Got Milk?

Hi again, I just realized that the “a” key sticks on this keyboard. I have a feeling that that will get tiresome in a hurry. Oh, well, I’ll just try to evoid thet one if et oll possible. Problem solving – the name of the game. Well, since my last e-mail we’ve covered a lot of ground while managing to do surprisingly little that would be of interest to the masses (you may wonder how that is any different from the past two months, but nobody asked you). It’s becoming one of our talents, probably taking the place of some of the ones that might actually come in handy. I believe my last message came from Jakarta. Did I mention that I had just come off the golf course? That was Thursday. We stayed at Mel and Luann’s until Sunday night, and I did eventually learn the names of all the kids. Incidentally, the Indonesian Torin turned out to be much easier to get along with than the problem child from back home (Bizzaro Torin?). No surprise there.

Well, the rest of our stay in the big city (and I do mean big, like nine million people or something) was a perfect fit for a vacation from our vacation. We didn’t actually have to deal with any big city problems as we were chauffeured around, fed, and generally pampered throughout our stay (thanks again to the Johnsons). Thursday afternoon their driver, Widodo, took us to Taman Mini, an amusement park type of place that had different areas for each of the provinces in Indonesia, with traditional houses, artefacts, clothes, etc. It was like Folkfest (for you Saskatonians), except without the hordes of drunken university students and packs of bored senior citizens taking advantage of the free buses. This was mainly just a few families, a couple groups of elementary school students, and us. We also caught a short movie about Indonesia on the IMAX that showed all kinds of strange scenes from around the country. It was all in Indonesian, and seemed to have been filmed some time in the early 80’s. Very amusing, largely thanks to the dated clothes and (seemingly) random plot. The next day Widodo took us up into the mountains near Bogor where we hiked for a couple hours through the jungle to some waterfalls. Pretty cool, except that it poured on us nearly the entire way back. You would think that eventually we’d learn not to be too far from shelter in the afternoon at this time of year. Considering that a long-sleeved shirt is the extent of what I packed as protection from the elements we really should put more thought into our timing.

For the most part, we spent the rest of our time reading, swimming and eating (a lot, I really missed cereal, apparently). We also went to Rondi’s dance recital (she’s the eldest daughter), golfed again, and found various other ways to kill time, all in the comforting vicinity of a real shower. By Sunday night we actually found that we were chomping at the bit to head back into the fray, which we did with typically clumsy gusto. We flew to Singapore (we had to leave the country to renew our tourist visa), and since the boat that we planned to take back to Indonesia was to leave Singapore at seven a.m. we decided to just crash at the airport until then. Also, we’re cheap, and that’s free.

Yeah, well it took us all of about two minutes to realize that Singapore is not the type of place where people like us just “crash” in the airport. If a country could be called anal-retentive, Singapore would be it. Everything in its place, and each with it’s price, generally large. Anyway, we scrapped that plan, found out about the cheapest place in town, reputedly Lee’s Boarding House, and picked up a shuttle to the aforementioned shithole. At ten Singapore dollars (about $8.50) each for a dorm bed, the price was about as good as we expected to find. And, just to make sure that you feel appreciated, they throw in the bedbugs for free. Lovely. There’s always a bright side, of course, the one here being that the 200 or so bites that were doled out weren’t split 50/50, more like 200 for Laynni, none for me. We’re not sure if it was because I took the top bunk or because I hadn’t showered in a while, but the end result is that Laynni’s right side (she slept on her left) makes her look a lot like an Ebola victim. The fact that she is extremely enthusiastic in her scratching has kept things interesting ever since. I think my popularity peaked when I wisely commented, “C’mon, it can’t be that bad”. If looks could kill…… It’s finally starting to clear up; she should be able to wear shorts in public by the end of the week, assuming that her razor makes an appearance before that. Oops, there’s that look again.

Theoretically, of course, the boat from Singapore was supposed to leave at 7:30am and arrive on the Indonesian island of Batam 40 minutes later. Can you guess what happened? Eeeegggghhhh, wrong. It left at 7:30 and about 20 seconds, and arrived 39 minutes later. The guy on the dock complained that we were early. Personally, we were shocked (relatively) speechless. I almost wanted to ride back and forth all day just to prove it wasn’t a fluke.

Anyway, from there it was back to reality, in terms of comfort if not punctuality. Both our next boat (the Indonesian one) and the following bus were on time, although not half as posh as Singaporean transport. In all fairness, they are also about a quarter of the price. While on the bus one teenage kid tried to distract me by taking my book and “reading” it (he didn’t speak English) while a couple of his buddies tried to sneak Laynni’s little travel bag out from under our seat. Luckily, Laynni saw the bag seemingly moving of its own accord and found that odd enough to grab hold of it. A little later (about four hours, actually) we found ourselves in Pekanbaru, a hideous-looking little oil town. We were thinking about heading on to Bukittinggi but eventually decided to pack it in and go in the morning. That turned out to be a good choice. For only a couple dollars more our hotel (which, itself, was a really cheap dive, just our style) got us into an air-conditioned van instead of a junk-heap bus from the 60’s like we would have taken the day before. The driver was a Mario Andretti wannabe who got us there an hour early (practically unheard of), although with several close calls along the way (very heard of). My professional opinion was that he was running from the group of rabid, stick-wielding dwarves we passed along the way, but I don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. Come to think of it, those may have been kids. Either way, even at breakneck speed I managed to spot one interesting sight along the way – about twenty men crowded rather formally around a pond about ten metres by ten metres, intently watching their fishing poles which were set up in holders. I guess bamboo sticks are kind of heavy, and you probably want to leave your hands free for other important tasks like nose picking and ball-scratching. All in all, it didn’t look real sporting, but since I haven’t been able to find out the whole story I can’t say for sure. Maybe the other fishermen try to tackle you while you’re reeling in or something. I’ll let you know if I learn anything new.

Now we’re in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, not doing much (which we seem to get better at everyday), just trying to work up the gumption to do some trekking, tours, or something along those lines. We’ll get to it tomorrow, really. Although I did just trade for “Hannibal”, the “Silence of the Lambs” sequel, maybe we’ll do something Friday……

A brief accommodation update: the room we stayed in last night had a nearly shared bathroom with the neighbours (the wall didn’t go all the way to the roof and was VERY thin) and I spent my time between 6:45am and 8:05pm listening to what could very well be a record for the removal of bodily fluids and gases. By my count, 7 urinations, 11 hearty throat-spits (commonly called “hocking one up”), 6 impressive farts, 2 rather weak efforts, only 3 “finger-snorts” (he must have outstanding technique), and finally, but understandably, at least 4 showers. I swear that the 5′3, 110 pound dress-shoed Indonesian man I saw in the hall must have come out of the guy I heard. It couldn’t possibly have been him, could it? It’s possible that they are just far more advanced than us in these matters. I might go in for some tutoring, just to try to fit in. I’ll leave the suspense to build on that one.

Always evolving, if not always in the right direction,

Dean

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