Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mosquito repellent is not monkey repellent

At the monkey forest, a little monkey climbed up my leg, then my body, then sat on my head for awhile, then started digging in the exposed pocket on my backpack. We think he was going for the bug dope, which is orange scented.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Beware the monkeys

Yesterday, we went to the Uluwatu temple. It is built upon a cliff and surrounded by forest. There are also a lot of monkeys.

We had been there for about a minute when I saw a monkey jump on some old guy's back, grab the glasses off his face, and then run a couple of yards away where it sat down and started chewing on the frames. The man ran after the monkey, and it ran up into the tree with the glasses still in its mouth.

We are having a good vacation so far, and leave in about an hour for a trip inland to the town of Ubud.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lizards and leaving

This is one of our friendly house lizards. This one was hanging out in the kitchen. I call all of the lizards Gordon. As in Gordon Gekko. Ha!


We leave very soon. I will try to post from the islands, but if it isn't possible, you may not hear from me for a couple weeks.

Happy holidays! Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Developing country ups and downs, and down my throat

This morning I went to the kitchen for breakfast and found the top of the fridge covered in ants. Fortunately, there didn't appear to be any ants in the fridge. I grabbed the broom and dustpan and swept them away, a process I had to repeat two more times to get rid of them all.

Then I went to work, where a storm knocked out the power to the school for two hours. The upside to this was that one of my classes got canceled.

At her school, Rowan has a leak in the ceiling that drips just behind her desk. She has to avoid the bucket when she moves her desk chair. And one of her classrooms started to flood, causing one student to slip and fall on his ass during an activity.

At home our garage is leaking. And the drainage channel behind the house seems to be getting dangerously high. And we kept blowing a circuit the other day and it made terrifying noises when I reset it.

At least we have a lot of beer in the fridge. But it isn't so cold because the power was out for awhile and the fridge doesn't work so well even when it is fully electrified.


After class today, Rowan and I went to get some terang bulan, or folded-and-filled Indonesian pancakes. (These are, the Internet tells me, the sweet version of martabak, which I've seen elsewhere as a sort of omelet wrapped in a crepe.) My co-worker had said they could be savory, so while Rowan ordered the chocolate, I ordered the mixed cheese.

We took our boxes of food back to the house and found that the mixed cheese meant cheese mixed with peanuts, chocolate, and some other things.It was sweet and delicious. But not really dinner fare.

So I cooked up some grilled cheese, or roti bakar dengan keju (grilled bread with cheese) as they say in these parts.I had the ingredients because I felt like a little taste of home yesterday. And I did get quite nostalgic while I ate it.

Following the sandwich and pancake, I settled into a sort of carbohydrate stupor, which is still affecting me as I write this. And will affect me for a long time, since there are enough leftovers to feed me breakfast for two more days.


I apologize if the blog sometimes seems like a food blog, but eating--or more specifically the quest for food--is a big part of our lives here. Often, it is cheaper to buy food from local people than to cook it ourselves. I've mentioned the guys who go past our house, but sometimes the guy I want doesn't come, or I don't want what does come.

Getting food often requires going out and searching for stuff. Our pancakes, for example, required a ten-minute walk to the restaurant, though I thought it was well worth the trip. Also, such questing takes us out of our little bubble. We get to see our neighborhood and meet its people.

So when I talk about food, I'm really talking about the results of living, a return to a sort of hunter/gatherer mentality of life.

Or so I tell myself.


The company we work for had its annual Christmas party over the weekend. Since this is Indonesia, though, there wasn't anything particularly Christmas-y about it.

The theme was "All about Batik." So I donned some sort of traditional Indonesian garb and Rowan wore a batik-style dress.There were massive piles of Indonesian food. No Christmas cookies or ham or stuffing to be found. Only later would a single dish of au gratin potatoes appear.

No carols were sung; instead, some of the local teachers sang karaoke, some of it in Indonesian. And they ran out of beer, which would never (NEVER!) happen at one of my family's holiday gatherings.

In spite of the lack of actual Christmas flavor at the Christmas party, though, we had a good time.

And then we retired to our house for an after-party. Our theme was "mustaches and headwear," so it was not any more Christmas-y, but we did not run out of beer.(This is our friend Ian, one of the few people who actually brought a stupid hat. And by few people, I mean him and me. Also, me and my friend Dave were also the only ones to wear mustaches. So much for having a theme to the party.)

We partied until 4:30 in the morning. Upon waking, we headed to a nearby hotel for an all-you-can-eat buffet (no martinis this time), where I stuffed my face with ridiculous amounts of sushi.

This coming Saturday, we leave for Bali. We are getting there by mini-bus, which takes 17 hours and is hopefully not too unpleasant. Then we have almost two weeks in paradise.

Our plans could change at any time, but here is the current agenda:

Dec. 22 and 23: Kuta
Dec. 24, 25, and 26: Ubud at the Jati 3 Bungalows
Dec. 27 and 28: The Gili Islands at the Sunset Gecko
Dec. 29, 30, 31, and Jan. 1: Mangsit, Lombok, at the Santai Beach Inn

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ponderings of a more ponderous nature

For a somewhat lengthy, picture-free perspective on some of the sociocultural-economic things that I thought about on the trip to Yogyakarta, go here.

Yogyakarta and the safe hunger

This time we traveled west. Riding the train through cornfields and rice paddies, we arrived in Yogyakarta.

The trip was comfortable. Even though our roommate was told that no executive class seats were available, the tickets we were given were clearly labeled eksekutif, or executive. (Such is the nature of doing things in Indonesia. Eventually, you just stop asking, Why?) So we had food and air-conditioning and lots of leg room.

We left the train station and took a horse carriage to the hotel.The horse seemed beyond his better years and the carriage was not in good condition, so the trip took quite awhile, and we were quite sore by the time we arrived.

For lunch, we went to a restaurant where I had cobra "steak."I'm pretty sure it was cobra, but it definitely wasn't steak; it came in little fried bits. It tasted okay, but not great; it was a little too greasy and chewy.

That evening, we rode some becak, or bicycle cabs.We arrived at the Kraton area.In the central park area, there is a legend that if you are blindfolded and walk between the two magic trees, you will be granted a wish and receive good luck.

We positioned ourselves about sixty yards from the trees. Several of us tried several times and came very close, but we were all unsuccessful. Rowan said I was walking straight toward the trees once, but then inexplicably made a sharp right turn.

The next day, we woke early, at 4am, to go see the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, one Buddhist and the other Hindu.

Borobudur was the first stop.The weather cloaked us in a light mist. It was not uncomfortable; the rain offered a coolness we can't find in Surabaya. And it perhaps lent an air of mysticism to the experience.

Or it would have, if it wasn't for the Indonesian tourists asking to take pictures of us, as if we were the actual attraction.

Prambanan was next, and the rain began to come down much harder.Here, we were unbothered by the other people, perhaps because of the rain.

That evening, we went for a walk and ended up near the Water Castle, a structure that features what used to be underwater escape tunnels and an underwater mosque, among other features.

We asked a local for directions, and he gave us quite a lengthy and informative tour.Along the way, we ended up at several shops, including his own, as well as the shop of the official doll maker of the king, or so we were told.However, we were not pressured to buy at any of the shops. (We had been warned about the high-pressure sell, and had left a gallery quickly the night before when it seemed we were going to receive such pressure.)

"Come back when luck provides you with better fortune," our guide said.

We walked back through the night. We visited the market area before taking another horse carriage to the hotel.

We awoke early again the next day to take the train ride home, back through the cornfields and rice paddies, to Surabaya and its stifling heat. And home.


For more photos from the trip, visit


I hope my hunger, and yours, is always safe.

Friday, December 5, 2008

It's almost the weekend!

Next week, we have Monday off. So we are using the slightly extended vacation to visit Borobudur, an enormous complex of temples near Yogyakarta.

To get there, we are going to take an un-airconditioned train for five hours. Should be fun.


In other news, Rowan and I were riding in a taxi yesterday when it smacked a guy on a motorcycle. Just crashed right into the motorcyclist, knocking him to the ground.

Rowan immediately said, "I am not staying in this cab." We got out and walked away as the police escorted the taxi driver from the scene. (This happened almost right in front of a little police watchpoint.)

The driver had been acting a little strange the entire trip. We think he might have been on something.

We then went to our school's main office, where I put my name on the waiting list to rent a motorbike. Hopefully this does not end up being a bad idea.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Two Pancake Day, and other stories

We stayed in Surabaya this past weekend. The girls decided to start Saturday off right with some homemade pancakes.
They were delicious. The girls then went back to sleep while I spent the next couple hours exploring the kampung, or neighborhood, near our house. I was looking for a large outdoor market, but I didn't find it. I did get quite a dose of pollution in my lungs, though. I don't think I'll do much more walking here in Surabaya.

That evening, we went to a party hosted by some new friends. The theme was to be inappropriate (for a Muslim country). Notice how two of the ladies don't have their shoulders covered. Scandalous!It was a fun event, and one of the hostesses made us more pancakes, which we consumed drunkenly at about 2 am. Any day featuring two different pancake meals is a good day. (As an aside, our roommate told us about something called Pancake Day, which they celebrate in England.)

We woke in the morning and headed to the restaurant at a nearby hotel for their all-you-can-eat Italian buffet with all-you-can-drink martini service.They had some very good Italian food, including wood-fired pizzas. I opted for a main course of squid ink risotto with grilled scallops. Rowan had the grilled sea bass on a bed of wilted spinach with garlic potatoes.

And the martinis actually were all-you-can-drink, even though they were a bit weak.The menu featured 26 flavors, one for each letter of the alphabet. I lost count of the number of martinis I had after awhile.

We then proceeded to a place for some karaoke. The karaoke isn't in a bar where you sing in front of strangers; instead, you rent out a private room with its own musical setup.
We rocked hard for a little while, went back to the original party house for some food, and called it a weekend.


Certain persons of a parental nature have requested some info about the teaching aspects of our lives here. While I've proclaimed some disillusionment before, the job is fun at times, depending on the particular group of students. These pictures are from one of my favorite classes, which has several older people in it, which balances perfectly with the kids.The students seem to learn best, and have more fun, when the class is interactive. Here, I am teaching the difference between adjectives and nouns (angry and anger, dangerous and danger, etc.) by laying words out on the floor. The students would then work to move the words into proper categories.Sometimes, though, the students in some classes don't listen. A lot of them actually are spoiled rich kids, and they don't behave. Today, I had an amusing situation where I was yelling at the students to stop yelling. At the time, however, I don't think anyone was amused.

But I do like teaching, and I'm starting to learn more tricks to deal with the problem kids.


As you may have noticed from the photo above, I got a haircut for the first time in nearly two years. I decided the career as a professional wrestler just wasn't going to work out.
So I plopped down my $4 at an Indonesian salon and got the hair chopped off.
The stylist gave me a trendy Indonesian-dude sort of haircut, which I decided within a day that I didn't like. So I had Rowan fix my hair with a tiny little pair of scissors. I am now quite happy with the results.

One of my favorite stories about the haircut takes place the day after I got it trimmed. I walked into one of my classes and started teaching. About five minutes later, one of the students raised her hand. "Are you Mr. Kevin?" she asked.

Apparently, she wasn't sure if I was the same person who had been teaching her before. And perhaps I wasn't, in some ways. I'm hoping that the loss of hair doesn't have any Samson-like consequences for me.