Sunday, December 21, 2014

By Request of my Sister Sue, and for anyone interested.

Where in the hell are we?

First off, we are in Indonesia.
Make it bigger and you can see where we are. Down towards the left bottom. We are Here.

In Indonesia, we are on a very large Island which is called Sumatra.
On Sumatra, we are in Lampung Regency.
Like a State
Lampung Regency

In the Regency, we are in the Capital of Bandar Lampung.
In Rajabasa which is in the Northern Part of Bandar Lampung

Dear Sister, please download Google Earth or have someone do it for you. After that you can even see our house and yours if you like. Perhaps you will see yourself out gardening on Street View.

Rain, Rain, Rain

One of The Results of Rain
I’m back with another contribution to this Blog. My absence isn’t because of lack of interest but more the lack of pictures related to the subjects I have in mind of writing about. I know everyone likes pictures and just words are a bit boring so I need some pictures. So many times I pass the areas I want to get pictures of but being unable to stop while driving or just not taking the time to stop and grab a shot are the main reasons for the lack of photographs. I need to change that, I know.

Today, I would like to talk about some rain. It is the Rainy Season now here in Bandar Lampung so no better time than now to mention it. The Monsoons. When it rains, it really rains. Most days are cloudy but it isn’t always raining. Once in a while it is a light mist but then goes away just raising the humidity.
December, January, February, and March are the months of the Rainy Season here.  Rainfall starts going up in December and start to fall in March. Now on the motor Bike we carry along an extra set of clothes and nylon jackets in case we guess wrong on the rain. Rain jackets and pants are a big seller in Indonesia with the rain and all the motor bikes on the roads. Good investments. The following is some information in regards to the temperature and rainfall during the Rainy Season here. It actually seems like the figures for the rain are low but maybe it just seems that way because of the number of really hard and heavy rains. Many days it just sprinkles rain for 12 to 20 hours without much rain total. Makes up for it with the heavy rain days. I haven’t seen a rain gage in any store but maybe I should try to find one to keep my own information. When we get the heavy rains there is water flowing everywhere. So far we have lived on higher ground so we never get the flooding that seems to happen quite quickly in the lower areas. Most places the water goes down rapidly except in Jakarta. So many people there and building have blocked the natural flow of the waters and when it rains there is flooding for quite some time. Big hardship on the people but in reality most are squatters and shouldn't have built there to begin with. The Jakarta Government is trying to fix it by building apartments for the squatters and moving them from the naturally flooding areas but as usual, so many of those people want more then just free housing. They want a government payout for the land they squatted on. Sorry, you didn’t own it to begin with so I think you are quite fortunate that the government is building you apartments for free.
Everything here is metric so I converted the numbers for you below.

Average temperature and rainfall Bandar Lampung
December:   High Temp 31.1c 88f.    Low Temp 22.7c 72f.
Average Rainfall 268mm  10.55in. 22 days of rainfall

January:  High Temp 30.3c 86.5f.   Low Temp 22.6c 72.7f.
Average Rainfall  300mm   11.81in. 22 days of rainfall

Feburary:  High Temp 31c 87.8f.   Low Temp 22.5c 72.5f.
Average Rainfall 333mm   13.11in. 21days of rainfall

March:  High Temp 31.6c 88.9f.  Low Temp 22.8c 73f.
Average Rainfall  219mm  8.62in. 22 days of rainfall

General Information:
April is the hottest month at 32c 89.6f
January the least hottest at 30.3c  86.5f
August has the coolest nights at 21.8c  71.2f
March has the warmest nights at 22.8c  73f
Not much change from month to month in regards to temperature.
July has the least amount of rain at 60mm  2.36in averaging 11 days.
February has the most rain at 333mm 13.11in averaging 21days

Rain Forest
Winter Starting in the Northern Hemisphere, Summer starting in the Southern Hemisphere. Here in the middle, temperature pretty much stays the same and it rains. Storms get some winds. Banana trees blow over and knock down power lines but that would be another post. No major storms like Typhoons in the Middle. That’s where the depressions start and then move away. Just rain and some wind is all. While the North is breaking out the skates and skis, shoveling the sidewalks, and turning up the heat and the South is running around in tee shirts, throwing meat on the barbi, and soaking up the warm rays of the sun, here in the Middle we are getting rained on for the benefit of the rest of the world. We are nourishing the Rain forest.

Disappearing Beauty
The Rain forest are not like they used to be so vast and thick but they still exist. Our rains are nourishing them to lush green state. Rain feeding nutrients to the plants, plants feeding nutrients to the soils. The rains carrying nutrients to the rivers and streams feeding other areas. The rainforest growing and producing oxygen to be spread over the world while consuming carbon dioxide to keep the life giving balance to the Earths atmosphere. No Rain forest, no life. Simple as that.
The Rain forest is so beautiful. Lush green plants, pure running streams, and teaming with life. Not a safe place to be unless you grew up there and then not always. Sure, there are animals that could have you for dinner or snakes and spiders that would make sure one bite would make you a permanent fixture of the Rain forest but to me, the most dangerous thing for the unknowing is the density of them.  Venture into the Rain forest 10 feet and you can be suddenly surrounded by it’s density and lose your sense of direction immediately. Venture a little further and everywhere you turn looks the same. The sounds start to fill your head and you will then realize you are already lost. They are best to be avoided unless it is a sponsored area that has marked paths. Even then, there is still the critters watching.

Sumatran Elephants
When you think of Indonesian Rain forest, you need to think of the wildlife. Orangutans, Tigers, Rhinoceros, Elephants among other creatures all depend on the Rain forest. Unfortunately, they are all endangered. Poachers and the common man are their enemies. Poachers take the elephant's tusk to sell on the black market since it is illegal to even possess ivory here. Rhinos for their horns for the Chinese medicinal market.  Tiger skins for the same Chinese markets. Orangutans, not so much by poachers but the uneducated, misunderstanding common man.  Many endangered animals are killed by them. 

How Cute is This?
Orangutans are killed because they venture onto someone property. Not harming a soul but just being there is reason enough to either capture them for sale or to just plain kill them.  Tigers if seen by man are in trouble just because they are Tigers. At times they kill and eat a man’s goat. A death sentence for the Tiger. People fail to realize that tying your goat up outside in the jungle is an invite to meat eating predators. Stupid. Rhinos and elephants because they cause damage are in the farmers sights. The jungle was there first. 

Sumatran Rhino
The large animals migration and watering habits are well marked by them with the paths they make. A farmer decides to plant his crops over this path or a village pops up on one of these paths. Along come the large animals doing what they and their ancestors have done for hundreds of years perhaps. The farmer or village attack the animals for walking on their garden trampling the plants or knocking over a building on their regular path. The animal is normally destroyed. Is it allowed? Well, it is illegal. They are all endangered. Are they ever prosecuted? Not really. No one ever sees another doing the deed or the authorities for the area are slipped some coffee money and eyes are turned away.  It’s a sad sad subject.
Sumatran Tiger

I’m sure everyone had read or heard that the Rain forest of the world are disappearing. It’s true for here too. Illegal farming, corrupt officials giving permits to clear land for farms, and big business getting some land and stretching it into whatever size they want. Here it is for the big business of palm oil. Palm oil plantations are everywhere. The market for it is currently down on price but the demand is still there. The new government is trying to put safeguards in place to control the palm oil business the best they can but they are fighting so many corrupt officials behind all the nasty doings. Recently Governors have been charged with illegal practices concerning Rain forest lands. Hopefully this can send a solid message to others but probably not. Too much money involved.

Clearing of the Rain forest
The forest/jungles here are cleared with burning of the forestation to make way to plant new plants. The burning while illegal has caused a lot of problems. The smoke has caused air flights to the are to be canceled because of visibility. The smoke is so bad then when the winds start, Malaysia and Singapore start recording their worst air pollution days. So hazy with smoke you can’t see across the street. The Indonesian Government has finally put their foot down and insist they are going to charge whatever business the land is controlled by be it large corporation from here or International or the small farmer. No burning. There was actually an order given to shoot on sight anyone seen starting a fire. That didn’t work because the police know if they approach someone they can get some spending money for themselves. OK, corruption here is not something I will ever get too deeply into. It would take a large book to just explain the base of it.

So, rain helps the Rain forest and in reality, helps the world. I guess it is the Rain forest that need some help along with it’s inhabitants. 
Fate of an Elephant who Wondered onto someone's Property.
Elephants have been walking there for centuries,
Property owner for a few months and probably never
paid anything for his claim to it. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Furniture Time

2 seat bamboo chair
OK, little by little (or big by big) we have added our furnishings. While we did have the rattan furniture Lani had made, refrigerator and assorted things we would need at first, now with a house we needed to fill it. (an understatement when it comes to Lani and furniture) Adding to what we had we knew that first off, we needed some outdoor furniture. We sit around outside a lot so stools were getting a bit uncomfortable. We noticed that some people had these simply built bamboo chairs and lounges. Speaking to the neighbors we found that a guy comes by from time to time pulling a cart with these furnishings he builds at home. We put out the word that if anyone sees him to let us know or for him to stop at the house. After a month, still no man with bamboo furniture. In the mean time we decided to get started on choosing our indoor furniture.

Bamboo table and chairs
We started to look around to see what was available. It didn't take long to figure out that we really didn't want anything made or covered with any type of cloth material due to the humidity here. So the decision was easy to go for wood. There were many places available that used pine and assorted woods for their furniture but the prices seemed high in comparison to the best. The best being Jati. (teak wood) OK, let's go for the better of the woods. But no, nothing plain. We need art, style, that Oooo, look. Jati from Jepara, Indonesia that is hand carved. Sure, why not? While in our search we came acrosse and old man pushing a bicycle staked high with bamboo furniture. Since we hadn't seen anyone in the neighborhood yet selling it, Lani decided to see what she could do to make a deal. I took my out of the way position and Lani took him from Rupiah650,000 down to Rp450,000 (US$38.00) for two chairs, a coffee table, and a 2 seater couch. That seemed pretty fair to us. He pushed his bike all the way back to our place and unloaded his bike. Lani was happy and asked him if he could make us a lounger and 3 seat couch also. He said he would and Lani gave him a bottle of water and he was on his way. As is the custom in Indonesia, whenever someone gets a delivery all the neighbors gather around and take a look at what you are getting. Then comes the questions about how much did it cost. Of course, whatever you say they will reply with, they have a friend who would sell it to us for much much less. Really? If you had a friend that made them where were they when we were asking about getting some? It doesn't matter. An Indonesian can always buy it for less. That is just the way they think. Lani and I discussed it and decided that if we are happy with the deal, that is all that matters.

Back to looking for jati furniture. First on the list is a bed. Sleeping on foam mattresses on the floor got old really quick. It wasn't so much getting down to sleep but that getting up was a killer. OK, off on the hunt. There are a lot of places that offer jati furniture. They order what you want from the wood crafting places in jepara and then they do the sanding and finishing here. They all have catalogs of previous furniture sold and other designs that you can get. We knew we wanted actual carvings and not just some design in relief. We, or should I say Lani entered one shop in the village near us while I waited outside, out of sight. If they see a foreigner the price is immediately elevated. lani got a price for what we were looking for in a design. Around US$250 for a queen size bed. (rooms wouldn't hold anything bigger) We discussed it at home and agreed on it. Lani returned the next day to order it. Evidently the shop owner seen Lani meet me outside and when she returned the shop owner told her that since she was rich the price is now US$450.00. nothing extra, just figured since I was foreign, we could afford it and she could make more money. Lani looked at her, told her she would now get no business ever from her and walked out. This is common here. If you are a foreigner you are perceived to be rich. They figure they are entitled to whatever you have even if you don't get anything extra for the additional cost. Lani and I discussed this before and agreed that anyone who overcharges or raises the price to us will get no business. While we believe that we should spread around our business as much as we can, we will not allow any greedy business owner to take advantage of us. Sure, there are Expats in Jakarta that make 40 to 60 thousand a year and only pay for their entertainment but the majority do not. We don't. Sure, our fixed income is higher then most Indonesians make but we still are not rich. The shop owners probably make a lot more then us already.

Bed Backboard
Lani looked at beds in about 7 or 8 places and found one that seemed more interested in selling us furniture then getting rich off us. Even knew I was an Expat but insisted I was OK with her choices. We chose a design and added some changes to fit more what we wanted. Even added two bedside tables. Total cost. Rp2,800,000 (US$237.00) Even less then the first ladies price of just the bed without the tables that Lani was ready to buy. It was going to take about 20 days so we wait.

Table and chairs
In the mean time we thought we would start looking into living room furniture. Again, jati. We looked around to get some ideas and one day after walking to the village we stopped at a convenience store to get a cold drink. Right next door was a jati furniture shop so we decided to take a look. While looking over the catalog Lani started looking at dining room tables and chairs. You can safely say that it was at that moment we stopped looking for living room furniture and started looking at dining room furniture. We found a design we really liked. The young girl in the shop was very helpful. We made a deal of Rp5,000,000 (US$424.00) for the table with 4 chairs we liked. Lani wasn't expecting to shop for furniture at that time so only gave the girl Rp300,000. It was fine with the girl as far as a deposit was concerned. Lani discussed when we would like it since the bed was on it's way and needed to be paid for and no problem. After a couple days the girl called Lani and told her it was very important for Lani to see the owner right away. Well, if the owner only comes in from time to time Lani is not going to drop everything and get down to the shop when it's raining. The owner came and went we guess but the young girl said she needed Lani to come in. After a couple days Lani made it down there. She was then told the table was actually higher priced and that she would need to have 6 chairs, not 4. The chairs would not be what she ordered but would be ones they already had in the shop. The now ugly chairs would also be Rp1,000,000 each taking the total price well over Rp8,000,000 (US$677.00) Nope, not going to happen. Lani asked for her deposit back. Girl said they didn't keep any cash on premise. Lani insisted in the way she does best and received the money. Lani asked the girl if she told the owner that her husband was an Expat. She said she did. Lani informed her that she went from a nice sale to no sale because the owner was a cheat and left.

Table leg design with highlights
The next day Lani and I went to see the shop where they treated us really nice and we ordered the bed. Found the style of table we liked, got the chairs we wanted and placed the order. Total price Rp5,300,000 (US$445.00) This now included 6 chairs. Happy with them. The table was really nice and they would add what touches we wanted. A little more design in the top and highlights in the finish. No problem. Whatever we wanted. A hand carved bed in teak wood and now a hand carved dining table in teak wood. Wow. Would have never been able to afford that before. Ever.

Table top design
Well, that's it for furniture. Living room will have to wait until we find a bigger house next year. No more room. Oh, wait. Maybe something is missing. Right after i announced that's it, something just bothered me and off we went back to the shop and looking at the catalog found the perfect buffet that will match the table. Two choices in length. 1.5 meters and 2 meters. 2 meters was only a bit more so why not. Not only is it a buffet, it will fit between two rooms and double as a TV stand. Make a deal time and ended up getting it for a little less then what they wanted for the 1.5 meter one. Rp3,200,000 (US$271.00). OK, that's it. Or, is it?

Chair Front
The bed arrives. Just what we were expecting. Perfect. Looks fantastic. beautiful. Very happy. Now, lets go find a refrigerator and upgrade the size of what we have. We really need a US sized one so off we go. Found on sale a full size LG. US$510.00 Happy with that. The old one was nice but just too small for us. Indonesians who shop everyday are happy with the small ones but we don't do things in the Indonesian way so we need a bigger one and now we have it. One thing for sure about Indonesians, they are nosy and gossipy. Guaranteed that every delivery, they gathered in front and watched. Any that didn't knew about it almost instantly.

Time for the dining table, chairs, and buffet. Yep, just as fantastic. Yes, pretty much fills the room but at least there are 6 places people can sit. Who needs another living room set. maybe next house will have a separate dining area and we can look at living room furniture then. For now, we are complete. Well, maybe but I hope so. below are some additional pictures.

Table top

Table from end

Bed headboard design

Chair design

Back of chair

Buffet design

Bedside table

Design in buffet doors

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gurban Massa Singh

Gurban Massa Singh
Thought I would dedicate some space to a great guy, Gurban Singh, Lani's brother.

Gurban passed away on June 13, 2014 at the age of 63. He died while playing tennis with his coworkers. Tennis was his passion and if he was going to go there was no better setting then a tennis court. Gurban was the closest sibling to Lani in regards to family relations. All her life he always seemed to be in her corner, helping, guiding, and supporting her dreams and desires.

After Lani's mother passed away when Lani was 13, it was Gurban who took her, and two other sisters and took care of them. The Father was off more interested in his family that he seemed to have tucked away in India who he brought to Indonesia and set up a household with them. The new step Mother had no desire to inherit a bigger family so Gurban took a few and an Older sister Gurdith took the youngest with her. Gurban was 16 and Lani 13, Karmi 11, and Rita 10. Gudith was 15 and getting married, (yes, it was customary in those days to marry at that age and most times by arranged marriage.) She took Sakila (Evi) the youngest at 6 years of age.

Gurban had a bicycle repair shop and with his dedication to his family, made sure his siblings under his care were always fed and clothed properly. He also finished high school because his Father promised him a motor bike upon graduation and he knew this was needed to help take care of his charges. The motor bike never came upon graduation and this left the two not speaking to each other for 20 years. In the mean time, Gurban took care of his sisters and made many sacrifices to do it. When Lani turned 18 she had made the decision to leave Indonesia. This was not an easy task with the country basically run by a dictator and on the list of one of the tem most supressed populations in the world. The first thing Lani needed was all the required documents from her father and his signature. That just wasn't going to happen. So, along comes Gurban who found the required documents and signed for her as her father. Never got caught so after dealing with a lot of bribes and things, finally got out of Indonesia to start a life in Hong Kong. All because of Gurban. Every time she returned to Indonesia it was he who she visited first and foremost. She did all she could to help him with taking care of the others and then his own family.

Gurban left the bicycle repair business when he started a job at Pertamina Oil. Co, the largest state owned oil producer in Indonesia. He was a grunt that dedicated 40 years and worked his way up. He was a very well respected member of the organization. In Indonesia there is a mandatory retirement age and he hit it at 60. He received his pension that amounted to over Rp200,000,000 (US$20,000.00) and his monthly government pension of Rp2,000,000 (US$200.00). His marrage to his 1st wife ended in divorce but shortly after that his sister Evi set him up with her husbands half sister who stayed with her and did her cleaning. He couldn't sit still though. Foreign oil refineries operating in Indonesia had a need for him and approached him to work for them. He did so but it was hard work for a person of 60. in and out of oil tanks more often then need be but he was a hands on person and always wanted to ensure any work he was responsible for was done properly. After a couple years of that he did spend more time in the office but from time to time he would done the equipment and get in those tanks. Just the way he was.

Gurban was having some health problems though. He revealed to us that he was found a few times passed out in his apartment. (His work was in a different city then where his wife was located.) He was diagnosed to have a heart problem. Lani kept telling him he needed to start taking it easy. He really wanted to but sister Evie and his wife kept telling him to keep going. It was all about the money. So sad. Sure, he was an active person but he didn't need to be doing the hard work any more. He was pushed. A wife that seen him two days out of two weeks who had never spent a single day or night in his house and only stayed with Evie in her own room where Gurban also had to stay and a sister that constantly had him looking after all the maintenance problems with her properties since it was free and she knew he always wanted to be active. Again, so sad.

He would visit us every time he arrived in Jakarta. Bring us some bakery items he picked up and would drop them off for us before he went to see his wife because once they hit that house he would never see them again. Even though of the pushing and using him for whatever, he kept in good spirits and was always smiling. He really was a kind, good guy. He seemed to be the only one in Jakarta that knew we had to get away from that family there. He understood that Lani and I are a team and we will do what is best for the both of us. He also seemed to be the only one in the Jakarta family that respected me as his sister's husband. He was always in Lani's corner until the end.

Lani was in Jakarta right away for the burial. They said she had to stay 10 days in respect but she stayed 3 days because she had to look after me. The both of us are going to Jakarta for the 40 day ritual but only staying a couple days. The pressure for Lani to stay for Hari Raya has already started but she has told them that she will spend that event with her sisters and families here in Bandar Lampung. Lani is well aware that there are no housekeepers working at that time and she will be put to work by her sister cooking and looking after a bunch of people she doesn't even know. Nope, sister will just need to get up off her rear end and do somethings for herself. Maybe even use her own kids to help. OK, that won't happen. They may break a nail or get a finger dirty.

Take care Gurban. You will never be forgotten.

Friday, May 9, 2014

We're In!

Our New Home in Bandar Lampung, Sumatra
Hey hey. Finally have a house and all moved in. Git in the 20th of April but lease doesn't start until May 1, 2014 and goes for a year. Finally out of Jakarta and away from the biggest stress we could every have. Lani's sister. We really think she thought we would/could ever move away from her. She is so caught up in the world revolving around her she actually thinks no one can do anything without her permission. Surprise. My last words to her were, "try to start being nice to people." Of course, it was me that she really didn't like. I was the cause of all Lani's problems of not being rich enough to just go shopping all the time and spending money on unneeded things. She couldn't ever just see that she was the root of all Lani's problems. No worry now, we are gone and finally on our own. To be honest, this is the happiest I have seen Lani since our arrival in Indonesia.

Our Living room with our Rattan Furniture
Back to the house. It's a two bedroom around 1,100 sqft. 2 Bedroom with one bath. Has a main room and a living room, kitchen, and my favorite, a private back area blocked off to all except perhaps those over 12 feet tall since the brick walls are around 16 feet high. Another great thing was the price. About $860.00 for the year. Happy with that. Especially since it is a temporary thing while we can now take some time and find more of what we are looking for. We want something bigger. 3 or 4 bedroom and at least 2 baths. Should be able to find here for less then $2,500.00  per year. We'll just keep watching and Lani's family here are watching too. Our landlord wasn't too straight with us on a couple things so don't feel any obligation to them. The lease states that to sub let the property we need their permission. If we decide to end our lease early there is no money refunded even if it is re-rented. No problem, if we leave early we will just keep it until the end of the lease. With the price it won't be much of a loss.

Looking Towards our Front Door
While we did pick up some furnishings and appliances while we lived in Jakarta and moved them here via truck, we still need more. We were using Lani's brother's bed and left that in Jakarta so we are looking for another. The rooms wouldn't have handled a bed that size any way. Looking around for a queen size bed. Right now we just have a couple thin mattresses we piked up on the floor. It will work for awhile but I don't think I can last too long on them. 20 dollars each so the price was right. Picked up a wardrobe and kitchen cabinet too. Will pick up another wardrobe this weekend. One thing about Indonesian houses no matter when or where they were built. No closets. So, we need to put stuff away. Especially clothes. Kitchen cabinets are also something somewhat rare. So, got something to help out in that department too. More to come in that line too. Everything we pick up will be easy to move to the next place.

My Back Yard with Our Gravity Fed Water Tank
Now comes the job of getting pictures hung along with our Indonesian Artwork and a few special decorations. Lani points and I place a nail into the concrete wall. Everything here is made of concrete. After that hopefully the curtains Lani had made will be ready to hang. When Lani looked at the house there were curtains everywhere and when we arrived there were none. Would have been nice for the land lord to tell her they were being removed. Renting here is nothing like renting in the US. Besides the structure, plumbing, and electricity, every other bit of maintenance falls on the tenant. If this house had A/C, hot water heaters or anything else coming with it, it would be our responsibility to repair if something broke. This house didn't come with anything so we don't need to worry about that so much. These are items we are installing maybe and will take with us when we leave. I do believe the landlord thinks we are going to upgrade his house for his benefit but I guess he is in for a surprise. Not going to happen. All improvements will be only things we can remove and either take with us if we need or sell if we don't. Of course, to do these improvements we need enough electricity to power them. There is a problem.

Our Makeshift Bedroom
I asked the Landlord how much wattage the house currently had. He said it was 1,300. OK, that's normal for many houses. Can work with that and I figured we could upgrade at our expense to 2.200. Yes, electricity is measured by wattage here and not amps. Well, upon further inspection on my own and a member of the local electrical utility, my current wattage is only 900. not even enough to run two appliances at the same time let alone an A/C or hot water heater. Cost to upgrade is more then double what I first was figuring. Landlord and I need to have a talk but these things are normally just ignored. Perhaps a sign that we won't mind getting out earlier then planned. We will make due for the mean time. Still happy.

From the Front Room towards the Kitchen
One thing I will add for now is a water booster pump. We have a gravity fed water tank that is filled from our well. It is too low to get much pressure from so I am going to add a water pressure booster pump. The water from the shower inside barely trickles out. Sucks. Of course, in my always occurring problem solving thinking, I remedied that. A large 55 gallon dark colored plastic trash can with a large dipper does it for me. I fill it in the morning and by mid day with the sun on it, I have a nice warm bunch of water. Outdoor showers, what could be better. One of these days I will get a good hard rain and see what that feels like. Ahhh, privacy. You don't know how important it is until you don't have it. Well, I do now. When I get the booster pump in, I will put in a shower outside. Just something about showering and looking at the stars at the same time.

The Beginning of Our Kitchen
No matter the little set backs we face right now or the major ones we had before, we feel great and are happy. The ocean is 30 minutes away as well as most family. Speaking of family here, what a difference then those in Jakarta. So nice and go out of there way to help in any way they can. I think they are pretty surprised that we are not sit still people and have already been out exploring some of the local bus routes and shopping places. Old people are supposed to stay at home and mind their manors. I guess we are about to give them some new experiences.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Palembang and Lampung

Greetings long lost sufferers of not seeing anything new here for quite some time. My apologies. Nothing much really going on that was different from before. Same old crap with the Sister in Law from Hell trying to control our lives in every way possible. That seems to have finally come to an end as you will read here if you can hang around awhile. In the mean time, let's catch up, shall we?

Gurdip, Lani, and Karmi
We made a visit to Lani's home city of Palembang and to Lampung where she has even more family living. I was very fortunate to finally meet the two sisters that I have never met. Gurdip and Karmi. I have to say I was a bit nervous but not for the typical reasons of meeting someone for the first time. More on the order of meeting other sisters with just the one sister so far as an example. I was basically worried they would be additional witches to the family. Ha, I was completely wrong. What great people and as warm as the temperature actually is here. Very welcoming and the first time I actually felt like family here. Matter of fact, sometimes I almost felt like a celebrity but I tried to not let that go to my head. Well, not too much. What a 180 degree turn this was to what I was used to.

View of Lampung from the Hotel
We didn't tell anyone in Jakarta we were headed there. They knew we wanted to go but not so much that we were set on it. Wicked sister actually told us that she would go with us. We even said OK even knowing that she only wanted to visit one place and keep us from others. If she were there she would have tried to control every movement we made. I planned the trip with her in mind but it seemed the date she was telling us ended up being the same time she was planning on going to Turkey. I guess she wasn't serious and was unable to actually tell us the truth. It was just a way to try and control what we were doing and she figured we would put off any plans to visit the other sisters. So, being the good brother in law that I am not, I made the arrangements any how and after I did, I told Lani. She was thrilled. The sister took off telling us she was headed someplace completely different then she actually went and we said we would be home. Didn't happen.

Boys Playing in the Water
We headed to Lampung first where we met Lani's sister Gurdip. What a warm wonderful welcoming lady. A year older then Lani but acts like an older sister of even more years the that. Gurdip has 6 sons, all grown and married except one who hasn't found the right girl yet. The majority of the family live right next to the ocean. A busy, loud, exciting place where everyone knows everybody and is as friendly as can be even if they have no idea of who you are. Immediately Lani's nieces started with the "you have to move here" thing. You must live here. Come with us for a walk, see, this house is available, over here there is a house available all while meeting smiling people along the way. While it may be a little bit too noisy and busy for us, it was so nice to see all the friendly people. We ate great food in Gurdip's house and from the a couple of the neighborhood warungs. (little stores and carts) Much cleaner then the same in Jakarta it seems and the people running the warungs are set on making your experience a good one. I wasn't even worried about food poisoning like I do when around the same in Jakarta.

Captain Lani
We took a little boat trip around some of Lampung's huge harbor. It is a major port for items going into and out of Sumatra. Some tankers fill and empty there too. No sign of any kind of petroleum product in the water. We headed out at high tide it seems because after making some rounds we tied up the boat to an underwater pipeline and walked back to the dock. Water was only calf deep at that time. Took us about 15 minutes to walk in. Water is really warm. Lots of little fish swimming around. I was told many bigger fish right in the deeper harbor waters and when you head south to the Sunda Straight, fishing is excellent. I did not get to see Krakatoa on this trip but it remains on my to do list. Was fun to see the kids playing in the water and they seemed to have only one thing on their mind. To have fun. In contrast to Jakarta, so many kids are kept inside big walls having very little contact with other children until they go to school. Their entire young childhood is spent in a mature world and I just don't see where this is beneficial to them at all.

Easy Travel in Both Lampung and Palembang. His Poor Legs.
After a couple days in Lampung we headed North to Palembang via train. The family in Jakarta now knows where we are after they called looking for us and a posting on Facebook by Lani. Needless to say, those wheels were spinning and the evil one has been notified. Let's just say that if she was having a nice time in Turkey, that probably came to an abrupt stop and she turned into a pile of nerves knowing she is stuck there until after our return to Jakarta. Too bad. We did get a call from Lani's brother about the dangers of taking the train and bad people around. Well, we knew that. That is exactly why we take executive class and not economy. No one can get in our car except ticket holders. Even when the train comes to like 20 stops along it"s 10 hour route. Most in our car was sleeping since we took the overnight train. No one even talked to us. They were too busy sleeping or texting people on their phones. Actually wasn't that bad of trip except for the time it takes.

The Most Common and Dangerous form of Transportation.
We pulled into Palembang early in the morning and Lani's nephew Yantl was there to meet up and take us to her sister Karmi's house in Sungai Grong, Palembang. This is where Lani grew up and the house her Mother had her store located. They had another house on the Pertamina Oil Compound but we couldn't get access to that area because that housing is only for upper management. From what I could tell, they were some very nice looking houses in that area. But, Lani remembers her Mother's store and the living quarters associated with it very well. This is where she spent most of her time as a kid since this is where her mother was. The building still stands and surprising, a couple of the people that she knew when she was a young child still live next door and remember her. They are in their 80s now but seem pretty sharp. The area has changed some and her sister doesn't use the same amount of space her Mother did for the store. More has been converted to storage and living quarters. It is more run down now and it was expected. He sister has struggled financially and just gets by. She could do better but unfortunately, her daughter needs medication that runs about the same as $100.00 US per month. For some people, that is a total months wage. The daughter comes first and always will. She will never be on her own and will never be able to bring in her own income. Eventually, her brother, Lani;s nephew, will take over her care. That is just how things are done.

A Potato Vendor in Palembang
We stayed a couple nights in a hotel. The Swiss BellInn. Nice place. Great view from the hill top. The city wasn't very modern as many cities in Indonesia seem to have been leaning towards with the growth of the middle class. The only thing that I would consider modern was the stadium area they built for the SE Asian Games held there a couple years ago. While I do admit, I didn't see all of the city, what I did see seemed a bit drab. The traffic too was getting to a point I wouldn't be comfortable being in as a driver. Too much congestion. I do admit that the street condition seemed good and kept in repair. Unlike what I have seen in many other areas. I think the city needs some color. They did have lots of monuments and fountains to all kinds of things Indonesia. Actually stopping to look at them is a different story because it seems traffic is all around them. unfortunate.

Well, you need to get Your Goods to Market Somehow.
Of course Lani did get some shopping in at a Bazar of sorts at a place called Pasar 16. She found a couple formal type Indonesian dresses made of lace over batik for about $8.00 each. Of course, other things were found in her adventure also. That was on our last day. The giggest landmark in Palembang is the Ampara bridge. Crossed it many times in our trips around town but it needs to be seen at night. Very pretty with it;s changing colored LEDs lighting it up. Had diner next to it on a boat called River Side. Good food. Speaking of food. Part of our trip was to seek out some of the gratest food on earth. At least according to Lani. Matarbak and Pempek Palembang. Matarbak being many ingredients of your choice folded into a flat bread and covered with Curry sauce. Oh so delicious. Came with the Indians that stayed in the area after WWII. Highly recommended to everyone. Pempek Palembang is the most special item in this area. Many immitations and claims of the same all over Indonesia but they really don't compare. Palembang is also known for the Ikan Kurupek. (fish chips) and are sought after all over the place. Pempek Palembang is Tengarry (Wahoo) fish mixed with tapioca flour and formed into shapes or surrounds something like an egg. It is then boiled and then fried until just crisp on the outside. Served with a sauce called Cuka. Sooooo good. It has a very light fish taste and that indicates the fish used was fresh. Found in other parts of Indonesia including Jakarta the fish seems much stronger and isn't that desirable. Lots of places you pass in Palembang offer particular sized packages of the various Pempek for shipping. People all over Indonesia order it regularly. We brought back a couple boxes. Hope they get a through until Mid April. Then we will pick up some more. Of course, we had to give some to the witches family. She got home the day after us and while she was really up set, she still demanded more then what we gave to her.

A Palembang Street
Well, we arrived back home in Jakarta and everything was peaceful. The following day we took some goodies up to the sisters house. Many were there and we found out that she returned that morning. I guess she didn't want to tell Lani. No problem. We ended up taking more from our stash for her then planned but we knew she was upset. The next day. KABOOM. Lani seen her sister. You see, Lani had put pictures of herself and me along with family from Lampung and Palembang on Facebook. That was forbidden. Lani was told she was not allowed to put anyone from Lampung or Palembang on Facebook. It seems the sis in law was ashamed of her family. They were not rich so they were a disgrace to her. She yelled, screamed, and cries but Lani finally said enough is enough. Lani stood her ground and explained that she is not the little sister here and will not tolerate her younger sister to speak to her that way. Sister in law just kept rambling on about Lani being Jealous of her and the things she buys. Lani laughed at that and tried to say she really didn't care. She had never asked about anything she bought while she was the one to always pull things out and make sure everyone knows what she paid for them. Lani said she was just a show off. Not going down well. Lani was leaving and refusing her sister the upper hand now. He sister insisted that the pictures be removed from Facebook because some of her in laws seen them and now have questions about her not coming from a rich family. Funny thing is, there was no way for them to see any unless shown them by her or her lifelike daughter. So, I doubt anyone besides them even seen them. Lani came home and told me her sister wanted the pictures removed from FB. I asked what she wanted to do. She said she told her sister that she would make it so they can't be seen. I asked if she really wanted that. She said yes, take everyone off FB from Jakarta. Then they can no longer see anything. Lani said she was proud of her family and that they only one she is embarrassed by is the high and mighty one. She doesn't care the financial wealth of any of them. They are her family and that is all that matters. OK, we know the real reason the sister is upset and didn't want us to go to some places. She is really afraid that we will find out her entire life is a lie. Ha, Ha, we already knew that. She really tried hard to find out what all was said up there. Lani told her nothing was discussed about her. She called the sisters, they said the same. My sister in Law has not spoken to Lani now in a week. That is really a nice thing.

A House Along Side the Lampung Harbor. 
With all the crap that came down with her sister, Lani has finally decided we need to get out of Jakarta very soon. On the 5th of April she is off again to Lampung where her nieces are going to take her to look for houses to rent. Either we find the one we want and we sign for a year or we find something temporary for a few months until we do find what we want. We plan on being out of Jakarta by April 15 if we can. Already talked to moving people. Got a good deal. Haven't told anyone in the Jakarta family yet. That comes after Lani returns on the 7th if she finds a place. Family in Lampung are doing all they can to make sure we do. Finally, a place we feel we are wanted. Plus the ocean in my back yard, Woo Hoo.

That's all for now. With the move coming up there should be more and more to report on.

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Trip To Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Part Of Kuala Lumpur
 Tool a Visa trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia early September. Change of pace from my usual trips to Singapore. Plus, needed to stay a couple nights and hotels are cheaper and if I did this particular Visa run in Singapore I would have needed to stay three nights since the Indonesian Embassy takes one day longer in Singapore to process things. I'm glad I chose KL (Kuala Lumpur). It was a nice city for what I seen which was primarily the Bukit Bintang area.

Another View of KL
Once I arrived at the airport I took a taxi to my hotel. 79 Malaysian Ringgits pre priced. No meter for these. That's about 26 US Dollars. Nice ride. I noticed right away that there was a sharp contrast in motor bikes compared to Jakarta or Indonesia for that matter. I counted 31 of them heading in both directions on my ride to the hotel which took a little over an hour. In Jakarta would have been in the tens of thousands in that amount of time easily. People were driving in their own lanes and pretty much seemed to be following traffic laws. I kind of rate places by if I would drive there or not. I would drive in KL. Once settled in to the Hotel I unloaded some snacks I brought a long and that was dinner. The internet connection sucked in my room and I asked about it. I was told it was better if I came to the lobby to use it because when many people get on it the speed goes down for the rooms. Down? How about not at all? Oh well, I will get by. It did get better later on. Maybe people gave up on it. It was slow but it was there. When I'm in a strange city I have a tendency to not venture out from my hotel at night so I just watched a little BBC News, checked my normal sights on the net, ate my snakes and got ready for bed. Had to be up early in the morning to get to the Indonesian Embassy to get a number and then wait for it to be called. Made sure I had all my paperwork in order and slept.

Another View
Up early the next morning, took in the free breakfast that came with the room, and then off to the Embassy. Got a taxi in front of the hotel. Set price again, no meter used, MR29.00. About 10 US Dollars. 10 minutes later I arrived and figured that taxi drive was a rip off. Visitors are taken for granted when it comes to taxis there. Any way, arrived the Embassy, went up to the window for Visas, the nice lady looked at my paperwork and gave me a number. Asked that I go upstairs and await my number being called. Only 10 minutes and there it was. I went up to the window, was asked a couple questions, paid my fee of equal to US 65 dollars and was given a receipt. Asked to return the next day after 2:00 PM to pick up my Visa. OK, after the horror storied I heard about all the waiting and crap you had to go through I was a bit stunned. I just spent a little less then a half hour from Hotel to completing my application. My plans for sitting in the hot Embassy most of the day suddenly changed. Now it seems I have almost two full days with nothing to do. I have a map to the hotel and it says it it a 15 minute walk according to I think I will walk back. The taxi will probably just be another ripoff. So, off I went. The map was, well, OK. Took me an hour to walk it all dressed nice and in very uncomfortable dress shoes, in tropical heat. Fortunately, it was still a nice walk and it was always no sidewalks. Unheard of in Jakarta. Made it back to the hotel, immediately changed into shorts and a tee, decided it was time to eat.

KL City Highway
Decided to get some directions from the hotel front desk on where to head for some lunch and for grocery shopping. Yes, grocery shopping. Every country has some different offers from other countries and Indonesia has such a high tax on Imports you can normally find them for less in other countries. So, grocery hunting. The hotel while I'm sure disappointed I wasn't eating in their restaurant was still very nice in pointing some places out. I was mainly looking for Malaysian Curry since I do like that. They pointed the way for a place to try and it was on the way to the Grocery Store. When I say restaurant I say it loosely. They don't always have 4 walls with nice tables and chairs and a waitress to serve you. In this case what qualifies is an open front business with a few tables, a couple benches, and some plastic chairs scattered around. You sat down and told the guy standing next to some pots what you want. It's not a big selection since most of these types of establishments only offer one thing with some sides. I could choose my meat though and elected beef. I added some ice tea and in the end had a great filling meal. 3 US dollars. Two minutes after finishing and leaving I was at what is called Times Square. It is a 5 star hotel connected to a shopping center. I walked around looking at what they had and seen since it was an upscale mall i really shouldn't buy anything. I know that in more traditional  malls you can find the same things for half price or better. I headed to the grocery store. Not disappointed at all. First thing was the cheese. Good, yes good Australian Cheddar. Sharp and Extra Sharp. Got some of each. Save 4 US dollars per pound compared to Jakarta. Picked up some packaged sauces they offered as well as some other things that looked good I haven't seen in Jakarta since they are Malaysian flavors. Seen some bottles of Real Lemon Juice on a shelf. OMG, not seen at all in Jakarta. Gotta have one so in the basket it went. I wondered if they had wax paper? Another item we searched all over for and could not find in Jakarta. Yep, they sure did. Grabbed one of them. Greet Tea mouth wash? Always advertised on Indonesian TV but not available. Yep, there it was. I couldn't even find it in Singapore. I'm on a roll. Picked up some fancy snacks that I hadn't seen before and said enough. OK, bill was higher then I wanted to spend but not because of higher prices. I just grabbed more then planned. Worth it though.

Stores and Restaurants on the Bottom, Apartments Above.
When I went outside for my walk back to the hotel it was raining. Tropical countries don't have much for sprinkles. Downpours are more like it. Time for another taxi. I got in the taxi line behind a few other people that were waiting. I noticed the person getting in the taxi handed a ticket to the guy opening the taxi door. I asked what it was and was told that I needed a ticket from the taxi office inside to get in line. I went back in and asked for a ticket. It cost MR 2. Less then a dollar. I went back and got in line. My turn came up and told the taxi driver where I wanted to go. He said MR 27. I said we are only 5 minutes a way, I asked if her knew where my hotel is? He said he did so I insisted he use his meter. Reluctantly, he did. After 10 minutes of driving I asked him if he knew again. He said it was somewhere around here. He knew. Another 10 minutes and I again questioned him. He said it is close and he will just let me out at the corner. All I had to do was walk around the corner. I instructed him to take me to the right place because I recognize nothing in this part. He drove a little more and I got really upset and raised my voice. Suddenly he knew just where to go and took me to the front of the hotel. Price, MR 32. Another taxi ripoff. It ends up the MR 2 I paid to get in the taxi line was something the government started. It is them who charge for you to get in line. You can just go out and wave down a taxi without getting in line and save the MR 2. Just a government scam.

The Floor Directory in KWC
Put my cheese in the little fridge that came with the room. noticed it was turned all the way up and still warm. Asked the front desk to fix or replace and within 2 hours it was replaced. The replacement didn't do much better but a little cool is better then no cool. Cheese was going to make it. While I was at the hotel I acquired a brochure about KL with maps and pub-lick transportation routes. Low and behold, almost right across the street in a big while building that is partially shown on left side of the 2nd picture above. It is KWC and holds 800 discount stores and a vast selection of eateries. Off I went. 5-6 minutes and I was at the door. Wow, every floor just filled with clothing, shoes, bags, and jewelry. The top two floors had the most food establishments. The top is were I was headed. The non halal food. The non Muslim food. I looked around at many offerings and settled on the one that offered a multi selection of pork dishes. I had the rice and chose 3 different dishes. My, my. Was that absolutely delicious. another 3 US dollars spent. Very good. I walked around some more looking at all the items. No way was I going to be able to see it all. Perhaps another time when Lani and I both visit KL. Back to the Hotel.

Looking Down One Isle of Stores in KWC
After a good nights sleep in a very comfortable bed I must say, up and trying to figure out how to kill some time before check out and heading to the Embassy. After my included breakfast I got a What's App message from the sister in law I have mentioned before. She is looking for a particular chocolate mix. She sent a picture. A Nestles product. They have them everywhere in Jakarta. I said so. She insisted no, only where I am. OK, back to Times Square. I looked around and there was no Nestles Chocolate like that. No Nestles chocolate at all. This is a NESSLO item from Nestles. That is coffee. I asked her if it was coffee with chocolate. NO. I found the exact same color package with the exact same picture with each picture for each product being different. I sent her a copy. Yes, that is it. Buy it for me. I did. It is coffee. No chocolate. Geesh. Well, killed the time until checkout. Back to the hotel on foot now and got all my stuff together and went and checked out. It had dawned on me that my bottle of real lemon and green tea mouth wash was not going to go through security for carry on bags. I will just need to check my bag to get them home.

Chinese Traditional Fancy Dresses, $16.00
All checked out and now time to head to the Embassy. Got my bags so too weighed down to walk. Gotta pay another ripoff taxi. MR27 this time. The buses are nice and they are cheap but I failed to figure them out. I will some day. Arrived the Embassy at 12:30 PM. Figured I would get my number and get in early maybe. At least be one of the first. Got in line behind a German man and seen the sign that says closed from 12:30 to 2:00 for lunch. We waited. At least we would be first in line when they did open. The German had his luggage there and was waiting to see if he could get a number for Visa processing like I did the day prior. They only allow 120 a day so we didn't know if they had any left or not. We waited and watched the clock tick down. We seen the lady who handles the numbers on the way to her window. All of a sudden 3 guys from some Arab country run up and get right up to the window. The German guy grabs a suitcase and pushed=s two of them out of the way and trows his suitcase in front of them. The first guy starts to argue with him about how they have been waiting a long time for the lady. A long time in air conditioning while we waited in the heat. The lady handed the first guy a number but no one else was going before the German Guy and they didn't. They also did not even attempt to cut in front of me. They did get in behind me. Once I got my number I went upstairs. 2 minutes my number was called. I showed my reciept and was asked to wait. I sat down and in a few minutes my name was called and I had my new visa in hand. This Visa makes it where it is good for 60 days like the others but I can extend it for 30 days 4 times without leaving Indonesia. 6 months without that travel. So nice. Next is this week taking it and start the conversion to the KITAS where it will be good for one year and I can come and go as I please. No schedule and it is extended without leaving each year. Once I get that we will be changing to completely different Visa again where I won't have to renew for 5 years. A lot of upgrading and many don't need to depending on their status but will be worth it for us.

Some Shops in KWC