On to the Next Adventure

My two years in Jakarta came to a bittersweet end last month.  Though it’s exciting to be heading back to the US of A and once again run outside, drink tap water, and eat mexican food, it’s also bittersweet to be ending this totallyawesomegreat adventure.  So let’s recap the past several months.

May: Meandering in Mainland Southeast Asia

May was pretty exciting.  Highlights include a trip of my dear college roommate, so what better adventures than Bali and Phuket for some much needed relaxation? Was it awesome? Of course.

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Sunset in Phuket… this was sandwiched between beach lounging/naps, delicious Thai food, and the totally necessary hotel dance parties. We do what we gotta do.

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I think we’ve finally convinced this Bu that Southeast Asia is pretty awesome.

Also sandwiched into May’s superpacked schedule were trips to Cambodia and, at the tail end, Burma/Myanmar.

Highlights from Manila (although I am aware that Manila/the Philippines are not in Mainland Southeast Asia and are hence ruining the theme of this post): dream living, enjoying U.S. toothpaste brands, and meeting Lady Gaga’s team in the airport.

Highlights from Phnom Penh: tuk-tuk riding, using U.S. cash, living the dream, working, and the usual.

This would be a tuk-tuk. Awesome.

Highlights from Burma/Myanmar: everything.

For instance, discovered Myanmar beer is great.  Mandalay Red, however, tastes like barf. Be forewarned.

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Also appreciated the chance to see cars that were already old when I first started driving back in the day.ImageI like to call them classics.

In addition to scoping out the Shewedagon Pagoda in Yangon, we also popped up to Bagan, saw a bunch of old temples, ate lunch on the Irawaddy, and sweated.. a lot.

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I was not mad about seeing this.

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One example of a temple in Bagan.

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Irawaddy. We went for a boatride too, which was also totallyawesomegreat, but this is getting to be a long blog post.

OK. So Bottom line: May was a busy month having adventures.

June: Bucket Lists and Departures

When I was finally back in the Big Durian, it was time to start saying goodbye to all my favorite people.   This is the part that was crummy.  Many goodbye toasts were made, parties held, and bucket lists executed.  So we’re just going to gloss over that one.

July: The Final Trip

It wasn’t enough to have been busy all May and most of June.  July offered the final chance to head back to the Khmer kingdom to hang with all my favorite Southeast Asians again.  Also, appeared on Cambodian TV, so you know they must’ve been pretty news-starved.  After all our work was done, I also snuck in a trip to the National Museum.  Not mad about the clean air and sunshine, either!

I’d forgotten grass grew this green!

August: No More Broads Abroad

August has been back in the USA.  It’s amazing.  So I’ll leave you a picture of Maine, because that’s pretty much the awesomest thing I can think of at the end of such an epic/overdue post.  HAPPY GRANDMA/OTHER IBErs? Whew. Gotta go, there are more adventures awaiting.

Maine/America.

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George Town… Malaysia, not the Hoyas

It’s a warm, Southeast Asian March.  NCAA basketball games are being played in the middle of the night (oh wait, that’s not really a change from being Stateside… nevermind).  Anyway, the Hoyas were out, much to my great dismay, but there seemed no better way to drown my sorrows than to visit George Town, a bustling neighborhood in Penang, Malaysia.

Highlights from our long weekend include: wandering the streets of George Town on a so-called “death march,” which included visits to Chinese clan  homes, cruising by the local mosque, a trek down to see the seaport, and of course, plenty of nice cold beer.

Clan House #1 of the Death March Day

George Town mosque

Chinese temples sit in the same neighborhood as excellent Indian restaurants and ethnic Malay clothing stores. Did I mention we had a busy death march day?

Lions. There was significant signage warning us not to play with the objects contained in the lions' mouths. Funny, we didn't even think about it until we saw the signs; go figure.

Khoo Gongsi (also known as Clan House #2)

And I thought Grandma's fridge was a strong indication of familial pride. The Khoo family kicked the fridge up a notch.

In addition to seeing the sights, we spent a good deal of time taking in the absurdities of another Southeast Asian country.  Want proof? You got it.

This might be the most disgusting liquor I have seen since I arrived in Asia. I do not doubt it is strong enough to intoxicate rhinos.

No durian allowed. Also, no poodles or calico cats. Good thing with all these stringent rules they still had the best gosh darn Chinese food south of Taiwan.

Doesn't everyone shop at the Reject Store?

"Sheesh. Even in Indonesia the signs just say 'STOP.'"

Forgot to mention that creepy dolphin statues populated the lobby of our first hotel. Just in case we'd forgotten we were in Asia...

So now it’s back to the JKT to keep living the dream, because someone’s gotta do it.

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2012: Still Living the Dream

OK. Grandma and the cousins are right.  I’ve been busy in 2012 but that’s no excuse for not blogging.  Here’s a recap of how I’ve been living the dream.

Strolling around Siam

In early December the stars aligned for a totallyawesomegreat trip with some of my favorite neighbors to Thailand.  Highlights from the visit include visiting Bangkok’s most timeless Buddhist landmarks, visiting our former colleagues who are now posted to Bangkok, a bike/boat trip along the Meklong (not the Mekong, apparently — we need some really different landmark names here), and of course, eating delicious food.  We also took the opportunity to try both Chang and Singha beer, which are both better than Bintang (or maybe I am just sick of Bintang by now.)  We also scoped out a movie theatre even more lavish than ours in Jakarta.  Best part of Thailand: the King’s color is yellow, so this sunny color shows up everywhere!  Glad the world’s longest reigning monarch and I have a favorite color in common.

Thailand flags... the King's is the yellow one

Reclining Buddha... awesome.

Thumbs up for Wat Pho!

typical Bangkok sites... no biggie

The King and I... love the yellow!

Christmas/New Years in the Tropical Paradise

Who doesn’t love time off work/fun (you pick which word you use to describe your professional life) to eat, drink, and watch movies all day?  We kept Christmas pretty low key because just around the corner was…

FAMILY VISIT TO INDONESIA! 

The highlight of the year (OK, at least of January) was Mom, Dad, Uncle Gary, and my favorite sister’s visit to Indonesia all the way from the U.S. of A! We spent our time drinking Bintang, exploring Bali, and getting massages/reflexi in Jakarta.  I still can’t believe they flew all the way across the world to see me!

Mom and Judes felt the need to replicate the HI statue. Who can blame them?

J scopes out Monas, the national monument

 

We watched the sun rise at Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world

Did I mention we donned really attractive sarongs at Borobudur? and that it involved waking up in the 4s?

J's xmas present: waterproof camera. We had to test it out.

Uncle Gary showed up in Bali!

Jimbaran beach, following delicious fresh seafood. Look at all the bules!

New Zealand: Because Sometimes Even I Need to Leave Asia

A land where everyone speaks English, with clean air and potable water, and where good beer is readily available.  Yes, it sounds like the United States, but February brought the opportunity to scope out the Oceanic U.S. foil that is also home to the characteristics I just listed… NEW ZEALAND.  Over Presidents Day weekend we took a brief, whirlwind tour to Kiwiland’s north island.  Our goal was simple: spend as much time as possible outside breathing clean, cool air and enjoying environs unavailable in Asia.  And we succeeded!

Blue skies at the airport... boys, we're not in Jakarta anymore.

Auckland's Sky Tower

Canyons. Rivers. We traversed all of the above on foot and in rafts (and wearing ridiculous wetsuits)

waterfalls and jacket weather. Win column.

glacial valley. This is what a pristine outdoor looks like.

OK, Grandma, that’s all the awesomeness I can take. Bule out, for now.

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November: Presidents, Giving Thanks, and Getting Glam

OK, now Mom has even bypassed Grandma in wanting updates about exactly how I’m living the dream.  I am definitely off my A-game.  Here’s why: November was a doozy.

Are we sick of Bali yet? Just maybe. 

Don’t worry, parents.  When you come and visit, I’ll definitely be ready to take you to Bali.  It looks something like this:

Balinese sunset.

But until the parentals/siblings arrive, I have no interest in going back.  I spent several weeks in Bali working my tail off. But it was all totally worth it… because guess what? We had some really awesome people come, including President Obama.  You probably saw this in the news, but he actually came to Indonesia.  So the awesomeness of that almost made up for the fact that I sweat through pretty much every suit I own again and again in the Balinese heat.

20111118 East Asia Summit

President Barack Obama poses for a photo with other leaders at the start of the US – ASEAN summit at the Bali Nusa Dua Convention Center in Nusa Dua, Bali, Nov. 18, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza; read more at http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/11/18/president-obama-east-asia-summit)

So… that was fun.

Thanksgiving, a.k.a. a five day food coma

After the excitement of another trip to Bali came Thanksgiving, my all time favorite holiday.  In case Mom and Grandma were worried, I was very thankful for turkeys, PEOPLE WHO READ MY BLOG FROM AFAR, good food, living the dream, little old ladies with curly hair, doting mothers who send reminder emails, a lack of natural disasters of late, good beer, fine wine… sorry, I ate so much turkey I fell asleep there.  Anyway, lots to be thankful, including the fact that neighbor Mike cooked three delicious turkeys over the course of the weekend.

mmmmm. delicious.

Dolled up

After all the excitement of Thanksgiving, November still had a few more punches.  One of them was called the Marine Ball.  Even though the Marine birthday is technically November 10, they still put on a birthday ball around the world for the next several weeks.   After all, who really needs an excuse to party?  Definitely not the Marines.  The occasion sparked the perfect reason to get  manicure/pedicures, get my hair styled like a Garuda Stewardess, and experiment with fake lashes.  Wicked fun.

Hey Bu! (that's not overly familiar... Bu means "Ma'am" in Indonesian.)

how we roll... see if you can spot the lashes. So hot right now.

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Optimal October

In between being terrible at keeping my blog updated and living the dream, I’ve been pretty busy out here in Indonesia.  A few highlights from October:

Cambodia, part deux

This time my destination was not the majestic pagodas/stupas (?) of Angkor Wat/Siem Reap, which is probably a good thing because word on the streets is that there was flooding all over the place.  We stayed drier and busier down in Phnom Penh.  In addition to meetings at the palace (of which there are more than one in Phnom Penh, beware) there was also fun to be had scoping out the tuk-tuks, staring at weird modern paintings of angry buddhas, and being awed by the size and speed of the enormous lizards hanging around on my hotel room’s balcony.

Trip to Krakatau

OK, so this is actually a lie.  I apologize for the falsehood.  Over Columbus day several brave/boatloving souls decided to make the trip out to Krakatau, the famous/infamous volcano.  Would you believe it, we boarded the boat only to sit down with Kyle, our South African dive master, who told us we couldn’t go to Krakatau because of some silly eruption.  What, like he expected it to look like this?

All right, maybe it did look kind of like that, so it might have been a good thing that we didn’t make it all the way out to Krakatau.  Instead, I got to spend a weekend hanging out on a boat and going swimmin’.  Pretty fun.  Other highlights of the weekend include when I got stung by an enormous jellyfish and had a small Indonesian man pour vinegar all over my body to make the welts go away, which was followed by my smelling like salt and vinegar potato chips for the rest of the day, and an awesome hike up the westernmost tip of Java.  I inadequately photographed the hike, which included a trek through the jungle, scaling of Dutch ruins, and climbing up some cliffs.

zombie tree?

Not sure if this was just one tree or many, but it was pretty awesome. Also, there were a bunch of monkeys in a huge brawl up there somewhere.

Many bottles of wine were imbibed, ridiculous jokes made, and quite a few cannonballs were launched from the front of the boat.

Mirasole

As the winners of last year’s halloween contest, we carefully considered our halloween options for this year and decided after much deliberation that we should probably go ice our knees after last year’s solid victory (translation for Grandma: that means we thought we should sit out this year).  So when the chance to get out of Jakarta and hit up the mountains of Java arose, we jumped on the opportunity.  Last weekend was spent eating way too much ridiculously delicious food, playing bocce, running around in circles, reading in the sunshine, falling asleep, and getting pushed in the pool (clarification: I was the only one getting pushed in, thanks, Brian).  There was also fun to be had doing some tropical sledding down the terraced landscape.

If only Ranger the Lab had joined us instead of being an onlooker...

and that's what success looks like. You're welcome.

So anyway, October was a blast.  November is going to be rad too.  Hopefully I’ll stop being such a bad blogger/grandchild and post more often so Grandma doesn’t think the latest geographic tremor on the Pacific Rim has incited a catastrophe here in Jakarta.

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An Ode to Seasons

Made ya look: no actual odes will be written this week.  I’m over it.

If there is one thing that occasionally gets me down about Jakarta, it’s a lack of seasons.  The New Englander (read: Masshole) really has a thing for winter snowstorms, fresh spring air, the cool, crisp fall air and sweatshirt weather.  We don’t have those things just south of the equator here.  This week instead of bemoaning the lack of seasons, I was kind of relieved by the familiar hot and humid air.  Why, you might ask?  Because fall is synonymous with marking a most familiar and time-honored Masshole tradition: watching the Red Sox choke in the post season.  It looks like it happened anyway, even without me there to scream at an HD broadcast of NESN coverage.  This week’s blogpost is respectfully written in honor of the 2011 Boston Red Sox.  Thanks for dashing our hopes and dreams.  I thought I’d share some memories of finer days, when we were still under the illusion  that this might be a year reminiscent of 2004 and 2007.

Beer, siblings, and sox... best combination ever

Ironic that this is one of approximately 4 photos I took in August.

Strictly seasonally speaking, we’ve now come to the rainy half of the year.  I have my yellow rain boots, so I’m ready to rock.  But not much else to report on, so Grandma is going to have to wait until next week to hear more stories about me saving the world.

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Quarter Century +1

This weekend I was spoiled rotten… but not by Jakarta.  I awoke Saturday morning to find neon colored birthday balloons outside my door — they even made my stark white walls look tan!  Other highlights from the birthday celebrations included funfetti cupcakes (most fun dessert ever), dinner with fantastic company, and quality conversations.  A special shoutout to the neighborhood posse, who ensured the day was totallyawesomegreat from start to finish.

Eager to prove that at my old age of 26 I am just as spry as I always have been, at some point in the last few weeks I thought it would be a great idea to run a 10 mile road race at 6am on Sunday morning.  Road races in the late fall, you might think to yourself… how fun.  Yes, the race ended up being fun, but let’s examine the things that make running this morning’s race totally different than my previous suppositions:

1) fall.  Oh yeah, no seasons here.  It’s still hot as heck.

2) this race was in Jakarta, organized with Indonesian efficiency.  This meant that what could have been a 5 minute appointment after direct trek to North Jakarta on Saturday to pick up our race packets… wasn’t.  Traffic aside, our frenemies on the other side of the check in list insisted that we had to wear the race singlets we received, we were advised that the starting time for the race had been moved 1/2 hour earlier, and were extremely concerned about collecting physical race confirmation slips instead of helping us prepare for the race.

The race ended up being a total blast — it was nice and cool out (for Indonesia), there were a limited number of people running, and motor traffic was slightly less than normal.  10 miles (16.8km) went by, I finished in a reasonable amount of time, and at the end was all smiles:

Indonesian singlets... yes, they make us look tan.

Yup, that’s right.  Another great birthday.  But 10 miles got me totally tuckered out so other adventures of the week will have to come later.

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