Sunday, February 23, 2014

Coffee Beans & Friendship: Indonesia Days 1-2

Although I am a bit better at finding a country in SE Asia on a map now, I still don’t always have a great grasp on how it translates into to time zones crossed or the number of airports it takes to get somewhere.  So, we were planning our Singapore trip this past fall I started looking at maps to see exactly how far it was between Singapore and Indonesia.  Singapore is farther south than Suzhou, which surely means that it would be closer to Indonesia, right?!

The reason I was so interested in Indonesia is because we have friends, Jonathan & Amanda, from central Illinois (our home area in the United States) that live and work in Indonesia.  After looking at the map, I decided that we may never be any closer to their home as Singapore, so we might as well take just one more flight and visit them.  

The saying “walk a mile in their shoes” is true for a lot of things including living abroad.  A few pictures on Facebook or a phone call can’t compare to a visit.  I learn so much walking a mile (or a few more) in someone else’s shoes.  To talk about things about your home overseas, things that matter the most like school, your favorite restaurant, the places you pass by on a daily basis, and not have anyone in your home country be able to directly relate can be really, really hard and lonely.  That is one of the reasons I desperately wanted to make the trek to see our friends.   It’s hard to push a place that you’ve visited to the back of your mind when you’ve stood where you’re friends have stood.

That said, we made our visit to Indonesia a priority…which makes the whole passport debacle (see previous post) even more emotional.  In the end, everything was arranged and we took a short 2 hour flight to Central Java.  I learn by “doing”, which is going to make learning about geography a very expensive lesson.  Now that we’ve been to Indonesia I can find it on a map and can show you Central Java as opposed to the other parts of Indonesia.  (Baby steps.)

Waiting to purchase some snacks at the airport.
As we were planning for our trip my friend Amanda asked us how much luggage we had.  The reason?  They have one car and if we could fit, Amanda would pick us up at the airport.  Otherwise, she’d rent a van.  I was at a crossroads…should I be honest about the amount of luggage we had?!  We have never been accused of packing light, ever.  We are a family of 5 with 4 females…need I say more?  We also had swim suits, swim floaties, diapers, snacks, gifts and clothes for a 2-week vacation.  Our family had a bit more than a backpack for each member.  I decided I had to be honest.  How embarrassing would it be to show up with additional luggage and not be able to fit in the car?  I told Amanda how much we had and she decided we, and all our luggage, could fit.  

When we arrived Amanda said the kindest thing ever.  “That’s not that much.  I really expected more.”  That is a sweet friend!

We loaded the car, started munching on some sweet Indonesian bread, and made our way through rush hour traffic to our friend’s house.  We watched the motorcycles whiz by and as I sat amazed by Amanda’s driving skills, we peppered her with questions about Central Java (or maybe it was more of an assault?)  We referenced everything to our life in China and covered every topic we could think of.  Schools, family units, household help, travel, infrastructure, language, and on and on.  
Will it all fit?!
We're all smiles, the luggage and people fit in the car!
Mmm, yummy!
Safely at their home, we asked three basic questions.  Can we flush the toilet paper? Can we drink the water? Can we use the water to brush out teeth?  The answers were “no, no, and you probably shouldn’t.”   (read more about toilet paper here)

It was so good to be in their home, see their space, and see where life was lived.  As we got ready for bed Jonathan gave us the heads up on the call to worship.  This was our first time in a predominantly Muslim country, so we had not experienced the call to worship that occurs several times a day.  The first call to worship would be around 4 am and Jonathan said with young children, in a new place, it can be very scary to wake up in the dark to the prayers being chanted over the loudspeaker.  Because of their location on the globe, windows were wide open during the night and every sound filtered into the room.  Jonathan was right, it was a eerie to wake up to the chanting.  He was also right that about the time call to worship was over, the roosters started crowing.  

We spent our first full day in Indonesia touring a coffee plantation.  Did you know that most of Indonesian’s coffee is exported first and then brought back into the country again to be sold to consumers?  I didn’t either.  We bumped along the path and looked at rubber trees and coffee beans.  Our tour guide made all of the girls their own leaf crowns.  

Coffee plantation
Ready for our tour
Rubber trees
Coffee plant
Coffee beans
Our very friendly guide!
One coffee princess!
Finally another adult was with us on a family
vacation that could take our picture!

Four coffee princesses!

Not a shabby view!
After lunch I decided that I had fallen in love with Indonesian food.  Peanut sauce, sweet & fruity drinks and chicken (no mystery meat here) are some of my favorite things.  Jamie and I both laughed that it did feel strange not to eat our rice with chopsticks.

Oh yum!
That afternoon we walked from Jonathan & Amanda’s home to pick up their son from school.  I love walking through town whether it be in the US, China or Indonesia.  You see so much more when you can take it at your own pace.  I enjoyed seeing an international school in another country and my girls liked to play on the playground.

International school

Walking home from school
A neighborhood mosque
Are these birds to blame for the early morning noise we heard?

Chasing chickens in the yard.
Jonathan teaches at a local university and asked Jamie to give a presentation to one of his classes.  Jamie spoke to the students about the company he works for and discussed his personal management philosophy.  Jamie really enjoyed speaking to the students and he was impressed with the questions the students asked.  We ended the evening at dinner with some of Jonathan’s co-workers and had more of my favorite things…chicken and fun & fruity drinks.
Jamie in traditional batik and on his way
to speak to some university students.

Following our friend Jonathan to the university.
(He's the one with the backpack.)

Dining after Jamie's presentation.

I'll share the rest of our Indonesian adventure in a few days!


  1. I know I don't comment on here much, Kara, but your trip looks like so much fun! We loved the Malaysian food, too... lots of fresh fish we never ate in China. Good for you for all the travel- your family is intrepid! We miss you all. Dina

  2. We miss you too Dina! I'm glad you commented :-)

  3. Really awesome, i like the post. I was browsing about cocoa powder but not get enough info about it, could you please post it ?