Call to Prayer

This is a short video I took off the balcony of our new house Saturday night during the call to prayer (or Azan). You can see what the typical weather is like here in the afternoons; hot, overcast, and sometimes the clouds look so heavy and swollen, I want to prick them with a needle and let the rain fall already.

The mosque is a short walk from our house and the kampung down our street, so we often have large groups of people walking back and forth to pray. Ellie loves to wave hello and point out the beautiful dresses and skirts the girls wear. The evenings are the busiest because it means it’s time to break the fast, or celebrate the end of another day of fasting by eating a huge dinner with family and friends. Most evenings include fireworks, which pop across the sky. Ellie and I have been able to catch a few shows on the balcony already.

You can barely hear the call to prayer in my video, but for a clearer version, check out this video. When I heard it for the first time in Cyprus, I found it haunting and mesmerizing. But now I’m beginning to become familiar with and used to the call to prayer every day and night.


Check out the neighborhood in the video. Interesting architecture, huh?

The New House

For those of you who voted for the International House Hunters Bogor Special poll, you may be interested in knowing that we chose the mid-range house with a small rent increase, nice floor plan and Chinese influence.

We are all very excited about this new little home of ours. My one minute shower has ballooned to a whole five minutes (with the bigger water heater), Ellie has her own room (now that it has A/C) and we’ve got a real couch! Well, a really old Chinese couch, but it beats wicker chairs.

Seth and the pembantus moved in yesterday and we have fully unpacked now. Oh, it feels so good to finally be able to nest. I think we all feel that way.

And now pictures!

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“Car Talk” with Seth

First blog entry by me. It’s on cars. Right?
So, you might have a clue that I’m a bit of a gearhead, always have been. One of the hardest sacrifices I made to get over here was the selling of my prior fleet, which was a carefully assembled portfolio of Euro-trash from the last decades of the 20th century. Since then, its been a relinquishing of my license, acceptance of self-employed moped taxis as preferred transport options. So, said another way, I’ve gone from my pick of luxury sports cars to my pick of random guys hanging around outside the mall. You already know where to go, so you nod your head and raise your own helmet and then adopt a wide stance. Its all very Larry Craig in a way that I’m still not comfortable with. So, fine, I need a car.
Thing is, I don’t really want to drive here. First, I’d like to keep breathing for the next 30-50 years, if I can, so a motorcycle is right out. Here’s a summary of my logic of why I don’t want a car, for you to digest: There are very few traffic lights here, and a great deal of traffic/rules which are all seemingly absurd, chaotic and dangerous. And I come from a place where a 4-way stop is a passively paralyzing social event. So, I’m not exactly keen to dive headfirst into the streets where no one carries insurance, fault is accessed by whoever has the dermis with the lowest melanin counts and where law enforcement has a more lucrative second income (but, buying a cop off is cheap for motorists).
Enough with the conundrums. Lets get to the fun part. Buying cars. Most people hate this, but I’m in my element. I know my way around them, can talk down to details; like the 1967 corvette has a 427 cu engine. Or that the Porsche 911 had one year in the early 1970s where they had a random filler flap on a fender which makes them really valuable. I have a ton of these random factoids, ready for a game show, and I relish these details. Most gearheads do, and so we make easy conversation when we gather. So buying a car can be a great experience, if the seller is also genuinely interested in cars and not simply your money. So, there’s your pro-tip. After that, pick the make, model and year. Fall in love and swoon with your machine.
First thing to do when buying is car is decide your needs. How many passenger will you need to carry, what is the nature of the trips you will take. What is the priority for the car… safety, economy, business, pleasure. Oh… and what ever your budget is. Cause I also have Bugatti wishes and Kia means.
Finally… one last, simple rule: fastcheap, or reliable. Pick any two.
And here we are. I need to carry 3-5 passengers. To go to the mall AND legitimately get off road at times (well, just say that locally they are known as roads, but I’ve seen better groomed ski runs). I need slow, safe, reliable… and a bit of fun and adventure wont hurt.
So it came down to this: A budget of $3k (which I can usually do a surprising bit with, have you seen my work before?), something with a bit of mass to it, w/4wd. Answer is a Jeepy-thing. Suzuki Jimny/Katana (known as the Sidekick in the USA), Daihatsu Taft (Korean cousin of the Sidekick) or a classic Land Rover. These are my realistic options from searching the market here, a website that’s the Indo equivalent to craigslist. And so I found some:
The first Jimny we found was a 1980. Bright blue and kinda cool in primary colors. So we go see it across town, they want $2900 and I get there and the thing is a mess. Cut wires everywhere. Tape where bolts should be. Front propshaft is missing altogether (no more 4WD). Everything feels worn out and sketchy. The salesman accuses my friend of being my wife. I don’t even test-drive it and I won’t put a picture up so you can revel in the horror. Its worse than you think and I’m not into gory detail. Google some images of slums and speculate wildly.
Then we see another down the road, 1985 model year,  this one has been done up. Restored and loved. Where the first was ratty, this had character. Woven bamboo floormats. Little mitten on the shifter/big tassles on the seatbacks, barstools tops in the back on the twin benches. Kitschy but stylish for SE Asia. Clean. $5200. I get in to drive it and I realize one critical thing. I, at 5′ 10″, am about 4″ too tall to comfortably drive it, and the seat is completely immobile… bolted down. Seller offers to put in a custom fit seat (what about the extra 1/2 inch my wife occupies?). And then A/C. “I’ll call you”.  (see pictures below)
Finally, the last Asian mini jeep, a later Katana 4×2. Rattle can matte black with bondo chunking off the side. It’s engine wheezing on the surviving 3 cylinders, and they genuinely made me sympathetic to their plight. I barely fit in it when the seat is full back. I think it gave me syphilis. OK, so $3000 isn’t gonna come flying out of my wallet for this sled. I’d rather forget.
Enter the Land Rover Series (I, II and III): in over 50 years, it barely changed in it’s basic design (much like the 911). I’m gonna get all Top Gear about it, and rightly so. Hammond did it first:
If someone hits it, they will disintegrate. It seats 7 Anglicans with benches in the back yet it’s as narrow as a Corolla. It’s a convertible in the same way that it’s watertight (correct answer is: kinda… if that wasn’t obvious). It can withstand the punishment of the tropics and 50 years of abusive owners and go about it business without complaint. Entire wars have been fought on it’s back and then it turns right around and contributes to the rebuilding of the state. You can be seen poaching OR protecting endangered species in it, and no one will know better. When they are beat down a bit, have that weathered patina of real work under their axles, the aesthetic is even better than showroom clean. It is, quite simply, the most rugged vehicle ever. It’s also completely uncomfortable, ridiculously slow at everything, and kind of difficult to drive as it requires double clutching. It’s kind of like getting a fixie, you might think its awesome-minimalist, and certainly will get you there, but (big but) it comes at a cost. However, this model works here, and there are a few of them that you see around here regularly. In fact, the first time I ever wanted an SUV was in Bali, when an ancient Series 1 was going downhill at a clip where it actually cruised past me and I wondered what the hell it was. So my date with one, dubbed the Si Denox (“Sexy Lady” in Sundanese) is on Saturday. I can hardly wait.
Stay tuned. Next time, we’ll cover the bases from negotiations of the deal (if any is to be had), how to tax, title, and register your car in a corrupt state and how one should conduct themselves on the wrong side of the road, the wrong side for the driver and the wrong orientation for the shift patten (just cause you moved don’t mean the transmission did, ya dig?).
All that and passing a drivers’ test in a third world country. One thing is certain: you will queue for this next post longer than I will spend on the written portion at the Indo DMV.

Wanna know a secret?

While I’m sitting at my desk in my homeroom, working on my powerpoint for Academic English grade 11 while another teacher is teaching grade 10B in some other subject, I’m jamming to AWOLNATION. 

There’s a reason why I’m listening to music; in order to stay focused and not zone out or listen to the lecture.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret… listening to this kind of music feels incredibly empowering. The beat is quick, the voice is strong and commanding, the lyrics forceful and demanding. Everything that this place is not.

Sorry to say it. But, I need the balance. I’ve heard of expats needing to watch Southpark or some other obscene American media at night just so they don’t lose their mind being so culturally sensitive and nice all the time.

And now you know what I’m listening to as I kindly smile to you from across the room. Ding!

The Help

A few months ago I devoured the book The Help. The narration and story really held my attention and I continue to think about it, especially in Indonesia.

You don’t have maids in Oregon. Maybe you call the Maid Brigade to clean your house once a month in Oregon. But to have a maid work in your house all day or even live with you is practically unheard of.

Well, you do here. It’s actually expected. And almost every single house has a maids quarters built in, usually consisting of a small room and bathroom with a mandi around the back. (Remember the toilet issue in The Help? I was shocked to see that here.)

I hear even maids have maids here. (By the way, maids are called Pembantus in Indonesia) Why? How I understand it, it’s about contributing to the community. Your money is shared and more people have jobs. And boy do Indonesians know how to create jobs. More on that in a later post…

So when we arrived to the “Meh” house, we were kind of gifted Greg’s old maid. Emphasis on old. She cleaned for a few hours each morning and refused to speak to us. After two weeks of this, we asked our friend if she could recommend a new maid. After a day training this new maid, she quit. We were disappointed because she got along with Ellie pretty well. We found out she didn’t really want to work anyway, so we’re trying not to take it personally. A day later (today) we get a message at 7:00 am that a new maid is coming over to negotiate the job.

Oh boy. With an agreement to clean, launder, buy food from street vendors, let us practice speaking Indonesian with her, and maybe cook for us a little, we locked in a new maid for about 600,000 rupiah a month. (around $60). Not bad. Let’s hope this one works out…

First day of school



She cried a little when I left her class, but I knew she was fine within minutes. Teachers passing me in the hall reported on her play during recess (“she was running and screaming with her new friends”) and her friend Kira found her class and waved hello.

My classes went well. I started my first two with interview presentations (really to help me get to know the students). And tomorrow I’m looking forward to learning more about the IGCSE Exams and process. My EFL grade 10 students will be taking them, and I have next to no training. I’m hoping to get certified by the end of the semester, but of course, I need to run on the Indonesian rubber time and just go with the flow.