Yesterday I returned to Pangkal Pinang from a 24 hour trip to Jakarta to attend a luncheon at the U.S. ambassador’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving. I had been planning on attending after Ambassador Blake personally invited us ETAs during orientation in Bandung, though my travel plans weren’t finalized until last Thursday. Even American holidays happen last-minute, like most other things in Indonesia. Below are pretty much all the photos I have from this short but enjoyable trip to the Big, Bad City.
A screenshot of the e-invitation to dine at the ambassador’s house.
My island home of Bangka seen from the air. I have yet to visit those mountain-hills but I see them on the horizon every day. The ponds at the bottom of the picture are remnants of tin mining, an industry that is still of great importance for my province.
Another view of Bangka, this time ont the return trip. This is another tin mine and might be near Koba (another city on my island) but I’m not sure of my geography on this one.
Flying into Jakarta. There is a lot more farmland in the immediate vicinity of a city that is one of the world’s largest metropolises.
Jakarta’s airport. Almost all flights here board from the tarmac, which adds a little romance to the allure of travel here. J-town, here I come!
I met Rebecca (Bandar Lampung) and Bryan (Wonosari) at the airport in the same food court where we first met up three months ago. It was great to see them — so much has happened but so little time has passed! Taxis are definitely the way to go in Jakarta and it is even better if you have other people to split the fare with.
A street in the ambassador’s neighborhood. The roads are nicely paved and clean, but still definitely in Indonesia. There are nice trees and there was a big park across the street from Ambassador Blake’s house. Overall not a bad gig, I’d say. Also that is one of the first “STOP” signs I have seen in Indo, by the way.
We arrived at the ambassador’s residence with about a half hour to spare, so we followed our taxi driver’s advice and walked a short distance to see SD Manteng, the school that Obama attended when he lived in Indonesia. This piece of President Obama’s past is well-known to pretty much every Indonesian, who usually react to the fact that I am American with a thumbs-up and “Obama, yes! Very good!”
Yes we can!
Back at the ambassador’s residence, other ETAs trickled in in twos and threes. Here Kelsey (Gorontalo) is looking nothing short of classy getting out of a Blue Bird taxi cab.
Our bags were searched before entering the ambassador’s house, but it was nothing too intense. This is the view from inside the gate, with the someone going through security.
This is the house, plus some of us ETAs.
Ambassador Blake came out to personally greet us. He’s an affable man, which isn’t surprising given his profession. He is the tall one in the center wearing some nice indigo batik.
The house was beautiful, inside and out. We were encouraged to walk around and make ourselves at home, which we certainly did do. And yes, that is a Christmas tree in the background.
The Thanksgiving spread did not disappoint. There were all the classics: sweet potatoes, turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.
Oh, and did I mention there was wine? Wine is all but nonexistent outside of major cities in Indonesia.
This was the apple pie by the time I got to it in the food line. Yum.
Of all the things to really make me feel at home, it was the Splenda. Splenda is such an American thing — people just use (copious amounts of) real sugar here. Also I realized how much like my mother I am when I found myself taking a souvenir napkin. Not only that, but I was also the one to wrangle everyone together for a family photo. And not only that but I also insisted on a goofy one and then a “nice” one, just like my mumzie always does. But I turned out alright, so thanks mom and dad. 🙂
The view of the yard/garden from the many windows in the home. Note the dog running around outside. It has been months since I last snuggled a dog/snuggled any animal without worrying about rabies/fleas.
Posing with the Christmas tree in the front room. I’ll be spending Christmas in Chiang Mai, Thailand this year. I have actually seen Christmas trees for sale at department stores at my site. I’ll take photos but no way would I buy one.
Fellow ETAs Michael, Hilary, and Kelsey were catching up after lunch.
The aforementioned goofy family photo. Top row, left to right: Andrew, Michael, me, Dalton, Steven. Bottom row: Sam, Kelsey, Joel, Hilary, Maria, Bryan. It was beyond wonderful to see so many members of our Fulbright family at this luncheon. I was surprised, as I think many of us were, at how many people showed up. Not pictured are Rebecca (not sure where she was when we did this photo) and Abby and Hiram, who are sitemates on Lombok and were late because of an earthquake… #OnlyInIndonesia. Luckily they still made it and we were able to see them in the evening. I love you, family!
Our attempt at a “nice” photo, just for you Mumzie.
Tim, a Fulbright researcher in Bandung, was the esteemed photographer for our family photos. Thanks, Tim.
While we were doing the group photo thing, Ambassador Blake and a few members of RELO (the U.S. Department of State’s Regional English Language Office) joined in. The RELO officers are the two ladies on the far left. Besides Fulbright ETAs and Tim (the lone Fulbright researcher) and folks from the RELO office, the other guests in attendance were a couple of official people who Ambassador Blake introduced before we began eating. There were also a good number (maybe a little less than 20?) of Peace Corps volunteers from West Java. It was nice to meet them and compare notes on our experiences. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
After eating and mingling and taking photos, it was time to leave the Ambassador and his family in peace and explore the city. We scattered to various corners and pretty much all ended up at different malls, which seems to be the thing to do in the hazy, hot, smog-filled city. I went with Rebecca to check into our Airbnb accommodations, which was in a high-rise apartment building somewhere in West Jakarta. There was a six-story mall in the bottom of the apartment building, which was a bit of a surprise but was nice entertainment in the afternoon.
An unfiltered image of Jakarta from the window in the elevator bank of our apartment building. That is smog, not rain.
The apartment building had a lovely park on the seventh floor, complete with a fitness center, pool, jogging track, water slide, and gardens. We walked around a bit and enjoyed the cool breeze that comes at that altitude. I could live in a building like that, though Rebecca made a good point that we would probably die a horrible death if there was ever an earthquake. Plus is takes over 20 minutes to “get out of the house” because you have to get through two seperate elevator banks, a parking garage, and a mall to reach the street.
The lovely Miss Rebecca and I enjoying a stroll in the apartment’s gardens.
If you see any rhyme or reason to the floor names on this elevator, please let me know. This is but one example of the many things that I just don’t understand about Indonesia.
After we walked around and while we waited for Bryan and Andrew (who were also sharing the apartment with us) to show up, we took turns karaokeing Indonesian songs to each other in the shower. One phone is for music, one is for the lyrics. Rebecca, Clara (not in on this trip), and I will be hanging out together in Chiang Mai for the week of Christmas. I’m super excited to travel with them.
Saturday night we met at a nice bar called Camden in South Jakarta. On the way there we ate a dinner of Ritz cheese crackers and drew stares from other drivers with our singing and dancing in the back of the cab. It was a great time.
The next morning, we left the apartment shortly before 10. We did not coordinate flights, so everyone left at different times. Bryan was the first to go with an early flight in the morning, then I was scheduled to leave at 1:30, and Rebecca’s flight out was much later in the afternoon. Upon Andrew’s recommendation, Rebecca and I took a cab to a restaurant called Cafe Batavia in the Old Quarter/Colonial Era part of Jakarta. It was a great idea and proved to be the perfect thing to do on a dreary Sunday morning.
The cab dropped us off a little walk away from Cafe Batavia, so we got to see a tiny slice of the city on our walk there. This is one of the many canals that apparently flood during the rainy season. It was… not the cleanest water I’ve ever seen.
Rebecca leading the way.
Cafe Batavia was on the other side of this bridge. Note the man bathing in the water coming out of a drainage spout in the canal.
We’re on the right track…
A quiet street corner near Cafe Batavia. I find that the crumbling, colonial-era architecture is quite charming.
Finally made it! The Cafe was two stories and had separate sections for smokers (downstairs) and non-smokers (upstairs) and the staff sloke impeccable English. It was definitely a cool spot.
We got a nice window seat. Aww yeah.
The view from our table. I’m still note sure what the buildings in the distance are for, but this was definitely a gathering place for tourists. It was a prime spot for people watching.
Cafe Batavia was pretty expensive, so we each got a coffee and ate at a street stall we saw on the way to the cafe. This coffee was decadent and oh so delicious, with caramelized sugar on the rim of the glass, homemade whipped cream, and a splash of the hair of the dog that bit me the night before. There’s no way I would find something like this at my site, which is why I paid what Rebecca pointed out was almost a third of the cost of my flight home. When in Rome, right?
Rebecca and I chowing down at the street stall outside of the cafe. I was jammed with people when we first passed by, which is why ate there. We are eating kwitieow (thick noodles that are my favorite) with strips of fried tofu and some five-star peanut sauce.
And that was that! I caught a cab to the airport after this photo, befriended the cab driver, and chilled at the airport for a bit before the flight home. It’s good to be back in PKP, especially since I am now on VACATION FOR A MONTH because students are testing/doing remedial work for two weeks, followed by two weeks of vacation for everyone until maybe the second week of January. I will be going to Thailand from December 15-29, but besides that I haven’t made any firm plans. I expect lots of hanging out with peeps at my site will be the order of the day. Can’t wait!