Oh, 5:30 A.M.!

I met a friend of mine for coffee last Thursday and she invited me to her graduation the next day (She is 30 years old but had to work after high school in order to save money for college. She also worked full-time all throughout college!). She said it was at 7:30, but she had to be there at 6:30, so she would have to pick me up at 5:30. I really wanted to go but was a bit hesitant to commit to saying yes because I knew Ben was leaving early Saturday morning for a 6 day trip away from home. I wasn’t thrilled about being gone on his last night home, as I figured I wouldn’t be home before 10:00 pm. However, after talking about it with him, I decided that I would go and I texted my friend saying so and confirming the pick-up time of 5:30.

Many mornings I am up and out of bed by 5:30. But Friday morning I was still in bed at 5:50 when I heard my phone get a text. I thought for sure it would be a junk text given how early in the morning it was, but checked it anyway. I was shocked to see a text from my friend saying “I just finished getting ready and I’m on my way to your house”! I jumped out of bed (just about gave Ben a heart-attack) and started to spaz! Like really spaz. I wanted to call and tell my friend I couldn’t go after all, but I really didn’t want to back out as I knew how much me going to her graduation meant to her. Long story short, I had managed to shower and throw on a dress by the time she pulled up to my house. Ben handed me a mug of coffee as I walked out the door and then he proceeded to feed the kids breakfast, pack their lunches and take them to school for me! (Perhaps I should have titled this post “My Husband Rocks!”)

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This is my friend, Sari, her mom, and me when she came to pick me up. As you can see, I didn’t have time to blow-dry my hair, and my eyes are still puffy from sleeping!

I’m so glad it worked out for me to go and support Sari. I know it meant a lot to her, and it was a really good experience for me. I’m also glad that she was running a bit late that morning AND that she texted when she was on her way! If she had actually been on time, I would have still been in bed when she came to my door! Something that was amazing to me was how incredibly CALM Sari was throughout it all. When she arrived I explained my confusion with the time, and she calmly talked with my kids as I ran around the house like a crazy woman getting my stuff together. She was running late for her university graduation, but it didn’t seem to phase her at all! It was more important for her to simply be with the people that were in front of her at the moment. There is surely a lesson for me to learn here!

Why did I assume it was 5:30 pm? Who knows! I guess it’s because it didn’t seem to phase Sari that she would be coming to pick me up so early in the morning. She said 5:30 so matter-of-factly that I just assumed it was 5:30 pm! I forgot that Indonesians, on average, are much earlier risers that Americans, on average! Things get going early here – schools start as early as 6:45 a.m.! However, the funny – and frustrating – thing is that places that I want to be open early – like the mall and cafes, are NOT open until 10 a.m.! Culture. Good times.

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Here is me and Sari after her graduation. My eyes are a bit more open, but my hair certainly didn’t get any better!

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Here is Sari and some of her friends. Aren’t their head coverings amazing! There are definitely fashion trends when it comes to wearing jilbabs/hijabs here. I secretly really like them and think they are really flattering on women!

Back to School…in Style!

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It’s not easy to get ELi to just look at the camera and smile!

This post is a bit late, as the kids have been “back to school” for over a month now! There is only a month break between school years, so school started back in mid July. (The kids were shocked when I told them that kids in North America were still on summer vacation!) Aeden is in Grade 6, Naomi is in Grade 3 and Eli is in Kindergarten. I am so proud of all of them! Going to school here is a whole new level of immersion, and thus, culture shock. The girls are attending an international school that uses both English and Indonesian curriculum. All the teachers and kids can communicate fairly well in English, but there is still a lot of Indonesian used! We have already had several nights of homework that required me using Google Translate! Eli is continuing at the school he was in last year. His school is also a private school, but all in Indonesian. His teachers assure me that he understands most everything and is able to play with all the other kids. Although not yet fluent, he is doesn’t think twice to speak in Indonesian. I envy both his ability and his lack of self-consciousness!

As you can see, all the kids have uniforms. There are different ones for different days of the week. I think the kids look super cute and it actually makes life easier!

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Oh, Ben is back to school too! He started his second year of teaching this past week. Even though he doesn’t have a uniform like the kids do, he often wears the typical formal wear for men here – a Batik shirt. We sometimes laugh at the fact that him wearing floral shirts has totally become normal for us – we even like them! I know I’m biased, but I think he pulls it off pretty well!

Kids Will Be Kids

Last month we hit the two-year mark! Pure craziness. Anyway, I thought it was time for an update of our kids. Two years is a long time in a kid’s life! Like every mom in the world, I love my kids dearly. While they seem to “drive me insane” at times, they actually get a lot of the credit for keeping me sane as well. There is a lot to our life here that is kind of stressful to me. Being an alien in a foreign land – always trying to understand and be understood – can wear me out. Our kids wear me out too, but it is their ability to just be kids – no matter where we live- that is my saving grace. They never cease to amaze me with their creativity, humor, friendliness, ability to adapt (including learning a new language!)…oh, and the amount of messes they can create in one day! So here are a few pics showing Aeden, Naomi and Elijah just being kids in Indonesia!

Eli is really obsessed with “crafts” lately. Somehow, he turns every craft into a monster!

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Aeden loves hand-sewing these days. The yellow bag is a back-pack she made for one of Eli’s stuffed animals.

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Naomi conducting one of her “experiments”.
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Naomi found a feather outside and created her own “ink” with black paint.
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This ropes course is at a retreat place about an hour away from our house. Yes, they let our four-year-old do it without any hesitation at all (they aren’t as paranoid about safety as we are in North America).

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All three of them love making forts all over the house. This one is on the roof our our house where I hang laundry to dry.
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These model volcanoes were made with “self-hardening” clay. As you can see from the sliminess of the clay, the hot and humid air here never let them dry completely. The kids still had fun watching them “erupt” (baking soda and vinegar) after the picture was taken.
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Unfortunately, none of these pictures show what my kids spend a great deal of time doing – playing with kids in the neighborhood! They are often playing outside by 6 in the morning (sometimes 5:30)! We are so grateful for our neighborhood and all the kids in it. I hope to get some pictures of neighborhood play and put them up soon!

Oh, here is our 2-year “celebration”. The kids requested apple-pie and ice cream. We made both from scratch. (Oh, and once you have made real ice cream with cream and egg yolks, there is no turning back!!!)

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Tropical Fruit

Since almost half a year has gone by since my last blog post (how does that happen?!), I thought it was probably time. This post is actually something I’ve been meaning to put up for a while. Easy, cheap access to all kinds of delicious tropical fruit is probably one of my favorite parts of living in Indonesia. I absolutely LOVE going to the market and coming home with bags of fresh produce! But the market is an entirely different blog post (perhaps I’ll get to it before the end of 2014)! Below are some very non-professional photos of some of the delicious fruits that we get to enjoy here.

Mangoes! When it is peak mango season, you can buy them on the side of the road for less than 50 cents a KILO (that’s over 2 pounds)! And, as you can see, I would buy several kilos at a time. Our family of five has no problem eating 5 kilos of mangoes in a week (or 3 days).
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For those of you who don’t know (and I certainly didn’t before moving here), this is a rambutan. Isn’t it so Dr. Seuss-like? You obviously have to peel the crazy hairy peel off before enjoying the absolutely delicious white fruit on the inside. A favorite in our house because it is not only super yummy, but gives my kids something to do because they like to peel them!
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Manggis (apparently known as mangosteen outside of Indonesia) is probably another unfamiliar fruit. They are not my favorite because they are a bit on the slimy side inside, but the taste is sweet and Naomi absolutely loves them!
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Yet another fruit I never saw before moving here is sawo. It looks like a small potato, but the inside is a soft, mildly-sweet flesh that tastes a bit like a pear.
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Dragon Fruit. Another Dr. Seuss-like fruit! They are not all red inside – some are white with black seeds. The texture and taste are kind of like a kiwi (but not as good).

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Snake fruit is clearly named after it’s scaly peel. The inside is more crunchy than juicy and it has a bit of a smell to it that I don’t love. However, this is one that Aeden and Eli love!
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Speaking of smelly fruits – one fruit that I am not including in this post of tropical fruits that I love is durian. Durian is a crazy fruit. It’s huge, thorny, and REAKS! Indonesians LOVE it, but I haven’t been able to get past the smell to even try it!

Bromo: winter coats, dancing, clash of cultures, amazing views, and fresh air!

We live in the city of Surabaya. It’s huge and flat and hot. Oh, and there is a fair amount of traffic! Don’t get me wrong, I like our life here – but it is definitely city-life. However, this past weekend I had the amazing opportunity to go with my two good friends, Lisa and Leslie, to some villages around Mount Bromo. Bromo is actually an active volacano here on East Java, and a big tourist spot for both foreigners and Indonesians. Although we didn’t go see the volcano itself (but I really hope to take another trip to do that!), I LOVED being in the fresh mountain air and getting a taste of village life. While they don’t really do it justice, here are some photos to give you an idea of what we experienced.

WINTER COATS
It was definitely cooler up in the mountain – especially at night! We could see our breath! However, I still found it funny to see people in their winter-gear. I can’t help but wonder what they would think of winter in Boston or the Mid-West – or Canada for that matter!

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DANCING
Although most Javanese people are Muslims, there are some villages that are predominantly Hindu. The villages around Bromo are some of those. While we were there, we got the opportunity to see some performances that were basically Hindu dances. The kids were so cute and obviously very proud to be performing.

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CLASH OF CULTURES
The reason Lisa, Leslie and I went to the village was because we were running a 10K race there. There was also a half-marathon and a marathon for those people crazy enough to do that! There were about 900 total participants in the three races. Let me tell you, we basically invaded these villages! While most runners were Indonesian, there were many from other countries as well. And even those from Indonesia were mostly from bigger cities, not villages. It was very much a clash of cultures. Big-city runners meet small-village farmers! But the villagers were more than welcoming. They lined the roads as we ran, and although for sure they thought we were crazy, they cheered us on! The below slideshow has quite a few photos – take the time to look at them all!

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AMAZING VIEWS
Like I said earlier, Surabaya is big and flat! The mountain views up in Bromo area were amazing!

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FRESH AIR
I can’t take a picture of the fresh air – but I really think that is what I enjoyed the most! If I could only bottle it up….oh well, guess I just need to go back soon!

15 Things I Miss about Malang

WARNING: MASSIVE blog post ahead!

Well, we are officially living in Surabaya with work visas! Woohoo! We’ve been here in Surabaya for about two months now, but the visas are new as of this month! We are still adjusting to life here, but before the blog posts about our new life here start, I wanted to conclude our time in Malang with a post. We lived in Malang for 15 months, so I thought it would be fun to share the 15 things that I’m going to (and already do) miss about Malang. (This post is probably more for me than anyone else – closure or something like that.) Oh, these are in no particular order of importance! 🙂

#1 WESLEY INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL – This is not only where Aeden and Naomi went to school while we lived there, but also an amazing facility that the ex-pat community in Malang gets to use. We would often venture there on a Saturday to play on the tennis courts or playground.

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#2 CHARIS – This was Elijah’s school. He went for 2 hours everyday to “Play Group” (pre-school). I could do an entire post about how amazing this school is, but instead I will just say that we feel so blessed that Eli got to be a part of it for a year. He misses his friends and teachers – especially Miss Sari!

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#3 KPN – This was where Ben and I studied Indonesian. It is a pretty small school so we got to be friends with almost all the students and teachers. The staff there is amazing! They taught us the language, but even more, they helped us navigate our way through a new culture! Oh, and they helped with practical things like fixing a leaky pipe in our house at 10 pm at night. (Thanks Pak Argo and Ibu Itin!)

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#4 SENDANG BIRU being only 2 hours away – Another great thing our language school did for us was to take us to Sendang Biru twice! Sendang Biru is an amazing beach about 2 hours from Malang. The school arranged for bus transportation for any students that wanted to go, AND they cooked fresh fish for us right on the beach! I’m sure we’ll venture to Sendang Biru again, but it won’t be the same without KPN – oh, and it will take 4 hours from Surabaya instead of only 2!

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#5 LEMBAH DIENG – This Olympic-sized pool was definitely one of my favorite spots! Some mornings I came alone just to swim laps, while other times I joined a friend or brought the kids along. They don’t use chlorine in the water – instead they empty it and refill it every 2 weeks. Needless to say, I tried my best to swim on the days when the water was fresh!

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#6 PUNCAK TIDAR – This was a very nice neighborhood in Malang where I loved to go jogging. The streets were nice and wide with very little traffic and the hills gave me a great workout!

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#7 MOUNTAIN VIEWS – By moving to Surabaya we came down out of the mountains – and the heat here reminds us of that daily! I miss the cooler weather, but just as much, I miss the mountain views! I LOVED seeing them as I drove around town – or even right out of our bedroom window!

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#8 OUR NEIGHBORHOOD – I loved our neighborhood in Malang for so many reasons. It was pretty much a dead end road so our kids could play safely in the street (very important since yards are not very common here), and play they did! Sidewalk chalk (from America!), bikes, badminton, tag, and hide and seek with neighborhood kids! Our neighbors were very friendly – I was always invited to the monthly women’s meeting called Arisan (no joke!). We also had some great experiences when holidays rolled around – fireworks in the street during Idul Fiti and seeing a bull slaughtered during Eid-Al-Adha (sorry, I just don’t have it in me to post a picture of it!). Our new neighborhood is very different…but that’s a future post! If you want to see some pictures of our kids playing with the neighborhood kids in Malang, visit the kids’ blog at marcuskids.wordpress.com and read Aeden’s waterguns post!
This little courtyard area in the center of our neighborhood provided a great shady place to play on hot days!

This little courtyard area in the center of our neighborhood provided a great shady place to play on hot days!


#9 PASAR MINGGU – This was the Sunday Market. Every Sunday morning a major road in Malang closes down to traffic and people open up booths selling all kinds of things – shoes, clothes, toys, and food. The market itself was a little too crowded for our liking, but there is another road that just closes to traffic for people to walk along, ride bikes and hang out and we liked that. The market was walking distance from our house and although we didn’t go regularly, it was still nice to have close by.

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#10 PASAR ORO ORO DOWO – This is a traditional market that sells meat and produce. Although it was awkward for me to get used to shopping there, I grew to love it! I figured out who had the best chicken and produce and became quite friendly with the sellers. I never got to the point of feeling comfortable enough to bargain though! I figured that I was already getting a better deal than at the supermarket so I didn’t need to bargain! 🙂

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#11 LAI LAI – The market was great for produce and chicken, but Lai Lai was where I went for everything else! Lai Lai is the supermarket in Malang that caters to ex-pats! It sold things like corn tortilla chips, good pasta, muesli, amazing jams, dried fruit, and cheese! You know, the essentials.
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#12 – PASAR BUNGA and PASAR BURUNG – These are the Flower Market and Bird Market in Malang. Again, although we didn’t visit them regularly, we always loved it when we did!

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#13 – COFFEE SHOPS! We live on Java. Coffee grows here and is shipped all over the world. And while Indonesians love to drink coffee, most of them are drinking pretty low quality coffee – often a pack of instant stuff that is more sugar than coffee. Just because a place calls itself a coffee shop does not mean you can actually get good coffee there (I suppose the same could be said in America). However, Malang had a few coffee shops that had decent coffee and a couple shops had AMAZING coffee! A place called Java Dancer was by far our favorite. They have all kinds of great beans from all over Indonesia. Plus, they have amazing pancakes and waffles and are one of the only restaurants open before 10 a.m. on a weekend morning! 🙂
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#14 SATAY FROM JALAN KAWI – Satay (chicken on a stick) is pretty common here. You can find it on most restaurant menus and is frequently sold on the street. However, the BEST satay is sold on Jalan Kawi in Malang! The chicken was never fatty (Indonesians actually really like the fat) and the peanut sauce was oh so yummy! And even more amazing was the fact that they delivered! Ordering satay was the easiest way to feed a crowd, or just our family when I didn’t feel like cooking! I know good satay exists in Surabaya, but I’m not sure that it will compare to Satay from Jalan Kawi.
This is satay and lontong (compressed rice wrapped in a banana leaf).  SO delicious

This is satay and lontong (compressed rice wrapped in a banana leaf). SO delicious


#15 – PEOPLE Let’s face it, people matter so much more than places or food! And we met some pretty amazing people in Malang. Life-long friendships were formed. “Big Team Malang”, teachers and students at Wesley and Charis, friends from MES – you know who you are – thank you for your friendships. I’m not going to post any pictures because I don’t know if people want their pictures on my blog, but also because there would just be too many pictures!

15 months is not that long in the big picture of life. However our 15 months in Malang were some very important months for our family. Those months hold some pretty special memories and, for that reason, Malang will forever have a special place in our hearts.

Thailand Part 2

TRAINS:

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This is Eli with a friend he made in the train station in Bangkok. This little boy had some toy cars and motorcycles and was playing on the floor. Eli immediately dug out his Hot Wheels cars and joined him. They had so much fun! I didn’t let myself think too much about how filthy the floor was! 🙂 When we had to go, they exchanged toy vehicles!

We were in the Bangkok train station because we took a 12 hour train ride up to Chiang Mai. On the way back to Bangkok we rode the overnight train. We had a great time!

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UMBRELLAS:

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We happened to be in Chiang Mai on the weekend of an umbrella festival which was full of festivities, including a beauty pageant!

BANGKOK FUN:


Between a real playground (these don’t exist here in Indonesia!!!), an amazing library with books in ENGLISH, a ginormous ferris wheel and bowling, we had a blast in Bangkok!

WATERFALLS:

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When it was all said and done, after 2 weeks in Thailand, I asked Eli what his favorite thing was that we did. He immediately answered, “rock climbing!” At first I didn’t know what he meant, but then realized he meant the morning we went to see a waterfall. It was not that spectacular, but it was OUTSIDE! The kids loved being in nature. As crazy as it sounds, since we live on a tropical island and all, we don’t get out in nature too often here. It made us miss Massachusetts, but we were grateful for the experience!

Thailand was great and although we hope our visa situation becomes a bit more stable in the near future (so we don’t have to leave the country 3 times in 5 months!), we do hope to go back again!

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