Skating in the tropics
Just thinking about Ice hockey
Not that there’s a hockey season this year
Somehow I thought of Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay … that’s just such a demented place to
play ice hockey
That being said … ice hockey was very popular at the
one ice rink we had in Surabaya,Indonesia
They actually brought in Canadian instructors to teach
Ice-skating is still amazingly popular here. You’d be shocked how good some of the kids are. The one big problem with being on the ice with them is their complete lack of awareness. In the middle of a group someone will kick out, do a spin or rush in for the sole purpose of stopping suddenly and causing a spray of ice.
I enjoy skating. I avail myself of the opportunity whenever Emily and her sisters decide to shop. I hate shopping.
One of the teachers at the Surabaya International
School(SIS) started coaching a couple of teams and it
eventually became a small league
I skated a couple of times a month … great exercise
Strange enough .. we do not have any rinks here in
Changsha. It gets cold enough here,but skating doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact in China
They’re very excited by the Olympics
As much as Korea was by getting to host the World Cup
When I was first in Korea in ’96 the World cup was
announced …within minutes of the announcement the
streets were filled with people. They were shouting
and waving flags. By the time we returned in 2001 the
excitement had only increased. My wife and I were back in
Indonesia before the fever peaked.
Here in China, Olympic fever has four years to gather
steam … and steam will be gathered
As for exercise now … I walk a lot
I’ve heard rumors of a gym, but like Bigfoot,
government integrity and a five day week …. it
remains a rumor
I’ve been busy hiring teachers ..just hired three, and have
one more coming and need two more fulltime and two
I haven’t made much of a start on the diploma yet as I
haven’t had time. Once I do finish I’ll complete a
Masters … it’ll likely be next fall to wrap it all
A Husband’s Perspective
(from my website in 1998)
For me, the stress of this crisis began on Monday, May 18.
“You’ve been ordered to leave.” Dini’s voice was rapid and strained.
“When?’ I asked, as if someone was telling me the bar was about to close.
“This afternoon. Everyone’s meeting at the Shangri La hotel.”
Dini, from the Canadian consulate http://anonymouse.ws/cgi-bin/anon-www.cgi/mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org has been a great help. She’s helped with paperwork for our marriage; she intervened with an employer, and she has been a conduit for official information. Dini is also a very professional and pleasant person. Her clipped speech, and frantic tone were completely out of character.
Basically, here was the situation. The Canadian Embassy and the US Consulate General Surabaya http://anonymouse.ws/cgi-bin/anon-www.cgi/mailto:email@example.com had chartered a flight. Canadians, Americans, Germans, Dutch and a couple of Turkish nationals were going to fly to Singapore.
For this excursion they would pay the bargain price of $500 USD. Now, if you’re a businessman or an engineer – no problem. Teachers in Indonesia make between $300 and $450 USD per month. When you have a family, with children in school, you don’t have an excess of cash. My wife Emily and I have two children, Emily’s from a previous marriage, but nonetheless – our children. The wolf may indeed have been at the door, but that sucker was going hungry tonight. My family is my life and no crisis will change that.
On Sunday night we had a family meeting. I outlined the options.
Canada: We could spend everything we have and take the family to Canada. Canada is where I have family and friends, but no job to go back to. More importantly I don’t have a place to stay, at least for any extended period.
America: I have friends there. Emily, my wife, has a visa. I love the country. It’s a damn expensive trip, and again I don’t have a home or a job there.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong is a big, beautiful and exciting city. Emily speaks passable Mandarin and her mother is fluent in Mandarin, Hokkian and Cantonese. The children’s Chinese is like my Indonesian: pathetic but earnest. Emily has family there. Hong Kong is impossible without money. Finding a job could be next to impossible. I want to see Hong Kong, but I’d prefer the experience to be a positive one.
Taiwan: The jobs are there in Taiwan. Many teachers have left for Taiwan. Would my family be allowed in. I can’t take the chance.
In the end, we decided to wait it out here.
With Wednesday’s impending madness (see below) almost upon us we discussed hiding out in one of Surabaya’s hotels, or going out of town. We decided to wait on developments.
No one could give me a clear answer about the family. They’re Indonesian citizens, but they’re also Chinese. Even if Emily could come, being my wife, what about the kids? Even if Emily and the kids were allowed, what about Emily’s mom?, their Grandmother?, my mother-in-law?
Do in-laws count as carry-on luggage. Don’t freak gentle reader – I love my mother-in-law. She’s a great lady. The bottom line is; I’m not leaving my family.
Norm Mcdonald from the Canadian Embassy said later that my family might be able to come out with me. On there own, Canadians have returned home. Some remain in Singapore waiting out the crisis.
Some will undoubtedly go to Taiwan, or Thailand. Some will even go to Bali.
Some American friends are now in Bali, waiting.
We are now at home waiting for the situation to return to normal. Here we sit, packed suitcases and documents at the ready.
Local children are in the street. They’re playing volleyball. The ball makes a dull thud when they hit it. The balls here never seem to have enough air. They’re having fun.
Meanwhile, we sit behind our seven foot iron fence – waiting.
Some streets, like the one directly in front of our house, are blocked by rusting cars and vans,.Other streets by soldiers. Men decidedly less rusty than the cars and vans. Men having less fun than the children. Men waiting.
People sit in small groups, talk, drinking and eating. Kaki Limas(five legged men)the street merchants with their pushcarts, sell food and drink. The voices on the street are uncharacteristically low.
Sharing quick smiles, and nervous glances, hands together or resting on knees – they wait.
A young woman, eating food from a Kaki Lima, shakes her hips slowly and seductively to Ricky Martin’s ‘Maria’. A large black rooster intrudes on the volleyball game. He exits quickly as the ball narrowly misses him. Too bad. He’s probably the noisy bugger who woke me up this morning, at three o’clock. The dancer has finished her meal and joined the game.
Young men, previously content to watch, have now joined the game. For now they are moving, playing, and laughing. The waiting may come later.
Saturday, November 14,1998
Surabaya is quiet right now. We hope things stay calm. We’re okay here,but things in Jakarta are crazy. A number of students have been shot,and beaten. Some have died.
Yes, we do have our bags packed, but we’re not living in constant fear.You departmentalize. I’ve got a panic attack scheduled from 3:15 to 3:30. Then the kids are home from school. In Asia,as you may or may not know, Saturday is a school day.
Here in Indonesia it is a constant shifting of equalibrium. You think you’re set, that things are secure and arranged, and zap. Nothing is what it seems.
Emily, my wife, is in China right now. She’s making contacts for our business. She left last week with her mother and sister. She’ll be gone one more week. It’s been very lonely, and very hectic. I miss her, but I’m glad she’s not in Indonutzoh.
In terms of stress, nothing quite equals parenthood. I haven’t had the breaking-in period.
The hardest thing with teenagers is to convince them they’re not invulnerable.
… And then
It’s been a long time since I last wrote.
It’s getting more difficult to find the time.
I’ve been teaching 40hrs a week.
Its about twice as much as anyone would want to attempt for any extended period.
We’re doing okay here.
Things are a bit uncertain at times.
Living in Asia is sometimes like being under a microscope.
Everything you do is examined, talked about and then embroidered. As I’m not known for my patience with gossips at the best of times, Asia can be stressful.
Emily’s business is going well. Work is going well.
On Sunday morning we will be leaving for Bali.
Some perverse part of me was actually nostalgic as I read your description of snow. I think I’ll try to bake that part away in the Balinese sun.
I’ll write more later.
Jakarta is not on fire, but the level of casual violence has increased.
Muggings and robberies, especially by taxi drivers, are the biggest problem for foreigners.
We had a large demo on Mayjen Sukorno today. Seems Megawati’s faction has some beef with the Darmala group.
During the last week of February a young man was killed near Pasar Atum, a localand very rundown shopping plaza. He was stabbed in the back so that the thieves could take his motorcycle.
Ethnic violence is being pushed in the news but the actual incidents have been rare. This is a case of quick and nasty robberies.
We have also had a rise in Dimam Berdarah(Dengue Fever) Two of our neighbours went to hospital. There back home now. Sulewesi was hit pretty hard.
The rains have been quite heavy this year.
Bali was nice. It was also damn crowded.
We returned from Bali early Saturday morning.
It is a long drive, and because of holiday traffic and ferry delays; it was even worse.
We waited from 3:330pm until 2:00am for the ferry.
Bali was nice, but it’s good to be home.
How are things there?
Tomorrow it’s back to work. I’ll try to be happy, but I really need some more time. Ah well.(big sigh)
All the best, Wayne, Emily and family
How are things there? I’ll write more later.
Sunday, February 28
I’m trying not to be a workaholic. I pretty sure I’m not an alcoholic. I can walk away after one beer. I avoid alcohol enough now, so that’s not the worry it was.
I find it difficult to turn away hours, but it has become a bit much.
Life here is going well. Occasionally there are bumps. We have a good life here, but I miss family, friends and a familiar landscape. I would love to return to Canada.
There would be two conditions though:
could I find a decent job, and could Emily find work.
Indonesia, or perhaps it’s just teaching, is stressing me out right now, but it’s the only viable gig I have.
I’m qualified to do other things.
I’d like to write, I’d love to design, and it would be great to feel creative again … but will it pay? I’d love to just teach computers, or writing again. My buddy Chris and I have been talking about a couple of scripts. I know I can write, but I don’t know thing one about marketing a script. The idea that keeps cropping up when you talk to people is a story about this life. I’m a teacher. He’s a teacher. Wouldn’t you like to be a teacher too?
There are eight million stories in the naked city, as the narrator said.
Maybe there are 10 or 15 really decent stories.
I hope all is well with you.
All the best, Wayne
Later that day …
News from a man with purple hair
Last friday Emily and I went to the movies with the kids. We saw Deep Impact. On Saturday we went again, with Emily’s sister and her mother.
Emily and I saw Phantoms, and her mother and sister saw Deep Impact.Phantoms is a decent mix of horror,sci-fi, and suspense. It was good to see Peter O’toole in a movie again.
So I suppose your wondering about the purple hair. The incident has its origins in a rather sad story.
Last week one of our dogs was suddenly sick. Our smallest dog, Sasa,was poisoned. We’re still not sure how. The in discriminant and rampant use of pesticides is a constant concern. We woke up early in the morning because she was yelping. She was in really bad shape. We were able to force milk into her, and the vet came and gave her a vitamin injection. She stabilized, but we kept our eyes and our minds on her all day.
During the afternoon we had a respite from the stress. Emily wanted to get her mind off things, so she decided to cut my hair. Emily is trained as a hairstylist and beautician. Fine enough. She’d also decided it was time for some more color. Okay, she’s done it before. My hair was in her hands. Previous dye jobs have given me a head of reddish-brown hair.
My hair – her decision, my complete faith.
This time something unusual happened. Either the ingredients were suspect or her mix was less than accurate. I washed the solution out of my hair. I toweled vigorously. I raised my head even with the mirror.
“Emily?, Emily? … Emily, there’s a problem.”
“Wayne, what’s wro …oh,OH. I’m sorry honey.”
“Emily, I love you … but can you fix this? I can not teach like this. My students are not mature enough to accept a teacher with purple hair.”
Eventually, after two more colors, and four shampooings, the hair was rendered a more neutral color. There are no pictures of this occurrence,but witnesses were reportedly shocked and amused.
I had to teach. The student’s reaction to my hair, which still has a purple color, was expected and personally traumatic. I weathered the storm.
The situation at home was not so easy to cope with.
Sasa, the puppy, suffered a relapse. Her breathing became shallow, her heartbeat was erratic, and she was vomiting. We had Sasa looked at by two more doctors, but in the end she died in my daughter’s arms.
The kids, Grace and Adryan, were shook up, as was Emily. I had to hide out in the room. I’ve never been comfortable expressing grief in front of others.
On Saturday we went into the mountains for three days. The planned trip to Bali never happened. We had a hell of a time arranging a room. The Australians and Europeans were taking advantage of the exchange rates.
The foreign presence drives up prices, and eliminates vacancies for hotels and flights. We finally found a hotel. Then we needed to arrange a van. On Thursday we were able to get a van.
The plan was to drive to Banyuwangi. We would then take the ferry to Denpasar. We would then drive to Kuta Beach. Kuta is the happening place,ya know.
The Balinese closed their ports.
We decided to go to Tretes. We stayed at the Surya Resort. It was great to be outside of Surabaya. It was my first trip to Tretes. We went to Skydisc.
Grace, Emily and I danced. I did manage to get Adryan drunk. He seems to think the only good beer pitcher is an empty beer pitcher. He might have a future as an English teacher. Hey, it’s cool … it was his birthday. This was the first time he’s been drunk and he survived without a hangover. My penance came on Sunday. My brother-in-law had decided it was time to see me drunk. I turned green after the second beer, and had to quickly exit to save face and my brother-law’s shoes.
I had a massage in the hotel’s fitness area.
Tretes is cool. There are very few mosquitos, and the pool is heated. I rented a pony and rode around the town. I had planned to be out a bit longer, but apparently the sight of a purple-haired Bule(foreigner)was a bit much for the locals. They couldn’t stop walking in front of the pony and touching my legs. I know I’m cute, but it was a bit too much appreciation.
We returned to Surabaya, and the business a few days ago. Amazing how the stress comes back so quick.
I hope things are going well for you.
We’re doing okay here.
This is basically an update.
Here, things are going well. The business is beginning to grow.
I thought I’d better drop you a short note and say hi.
How is everything?
Except for a couple of riots, Surabaya, at least, has been quiet.
On Monday, Tuesday, and especially during Habibie’s(former Indonesian President. He followed Suharto and preceded Megawati Sukarno) visit on Wednesday,traffic was nuts. Most of the so-called rioting was done by high school students. The action consisted of stone throwing, jumping into and out of trucks, running in the street and shouting obscenities at the passing army convoys. Basically it was a field trip for students in the Stupidity 101 program.
I was just remembering how beautiful a Canadian autumn can be.
I look forward to rediscovering the colors and smells of a September morning. I’ve told Emily, the kids and my students about the long walks. How difficult to communicate the long moments spent admiring the golds, reds greens and browns. To feel the last warmth of the year on your face. To stare unashamedly into clear autumn skies. To breath deep of the cooling breeze. To taste greedily of the clean air. How to explain looking up at the sky and knowing that this brief, transitory experience has to be embraced and then tucked safely away as winter’s approach is heralded in the ever-darkening skies.
I’ve been keeping up on some important news from home.
My brother’s wife just had a baby boy.
His name is Taylor.
As far as seeing my first nephew, it looks as if it won’t happen for awhile. We’re looking at March at the earliest. We could be coming as late as September. Emily may be going to Hong Kong in a couple of weeks. We’re hoping to make some new contacts. I’ll keep you posted. I’ve actually gained an incredibly large family here. Our niece Yay Jen had a birthday last night. I was working late, so I missed the party. This happens a bit too often, unfortunately. I either miss things, or show up late and overdressed. Men here generally favor Batik dress shirts. Batik is a tasteful Hawaiian shirt. Is tasteful stretching the point?
I have yet to ‘go native’. When I go to a wedding, funeral or to work, I wear a tie. I do not wear sandals, and I still don’t smoke. Having been the only abstainer in a family of chain-smokers you can imagine what I feel about this delightful pastime. I awoke at 4:00am with a major sinus headache. Emily spent two hours wrapping my face with hot towels. This helped a lot. We waited until 9:00am and made our way to Adi Husada. Loosely translated as Hussein’s house of Apathetic Sadism. I tolerated the hours-long wait. I tolerated the idiot questions. I tolerated the two-hour wait for results. Then my patience paid off. I was afforded the wondrous opportunity to witness a crowd of these caring souls gathering around a little old lady on a stretcher, and lighting up. There must have been eight or nine of these knights in shining ignorance. Well, I lost it. Whether it was the elegant way I enunciated the F word or my suggestions of their doubtful parentage, the crowd dispersed. Emily was not impressed.
I don’t like it, but she’s right.
I now reserve my anger, albeit subdued, for the guitar carrying miscreants who assemble at our gate. It’s bad enough on the street, but they’ve gone too far when they come to my home. One of the buggers had the nerve to ring the bell the other night. The servants also know not to give money to anyone at the door.
This has been my rant for the day.
I’ve just signed to teach a few extra hours at one of the ritziest schools in Indonesia. It’s smack dab in the middle of one of the swankest housing developments you could imagine. Do you know about Ciputraland. This place looks like the set of Miami Vice. Pastel colors,and beach house motifs abound.
You throw in a couple of Batik shirts and Don Johnson or Tom Selleck would feel right at home.
The school has facilities that I have rarely seen in Canada. Large classrooms, air-conditioning, well-stocked libraries, a video library, a computer lab, an art room, a large cafeteria, a wealth of teaching materials, and most surprisingly … a playground.
This is a culture that treats physical exertion as a strange phenomenon.
Ice-skating is still amazingly popular here. You’d be shocked how good some of the kids are. The one big problem with being on the ice with them; is their complete lack of awareness. In the middle of a group someone will kick out, do a spin or rush in for the sole purpose of stopping suddenly and causing a spray of ice. I enjoy skating. I avail myself of the opportunity whenever Emily and her sisters decide to shop. We arrive at the mall together; they shop, I skate, and then we have lunch. Saturdays are mall days. They window-shop, I skate, we see a movie, then we eat.
I’ll write more later.
My company is having an Anniversary bash, and I’ve been suckered into the MC position. I think I need my sleep.
I’m trying hard to be more Zen … whatever the heck that means. It occasionally works. I haven’t been bit, scratched or swore at by any of my students. Taxi drivers do, on occasion, swear at me. It’s amazing how selectively some people learn a language.
The Post Office
The regular postal service is a nightmare here. We visited the central post office in hopes of tracking some missing mail, both coming and going, but we ended up almost as lost as the mail. Hundreds of people, thousands of letters, and none of it in any obvious order.
I had letters all ready to mail to family and friends,and I wanted to track some mail that had gone missing.
Against Emily’s good advice I visited the central post office.
Imagine a large barn that someone has made a half-hearted attempt to turn into an office.
As I enter this space I am dumbstruck by the sight before me. Large canvas bags were piled haphazardly on the floor. Some opened, some not. Envelopes,large and small packages and other assorted mail spilled out onto the floor. Around this unattended dump site were a number of offices.
Having no signs to follow we entered the office nearest us.
Seven people sit around a long wooden table. A few are holding envelopes. They hold them in the way one might hold an alien artifact. They are examining the artifacts, not reading the strange inscriptions. They work with a reference for detail and an energy that you only see when really strong cough medicine has been ingested.
One begins to suspect that mail is not being checked for addresses. Draw your own conclusions here.
Emily asks if they can help us locate the missing mail. We are sent to another office. This new office is much the same. The process is repeated until we have visited seven offices in the barn.
All the offices are staffed by these arcane specialists applying their unique skills to the business of artifact sorting.
We had time, and a bit of patience. We were also possessed by morbid curiosity. How much more special could this experience get?
We entered another building. The process was exact down to the fine details. I swear the canvas bags were dropped in a spot corresponding to the other barn. The Mail was scattered in patterns so exactingly similar you’d swear there was an alien intelligence directing the placement. We were so impressed, we left.
We’re okay here. Both the kids are back at school, and Emily and I are too busy … as usual.
Work is going well. The business has been a bit shaky due to the Rupiah’s fluctuations, and also because of Hungry Ghost month in Hong Kong. During august the Chinese have to appease their ancestors with offerings of foods, gifts, and the burning of money … usually a symbolic representation is used. It’s very upsetting to the normal flow of business. The new airport in Hong Kong is also incredibly disorganized.
Well, that’s life in Asia. The teaching is going well.
A Past Event
Emily and I just returned from Tretes, a mountain village, a few minutes ago. We were actually at a church retreat. I didn’t burst into flames as I entered church property so I suppose my soul is safe for the moment. It was nice. It was quite relaxing. By some miracle of divine intervention, or just dumb luck, the God Squad didn’t attempt to lure me into their ranks. Emily has been very understanding about my quiet time. She knows that I believe.
She isn’t put off by the fact that I feel no overwhelming need to wave my hands in the air and scream “GOD IS GREAT!”
Personally, I think the big guy knows the score, and flattery ain’t gonna help if you screw up.
Work is going well.
I would like to return to doing some design work, but right now, and right here, I can provide for my family by teaching. It’s not so bad. I enjoy teaching, and I’m good at it.
How’s the gig?
I call home once a month.
We hope to be home by next October.
We just celebrated Year One.
On Saturday, December 19. At 7:00pm. We celebrated our 1st anniversary with a fish and lobster BBQ. Didn’t you get your invitation?
It would have been nice to have you there.
I was in Singapore for a couple of nights. I’m quite happy to be home. I stayed in a little hotel near Chinatown. Monday was the Hindu festival, Deepavali … the victory of good over evil. Boy, are they optimistic. Most of the city was as boring as ever. After this last trip, I don’t think I’ll think of Singapore in quite the same way as I used to. A visit to the noodle house near the hotel quickly dispelled any lingering notions of Singapore’s sterility.
The midnight crowd consisted of three very mean looking Chinese men, four intoxicated Indians, and three of the ugliest, toughest looking hookers this side of a biker movie.
I spent most of my time just walking around in Singapore. I hate shopping malls, so Singapore quickly grates on me. It is nice just to pick a direction and stroll for a few hours.
With the current situation here, walking around isn’t really advisable. When I first came here, I walked everywhere – and at anytime.
Now we have daylight robberies, and midnight decapitations.
All this for just pennies a day.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch …
We just went through some minor renovations on the house. Most of the major work had been done at the same time as the rioting. If you can imagine watching coats of white paint being applied, plaster slapped on, and tiles replaced and buffed even as news reports of burning, riots and looting filled the airwaves; you can begin imagine the admixture of shock, anger, fear, fits of lunatic humor, cabin fever and darn fool stubbornness that gripped this household for a few weeks.
We’re exporting crabs right now. We have a small interest in lobster exports as well. Since we only started last January, we still have a lot to learn. Most business here has a shelf life of a few months. Suppliers have no customer loyalty, and the concept of taking less hasn’t sunk into fishermen, exporters or buyers. I sometimes fear I may be party to ecological rape, and economic suicide.
For us it’s been a good experience. We made a good profit at the start, and then the bottom fell out of the market. We stopped exporting for a month. Emily’s business was on hiatus. We’ve been up again for a couple of weeks.
My own job goes merrily along. I’ve just taken a few more hours,for a few more Rupiah. I’m still studying Bahasa Indonesian. It’s coming along. It’s stressful, but it’s a great feeling to be able to throw a phrase together. I’m also better able to explain things to students, and that makes a world of difference. I still avoid speaking anything but English in class, since the students are quite ready and willing to take the cue to waste on hour while you steer them back to English. Everything is a balancing act here.
Daily life, family and religion; three shows daily under one roof.
Emily and the kids were Buddhist up until a few years ago. After Emily’s father died, she converted. The Christian religion here is probably closest to Baptist. Ain’t that a frightening thought. Hey, I’m Catholic. Our idea of faith is a quick confession, three Hail Mary’s and call me next Sunday.
The churches here all seem to be of the charismatic variety. Which means, of course, that you’ve got your shouters, your shakers, your dancers, your prancers, your enthusiastic wavers and your quiet and composed prayers. I’m the quiet, uncomfortable one. I’m the sole practitioner of a splinter religion.
The kids have never had a traditional Christmas dinner. Emily had her first turkey dinner on our honeymoon in Singapore last year. She also saw her first Lion dance. We visited a cultural exposition.
I’ve made some changes in my life. I’ve actually attended church a few times. Emily and the kids go every Sunday. I’m trying to adjust, but I have to be honest; traditional Christianity still confuses me. I’ve also been able to witness the Buddhism that’s practiced here. We’ve attended a few weddings, and a few too many funerals. Emily’s Mom, who lives with us, is Buddhist. The adjustment to such a close-knit family has been rewarding, irritating, incredible, frustrating, and ultimately highly recommended.
Emily’s two sisters and her brother are also Buddhist. Indonesia’s Buddhism is probably as fetish oriented as Korean Buddhism, with its chants, incense and rituals, but it’s somehow encouraging to see any culture survive under such adverse conditions. A full blown Buddhist funeral is quite interesting. From the chanting, to the pacing of the maidens(No, I’m not kidding!), to the burning of the house, money, major appliances, cars and servants. These flammable offering are, thankfully, all paper representations.
Although I’m interested in knowing more about everything, unlike other tourists, especially in Bali, I had no wish to intrude on such a personal time. I can only imagine how these gomers would feel if a crowd showed up at ol’ Aunt Tilly’s sendoff.
“Don’t mind us folks, we’re just here to soak up the culture.” “Could you lift up Aunt Tilly’s chin a bit more. Now put this wine glass …”
And Then …
We had been hoping to get to Canada at Christmas, but it appears we’ll wait until late September,1999.
My teaching schedule keeps expanding, and while that may be good for our bank account it doesn’t leave much free time. My wife has just returned from China, and we’ve been catching up. Between work and family I haven’t had much time to even open my mail, much less reply to it. I’m currently dealing with another sinus infection. Emily has been great about preparing hot towels for me. Twenty minutes with those, and I can face the day.
Just so you don’t think I’ve married some weak-willed Geisha, this helping works both ways. I’ve actually found a way to help Emily with her occasional migraines. I paid close attention to the old woman that gives us massages. I can now give a pretty decent foot massage. This has helped relieve Emily’s pain to the point that she can sleep. She only has one or two migraines a month, but I know it hurts like hell.
Have you found someone for a decent massage?
Is that too much of a personal question?
Things are calm here now.
My friend Chris is also working at Ciputra. He and I have been teaching elementary school classes. Try to picture the two of us surrounded by rabid toddlers. Kind of scary, uh?
I hope Christmas finds you and your family safe and together.
We’ll have Christmas dinner at one of the hotels. It’s well nigh impossible to find a turkey in a local supermarket, so we have to depend on the International hotels.
We’re safe and we hope to enjoy our Christmas in a more or less Traditional manner.
And then …
Teachers from three of Surabaya’s largest schools met a few months ago. This wasn’t a summit on education, or on international relations, just early parole.
For many of us it was our first night out in a week. The early part of May in Indonesia had been marred by riots, and rumors of riots. The streets were not safe. Many people had left. (see A Husband’s Perspective)
We met, as we had met so many times before, in The Tavern. The Tavern is a small, fairly intimate pub in the Hyatt Hotel. At that time Thursday nights were half price, and affordable. The week before the meeting had been spent in hiding. Ten teachers, a visiting friend, two girlfriends and Emily, my wife. Also present, in an unsupporting role, was a motley assortment of Bules(foreigners)
In the back of the Tavern, where the more clandestine meetings usually take place, a group of young Chinese were enjoying a night of freedom. Perhaps enjoying isn’t the right word. They were almost motionless.
The Bules gained motion as soon as the next group appeared. A television crew from one of the local stations had entered the bar. Suharto had resigned the day before and they were looking for reaction shots. Pak Suharto Keluar (Suharto has left)…. Where were you?
The reaction was forthcoming. One Bule pried himself up from his barstool and stormed over to the crew. His basic problem was a belief that this was a foreigner’s bar and these guys weren’t allowed in here. Well, their presence was unusual, but the presence of a number of local ladies would seem to dispute The Tavern’s Foreigners Only status.
The ladies are a permanent fixture of the Tavern. You can’t go into any bar, disco, or nightclub without seeing a few Chickens. Locals call them Ayam Kampung, Ayam Kampus, or Ayam Malam, or village chickens, high-class chickens, and night chickens. The number of young women selling themselves has increased since the crisis. As for the Bule’s reaction: his statements were loud, laced with profanity and mercifully brief. The television crew left, the Bule fumed for a bit, then resumed his chair and his conversation. His gathering of four had increased by one. One of the previously mentioned ladies had added herself to the group.
For everyone, it was business as usual. A quiet couple of hours, a few beers, some excellent hot pretzels, and a few rounds of cards. As I am perhaps the world’s worst card player, I sat out the game. Most of the conversation was about the previous week. Who had stayed, who had left, who was about to leave – three more teachers left that weekend – and what was going to happen.
Most of the people that stayed have been here for awhile. I’ve been here for nearly two years. Geoff, who writes a third of this enterprise, has been here for three years, and Chris a bit longer than that. There are no absolutes in this situation. John Koeman, a teacher from Holland, had been in Surabaya for seven years. He decided it was time to go. He’s in Taiwan now, as are Marcus and Allison, and Jo and Paul.
Probably the main reason that teachers stay is that they become integrated into the community. Unlike the engineers and hotel managers who come here and are effectively isolated, a teacher is effectively mixed with the population. Some teachers are more mixed than others.
People react positively or negatively to the mixing. Their reaction may be based on their reason for being here. If they’ve come for the money, they’re just here to do a job – and then leave. Anything that interferes with that purpose is a nuisance. Many teachers are here for the experience. They’re geared up to live in another country, to experience a different culture, to try new foods, or just to learn the language. They’re generally disposed to mixing.
Mixers and non-mixers alike come from every social, ethnic and geographical grouping. The experience we all shared was the temporary release from the unique blend of cabin fever and stress that is Surabaya.
For myself, a good remedy for stress is stepping away, physically and mentally. When I take a few moments to relax with friends and family I can then re-enter the fray with a clearer, calmer perspective.
By Wayne Duplessis
Posted August 19,1998
I hope life is treating you well.
I’m a wee bit under the weather. On Thursday night I had a bad case of the chills. This could mean only two things, flu or my past as an exotic dancer had surfaced.
The pain is incredible. All my joints are on fire. From my nuckles to my back and on into my knees. After one day of my unsuccessful attempts at machismo, Emily dragged me to the doctor.
Coincidentally our two drivers are sick as well. Emily’s sister Suzy loaned us her driver and we made our way to the doctor. This trip was complicated by the presence of campaigners, actually convoys of campaigners on motorcycles, in cars, and over-flowing from trucks.
This has been, thankfully, a relatively quiet time, (Knock, Knock: that’s the sound of wood graced by hopeful knuckles)
Meanwhile back at the Doctor’s office. It seems our fears are partially justified. One driver has Dengue fever – Demam Berdara, in the local lingo. It translates as blood fever. It does explain the pain. In some parts of the world Dengue is known as bonebreak fever – due to the severe discomfort.
The other driver and myself seem to have the flu. The highpoint of the day was an injection requiring me to be slightly immodest.
He’s in pretty bad shape. He’s vomiting, dizzy and needs help to walk. Dengue fever is a hemmoragic disease spread by a certain breed of mosquitoes. Indonesia has plenty of the things.
If you live in Indonesia do not believe anyone who tells you there is no Dengue Fever outside of Lombok.
We went home. The doctor had been confused by my lack of nasal or chest congestion. She still prescribed antibiotics and analgesics to control flu symptoms. Remember boys and girls, antibiotics can not kill the flu virus, it can only manage symptoms.
After two and a half days without sleep, the drivers thankfully have slept a little. Emily and her three charges braved the convoys and returned to the clinic, and a different doctor.
A quick exam. The doctor advises that we all get tested. Emily and the rest of the household are showing no symptoms (knock, knock lagi = again). The other driver came up positive. Me, I’m teetering on the brink…. and I’m over.
I’ve got Dengue Fever.
This time the doctor prescribes a heavier dose of antibiotics. He says that westerners are used to higher doses, and that are generally heavier body mass requires larger doses.
He also prescribes what is one of my least pleasant memories of South Korea. He tells us to drink Pocari Sweat. It seems Pocari is chock full of minerals and vitamins. Who knew. I used to drink it because it was a great cure for hangovers. Thankfully, Pocari is also sold in Indonesia.
Emily’s mom does not want to accept this. Not long ago Dengue was a death sentence.
On Monday we return for more tests. On the plus side, the drivers have been able to eat and not vomit instantly. I have actually begun to sleep. Four hours today.
Tomorrow, watch out Rip Van Winkle.
If you live in Indonesia have your home sprayed. If your visiting Indonesia, Hati-hati (be careful).
I’m actually feeling better today.
I was able to shower and wash my hair today. I believe the neighbors were about to fumigate me. I did take antibiotics to deal with the infection, and analgesics for the pain but the biggest help has been the herbal teas and mineral drinks. Specifically Pocari sweat. Gatorade may be helpful in restoring your electrolyte levels and generally re-hydrating your body.
I’ll be taking a few days off and then I’ll be taking the family to Bali for a week. If I’m going to be resting, I want to do it in style.
All the best, Wayne and Emily.
Acute infectious disease caused by a virus and transmitted by the Aedes mosquito. It occurs in warm climates. Symptoms include headache, fever, and intense joint pain, followed by a generalized rash.
There is no specific treatment(see above), but the disease can be controlled by eradicating the mosquitoes and their breeding grounds.
We returned from Bali yesterday.
It’s good to be home.
Emily had went to Bali a few days earlier, as she had business and both my son and I still had school.
On Christmas Eve we got to the airport and boarded our flight to Bali.
Like the song goes … “the weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew …”
We made three passes over the Island of the Gods, but it wasn’t meant to happen. The rain was buffeting our sturdy craft. It was impossible to see anything, and then the peanuts ran out.
Well next thing you know … ol’ Wayne’s back in Surabaya.
And Boy howdy, was I ever happy about that. I peppered the air with cries of gosh golly and dad burn it.
I’m not happy. Emily is waiting at the airport for me and her handphone is obviously not working. My handphone has previously given up the ghost.
Now I’m using a phone card and trying to find a compatible phone. I find one , unfortunately it’s sandwiched between two phones occupied by men talking louder than seems necessary. I can’t hear a bloody thing. I’m trying to explain the situation to my mother-in-law. She’s a nice lady who I communicate quite well with in person, yet her English doesn’t exist, my Indonesian is poor, the connection sucks and the surrounding noise is unbearable.
Well, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas at the top of my lungs, I compliment their country and their courtesy and I wish them on their way. My son thinks dear old Dad is ready for a new sport coat in that lovely wrap-around style.
Finally I get through. Everybody’s okay on that side. We waited in Surabaya’s Juanda airport for an hour and a half. Finally the plane boarded again. It was now 10:00pm. The flight to Bali is about 35 to 45 minutes. Bali is a hour ahead of Surabaya.
We arrive in Bali at 11:40p.m. Bali time. It’s drizzling. The taxi driver asks for Rp40,000. I decline.
We walk out to the taxi booth and buy a voucher. We pay Rp 26,000. Christmas Eve passes in the back of a taxi.
My wife is at work preparing a shipment of fruit to Hong Kong. I am now a fruit packer.
By 12:00 p.m. Christmas day the fruit is packed and on it’s way. We shower, eat and almost everyone sleeps. Me, … I’m wired. The rest of our merry band has fallen asleep. The nanny and the cook are watching the kids.
The next day the lost sleep will catch up with me. I take a long walk. We were in Denpasar, Bali and it’s hot. I walk for an hour and come back drenched in sweat.
Christmas night we head to Jimbaran. Jimbaran beach is a long strip of seafood restaurants. You order your food fresh. You pick a table. On the beach if it’s not raining, under the tents if it is.
On a clear night the sound of the surf, the smell of barbecued fish and the majesty of a star-filled sky conspire to bewitch even the most cynical traveler.
The day after Christmas I sleep until 11:00a.m. I’m still tired when my two nephews and my niece wake me.
Chinese-Indonesian children do not play outside and are generally spoiled. I’ve brought some cartoons with me. The VCDs keep them occupied for half an hour.
We head to Kuta that afternoon. We don’t go to the bars or the shopping malls. We find a relatively quiet beach and play in the surf. My son, who’s eighteen, seems more interested in the spectacle of topless women who frolic close by.
My head may have turned one or two times.
The surf-kissed sand has been rendered almost mirror-like. The sky is a rich blue with traces of white clouds. Gradually the blue becomes purple and the sun is a descending red ball. Pale pinks and rich oranges dominate the fading palate.
A tropical sunset is beautiful and abbreviated.
In fifteen minutes it is dark. The stars are brilliant.
Aside from a few moments of temper, the week passes uneventfully.
We watch videos on New Years’ Eve.
Two days later we hop in the car and head to Lovina.
We’re going to see the Dolphins.
Bali Part 2
Updated … just like you knew we would.
So, last episode we left for Lovina to see the dolphins.
Along the way we pass the site of Gunung Agung’s 1963 eruption.
The devastation was massive and thousands died. The Balinese believe that this was because prayers had been interrupted.
Now the boulders, once part of Gunung Agung’s crown, are strewn about,but they are covered with lush vegetation. It was another example of nature’s power to repair itself.
I was reminded of a walk through Canada’s Algonquin park. Granted, it probably doesn’t need to be said that it certainly wasn’t similar terrain.
A picture from the early years of the last century showed a devastated mountain, trees and earth torn away to run a rail line through.
Then in the fall 0f 1995 I walked down that same path and tall, healthy trees shaded me. Waist high grass surrounded me. Nature will right itself given a chance.
Gunung is the Indonesian word for mountain, and the center of Bali is a spine of mountains. Many of them are still active volcanoes. As late as 1994 there have been eruptions. They don’t call the Indonesian archipelago the Ring of Fire because of the hot food.
We arrived in Lovina. We looked at one place. They wanted RP 300,000 a night. That’s the price of a luxury hotel in Surabaya. We found the Hotel Padma.
email: firstname.lastname@example.org Homepage: http://www.baliweb.net/padma We paid Rp 120,000 for each of two rooms. Myself, Emily, her sister Susy, our son Adryan, Susy’s three kids and a family friend. Guys in one room, women in the other.
The pool was clean large and warmed by the sun.
We ate a large dinner and turned in. At 5:00 a.m. we were up and by six o’clock, we were in two traditional boats heading out to see the dolphins. We were about 20 minutes out when the first small pod appeared.
They surfaced, played about and were gone – only to reappear in another area. This went on for half an hour or so. Then a larger group appeared. The two groups surfaced, dived, disappeared, raced the boats and delighted their audience.
It is impossible not to feel a little like an alien watcher, privileged to witness a very personal kinship with nature.
The surrounding mountains were mist-cloaked shadows at the water’s edge. The water was black in the pale early morning light, briefly disturbed by our bright colored boats and the sleek gray bodies that danced and dived around us.
Then it ended. We had spent almost two hours watching. It was impossible to tell who was more excited, the adults or the children.
After breakfast, Adryan and I went snorkeling. A reef lay about halfway between the shore and where we watched the dolphins. Again, we were in a traditional boat. A narrow canoe like craft with twin outriggers, a small (5.5 horsepower) outboard motor and an inverted, triangular-shaped, lanteen sail that also serves to shade our driver/guide as he naps.
We don mask and flippers and enter the now blue waters. Colors explode around us. Angelfish, rainbow hued fish, blue neon tetras and unfortunately a few too many jelly fish. We moved location twice.
Adryan managed to find a French coin. Once cleaned, it was revealed as a 1995 coin, but still a find. I had to rescue it from the pool bottom later that evening, so the excitement of discovery was obviously short-lived.
We stayed two days then headed back to Denpasar.
We flew home that Saturday.
How was your holiday?
All the best, Wayne and family
We just returned from Tretes.
Tretes is a small vacation village, an hour outside of Surabaya, and is built on and around the mountain. We stayed at a very nice hotel, the Surya, that’s a bit rundown but has excellent service.
This morning I hiked for two hours in the mountains.
A friend owns one of the larger health clubs in Surabaya, and had invited us to join the hike. Thank God I’ve been running regularly at the gym.
Do you hike?
Man, there’s a big difference between 5 km on a treadmill and two hours trekking over a mountain.
After the hike I had a massage back at the hotel and I’m ready to take on the world … right after my nap.
I hope everything is well.
All the best, Wayne
May all your wishes come true, and may your stockings be free of coal. We’ll have Christmas dinner at one of the hotels. It’s well nigh impossible to find a turkey in a local supermarket, so we have to depend on the International hotels. On Tuesday December 14th we’ll celebrate our 2nd anniversary. I think it’ll be a quiet evening for two. On Saturday, December 19. At 7:00pm.
We’ll celebrate Momma’s birthday. Our plans have changed so many times this year, I’ve lost count. I think we’ve pretty much settled on a game plan but I wouldn’t bet any money on it. First we were going home, then to Bali, then it was Jakarta, then Hong Kong … and now who knows?
We’re safe and we hope to enjoy our Christmas in a more or less Traditional manner. We’ll have Christmas dinner at one of the hotels. It’s well nigh impossible to find a turkey in a local supermarket, so we have to depend on the International hotels. We’re safe and we hope to enjoy our Christmas in a more or less traditional manner. What will you do? How’s your health?
How’s the family?
How’s work going?
It is the middle of Ramadan here. This is supposed to be a time of quiet reflection but somehow it’s a time of petty theft and small explosions. Starting at four in the morning, the teenagers begin exploding firecrackers that have enough powder to sound like blasting caps.
And I thought Duplessis family holidays used to be a bit too loud.
Sheesh, appreciate what you’ve got.
Indonesia is going through some growing pains, which the IMF is complicating, but things are relatively stable here. The IMF is still pushing for an end to fuel and energy subsidies, as it seems that they haven’t clued in to the fact that this isn’t a developed country with an adequate social net and most of these folks can pay the local prices. Local salaries work well enough in this economy as long as there are no major economic shocks.
Labor and production costs reflect the awesome imbalance of a largely agrarian society with a marginal industrial base trying to struggle in a world economy. Imagine the kid with the lemonade stand being told he has to pay taxes and employee benefits, and then being further taxed on his product.
These people need a guided economy, not an enforced one. There are a number of local monopolies here, that create market instability and there are a number of local industries – lumber and mining being the major ones, which are largely foreign controlled. They bring in money for a handful of govt. types but none of the profits circulate. The money is sucked out. Foreigners love to talk about local corruption here, But who’s the crook? … the guy that takes the money or the jokers that egg him on and then share the pot with him. Once he’s caught, they conveniently forget their role.
There you have it, that’s my simplistic world view.
Hopeful holiday sentiment will now be administered to your dazed and addled spirit. I hope everything goes well for you. All the best, Wayne and family
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