Thursday, August 31, 2006

Banda FAQ

I have had many great questions, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to answer as many as possible.

What time is it over there?

We are 14 hours ahead of the West coast. So, when you are just waking up, I am finishing my last Bintang beer and heading for bed. The time difference gives people I work with the illusion that I am wonderfully efficient and dedicated, as if they request something from me, I can usually have it waiting in their inbox the following morning.

Is there fast food?

There is! There is KFC, A&W and Pizza House. Thank goodness, because I’ve got three boys to feed,... Fried chicken is a big thing here as it was in the Philippines. Not spaghetti though. You could find spaghetti everywhere in the Philippines, including McDonalds. And it usually came with hot dog pieces. Not my cup of tea.

Then there are the sidewalk vendors with all sorts of ‘goreng goreng’ – fried foods. And many juice vendors. I’ve tried the pisang goreng – fried bananas, which are awesome, especially with the chili sauce. Yum!

The guards brought coffee over too – in a bag! Very sugary. I’ve actually switched to Nescafe – yes absolute sacrilege to my Washington family and friends – but I’ve been doing the decaf dance for so long, I can’t handle the beans here. It’s so acidic and strong I have stomach pain and heart palpitations. Must be getting old,..
I have to say that I haven’t tried many other street food, and it’s not because I’m some snobby bule, it’s because of those two little words, ‘cholera’ and ‘typhoid’. Gotta build up the stomach of steel first.

How do you get food?

I’ve got several options. First, is the market where we attract quite a small crowd when we go in. The people seem very friendly and happy to see us, and I think they are charging me a fair price, although we communicate only with smiles, hand gestures and a calculator. And Jared rolling his eyes and correcting me when I get the wrong number or pronounce something weird.

Second they have ‘supermarkets’ called Pante Pirak – I think it’s the name of the company, like Safeway or Vons. But that is where the similarities end. I get so excited to get out of the house and go shopping – you know me – but I go down that first isle and NOTHING is in English and it gets overwhelming very fast. And I’m used to shopping at Costco, so buying things here means I have to go back to the store often.

The last option is a specialty store that opened due to all the NGOs coming into town in the last year and a half – it is affectionately known as the Bule (foreigner) Store. Here is where I can find dog food, pringles chips and various and sundry things that will keep my picky six year old from starving to death.

I bought out the frozen flour tortillas and no one seems to know what I’m asking for when I inquire about the next time they will be in stock, so I’ll have to figure out what substance is flour at the supermarket and smash little flour balls between a couple of plates someday.

What do you eat over there?

First of all, throw out everything you Southern California people are trying to do, like eat whole grains and grill everything. Here, if it ain’t processed or fried, chances are, I ain’t eatin’ it.

I can find whole grain bread, but it’s 20,000 Rupia ($2.20) which, yes, doesn’t seem that expensive, but when you pay for white bread and it’s only forty cents, you get kind of used to it.

And I can’t for the life of me figure out the oven, which is running on some sort of gas, and if it involves me switching on an explosive substance and lighting a small fire, it’s probably better if I don’t do it myself.

So I’m a fryin’ machine! And it takes me two hours to cook anything, since most everything is gathered from various markets (yes, I send my maid out to shop when it’s just too overwhelming and hot of a day to take three boys and a baby and my Indonesian phrasebook out.) and I can’t seem to find a vegetable peeler anywhere. Did find the cheese grater,.. now to find the cheese,...which is a processed kraft cheddar sitting on the shelves,.. along with the milk in UHT containers. Yum, yum!

Do I have household help?

Don’t cry for me Argentina,...Okay, so yes, I have a housekeeper. Her name is Rena and I love her. She’s the wife I always joked I needed. She cleans all the dishes I stack in the sink, she mops the floor, she irons the underwear. She works five days a week from 8 until 5 and she costs me $80 a month. I am never leaving!

Now, to disgust you even more, I am probably going to get a live in nanny, who will wipe runny noses, hold squawky babies and cook a meal here and there. She will run about $130 a month.

It’s been tough (if you can call it that) because we have the dog. The nanny may have to be imported from Medan, about 10 hours up the road. Dogs are not popular here. When I was discussing getting a nanny with Kyle’s Indonesian kindergarten teacher, her comment was “You might have to import a Christian from Medan.” So, Christians are thought of in this neck of the woods as being promiscuous and liking dirty animals. Not great.

How is Max doing?

Max the dog is in heaven, although sequestered to being inside unless we are out with him so he doesn’t give anyone a heart attack. Muslims believe dogs are unclean (as are pigs, so no pork bacon or ham unless you know where to go,..) so they are not allowed to touch dogs, and most are absolutely terrified of Max because they’ve never been around a dog before. And, unfortunately, Max is a big 80 pound German Shephard. The guards are fine, as is Rena the housekeeper, although they are very careful about not touching him. I had a nanny who lasted only three hours. She couldn’t get over her fear of Max.

How are the kids doing?

They are doing well! Kids are adaptable, thank goodness. Now that the initial shock that we can’t just go out whenever we want – I have no car and I can’t possibly get all of us in a pedicab, or motorcycle with a sidecar, we are stuck at home accept when I take Kyle to and from school, basically.

Kyle is enrolled in an expat kindergarten that has six kids in it – two from the US, one from Nepal, one from France, one from Kazakhstan and one from Japan/Australia – a real melting pot! The teacher is an Indonesian woman who speaks five languages. The school is on the bottom floor of an expat’s house.

The big boys get PE two mornings a week with a local man who is teaching them ‘football’ (Aunt Wendy will be so proud!) He had to go down to the football field with a shovel to move all the cow paddies so the boys could play.

As usual, we attracted quite a crowd and Zach had them all laughing as he missed the ball he was trying to kick, lost his balance and landed on his bottom on top of the soccer, er, football.

We are slowly finding other expat kids and that is great. That’s the hardest part of this – taking kids away from their friends.

We have found a swimming pool we go to once and a while during the week, as well. But nothing compares to the beach! It is awesome! White sand, nice waves and jungle cliffs to the side. It’s amazing and humbling to think that this is where the tsunami hit. You can still see debris tangled in the exposed roots of some of the trees that survived the water. And the big mosque, which as the only standing building after the tsunami that has spawned countless tales of the wrath of God.

What do you wear?

Well, it’s sharia law here, but I don’t dress all that differently than I did in Egypt. Jeans, long sleeve shirts, I have to watch the necklines! It’s HOT. The biggest bummer is having to wear clothes to the beach. So far, I’ve been wearing exercise capris and a tee shirt to go swimming in and that seems to be okay. I’m careful not to go in the water if we have a lot of locals around.

The boys and Sabrina can wear whatever they want.

I hope that answers lots of questions! Thanks so much for all your comments and emails! It keeps me going!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you started this blog to keep me up to date! I can;t keep up with you anymore...sort of like Where in the Work is Carmen San Diego (aka Karen Richardson). Keep the stories coming.

Joel Campbell