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 Mapquest.com. 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.

Monday, August 12, 2013

How Time Flies

Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta
 My goodness, I didn't even realize how much time has gone by since I last posted anything on here. Sorry to everyone that reads this thing. Chalk it up to boredom, inactivity, and the lack of any interesting things to say. One thing I can assure everyone we know is that you are all kept close to our hearts and thoughts. They are still quite active. With that said We should update everyone on our experiences these past few months. The pictures I am including this time are of interest to the indonesian Muslim Community. No, I have not converted. 

Lani has managed to get all the documents she needed now. Of course, her sister took charge of that after some serious arguments about how things need to be done legally. In the end, it was all done her way at great cost to us instead of the legal way that would have cost much less. Her belief that you need to give everyone money before they even may ask for some type of coffee money is laughable. One example I will give is a document Lani needed to show we were married. Lani had asked that the document we obtained from the indonesian Consulate stating such be turned in to the Civil Office in Jakarta, She asked this on arrival. Her sister told her not to worry, she was family and there would be no problems to wait. After my arrival I stated there is a equivalent of US$50.00 fine for being late with this. Again it was no problem, you're family and it won't be a problem. Then came the get married here where I would need to convert to Islam tricks and when all failed and we insisted that we already have a document from the Consulate she gave in. Her and Lani went to the Civil Office. This happened after a daughter of the Brother in Laws first wife got involved and called a friend they could see. He took all the documents she needed to turn in and said he would have it ready in 2 days for her. Normally takes 10 days. After two days they returned again without me even though he requested to meet me and Lani was informed by her sister that she should place US$150.00 in an envelope for this person so for his efforts and for preferred future needs. Lani went through the roof but in the end put $100.00 in an envelope for him. He gave her the document she needed and her sister took the envelope and slid it to him. He refused it but she insisted saying it was the least SHE could do for his help of her sister. She took full credit for the payment. He said he was doing it because of a family favor but she said no. I see it as stupid. Doing it legally which it was would have cost us US$50.00 but ended up costing us US$100.00. Sister ended up with credit for payment and his phone number for when she needed something in the future. Seems to be the way she does everything. She seen what I will need to do with a future visa and stated that I won't need to do things like that. She knows a better way. I just said that when it comes to my visa stuff, I will take care of it myself. Just what I need, someone trying to circumvent the legalities of getting a visa done legally. I don't need those problems.

A Smaller Mosque or Mosjid
OK, what has happened lately. The biggest thing I guess would be the month long celebration of Ramadan followed by Lebaran. Now, I am no expert but from what I could observe and was somewhat a part of on occasion it is really important. Something similar to the US's Holiday Season. Ramadan is a month of daylight fasting which includes no water, smoking, or basically anything ingested. Needless to say in a tropical country by afternoon people are pretty sluggish. then, when dusk comes they have a small meal of sweats and snacks with sweet drinks to break the fast. They then pray for 30 minutes to and hour depending on the day or purpose of the prayers. After prayers they have a big meal. Later they all seem to eat again but Indonesians who can seem to eat 6 times a day any way. They get some sleep and about 3:30 AM kids go wild in the streets banging on everything they can and yelling as loudly as they can. It's time to get up and have the prefast meal. My goodness. I only went to one of these and they do stuff themselves just as the night before. People did try to convince me that it was a healthy way to lose weight. I looked up a few things on it and found that many actually gain weight. A huge meal right before you sleep, a meal of sweets and drinks, and sweets throughout the nigh doesn't seem healthy to me. I am told that the fast it remind everyone of the plight of the poor who have not. Sure, you think about them and then go stuff yourself with everything they can't have. Makes sense to me, NOT. Out of respect I did go one time to the Masjid with my Brother in Law. When we arrived you could see his position there was very high which is what I expected. Everyone got up to greet us and then made sure there was room right in the front next to the Imam facing everyone else. The Imam gives his words of wisdom and then everyone goes washes according to the Quran and then goes into the prayer room. I elected to stay outside of that and wait. I was trying to get my legs to work again. Everyone here from birth are able to squat their butts to the floor flat footed, kneel down and sit on their feet, and sit with perfectly flat cross legged posture. I can not. I get my butt on the floor, cross my ankles and let my knees stick up quite a bit. Even that way my hips are killing me. Those positions are not designed for a wide body with no experience. Take the discomfort and them make it five fold since all the well wishing helpfull people want to aid in pushing your legs flatter basically making it feel like your a wish bone of some kind. Oh the pain. But, I did get through that and refused all invitations to attend again. indonesians do this in there homes also. They are supposed to pray 5 times a day. Most don't and you can see some changes with the traditions with-in the younger generations. Perhaps they are figuring out it is a religion written for and designed for desert living a thousand years ago. Unfortunately, there is a strong influence from the older Islamic leaders here. Finally, Ramadan passes and then Lebaran starts. 2 days of family. 

Inside a Prayer Room of a Smaller Mosjid
Being associated with the more well to do family with Lani's sister and the fact that image is her highest priority, everyone comes to visit her house. The day starts out at 5:30 when everyone attends the service at the Mosjid (while I stayed home and protected the properties from the less fortunate.) Then the immediate family starts arriving and it's food and party time for the entire day. Good food, nice visits. Day 2 was a stay at home day for us. The previous day was long and quite tiring. Well, it didn't last. After a phone call we were back to the sisters house and finding out it was time for the Brother in Law's family to come. It seems that even though he is a brother in law, we are immediately related to all his family. We were being called brother, sister, aunti, and uncle.  Let's see, his father had three wives, they had 18 children now aged from 68 down to 35. They all had children of course. Needless to say, there were a lot of people and we had a family that suddenly grew very fast. We did get through that day. Lani was assigned to wait on people since she is normally lowered to house staff status when other are around so she doesn't get to know anyone in a friendly way. I was assigned to be the token while guy for show and tell I guess. Finally, this years celebration ended and things are back to normal. We have finalized our move plans and have moved them up some. Will write about those in the next couple days.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Updates and the Incredible Batik

OK, quickly, the New Jakarta ID for Lani says single. Go figure. We will fit once we move. best to just do things ourselves so to get it done right.

Finances: You live and die from the decisions you make in life. While an outside force hurt us, still our decision to put that outside force in the position she elected to abuse. So we just go on as best we can. Face the bad stuff when it comes. one way or another we will get to the point of doing what we originally set out to do. Hopefully we will be able to enjoy it when it happens.

As for the entitled that we are related to. I will just say it is a shame when one has to spend their life trying to figure out which lie they are living today to be able to get their way. Some day I can see that world collapsing and all I can say is too bad. You did it to yourself.

Now, let's get to some fun stuff. OK? Like Batik. Everyone has geard of it but do they really know what it is? With todays technology and seeing all the batic in bulk material, ready made clothes, and decorations covered in it. one may think it all would just come off of some type of material printing process all automated by computers and robots. one couldn't be farther from the truth, Even the largest Manufacturer of Batik in Indonesia, Keris Batik still does everything by hand. They have brought in computers but that is only for office and design work. Everything else is by intricate hand work.
A Ten Picture Slide Show This shows the process.

Batik, the Fabric Heart of Indonesia

A very Small Selection of Batik Material
It would be impossible to visit or live in Indonesia and not be exposed to one of the country's most highly developed art forms, batik. On your first visit to a batik store or factory you will undoubtedly experience an overwhelming stimulation of the senses - due to the many colors, patterns and the actual smell of batik. Only through repeated visits and a bit of study will the types of designs and their origins become apparent.
The word batik is thought to be derived from the word 'ambatik' which translated means 'a cloth with little dots'. The suffix 'tik' means little dot, drop, point or to make dots. Batik may also originate from the Javanese word 'tritik' which describes a resist process for dying where the patterns are reserved on the textiles by tying and sewing areas prior to dying, similar to tie dye techniques. Another Javanese phase for the mystical experience of making batik is “mbatik manah” which means “drawing a batik design on the heart”. 

A Brief History

Although experts disagree as to the precise origins of batik, samples of dye resistance patterns on cloth can be traced back 1,500 years ago to Egypt and the Middle East. Samples have also been found in Turkey, India, China, Japan and West Africa from past centuries. Although in these countries people were using the technique of dye resisting decoration, within the textile realm, none have developed batik to its present day art form as the highly developed intricate batik found on the island of Java in Indonesia.
Although there is mention of 'fabrics highly decorated' in Dutch transcripts from the 17th century, most scholars believe that the intricate Javanese batik designs would only have been possible after the importation of finely woven imported cloth, which was first imported to Indonesia from India around the 1800s and afterwards from Europe beginning in 1815. Textile patterns can be seen on stone statues that are carved on the walls of ancient Javanese temples such as Prambanan (AD 800), however there is no conclusive evidence that the cloth is batik. It could possibly be a pattern that was produced with weaving techniques and not dying. What is clear is that in the 19th century batik became highly developed and was well ingrained in Javanese cultural life.
Some experts feel that batik was originally reserved as an art form for Javanese royalty. Certainly it's royal nature was clear as certain patterns were reserved to be worn only by royalty from the Sultan's palace. Princesses and noble women may have provided the inspiration for the highly refined design sense evident in traditional patterns. It is highly unlikely though that they would be involved in any more than the first wax application. Most likely, the messy work of dyeing and subsequent waxings was left to court artisans who would work under their supervision.
Javanese royalty were known to be great patrons of the arts and provided the support necessary to develop many art forms, such as silver ornamentation, wayang kulit (leather puppets) and gamelan orchestras. In some cases the art forms overlap. The Javanese dalang(puppeteer) not only was responsible for the wayang puppets but was also an important source of batik patterns. Wayang puppets are usually made of goat skin, which is then perforated and painted to create the illusion of clothing on the puppet. Used puppets were often sold to eager ladies who used the puppets as guides for their batik patterns. They would blow charcoal through the holes that define the patterns of clothing on the puppets, in order to copy the intricate designs onto the cloth.
Other scholars disagree that batik was only reserved as an art form for royalty, as they also feel its use was prevalent with therakyat, the people. It was regarded an important part of a young ladies accomplishment that she be capable of handling a canting (the pen-like instrument used to apply wax to the cloth) with a reasonable amount of skill, certainly as important as cookery and other housewifery arts to Central Javanese women.

Selection and Preparation of the Cloth for Batik

A Lot of the Batik Material is Still Hand Woven
Natural materials such as cotton or silk are used for the cloth, so that it can absorb the wax that is applied in the dye resisting process. The fabrics must be of a high thread count (densely woven). It is important that cloth of high quality have this high thread count so that the intricate design qualities of batik can be maintained.
The cloth that is used for batik is washed and boiled in water many times prior to the application of wax so that all traces of starches, lime, chalk and other sizing materials are removed. Prior to the implementation of modern day techniques, the cloth would have been pounded with a wooden mallet or ironed to make it smooth and supple so it could best receive the wax design. With the finer machine-made cotton available today, the pounding or ironing processes can be omitted. Normally men did this step in the batik process.
Strict industry standards differentiate the different qualities of the cloth used today, which include Primissima (the best) and Prima. The cloth quality is often written on the edge of the design. A lesser quality cloth which is often used in Blaco.

Batik Design Tools

Although the art form of batik is very intricate, the tools that are used are still very simple. The canting, believed to be a purely Javanese invention, is a small thin wall spouted copper container (sometimes called a wax pen) that is connected to a short bamboo handle. Normally it is approximately 11 cm. in length. The copper container is filled with melted wax and the artisan then uses the canting to draw the design on the cloth.
Canting have different sizes of spouts (numbered to correspond to the size) to achieve varied design effects. The spout can vary from 1 mm in diameter for very fine detailed work to wider spouts used to fill in large design areas. Dots and parallel lines may be drawn with canting that have up to 9 spouts. Sometimes a wad of cotton is fastened over the mouth of the canting or attached to a stick that acts as a brush to fill in very large areas.

Wajan

The wajan is the container that holds the melted wax. It looks like a small wok. Normally it is made of iron or earthenware. The wajan is placed on a small brick charcoal stove or a spirit burner called an 'anglo'. The wax is kept in a melted state while the artisan is applying the wax to the cloth.

Wax

Different kinds and qualities of wax are used in batik. Common waxes used for batik consist of a mixture of beeswax, used for its malleability, and paraffin, used for its friability. Resins can be added to increase adhesiveness and animal fats create greater liquidity.
The best waxes are from the Indonesian islands of Timor, Sumbawa and Sumatra; three types of petroleum-based paraffin (white, yellow and black) are used. The amounts mixed are measured in grams and vary according to the design. Wax recipes can be very closely guarded secrets. Varying colors of wax make it possible to disguise different parts of the pattern through the various dying stages. Larger areas of the pattern are filled in with wax that is cheaper quality and the higher quality wax is used on the more intricately detailed sections of the design.
The wax must be kept at the proper temperature. A wax that is too cool will clog the spout of the canting. A wax that is too hot will flow too quickly and be uncontrollable. The artisan will often blow into the spout of the canting before applying wax to the cloth in order to clear the canting of any obstructions.

Cap

Using a Cap to Lay Out a Pattern
Creating batik is a very time consuming craft. To meet growing demands and make the fabric more affordable to the masses, in the mid-19th century the . cap. (copper stamp - pronounced chop) was developed. This invention enabled a higher volume of batik production compared to the traditional method which entailed the tedious application of wax by hand with a canting.
Each cap is a copper block that makes up a design unit. Cap are made of 1.5 cm wide copper stripes that are bent into the shape of the design. Smaller pieces of wire are used for the dots. When complete, the pattern of copper strips is attached to the handle.




A Closer Look at Cap Work
The cap must be precisely made. This is especially true if the pattern is to be stamped on both sides of the fabric. It is imperative that both sides of the cap are identical so that pattern will be consistent.
Sometimes cap are welded between two grids like pieces of copper that will make a base for the top and the bottom. The block is cut in half at the center so the pattern on each half is identical. Cap vary in size and shape depending on the pattern they are needed for. It is seldom that a cap will exceed 24 cm in diameter, as this would make the handling too difficult.
Men usually handle the application of wax using cap. A piece of cloth that involves a complicated design could require as many as ten sets of cap. The usage of cap, as opposed to canting, to apply the wax has reduced the amount of time to make a cloth.
Today, batik quality is defined by cap or tulis, the second meaning hand-drawn designs which use a canting, or kombinasi, a combination of the two techniques.

Dyes

Traditional colors for Central Javanese batik were made from natural ingredients and consisted primarily of beige, blue, brown and black.
The oldest color that was used in traditional batik making was blue. The color was made from the leaves of the Indigo plant. The leaves were mixed with molasses sugar and lime and left to stand overnight. Sometimes sap from the Tinggi tree was added to act as a fixing agent. Lighter blue was achieved by leaving the cloth in the dye bath for short periods of time. For darker colors, the cloth would be left in the dye bath for days and may have been submerged up to 8 - 10 times a day.
In traditional batik, the second color applied was a brown color called soga. The color could range from light yellow to a dark brown. The dye came from the bark of the Soga tree. Another color that was traditionally used was a dark red color called mengkuda. This dye was created from the leaves of the Morinda Citrifolia.
The final hue depended on how long the cloth was soaked in the dye bath and how often it was dipped. Skilled artisans can create many variations of these traditional colors. Aside from blue, green would be achieved by mixing blue with yellow; purple was obtained by mixing blue and red. The soga brown color mixed with indigo would produce a dark blue-black color.

Design Process

The outline of the pattern is blocked out onto the cloth, traditionally with charcoal or graphite. Traditional batik designs utilize patterns handed down over the generations. It is very seldom that an artisan is so skilled that he can work from memory and would not need to draw an outline of the pattern before applying the wax. Often designs are traced from stencils or patterns called pola. Another method of tracing a pattern onto a cloth is by laying the cloth on a glass table that is illuminated from below which casts a shadow of the pattern onto the cloth. The shadow is then traced with a pencil. In large batik factories today, men usually are in charge of drawing the patterns onto the cloth.

Waxing

Canting with Wax
Once the design is drawn out onto the cloth it is then ready to be waxed. Wax is applied to the cloth over the areas of the design that the artisan wishes to remain the original color of the cloth. Normally this is white or cream.
Female workers sit on a low stool or on a mat to apply the wax with a canting. The fabric that they are working on is draped over light bamboo frames called gawangan to allow the freshly applied wax to cool and harden. The wax is heated in the wajan until it is of the desired consistency. The artisan then dips her canting into the wax to fill the bowl of the canting.
Artisans use the wax to retrace the pencil outline on the fabric. A small drop cloth is kept on the woman. s lap to protect her from hot dripping wax. The stem of the canting is held with the right hand in a horizontal position to prevent any accidental spillage, which greatly reduces the value of the final cloth. The left hand is placed behind the fabric for support. The spout does not touch the fabric, but it held just above the area the artisan is working on. To ensure the pattern is well defined, batik is waxed on both sides. True tulisbatik is reversible, as the pattern should be identical on both sides.
The most experienced artisans normally do first waxings. Filling in of large areas may be entrusted to less experienced artisans. Mistakes are very difficult to correct. If wax is accidentally spilt on the cloth, the artisan will try to remove the unwanted wax by sponging it with hot water. Then a heated iron rod with a curved end is used to try and lift off the remaining wax. Spilled wax can never be completely removed so it is imperative that the artisans are very careful.
If the cap method is utilized, this procedure is normally done by men. The cap are dipped into melted wax. Just under the surface of the melted wax is a folded cloth approximately 30 centimeters square. When this cloth is saturated with wax it acts like a stamp pad. Thecap is pressed into the fabric until the design side of the cap is coated with wax. The saturated cap is then stamped onto the fabric, leaving the design of the cap. This process is repeated until the entire cloth is covered. Often cap and canting methods are combined on the same piece of cloth.
Better quality batik may be waxed utilizing canting in one part of Indonesia and then sent to another part of Indonesia where the cappart of the process is completed. On better quality cap fabric great care is taken to match the pattern exactly. Lower grade batik is characterized by overlapping lines or lightened colored lines indicating the cap was not applied correctly.

Dyeing

Canting With a Steady Hand
After the initial wax has been applied, the fabric is ready for the first dye bath. Traditionally dying was done in earthenware tubs. Today most batik factories use large concrete vats. Above the vats are ropes with pulleys that the fabric is draped over after it has been dipped into the dye bath.
The waxed fabric is immersed in the dye bath of the first color. The amount of time it is left in the bath determines the hue of the color; darker colors require longer periods or numerous immersions. The fabric is then put into a cold water bath to harden the wax.
When the desired color has been achieved and the fabric has dried, wax is reapplied over the areas that the artisan wishes to maintain the first dye color or another color at a later stage in the dying process.
When an area that has been covered with wax previously needs to be exposed so that it can be dyed, the applied wax is scraped away with a small knife. The area is then sponged with hot water and resized with rice starch before it is re-immersed in the subsequent dye bath.
Think of this design Repeated Over and Over for Meters and Meters.
If a marble effect is desired, the wax is intentionally cracked before being placed in the dye bath. The dye seeps into the tiny cracks that create the fine lines that are characteristic of batik. Traditionally, cracks were a sign of inferior cloth especially on indigo color batik. On brown batik, however, the marble effect was accepted.
The number of colors in batik represents how many times it was immersed in the dye bath and how many times wax had to be applied and removed. A multicolored batik represents a lot more work that a single or two-color piece. Numerous dye processes are usually reflected in the price of the cloth. Nowadays, chemical dyes have pretty much replaced traditional dyes, so colors are endless and much more liberally used.

Special Treatments to the Batik Cloth

Prada or Gold Cloth

For special occasions, batik was formerly decorated with gold lead or gold dust. This cloth is known as Prada cloth. Gold leaf was used in the Jogjakarta and Surakarta area. The Central Javanese used gold dust to decorate their Prada cloth. It was applied to the fabric using a handmade glue consisting of egg white or linseed oil and yellow earth. The gold would remain on the cloth even after it had been washed. The gold could follow the design of the cloth or could take on its own design. Older batiks could be given a new look by applying gold to them. Gold decorated cloth is still made today; however, gold paint has replaced gold dust and leaf.

Batik Designs

A Local Indonesian Model Showing Off a Batik Desig
Although there are thousands of different batik designs, particular designs have traditionally been associated with traditional festivals and specific religious ceremonies. Previously, it was thought that certain cloth had mystical powers to ward off ill fortune, while other pieces could bring good luck.

Certain batik designs are reserved for brides and bridegrooms as well as their families. Other designs are reserved for the Sultan and his family or their attendants. A person's rank could be determined by the pattern of the batik he/she wore.
In general, there are two categories of batik design: geometric motifs (which tend to be the earlier designs) and free form designs, which are based on stylized patterns of natural forms or imitations of a woven texture. Nitik is the most famous design illustrating this effect.
Certain areas are known for a predominance of certain designs. Central Javanese designs are influenced by traditional patterns and colors. Batik from the north coast of Java, near Pekalongan and Cirebon, have been greatly influenced by Chinese culture and effect brighter colors and more intricate flower and cloud designs.
High fashion designs drawn on silk are very popular with wealthy Indonesians. These exceptionally high-quality pieces can take months to create and costs hundreds of dollars.

Kawung

Kawung is another very old design consisting of intersecting circles, known in Java since at least the thirteenth century. This design has appeared carved into the walls of many temples throughout Java such as Prambanan near Jogjakarta and Kediri in East Java. For many years, this pattern was reserved for the royal court of the Sultan of Jogjakarta. The circles are sometimes embellished inside with two or more small crosses or other ornaments such as intersecting lines or dots. It has been suggested that the ovals might represent flora such as the fruit of the kapok (silk cotton) tree or the aren (sugar palm).

Ceplok

Ceplok is a general name for a whole series of geometric designs based on squares, rhombs, circles, stars, etc. Although fundamentally geometric, ceplok can also represent abstractions and stylization of flowers, buds, seeds and even animals. Variations in color intensity can create illusions of depth and the overall effect is not unlike medallion patterns seen on Turkish tribal rugs. The Indonesian population is largely Muslim, a religion that forbids the portrayal of animal and human forms in a realistic manner. To get around this prohibition, the batik worker does not attempt to express this matter in a realistic form. A single element of the form is chosen and then that element is repeated again and again in the pattern.

Parang

Parang was once used exclusively by the royal courts of Central Java. It has several suggested meanings such as 'rugged rock', 'knife pattern' or 'broken blade'. The Parang design consists of slanting rows of thick knife-like segments running in parallel diagonal bands. Parang usually alternated with narrower bands in a darker contrasting color. These darker bands contain another design element, a line of lozenge-shaped motifs call mlinjon. There are many variations of this basic striped pattern with its elegant sweeping lines, with over forty parang designs recorded. The most famous is the 'Parang Rusak' which in its most classical form consisting of rows of softly folded parang. This motif also appears in media other than batik, including woodcarving and as ornamentation on gamelan musical instruments.

Washing Batik

Harsh chemical detergents, dryers and drying of fabrics in the sun may fade the colors in batik. Traditionally dyed batiks should be washed in soap for sensitive fabrics, such as Woolite, Silky or Halus. Fine batik in Indonesia is washed with the lerak fruit which can be purchased at most traditional markets. A bottled version of this detergent is also available at batik stores. Be sure to line dry batik in a shady area and not in direct sunlight. Now that you have a complete understanding of the Batik process, here is a video on the process for you. Just Click Here

Modern Batik

Modern batik, although having strong ties to traditional batik, utilizes linear treatment of leaves, flowers and birds. These batiks tend to be more dependent on the dictates of the designer rather than the stiff guidelines that have guided traditional craftsmen. This is also apparent in the use of color that modern designers use. Artisans are no longer dependent on traditional (natural) dyes, as chemical dyes can produce any color that they wish to achieve. Modern batik still utilizes canting and cap to create intricate designs.
Fashion designers such as Iwan Tirta have aggressively introduced batik into the world fashion scene. They have done much to promote the Indonesian art of batik dress, in its traditional and modern forms.
The horizon of batik is continuing to widen. While the design process has remained basically the same over the last century, the process shows great progress in recent decades. Traditionally, batik was sold in 2 1/4 meter lengths used for kain panjang or sarongin traditional dress. Now, not only is batik used as a material to clothe the human body, its uses also include furnishing fabrics, heavy canvas wall hangings, tablecloths and household accessories. Batik techniques are used by famous artists to create batik paintings which grace many homes and offices.
Fine quality handmade batik is very expensive and the production of such works is very limited. However, in a world that is dominated by machines there is an increasing interest in materials that have been handmade. Batik is one of these materials.
Something more modern is what is called Painting Batik Art. Designs so beautiful you can enjoy them on your wall. Such detail and lively colors. Most of this work is done by dedicated painters in the region of Jogjakarta. This is one of my favorite ways to display and appreciate the masterful hand craft that goes into this art. While we both enjoy wearing batik clothing and we have some beautiful designs hanging in the wardrobe, we still find that hanging for all to enjoy is a great place to be seen.