Adventures living as expats in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Moving on from Jakarta

A few months ago, Jeff and I received the much anticipated news that we would be moving to Taichung, Taiwan.  After returning from our home leave trip in late July, we immediately got started with all the moving preparations - securing Taiwan visas after gathering all of the paperwork, sorting and packing up the apartment, moving into a temporary residence, cancelling our Indonesia residence cards and working visas, and saying many heartfelt goodbyes to our wonderful friends in Jakarta.   During this time we had a bit of a chance to reflect on our experience in Jakarta and recall some of the ups and downs we've had.

We've been fortunate to have such an amazing opportunity to travel and experience living in a completely different culture; however, it has come with sacrifices and taught us a lot about ourselves and how blessed we are as American. We've never regretted our decision to take on Jakarta and will always look back on it with overwhelmingly positive memories.  Here are just a few of the things that we'll miss as we adjust to our new home in Taiwan.

  • Indonesians are some of the friendliest people we've met in all of our travels.  They are always ready with a warm smile and a "selamat pagi" (good morning) or "hello mister."  Even during the fasting month of Ramadan, I was blown away at how positive people would remain.  
  • Spas are everywhere and prices are unbelievable.  We typically would get a weekly reflexology or massage which would cost us anywhere from $7 - $12 for an hour depending on how luxurious the setting was.  
  • Jakarta has a fantastic fine-dining restaurant scene with so many cuisines to choose from as well as great casual cafes and coffee shops.  Some of our favorites restaurants were Monologue, Goods Diner, Potato Head, Union, Le Quartier, Turkuaz, Han Yang Garden, Taco Local, Anomoli, and La Luce.  
  • Having a housekeeper / cook was such a luxury that we're unlikely to have again anytime soon. I loved having a clean house all the time and not worrying about when I next needed to clean the bathroom.  I will miss ironed pajamas and perfectly folded underwear.
  • Travel opportunities from Jakarta were extensive and cheap.  During the last 3 years we've visited 11 new countries and 20 different islands throughout Indonesia.  Some of the most memorable trips have been with friends like Nusa Lembongan with Brendan and crew, Anyer with Adelle, Lombok for Mia's 30th, Pulau Macan for Bede's 30th, Yogyakarta with Tane and fam, Bali with Dalena, Vietnam with Tav and Jenny, Oz with Matt and Adelle, and of course the epic Banda Belters trip.  
  • Above all else, Jakarta has an incredibly welcoming and adventurous community of people and we've made so many life-long friendships.  From the first month we arrived through to the last week, we always had people inviting us into their lives and supporting us through struggles we were having.  
This farewell post would not be complete without a list of the more humorous and strange things that became very normal in our lives in Jakarta, so here goes.  

  • Beware of Jakarta street food and fresh fruits or vegetables.  This is not the same risk level as a local taco stand in Mexico.  Three years in Jakarta doesn't make you immune either as both Jeff and I can attest to.  Moreover, don't assume you or your visitors are safe in fancy restaurants (sorry Tav and Jenny). 
  • Embrace side cutting in lines.  Our initial polite attempts to queue in lines often felt like a test of patience.  Merge into the line on the side like the rest of the crowd.
  • Security screenings don't need to slow you down.  You're not required to take off your purse or stop when the metal detector goes off.  Just follow along with everyone else and keep moving.
  • Singapore medical outs are fantastic.  Why not combine a vacation with teeth cleaning?   
  • Four people on a motorbike is average, five people is worth a look, six is worth a picture.  
  • Someday you will have to clean up after yourself.  I love to tell people of the time that our housekeeper called in sick on a Monday and I forgot to tell Jeff.  He got home before me and called in a feigned panic claiming that our house had been ransacked while we were at work.  Actually we just left our apartment looking like a tornado had ripped through it.
  • When in doubt about the food while traveling to remote areas, you can subsist on rice for several days.  Nasi goreng (fried rice) and nasi kuning (yellow fragrant rice) are great options in these situations and rarely will your stomach regret it later on.  
  • You can pay "jockeys" in Jakarta to ride along in your car so that you can use 3 in 1 lanes during rush hours.
  • Jeff had a special pair of "massage underwear."  
  • We often sent more texts to our driver than to each other.
  • Discussing stomach health (or lack of) was a surprisingly common and popular conversation topic.
  • Being asked personal questions like "how much weight have you gained?" or "why have you been married 4 years and don't have any kids yet?" became the norm.  
Sampai jumpa lagi Jakarta.  We will miss you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Milano and Parma, Italy 2015

After getting off the train and getting settled into our hotel, Jeff and I were famished and headed to dinner at a nearby restaurant at around 7:30.  We got a few strange looks as we're seated in the completely empty dining room.  After looking around uncomfortably for a few minutes, the host explained to us that most Italians don't eat dinner until 8:30 or later.  Luckily another naive couple walked in a few minutes later and broke the awkward silence that was hanging over the restaurant as Jeff and I whispered about whether we should leave and come back later or not.   We opted to fill the extra time by ordering a bottle of wine and taking our time deciding on what to eat which worked out perfectly for us.

The next day was our only full day in Milan so we walked all over the city touring museums and the Duomo (cathedral) in city center, drinking espresso, and eating gelato.

The Armory in one of the museums we visited
A mall close the city center with so many luxury brands
The Duomo of Milan
Inside the Duomo
After our short tour of Milan, we rented a car and headed south to Parma - the home of Parma ham and Parmigiano-reggiano.   What a wonderful finale to our trip it was!
A Castle in Parma
Inside the Duomo of Parma
Inside the Baptistery in Parma

Our second day in Parma included a self guided castle journey around the province.  Our first stop was the Fontanellato Castle with a deep moat surrounding it.  We did see some bottom feeder type fish but unfortunately no alligators or man eating piranhas.
Fontanellato Castle
Fontanellato Castle
Next we headed to the picturesque Torrechiara Castle which was surrounded by beautiful countryside and had beautiful paintings on the inside of most of the rooms.
Torrechiara Castle
Torrechiara Castle
Torrechiara Castle
Our final stop for the day was Bardi Castle, which was an important military fortress that looked pretty impossible to defeat.  There were enormous walls complete with arrow slits and holes for dumping hot tar or rocks out of.  There were cellars set up to store large amounts of food in case of a siege.  There was even a torture rooms with super creepy apparatuses that made us both feel pretty queasy.  
Bardi Castle
View from on the of the towers
Torture table in the dungeon
This view was made for selfies.
Our final day was filled with a food tour around Parma to see Parmegiano-reggiano production, Parma ham curing, and traditional balsamic vinegar processing - all among some of Jeff's favorite foods.
Making the cheese
These salt baths help to cure the Parmigiano-reggiano so that it can be aged
The cheese vault
Parma ham aging refrigerator
More Parma ham
The traditional balsamic vinegar has to be aged in these barrels for at least 12 years.  
12, 20, and 25 year balsamic vinegar
We had such a fantastic time exploring a little of Paris and Italy.  One tradition that we're working on taking home with us is how Italians eat dinner - lots of conversation, plenty of wine, and no time limit.  This seems to us like a huge improvement over the quick dinners we've gotten into the habit of having lately.

3 Days in Paris, 2015

Our 3 days in Paris flew by in a whirlwind and it felt like we needed at least another week to really see the city and get properly caught up with our friends and fantastic hosts for the weekend, Mia and Dillon.  Despite missing a night of sleep on our flight from Portland, we powered through our first day and headed straight to the Eiffel Tower after dropping our bags off.  Our adrenaline and energy really kicked in as we rode the elevators up.  Overlooking the city from the tower was incredible and such a great way to get oriented with the city.  It's no wonder that it's the most visited paid monument in the world with 7 million visitors each year.  
Our first sighting
Beautiful breezy view from the Eiffel Tower
The following day we took a bike tour of the city which was fantastic overview of all the best sights in Paris.  We didn't have enough time to go into any of the museums, but at least got to see the outside of these amazing landmarks.  We hope to return some day so we've got plenty on our list to save for the next visit.
Notre Dame
One of the Love Lock bridges in Paris.  
Jet lagged but having an amazing time
Blue Bike tour group
Our favorite day was spent wandering around several charming Paris neighborhoods with Dillon as our trusty guide.  We loved walking by the markets that always had jaw dropping selections of cheeses, baked goods, sweets, cured meats, and prepared food.  Fast food here is entirely different than in America and undoubtedly much tastier and healthier.
This was just a small section of the cheeses available.  We love French cheese! 
My favorite stop of the day for fancy scooped Gelato.
The original Laduree macaroons.  My favorite flavor was pistachio.
Thanks Dillon for showing us around :-)
World's largest crepe?
After our short trip in Paris we hopped on the train to Milan which was a great trip.  The seats are roomy and comfortable, there is decent food available to buy, and the scenery is gorgeous with plenty of green vineyards, ornate cathedrals, imposing castles, and cute villages to see along the way.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

America the Beautiful, Home Leave 2015

A few weeks before we left for our summer trip home, we got the official offer to move to Taiwan.  Jeff had been working really hard towards this move and we had both been keeping our fingers crossed that everything would fall into place as hoped.  Knowing that we'd be home in a few weeks, we decided to wait and tell everyone in person so we could celebrate together.  We've been trying to keep expectations reasonable, but all we can talk about is being able to walk around the city (which is not not much of an option in Jakarta) and enjoy hiking in the mountains of Taiwan (again really difficult in Jakarta due to the hours of traffic returning to Jakarta).  We're even planning on getting a dog!!!

I flew home a few days ahead of Jeff so I could spend some extra time with the family.  Being home during the summer is unbeatable and we arrived just before the 4th of July so we wouldn't miss the fireworks and inevitable party.  The family hosted a big barbeque and we all watched the fireworks from the back patio after stuffing ourselves with Dad's famous ribs and my almost famous apple pie.
Great sunset views from the patio. 
Morgan was happy to show off her new bike skills decked out with streamers, horn, basket, and of course a flag.
Morgan was still full of energy the day after the party so we stopped by the carnival.  I jumped on the swings right out of the gate remembering how much I used to love that ride.  Once it got up to speed I realized my mistake and each round seemed to ratchet up the nausea factor.  After that, Jeff was designated as the official carnival ride jockey.   He later had to pull out due to a bumper car whiplash injury, but luckily Morgan was tired out too so we called it a day.
Just before the nausea set in.
Get ready!
Quick trip to Virginia City for some sightseeing and target practice.
The finale for Nevada was riding the famous flume trail in Tahoe.  It involves a very steep 3 mile climb up to the ridge, then 5 or so miles of flat riding with awe inspiring views and adrenaline pumping drop offs.  Jeff made a video that does a much better job explaining than I can.  I walked away with a few scrapes after an ungraceful fall (of course with a few people watching) on the way down, but it was well worth it for the scenery.

What a view!

Next up we headed up to Portland and went to a Hops baseball game with Dalena and Ivan and enjoyed dinner at the ballpark (which included surprisingly tasty Mexican food), beers, and a great sunset view.

After spending a day running errands including the dreaded DMV, we had a family day and enjoyed lunch at a food cart pod and Nike shopping.  In the evening we headed out to Edgefield for a concert on the lawn.  My favorite part was the homemade Oregon marionberry ice cream.   Jeff seemed most excited about all the McMenamin's beers.  Dalena was excited not to be driving for once and splurged on 2 cocktails bringing her 10 year count up to 3.   Ivan was super pumped about seeing his absolute favorite band, The Decemberists (haha jk Ivan).
Of course we haven't been drinking.
On Sunday we had our second annual wine and picnic day with the Smith's and Vanderboms.   We managed to make it to 4 wineries which takes pure stamina and dedication.  Luckily we were all up for the task especially Rachelle who had to watch us drink with envy last year.
White Rose winery
Fancy picnic time - olives, cured meats, local cheeses, Oregon fruit, and of course wine!
Our last winery of the day.  By this time none of us could stop laughing.

Visiting Matt and Adelle

I've become a bit lazy in keeping up with the blog lately, and Jeff brought up how much he likes to read them later on.  Hearing his encouragement gave me a boost of motivation so I'm determined to catch up with the last few posts I've missed.

Our trip to visit Matt and Adelle can best be summarized in fantastic wine, great company, and delicious meals.  Jeff's video below gives an excellent depiction of the trip.

Our first stop after landing in Sydney was to head north to the beach town of Terrigal.  We took a short hike down to the beach at Bouddi National Park where Matt entertained us with his impressive sand art skills.   Terrigal was the perfect place to get sufficiently caught up with Matt and Adelle while basking in the fresh air of Australia.   Jeff and I have a bit of an obsession with Australian slang so we added "Hoon" (fast driver, can be used as a verb too - hooning around) and "Stobie Pole" (telephone pole) to our ever growing vocabulary.
Bouddi National Park hike
Friendly little lorikeet.
Adelle and I ran up to thepoint one morning, what a view!  
Drinks on the beach after a good walk along the coast
After the extended weekend in Terrigal, Matt and Adelle has some work to catch up on so we headed off for a few days in the Blue Mountains.  When we got there the air was cold and crisp and I was super thankful for my down jacket.  We spent a few days shopping around in Leura, riding the gondola at Scenic World, and snuggling up in our B&B cabin.  
Jeff and I ran to the Three Sisters viewpoint.  Jeff is not much of a morning exerciser and he adamantly accused me of ditching him on the way there claiming that he was going at his "top speed".  
From the gondola at Scenic World
On our way out of the Blue Mountain, we stopped at the Jenolan Caves which we both loved.
For our final weekend in Australia, we reconnected with Matt and Adelle and stayed with them in Canberra.  We arrived to the amazing aromas of Matt's famous lamb leg on the barbie.   The next morning Adelle took us to one of my favorite breakfast spot ever.  The coffee was spot on and we sat outside wrapped up in blankets; it almost felt like breakfast in bed with friends.  We spent Friday touring around Canberra including the War Memorial and Museum, The Parliament, and The Portrait Museum.  Our final day included an epic girls run around the lake which ended up being almost 7 miles!  Luckily we went out to a huge brunch afterwards at a cute restaurant / winery where we all devoured our food.  We're already looking forward to a reunion in late December for the Moore-Sugden wedding celebration.  
War Memorial
You can walk on top of the Parliament! 
Brunch at Poacher's Pantry with Helen
Sunset from Matt and Adelle's apartment on our last night.