Friday, November 10, 2006

Apa Kabar? FAQ Number 2

Egads. I am way behind in my journaling, so I’ll just get you all up to date quickly and in random order, much like I live my1ife.


We have finally put the kabosh on the ‘endless summer.’ The school supplies made it out of Indonesian customs and I am in the midst of cramming 200 pounds of academics into the brains of Zach and Jared. We have completed day four. Yes, it is now November and we have only now been able to start school.

To complete the illusion that I do actually take the education of my children seriously, I am having playground equipment installed into the backyard. This required hauling one of the drivers to the steel shop to translate. Thankfully the shop had an order book and I could point at what I wanted; a steel merry-go-round, a rope climb and monkey bars. So far we have two of the pieces in the backyard. Now to find someone who has cement so we can ensure no small child is crushed while playing on the equipment,...

Otherwise the boys have been playing soccer with the guards and have taught a few of them baseball. Unfortunately, our front yard isn’t too big and the boys keep hitting the ball over our cement wall into the neighbor’s yard. Our neighbors are very nice; the dad is a becheck (motorcycle taxi) driver and they have four small children, so they don’t mind the balls coming into the yard. The problem is they have a flock of ducks and a duck poop swamp in their yard (at least during rainy season). The last time we ran over to get the ball we watched it float on the surface of the poopy water and then,.. sink. You can’t find baseballs in Banda Aceh very easily! We are now down to two. Needless to say, we are being very careful with these last ones!


I now realize how American the Halloween holiday really is. No one else celebrates it. I scoured Autralian Kmart and grocery stores, and nary a chocolate eyeball, candy corn or orange and black M&M did I find.

Of course, this didn’t stop us from bringing the tradition to Indonesia in our crafty way. As usual, I didn’t pay any mind to the fact the lady selling me fruits and vegetables in the market thought I was absolutely crazy for buying seven pumpkins. I needed them for the party my friend agreed to throw for any and all expats with children who might like to celebrate Halloween.

There really is nowhere to buy Halloween costumes, obviously, so the boys were left to their own devices. Jared and Zach put on a huge football jersey and became a two headed monster. Kyle put on the dress up plastic knight armour and rode on Sabrina’s toy Zebra. Rob and I put on snorkels, masks and swim suits. Sabrina wore a pretty batik outfit Rob had bought for her before we moved to the country.

Since we don’t have a vehicle, we instructed the guard to flag down two bechecks to carry all of us, seven pumpkins, Halloween candy and the necessary camera equipment to the party. We were quite the sight!

The party was a success – my friend made home made pizzas, then the kids bobbed for apples (Kyle immersed his entire upper torso into the water bucket) and made ‘ghost’ shakes by painting scary faces on the inside of a glass with melted chocolate then filling the glasses with vanilla ice cream. Then the adults had ‘grown up shakes’ complete with fresh pineapple and contraband rum.

Each family got to carve a pumpkin, even though the Tajikistani family couldn’t really comprehend the significance. Rob, being the engineer, had the boys draw out their faces and then took loooooooots of time making sure the carving was an exact replica of the plan. Then, he got quite miffed when someone stole the top of his pumpkin and cut it to fit their own. Foreigners just don’t understand the horror of pumpkin top abduction.

Finally, we set up ‘trick or treat’ stations at all the doors leading to the outside of the house and attempted to explain the whole ‘trick or treat’ concept to people from Tajikistan, Pakistan, France, Indonesia, Australia and Japan.

For the actual Halloween night, we celebrated by having a scary dinner complete with ‘worms for brains’ (spaghetti inside an orange pepper carved to look like a jack o lantern) and chocolate cup cakes with gummy rats on top. The boys wrote scary stories during ‘school’ and read them by candle light after dinner. Maybe not the ‘bring a pillow case to heft all your candy back to the house’ trick or treating they’ve been accustomed to in California, but they had a good time!

Zach Turns 7!

We survived our first kid birthday party here in Banda. I am not a fan of kid’s parties. If I have my druthers, I’d prefer to buy the kid off through the copious purchasing of massive amounts of birthday toys. However, since deep down inside I know this is the wrong way to go about it, and the kids need to have face time with other kids, I orchestrated a birthday party for Zach.

Zach turned seven on November 5, so to celebrate we threw him a party. Can you believe we actually scrounged up eight other expat boys to invite to the party? We had them all come over to the house first and planned to drive everyone to the party venues.

We reserved a car from CRS the night before. What do they send over? Not the van we’d asked for, but a pick up truck. I met the driver in the street and instructed him to go and switch cars. Unfortunately, none of the vans had gas, so I gave him the equivalent of five bucks and had him go fill ‘er up.

Finally, with a van at the ready, we and one of the unsuspecting dads drove eleven excited boys to the local supermarket, ‘Pante Pirak’ where there is a ‘Funland’ in the basement. It’s a little busy on the weekends, so between Rob, myself and one of the other dad, we had our work cut out for us keeping a head count during the hour we were there.

Of course, upon arrival we realize we don’t have enough money to keep the kids going for a whole hour, so Rob is dispatched to the ATM. The moment he leaves, a mother’s worst nightmare happens; the power goes out! Total darkness and I’ve got eleven little boys spread all over Funland. All these parents trusted me not to loose their children and now this happens,.. Thankfully the power comes back on after a few seconds and after a quick head count I find I still have eleven little boys.

An Indonesian man sees our little group as I’m yelling instructions at the bouncing boys. He asks the dad who accompanied us if these were all his children and he tells him ‘yes!’ The Indonesian man winks at him and gives him a thumbs up.

After an hour of sensory overload and feeling like some sort of mafia don as I dole coins out of a bag to all these little boys, we drive to Pizza House and have lunch. The boys eat their body weight in pizza, sing happy birthday and eat the chocolate cake that has taken me three days to cook in my Indonesian version of a ‘Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven.’

I found powdered sugar and made actual frosting, but then I decided to get fancy and color it green with some local food coloring I found. Unfortunately, the food coloring is also flavored. The green color happens to be melon flavored. Not too bad, but not the taste your American tastebuds are expecting. Half the kids like it and the other half don’t. At least the actual cake turned out okay and was edible. (not a small feat for me!)

Zach had his best birthday ever, as one boy brought him a couple of turtles and another brought him a BB gun. So, for a little boy who was crying in his bed a few weeks previously because there “aren’t any toys in Banda Aceh” and he “doesn’t have any friends,” the day turned out pretty darned good!

Now We're Cookin' with Gas!

Well, I have come to terms with my cooking arrangement. It basically consists of a two burner cooktop hooked up to an ominous looking bottle of gas and a small toaster oven affectionately known as the ‘Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven.”

I have no cookbooks. I have no Internet connection, so I can’t readily go to a Web site and grab whatever recipe I’d like. I am able to run over to my Tejekistani friend’s house and puruse her recipe books.

I have no measuring devices either. In lieu of a measuring cup I use a baby bottle. Instead of real table- and tea- spoons I use whatever spoon I have on hand. Or, I use my favorite kind of measuring; guessing!

The only bakeware I can find that will fit inside the BCEBO are square shaped rickety metal pans. They do sell nice glass bakeware, but it won’t fit in my oven. It’s too long. This means the only breadpan I can fit in there is a mini loaf pan. Do you know how long it would take to bake a bread recipe using only one mini loaf pan? A long time.

Otherwise, I can bake square bread.

I did make bread the other day, and it was not too bad. Unfortunately it was a rather large recipe, requiring 13 cups of flour. (It’s the only recipe I had at the time, AND it had the double bonus of requiring squash. Since I had a few extra pumpkins left over from our Halloween escapades, I decided to bite the bullet and go for it!)

I had to send my nanny/’real cook of the family’ out several times to procure plastic rubber-banded shut bags of flour before I had enough. I’d measure out the flour in my baby bottle, fish in my purse for another few thousand Rupia and send her back out to the local wood-shed-with-serrated-metal-rooftop that constitutes a store. She’d look at me in wonder and say “Tapung lagi?!?” (More flour?!?)

I found a very large metal bowl where I put all this bread dough, draped it with an old hand towel that has now become a kitchen towel since I can’t figure out which little store sells towels here in this city, and left it to rise. I came back to check on it after hearing the dog growling and barking in the kitchen. I found the dog growling and barking at my rising bread. Now, if that’s not a sure sign that I don’t bake enough, I don’t know what is.

At any rate, I baked my squash bread and it was fine.

I have since made friends with a German man who has built his own stone oven and sells bread and pretzels. Much easier to send him a little text message in the morning and have fresh, warm bread hand delivered to my door. I’ve been on a pretzel and whole wheat roll binge for the past few days. Needless to say, I’m finding it difficult to live in a country that doesn’t believe in bread and cheese.

I am doing everything in my power to stay away from the little store on the way to Rob’s office that sells fresh, hot donuts in the morning for the equivalent of ten cents each. I don’t think the treadmill would like that very much.

I joked around with my friend who threw the awesome Halloween party that I was so excited to see frozen turkeys at the Boulee store and I had an idea that if I cut the turkey into chunks I could actually cook one for Thanksgiving. Then I’d feel like I was actually on an episode of the hit TV show “Lost” because I’d have to keep going back every 50 minutes to turn the buzzer back until the bird was cooked through. (She has since arranged a very nice get away on the island of Pulah Weh for Thanksgiving to which we are invited, I am sure if for nothing more than to save my family from the chunked turkey I was planning.)
After this experience I don’t think the Iron Chef has anything over me. I’d like to see him come and cook in my kitch

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