Friday, September 22, 2006

Just Another Day in Indonesia

It’s just another day in Indonesia.

Kyle has a week long break from his ex-pat run kindergarten. It is located in the bottom level of a Japanese/Australian national’s house. There are about six other kids who attend: two Americans, one Nepalese, one Tjekastanian, one French, and one Canadian. A real melting pot. The teacher is an Indonesian woman married to a Swede. She speaks five languages.

We celebrated Sabrina’s eighth month mark on Sunday. She is trying so hard to crawl, but only manages to scoot backwards at the moment. She can stand on her legs with assistance. She loves to ‘dance’ to music if you sing to her; she bobs her head back and forth to ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ and other nursery rhymes. I am continually amazed that she is becoming more and more than just a crying, pooping, eating, sleeping blob every day.

Rob called. He is on his way to a meeting at the UN that may last well until after dinner. At the moment he is hiding out in someone else’s office waiting for a sandwich to be delivered to him. It seems there are a bunch of angry workers protesting outside of his office. The contractor hasn’t paid them and they want help from CRS getting their money. He doesn’t want to be late for his meeting, so he is trying to avoid the angry mob scene. He’s getting good at this angry mob scene, as usually it is villagers protesting outside his office.

The other night we went out to find a bazaar of hand made products from local women that has been going on for a week. Tonight was the last night. We made it just as they were shutting down. When asking when the next one would be, the reply was ‘next year.’ Argh! This is tough news from someone like me who takes my role in spiking the local economy very seriously. I think I had a measurable impact on the Philippine gross national product while we were stationed on Luzon.

I left dejected and we went out to dinner at the UN’s World Food Programme on the UN complex. It’s a nice little place for expats to go and have a meal; cheap and tasty. We knock on the heavy metal gates and they open, like we are at some Mob restaurant. Once inside we sign in to get our ID badge at the guard station. Then we order at the outdoor ‘cafe’, which is enclosed on three sides with shuttered windows on the walls and a roof. Trouble is, it’s darned HOT in this country and with the fry stoves going and the wooden shutters closed to keep out the stray dogs, frogs and mosquitoes, it is stifling. The boys enjoy the ambience of the neon light bug zappers and what do I care, at least I get out of my house. I’m so hot it’s hard to eat.

There is even a bar on the facility, since it is governed by UN law, not Indonesian law. Although a few weeks ago, the sharia police (Islamic police) got all the way into the facility and shut it down. After going all the way to the UN Director, the bar is back in business. Thanks, Kofi!

Otherwise, we are careful about the fermented beverage consumption. We go to a particular place of business and Rob strolls down the isle until the owner spots him. After a while, an employee of the store brings a case of “fanta”, “milk” or whatever tied with green ribbon to the car and we depart. We keep it out of sight and crush our cans.

That is because, honestly, if anyone suspects you are breaking the law (as drinking foamy juice is) they can call the police to inspect your home. This isn’t the US, they don’t need a warrant. There have been problems more with expat men mixing with local women and being charged with adultry and then caned. Not pleasant.

If you bring a case of foamy juice to a dive shop on a nearby island, it buys you a free dive.

There are some restaurants that cater to expats and they do serve special beverages. It is listed as non alcoloholic local beer (Bintang is the Indonesian beer that yes, is made and drunk in public everywhere but here in this province), but when you give them that special wink, it gets poured in the kitchen. There are special lookouts at these restaurants who will run up and warn you the Sharia are entering the premise and have you guzzle your brew before you are caught.

We spent another day at the beach this weekend. Beautiful weather. Unfortunately, there have been about 27 drownings at this particular beach. I can see why since you are forced to swim with all your clothes on. We watch the kids carefully as they boogie board and skim board. They’ve all gotten sand blasted from taking waves all the way into the beach, and two out of three have received bloody noses from being slammed by the water. When the waves are not so big, you can float without even trying, there is so much salt in the water. When we are out and about people who know us point and say, “The Richardsons swim at the dangerous beach!” Honestly so far, it’s got nothin’ on Newport. But we know to be careful.

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