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Monday, 26 November 2012

A Weekend in the Clouds

What started out as a bit of a bust month, has ended on a better note. On short notice I was sent to Singapore yet again for paperwork. While on the flight I had a bad cold and ended up damaging my eardrums. I was told not to fly before my holiday at Christmas so that I could give my ears a proper chance to heal.

So, my trip to the elephant sanctuary has been put on hold and I've been grounded! After spending several weekends in, I decided I HAD to get out of Jakarta and get some fresh air. Since I can't fly, I had to find something to do on this Island. Some friends recommended a spa a few hours from here. A friend of mine from New Zealand joined me and we headed up to the mountains and rainforest for an incredibly relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of Jakarta.

We purchased an amazing package which included transportation to and from Jakarta, one night in a bungalow, four meals, guided hikes, exercise classes, and two spa treatments - All for under $150!! Amazing! You would never find a deal like that back home.

The drive to Javana Spa took roughly 3.5 hours. Driving across this Island is so unique. Tiny villages line the main roads to the mountains. While driving through these villages some not so unusual sightings include; cattle walking the street, naked children swimming and bathing in rivers and ponds, men and women coming to your car windows selling everything from peanuts to inflatable floaties for the pool, people doing laundry along train tracks, tiny huts with families including children sitting outside smoking, bird markets, skinny dogs and cats with only half of a tail (not sure why this is), a lot of garbage, beautiful traditional Muslim and Indonesian outfits, and so on. Overall, you can really see how little the people in these villages have. But, despite this you see a lot of smiling faces - children running around laughing, groups of men sitting around chatting and smiling, women proudly holding their children's hand, etc. It's very apparent that their living conditions are less than ideal, but they clearly are proud of what they have. Of the trips I've done around this Island, the drive is usually the most interesting part. It's very neat (and at times, sad) to see the way people live.

After some very steep roads up the mountain, with views of rice terraces and fields, we reached the spa that is nestled into the rainforest on the mountain's edge at 1200 meters above sea level.
We were greeted with hot towels and some delicious guava juice. The first thing we both noticed was how much cooler the temperature was up in the clouds and how clean the air felt to breathe in! It was truly refreshing.

The weekend was spent relaxing in hot spring lagoons that had natural water flowing from a mountain top crater, drinking tea and watching the storm clouds form around us, massages, hair treatments, jacuzzi time, walks around the grounds and hikes into the rainforest. The first hike was on Saturday in the pouring rain. We geared up and ventured into the rainforest. Upon arriving at the destination for the first waterfall on the tour, our guide told us we had to quickly turn back as the steep hill of stairs going down toward the waterfall was considered highly dangerous due to all of the rain. He said the ground could give away at any moment. That was all we needed to hear. We quickly made our way out of the rainforest and back onto a main trail.

Luckily, the next day the weather had cleared up. We took another hike and visited a second waterfall, this time actually making it to the falls. The water was extremely cold, but very refreshing. We hiked through some really cool paths with lots of lush green plants and flowers. Our guide told us about 4km further up, monkeys and jaguars could be spotted! I asked him if the jaguars have ever wandered onto the spa grounds or attacked anyone. He responded with a very straight forward "yes". His English wasn't great, so I'm hoping he just misunderstood my question!

The Javana Spa is designed to look like a Japanese inspired resort. Apparently it took five years to build due to it's remote location. It's definitely an excellent choice for a weekend break from the city and above all it reminded me how much I miss fresh clean air!!!

Looking forward to future adventures! Next stop: Thailand!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

September and October Adventures

It has been a while since I've written a post. September and October have been very busy months. My classroom is continuing to grow and work continues to consume most of my waking hours during the week. I can't make many complaints though. I am loving teaching here and all of the opportunities that are coming my way!
Here is a quick overview of my adventures from the last two months:

I've had a few pretty exciting trips the last two months and I've also had the opportunity to really enjoy Jakarta. In September I had my first visitor. My friend Jeremy who lives in Malaysia came to visit with one of his friends. We had a great weekend and spent one night at an expat Oktoberfest event where I met some wonderful fellow expat teachers from another International School here in the city. It's great to have some new friends in Jakarta! September also brought two new American teachers to my school. They are living in my building and have been great to hangout with!
With the arrival of the new teachers, some city site seeing was in order. We made trips to the Jakarta Sea World and a few local museums. We saw how traditional Indonesian puppets are made and learned about the detailing and time that goes into each one. We also spent an exciting day at the Jakarta Culinary Festival where we were able to watch various cooking shows, sample cuisines from around the world and attend two cocktail making workshops (definitely the highlight of the day).

Canadian Thanksgiving is pretty much unheard of here. Most Indonesians were familiar with Thanksgiving but only knew of the American celebration in November. I decided to host a Thanksgiving Potluck and invited teachers and staff from school. We managed to jam close to twenty people into my tiny apartment and had a lovely afternoon sharing food and company.

Outside of the excitement in Jakarta, I've managed to have a few getaways. I was sent to Singapore twice for Visa purposes. My first trip was with two other teachers and we spent the night just outside of Little India. We had a nice evening strolling around the streets near our hotel and relaxed at a sidewalk cafe for supper. The next day we spent around eight hours walking the city and soaking in all of the beautiful and clean sights that make up Singapore! It was refreshing to be in a city that actually has sidewalks for pedestrians, and roads that aren't completely full of traffic and garbage. Singapore is extremely well maintained and apparently quite strict. It is actually illegal to chew gum in Singapore, and according to the immigration officer -also illegal to wear sandals and smile! On this first trip to Singapore we went to the beautiful Marina Bay Sands hotel and made a visit to the rooftop observation deck (around 55 floors up). We spent a little while walking around the botanical gardens and the harbour and made a quick visit to the famous Raffles Hotel.

My second trip to Singapore was a day trip by myself. Since I had seen most of the main sites, I decided to use the MRT and navigate around the city on a hunt for a Halloween costume. I didn't have any luck finding Halloween stores, but I managed to find lots of shopping and spent most of the day in China Town and on Orchard Street (the main shopping street).

At the end of September I had my term break from school. I spent five days touring and relaxing by myself in Bali. This was supposed to be a trip with friends, but unfortunately they weren't able to make it. I decided to keep my flights booked and brave it alone. I had a great time touring the island and trying new foods. Unfortunately, I came back to Jakarta with major Bali belly and ended up spending the next few days in bed. While in Bali, I rented a car and driver for two days. It's insanely cheap to do this in Indonesia. I spent under $90 to have a driver bring me around the island for 2 days. I visited many temples, drove through winding roads that looked down upon rice paddies, visited the famous medicine man Ketut (see previous post), watched the surfers at Padang Padang, and tried my own hand at surfing in Kuta.

Surfing is something I've always wanted to learn. I knew it would be difficult, but I was completely unprepared for how difficult it is. Luckily, due to being the only English speaker at the school I was given a private coach and spent several hours trying to catch at least one wave! The waves were much bigger than I anticipated. Most of my time was spent being thrown to the bottom of the ocean. I have to say, I still enjoyed it and look forward to doing it again (with many more lessons).

Another interesting day in Bali occurred when I was walking down the beach and heard loud music up ahead. I decided to follow the music and see what the fuss was about. I then stumbled across a traditional Balinese funeral. There were a group of Balinese men in traditional costume carrying the casket of an elderly man around the beach. They soon dropped the casket, lifted the body out and threw the casket off to the side. They placed the man on top of a bed made of banana leaves. Everyone then gathered around and the local women came with their offerings to sprinkle on the deceased (flower petals, fruit etc). Bali is quite different from the rest of Indonesia. Indonesia consists of a 90% Muslim population, but in Bali most people adhere to Hinduism or Buddhism. Apparently these offerings are a gift from the land to the deceased. I stood far enough back as not to seem disrespectful or be in their way. Soon, a Balinese lady came over smiling and grabbed my arm and brought me into the mix. She seemed happy to share this experience with me and teach me about the traditions. She told me they would soon take the body to an area near the mountains. They do not bury the bodies here, but rather cover them with flowers to let them rest in peace.

My latest trip was a weekend in Kuala Lumpur. I went to visit a friend and had a great time touring the city, hanging out with other Canadians, and trying some delicious new foods!
Aside from a couple nights of partying, I had a great tour guide take me around the city and show me the sites. KL is famous for the Petronas Towers and after seeing them I understand why they are such a landmark for the city. They are truly incredible, especially when they are lit up at night. One evening we had drinks at Skybar which is a classier bar in a high rise building that overlooks the towers. After this, we headed to Jalan Alor - a street full of vendors and very foreign smells! We ate at a delicious little place where we had fried stingray and chicken-fish.
My friend Jeremy took me touring around the city on his bike. It was a great day and a great way to see the city. Unfortunately, we did breakdown on the side of the road and had to wait for a tow truck to come get us, but it just made for that much more of an exciting adventure :)

I have a feeling November and December will be just as crazy and exciting as the last two months. Upcoming adventures include a weekend at an Elephant Sanctuary in Sumatra and Christmas in Thailand! Stay tuned!

Monday, 24 September 2012

Meeting the famous Medicine Man

My Time with Ketut Liyer 

Being a big fan of “Eat Pray Love” (the book - not the movie) I had to participate in the cheesy tourist trap of visiting Ketut Liyer while in Ubud, Bali. I have read several blogs on people visiting Ketut and everyone has basically the same things to say about the elderly medicine man who was made famous by Elizabeth Gilbert. He is 97 years old and is probably not as sharp as he once was. He tends to repeat himself and make general comments that you know he says to everyone.
For example three of the main things I have read on blogs that he will say:
“You will live to be 100” - check!
“Your lips are sweet like sugar.” - check!
“Don’t be impatient with love” - check!

Yep, everything I had read was pretty much accurate. Regardless, it was still pretty neat to walk around his gardens and sit with him on his front porch. I was impressed with the amount of time he takes to talk to each visitor. When I arrived I was given a number (number 4) to wait my turn. I sat in his gardens and could overhear what he was telling the other visitors. Some things were the same as he would soon tell me, but others were quite different.

There was an Australian woman talking with him while I waited. I could overhear their conversation and her telling Ketut about her relationship. He said “Do not be angry with Ketut, but your relationship will fail.” I had to hold back my laughter when I saw how angry her face became. He then began to giggle and said “Ketut sorry”. 

When it was my turn to talk to Ketut, he began by studying my face. He wanted to see my ears. He told me my right ear is good and my left ear is very good..then he smiled. I asked him what that means and he said, “It means you are pretty”. Very deep Ketut, very deep.

Next, he looked at the line between my eyes and told me that it represents that I am a great thinker. I told him I thought it was just from squinting all the time. He then gave his classic Ketut giggle.
He told me I have two dimple lines which means I am very lucky and can make people happy. After observing more features about my face he said “Ketut happy you’re pretty. Ketut sad he is ugly”. We both smiled awkwardly and then carried on with our conversation.

Ketut asked me four times what country I was from. Each time I would respond with “Canada” he would smile from ear to ear and say he has had many visitors from Canada. He was especially excited when I told him I was a teacher in Jakarta. He asked me to come back to Bali to teach him English (just like in the book).

Next, Ketut read my palms. He showed me what each line represents. He said my life line is long and my health is good, but when I am elderly I will have breathing problems. He then studied the veins on my arms and said my liver, heart, blood, and brain are all very healthy but he is unsure of my gallbladder.

Ketut said the main line that is shown on my palms and in my dimple lines is my luck line. He said my luck is stronger than most. He also showed me a line that goes up the middle of my hand that breaks off. Ketut explained that this line represents wealth and I will be very rich one day, but I will only do good with my money. Let’s hope he’s right!!

Ketut assured me that I will be married only once and I will be in a happy marriage until I die. He said “Maybe you meet handsome boy in Canada. Maybe you meet handsome boy not in Canada.” Thanks for narrowing it down for me Ketut!

He repeated roughly ten times not to worry, not to fret, not to cry because this handsome boy will find me and I do not need to search for him. He then told me one of the lines on my hand shows that I am impatient. I told him I’m in no hurry and then he giggled again and said “Yes you are”.

He showed me three little lines on the side of my hand and said it means I will have three babies. 

He looked at the back of my neck and said my spine is very different and that makes me different from most people. He told me it makes my brain strong and I can be a good teacher because of this. 

After about thirty minutes of conversation with Ketut, he then told me “No more worrying, no more fret, you get married at Ketut’s house one day. You come back to Bali with your handsome boy and you marry at my garden.”
Considering his age.. that marriage might need to happen sooner than later!

We ended by having our photo taken together. He asked me if he could see the picture on my camera. He looked at it and giggled and said “You pretty. Ketut ugly”. He then looked sad and said “Ketut tired now”. He got up and walked into his hut for a nap. Too bad for the four people who were waiting to see him after me!

Overall, a cheesy but fun experience! 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Mountains, Monkeys, and Motorbikes! Oh My!

August has been a busy month with lots of work events, eating out, discovering more of Jakarta and having a nice holiday away from school.

The ending of Ramadan marked the Idul Fitri holiday. Coincidentally, Indonesia's Independence Day fell on the day before holiday, which meant we had six work days off! After school just opened in early July, it seemed very early for a holiday. But like any holiday, it was more than welcome!

This past month I finally left the city limits of Jakarta and got a taste of what felt like more of authentic Indonesia. Myself and a group of teachers traveled to Bogor. Bogor is a small city about 60km Southwest of Jakarta. We left early in the morning and made a pit stop at a friend's family's villa in the mountains. It was amazing how much cooler the temperature was. It was very refreshing to be in cool, clean mountain air after nearly two months of living in a heavily polluted city. We took a short hike from the villa to a tea plantation on the side of the mountain. The views here were absolutely incredible!

Our next stop was Taman Safari. This was easily my favourite thing I have done in Indonesia so far. After a drive through safari, where we had animals popping their heads in our car windows, we then made a visit to the animal nursery. Here we were able to snuggle up close with baby tiger and lion cubs, orangutans, and a fully grown Sumatran tiger. The animals were beyond sweet and cuddly. I definitely wanted to sneak the baby orangutans home!!! However, the lion cub and fully grown tiger were questionably calm. We wondered if they were sedated... which makes me feel awful for supporting this and having my photo taken with them. I'm telling myself they were just really sleepy...

After a great day at the Safari, we then headed into Bogor and stopped at the Botanical Gardens and did a bit of a walk through and toured the grounds. Next, was a stop at a restaurant in the hills overlooking the city.

Throughout August, I participated in the sharing of break-fasting with some Muslim coworkers and friends. This is done each evening at sun down during Ramadan. As I mentioned in my last blog, Muslims do not eat or drink during the hours of sunlight for the month of Ramadan. At 6pm they come together with family and friends to share in a nice meal. The meal always begins with a dessert or something sweet to allow their body to absorb energy from the sugar. Dessert before supper? Works for me!

During the holiday week I went with three friends on a day trip to a volcanic region in the sea off of West Java. Krakatoa was a violent volcano that erupted in 1883 killing over 36 000 people. It was the loudest sound ever to be recorded. It was heard as far as Western Australia and the island of Mauritius. The eruption of Krakatoa was so extreme that it actually changed the Earth's temperatures.
In years to follow the major eruption, the parts of the volcano that were left continued to be active. In the early 1900s Anak Krakatoa emerged (In Indonesian, this means baby of Krakatoa).

After leaving Jakarta and driving roughly three hours across Java through small villages, we arrived at the sea. We took a boat into the Sunda Strait and after about an hour or more on choppy waves, we finally were at the volcanic region. This is very isolated and is just made up of a few remote islands and the volcanoes. It was almost eerie as we pulled up to these huge mountains of destruction.
When we arrived we could see smoke and gasses coming from the tops of both Krakatoa and Anak Krakatoa. When I asked our tour guide if we would be able to hike Anak Krakatoa, he decided this would be a good time to notify us that there had been an earthquake at this exact location the night before. He also said that three days prior Anak Krakatoa had erupted fifty times. Because of all of this activity, he said the volcano is considered dangerous and there are certain areas of the island we wouldn't be able to explore.
After docking at a black sand beach we began our hike into the jungle and then up a steep sanded side of the volcano. I'm not a very athletic person.. I prefer eating and watching movies to working out. So I'm not really sure why I thought climbing an active volcano so close to the equator would be something that would be easily possible for me to accomplish. I had a very rude awakening as I climbed up hot black sand in extreme temperatures. Every steep step I took, my feet would slide a bit back down in the sand. It felt I was barely making progress! The volcano has two peaks. We were only allowed to climb to the top of the first peak, as the second peak is where all of the gases and dangers are. I made it a little more than half way up the first peak, and decided to head back to the beach before I passed out!!! Even though I only made it half way, the views were still so beautiful. I could see Krakatoa and blue ocean for miles.

After having lunch on the beach, we took the boat to the main volcano - Krakatoa. We went snorkeling in the water around the volcano, and then sat on the beach for a little while. This volcano is very lush and full of trees and jungle, unlike Anak Krakatoa which is all sand and sulfur due to it's ongoing eruptions.
On the beach we saw Monitor Lizards running around. These are fairly large lizards that are known to be somewhat vicious.

After a nice relaxing holiday we returned to work to find out from other staff members that the government had put a ban on visiting Krakatoa last week due to the high activity of eruptions. Apparently a tourist was struck with a piece of flying debris from the volcano. I guess we got lucky the day we were there!!

As another month of living in Indonesia comes to an end, I am excited for the adventures that lay ahead in September. Next stop: Bali!

Monday, 30 July 2012

One Month of Indonesian Life

Today marks one month since I arrived in Indonesia! It's hard to believe how quickly the time has passed. Although saying that, I do already feel like I've established a home here in Jakarta. I have met some great friends, I work with some really awesome teachers and have wonderful students, I have my favourite grocery store and I'm beginning to get to know my way around this part of the city. Although it is starting to feel like a new home, I am reminded daily of how foreign this place is to me  - between the mosque prayers, the heavy traffic, foreign smells, and abundance of unusual sightings (I.e. Today I saw a monkey wearing a doll's head and wig outside of the mall). I am definitely not in Brighton!

My weeks have been extremely busy with long work days so I have been trying to take advantage of my weekends and see and do as much as I can.

Monas National Monument

A few weekends ago I went to a National Monument called Monas here in Jakarta. I went during the night and the place was like a massive market and carnival. There were people selling everything from undies to live bunnies. There were monkeys riding miniature motorcycles, men doing chants and dances, people dressed in traditional costume, many food stalls with very unfamiliar foods, and so on. It was a neat experience, but somewhat overwhelming with the amount of people that were there. I had to be sure to hold my purse tightly! I took a motorcycle to and from this place with another staff member. Motorcycles are the most common means of transportation in Jakarta. I was a bit nervous at first because of the amount of traffic zooming in and around us as we drove to the monument. Like I mentioned before, there REALLY aren't any rules on the roads here. I cannot even begin to describe what traffic is like here. I am so thankful to be living and working in the same building so that I do not have to commute every day. Some of my students and coworkers have more than a two hour commute each way due to traffic. If there is an accident or protest then they can be stuck for hours on end. 

Jakarta Traffic
A week ago Saturday marked the beginning of Ramadan. Because this country is 90% Muslim, the observance of Ramadan is quite noticeable throughout the city. Ramadan takes place for one month and during this time people fast between sunrise and sunset. I have been told when I am in public or in a taxi, it is considered disrespectful to eat or drink during this time. Most restaurants put curtains across their windows during the day so that those who are fasting do not have to see inside. In the evenings when fasting is over for the day, the city becomes very busy as a lot of people go out to eat.

Last weekend was the first weekend of Ramadan, and because of this the city was extremely quiet with very little traffic. Some friends and I took advantage of this and did some sight seeing. We went to Anchol Beach which is in North Jakarta on the Java Sea. We also went to Kota which is the old city of Jakarta which at one point was under Dutch rule. This part of the city is quite different from the rest of Jakarta and almost has a slight European feel to it with the Dutch influence. While here, we went to the famous Batavia Cafe. The cafe was beautiful and had a Southern plantation style to it. The walls of the bathrooms at this cafe are filled with black and white pictures from floor to ceiling. Some of the pictures included jazz singers, while others were of models. Any photograph with a female showing any skin, was covered with newspaper - this is only for the month of Ramadan. I was also informed at this cafe that alcohol is not served during this month.

Another interesting cultural difference is that when you hand someone something here, you should only use your right hand. I find this really hard to remember, and got my first dirty look from a taxi driver a few days ago when I handed him the money with my left hand. It is definitely something I have to keep reminding myself of. 

Aside from the few tourist spots and a night out on the town, I have also visited over six malls now, had my first Indonesian hair salon experience and went to a spa yesterday! Spas are ridiculously cheap here! I had a sixty minute massage and it was the equivalent of $6. The massage was quite different from ones at home - for such a tiny woman, my masseuse sure had some strength. The massage included punching me in the feet for about five minutes. I was too shocked to question it and figured with the language barrier, it would be pointless to ask what the heck she is doing! At the end my feet actually felt amazing! I think this is a good treatment for after a night out of wearing heels!

I still have yet to pick up on much Bahasa (the National language). My students are pretty incredible with their ability to learn languages - they are all English and Bahasa speakers and are learning Mandarin on top of that. I have asked them to help me learn Bahasa. Each day they teach me a new word, which I practice with them and then listen to them laugh at my horrible attempt at pronouncing it correctly.

Here is what they have taught me so far.
Teacher = Guru
Thank you = Terima Kasih
Beautiful = Cantik
Eat = Makan
What = Apa

Everyone keeps assuring me that Bahasa is easy to learn as it does not have verb tenses. Something else I have found out is that they do not use plurals in the language. Instead of pluralizing a word, they just repeat the word twice. I have also sat in on a few Mandarin classes with my students - I DEFINITELY have no hope of learning that language!

I mentioned before how this country is greatly divided between the rich and poor. I am noticing this more and more. People at my school refer to this country as a "Nanny Nation". Most of the children have their own Nannies that come with them to school and wait in a separate area until the children are ready to go home. The kids also all have their own drivers! Having your own driver is not too unusual here. When I tell people I am taking a taxi by myself or walking to the mall down the street, many of the reactions I get are ones of shock. I think because most people have so much hired help, they find it odd for someone to come here and do things on their own. I have had to explain to many people that I enjoy being independent and I don't mind going places on my own.

My first big holiday is coming up in 18 days. We have a week off at the end of Ramadan. I am planning to hike a volcano and visit some small islands near by! I will be sure to post pictures after these adventures :)

Thanks for reading!

Yummy meal for 2-4 people for under $10!

Friday, 6 July 2012

My First Week in Jakarta

Well, my long journey was fairly smooth across the globe. After flying from Toronto - LA - Tokyo - Singapore... I finally arrived in Jakarta and was happy to be back on ground (extremely foreign ground)! I was greeted by staff members and a personal driver to take me to my apartment. After dropping my luggage off we hit some malls to buy a phone and some basics such as groceries and bedding. While at the mall, I was treated to a fresh fruit slushy drink. This probably wasn’t the best idea! I ended up with a terrible stomach bug for the next 12 hours! After getting over the upset stomach, I developed strep throat!!
So my first few days in Jakarta were mainly spent catching up on sleep, adjusting to the time difference (11 hour difference from home) and trying to get back to feeling right!
I am feeling much better now and have started to venture outside of my apartment and tour around the area I am living.
My first impressions of the city:
- Crowded
- Crazy traffic
- A lot of pollution
- A lot of visible poverty
- More westernized restaurants than I expected (McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, A&W, etc)
- Extremely friendly faces and people
- A lot of shopping centres
- Intense humidity 
This city has roughly ten million people - from the very rich - to the very poor. It’s immediately noticeable that there isn’t much of a middle class. The high rises in my area are beautiful modern buildings, while the slums are directly next door. Throughout my travels I have not experienced seeing extreme poverty like here in Indonesia. The streets are lined with both children and adults begging and trying to sell anything they can to make a few cents. Despite all of the things they are without, almost every child I have seen is smiling or running around - laughing and playing. I saw two little boys barefoot, with raggedy clothes on playing with sticks in the dirt this morning. They looked just as happy as two little boys playing on their shiny new x-box. 
Seeing things like this has already given me a greater appreciation for my own country. As Canadians I think we’re automatically some of the luckiest people in the world. No, we’re not a perfect country and we have our problems with our government and our system, but overall we are taken care of in a way that many others around the world will unfortunately never experience. 
Getting around Jakarta:
Due to an unstructured and unplanned road system in the city, it’s basically a free for all when driving. There aren’t really any marked lanes. There are thousands and thousands of motorbikes that weave in and out of traffic. You will even see a family of four or five all on one small motorbike (small children without helmets on). There are tons of cars, buses, bicycles, tuk tuks, etc on the roads. Trying to cross the street is a bit like playing a game of russian roulette - you aren’t really sure if you’re going to make it!!! 
So far this week when I’ve gone out, I’ve opted for using a taxi. Apparently Blue Bird taxi is the only reliable taxi in the city, so this is what I’ve been using. Taxi rides are extremely cheap here in comparison to other countries. Today I took a taxi to a museum park which was over 40 minutes away - the cost of the taxi fare was $6!! 
Shopping in Jakarta:
Jakarta has over 200 malls. So far I’ve been to two! There is an upper scale mall down the street from my complex. It’s very westernized with a Starbucks and an English movie theatre. I have also ventured to a huge market mall. I cannot even describe how big this mall is. Inside are floors upon floors of vendors full of bootlegged dvds, knock off designer purses, electronics, fashion accessories, etc. I have gone here a few times as there is also a department/grocery store in the basement of the mall.

Food in Jakarta:
Because I started out my week being sick, I haven’t been overly adventurous with trying the local cuisine. My apartment complex has three restaurants in it. One of which is all Western Food. I have eaten here twice with some staff members and it is absolutely delicious!! The chef at this restaurant is Steven Spielberg’s personal chef, which is pretty exciting!
I have ventured out grocery shopping and managed to find a few familiar things (pasta, cereal, bread, fruit). Most kitchens here are not equipped with microwaves or ovens. My kitchen only has two stove top burners - so I’m trying to be creative and see how many things I can make in a pot or pan! I have a feeling I’ll be eating out a lot! :|
My building also has two asian cuisine restaurants. I had takeout from one yesterday. I tried the Javanese rice (Java is the name of the island I am on). It was really good - very similar to jambalaya.

Prayer Time:
Indonesia has a population that is 90% Muslim. Because of this, the city is dotted with many mosques. Down the street from my building is a fairly large mosque. They do prayer time five times a day, which I can hear from my building. Actually as I write this, I can hear the chants and prayers being broadcasted. 
Prayer times are roughly around 4:30am, 6am, Noon, 3:30pm, 5pm, and 7pm. I haven’t quite figured out how long prayer is suppose to last. But I know the 4:30am one seem to go on for quite a while! 
The People:
So far the hospitality has been incredible! Everyone is beyond friendly and welcoming. Indonesians seem to always be smiling and want to do their best to make sure you are comfortable in their country. I have also noticed that everywhere I go people are very patient with me since I do not speak the language (Bahasa). Often times when visiting a country that is not English speaking, people are quick to dismiss you and ignore when you ask for something. Everyone I have experienced here so far takes their time to try and understand what I am saying, and does their best to help me. I am still hoping to learn some of the language though :)

I had read that sometimes Indonesians (specifically children) are excited to see a white foreign person and may want to take a picture with them or shake their hand. I had not yet experienced this where I am living in Jakarta as it is somewhat of a multicultural area of the city. However, today when visiting a museum there were many Indonesians who most likely weren't from the city and were not used to seeing a white person. I got many stares, greetings, smiles, people shaking my hands or bowing at me. It was a bit of a strange feeling! I even had a group of school girls come up to me with their cameras asking for pictures! So I took one with them too :) Indonesians use the word "bule" when referring to a caucasian person. It comes from the word albino. So I had several people yell out "bule! bule!" today when they saw me. (I guess I need to work on my tan).

The Currency:
The money has been one of my struggles this week. I cannot seem to get used to the fact that I am carrying around millions of rupees or that a bottle of water is twenty thousand rupees. $1 Canadian dollar is roughly 9000 rupees. All of the zeros on the price tags have been quite confusing!
Today was my first day to go out and get a taste of the country. Myself and another new teacher who just moved here from the Philippines went to a park called Taman Mini. Taman Mini is a park that has replicas of different houses, buildings, and temples that are found throughout Indonesia. The whole park is suppose to give you a taste of the various islands that make up the country. We saw traditional tree houses, temples that are replicas of ones found in Bali. We took a tour through the museum which consists of traditional costumes from the different Indonesian cultures as well as instruments and other artifacts found throughout the land. 

The park also has a reptile zoo and water park. We opted for the reptile zoo today. While wandering through looking at the snakes, and crocodiles, I was so excited to spot a komodo dragon. Komodo dragons are deadly creatures that are native only to Indonesia! Upon looking at it, someone asked us if we wanted to go in and see it up close and pet it..... what probably sounds like a horribly stupid idea, somehow seemed like the best idea ever in my head. So in I went. I was face to face with a creature that could kill me with one quick lick (their saliva is deadly). After this amazing experience, I was feeling pretty brave, so decided I would also try holding a reticulating python! I wasn’t quite brave enough to wrap it around my neck like others were doing. So I just helped the zoo keep by holding one end of it!

My short few days in Jakarta have been pretty great (other than the sickness). I am looking forward to spending the next two years exploring this country and getting to know its culture!

Check back soon to read about my 24 hours in LA!