Jakarta

Alright, we’ve already let the writing languish a bit.  We got our internet
connection on the 8th or 9th of July and have been exchanging e-mail with
individuals and not sharing with the world-wide world.  We then lost the
connection on the weekend of the 15th through 17th, so there’s been time to
recount some of the last week.  
We took the kids to a movie Saturday night.  First-run movies cost roughly
US$6.00, and one can get a decent-sized popcorn and a small soda for... c’
mon, just guess.  Alissa and I didn’t go to the movie, but the girls report that
the theatre itself is quite nice, and all of the seats are plush and comfy and
are reserved when you purchase your ticket.  Alissa and I left the girls at the
theatre and joined a couple – a colleague of Alissa’s and the colleague’s
boyfriend – at a nice Turkish restaurant near our house.  The dinner was
most tasty, but the ambience of the restaurant changed abruptly on the two
occasions the music volume was doubled and the belly dancer came whirling
out with an expression that was either ecstasy or extreme anguish.  
Whatever it was, it was most disquieting.
Popcorn and soda at the theatre costs US$1.50 – combined total.  We sent
the driver to collect the girls from the movies… a luxury to which we could
quickly grow accustomed.
We had tennis lessons the next day.  Alissa was told she didn’t really need
any more lessons, just practice.  The rest of us have been enlisted for an
extensive regimen.  Harumph.  We visited another of Alissa’s colleagues on
Sunday at his high-rise apartment.  Company employees who are not here
with their families are usually put up in such apartments.  In addition to
serving up some highly recognizable food (steaks and chicken from his
outdoor grill), he also served as a lending library for several new books and
a few DVDs for the girls.  We had four more tennis lessons this week, as
well.  We took a day off after Annaliese nearly had heat stroke.
We’re taking these lessons at the American Embassy Recreation
Association, referred to as the American Club.  Like it or not, we are now
members in full.  They offer tennis courts, a lending library, a burgers-and-
fries pavilion, a bar complete with big-screen TV featuring lots of baseball
and NFL football, a pool table, exercise rooms, a large pool, and, for us, a
chance to meet a few people in similar circumstances.  For that extra touch
of home, everything is priced in good ol’ American greenbacks.
During the week, Annaliese, Arianna, and Christopher continued our
language lessons for nearly two hours daily.  Some of the fundamentals are
coming more quickly now, and our vocabulary grows by perhaps 20 words
each day.  Correction: we are exposed to about 20 new words each day; our
recalled/retained vocabulary probably comes in at closer to 10 words per
day.  I am reasonably proud of having my first entirely bahasa Indonesia
conversation over the phone on Friday.  I called and arranged for a
masseuse to come to the house that afternoon.  I was able to request the
service, arrange the time, discuss money, and provide directions.
As it happens, that conversation was the only truly successful aspect of our
interaction with the masseuse.  Alissa had a 90-minute massage which she
described as a mauling.  I at first took this to be a good thing, as she prefers
a deep-tissue massage.  What she received, though, was a series of
thousands of prolonged jabs and painful thumb-digs, resulting, we
discovered the next morning, in at least a half-dozen plainly visible bruises.  
Needless to say, we have not recorded that masseuse’s number in our
speed-dial.


I offered the suggestion that perhaps the masseuse had lost her focus in
reaction to the somewhat violent electrical thunderstorm that rolled across
our area during much of the time of the massage.  It was every bit the show
one might get in Houston, replete with a few truly window-rattling crashes
and one sizzling crack within our block that sent smoke or steam drifting into
our yard.  However, Alissa reported that her tormentor/therapist had been
chuckling and laughing whenever there were particularly dramatic, obviously
nearby lightning strikes.  We then remembered what we’ve read in one or
more cultural overviews of Indonesia.  According to these texts, discomfort
and nervousness is manifested in just such behavior.  Hence reports of
westerners being baffled when an Indonesian relates, with apparent
amusement, the grave illness of a child or the death of a close relative.  
Regardless, whether attributable to nervousness, brutal technique, or
sadism, this particular masseuse’s services will not be sought again.
Somewhere along the week I sent out a distress call of sorts.  When Alissa
and I first came to Jakarta in April we spent a day or two with a kind and
knowledgeable Australian woman whose job it is to introduce newcomers to
the city.  She took us to a few neighborhoods, showed us the foreigner’s
grocery store, gave us some cultural insights, took us to what will be the
kids’ campus, and gave us a sort of urban orientation.  She and her
colleagues continue to provide us with “relocation services.”  A few days ago
I sent them a message asking whether they knew of any other families with
kids in town.  (We have arrived during the annual expat exodus; most
families head back to their countries of origin during the summer break.)  We
had not yet encountered any kids in the 10- to 18-year-old bracket and the
girls were growing a bit stir-crazy.  A day or two later I got a call out of the
blue from Vicki, whose children, although 20 and 22, would be glad to meet
us for dinner and to perhaps satisfy Annaliese’s and Arianna’s craving for
non-parental society.
So Thursday night we had a good dinner at an upscale restaurant; they
served escargot, which was important since we were supposedly celebrating
Bastille Day.  We met Vicki and Bob and their daughters Amanda and Kelly.  
We were also joined by Linda and Chris and their son Eric (also 22).  We
ended up in their company on Friday night, as well, when we all met at a
pool hall that is part of the entertainment complex (bowling alley, gym, movie
theater, restaurants, and pool hall) at the Pasaraya mall.  Actually, Alissa
didn’t join us that evening, choosing instead to stay home, rest, and nurse
herself after the previously described mauling.


Earlier in the week we had been plagued by a remarkably fickle water heater
in the master bathroom.  When Alissa would shower before work, she was
often assaulted by chill jets that never warmed up.  Since I had tennis
lessons I wouldn’t bother to shower until returning later in the morning, when
I could always quickly steam up the bathroom.  In fact, one must be careful
not to brush up against the “H” handle in the shower for fear of a mild burn
in a tender region.  We had the maintenance crew out on at least two
occasions, and each time they reported correcting the problem.  And on
each of the following mornings, Alissa would open up the tap optimistically
and be rewarded with a strong but frigid stream.  The third time they came
out, a kind soul pointed out to me the switch panel beside our bathroom
sink.  There is a regular light switch, a second light switch with a small, red
light on it, and a socket.  We had presumed that the lighted switch was
connected to the neighboring socket – the sort of thing one often finds in
Europe.  As you have surmised, it is instead connected to the water heater.  
So apparently we would flick this switch on in the morning when turning the
bathroom lights on or when Alissa plugged in her hair dryer, providing me
with a delightful shower a few hours later, and then extinguish the water
heater in the evenings when we retired, allowing it several hours to cool
completely.
This same, instructive gentleman has come out on other occasions.  The
company maintenance crew is stationed conveniently nearby and they have
been extremely responsive.  Obviously, not every situation is rectified on the
first visit (we’re on our third stove, although no one was ever injured by the
second, occasionally explosive oven), but they do hurry over and are
courteous and helpful.  Several days ago Nani (housekeeper), Lasiman
(maintenance chief), and I were going over a list of small items that needed
attention.  We discuss matters in English, and then Nani and Lasiman
converse more elaborately in bahasa Indonesia.  I listen closely in hopes of
gleaning some recognizable word or phrase and was surprised to learn that
we have ants (
semut-semut) all over our television.  The girls have made a
bad habit of taking snacks to the TV area and I was mentally preparing a
ban on upstairs food.  I expressed my dismay to Nani and Lasiman and was
met with a puzzled look and then a hearty laugh.  They took me over to the
TV, turned it on, and pointed to the screen.  On an equatorial island that
knows no winter, it is not “snow” that results from a poor signal or fuzzy
reception, but “
semut-semut.”
Javalogue 4: 08-16 July 2005
image to come
actually, this is probably
stretching it a bit.
image unlikely to come
truth be told, we just didn't
take many photos during this
time.
the Javalogue
nothing to add
if we had something worth
displaying, you can bet it would
be here, though
absolutely no image to come
not here anyway.  But wait til I
get that Bali javalogue written
up.  There'll be some pictures
with that, you can bet.