May 2011The Wallace House: May 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Manado, part II

After my blogging on Saturday night, T & I got some martabak again and then back to the hotel room where we watched soccer and slept.  Sunday morning we went to church at the Manado branch.  There were only 48 chairs set up and at that time I thought "what a small branch!"  When all was said and done, there were only 30 people in Sacrament Meeting and 4 of those were missionaries, 2 of them were Tom & I, and 5 were children.  It's so weird to go to such a small branch!  The members must be giving a talk every few weeks!  Sacrament Meeting was only like 45 minutes, Sunday School was about half an hour and then RS/Priesthood was about 40 minutes so church was over in 2 hours.  I guess that since they are such a small branch the mission president has told them to only hold church for 2 hours instead of 3.  It seemed super short!  One hour less makes a huge difference.  After church we were invited to have lunch with the branch president and his family.  We had barbecued fish - delicious!  After lunch the branch president was so nice to drive us to the airport where our flight was late...again.  We flew to Makassar where we had to get off the plane and go through security check again just to get right back on the same plane.  How annoying!  They made us do it since some people were getting off in Makassar while some of us were continuing to Jakarta.  Anyway, it was a total waste of 20 minutes.  Then we flew to Jakarta and had to wait FOREVER for a taxi.  We wanted to take a BlueBird taxi since they are the most dependable in Indonesia but we were #23 in line and they were only on #9.  Gahhh.  So we waited like half an hour until it was our turn to get a taxi (and we had already waited like half an hour for our luggage) and then it was like a 45 minute drive to our hotel where we unloaded then headed out for dinner.  We ate chicken satay at a nearby food stand (so good!) then back to the hotel where we crashed for the night.  Our sunburns are getting better...hoorah!...and haven't been too horribly painful which is a relief.

This morning we went to Dunkin' Donuts for breakfast as this hotel doesn't have complimentary breakfast (lame) and then walked to the Indonesia National Monument where we were going to go to the very top to see over the city but apparently it's closed the last week of every month.  Sooo we walked to the internet cafe where Tom is looking up how to get to our next destination - Taman Mini.  It's a place where they have little areas that each represent an area of Indonesia.  There are like imitation houses, etc so you can see what the culture is like in several areas of Indonesia without having to travel the whole country!  I'm really excited to see it.  Anyway, it's burning hot today and we're sweating bullets but we're trying to enjoy every minute of our last two days here in Indonesia.  Here's to hoping for lots of shade at Taman Mini...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Manado

We flew first to Surabaya from Jogja as we could not get a direct flight to Manado.  Our flight was delayed by two hours (ugh) so we arrived in Surabaya late at night.  We checked into our hotel which, unfortunately, was like an hour from the airport with traffic and went straight to bed.  Our flight to Manado left at 7:50am Friday morning so we ate an early breakfast and headed to the airport.  Let me tell you, it is a pain to go through security a million times in two weeks and check your baggage a million times.  Blah.  We arrived in Manado at about noon but didn't really have any plans.  Tom tried to call a family from his mission that he wanted to visit but we couldn't get a hold of them so we picked up some lunch and then caught up on some much-needed rest.  We slept pretty much the whole day...and watched some TV and read a little.  But mostly slept.  Around 9pm, Tom headed out to pick up some Martabak which I've been begging for since we got here!  It's a dessert - a pancake type thing with chocolate and cheese inside!  It sounds weird but it is so delicious!  When Tom first described it to me I thought it sounded so gross but over the years I've become so anxious to try it.  I finally got to for the first time last night and I was not disappointed!  So delicious!!  I wasn't very hungry though so I couldn't eat a lot so we plan to get another tonight.  Yum!

This morning (Saturday) we ate breakfast then walked out to the boat port to go snorkeling!! We hired a boat (and driver) to take us out to the island where there is coral reef.  We rented some snorkeling equipment then went at it!  It was way fun!  There were so many different fish!  Mainly smaller size but we did see a few quite large ones.  There were fish of so many colors! - bright purple, bright blue, stripes, camoflauge, purple/blue/green all in one, etc.  T & I both agree that we hate salt water. Ugh.  Tom had to stop after about an hour because he felt so sick to his stomach from salt water.  I took a little break then hopped back in for 15 more minutes and then we headed back to the little island to return our snorkeling gear and get some lunch.  We took the boat back (about a 40 minute ride - super fun though because the boat was just a tiny little thing and it rocked all over the place when it hit the waves - I thought it was a little bit like a roller coaster ride at times!) and then walked home in the rain.  This is the second time we've been caught in peltering rain and rain storms in Indonesia really stink because their drainage system is horrible so the streets flood in a matter of seconds!  And it is so dirty here that the trash just flows along in the streets with the flooded water.  Yuck!

We took a little break after snorkeling to shower and lather up with Aloe Vera.  We were SO careful with sunscreen and sprayed our SPF 110 all over ourselves and STILL we got so burned!! How does that happen? I guess we didn't spray enough even though we loaded it on!  Both of our backs and shoulders are beet red.  Ugh.  Hopefully the aloe vera will work some magic...hopefully, hopefully.

Tonight we met up with a member of the Manado branch and went to dinner (delicious fried chicken - it's my favorite) and here we are!  But I have to stop typing since I've been using this computer for an hour and thirteen minutes and we're at an internet cafe place where you are charged to use the computer :] Plus Tom and Nita have been waiting for me.

So! I'm caught up!  Until next time!

Love from Indonesia,
Marci

Jogja

Tuesday night we arrived in Jogja.  Our flight from Bogor was delayed an hour or so and we arrived in Jogja late Tuesday night.  On Wednesday morning we headed out at 8am to visit the Borobudur Temple (Buddhist temple) which is hundreds of years old.  It is SO cool looking!  It is made in a circle shape and is several stores high!  There are intricate carvings throughout the whole temple.  Each of the carvings tells a story.  We took a TON of pictures so those will be posted to FB when we get home.  I seriously just could not get over how cool the temple was.  We had to be the foreigner fee of $15 per person to get in (blah) and wore sarongs.  We were CELEBRITIES there.  All the Indonesians stared at us and would whisper (or scream) to each other as we passed "bule, bule!"  The brave ones asked us for pictures of us or with us.  Some would just take pictures of us "secretly" which was more awkward because you weren't sure if you should smile or pretend you didn't notice.  Some even took videos of us.  We must have taken pictures with at least a hundred people.  It was hard to go a few steps without being bombarded.  Apparantly it is very cool to see a white person.  I thought it was pretty comical at first but after awhile we tried to walk fast past people so we could get through the temple in a decent amount of time!  We took pictures with adults, children, whole classes, etc.  Sometimes people would follow us (mostly kids) and giggle and whisper to each other.  They were so excited!  Girls would scream when we said it was okay for us to take a picture with them and they would jump up and down in such excitement!  They always at the end would say "thank you Mr, thank you Mrs.  Good to meet you."  Or sometimes "It has been a pleasure to meet you" (very formal and obviously a phrase taught in school! :])  We had some people take pictures with our camera too so we have proof of our short-lived celebrity status.  After leaving the Borobudur temple we bought a carving of the temple.  It's very cool!

After Borobudur we stopped for lunch then headed to the Prambanan Temple (Hindu temple), which is also hundreds of years old.  This one is several different buildings that look like towers.  There have been a few earthquakes in Jogja, one big one in 2006, that knocked down a lot of the temples.  We have a picture of a lot of the ruins.  The main temple still is not open to go in because stones are still falling.  We were famous at the Pramabanan temple too although we only took pictures with probably 75 people instead of hundreds since it was later in the afternoon and there weren't as many field-trippers.

That was a looong day for us!  Lots of walking and it was VERY hot in the afternoon.  So much humidity!

On Thursday in Jogja we went to an old Dutch Fort (which was OK but not nearly as cool as the temples) and the Sultan's Palace which is still in use today.  The palace was cool and our tour guide spoke very good English and gave us a lot of cool information.  After the Palace we headed to the Batik Art Gallery (both our tour guides at the Dutch Fort & at the Sultan's Palace recommended we go there).  On Wednesdays & Thursdays only (lucky us!) the gallery is open to the public.  A teacher of batik showed us his students working on some batik pieces and explained the process to us.  Some pieces can take months to make!  Afterward we browsed the gallery and bought two pieces to take home.  They're fabric but usually you frame them so we'll have them custom framed one day and then hang them in our house.  They are SO cool and I can't wait to show them to everybody when we get home!

Thursday afternoon our flight to Surabaya took off.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bogor

It has been awhile since we've had access to the internet since the last hotel we were at only had wi-fi but no computers available for guest use.  I'm only supposed to use this hotel's computer for 15 minutes so I'll cram in as many posts as I can...or maybe I will use the computer longer than 15 minutes if nobody is waiting...

So to close up about Lombok...we LOVED it there!  We spent Saturday morning before our flight just hanging out on the beach.  It was luxurious!  We wish we could have stayed longer and we think next time we will do Lombok for 3 days and Bali for only 1 instead of the other way around.  And by next time, I mean who-knows-when.  Bali was great but it is just so crowded and loud and crazy.  Lombok was quiet, peaceful and relaxing.  We weren't hounded quite as often to buy this or that or take this taxi or that taxi...it was nice.

Our plane to Jakarta ended up leaving about an hour late (ugh) and we arrived in Jakarta around 7pm.  We were picked up in Jakarta by Virli and Lani (sister and cousin of the woman whose family we were staying with).  We arrived in Bogor around 9pm and were SO tired.  We went straight to bed that night since we had to leave at 7am the next morning for the district conference in Jakarta.

Sunday morning we were up by 5:45 readying to leave for Jakarta at 7am.  I met Anita & Thomas Sirigar (whose house we were staying at) and their children, Moses (10) and Abigail (5).  We had a pastry breakfast and then left for Jakarta.  The conference didn't start until 10am but Virli and Lani were participating in the Single Adult choir and had to be there early.  While waiting for the conference to start, we said hello to many of the members who Tom knows from his mission.  We were sitting in the English branch section since there were headphones for English translation so I could understand.  We were able to meet and talk to a few of the English branch members who live in Jakarta for business purposes.  The conference started at 10am and I will try to summarize some of the happenings.

This district conference was for the purpose of organizing the first LDS stake of Indonesia, the Jakarta Indonesia Stake.  Elder Bednar presided at the meeting and Elder Pratt (of the seventy) was also in attendance.  Elder Bednar was the first speaker (and he actually gave the closing talk as well and I don't remember what he talked about in which talk so I will summarize both talks).  He spoke on the purposes of a Stake and the blessings of becoming a Stake.  He stressed that becoming a Stake instead of a district is not simply a change in name.  He focused on the three differences between a Stake and a District.  If I remember correctly, they are as follows:

1.  There are more opportunities for blessings when a district is organized into a stake.
2.  All the keys of the Priesthood are available when a district is organized into a stake.
3. ...Yikes, it has been too long since Sunday.  Neither Tom nor I can remember the #3...I'll keep thinking on it.

He stated that the members will now have a Stake Patriarch to whom they can go for Patriarchal blessings.  I hadn't even realized that they never had a Patriarch!  I bet he will be busy the next few months!  He talked about the members' responsibility to "Rise and Shine Forth" and share the gospel with others so that there might be more stakes organized in Indonesia.  Several times he stated that this experience would happen "again and again and again in Indonesia."  He said that one day the Indonesians will have the blessing of a temple.  In his closing talk he said that he would not say farewell but "until we meet again" as he plans to one day, in the future, visit Indonesia yet again.  He talked about how, 60 years ago, the Philippines had their first stake organized and today they have hundreds of stakes and a temple, with another under construction.  He mentioned that this was due to the fact that the members of the Philippines "Arose and Shined Forth."  He talked about how in the early days of the Church the Saints were encouraged to leave their native countries and come to Utah.  He said that today the Saints are encouraged to stay in their native countries and build the church there.  He said "The Saints in California are to stay in California, the Saints in Bolivia are to stay in Bolivia and the Saints in Indonesia are to stay in Indonesia."  He talked about how many members of the church might wonder what it might have been like to be pioneers.  He said to the Indonesian people "You are pioneers.  You are pioneers in this land."  Elder Bednar talked about what it takes to organize a stake.  He said that he and Elder Pratt arrived in Indonesia on Thursday and took Friday & Saturday morning interviewing men of the stake to find the stake president and spent Saturday afternoon interviewing men to find the new high priests and by Sunday at 10am the stake had been organized.  He compared this to the organization of other companies or groups.  He said how it can take millions of dollars and months on end to create a functioning group of leaders over such a large number of people.  He said the reason it is so quick and so smooth when organizing a stake is because it is the Lord's work.  He said without the Lord it would not be possible.  He also made a point that they did not come here to choose a stake president but to find him.  That the Lord had already chosen him and it was Elder Bednar and Elder Pratt's responsibility to only find the man the Lord had chosen.  He talked about how the wards need to be united and the stake needs to be united.  He said that if anybody wanted to find fault with the members of the new stake presidency they certainly could.  They did not call them because they were perfect.  He said nobody should focus on the imperfections.  He said that a lack of unity is what destroys wards, stakes, and the church.

Elder Pratt did the reading of the new stake presidency, bishops, and high councilmen.  Because the church is still fairly new in this country some members are still confused when it comes to sustainings and such.  When sustaining the new bishops, Elder Pratt had the members of that ward stand and had to repeat several times "only the members of the such-and-such ward should raise their hands...only the members standing."  They understood after the first couple times :]  I'm having a hard time remembering what Elder Pratt talked about.  If I remember, I'll come back to it.

The new stake president (President Subiantoro) and the 1st and 2nd counselors of the new stake presidency shared their testimonies.  I just remember a few jokes from President Subiantoro's talk - they were pretty funny.  He said that he was present during the meeting that Elder Bednar had with the missionaries and that Elder Bednar had opened it up for a question and answer period.  One of the missionaries said to him, "Elder Bednar, you are one of the youngest men to be called to the quorum of the 12 apostles.  Do you think that you will one day be the President of the Church?"  Elder Bednar replied, "I hope not!"  President Subiantoro said "If somebody had asked me if I thought I would one day be the first stake president of the first stake in Indonesia, I would have answered the same: 'I hope not!'"  Another missionary asked Elder Pratt "How did you feel when you were first called to the seventy?"  Elder Pratt replied, "I turned to my wife and said 'this is all your fault.'"  President Subiantoro: "I say the same thing now to my own wife: 'this is all your fault.'"  He then talked about how his wife had introduced him to the church before they were married and he shared his testimony of the gospel.

The spirit was so strong during the meeting and I felt so happy for the Indonesian people to be able to have a stake and to be able to see the fruits of their labors in sharing the gospel with their friends and family and bringing so many into the Church.

Being in Indonesia has opened my eyes to the blessings I have in my own life, in America.  I feel so blessed that I've never known what it's like to not have a stake patriarch, to not have the keys of the priesthood in full effect because I was part of a district instead of a stake.  At the same time I feel a little envy knowing that the members of Indonesia fully understand and appreciate what it means to have these things while I have taken them for granted for 22 years.

After the conference was over Tom and I visited with some more people while we waited for Virli & Lani who we would be riding home with.  The single adults had a meeting with Elder Bednar from 2-4pm (the conference was over at noon) so T & I had to wait for that to end.  We spent time walking around the building, sitting some, and visiting with a little 3-year-old girl named Olivia.  She was so cute!  After the single adult meeting was over T & I were waiting outside of the meeting room.  Elder Bednar, Sister Bednar, Elder Pratt & Sister Pratt passed by us on their way out and we were able to shake their hands.  Sister Bednar stopped to talk to me for a second (since I'm white so I obviously speak English) and she asked if Tom & I were moving to Indonesia.  We talked for a few seconds and then they were hurried out by the body guard.  Two apostles down, 10 to go!  We need to plan more vacations as that's where we always meet them!

That night we went back to the Sirigar's and spent the night with them.

Monday morning we went to Taman Safari.  I've been wanting to go here for sooo long!  This has been on the top of my "things to do in Indonesia" list ever since Tom and I were married.  We first took a ride on a tour bus through the safari where there are elephants, zebras, tigers, lions, bears, etc roaming free.  If you are in your own car you can buy carrots on the way in and feed them to the animals.  Well the elephants and zebras and such.  I don't think anybody dares to feed them to the lions and tigers and bears (oh my).  Since we were in the tour bus we didn't get to do that and the bus actually went through pretty fast while the personal cars took their time and stopped so the animals would walk right up to their car.  I wish we could have gone in a car but still it was cool.  After the safari we walked around inside the park and went through the aviary (where there were bats and owls...creepy!) and saw the birds of prey and watched a dolphin show (where one of the dolpins was named Justin after Justin Beiber and those Indonesian kids went crazy!).

After the show we got to take pictures with so many cool animals!  Tom & I both took pictures with the orang-utan and the baby tigers and I also took pictures with the baby lion and the jaguar.  The monkey was so fun and just sat right on your lap and hugged you.  He was so cute (and not scary at all).  There were two baby tigers and they were pretty rambunctious little things.  They were playing with each other and jumping all over you and wriggling free while we were trying to take pictures.  The guy put one of them away while I took the picture but they were both out while Tom was taking his picture and the tiger he wasn't holding kept nibbling at his leg and trying to crawl up.  They were so cute!  The baby lion was fast asleep while I took my picture with him and I had to hold his head up so that it didn't droop.  His eyes are totally closed in the picture.  He slept right through the whole thing!  I was so nervous to take the picture with the jaguar because he just looked so creepy and was pacing in the cage.  I decided to anyway though because he was huge and pretty cool looking.  When I went in he was growling (which made me nervous) and then the keeper hit him on the nose to make him stop.  I thought that was going to make him more mad and make him take it out on me!  The handler set him up for the picture laying on my lap but he got right back up so the handler did it again so we could get a good picture and then the jaguar BIT ME!  A big chunk of my back!  Not hard (like not breaking the skin or anything) but still it scared the heck out of me!  The handler said "it's okay, it's okay" and set him back on my lap for the picture.  My back hurt for a few minutes after (more just like a tingling type feeling than really hurting) but I was a little shaky!  A guy that Tom served with who lives in Malaysia was also in town came with us to Taman Safari and made a good point - he told me "you can tell people you survived being bit by a jaguar."  I think I'll just tell that story and leave the whole tamed-jaguar-bit-me-softly part out.  Tom and I got to ride an elephant right before leaving the park.  It was even more fun than I'd imagined!  You sit like right on the elephant's backbone so you are wiggling all over the place with every step!  What an experience!

After Taman Safari we went to a member's house who Tom taught and baptized.  Their names are Lenny (mom) & Cecilya (17) Tjoe.  Lenny made a HUGE dinner for us and the missionaries (4 of them who came also for dinner).  I was so impressed - there was fried chicken, rice, noodles, 2 other Indonesian dishes and a fruit dessert type thing.  It must have taken her all day!  The food was good (especially the chicken - yum!).  After dinner we did FHE which the missionaries led (all in Indonesian) and I sat quietly and listened...for like an hour and a half.  After about 20 minutes of everyone speaking Indonesian my brain feels like it's about to explode.  I take deep breaths and think things in English so I don't go crazy.  Try sitting with a group of people who all are speaking a language you don't understand for 20 minutes.  You'll go crazy too.  Especially when you try to read their faces and hand expressions and try to catch a word or two to see if you can understand what is going on.  That makes you more crazy.  I've had the experience a few times now since there was quite a bit of Indonesian-speaking at the conference and at the Sirigar's!

On Tuesday we went to the Botannical gardens in Bogor (beautiful!) and the Bogor market.  Bargaining in Bogor was a much more pleasant experience than bargaining in Bali!  The prices were reasonable to start and when we offered a lower price they almost always said "ok" or only asked for a little bit more than what we suggested.  I loved shopping at that market and I got some great souvenirs!

We left Tuesday afternoon for the airport where we flew into Jogja.

I am so grateful for the Sirigar's who took us into their house and provided us with a nice guest room with our own private bathroom and who were such gracious hosts!  They were so kind and fed us and let us use their driver to go so many places (and sent him to pick us up from the airport).  They took us to dinner and let us use their computer and had a TV for us in our bedroom and an air conditioner.  They had their maids iron our Sunday clothes for us late Saturday night and also had the maids do our laundry and fold it for us.  I can't even express how kind they are!  Anita (mom) asked us to stay with them again the next time we come to Indonesia (she said to bring our children too :]).  Thomas (dad) was one of the men called to be a high priest in the new stake.  Moses (10) is so smart and speaks English very well as he goes to an International school.  Tom had a good time playing Who Wants to Be a Millionaire with him on Moses' iPad.  Abigal (5), aka Gaby, is my new best friend.  Her English is amazing.  She speaks it as well as I do and she can write it and spell hard words too!  We played Barbies together and played a LOT on her iPad.  She would make different foods on a game on her iPad then split it in half and have me "eat" half while she "ate" the other half.  She was so sweet and very cute (and super smart).

Oh and I had my very first motorcycle ride in Bogor!  We hired two guys to take us back to the Sirigar's late one night.  It was so fun!

Bogor was fantastic!  We would love to visit again the next time we come to Indonesia.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ubud/Lombok

Be prepared...this post is going to be long!  We've been busy, busy, busy!

Yesterday we arrived in Ubud around 10:30am.  We checked into our hotel, Taman Harum (see my FB album of Indonesia to see a picture of it - or google it because it is way cool looking) then hopped on the complimentary hotel shuttle to the center of Ubud.  We hit the famous Ubud market first thing and I left with some great souvenirs although I think I paid too much for a couple things.  Bargaining takes some getting used to.  After the  market we walked up and down the main street like a million times looking for something cheap to eat.  The problem with being in these touristy cities is that all the tourists want a nice restaraunt to sit and eat while we want the food stalls on the side of the road where a meal is like $1.  So sometimes we have a hard time.  We settled for a restaraunt that charged like $3 a meal which still is way cheap compared to America but still more than we budgeted for!  We shared banana juice (which is like thicker than juice but not quite as thick as a smoothie).  It was delish!  Tom had pork sate and I had chicken sate.  I wasn't a huge fan of the chicken sate they served me - the chicken sate Tom had in Kuta was much better.  Anyway, after lunch we wanted to go to Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave) but we weren't sure how we wanted to get there.  Tom didn't want to pay for a taxi (they wanted to charge us like $9 to take us there and back and it was only a few miles away) and we couldn't find a bemo (mini bus thing) which would have been cheaper.  So we started walking.  Tom had mapped it and it was supposed to take 50 minutes walking but he only knew the general direction.  I didn't really like the idea of walking there but we didn't have much to fill our day anyway so we set out.  As we were walking we came across a procession - we weren't sure at first what the procession was for but then after like a million people passed us it was a mini parade! So we stopped to watch it - it was totally random and was just two huge float type things being carried by a bunch of men and then a ton of people walking in front, behind, and alongside.  Traffic was totally jammed up behind the parade and as we were walking by all of it there was a bemo!  The man called out to us to give us a ride and was only going to charge us $5 so we hopped in...thank goodness.  We had only walked about 20 minutes and it was SO hot.

The elephant cave was so beautiful!  It's another place where you have to wear a sarong out of respect to the Hindu religion.  There are a lot of really old statues and then of course the actual cave which is an elephant on the outside and then...a cave.  With some offerings for their gods.  There is also a fountain of "holy water" with these gods that water shoots out of.  The whole thing is hundreds of years old and so cool.  We somehow got stuck with a self-appointed tour guide when we walked into the elephant cave area.  He came and asked us where we were from (and people are fascinated when we say we are from America) and then he just started telling us all about the fountain of holy water then told us to go down so he could take our picture and then he made us wash our faces and hands with the holy water.  After that I thought he would be done showing us around but he took us to all the statues and the cave and was telling us tons of information...which could have been cool if we could have understood half of what he was saying.  We think he might have made up a lot of the information he was giving us (he's just another one of those guys who wants you to give him money) but we just went along nodding our heads and laughing when it seemed appropriate.  There is this really beautiful jungle at the elephant cave with waterfalls and a small rice terrace and so many beautiful trees and plants.  He walked us through and then up to an altar type thing where this old man wanted us to bow at his statue god.  It's pretty rude to tell people no so we just do it to go along and be polite.  After the journey through the elephant forest the old man told us we were done (meaning "give me my money now") so Tom was going to give him 2,000 rp which is equivalent to about 25 cents and the man just looked at it in his hand then looked back up at Tom seeming confused.  Both of us thought he was refusing the money but then he said "that is less than one American dollar."  Tom is thinking "uh yeah that's why I'm giving it to you" but instead he said "you want a dollar? I can give you a dollar."  And then the man said "Do you have $5?" and Tom said "no, this is all I have" handing him 10,000 rp which is a little over a dollar.  The man again just looked at it and said "that is all? that is not enough."  Tom gave him that anyway and we left.  What an ungrateful man!  We didn't ask for his tour of made-up knowledge and we didn't have to give him a dime!  We were both so shocked that he would tell us we weren't giving him enough money.  He wanted us to pay him as much as we were paying the guy who drove us to the elephant cave and back and more than we paid to get into the cave! We were both pretty mad at him but we didn't give him what he wanted so oh well.

After the elephant cave our driver took us back to the market where we walked through once more.  There were a few more things I wanted that I had now decided what price I wanted to pay for them.  So I bought a few more things and then we called our complimentary shuttle who took us back to our hotel.  We arrived back at Taman Harum around 5:00 and we took a dip in their gorgeous swimming pool.  It was so quiet outside and the pool was so incredibly blue and the water was the perfect temperature!

This post is going to be so totally random because I have so much to say but I'm not sure how to order it all.  So bear with me.  I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you about our hotel in Ubud.  Taman Harum is like a mini jungle.  There are trees, flowers, & plants everywhere!  They have lots of mini waterfalls and there are birds chirping through the whole area!  This is a motel-type place where all the doors to the rooms are outdoors.  There are a few cottages where people have their own whole little house with a balcony but we just had a regular room (if you can call it regular).  The doors were these intricately carved pieces of wood and they had these metal ring doorhandles.  You locked the doorhandles together with a padlock - who has even seen such a thing on a hotel!?  It was so different!  I have a picture that I will post here when I get home so you can see.  Anyway obviously you can't lock the padlock on the outside when you are inside the room so they just have a piece of wood that slides between the handles on the inside to secure the doors.  The room was really cool looking with the walls all made of different material (stone, brick, etc).  The service at Taman Harum was fantastic but our complaints would be that the bed was as hard as a rock (Tom didn't sleep after 4am and I've had a huge knot in my shoulder all day...ugh), there were a few mosquitos in the room (malaria!!) and the breakfast was not that great.  At our first hotel the breakfast was buffet-style and delicious.  At this hotel you placed your order from three options and it wasn't a whole lot of food and it wasn't all that great tasting...

Anyway - after swimming we went back to the room where we fell asleep for awhile (at like 6pm - go us) but then Tom woke me up around 8 because he wanted dinner.  We walked down to a warung where he had fried chicken and rice (and I had nothing - I'm not so in love with Indonesian food yet...I don't like meat or spicy things and they have a lot of both!)  I was also still full from lunch.  Anyway after that we went back to the hotel and slept.  Hahah - at 9pm.  Walking around all day exhausts you!

This morning we were up about 630am, packed up, had that not-so-delicious breakfast and caught a taxi to the airport for our 11:40am flight to Lombok.  We arrived at the airport around 9:30am and hung out for awhile.  it was so interesting because the Bali airport is so small and almost everyone boards their plane through the same gate.  While we were waiting to board our flight we must have seen people board for like 5 or 6 different flights through the same gate we were going to board through!  When it was our turn we went through the gate but then outside and then took a bus to the airplane where we just walked straight up the steps into the plane.  I thought it was pretty cool because I've never gotten on a plane before without walking through those connectors at the terminal.  It was pretty cool to just walk right up onto the plane.  It reminded me of "It Takes Two" where one of the twins walks right off the plane, down the plane steps.

Anyway, the flight to Lombok was about the scariest (and also the shortest, thank goodness) flight I have ever taken in my life.  It is only a 25 minute flight (yes, so short!) and there was turbulence the whole way!  Usually I don't mind turbulence (and in fact I kind of like it - it makes the plane ride more fun and more interesting) but 25 straight minutes of turbulence just was not my cup of tea.  Especially on such a little, tiny plane.  I was so afraid we were going down.  I tried to read the whole way to keep my mind off of it but when you are constantly dipping and swaying it's hard to keep your mind on anything else!

Once in Lombok we caught a taxi to our hotel, Sheraton Senggigi.  One word: BEAUTIFUL.  The hotel is luxurious and the grounds are lovely!!  The ocean is even closer to this hotel than our hotel in Nusa Dua.  You can see it SO clearly from our balcony and it is so beautiful!  It's about thirty steps from the outside of the building to the edge of the ocean.  Amazing.  As soon as we arrived we donned our swimsuits and headed right to the ocean where we enjoyed the warm, tropical weather and the gorgeous view of the ocean.  For lunch we walked down the road until we found another warung where we had fried chicken, tofu, and rice with sauce.  Tom liked it (he likes all Indonesian food, pretty much) but I thought the fried chicken smelled like the pig ears we feed our dogs which made it difficult to eat.  I didn't like the tofu and the sauce on the rice was too spicy for me.  But I have a small stomach and just a few bites filled me.  After lunch we hit some shops on the way back to the hotel and I found some lovely souvenirs (yay!).  Again I think I ended up paying too much for something but what's done is done.  You know you've offered too much when they accept it after a little bit of thinking.  It's when you really have to work them to get them to accept your price that you know you've done a good job of haggling.  Once they accept your named price though you are pretty much under obligation to buy it.  Darn.  Still a good price but not as good as I could have gotten, maybe.  After shopping we headed back to the hotel where we hopped in the pool for a swim.  The pool is like 8 feet away from the ocean (literally) and it's really cool because it is full all the way to overflowing and when you are far back it looks like the pool just runs into the ocean.  This pool at Senggigi is HUGE.  And I mean really huge!  Like you can't even imagine.  It's not any certain shape just this super large area of water (most of it is about 3.5 feet deep) and there are random islands in the middle with trees growing from them.  It's about the coolest thing I've ever seen in my life.  Plus there is a slide that is made from stone that is shaped like a giant face.  The slide comes out through the open mouth and the actual slide is the "tongue."  Again, I will post pictures later.  After swimming we lounged on beach chairs right by the ocean for awhile then watched the beautiful sunset.  Back to our hotel room we showered and relaxed for a few minutes then headed out to find another warung for dinner.  We found one that was SO PACKED which probably means such good food!  Tom had...I forgot..some chicken omelette and rice thing and I had fried noodles which we DELICIOUS.  Yay!  An Indonesian food I found that I like!  I asked for it with no meat (well Tom asked for it for me...in Indonesian) but somehow I still got meat in it.  It would have been even better without the meat but still it was very good!  We also shared avacado juice which Tom has been raving about for years.  It was good but I think it's an acquired taste.  I couldn't really decide how much I liked it.  It's another one of those juice/shake things and they mix in some chocolate syrup with the avacado.  I think it sounds weirder than it tastes but it is a totally different taste.

Anyway now we are back at the hotel and are going to watch a movie together before retiring for the night.  This hotel has American channels so we'll see if we can find something even though it's 8 in the morning in California.

Okay so there are a lot of random things I want to post about but they don't fit in anywhere really so I'm just going to type them randomly with bullet points.  I've been typing for awhile already and Tom is waiting for me to watch the movie so I might save some for tomorrow's post:

  • Stray dogs - they are EVERYWHERE and it makes me so sad.  They are just these skinny little things who all look so sad and wander the streets with their tails between their legs.  They are so used to the crazy busy life of Bali that they just will walk right in between all the tourists and will just stroll across the street with the crazy traffic.  People also let their domesticated dogs just roam the streets but you can tell the difference because a) the owned dogs have like bandanas tied around their necks to show ownership and b) the owned dogs are fatter and usually are trotting along with tails wagging.  So to give you an idea of how many strays there are, I counted one day while driving somewhere.  I counted for about 45 minutes and counted 15 strays.  This does not include any of the dogs who were roaming with the bandanas tied around their necks.  And this is only looking on one side of the road.  So sad!  I wish I could take them all home.  Today I wanted to take a picture of one so I could post it later so after we walked by one I turned around and snapped a picture but it saw me and apparently it thought that meant it should follow me so he started trotting alongside us.  You never know who has rabies so I shoo'd him and then I felt so horrible because he left with his head down and tail between his legs.  I didn't know he would think he should follow me!  I felt so bad!  Poor dog.  He was an especially cute one, too.
  • Everybody wants our money!  Seriously everywhere you go in these tourist towns people beg you to buy their stuff, take their taxi, etc.  This is what it always sounds like "Hello!  Hello, transportation? Hello! Where are you going?!" "Yes, lady, just looking.  Just looking.  What you want to buy? You want this dress?" - it's funny that they always say "just looking."  I don't think they know what it means.  I think a lot of people tell them "I'm just looking" and so they just repeat that.  They tell you to just look.  Hahahha.  And they always suggest what you should buy.  Sometimes they follow you begging you to buy something or take their taxi or book snorkeling through them, etc.  It gets annoying after awhile because they ignore the word "no."  They only stop when you have walked too far from their stand that they have to go back to man it.
  • Everybody loves Obama because he went to school here.  Almost every time we tell someone we are from America they say "Obama!"  Hahahha - and we just nod and say "yes."  We're counting how many say it and I think we are up to 5 in three days.  It's the first thing they think of.  Today we talked to some guys and we saw them a few times afterward on the street or on the beach (Lombok is small) and everytime we passed they would say "Hello! America! Barack Obama! Hello, America!"  I'm not sure why they call us America.  But it's comical.
Okay there are more things but I've been typing too long.  More tomorrow.  This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime journey.  We are loving our "holiday" as everyone here calls it!

Tomorrow we catch a flight back to Bali, wait in the airport for 5 hours (that's a story for tomorrow), and then hop on a flight to Jakarta where we will get a ride to Bogor where we will stay with a family from Tom's mission.  I'm tired just thinking about it...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bali, Indonesia

Wow, I'm finally back to the blogging world.  Probably only for the next two weeks though.  Don't get used to it :]  I haven't updated in...what?...seven months or so? Mostly because I feel like I never really have anything to say.  But being in Bali has given me LOTS to say.  Also I don't want to forget anything about this trip and my journal just does not have enough lines to fit everything.  So enjoy the next two weeks of blogs about Indonesia!

Our flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong departed at 1am Monday morning.  We waited in the airport for awhile with mostly Asian people and one large group of students studying abroad in HK.  The flight was fabulous .  I thought a 14 hour flight would seem much longer than it did.  I slept about 7 hours, waking up at 3am HK time (1pm California time).  I never did sleep after that...probably a mistake but I just wasn't tired.  There were SO many movie and TV options on the plane.  Of course with all the stuff to choose from I settled on Friends, season 6.  I watched that pretty much the whole time with one 48 hours mystery and half of Tangled mixed in.  You'd think with all the options I'd watch something I don't watch every other second of my life but it was just too tempting!  The food was OK (nothing to rave about but not disgusting either).  T & I played some word games (with a word puzzle workbook I bought before the trip) and also watched some soccer.  T only slept about 4 or 5 hours and watched movies/TV the rest of the time.

We arrived in HK at 6am.  It is HUMID there.  At 6am it was 80 degrees and very hot!  The airport was very empty when we arrived so we hopped on the free computers (which had cool chinese symbols on the keyboards) and checked emails and FB.  Of course.  Then we played Sorry! card game and did some word puzzles.  At 10:20am our flight left HK and headed to Bali.  Almost everybody on the plane was from Hong Kong.  Very few were from our last flight and I think there were only a handful of white people.  Bali is a popular place to vacation (or take a holiday, as they say) for people who live in HK.

Our flight arrived in Bali at 3pm Tuesday, Bali time (1am Tuesday, California time).  We bought our 30-day visas and went through customs then went for our baggage.  Before either of us knew what was happening, two porters grabbed our luggage and started walking us to the exit.  Tom said they just wanted money (I would soon come to learn just about everybody in Indonesia wants your money).  They waited while we exchanged our USD for rupiah and wanted T to give them $10 each! Yeah right! He gave them $2 each.  That's better but still too much for them rolling our luggage about 100 feet!  Next time we will not be caught off guard and will say no.  Our driver that we hired through Bali Car Rentals was supposed to be waiting for us at the airport.  After searching all the signs people were holding (looking for our name) - twice! - we could not find our driver.  We went to the information desk and called Bali Car Rentals and gave them our confirmation number and they said they would send someone in 30 min!  Yeah right! - we had already been in the airport for at least 45 minutes getting our visas and going through customs.  And they were supposed to have been waiting for us when we landed!  Tom said OK for them to come but then another man approached us wanting to be our driver.  At first he wanted about $60 (I'm just going to do everything in USD so I don't have to constantly write what the USD equivalent is after writing rupiah) but after some hard bargaining Tom got him down to $35 for the rest of the night.  We were going to pay Bali Car Rentals $40 - way to go, T!

Our driver took us to a temple at Ulu Watu.  It was beautiful!  We had to rent some sarongs to wear while looking around.  It's a great place to see the sunset and well-known so it was veryyy crowded.  Apparently the wild monkeys also love to see the sunset from there because they were EVERYWHERE.  At first I thought they were so cute.  And then about two seconds later one of them grabbed a fistful of my hair and started tugging.  I screamed and the first thing that went through my head was "I didn't get a rabies shot!"  Tom made him let go (thanks, love!).  After that I put my hair up in a pony to avoid being latched onto by any other crazy wild monkeys.  I did not think they were so cute after that.  We walked all around the temple area and got great views of the ocean (and saw a dolphin!) and the sunset.  We saw quite a few itty bitty baby monkeys (some with hardly any hair yet!).  Those ones were still cute.  I was attacked by an adult monkey, after all.  We bought tickets to see a Balinese dance at the temple.  It was super crowded and a little bit longer than I would have liked but still interesting.  It was the story that Sara tells on A Little Princess with Ramah and the white monkey.  I would not have understood the story at all had they not given us a sheet with each Act's summary.  It's not that they were speaking Indonesian - they don't talk at all - just that it looked more like a whole bunch of random dancing than a story!  The costumes they wore were very intricate and really beautiful.

After leaving the temple our driver took us to a warung (food stall) where we had nasi goreng (fried rice).  My first authentic bowl of fried rice.  Delicious.  Much better than the kind I make with the IndoFood seasoning packet.  Oh and the best part is it was like $1 each.  Awesome.

We were SO tired by the end of the night (by now it was 8pm Bali time and 6am California time - remember, I hadn't slept since 1pm California time the day before).  Talk about being exhausted!  Our driver took us to our hotel which is BEAUTIFUL.  When booking, we upgraded to a romantic suite and it's lovely!  There is a queen bed with a really cool drape that goes around it (I think to keep mosquitos out but it looks pretty too!) and a really cute couch and nice table.  Neither of which I doubt we'll use but still they're cute.  We have a door leading out to a balcony that overlooks the back of the hotel with the pool and water features.  The ocean is just a stone's throw away and you can hear it with the balcony doors open.  I just love being beach front!  Even though we were exhausted we took showers then a walk along the beach.  It was totally empty (I guess most of the people who come to Bali are probably young adults who party at the night clubs and old, retired people who are in bed at dark).  It was nice to have the beach to ourselves.  We walked out on a dock and sat and watched the ocean for awhile and the weather was perfect.  Very warm with an ocean breeze to keep us from being overly warm.  Perfect and romantic.  I was in love with Bali right there.  Finally we went to bed - I think we were both asleep within seconds.

This morning we woke up at 8am, got ready, and headed down to our free hotel breakfast.  It's in the hotel but the hotel is totally open to the outside so you are practically eating outside too.  It's actually a really weird concept.  The whole hotel has like places where walls just don't exist so it just leads to right outside to the beach.  But it isn't at all like a motel.  It's definitely a hotel with a few missing walls.  I love it!  The place who was supposed to pick us up from the airport yesterday was also supposed to drive us around today but we were not about to call them to have them drive us after they stood us up yesterday.  And after we stood them up after they stood us up.  We think they're probably mad about that.  But we don't care because we were pretty mad that they stood us up first.  Anyway, Tom hired a guy who is a chauffer through the hotel.  Or supposedly through the hotel.  You're supposed to book him through the hotel but he agreed to let us book him at a lower price (I guess under the table or whatever you would call it).  We ended up paying him $50 for  the day (it was supposed to be 10 hours but we used him only for 8) which is $5 more than we were going to spend to pay the Bali Car Rentals guy but we paid $5 less last night so it works.

Bagi (the driver) spoke very good English and told me he learned it just from the customers he drove around.  I was very impressed.  He took us to Katu first because I wanted to do some shopping.  He told us that a lot of the crafts were imitations or things bought in Ubud (who has high-quality crafts) and then sold in Kuta at a higher price.  He said to do a lot of bargaining since several of the crafts would be low-quality and far over-priced.  Tom was great and did a lot of hard bargaining and got me some fantastic deals!  I've picked up a few souvenirs but am waiting mostly to shop until tomorrow when we'll be in Ubud because I expect to find better things.  The Indonesian shop owners are VERY persistent!  They'll follow you down the street begging you to buy something.  Lots of times they send their little kids to follow you to try to get you to buy something.  At one point a little 3 or 4 year old girl was following us trying to get us to buy pencils.  They train them young!  Tom got some chicken satay at a warung which I had like 2 pieces of.  It was just so hot outside that it was hard to eat hot food!  After shopping, Bagi took us to see a famous temple called Tanah Lot.  It's also right on the ocean and just gorgeous!  We walked down to the ocean and walked along the beach for awhile and looked at all the shops on the grounds.  We bought some ice cream which was overpriced just because we're white.  After Tanah Lot, Tom asked Bagi to take us somewhere cheap to eat.  He asked to go to a warung and Bagi said he knew one close to the hotel.  When we got there the restaurant was called "warung" but it was not really a warung.  It was a restaurant instead of a stall.  Tom didn't want to tell him to take us somewhere else after he had already parked (since that would be kind of rude) so we just ate there even though everything was overpriced.  We ended up spending $12 which is 6 times as much as we budgeted to spend on any meal.  Good thing we brought extra money!

After eating Bagi took us back to our hotel - it was only 5:45pm but I was totally exhausted!  I sat on the balcony for awhile to warm up (I was actually cold here in Bali after being in the air conditioned car for an hour) and then showered and readied for bed.  I decided I should try to stay up at least a little later so I didn't wake up at 3am.  Jet lag.  Ugh.  Anyway, Bali has been wonderful so far and we are looking forward to Ubud tomorrow!
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