proved that lines are for sissies as they created 2 and 3 lanes on a one-lane roadway and continued to pass under the most hazardous of conditions. Even when we moved onto the toll road, traffic and mayhem continued. Ralph was changing lanes will-nilly and almost rear-ended several vehicles because he wasn’t paying attention. Through it all, Kusnadi drove in his usual dependable, conservative style and still got ahead of us. When Jon called about which exit to take, he discovered that we were right behind Kusnadi in the exit lane. Slow and steady wins the race…

Although we had left the Ocean Queen at 1:00, it was 6 o’clock when we got home. Pizza for dinner was all we could manage, so Jon called from the car and the pizza arrived at the house only a few moments after we did. We were finished unpacking and eating by 6:30 and the boys were in bed around 7. We checked e-mail and obituaries and read until around 8. MA went to bed and D updated the journal until 10 p.m. Jon and Briton watched a little TV but the upstairs was dark by 9:30. Carter and Caiden have school tomorrow and Jon, of course, has work even though he ought to take it easy for one more day. As for us, only time will tell what’s in our future.

And so to bed.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Domestic Day

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Today continued the trend toward domesticity. Carter is still on holiday from school and Caiden stayed home because Briton is taking them to the beach for 4 or 5 days. Well, Kusnadi is taking them, really. The hours after breakfast for us were filled with grandsons – watching them play sort of together; playing with them; collecting boogers – while Briton finished packing. It’s probably a good thing we decided to join them Friday with Jon because there was no way 2 more adults and even a little suitcase were going to fit in the van. It was a cross between Toys-R-Us and a grocery store.

We all had an early lunch [leftover soup for the adults and chicken nuggets for the boys] and then, suddenly, it was deathly quiet. We spent the afternoon reading, checking the computer and maybe napping, but just a little. At our request, Mariati prepared an omelet with onions and grated cheese. It came out as more of a frittata, but it was just what we wanted. We scrounged for something for dessert after cleaning up. We spent the rest of the evening reading. Life in the fast lane.

D’s “sit”-uation has improved a little but he is going to call the doctor in the morning to see if she is satisfied with his progress or wants to switch to antibiotics; since we always carry Cipro with us, that won’t be a problem. We continue to ponder where this fungus came from and have isolated 2 meals where we did not all eat the same food. The speculation is pointless since we will never know.

Tomorrow we may do a little shopping or visit the doctor. Kusnadi will be back and on call in the early afternoon. Jon is away tonight in Surabaya, the country’s second largest city, and will be home around 7:30 tomorrow night. It’s so quiet now that I may fall asleep at the keybbbbbbbbbbbbbbb

Monday, October 19, 2009

More thoughts on the Lost Weekend

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More thoughts on The Lost Weekend:

The Indonesians seem to be a peaceful, calm people. Ati is a marvel at maintaining her equanimity with the boys, always smiling and enjoying them. The airline and hotel staffers all smiled, too, and offered a hands-together bow as a gesture of peace and humility. We found the same thing at the Marriott in Bangkok and all over Bali during our visits. We thought it might be specific to one religion, but the Balinese are Hindus; the area around Yogyakarta is probably heavily Buddhist; and Indo as a whole is the world’s largest Muslim country. So here we have this generally peaceful nation, where road rage is almost unheard of and drivers actually yield to allow others to enter intersections. And what did Garuda Airlines give the boys as gifts? Not pilot’s wings [how 1950’s], but small scale models of Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles!

Not only are the people beautiful – in both appearance and spirit – but the land itself is spectacular when seen from 30,000 feet. Two years ago we flew the entire length of Java to get to Bali but didn’t really notice, perhaps because of our seats at the bulkhead. On the flight to Yogya, we were over the wing and had obstructed views. [If this were a cruise ship, we would have seen the lifeboats] On the trip home yesterday, though, we were in front of the wings, opposite the engine, so we could see pretty well. When you fly over the countryside, you expect to see a quilt of fields as you soar over the farms and villages. But Indo’s fields were mostly in shades of brown as we head toward the end of the dry season; in a month or so, the fields will as green as anywhere on Earth. The most remarkable feature, though, is the presence of volcanoes everywhere we looked.

Fortunately, the ones we saw were dormant, but their dotting the countryside is unlike other places where an observer can see the land rise a little, then yield to foothills and later to “real” mountains. The volcanoes of Indonesia do not form a traditional range like the Alps, Rockies or Adirondacks. They just sort of pop up. Indonesia has more volcanoes than any other country and forms a large part of the Ring of Fire. Most of Indonesia’s islands, perhaps all of them, were formed by volcanic action. We know this intellectually, but seeing the cones spread out across the horizon brought the message home.

Medical Update: The doctor called and D has a fungal infection [that sounds so much better than saying fungus]. He’ll start medication today and if his ‘symptoms’ improve, we will go to the beach with Jon on Friday. If he still feels like dirt, we’ll stay in Jakarta and read while they are running around on the beach. Mariati will take good care of us; she and Ati are the chicken soup of the house. In the meantime, we are bracing ourselves for Portobello jokes when Jon gets home.

Jon left at 6:15 this morning, carrying D’s hazardous waste as inconspicuously as he could; all he needed was a hazmat suit. Carter watched TV after Caiden trudged off to school; Briton went to the gym to work out; and we read. When the doctor finally called, Ati thought she wanted Briton and said she was at the gym; Dr. Isabela assumed she was referring to me and called Briton’s cell; she called the house a second time and was put through. We all laughed about it later. After Briton’s return from the gym, D had Kusnadi take him to Global Doctor where he picked up pro-biotic medication. If this does not cure the problem, then we will move on to something stronger and more expensive.

We abandoned Caiden to Ati for his lunch and nap and sallied forth into a new [for us] section of Jakarta. For the first time, we turned right, not left, at the compound entrance and were at a shopping center within minutes, a nice change from the usual lengthy, congested drives. We ate lunch at a Vietnamese sandwich shop, sort of a Subway meets lemon grass. Briton and MA got chicken/lemon grass baguettes. D ordered the chicken/mushroom soup served in a bread bowl; and Carter was guided to the smoked turkey baguette. Carter baled a little when his arrived but decided that de-constructing it made it acceptable. The adults did everything but lick the table and Carter did a creditable job.

The next stop for Briton was the neighboring grocery store. She had to stock the house, which was running on “E” at lunch time, and buy supplies for the trip to the beach. She was amazed at how much she had spent, thinking she may have set a personal record. Since she doesn’t usually do the shopping, she had to guess on some of the staples Mariati usually buys like plastic bags. Putting the groceries away was another adventure in creativity since Mariati and Ati have no known system for placing jars and cans on the shelves. While Briton did the shopping, we waited at the Starbuck’s upstairs [next to the Ace Hardware store]. Carter won the hide-and-Seek prize for the day.

We read and then played with the boys after Caiden’s nap; then they decided they preferred Ati’s company and went outside to play with sidewalk chalk. Altogether, it was a very good day.

All caught up and no place to go

Friday, October 16, 2009

The good news about today is that we had no plans. The bad news is that D is sick with fever, sweats, chills and explosive intestinal distress. After Carter left for school, Briton went back to bed and we played with Caiden [who doesn’t attend school on Wednesday or Friday] when he got up around 7:30. We were supposed to go to dinner with Jon and Briton but canceled early in the day, but they went out anyway since they had already arranged for Mariati to stay late. D spent most of the day in bed and skipped dinner completely. MA came to bed after Mariati got the boys settled.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Today held the promise of more activity, but D continued to ail. We were up early, again, to finish packing for our trip to Yog Yakarta or Jog Jakarta or Yogyakarta [pronounced with a long “o” so it rhymes with rogue]. Yogya, as it is abbreviated on signs, is in south-central Java. We flew on Indonesia’s pre-eminent airline, Garuda. Two years ago when we flew to Bali, Jon had to race across the tarmac to claim seats for us. This time, we had reserved seats but we had to move anyway because we had been assigned an exit row, a no-no for small children. Caiden could probably have handled to 42 lb. emergency door, but we didn’t argue. The flight was only an hour.

The Phoenix hotel sent a van for us and we moved swiftly from the airport to downtown Jogja. Interestingly, we paid a departure tax in Jakarta before boarding and will do the same when we return Monday. Call it a service fee, it’s still just a way to get more money for the government. In the States, we blame the TSA.

The hotel was well-appointed with native-inspired or perhaps even authentic art work done in the style of 13th Century Indonesia. More on that shortly. There was a large dining room, half under cover and half semi-exposed; a wonderful fish display where giant koi swam under Plexiglas panels that formed a walkway; native musicians playing the ancient gongs; and a top-notch staff. We decided to eat in the hotel, but D let the table before ordering and went to the room where MA found him asleep an hour later.

While Jon and Briton took the boys swimming after nap time, we both slept. There were plans to meet a friend of Jon’s for dinner and for her to return with us so she could babysit the boys while we experienced one of the cultural highlights of the area. Jon’s friend Karen picked an Indian restaurant which our 2 cabbies had trouble finding. We were still there ahead of her, but that started a cascade of continuing time difficulties. The food was, by all accounts, good, but D was able to eat only a little naan and a banana smoothie. MA said he vegetable korma was quite good and Jon, Briton and Karen were pleased with their selections. Naturally, we were late leaving the restaurant and did not get to the hotel until 7:20, well past our appointed pickup time; the shuttle has left without us, so we were forced to get our own taxi.

Now, a little about the Jogja area and its cultural importance: Jogja is the home to the Borodurbur Temple, apparently the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Who were we to argue? The temple dates to the Eighth or Ninth Century, making it about the same age as the temples we saw in Cambodia last year. The show we were to see was a stylized dance depicting the story of the Ramayana, central to Buddhist beliefs. Boy meets world; boy falls in love with world, defeats evil god to save world. The end. The production is staged in front of the Temple itself which is lit just enough to be impressive.

Borobudur was built in layers in concentric squares; at one point the squares become a trio of circles each of which contains 72[?] stupas and a giant stupa in the center. A stupa is a bell-shaped structure also seen in Thai and Cambodian architecture. Each of the stupas houses Buddhas.

Well, we were late for the show, of course, but only by a few minutes. D was very uncomfortable and left at one point to explore facilities; it was necessary but godawful. We left at the intermission: In addition to D’s distress, Jon was uncomfortable on the bench where we sat and it had started to rain. Back we went and to bed early.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

D spent the day in bed. There is no way to sugarcoat that, so anything said from here on is speculation. MA and the rest did indeed go to Borobudur this morning. The temple is apparently completely outdoors, meaning the path is from one level to the next until has reached the summit or turned back. Unlike Angkor Wat, with it’s libraries and swimming pools, there are no accessible interior corridors. MA spent most of the time waiting for the younger generations to see what they could. At one point, she answered a survey for some students and was given a wooden model of Borobudur as a thank you. It will look perfect on our table of boxes and wooden things.

They came home; they had lunch; they napped. D never left the bed except out of necessity. They went with Karen to a hamburger restaurant for dinner. D stayed in bed. Jon bought bananas and GatorAde to help fight dehydration, so D had 2 bananas more from fear of the family than of medical consequences. Of course with all of this time in bed, we didn’t sleep well. Every time D stirred, MA was all over him about where he was going and why. Jeez! It wasn’t that large a room; there was no place to hide. Somewhere in there, Jon and company went shopping and bought us a batik showing masks; we will have it framed and will add it to our mask wall at home. Before he gave it to us, though, he said it was a batik picturing the toilets of Indonesia.

Monday, October 19, 2009

So here we are, ready to return to Jakarta from Yogyakarta after sort of seeing the cultural dance and the Borobudur Temple. We are all exhausted but still have a full day ahead of us. MA and D were up at 5:45 [did we ever really go to sleep?] and went down to breakfast which is included in the room. D had a roll with butter, apple juice and part of an omelet before he returned to his little hideaway. MA returned later and we waited until 9:45 to meet our shuttle to the airport. Briton arranged a visit to their family doctor for D this afternoon and D gave in sort of gracefully. The journey itself was unremarkable and the flight smooth; we landed just an hour after takeoff. Once we collected the luggage, Kusnadi was there to lead the way to the car. We dropped Jon off at work and drove home.

Around 2:30 we left for the doctor’s office. Dr. Isabel works for/with Global Doctor about 10 minutes from the house. D filled in paperwork and then was whisked in to meet the doctor. Dr. Isabel is an attractive woman in her thirties who speaks impeccable English and has a sense of humor. She asked questions, she poked and prodded, she listened to body noises [110/70, no rumblings]. THEN she asked for a stool sample. He was given a little jar and a rubber glove so he asked if this came with an instructional video. He was serious but she just laughed about it. Well, D had performance anxiety and could not produce a sample. Upon hearing this, the doctor turned to her nurse and said, “I told you not to make noises in the hall. You scared him.”

The three of us – D, MA and The Jar – returned home and goofed off with the kids until supper time. They were bed just after 7 and MA made it until almost 7:30. Our only plan for tomorrow is to deliver a sample to Dr. Isabel even if we have to highjack one of Caiden’s diapers. Briton, Ati and the boys are going to the beach Wednesday and we have to decide if we will go with the, with Jon on Friday or not at all. Transportation decisions need to be made tomorrow.

And so to bed.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

We were up early again. D was turning on fans at 5:57 when Carter appeared. MA was going to sleep in but joined us at 6:15. The sun rises early here, one of the reasons we seem to awaken so early.

After both boys were packed off to their respective schools, and Jon to his office, we and Briton piled into the car for a trip to Mangga Dua. As near as we could determine, Mangga Dua is both the name of an area off the road to the airport and a shopping complex there. Actually, there seemed to be several shopping areas with similar names. The one we went to was the polar opposite of our previous shopping experiences in Jakarta: it was a flea market like the one we go to on Sample Road in Coconut Creek with more stalls and shoppers and cheaper merchandise.

We were dropped off by Kusnadi at a hotel entrance and found our way into the shopping area adjacent to it via a one-way door. We could exit the hotel for the arcade but could only re-enter if we were hotel guests. This area, several stories tall, held electronics and camera stores. There are entire shopping towers made of shops like these; we visited one two years ago. Pirated DVDs were also available for about 70 cents per disc, but we were not concerned with any of this today. We found our way across a bridge to the flea market itself. It was an up-and-down process with escalators up and steep stairs down [the same was true on the reverse trip when we left]. We found ourselves at one end of the third of seven floors. Almost as soon as we started through this indoor arcade, the power for the entire complex failed and we were in almost complete darkness. Within five minutes, however, the lights started to come on and we continued.

The walkways between the permanent stalls were crowded and close together, making progress difficult. We tried several floors and ended up on the bottom level of the seven [no Dante jokes, please] where Briton was able to find a suitable rolling back pack for Carter whose had suffered mortal injuries during their trip to the US last summer. She also found a Prada knock-off purse she liked and was able to bargain almost twenty dollars off the price. The assumption in bargaining is that if both parties are happy, the customer paid too much; if both parties are a little dissatisfied, the price was probably about right. MA and D got exercise.

The ride out to Mangga Dua took an hour or more because of traffic. As has been noted elsewhere, Jakarta’s traffic is unbelievable. Between the scooters and motorcycles, trucks, cars and vans and the general disregard for lane markers, it is surprising that there aren’t many accidents or incidents of road rage. An added wrinkle, at least in the city, is the presence of bajajs. These are tiny three-wheeled vehicles built around scooter motors, we think, and containing a compartment which holds the driver in front and up to two passengers in the rear. They are all painted orange and serve as a dirt-cheap alternative to taxis for many of the economic underclass. They are neither as powerful not as spacious as the tuk-tuks we found elsewhere in Asia last year, but they tend to make a similar putt-putt [or tuk-tuk] noise. Mercifully, they are physically unable to travel the highways.

We have noticed a lot of off-road work as we have been chauffeured around. Whether sidewalks are being installed or sewer lines, we can’t tell. What we have seen is men in trenches, digging. Nowhere have we seen any heavy equipment, trenchers or back hoes. In this, we are reminded of China, especially, where we saw massive road projects being carried out by legions of hand laborers. Labor in Indonesia is cheap, as Jon has pointed out, and plentiful. Many Indonesians come to Jakarta [and probably other urban areas] looking for work and leave their families behind. Ati has children aged 10 and 7 who are living with their grandmother so she can work in Jakarta; Briton says she sees her children 4 or 5 times each year. This is similar to the men who work on the cruise ships being away for 11 months at a time so they can provide for their families. It is sad but, from their perspective, necessary.

We explored the possibility of eating at the deli housed in the hotel building, but the smell of stale cigarette smoke drove us out the door before we had gone even five feet. Briton called Kusnadi to retrieve us and we headed downtown for lunch at Potato Head in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel building across the street from Jon’s office. He joined us for a few minutes but had a meeting to attend in fifteen minutes, so his visit was short.

[Warning! Food notes to follow] Briton and MA shared an order of escargot as an appetizer but allowed D to soak some bread in the garlic butter. MmMmmmm! For her main course, Briton had a Philly cheese steak which she loved. She told us it is the best item on the menu, but we ordered other things anyway. MA had a roasted vegetable quesadilla and sweet-potato fries and D ordered one of the “monthly specials,” described as “Crispy soft shell crab sandwich served with crab salad Louis and pickled paprika.” Served on dark multi-grain bread, it contained arugula, Louis dressing [a sort of Russian dressing] and the crab. The pickled paprika was not visible but added a lot of spice to the sandwich. Not altogether what a Marylander would want in a soft crab, but for eight bucks, it was a good choice. Briton had tiramisu and cappuccino for desert. By the time we finished, met Kusnadi and got home, it was almost 3:30.

Both boys were waiting for us, of course, when we got home and begged to go swimming. Both offered kisses and hugs, so how cold we refuse. The five of us played in the pool for an hour or so with nary a squabble or tantrum, so it was a good afternoon for everyone. Dinner at 6 even though Jon didn’t get home until 6:15. Mariati fixed a curried beef served with the ever-present rice and a mixture of carrots, brussell sprouts and baby corn.

After dinner, the boys and Jon played “Hop on Pop” which is exactly what it sounds like. When he could take no more punishment, he halted the game and the boys brushed their teeth, gave their grandparents hugs and kisses and prepared for bed. MA read until 8 o’clock and then turned in since she again missed her nap. D played catch-up with the journal and then posted it. It will be an early night for him, too.

Carter at soccer practice

He was "Player of the Day" because of his brilliant work in the goal.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Things will settle into a routine for a while now that Jon is home from the States. He was reasonably well-rested and suffering no apparent jet-lag when he left for work this morning [although it seemed to catch up with him by the time the boys were in bed]. Carter went off to school; Briton went to the gym; and we stayed with Ati and Mariati to watch over Caiden. Briton came home long enough to shower and head out to a meeting for work. We spent lots of time repeatedly completing a jigsaw puzzle with Caiden.

After lunch at home [chicken sausage for most; cheese and crackers for MA], we joined Briton in going to Carter’s school to watch the afternoon soccer practice. Carter ran around like a maniac along with 5 other youngsters while D took both photos and video. The day was hot and humid [surprise!] and we were all bushed by the time we got home.

The campus for the Jakarta International School is tremendous and the school serves students from more than a dozen countries. Tomorrow is UN Day, so there were many groups rehearsing their presentations for tomorrow’s school-wide assembly. Carter’s contribution is to bring cookies for his class; he and MA made them when we returned from school.

Jon was home for dinner, as promised under penalty of injury, and the boys were really glad to see and be with him. Mariati made a ramen noodle and chicken dish for supper and served it with a small tossed salad and prawn crackers. Early to bed again since we will probably be up at six again. It was just another typical day in equatorial Southeast Asia.

We have decided to bring Mariati home with us. Not only is she disgustingly polite and friendly, she is a good cook and a laundry maniac. Jon joked 2 years ago that in 6 months he had worn only 3 outfits. We can understand his statement, joking as it was. Mariati does laundry every day. We put our clothes in a hamper in our room and, somehow, it is clean and folded on our bed before supper. It takes a conscious effort to use more than a two-day rotation. What will we do when we go away this weekend or next week? What will we do when we are back in WPB?????

[Pictures to follow]

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

We are, if nothing else, creatures of habit. When we are in Florida, the morning ritual includes reading the accumulated e-mail, Facebook and the morning papers on line. We do the same things in Jakarta, but have to stop to remind ourselves that our 7 a.m. is the east coast’s last night. Thus, it’s yesterday’s Sun we read, not today’s. It can be a tad disconcerting. When we are home, it is not as confusing knowing that Jakarta is ahead of us; we just have to coordinate our on-line conversations, not worry about current events. And if it’s still Monday night in the US, can they be called current events?

We were up early again. It may still be jet-lag but we are going to bed early, so the elapsed time isn’t so much different than if we were home. We joined Carter and Briton for the pre-school routines and ate breakfast with Caiden later before he, too, twaddled off to school [His school calls the diaper set “twaddlers”, perfect description]. We are going to do a little more crafting this morning before going to the National Museum and stopping at the Hard Rock for a shooter glass for Uncle Tim to add to his collection from around the world.

The craft “market’ today was actually in an artisan’s house. Items for sale included jewelry and clothing, but neither Briton nor MA found anything to buy although Briton is planning ahead for Christmas. We drove from there to the National Museum, a trip which took almost an hour. Briton paid the admission fee for the museum, a whopping 750 rupiah each; that’s 7-1/2 cents in USD.

We were offered an English language tour with a docent and decided to accept the opportunity to tour with someone knowledgeable. Although we won’t remember any of the details, it was an enjoyable hour. The downside was that there were varying degrees of air conditioning/circulation, but we managed without complaint. Our real disappointment was in the behavior of the school children who were there, too. Their teachers and chaperones made no attempt to curb their raucous behavior; they seemed unaware that their students, especially the boys, were running, sliding on the floor and yelling. We were glad for brief respites from their presence.

Pictures were not allowed in the museum and D did not want to flout the rules with the docent present, but when we were on our own, he did manage to take a few photos by “shooting from the hip,” literally.

We had arrived at 10:20 and by 12:10 were hungry, so Briton had Kusnadi drive us to a shopping center in central Jakarta. Like so many shopping meccas in SE Asia, this one was filled with high-stores from all over the world as well as Starbucks and a variety of restaurants. We wandered for a bit after Kusnadi dropped us off, looking for a dim sum restaurant which Briton remembered as being there. The staff at the information counter said it had closed, so we went looking for a Thai restaurant and walked right by the dim sum place! It was very much still in business, so busy, in fact, we had to wait 5 minutes for a table. We looked at the menu which included photographs of the food, a real plus when you don’t speak the language, but let Briton order for the table. We had a mixture of dumplings and a spring roll platter to share and couldn’t finish it all.

After lunch we found our way to the Hard Rock store for the aforementioned shooter glass. We went to Starbucks and got drinks, then Briton called Kusnadi for the trip home. Carter was home from school already and Caiden woke up soon after we arrived.

Today’s excitement was a fire in the neighboring compound. Around 4 this afternoon smoke started to billow from behind Jon & Briton’s community. All of the household help from the neighborhood stood outside and watched as did several of the adults and children who live here. Kusnadi went to the front gate to get the guards to call the fire department, which they did. We saw no flames, just smoke, before the firemen arrived and quelled whatever fire there was.

Briton had plans to have dinner with “the girls” tonight, so Ati stayed to put the boys to bed. MA and D skipped dinner because we were not hungry after a big lunch that didn’t end until almost 2 o’clock. Ati left after Caiden went to sleep and we read until bedtime which is still earlier than in Florida, but so is sunrise here, so it sort of balances out. And Jon returned from his business trip to North Carolina [and his pleasure trip to DC], tired and glad to be home.

Tomorrow Briton is going to the gym and then a meeting for work. Carter has school and we will play with or around Caiden. Luckily for us, Ati will be here to rescue us. Carter has soccer in the afternoon, so we do too.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Despite, or maybe because of, the jet lag, we slept pretty well but were awake early anyway. We waited in our room until about 6:15, then emerged to spend the morning with Carter and Briton. Carter leaves for school at 6:45 and has a 49 minute bus ride to the Jakarta International School. Classes begin at 7:30 and he is home at 2:30. Because Jakarta is on the very eastern edge of the time zone, it is fully daylight although we don’t know what it will be like in the depths of winter. We lost track of the time and he almost missed the bus, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, so no harm was done.

Briton went back to sleep and we checked the computer, clearing out ads and junk mail waiting for Caiden to awaken and the day to begin for real. Mariati fixed us all French toast and then Ati, the nanny, got Caiden ready for day-care school which he attends three mornings each week. His school is the same one Carter attended until this year.

The adults sat and relaxed at the breakfast table while Kusnadi took Caiden to school, finally rousing ourselves when we realized that we had only until noon to run errands and shop. And shop we did! Briton was in the market for handicrafts today, but first we stopped at a bureau de change to convert US dollars to Indonesian rupiah. The exchange rate today was 9480 rupiah to the dollar; our US$200 became 1,896,000 rupiah [yes, almost 2 million], not so far different from the rate when we were here two years ago. It’s easy to think of it as 10,000 rupiah to the dollar. After exchanging the US currency, we stopped so Briton could withdraw local currency from an ATM.

We stopped at several craft/furniture stores on our quest today. At assorted venues, we bought a large wooden bird for atop Jon and Briton’s chest in the living room; cinnamon coasters for us; and a case for MA’s sunglasses. We looked at but did not purchase a wooden wall hanging for us. The piece was marked at 460000 rupiah, about 45USD. It was too big to pack and too big to take as a carry-on; the staff at the store called to find out about shipping which would have been at least $125, so they and we laughed and went on to other things.

We picked Caiden up at school and met his teacher, then went home for lunch which was left over tempe, rice and pizza. After Caiden went down for his nap, Briton and MA went for facials and a massage for Briton. D stayed home to await Carter’s arrival at 2:30. The two of us played and talked until Caiden got up from his nap. Carter, in full Darth Vader regalia, decided to ride his bike, so Caiden had to do likewise. Carter and D wandered through the community until Carter met some of his friends and he played with them in various houses until we all went looking for him around 4:30. Ati kept Caiden occupied until Briton and MA returned and we all went in search of Darth.

The boys had baths, Carter fell down a few steps and we had dinner [roast chicken, rice, gravy and steamed veggies]. The boys decided that they wanted to watch television, so they and Briton went upstairs while we stayed on the first floor and read. They came down for hugs and kisses before bed and then all was quiet. MA is still jet-lagged but refused to go to bed before 8 o’clock on principle.

Jon is due home tomorrow night after his trip to the States, but he won’t get to the house until after 10 p.m., so the children won’t see him until Wednesday. We don’t know if has to go to the office that day, but if he does, he will be a zombie. We don’t know what tomorrow’s are other than school for both of the boys. Why do we foresee more shopping in our futures?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009

It was really nice to sleep in a real bed last night. D was up first [and often] and finally crawled out of bed around 8:30; he had been up at 6:30 and found Carter playing in the living room. When Carter said he was fine playing by himself, D went back to sleep. MA joined us around 9.

The adults finessed breakfast because we were going out for brunch, a Sunday tradition in this household. It’s both a special family time and an acknowledgement that Mariati doesn’t work on Sunday. Briton drove us to lunch [Kusnadi doesn’t work on Sunday, either] and somehow got us there safely. The streets of Jakarta, and most Asian cities, are crammed with motorcycles sometimes carrying entire families. Several we saw today had drivers and passengers toting building supplies. The motorcycles are like gnats darting and weaving through traffic with little regard for cars,buses

Brunch was at Koi Galeri and Restaurant, a combination art gallery, furniture store and restaurant. We were here for brunch two years ago and remembered it fondly. Food note – the boys split French toast with caramelized banana; Briton had scrambled eggs, lox and dill on an English muffin [?]; MA had fresh fruit and corn cakes; and D had a “stack” with a waffle topped with b├ęchamel, thin-sliced beef and fried egg. The corn cakes were like corn fritters but shaped like stick doughnuts. Drinks included a fesh berry smoothis for the boys and fresh strawberry juice for D. Yum!

When we got back to the house, the boys played until nap time. Caiden, Briton and D took naps while Carter and MA played. The nappers got up around 4 to rescue MA, and the boys played in the backyard for a long time. Briton got out the inflatable plastic pool and they caroused in and near in for a long time. A school friend of Carter’s just appeared while they were playing and joined them. Carter and his friend went to the other boy’s house for a while and later returned. Eventually the other mother came to claim her son.

Dinner was pizza from Pizza Hut – plain for the boys, pepperoni/tomato/onion for the adults; the pepperoni is made with beef since the Muslims won’t eat pork, but the pizza was delicious anyway. A little before 7, the boys went upstairs to prepare for bed and MA tool a short snooze on the couch waiting for a “good night” from them. By 7:45, MA could wait no longer and went to bed.

Today’s highlights were Carter’s spending most of the day dressed in his new Darth Vader costume and Caiden eating the pizza which was delivered with a packet of “spicy ketchup” attached to the box. Caiden insisted on trying it despite being warned that he would not like it. But he was insistent and Briton put a small pool of it on Caiden’s plate. He dipped a piece of pizza in the sauce, made a face and said it was hot and that he needed water. And then he ate some more!

Carter has school tomorrow and must catch the bus at 6:45 a.m. [You read that correctly]. The adults may go to the spa for massages and/or facials. We'll see how that develops.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October 8 or 10, 2009 [it’s sort of confusing]

We’re on our way! We left home this afternoon around 1:15 with our “new” driver, Tony. After the debacle last Spring with a substitute driver who forgot to load one of the bags, it was time for a change. Tony dropped us off at PB around 1:45 and we found ourselves at the deserted Continental counter with no other passengers but plenty of assistance. The woman who helped us was able to check our 2 bags all the way to Singapore; she wasn’t sure if she could route them through to Jakarta and we didn’t want to experiment. Still, it saved us the trouble of hauling the luggage through the Newark airport. We were thrilled.

Since our flight wasn’t set to depart until 3:30, we took the time to eat a fast-food lunch at the Burger King near our gate. Mmmmm! Whoppers and French fries. We took our time before going to our departure gate where we had only a short wait. Our flight to Newark was mostly smooth and we landed early. Food note: Our snack was a turkey sandwich accompanied by Fritos and a Hershey bar. Not great but certainly better than peanuts.

Anyway, we were in Newark at 6:15 and found our way from Terminal C to Terminal B only to discover that the EVA counter, which they borrow from Lufthansa, didn’t open until 8:00 p.m. We found some comfortable seating next to Chili’s and killed time until just before 8 when we joined the line to check in.

Check-in was not a speedy process for anyone. Most people had multiple bags to check whereas we had already taken care of our luggage in Florida. But when we finally got to the counter around 8:10, the clerk told us she could have our bags retagged our bags and sent all the way to Jakarta. Easier said than done, of course, as there were computer malfunctions and freezes, but we were assured our bags would be in Jakarta waiting for us. Maybe.

We learned a long time ago that we are too old and stiff to sit in the back of the plane for long flights and our narrow seats from West Palm northward only reinforced our decision. As Business/First Class passengers on EVA, we were entitled to use the lounge which they sublet from British Air. By the time we finished the check-in process and cleared Security, it was 8:45, the appointed time for the lounge to open for passengers. We were among the first to arrive. We relaxed, got snacks and read the paper while we waited; David Skyped with Jon in North Carolina for a few minutes and eventually almost two hours had passed and it was time to join the horde waiting to board the plane.

As we approached the gate, an EVA employee whom we had met earlier asked MA if she wanted her pre-arranged wheelchair for boarding. MA said ‘no’ and the EVA lady then walked us to the front of the line and made us the first to board the plane. We still expect the wheelchair Taipei and Singapore, as well as in Jakarta.

Departure was 11:20, a few minutes late, but with the layover in Anchorage, we should still arrive in Taipei on time. We were fed starting around 12:15 in the morning EDT and finished after 1 A.M., five-and-a-half hours from Anchorage. [Menu note: appetizer of grilled shrimp, hummus, cucumber salad and broiled tomato wedges; entrees of fish for MA and sea bass & pork belly in an Asian sauce for D; dessert of fresh fruit and cookies] MA tried to sleep but had trouble getting comfy even on the almost-flat bed because she kept sliding. Around 2 A.M. she changed the position of her seat and tried again.

While MA slept, David started the journal and then played computer games for a while before he, too, dozed off. He woke around 5 EDT and then catnapped until the lights went on at 6. MA slept through the lights and didn’t awaken until announcements were made at 6:30 announcing our approach to Anchorage.

We didn’t realize until then that we would have to exit the plane in Anchorage with all our belongings. For some reason that makes sense to EVA, their west-bound flights from Newark to Taipei [the only ones they have from the east coast] stop in Anchorage to refuel and change crews. Dutifully, we packed everything – books, computer, MP3, goodie bags – into the carry-on bags and trooped off the plane. EVA staff remembered the wheelchair request, so MA took a short ride to the seating area; the wheelchair attendant suggested she use the chair to guarantee that she would have a place to sit in the in-transit waiting area. At first we thought that she would have to sit in the wheelchair but discovered, once inside, that a large bloc of seats have been reserved for the wheelies.

The waiting area was actually no more than, perhaps, 200 feet from the door of the plane, but after the long march to Security in Newark, we weren’t taking any chances. As luck would have it, there was another plane landing at the same time, and parts of the terminal were locked so we wouldn’t contaminate anything. This resulted in there being no restrooms on the first level of the waiting area and no accessible elevator to reach the second floor. David scouted out the entire first floor and then was directed to an EVA staffer [we think] who was very sympathetic to MA’s desire to use the facilities. When it became obvious that they were not going to be able to open the door leading to the loo without setting off an alarm, they allowed us to return to the plane to use the facilities there. We had to return to the waiting room before being allowed to re-board the plane with everyone else. All told, we were Anchorage about an hour, just enough to interrupt some really good sleep.

Once back on board, we had to listen to the whole safety spiel again; it was like having to attend a second lifeboat drill upon taking back-to-back cruises. The lights stayed on and a snack was served. Our choice was a ham-and-cheese sandwich or a Chinese soup. We both opted for the soup which was quite tasty; it had very thin noodles, dumplings and something green that resembled broccoli stems, some with leaves. Again, it’s like a cruise because all we’ve done on airplanes today is eat and sleep.

The flight to Anchorage took about 7 hours, leaving another 9-1/2 until we land in Taipei where it will be 6:00 a.m. It was 3 o’clock in the morning in Anchorage, but we are keeping our watches on Eastern time until we get to Jakarta. There are too many changes otherwise. Our bodies will think it is 5:15 a.m. when we finally stop flying even though it will be 4:15 p.m. in Jakarta. We will have been in transit for almost 37 hours. Yikes!

We continued to eat our way around the world with breakfast before landing in Taipei [we’ve been eating “healthy” for the most part]. We opted for cream cheese frittatas which were really quite good. They were accompanied by sliced pork and roasted cherry tomatoes. We had mediocre herb omelets on the flight from Taipei to Singapore and will get snacks of some sort between Singapore and Jakarta. And then we’ll be expected to have supper with Briton, Caiden and Carter before collapsing in a collective heap.

We finally saw sunshine when we reached Taipei. We had raced the night from Newark to Asia with no sign of light in the plane’s windows. It was almost like sensory deprivation torture: no sunlight, surrounded by mostly non-English-speaking strangers and taken care of by a few friendly foreign nationals. Or is it Stockholm syndrome and we are starting to associate with our captors? Actually, the staff was great and the EVA personnel were as attentive as they could be, solicitous even, but it was a very long night [and day].

The skies over Singapore were cloud-covered and it had rained recently. Fortunately, we did not have to go outside for anything. We were met at the plane by a wheelie, the name we use for the folks who get to push the wheelchairs through the terminals. Once again, we would have been lost, literally and figuratively, without this assistance. Our young lady got us to a Singapore Airlines counter so we could get boarding passes and then took us to the gate; new opted not to go to the “passengers-in-need-of-assistance” lounge, preferring to simply wait outside the boarding area. We were the first passengers to arrive for our 3:30 flight. In fact, we were there a bit past 12:30 and boarding was not supposed to begin until 2:30. MA read while D updated once again and tried to stay awake.

The Taiwan and Singapore airports are wonders of opulence. Although we were taken aback when we saw Singapore for the first time last year, we now take the presence of really high-end shopping combined with duty-free shops in stride. Both of these airports boast plenty of both, presented in modern settings with plenty of creature comforts. They are what sophisticated, and moneyed, travelers expect now. Most of the airports we utilize cannot compare; indeed, they should not be present in the same paragraph.

We have also found that airline and airport employees are uniformly pleasant, knowledgeable and eager to ensure that foreign travelers, especially, have a good experience. Customer service is a given in Asia, at least, and we have never had an unpleasant experience [Even the immigration official in Cambodia last year was pleasant and polite while shaking Jon down for a bribe/tip.] As an example, today’s wheelie in Singapore went back to the SA counter to be sure that they had our baggage claim information so our luggage would really arrive in Jakarta with us [we hope]. The Counter person had asked about bags, was told we had checked them through, but did not verify the claim check numbers. Had we been on our own, we would not have had the presence of mind to double-check. That’s another reason why we make use of a wheelchair when we travel.

Things were uneventful for the remainder of the day. We had no trouble getting on or off the plane; we had a row of 2 seats in front of a bulkhead; and the ever-present wheelie was waiting for us when we deplaned. She did the legwork for the Indonesian visas, which can be bought at the airport, and guided us through the mob scene at Immigration. We bypassed the line completely, then waited while she again took care of the formalities. Our luggage actually showed up in Jakarta and on our plane! We left the wheelie and searched for Kusnadi, the family’s driver, but were found first by Carter. Hugs and giggles followed and we drove straight home.

The rest of the evening was spent watching The Boys open and play with their goodies [pictures to follow tomorrow] and a home-cooked meal from Mariati – yellow rice, tempe, home-made spring rolls and fresh carrots and broccoli. It was good to be home. Tomorrow we will rest and relax for the first time in 48 hours.