Category Archives: Travels

Little India #sol18

Craving a taste of Indian food, I headed toward Little India. The bright, in-your-face colors, vibrant aromas, exploding flavors, and make-you-wanna-dance songs drew me in.

After stopping for lunch, I hit the streets, following my whims. Pulled this way and that, distracted by the Indian music blasting from every other shop and the sights, colors, and smells grabbing for my attention, I meandered through the streets, in and out of shops.

The midday sun beat down on me, forcing me to retreat to the shade whenever possible. Passing a small shop, a man outside chopping coconuts caught my eye. As I stopped to watch him artfully maneuver his knife with quick, successive movements, I noticed the sign claiming “the best coconut milkshake in Malaysia” was sold there. Hot and dripping with sweat, I gave it a try. Watching the lady mix fresh coconut water, fresh coconut meat, ice, and vanilla ice cream together, I just knew it was going to be tasty. It was indeed! I was so busy drinking it, that I forgot to take a picture. Guess I’ll have to go back tomorrow to get a pic!

As I wandered through the streets, I happened upon some of Penang’s famous street art. The whimsical paintings mixed with real objects drew a small crowd of tourists all vying for their turn to snap a photo. I was no different.

As I sit here, alternating between writing this slice and sopping up my Paneer Butter Masala with naan, I am wondering what tomorrow’s adventures will bring. While there’s no plan, I know for sure it’ll include some delicious food!

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Hawker Stalls #sol18

Walking into the open air food court, a myriad of smells hits you all at once. Clusters of people from all walks of life sit on stools, laughing, sharing a variety of food. Wandering through the stalls, you’re not quite sure what you should try. Japanese ramen? Thai curry? Indian naan and curry? Chinese stir fry? There’s something for everyone.

Unable to find decent Indian in Jakarta, I opt for a vegetarian Indian platter with a pile of basmati rice, three different curries, dum aloo (dry cooked potatoes), and the butteriest, flakiest naan I’ve ever tasted. Diving in with my hands, I quickly devour most of my plate. Delicious!

After tonight, I’m looking forward to my next hawker stall meal in Singapore! What will I try next?

The World Through My Eyes #sol18

Next week is Spring Break, and I’m really looking forward to my trips to Singapore and Penang, Malaysia! I’ll even get to add another country to the list…Singers will make #36! Since I have been thinking about my trip, I started reminiscing about my past travels, which prompted this poem. Rather than write about every country I’ve visited, I decided to limit to places I’ve been in the last two years. In no particular order, here’s my poem, a glimpse of the world through my eyes.

The World Through My Eyes

Indonesia is motorbikes, gado gado, macet, and the call to prayer.

Belgium is waffles, street art, and fruit beer.

Albania is colorfully-painted buildings, a perfect mix of old and new, and all the fresh fruit, veggies, and bread you can eat.

Montenegro is rocky beaches with crystal clear water, road trips, and weekend getaways with the girls.

Hong Kong is dim sum, the mid-levels, lots of hills, and like China, but better.

Mexico is beaches, pina coladas, and tourist traps.

Italy is stunning architecture, gelato, and literally the best homemade pasta of your life.

Canada is water taxis, clean and manicured, and friendly.

Senegal is bright colors, traffic, pushiness, and sand everywhere.

USA is home, comfort food, baseball, and familiarity.

Thailand is the land of smiles, tuktuks, mango sticky rice and kao soi, and three-showers-a-day hot.

The Netherlands is the most amazing cheese you will ever taste, bikes for days, and canals.

France is croissants and crepes, The Lourve, and walking two hours to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night.

Morocco is an assault on the senses, mint tea, and getting lost in the medina.

Just a Trip to the Hospital… #sol18

Even as I waited for the bus to arrive, tears filled my eyes, knowing what was to come. Despite being somewhat of an irrational fear, I couldn’t stop the worry of the dreaded needle from taking over. As we headed to the hospital, my friends and colleagues tried to distract me, chatting about last night’s Oscars, memories from when we all started together last summer at ACG, and the usual friendly banter that occurs with people who are familiar with one another.

To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that in order to process our work visas for next year, we had to have drug and HIV testing done (and pass, obviously). I’ve only been to a clinic and the dentist here in Jakarta, which I assumed wouldn’t be too different from a hospital. I couldn’t have been more wrong in my assumptions. I had forgotten one crucial difference. I had visited Western-style clinics, and we were going to a local hospital today.

Upon arrival, we were taken to a large waiting room to get a number (much like you would at the deli counter at your local grocery store back home). Swarms of people filled every available seat, fanning themselves from the heat. Those who couldn’t fit inside were perched outdoors on the rows of metal seats. A few unfortunate souls were laid out on stretchers, outside in the heat (not that it was any cooler inside, but being outside seemed worse to me), while their loved ones fed them something that looked a lot like porridge. There was even a man in a wheelchair who had his leg propped up, an old piece of wood underneath acting as a splint.

As we stood in the middle of the waiting room, taking it all in, sweat slowly dripped down my back, and I was reminded of earlier this morning when I was getting dressed and debating whether I should wear long pants and a cardigan, seeing as hospitals are notoriously cold. I thanked myself for choosing the skirt and sleeveless shirt today.

A little while later, our driver ushered us over to another building, where we assumed the ‘VIP’ area was. We came to find out there isn’t a VIP area at this hospital. While we waited outside chatting (and sweating), we were just thankful we weren’t in that other line. We did have to get back to work at some point today. When we were finally called in, the fear came back, but it was short lived as I realized this building was for checking your weight and blood pressure and signing your name. The five of us each took our turn, and then it was onto the next one (building, that is).

As we made our way through the throngs of people seemingly waiting in lines, we were met with another large, overflowing waiting room. Taking the only available seats, we ate our snacks (thankfully, we came prepared!) and waited. A little while later, we were taken to a smaller, yet still crowded, room to wait in line for our blood tests. In the middle of the communal room, the numbered stalls sat waiting for people to be pricked. I guess privacy wasn’t a top priority here. As we stood in line right in front of the door, so as not to lose our place, we were constantly in everyone’s way, shuffling this way and that way. The heat and the screaming babies only added to my anxiety.

One by one, people were taken to a vacant stall to be pricked (i.e. stabbed) with a needle, the line inching forward with each prick. Rebecca went to the toilet, and upon her return, informed us that there was no soap or towels in the bathroom. As in they don’t exist there, not as in they’re out. I’m disturbed that the hospital where I was about to have a needle put into my arm doesn’t have soap in the bathroom. My wavering confidence took another nosedive.

My turn. I begrudgingly followed the attendant to stall #4, where I apprehensively sat down. Armed with funny videos on my phone and Rebecca and Miriam’s constant stream of conversation to distract me, I steeled myself for what was to come. After triple-checking that the nurse was using a new, clean needle and gloves, I looked away and shut my eyes tight, bracing for impact. I felt the needle pierce my skin, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d built it up to be. A few seconds later, it was over, and I didn’t even cry!

Our last stop was at yet another building, which, to our surprise, was blasting cold air, clean, and virtually empty. Here we were asked to fill out paperwork, pee in a cup, and talk privately with a doctor. The doctor’s chat was a bit unusual. We were all asked basically the same questions, with a few variations. The most interesting bits from my conversation were:

Are you drink alcohol? Yes, occasionally.

What? Vodka or Whiskey or… Ummm…rum I guess, and sometimes cider.

Are you drug user? No, I’ve never used drugs before. (What an odd way to ask that…why not ‘Have you used drugs before?’)

Show me your arms. (She then checked for track marks before recording “Track marks- negative.”)

How about your feeling now? (After realizing she was asking about my mood…) I’m just fine.

You have hallucination? No.

Or delusion? No? No.

Okay finished!

I’m always intrigued by the different experiences I have as an expat. Before moving abroad, I took for granted that basic things like going to the doctor, shopping, and getting around town could be so different. I just assumed the major things like the type of food, language, and locale would be different, but culture runs deep and seemingly little things can be a whole new experience!

Home Sweet Home #sol18

Since moving abroad in 2010, I’ve lived in 7 different homes- four apartments in Shanghai, an apartment in Albania, a studio apartment in Bangkok, and now a house in Jakarta. Each one has special memories for me, but I didn’t love all of them. My first apartment in Shanghai had its issues and wasn’t my favorite, and my studio apartment in Bangkok was so tiny. However, all of the others had things I loved about them. Despite this, they all pale in comparison to my new place in Jakarta. For the first time since moving abroad, I finally feel like I’ve built a home here.

Every other place I’ve lived in has come fully furnished, which is nice in that I didn’t have to buy furniture, but it meant I had to fit my style with the style of the apartment, which wasn’t always easy. I mean, you can put lipstick on a pig, but at the end of the day, it’s still a pig, am I right? When I moved into my house in Jakarta, I was provided with minimal furniture, which was daunting (and costly) at first, but the opportunity to make it my own has meant that it truly reflects me and my style.

I moved to Jakarta in mid-July, and while I slowly made a few purchases as I found pieces I loved, navigating the shopping choices in a new country was tricky and, at times, frustrating. I was so blessed when my Aunt Alva and Uncle David came to visit in September, with the main purpose to help me with decorating my home. My aunt has a really great eye for it, and they were a huge help! Don’t worry, it wasn’t all work; we had lots of fun along the way, too. The space they helped me create is inviting, bright, colorful, and warm- just the vibe I was going for!

Come on in, I’ll take you on a virtual tour.

First off, I love the grounds of my complex. When you enter, the noise, traffic, and general dirtiness of Jakarta melt away. In fact, the lush environment is more reminiscent of Bali than Jakarta, and it brings a calming and peaceful feeling. I simply love sitting by the pond to do some work, and I love swimming in the pool (when it’s not too cold…brrr!).

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Here’s the outside of my house. To the left of all the greenery is a staircase up to the entrance. There’s also an entrance on the ground floor.

My favorite room in my house has to be the living room/dining room/kitchen. No contest. I absolutely love the floor to ceiling windows that bring the outside in. Surrounded by greenery makes me happy, and the 100 year old tree out my window is the best! As a traveler, I love to collect pieces of art from around the world. I love that my home is a reflection of my travels and my personality- bright and colorful!

Having a proper kitchen also makes it much easier to cook and entertain, which brings me joy. All of the teak wood furniture and the hardwood floors brings a warmth and is very Indonesian. I had fun finding just the right pieces to work in the space. Anyone who knows me knows I love real plants, which is why I have loads in here. They just bring so much life to the space!

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My house is on two levels. The top level houses the living room, master bedroom and ensuite bathroom, one guest room, and one guest bathroom. The lower level has two additional guest rooms, another guest bathroom, maid’s quarters (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen), and a few outdoor spaces. I have only really decorated the top floor, as that’s the floor I live on. I’ll get to the bottom floor in time, but for now, it’s pretty basic.

I am so happy with the way the guest room turned out! My vision of a Moroccan-themed room came together very nicely. Having made a trip to Morocco in 2015, I used the art and wedding blanket I bought there, had a few of my photos I took put on canvases, and used lots of blues and whites to create a tranquil space for my guests. So far, everyone who’s stayed has loved it!

The built-in bookcases in the hallway houses many photos and trinkets I’ve collected on my travels. I also have lots of room to add more!

Now onto my room. First off, my room is unnecessarily huge. At first, I was unsure how to fill the space. Aunt Alva had some really great ideas, and it doesn’t feel as cavernous now. My favorite thing has to be the windows (again) that let in lots of natural light and the beautiful greenery outside. I love listening to and watching the rain out those windows. I also really love the bathroom with it’s beautiful bathtub, large shower, and ample storage space for all my stuff. My room has a Myanmar theme, as I’ve used art and photos from my two trips there. My favorite photo I’ve ever taken hangs above my bed. It’s of a fisherman on Inle Lake at sunset. I absolutely love Myanmar, so having my room remind me of it makes me happy!

Thanks for coming on the tour with me! I love to host guests, so if you ever find yourself in Jakarta let me know. Hotel Jennifer is always open! 🙂

Rain Preparations #sol18

Jakarta ranks as one of the worst cities for traffic in the world. No joke. With an estimated 25 million people, no metro or subway, few sidewalks, and even fewer highways, that means a lot of vehicles on the road. When it rains, the traffic is ten times worse, so a 5 km journey goes from 20 minutes to an hour. Yes, you read that correctly. It can take an hour or more to go 5 km (roughly 2.2 miles). Now you see why I use Go-Jek for delivery so much.

Anyhow, tonight I had plans to meet my boss and his wife, along with a colleague who is in town, for dinner in Kemang, a trendy area in South Jakarta. After a busy day at IKEA, I dozed off on the couch this afternoon, lulled to sleep by the steady rain outside my window. When I awoke, I only had 30 minutes before I was meant to meet them. Thirty minutes to get somewhere in Jakarta is not very long, so I was a bit worried I’d be late. After changing, I realized the rain had momentarily stopped, although the sky was still grey and ominous. If I get a taxi now, I’ll for sure be at least half an hour late. I’ll have to Go-Jek it. But that means there’s a high chance I’ll be stuck in the rain on the back of the bike.

With little choice, I decided to order a Go-Jek and take my chances, knowing that even then I was going to be late. Having been caught in the rain on a Go-Jek in the past, I knew I had to come prepared. I quickly changed out of the clothes I intended to wear for dinner, opting for a pair of running shorts, a singlet, and a rain jacket. Stuffing my dinner clothes, a hand towel, and extra pair of undies in my purse, I was ready to go. You might be wondering why the extra undies. Well, one time I got stuck in the rain during a torrential downpour and I was soaked right through to my knickers. I wasn’t going to risk it tonight!

Hopping on the back of the bike, it had started to drizzle again. About 5 minutes later, the rain started coming down in sheets. At this point, I was unhappy with my footwear choice as my shoes became soggy. Oh well, I’ll have to live with it. As we wove through the cars lined up at the traffic lights, I was glad I’d gone with the Go-Jek instead of the taxi. I may be wet, but at least I’ll get there at a reasonable time. Pulling into the parking lot, I made my way through the winding hallways to the inside of the mall.

Dripping wet from the ride, I thanked myself for packing dry clothes. I slipped into the restroom to quickly change before dinner. The line for the toilets was so long! I’m not waiting in that line. Sneaking over to a corner near the sinks, I toweled off my legs before removing my rain jacket and pulling my shirt over my singlet, then as quickly as possible, I changed my shorts. If anyone even noticed the bule (foreigner) in the corner changing her clothes, they didn’t bat an eye. Luckily I wasn’t soaked through and still had dry undies. I’m a risk-taker, but not that much of a risk-taker! Dry, apart from my squishy shoes, I made my way to the restaurant where I enjoyed a delicious Thai dinner.

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The Wonders of Go-Jek #sol18

Life changing. All-in-one. Takes laziness efficiency to the next level. Simply put, Go-Jek is amazing.

Prior to life in Indonesia, I’d experienced the conveniences of Uber and other ride-share apps as well as food delivery services like Sherpas in Shanghai and Food Panda in Bangkok. They definitely made my life easier, and when I was feeling especially lazy or I couldn’t be bothered to get out in the rain, they were definite lifesavers. But I’ve never experienced anything like Go-Jek until Jakarta. Go-Jek, an all-encompassing travel and delivery app, is cleverly named after ‘ojek,’ Indonesian for motorbike, which happens to be the main form of transport used.

Just today, I used Go-Jek to get home from work. My driver arrived in minutes and I jumped on the back of his motorbike (helmet on, of course!) for my ride home which cost a whopping 8,000 IDR ($0.58 USD!). Throw in a tip, and that’s about a buck to get home. Indian food on my mind, I decided to order something from a restaurant in the area. Go-Jek to the rescue again! I ordered and about 45 minutes later, I was chowing down on some spicy Korma, butter naan, and samosas, all for a delivery fee of about a dollar. Okay, I know what you’re thinking…Yeah, yeah, we can get a ride home and order some food to be delivered. Other than how cheap it is, what’s the big deal?!?

After dinner, I realized I was really sore from my workout yesterday and in need of a massage to work out the kinks. But, I was already home and in comfy clothes, and it looked like it might rain, and the traffic in Jakarta is the worst, so leaving my house wasn’t really high on my priority list. You might be thinking…She’s gonna Go-Jek a ride to the nearest massage place, isn’t she? If you are, you’d be wrong.

I told you Go-Jek is all-encompassing, didn’t I? Well I wasn’t lying. I simply opened up the app and ordered a Go-Massage, where a masseuse comes TO MY HOUSE to give me a massage! I got to choose the type of massage, length of time (60, 90, or 120 minutes), gender of the masseuse, and the time they would come. Let me tell you, having a massage in the comfort of your own home, where you can take a shower and go to bed afterward is a little slice of heaven.

After ordering my Go-Massage, a lovely lady showed up half an hour later and gave me a relaxing one-hour massage, the kinks and knots melting away. You might be thinking, this is amazing, but how much could that possibly be?!? I mean, the convenience of someone coming to your house has to cost big bucks, right? Wrong again. My one-hour massage cost 80,000 IDR (roughly $6.00 USD)! After leaving a very generous tip by Indonesian standards, I was out 12 bucks. FOR A MASSAGE IN MY HOME! I know, it’s crazy ridiculous, isn’t it?

In addition to these features, I have used Go-Jek for Go-Shop, where you literally put in the name of any shop and your shopping list and a personal shopper will buy it for you and deliver to your home for a nominal fee. A few times I’ve even used Go-Glam, a feature where you can have someone come to give you a mani/pedi in your home (or do your hair or make-up, both of which I haven’t yet tried). There are many other features I’ve still not tapped into either. Go-Jek has made me so spoiled and is a definite perk of living in Indonesia!

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