Update

Just a quick note to say we’re fine! I got down to Yogya tonight. Chad has been filing great stuff for VOA all day and is doing a brief for NPR right now before we get some sleep. More tomorrow. Thanks for all your kind thoughts and inquiries!

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Earthquake II


Indonesian TV news is more raw than the American variety. They charge right into people’s hospital rooms. Last night at work, the TV to my left was set on a local channel, and there were protracted periods of screaming and chaos pouring into my left ear while I edited stories of screaming and chaos on my computer screen. CNN, on another TV straight ahead of me, was somewhat more decorous but still chilling.

I can’t claim any close ties to Yokyakarta. I was only there for three or four days. But it was so recent, and Yogya is such a charming little city, it’s terrible to see the images and think of the people and the place I remember.

In newsrooms, as in baseball, there’s no crying. It would have been especially inappropriate for me to cry, when surely there are people at the Post who have family or close friends in Yogya. On the other hand tears would clearly have been the only sensible response.

Chad is on his way there. He’ll be updating on his Merapi blog. I may head down tomorrow for a couple of days. One irony is that everyone in Yogyakarta has been focused on the danger from the Merapi volcano just to the north. Nobody expected this terrible blow from the south.

If you want to donate, a couple of organizations helping are Relief International and of course the Red Cross/Red Crescent.

A feathered visitor

“There’s a bird on the second floor, did you hear?” says Ari, our landlord. We are very spoiled, because Ari speaks excellent English.

“No, what kind?” I say, expecting a sparrow or a pigeon.

“It eats mice. You know. It says hoo, hoo.”

“An OWL? There are owls in Jakarta? How can an owl live in Jakarta? We want an owl!” I blurbled.

Ari took me down to the parking area under the building. We climbed up onto the back wall. Sure enough, craning my neck, I could see an owl tucked up under the roof of the balcony, dozing.

“Do you think we could train him to eat ants?” I asked. An owl could raise a large extended family on ants in our apartment.

Ari shook his head. “I called the zoo to come get him.”

But the zoo never arrived. Our avian guest departed sometime toward evening. I’m thinking of putting some plastic mice on the balcony, just in case he comes around again.

Perhaps my famous bird-artist brother John, who’s in The New Yorker Magazine this week, would care to make a long (very long) distance ID? Based on my almost useless photo?

How to bathe


This is a mandi, the traditional Indonesian way to get clean. It’s based on the even more traditional Indonesian way to get clean – bathing in the river.

A mandi has a tap at the top, and a plug at the bottom so you can drain it when necessary. You usually leave it half-full so the water is at room temperature. You use the scoop to pour water all over yourself, then you soap up, and then you scoop some more water to rinse off. There’s a drain in the bathroom floor so you can fling the water around with abandon.

As I understand it, it’s considered good form to leave the scoop sitting on the edge of the mandi rather than floating in the mandi. It’s definitely bad form to climb into the mandi! One hears stories of confused foreigners trying the immersion method, but I’ve never met anyone who confessed to actually doing it themselves.

Mandis are kind of nice, because you can just step in for a quick rinse. That’s what I do after walking to work (this is actually the one at the Post). They do make the floor wet, though, so it’s inadvisable to walk into any bathroom with just your socks on.

Mary Krueger is a smart cookie


My friend Mary is graduating from law school in New Hampshire this weekend. She got a full public-interest scholarship because she’s not only smart, she’s got her heart in the right place. Now she is going to go out and do the impossible every day: she’s going to make NH’s state and local governments provide the social services they’re legally obligated to provide.

She’s also going to ski really well, because that’s what she does. But that’s beside the point.

Congratulations Mary!!! Go get ’em!

OK, we now return to our regularly scheduled Jakarta blog.

Wardrobe enhancement


It’s been a momentous week: I finally acquired a second pair of pants!

I had worn my pair of basic black Old Navies for 67 straight days.* I had to conserve on clothes when I packed so I could bring 53,000 audio/video cables of every description that I’ll probably never need. Say what you want about Old Navy, including that they have really annoying commercials, but those pants wore like iron (and are still going strong).

I had to take my new pants to a tailor to be shortened. This guy has a little shop in the Palmerah marketplace, right by work. He whipped out the tape measure, started cutting, and was done in 15 minutes, for the massive sum of 65 cents. Plus he put up with my bad Indonesian and let me take his picture. Now that’s a deal.

I’m gonna get my next pair of pants, someday, from one of the bicycling jeans guys. They ride around on bikes with sewing machines mounted on them, and a little sign that says “Levi’s.” A moving copyright violation! They make them to order, which is the only way I’ll ever get Levi’s to fit my butt.

*Yes I’ve been washing them. Everything dries overnight here ….