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Entries in Expat Bog (9)


Merry Indonesian Christmas! 

You know that banality of new parenthood? The one when you walk out of the hospital cradling the new baby. You’re all uncertainty and excitement. Then, you get in the car and find yourself wondering when the real grown-ups are going to arrive and take over this whole being an adult thing.  

I kind of feel like that about cultural high holidays.


Like, someone just handed me a bundle of Christmas and expects me to know what to do. Here! Here’s a holiday! Make it magic! Your child’s future memories depend on it! And, oh, PS, there’s no snow! Have fun!!!!


I always feel totally out of my depth. Here I am, in tropical Indonesia, with a three year old who is starting to ‘get’ Christmas, and there are no real grown ups in sight. 


But this year, somehow we pulled it off. 


Stella and I shared a quiet candle-lit dinner on Christmas eve, catered personally by Mr. Chef who was stuck at work. 


Then we headed out to watch a children’s choir sing Christmas carols, just like we did last year. TAnd of course they sang about five numbers from the Sound of Music, because Stella lives for the TSoM, and it’s Christmas and magic, and nothing could have been more perfect.

When we woke up on Christmas morning, and delighted at the stockings waiting for us at the breakfast table.  Although Stella was quite insistent that stockings are for FEET and NOT for presents. We whipped up a batch of cinnamon rolls, along with a few other treats courtesy of Mr. Chef’s kitchen, and slowly opened presents.


Stella was not really that into presents this year, more interested in pancakes, orange juice, and the fact that we were headed out to her friend’s house later. Eventually we enticed her with the promise of a really, really big present. When she discovered a scooter inside, all was lost. She had no more need for any other wrapped parcels. A SCOOTER!! She declared, “Father Christmas is very clever!” English accent and all, because (??????!!!!???)

Unfortunately Mr. Chef was not able to really enjoy all the Christmas the fun. He was taken down by a terrible bout of something nasty and tropical, and was too sick to even eat a piece of toast. Which is really a shame, because he went all out in the Christmas department this year, and deserved more than ever to take part in the festivities.

Stella and I left him at home to recover while we partook in all the Christmas merriment. Believe me, I felt kind of conflicted about abandoning our valiant Chef.

We joined some friends for a massive Christmas lunch complete with eggnog, Christmas crackers and flambéed Christmas pudding. There were a million children, old fiends and new, all gathered together running wild like cousins they'd known since birth. And adults sitting around tables in the back garden sipping on festive drinks. I felt just like all the aunites and uncles gathered together in a farm house kitchen somewhere in Eastern Ontario. Except with a pool. And palm trees. 

And so, I declared all of us all very clever because somehow, against the odds, we created for ourselves the most christmassy of Christmases right here in topical Indonesia. Really. This year was one of the best. 

Annnd, here's Christmas last year, our first one in the tropics. 

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"a portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2013"

Stella: She spent almost the entire weekend running off, exploring the "crunchry side" with her friend.

Stella and I are back from a much-needed respite in country where we spent a three-day weekend with some of the very best people in Jakarta. It's amazing what some fresh air and dirty feet can do for the soul. I'm feeling clarity and direction like I haven't in months, and am determined to make regular trips outside of the big city.



"a portrait of my child, once a week, every week."

Stella: Afraid to get in the pool, and reluctant to pose for my camera.


Stella and I received one of the most coveted tickets in expatdom this weekend: an invite to a Saturday afternoon barbecue with a house full of great people, a pool full of swimming kids, and lots and lots of grilled food with which to fill our bellies.

A barbecue with some friends is the simplest of pleasures, right? Something that you wouldn't think twice about in Suburban North America. But here, oceans away from the familiar, it's a rare treat, a connection to home and a reminder of community. 

We ate, and talked, chased kids, and laughed, until the skies opened up to a topical downpour and we all piled into taxis, and headed home, hearts full. 


How 'bout some colourful babies from last week? Strips and sandals in the grass; interplay of contrasting colours and geometric patterns, oh, and sparkles; and a knit baby hat that almost makes me want to feel that autumn chill. And here's a little Fox for good measure because week after week, his mum kills it with her camera. 


Further Proof that Disney Really Is Magic

So, yesterday Mr. Chef got to meet actual real-life totally legit Mickey Mouse.


No big deal. Just another day in the life of a chef. 




Apparently The Mouse was in town for some super high-profile mouse-like business. And The Mouse happened to run into Mr. Chef, so  A + B = Mr. Chef is now, like, totally besties with Mickey Mouse. 


And because Disney magic etc, Mickey Mouse offered make time to meet Stella personally. Which was totally amazing, but also extremely unwise given that our child is terrified of most everything that is not solidly human. (Remember that time that she was screaming in utter horror at the sight of a pigeon? And the time that she was terrified of my 13 pound dog, a dog which she's seen approximately 20 times in her life? And then there was a time wherein she saw a shoddy Mouse impostor at a birthday party and had then refused to be put down for the duration of the event.)


Still, because there's nothing that Disney can't turn to magic, Mickey kindly gave four (four!!!) stuffed animals to Mr. Chef to deliver to Stella.


Mr. Chef snuck them into the apartment while we were out playing and then sent me a picture.


I showed Stella the picture on my phone. She reacted predictably. (Read: with utter terror.) "No, I no wike! I no want! Mickey not come to mine house!!!"


When we finally got home, and saw the toys waiting for her in the living room, she refused to cross the threshold of our apartment until I touched each one prove that they weren't alive. Then they had to spend a quarantine period in the closet. After maybe half an hour of clinging to me and refusing to go near the toys, she got up the nerve to give one a poke.


And then? She was in love.


So, obviously she spent the next half-hour watching Mickey Mouse Club House together with "the guys."  





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Baturaden, Central Java

Remember that time I took a long train journey with my two-year-old and her nanny / my friend and it was about the most exciting thing to happen in my little life in, ummmmm, forever? Yeah. So, you'll have to excuse me while I relive this trip, because it was a total big deal.

When we last left off, our little traveling band had just experienced some amazing jungley-waterfall-hot-spring fun in Guci and Tegal

We woke up on our second morning, hot and kind of tired from a restless night's sleep in a sub-awesome (read windowless + gecko-poop-ful) hotel room. I decided that we should hit the road again. So, out came the Lonely Planetand AH HA!!, we would head to Porwokato via train, and then to Baturaden from there by taxi.

So we packed up our bags, hopped into a becak (a bicycle taxi) and took off for the train station arriving just in time to catch our train. Or so we thought....

Turns out we bought tickets to the wrong city. Ummmm. Yeah. So, back to the ticket counter for a refund. Consoling a wee little girl who was so upset that she would not, in fact, get to ride a choo-choo that day, and back into a pair of becaks (we had seen the sweat on the guy's brow as he peddled us all on the trip to the station), and headed out to a random road-side to flag down a bus that would take us to Porwokato.

 This little lady is staring longingly at the choo-choo tracks. 

Ta! DA!  Travel adventure here we come!

I can tell you that the bus we took was just all shades of sketchy: a driver who thought stopping for passenger while they embarked was optional, but, hey, he would slow down as they jumped on; dudes hanging out smoking everywhere, but at least the door wouldn't close so there was lots of ventilation; also holes in the ground (see above re. ventilation); a rain storm (wheeeee open door). Still, the scenery was amazing, the cost was low (less than 5 dollars for the three of us!) and it got us where we wanted to go.  

Sketchiest bus in the history of busses.


We arrived in Powokato mid-afternoon and then headed up the mountain to the hill station of Baturaden. And after a long, hot, smokey and sometimes rainy journey, Baturaden was just the ticket. Peaceful, a solid 5 or 7 degrees cooler, so lush and green, it was heaven. For about 12 hours the only sound we heard was the rush of a mountain stream and a the occasional gecko call. 

We stayed at Hotel Rosenda (great location, fairly comfortable, but breakfast is kind of terrible in low season. Good value if you don't mind geckos, and okay, the biggest cockroach I've ever seen, but it's the tropics, so...) But the best part? Our view! Look! This is what we saw when we first arrived!


And it only got better in the morning. Hey, tropical paradise. I like you.


 There was some pool swimming, some nature viewing, and general kid-friendly fun. 

Oh, and like one of the best meals I've even had in Indonesia at Pringsewu, complete with a private gazebo strung with Chinese lantern. And a playground. And geckos. I can't rave enough about this place. For about $20 we ate like kings, enjoying the freshest, most delicious Indonesian food (they're super into healthy, organic, local produce and all round general yummyness.) Best? It was a five minute walk from our hotel. We ate there both nights we stayed in Baturaden and wish we could go back. 

 As we got up the next morning to explore, we didn't really have much of a plan. But we stumbled across a hot spring park, which, actually we didn't get to see much of, because there were more exciting things like a gorup of school children on a field trip! Horary! Kids! So, basically we just played the morning away, walked around the park, fed fishies, and had a swim in a pool of questionable cleanliness.  





I understand there's lots more to do in Baturaden, but I guess we'll have to go back when Mr. Chef can join us. This was a lovely little place. A perfect getaway from the hot crazy that is Jakarta. I think we may end up back here. 

For previous peeks into our trip to Central Java see these:

Project Life: Week Two

Tegal + Guci 

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Phew! What a week! (Or rahter five days? Was it really only five days? I was just cursing through my photos {which, PS, turned out to be all rather meh, as landscape photography with a 50 mm lens is basically highly sub-optimal} and I was like, wait how can that have been only yesterday, it feels like half a lifetime ago???)

Here we are, three traveling bandits, discovering the great joy that comes from combining a two-year-old with an unguarded historical ruin and a camera remote. Seriously. Does it get any better than this???

So we're back, and we ticked most of the adventure boxes: last minute plans and a mad rush to the train station; a madcap ride through the jungle on a bus that can only be classified as extraordinarily sketchy, piloted by a driver whose perception of risk caused me, on more than one occasion, to contemplate the end of my life; geckos and dinosaur bugs aplenty; street food that made me offer devotions to the diarrhea gods, but was also kind of sublime; green green green vistas that would not let me close my eyes, note even for a moment for fear I miss a heard of sheep or the span of a bridge or the arc of a bundle of rice seedlings as it sails through the air; random (good natured) kidnappings of my child; sleepless nights; kindness and joy, the likes of which I'll not soon forget.

Anyway, we're back. We're exhausted. But also (at least I speak for my self here) reinvigorated, energized, and totally charmed by this amazing country. I'm already dreaming up our next trip. Really. I've had a taste of adventure, and now, please look away while I gorge myself on wanderlust, and also stand by for roughly a billion (poor quality) images of our trip and tales of roaming hither and tither through Central Java with a two-year-old in tow. 



New Year's Eve: Act One

I like New Year's Eve. I like it a lot. I'd almost go so far as to say that I'd take it over Christmas. It's the anticipation, excitement, freshness of the day. It's the celebratory way in which we bid a fond farewell to extra-special year, or perhaps a gleeful "sayonara sucker" to a year that we'd rather forget.

I've found that the best way to enjoy this last day of the year is to make no plans, to have no expectations, and just wait for the night to unfold.

Mr. Chef was working, as is the lot of those in hospitality, so my girl and I, we just went where the wind carriedus, and we had one of the best nights in aeons. 

One of the busiest roads in Jakarta was closed from late afternoon until well into the night. Streets that are usually gridlocked and honking were now gridlocked and honking, but of a different sort. People, packed into so tightly there was no possibility of movement, blowing horns, lighting fireworks, and shouting greetings well into the night. And everyone was so happy, despite the drizzle.

In place of cars and busses were food stalls, fiery woks and glowing charcoal.

Things deep fried and delicious. 

Steamed peanuts and steamed corn.

We met this little girl, dancing her heart out in the central fountain. Scores of people were blowing bubbles, plastic cups of dish detergent and pipe cleaner wands sold for a few cents turned the air to magic.

Stella got in on the action. And was thrilled.

I only pass my kid off to random strangers on special occasions. 

And here, she's amazed to be set free to wander through the streets and dart in and out of crowds without hindrance from her mother. 

All of this was only the pre-party. Rain started coming down heavier by 7 PM, so my girl and I took refuge inside. 

More adventures to come!

While not exactly wordless, per se, this post is word lite. And so, I'm pretty sure that justifies linking for Wordless Wednesday at The Paper Mama, Parenting BY Dummies, + Seven Clown Circus