Friday, December 11, 2015

In Indonesia!

Friday, December 11, 2015
4:38 pm

Hello everybody! There's been quite a bit of interesting weather lately in Seattle, and I haven't been posting much. However, it is not because I have suddenly lost my interest for meteorology. That would be impossible.

It is because I've been getting preparing, packing, traveling, and finally settling in Indonesia!

My little brother (he's 20... not quite so little anymore) has been studying abroad in Bali for this past semester, and my parents decided it would be fun to go to Indonesia and eventually meet up with him before coming back together just in time for Christmas. My mom taught English in Indonesia for one year after she graduated from college, so we thought it would be great to go back so she could revisit both the places and people she got to know so well back in the 70s.

We arrived at Sea-Tac airport around 10 pm on Tuesday, and hopped on a Boeing 747 flight to Taipei at 12:05 am. We didn't get into Taipei until 4:55 a.m. - a 12 hour and 50 minute flight. On my last transcontinental flight (a trip to Europe with the Garfield Jazz Band), I was lucky enough to automatically be upgraded to business class on the flight home from London to Seattle because they had overbooked coach. Alas, I wasn't so lucky this time, so I spent nearly 13 hours sitting in the same position. Luckily, there was enough turbulence to make things interesting, both coming out of Seattle and coming into Taipei. We were in the midst of a powerful atmospheric river event at the time with a 150-knot jet stream over the area, which not only added some bumps but slowed our flight across the Pacific. We're supposed to shave off nearly 3 hours on our return flight from Taipei to Seattle... we'll see if that happens!

My first impressions of Taipei were that it was more American than America. There were "Merry X-Mas" signs everywhere in the airport. When you walked down one of those long, straight stretches where the gates are located and moving sidewalks are often found, there were two "Merry X-Mas" signs spaced every 10 feet apart for as far as the eye could see. The Taipei airport is huge, and we walked by hundreds and could see hundreds more in the distance. There were also extremely high-end department stores, like Burberry and Gucci. I wanted to buy a Burberry scarf, but after the conversion from New Taiwan Dollars to US,, it cost $536. And I thought those $6 hamburgers at Sea-Tac were expensive!

After a three-hour layover, we boarded an Airbus A330 for Jakarta. This flight was significantly less turbulent and not as fun - there is something special about riding in a plane with four turbofans and two decks.

From the moment I stepped into the Jakarta airport, I knew I was in a completely different culture. No department stores here! It was incredibly hot and muggy, but people were covered up, with most women wearing head scarves (Java, the island Jakarta is on, has a very large Muslim population) and nearly everybody wearing long pants. I even saw a guy in a thick coat. For a guy who wears shorts in Seattle in the winter, the temperature change was a shock, and I have no idea how people could last in a climate so hot. However, when you live in a climate long enough, you acclimate, and I guess after a while, even temperatures in the high 80s with dewpoints in the high 70s warrants a jacket.

One of the first things that struck me was how kind people are in Indonesia. They always smile at you, slightly bow, and hold their hands together like they are praying when greeting you or thanking you. I've started to do the same. It's pretty amazing how kind the people are here, and they appear to be especially kind to foreigners (white people). Of course, they will also try to take advantage of our ignorance - for example, we had an extremely kind taxi driver who gave us change, but took a 400% tip in doing so. But he was so nice and gracious that we didn't really know what to do. And it was a cheap taxi anyway.

Thant's another thing - everything here is so cheap! A 1.5-hour taxi drive from the airport to our hotel in Bogor cost us around 25 dollars. Meals at restaurants cost 1-4 dollars per person for a grand total of no more than 15 dollars for all three of us, and often much less than that. The meals are HOT, and a lot of black pepper is used. I also decided to be adventurous/dumb (more the latter) and eat one of the small peppers that came with my noodles last night. My sinuses got a workout. It was the hottest thing I've ever lasted in my life - my mouth actually hurt, and of course I was tearing up like a true Westerner.

Today, we visited some of my mom's friends/bosses when she was working here decades ago. First, we went down to the school where my mom taught: the Indonesian Research Institute For Biotechnology and Bioindustry, where we met two wonderful people: Fajar and Titi. Fajar is the man below, and Titi is the woman.

All of us in from of the research institute where my mom taught. From left to write: myself, my mom (Sara), Titi, Fajar, and my dad (Steve)
Another picture of us by the school

There was lots of science and lab equipment throughout the building, but there didn't seem to be much activity going on. Nevertheless, we got a great tour and my mom was ecstatic.

Fajar, my mom, and Titi sitting inside the library
Date palms by the school

Fajar worked as the information technologies specialist for the school, and Titi was with us because she originally worked with Ibu Subandiya, who was my mom's boss when she was a teacher back in the 70s. We were lucky enough to visit Ibu Subandiya and her husbandPak Pranowo at their house shortly after we were done with our informal tour of the research institute.

Ibu Subandiya was in her mid-40s when my mom first met her. Now, she is 82! She certainly doesn't look it though... she has to be the most youthful 82-year-old I've ever seen. She was full of energy, both physically and emotionally, as was her husband. It was a beautiful sight to see my mom reunite with her old boss, and it was like they never missed a beat.

Ibu Subandiya even gave my mom a sarong as a gift. We gave her some Almond Roca. I don't know if that was a fair trade, but both of them really appreciated it!

Unfortunately, we learned that the woman who my mom had lived with, which was just next door, had passed away, as had one of her sons. Her other son was still alive and was living there, but he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was in bad physical and mental shape. It was shocking and sobering for all of us, but for my mom in particular, as he was in good health when she lived with him. Still, he remembered my mom and greeted her graciously and welcomed my father and me as well.

The house had really fallen apart, and you could see that this man was in a lot of pain. After his mom passed away, Ibu Subandiya became his unofficial godmother. What was also amazing to my mom was that the young girl who had been the family servant when she lived with them was still there, now taking care of the sick brother. She was so happy to see my mom, and my mom couldn't believe it. It was wonderful, but also a difficult and sobering end to an excellent afternoon.

I had been very eager to see some of the tropical fruit trees in Bogor, and I was not disappointed. Pictured below are mango and jackfruit, but there were also tons of lychee trees, date/coconut palms, and other assorted delicious tropical fruits. If I find a ripe mango (and am allowed to pick it), my life will be complete. All of these pictures were taken in front of Ibu Subandiya's house.

Three mangos. I love how they hang so freely from the tree, ala the "PetPals Group Hanging Teaser Scratching Post Cat Toy" below
Credit: PetCo

By the way, there are a TON of stray cats here in Bogor. Many of them are extremely thin and small. We saw one yesterday that was no bigger than the size of your foot and probably weighed less than one pound.

Lastly, we went to see Ibu and Bapak Askari. They lived in a very nice house which was actually built by Ibu Subandiya's son, who is an architect in Jakarta. They also remembered my mom from when she lived here. The husband had to leave early to go to pray at the Mosque, but Ibu stuck around and chatted with us. Again, we had a fantastic time.

Now, a  CharliesWeatherForecastsTM   blog post would not be complete without a quick discussion of the weather. Bogor is known as "the rainy city," and the neighborhood we are in commonly gets over 140 inches of rain a year. So far, all of the days have been the same; it is extremely muggy with a slightly thickening overcast throughout the morning, but claps of thunder start around 3 and hangs around until 6, peaking near 5. In the afternoon/early evening, there is so much lightning that the thunder constantly rumbles in the background. The rain accompanying the thunder is not too heavy, particularly earlier, but it can get heavier as evening rolls on. After 6, the thunder dies down but the rain does not, and the rain actually continues until near 9:30. Then, everything dries up and the cycle begins anew!

Yesterday, lightning struck a building just across the street from ours. Needless to say, it was an electrifying experience. We're about to head out, look at some botanical gardens, and do some more exploring, but when the rains come back in this afternoon, I'll have my camera out, and I'll see if I can get record a strike or too. I may be missing the rain and wind of the Pacific Northwest, but I'm having a heck of a time here in the southern hemisphere.

Thanks for reading!

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