dining room

The great thing about the apartment is, there isn’t much difference between inside and outside. The windows are really big, and they have little iron balconies off them. If you notice it looks nice outside, you just step right through the window and you’re there.

The tile floors are common here – cooler than carpeting, and easy to keep clean. The rooms are light green. As you can see, we’re kind of lacking in furniture at the moment. There are AC units in the two bedrooms but I think with all the windows we’ll mostly just use fans to keep the place cool.

More pics later as the place becomes a little more lived-in. Plus, we should be getting cable internet at home soon, which will make it easier to upload images.


This is our little kitchen with its two-burner gas stovetop. There’s no oven, which I think is pretty typical. Coffee and condensed milk on the shelf. We bought that goofy lime-green thing to keep utensils in, because even when everything is sparkly-clean, there are always tiny little ants wandering around looking for a meal.

The fridge, which you can’t see here, has a small lock on the door. They all seem to. Maybe a reflection of the fact that people have to share fridges with extended family and roommates. Or maybe people just lock them when they leave town.

Beautiful Merapi, Fiery Merapi

Well, our new neighborhood wartel is absolutely refusing to upload apartment pictures. I think Chad has succeded in posting a picture of the rooftop on his blog, so you should check that out (Indo Stories, on the right hand side of this page). Instead I’ll talk about our trip to Mt. Merapi, near Yogyakarta.

As you may have heard, Merapi is fixing to erupt sometime soon. People who live on the mountain – and there are thousands of them, mostly scattered in farming villages – have a whole set of traditional beliefs centered around the existence of a spiritual kingdom atop the volcano. When the volcano erupts, it’s because the spirits are having a big party or ceremony. Villagers believe if they take good care of the mountain and are respectful toward its god, they’ll be okay.

That makes some sense to me – I’ve always thought mountains were spiritual places, especially New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Plus the belief system seems to encourage an attitude of conservation.

We talked to one guy named Christian, who’s been taking hikers up to the summit for more than 20 years. He described going up there with a villager who claimed to see the magical kingdom. “He’d say, look, horses! carriages! soldiers! houses! It’s just like a town,” Christian told us. Then he added with a little smile, “I can’t see it. But I do believe it.”

Volcanologists have the place on second-highest alert, which means “be ready to evacuate, but you don’t have to evacuate yet.” People are definitely nervous, but they’re growing rice and selling fried tempeh and doing all the stuff they usually do. They’re also performing sacrifices and ceremonies to try to mitigate the damage when it does blow. This volcano has erupted 5 times since 1990, so while the situation is urgent, it’s also familiar. In 1994 more than 60 people died. Everyone’s hoping this time the god is a little kinder.

Chad got to stay an extra day and actually go to a ceremony, so he will likely have some cool stuff on his page soon about it.

A home of our own

We have finally, FINALLY moved into our apartment. What a relief! It feels like forever since we’ve actually lived someplace. We love the apartment, too. It’s breezy and bright, and since it’s on the fourth floor it has a great view. Plus, we have access to the roof, which so far may be my favorite place in Jakarta. We’ll post pictures soon!

If you have a map, you can find our place – it’s on Jalan Danau Tondano, in the Pejompongan/Bendungan Hilir area, southwest of downtown.

I think the low point of our hotel existence came a few days ago when I got trapped in our room at the Karya. It was one of those locks where you have use the key on both sides. I was all set to go out in the morning, stuck the key in the lock – and it jammed. I had to call down to the desk to be rescued. When I suggested this was a bit of a safety issue, the guy just shrugged. Aggh! Jalan Jaksa! It’s where hotels are sentenced to be reborn if they’ve been very bad in a past life.

Otters on a mission

We saw these otters at the Singapore Zoo. I’m not sure whether they live with the orangutans, or were just visiting. They seemed like they really wanted to walk along that little rock wall in front of the orangutan, but they were nervous about it. They’d scuttle forward and then get spooked and turn around and run back. Then they’d slip-slide down the log until they encountered the turtle, which freaked them out all over again. They looked like they were really trying to do something, but it was impossible to tell what. I suspect we look that way sometimes in Jakarta, when we can’t quite bring ourselves to step off the curb into traffic, or when we’re trying to look at a food cart without LOOKING at a food cart, so the vendor won’t try to sell us something.

It still intrigues me. Where were they going?


I had a four day weekend, so we took a quick trip to Yogyakarta (usually pronounced Jogjakarta). It was an eight-hour train ride. We didn’t see anything on the way down because we left too late in the day, but the morning train back from Jogja was amazing.

At first the train justs flirt with the mountains. You can see them in the distance, behind endless, flat rice paddies, some dry, some wet, tended by farmers in conical hats. You’re not sure the train is really going there; you wonder if it’s going to skirt them somehow. But then the engine starts to whine and the train begins to shake a little. You begin climbing into jungly-looking forests of palm trees and other deep-green foliage, bisected by little river valleys. Every now and then there’s a small farming village. The paddies keep reappearing, terraced into the mountainsides, along with fields of what looked like corn, and other things I didn’t recognize. It’s beautiful.

It was so nice to see mountains again, like seeing old friends.

We were afraid we’d get hungry on the train, but the first two rules of life in Jakarta held sway:

1. Food is rarely more than a hundred yards away.
2. If you’re too tired to walk a hundred yards, the food will come to you.

Which is to say, in addition to the presence of a dining car, there were waiters constantly coming down the aisle with rice, fried eggs, fried chicken, spicy vegetables stewed in coconut milk, coffee, etc. Also, people got on at some of the longer stops, hawking local specialties. We got sold some regrettably stale and bland cookies. Otherwise, I’d say it was pretty much the perfect way to travel.

Sad news from home

We were stunned and so sad to hear that a former WFIU colleague died in a plane crash in Indiana. I really admired Robert Samels’ creative energy – this is a guy who, at age 24, composed an opera about Pontius Pilate partly during the few minutes he had in between doing the local announcements on “Morning Edition.” Chad and I went to see the opera, and were really impressed – it was funny, sad, deeply human, and beautifully musical. Robert was typically low-key when I complimented him, and gave a lot of credit to his co-writer. I know his loss is really being felt at WFIU, and it’s a loss to the future of classical music as well.


This is Jalan Thamrin (Thamrin Street), the main downtown thoroughfare, on a typical, kinda cloudy/smoggy day. Note the killer motorbikes (there’s actually relatively few in this pic, by Jakarta standards).

Note also the ads with the very white-skinned people. There’s definitely a bias toward pale faces in the advertising here. There’s also all kinds of products to allegedly make you paler, including a bar of soap called “Skin White.” I don’t know how that’s supposed to work. Does it have bleach in it? Or maybe white paint?

Ibu Trish Answers Your Touristic Inquiries: Bathrooms

I know you probably have questions you’d like answered before you come to visit us in Jakarta. So to simplify your planning, I’m launching this occasional column. If you have any questions, feel free to post or e-mail them!

Ibu is a commonly used title for women of a certain age. It means “Mother.”

Dear Ibu Trish: Will I have to use a squat toilet when I come to Jakarta?
Signed, Nervous and Shaky

Surprisingly (to me, anyway), we haven’t encountered very many squat toilets here. You’ll generally find Western-style toilets in malls, offices, restaurants, and hotels – even cheap hotels. Curiously, most of the squat toilets I’ve seen have been in super-glitzy hotels and malls, where they’re offered alongside Western ones. I suspect we’ll find more of the squat variety in people’s houses, and in areas outside Jakarta.

Restrooms here are generally pretty clean and decent, other than the occasional bar bathroom. In other words, it’s a lot like Bloomington. Toilet paper is almost always offered, as well as a bidet or a bucket of water and a scoop.

The picture here is almost entirely gratuitous, since it isn’t from Jakarta at all. I took it in Shanghai last year, and I love it, because it’s a picture of a squat toilet with a laser-activated automatic flush system. Talk about ancient-meets-modern!