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

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Moving Plans. Finally

OK, finally have some plans for moving and as promised I am back here to let everyone know about them. So, here goes. As you can easily see from the above picture we will be finally headed to Batam to dig ourselves some roots to settle. This has been our plan for quite some time since our visiting there. In our little system of scoring possible places to live, Batam was top of the list for us. One nice thing though. In our position, if this ends up to not be as great as we thought, we can move someplace else. No problem.

When Hungry, Go Pick Something
What, are you asking when? Well, I'll tell you when. We are planning a visit the end of October to find a place to rent with the help of our niece who lives there, who will set up places for us to view. Then, we hope to start moving in the first part of November. Previously we didn't think we could move until after the first of the year due to needing to save up for a years house rent and the things we needed. We got so tired of Jakarta, the lack of things to do, and the bla bla bla bla from a certain sister in law that we sat down and asked each other how the hell can we get out of here sooner. We discussed that the best plan would be to find a Kost (like an apartment with private entrance but not in an apartment building. kind of a stand alone apartment) In Batam a 2 bedroom runs about US$100.00 to $150.00 per month. These are normally payable by the month. we figured we could just get a Kost and spend up to 3 months looking for the house we want. The house we were figuring would cost up between US$2,000.00 to $2,500.00 per year paid by the year. This way we could save up that amount while we looked and we could get away from here at least two months earlier then we planned. Then, our niece approached us who is helping us find a place and asked if we would be interested in living near her and her family. They have a rather newly constructed home and in a nice secure area. She said that being close she or her husband could help show us around until we got a good idea of where things where. It ends up the houses in her area for rent run between US$1,700.00 to $2,000.00 a year for a 3 bedroom which would be a better savings for us. She also said that she would help with the property owner to get them to allow us to make payments by quarter to start and by midway pay the remainder. That would make it possible for us to avoid the Kost and get a house so that is the plan now. We will go late October and look at houses. She has a list of things we are looking for in a house and a main thing is a yard. many home built any more do not have yards. A private space is a priority for us.

BCS Mall
We are planning on just selling our furniture we have before leaving to avoid the shipping cost and just ship some household products. We can buy what we need there. We won't need to furnish an entire house right away so we will will just work on what is needed to get started at first. There are a lot of shops and stores on Batam that pretty much cater to all needs. One of the Malls, BCS shown at left has a supermarket that carries mostly items from Singapore. You can't find these products for the most part in Jakarta due to their cost with the high Indonesian Import taxes. Batam is a tax free zone so it makes it where all imports are less there. Other Malls have a great assortment of things too. Then there are the shops run by locals located all over the place offering any kind of service, selection, and industry you can think of. If you are willing to look, you can find it. Of course asking others always gets you ideas on where to go.

A Batam Beach
Our Nieces husband is being really nice to us by offering me use of his motor cycle as long as we like. I tried to get him to rent or sell it to me since it is one he no longer uses since purchasing a new one. He refused but just asked that I keep it serviced which is no problem. It will be great to get back on the road again going where we want to go and not just following someone around wherever they want to go. Nice that Batam is nothing like Jakarta when it comes to traffic, road condition, and observation of traffic laws. More like but not quite like driving in the US. You are driving on the other side of the road here. I think I have that down and when I was in Japan never had any problem switching over. Now I will be able to check out all of Batam. Find some cozy surf fishing sites, visit some nice restaurants, and just enjoy the Island. Wanna come along?

Batam has some great restaurants. From local fare to Western fare. Especially good are many of the seafood places. The seafood is fresh and because of that very delicately flavored. You can't beat fresh caught fish or fresh harvested mussels.  There are seafood places all over the Island and up and down the Island chain, Out for a drive and just stop and enjoy some fresh shrimp or a nice fillet of your favorite saltwater fish. Stop for a burger or nasi goreng. Whatever your choice, it's close by. Stop in a nice four wall restaurant or an open air stall.

Ferry From Batam to Singapore and Back
So much to do and see. So much to enjoy. Finally relaxing and making my own schedule in retirement. Then, if you want to get away, jump on a ferry and head to Singapore or Malaysia. Want something more domestic then head to one of the smaller populated islands around Batam. Tanjung Balai is fantastic. If it had houses that we would have been interested in, it would have been our destination. At least we can easily fist there with a ferry ticket of around US$3.00. Singapore for US$17.00 one way. 28 round trip. Kuala Lumpur for 30.00 one way. Or, if you don't want to be on the water, fly for really low fairs to Malaysia, Thailand, or Singapore. Asia awaits you. From Batam you can explore all you like or just stay home and still enjoy yourself. What's not to love. Soon, we will be able to  accept our family and friends in our new home. Will it be you? We hope so.