Signs of a New Year II

Yes, it’s that time of year again.  My more sophisticated readers may find this post improper and immature, but then, so am I.  As we meander around our globe, I’m always on the lookout for some innovative use of the English language, misconstrued innocent mistakes, and the just plain weird.  At the end of this post should be a link to last year’s vibrant collection.

Another unbelievable year abroad!  Thanks for reading, folks, and Happy New Year!


imovie Retrospective

This is just a quick post to share with you a project the kids and I worked on this summer.  While we were on Cape Cod, Sarah had to head back to Connecticut for a few days to settle some emergency accommodation for our overpriced cats.  That meant I had the daunting task of having the kids by myself, with only a couple hours of sports camp to break up the incessant “When’s Mama coming home?”  In truth, our parenting and household chore skills had slightly gone the way of the couch potato while having a nanny around.  Like repeatedly opening an empty refrigerator hoping something will appear to eat, calling for help from Iin while sitting in America looking at the pile of dirty dishes in the sink and my kids eating sand out in the back will do no good.  As all parents know, the best way to keep kids out of trouble is to keep them overly busy until bedtime.  What we needed was a project.

How about a movie trailer?

I suppose since this is a blog about living abroad, I should probably throw in something a little more global nomad-ish.

Last November in Indonesia, teacher friend Ari organized a student trip to Lombok.  Brent, Darlene and I accompanied him on the trip as chaperones.  Here is a video collection of our adventure made by Brent.  Due to the blatant musical copyright law infringements, this video couldn’t be seen on Youtube until now.  Although, I’m not sure why the music is less infringed now than it was nine months ago…

I’ll be back soon with more from Nigeria!

Dear Indonesia,

Sleeping to Doha

Sleeping to Doha

Two years ago we came to you, a wayward orphan family escaping American suburbia to start a new chapter in life, and you took us in.  We brought little and had few expectations, and you generously nurtured and provided for us.  Our children now consider you their home.  Because of a job offer we couldn’t refuse, it’s time for us to move on.  I typed this to you on our flight back to New England for the summer.  Sarah and the kids were sound asleep with the rest of the passengers under the dim, backlit glow in Qatar Airway’s fuselage.  Just a few hours before we had our last meal with friends at La Piazza and said a tearful good-bye to our Indonesian family, Iin and Atik, after rushing to fit the last of Áine’s stuffed animals into the empty corners of our eight oversized suitcases and get to the airport on time.  When the plane took off, I couldn’t get myself to look out the window as you faded into the distance. Continue reading

Gili Air: One Last Indonesian Getaway

 GoPro footage courtesy of Caitlin Doonan and Brent Wingers.

What Gili Air is all about

Sarah has become both our financial advisor and our travel agent, which make for strange bedfellows.  We were looking in the face of our last vacation in Indonesia, an extended weekend holiday for the Ascensions of Jesus and Mohammed, just days away.  Our decision on what to do had become something of a cold war- I wanted to get out of Kelapa Gading and Sarah was advising against it.  We have big plans over the next few months, and Sarah’s purse strings were tightening.  Brent and Caitlin had already booked for their stay on Gili Air and what a better way to ruin a pre-wedding getaway than to invite a family with two overactive kids.  The more I tried to convince Sarah, the more she hesitated, so I resorted to my secret weapon- I sent Caitlin and Brent to sell the idea in the library while Sarah was working.  By the end of the day, we had plane tickets and a place to stay. Continue reading

The Supermarket Chronicles VII: Hook to Plate

On our recent island hop to Gili Air (one of our favorite trips this year; more on this soon) with friends Brent and Caitlin, restaurants used a brilliant strategy to lure in customers eager to take advantage of the fresh seafood.  Their catch of the day was displayed along the shoreline road that ran through the main tourist area of the island.  You pick from the array of fish, kebabs, fish steaks or shellfish, then relax at your table on the beach while they prepare and grill your choices.  The kids would play in the water and sand, taking small breaks to grab a snack, while the adults sat back with a beer, listened to island music and gazed over the beautiful aquamarine waters and the islands beyond.

Cian, however, still processing the “we eat dead things” concept, wasn’t quite sure how he felt about looking eye to eye at his forthcoming dinner.



Connecticut Yankees in a Jakarta Court

It was unspoken; we had to dress sharp, yet not over the top.  Our venue was the Ritz Carlton, Jakarta.  We got our bearings in the vast atrium lobby after stepping out of the only taxi arriving at the hotel’s porte cochère.

The Ritz Carlton Hotel

The Ritz Carlton Hotel

Past the trees decorated with cascading orchids, across from the hotel’s shoppe and through the featured temporary exhibit of artwork done in pressed gold, we made our way through to the grand staircase.

The medium is gold

Title: Horses Medium: gold

We were here for a kid’s birthday party.

Cian’s kindergarten friend Russel has a younger brother, George, who just turned one.  As soon as we arrived and posed for the customary picture at the photo stage, we dissolved into the hundreds of other guests.  Popcorn, cotton candy, chocolate, and candy stands, games of chance with prizes, a train ride and a clown and juggling performance on a custom designed theater filled the reception room.  The back wall’s buffet had choices ranging from traditional Indonesian dishes to salmon coulibiac and chicken cordon bleu to ice cream cake with a topping bar.  Cian quickly found his infamous posse of pseudo-naughty kindergarten friends and disappeared into the party, his face covered in blue cotton candy.  Aine, overwhelmed at first by the sounds and crowds, preferred to quietly spend her time dipping pink marshmallows in the chocolate fountain.

The disparity in this country never ceases to amaze me.


Indonesia Leaves Its Mark

Tau Taa Wana man from the remote forests of Central Sulawesi. Photo taken in 1997

Tau Taa Wana tribesman during a treck in the remote forests of Central Sulawesi. 1997

In a seeming intervention of Fate, Indonesia has repeatedly woven into my life.  My foreign exchange student experience here during high school was a rite of passage and a first sip of international travel.  After living in rural Malawi, Indonesia served as a staging ground, a familiar yet still developing country to catch my breath before Western world re-entry. I scuba dove the Celebes Sea, explored the jungles and highlands of Sulawesi, and immersed deeper into Bali.  Today, I type this in my family’s apartment overlooking the north Jakarta night, as undulating highway lights snake through a perpetually unfinished, dystopian skyline.  Almost unsurpassed in the world, Indonesia is blessed with the most attractive attributes I look for in a country.  Biology could have been one of my first words out of the womb, and a lifelong spiritual quest into ancient beliefs lends me an envious interest and a mission of reconnaissance with surviving indigenous people.  Malawi may have stolen my heart, but Indonesia owns my soul.   Continue reading