“Stay-cation” Jakarta Style

When Greg and I lived in Mongolia, we spent our Christmas and New Year break in Thailand, splitting our time between Villa la Kosta on the island of Koh Samui and Bangkok. The year we lived in Bolivia, we traveled to Machu Picchu in Peru, then took a solo driving trip to see the Cristo statue in Cochabamba, a hard day of driving away from our home in La Paz. Last year we were mostly at home on the boat in Olympia, but we did manage a trip to visit Greg’s Mom and Sister in the Tri Cities, and our friends Larry and Carolyn in Custer.

We talked about a couple different scenarios for how we could spend our holiday break this year and decided that travel out-of-country was not a financial option, so we looked at what we could do locally:

  1. Take an hour flight and stay a couple weeks in Bali..but it’s the rainy season here and who wants to stay at the beach when you can’t actually, you know, lay out in the sun and go swimming in the ocean?
  2. Drive to Carita Beach then take speed boat to see Krakatoa (yes, the big a** volcano that blew up in 1883)…see “rain” above x big wind = big waves + wild card of a small boat captained by an unknown someone = foreboding sense of doom. Think I’ll pass until the dry season.
  3. Take all-day train trip to Yogyakarta to go shopping with a side trip to see some what I’ve been told are some somewhat unimpressive temples…and trade one mega city for a somewhat smaller one. While I disagree with former President Ronald Reagan’s quip that “You’ve seen one Redwood tree, you’ve seen them all” it is kinda hard to compete with Machu Piccu, The Great Wall and the Pyramids in terms of wow factor (I will make an exception for Ankor Wat in Cambodia, though).
  4. Drive two hours to the “small town” of Bogor (population 3 million) to do more shopping at overcrowded malls when I don’t even like doing that here in Jakarta or really anywhere in the world, so I’m not sure why I’d drive somewhere else to do it?
  5. Take a water taxi to Kotak Island in the Thousand Islands chain to see Monitor lizards and hang-out on the beach…see numbers 1 & 2 above. This is another trip we’ll save for the dry season.
  6. Stay home.

After a long, tough first-half of the school year we decided to leave the bags unpacked and our work email unanswered so we could spend some serious time de-stressing and unwinding at home. We are officially halfway through our vacation and it’s been a wonderful blur of mostly inactivity interspersed with a couple memorable moments that is best experienced living where the language is foreign, the water un-potable and the street food is of questionable origin. While certainly not an exhaustive list, these are some of the decidedly unambitious things you can choose to do over a three-week vacation in North Jakarta, Indonesia.


We’ve done lots of this at all hours of the day. If I want to take a nap at four in the afternoon, I do. If I get up at 6:00 a.m. and decide by ten o’clock that I couldn’t possibly make it through the rest of my day without a little shut eye, I grab a pillow and camp out on the couch. Time wasted, you ask? I don’t think so. Sleep helps our bodies repair, our minds lay and strengthen neural networks that contribute to our cognitive processing and our immune system to ward off disease. Some people like to live by the adage “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” but I prefer to get the requisite hours I need so my life is longer and healthier and sleep just isn’t happening this year. Too much homework and stress has greatly impacted my beauty rest and now that I’m forty, gasp, I need all the help I can get. So, while I know that I can’t catch-up on a sleep deficit just by sleeping more now, I’m gonna get it while I can. In fact, it’s 5:00 pm and Greg is about an hour in to his daily snooze. I’m giving him until 5:30 then it’s time to lay on the couch.

Discover the wonders of probiotics

Most of the staff caught and passed around a nasty stomach virus the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation; imagine the worst flu you’ve had and multiple it by ten. Our curriculum director thinks it was a strain of the Novovirus. I managed not to get it but Greg was sick for weeks. I may be completely off-base here, but I’m attributing my body’s ability to ward the nasty little buggers off to the probiotic yogurt drink Yakult; I have a dose every morning and I’ve convinced Greg it’s the ticket to a novo-free new year.

Get a bikini wax

This one’s for the ladies. About twenty dollars will get you an awesome Brazilian wax. The only trick is that you have to be okay with the lady (a) speaking no English (b) using a butter knife as an applicator  and (c) laying on a table meant for someone who’s average height is under five feet and width is about half the size of me. The butter knife threw me at first, but I’ve gotten use to it and really, if it works, why not? Oh, and for the guys, apparently it’s a normal thing for men to get their legs waxed to the knees…we haven’t figured that one out yet.

Have a hair spa with your husband

Really, how many husbands would say okay to “I have an idea, let’s get a hair spa, it’ll be fun!” It takes a special man that is so comfortable with his masculinity that he will agree to be an active participant in a hair spa…I love Greg’s adventurous spirit!

The first thing they had us do was change into a two-piece, teal boob-tube and robe (you know, put both arms through the elasticized opening so your shoulders are bare but the rest is covered). With a little help, Greg managed to get the top on but the robe was about 10 inches from closing across his chest (I am as big or bigger than most Indonesian men) so we ditched it. They washed our hair a couple times, sat us down in almost-comfortable chairs in front of a long mirror, and slathered on deep conditioner. The deep-tissue massage on our scalp lasted for the first 30 minutes…bliss. The next step was unanticipated. A velcro headband was wrapped around my head followed by a balloon-like teal shower cap attached to a long, flexible tube that ended in an unwieldily hot air blower. The gal working on me was about three minutes ahead of Greg’s guy so Greg had the benefit of a preview of coming attractions. “Are they going to put that on me?” was his slightly concerned response. Yep. Imagine a grown man wearing a teal boob tube with a bulging shower cap on his head that’s hooked to an antiquated hot air blower. I could see the whole process unfold in the mirror and finally had to close my eyes because I was laughing so hard. This indignity was countered by a thorough neck, shoulder, back and arm massage. Our experience culminated in a final wash and rinse at the bowl. All this for only $18 each. And how did our hair turn out? As silky smooth as a fur coat.

Read a book (or five)

I absolutely love to read and it’s the one activity I’ve missed the most since beginning my M. Ed. Sure I’m reading a lot, like all the time, and it’s great stuff but none of it is the storytelling that nourishes spirit and soul. Reading transports me to times and places I have yet to go or can never go. My favorite books are the Kindle specials that can be had on Amazon, it’s a gamble but for $1.99 it’s so much fun to find a book that speaks to me yet has gone unnoticed by the masses. This is the random selection of novels I’ve dipped into this break:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain- Anyone that knows me well understands why I find this is a compelling read.

Julia Child Rules: Lessons on Savoring Life by Karen Karbo- This was a surprisingly fabulous read! The author is not a foodie, nor does she admire Julia Child for her recipes, but rather for her pluck and outlook on life.

When I Found You by Catherine Ryan Hyde- Equal parts devastating and hopeful, you want to strangle the main character throughout but eventually, he finds his way in the world.

The Valley of Amazement by Amy Tan- Somewhat along the lines of Memoirs of a Geisha but set in China around the turn of the century. I nearly put this down at one point because I grew tired of the tragic and at times, formulaic plot twists but overall a good read.

As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Escape from a Siberian Labor Camp and His 3-Year Trek to Freedom by Josef M. Bauer.- I just began this one and it will take a little while mostly because I’m still recovering from the trauma of the Amy Tan book and need a little break.

Go the bank four times

This has been about as fun as it sounds. I won’t bore you with the long version but suffice to say, the banking system that we have been forced to use really, truly for lack of a better word, sucks.


Ahhhhhh. This is my happy spot, the instant gratification activity that allows me to create and putter and nourish. Greg is my culinary muse as I ply him with healthy versions of comfort food that remind us of home. I know if Greg likes a dish that’s been altered to be high in nutrition and low in fat and calories that it’s worth repeating. I have to admit that I really truly am not enamored with Indonesian food. Too much fried, MSG spiked, dried & salted fish topped noodle and white rice dishes for this girl. I’m the kind of person that feels off if I don’t have at least one enormous green salad every day and I  usually make it two. I cut up a cacophony of fresh fruit every morning; lovely miniature already peeled pineapples, Asian pears, apples from Washington state, navel oranges, mango, the sweetest papaya, bananas…I love the fruit here.

Watercress, spinach, navel orange and red bell pepper salad.

Watercress, spinach, navel orange and red bell pepper salad.

I’ve given up trying to figure-out what most of the stuff in the grocery store might possibly be. There are packages of “beef floss”, plastic bags filled with tapioca-like globules in every color of the rainbow, frozen balls of some kind of mystery meat, stuff wrapped in leaves in the cold food section, chicken feet and chicken heads (what the hell kind of meal do you cook with half a dozen chicken heads?) purple bread and a whole section of tinned meat products in a variety of spicy sauces. Most of the greens look like something I would have weed wacked out of my yard. I’ve tried quite a few but it’s hit and miss. Oh, and I have not tried fresh Durian yet, but I have had Durian ice cream and it was appealing in the way that eating the crispy skin off of a cooked turkey is; you know you shouldn’t be doing it, but you do anyway. Not familiar with this odiferous fruit that is native to Indonesia? Check out this description of Durian from Smithsonian.com.  I’ve heard varying takes on the smell but to me, it’s a cross between a rotting corpse (yes, I’ve encountered this smell while working on a video project in Egypt) and natural gas.


As I look forward to our move to Lagos in July, I plan to procure the items necessary to make homemade yogurt, cheese and kombucha. Yogurt and cheese are incredibly expensive there and both are items I’m not willing to forego ten months out of the year. I was making my own kombucha last year on the boat, a lovely jasmine flavored fizzy probiotic beverage that even Greg loves. Making cheese and yogurt opens up a whole new culinary vista for me to explore.

Enjoy the show

Our apartment is on the ninth floor and faces the Lotte Mart parking lot which houses a small mosque, an open-air eatery and a host of men that seem to be just hanging out. We have the pleasure of hearing car alarms, the muezzin’s call to prayer five times a day, random…orders, suggestions, announcements (?) over the loud speaker system and my favorite intrusion, a variety of exercise shows. On Saturdays, a local karate school uses the lot to practice their kicks, punches and katas. A series of lively “Kiyahs!” punctuate the hours between 6 am and 9 am but really, they’re not that noticeable.

Karate school practicing

Karate school practicing

What is incredibly loud and disruptive is the aerobics show. About once a month on a Sunday morning, Lotte rents out this same parking lot for an early morning fitness extravaganza. Imagine groups of 30-50 veiled ladies pumping and sweating to blaring techno music and encouragement from a microphone wielding instructor. The music is so loud and the bass is set so deep that is rattles the windows and vibrates my rib cage. Oh, and they start their sound check at 5 am by turning the music on full-blast…it’s the kind of thing that may just push me over the edge if Greg had signed a three-year contract.


Go to the gym

I can’t say that I’m in love with our gym, but it’s conveniently located about a two-minute walk away in the same shopping center as our grocery store. The people are incredibly nice, the music is incredibly loud and it is incredibly over-crowded if you go at the wrong time. But, it’s better than nothing and it’s really difficult to run outside here due to traffic, pollution, no sidewalks and the novelty of foreigners in this part of Jakarta. Before the rainy season hit, I was running outside with a group of guys from school once a week. About seven of us ran in an almost 10K in Central Jakarta in early November. I say almost because the course was clearly marked incorrectly…I finished in 47 minutes and I’m nowhere near that fast. I’ve signed-up for a “Color” run in February. This is where you run an easy 5K and they throw powdered colors on you at the finish line. I might have to wear goggles.

This is a bumpy highlights video of my almost 10K.

Get a massage

Ninety-minute full body massage for $10. Need I say more?

Have lunch at a five-star hotel with friends

Ari and Astrid are a married Indonesian couple that works at the school. They invited us to a continental lunch at a five-start hotel in Central Jakarta. The food was pretty good (cheese plate!) and it was fun to get to know them a little better outside of school.

Watch fireworks explode about twenty yards off your 9th story apartment

New Years Eve was spent with a big bowl of popcorn, movies on TV and lots and lots of fireworks. There’s not centralized show that I’m aware of. Rather, individuals set-off enormous show-quality fireworks outside of their apartment buildings. The show began around 7 pm culminating in a cacophony of explosions at midnight.

New Year’s Eve

Try to forget you only have ten more days until work starts and only only three more days until winter quarter classes start

My SPU classes start on Monday. I have two more quarters until I’m finished with my M. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction. My City U. classes start the following Monday; I have three quarters until I finish my Principal Certificate. Working on two full-time graduate programs simultaneously is possible but it’s not necessarily something I’d recommend. When feeling overwhelmed (a daily occurrence), I just tell myself to focus on the next assignment/task/ project that is due and complete that, then I move on to the next on my list. I cannot emphasize how much I’ve enjoyed and have learned from my programs. I also cannot emphasize enough how eager I am to finish. Eight more months…

Still on the list

  • Watch The Hobbit at an IMAX theatre $7
  • Get another massage (or three)
  • Go to Ancol Marina to hang-out, eat seafood and see the sights, about a ten-twenty minute drive away depending on traffic
  • More cooking: homemade mini pizzas, lentil burgers, homemade sloppy joes made from ground chicken, a variety of vegetarian soup, and lots of salad!
  • Gym
  • Brunch at a five-star hotel in central Jakarta

I hope your holiday and New Year celebration has been as relaxing as mine.

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