December 8, 2010

Selamat Natal Dan Tahun Baru

And now you know how to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Bahasa Indonesia.

Well, actually you know how to say Congratulations Christmas and New Year.

But the sentiment is the same.

As you may or may not know, Indonesia is a country with a Muslim majority.

That does NOT mean it's a Muslim country- there is a difference.

The people here are not defined by their religion, but by who they are and how they live.  In fact, Indonesians are very proud of the way their country welcomes people of many denominations and faiths.

Among the holidays celebrated here are Idul Fitre (the end of Ramadan), Chinese New Year, Islamic New Year, Hindu New Year, Buddha's birthday, Christmas, and a couple of completely secular celebrations.  These are all "close down the post office, stay home from work" holidays.  And a great chance to find out things you never knew.

But currently, as in America, Jakarta is given over to Christmas.  There is money to be made, so the department stores have Trim a Tree shops and the loudspeakers play holiday tunes (although to be sure, they tend more to Jingle Bells than O Holy Night).

Many of the malls have odd center court decorations - Pacific Place has a really creepy giant plastic ball (I'm talking 30 feet high) with a Santa's Workshop tableau inside.  I have no idea who thought that up or what the reasoning behind it is, but mostly it just makes me think of suffocating elves.

And there are not, understandably, lines of children waiting to speak to Santa and have their picture taken.

In fact, there are no Santas.  At least no place we go.

Until yesterday.

Then we saw this guy at Plaza Senayan.

Let me make sure you know what you are looking at.  This is a manufactured rice paddy in the middle of the first floor of a seven floor mall.  There is a live band singing Christmas carols under the roof of the building. There are giant cloth butterflies, there is a rickshaw with someone in some kind of costume inside, and there is an elf working the sound board for the band.

Santa's job is to wander the board walk, ringing a hand bell (because someone told them that Santa in America rings a hand bell), and be available for anyone brave enough to come up to him to say Hi.  We saw exactly one person with that particular need.

You go Santa!

Poor St. Nick was bored out of his skull, in a country full of spectacularly boring jobs.  He chatted with the rickshaw person, and dinged his bell and very obviously wished he had kept his day job watching paint dry.

But when we went into Sogo's Trim a Tree shop in a fruitless attempt to find a Christmas ornament that didn't come from the United States, we were treated to the best worst Christmas tree ever...

Yes it's red.

Of course it's red!

Red is one of the main Christmas colors!

And it's exactly the red you see.  Not a cherry red, or a fire engine red, but the cheap, faded, pinkish red of a Vegas show girl on the back side of over the hill.

An "in your face, I dare you to buy me" red.

I have seen garish trees in the U.S.- sparkly trees, silver trees, you name it.  But for whatever reason, this red tree is a first for me and it is even worse in person.

So if they have these where you live too, and you think it's swell- I'm sorry.  I would never intentionally hurt your feelings.

But oy!  You might want to re-think your choice, or come here where people would nod and smile and congratulate you on your cutting edge Christmas taste.

And you can make fun of me if you want, because our Christmas tree came in a box from Hobby Lobby and it's six feet tall and two feet wide with pre-strung white lights and no decorations except one Earth ball.

But no matter what your tree looks like, and for many of our friends it would look like a heathen Solstice Bush, or actually be a Menorah, enjoy your holidays and know that we wish you all Selamat Natal!

November 23, 2010

A Trip to the Beach(ish).

Jakarta is a coastal city.  We are on the north coast of the island of Java, and the city runs in all directions from the ocean about 25 miles.  

Our house is about 15 miles directly south of the coast, and last weekend we finally had our lives in order enough to do something for no good reason, so we decided to explore the beach area.  

Unfortunately, the bad news is that like the people of Ghana, the people of Jakarta do not consider their beaches to be prime real estate.  

The mess, litter and runoff of the entire city run to the sea here, so the water is polluted with that and other questionable ingredients, and rafts of trash float into the breakwaters and collect in the corners of the sea walls.  

There is a chunk of the beachfront area reclaimed from the industrial works and slums and turned into an amusement park/marina/city park area and it attracts many people on the weekends.  

There is even a section of water cordoned off for swimming, but after looking at the water you would, in my opinion, have to have a need to become ill in two or three ways at once to brave it.  Suffice to say I don't swim in water the color of used dishwater on roast beef night, especially when it has stuff floating in and on it.  

But on to cheerier things!  

We love official signs translated wrong.  They always make us smile, and remind us that no matter how bad our Indonesian is, all will be forgiven.  

So here's today's Good Sign:

Since we know for a fact that we ask people stupid things like "Us soon drinks?" we feel solidarity across the language barrier. 

Dilarang is a word you see often- dilarang parking, dilarang enter, dilarang dumping.  And if you pronounce that 'c' as 'ch', you will sound like a native. 

[dee-lah-rahng meh-mahn-cheeng] 

Go ahead and practice, no one will hear you. 

To the right of that sign and the marina behind it, are the grounds of the beach front park. 

People just bring their families and hang out.  You can rent little shade cloths that are set up under the trees and put your beach blanket in them and just chill. 

In the tropics. :-)

The sidewalks along the sea wall are fun...

The red thing coming towards the camera is the ice cream man.  He even plays ice cream man music. 

Views to the water from the red brick road...

The roofs are little fish cleaning/shade huts.

Combination of humid air/water vapor and pollution.

These boats sell rides.  If we ever do this, I'll take you with.

November 8, 2010

Our Ship Comes In...


Our ship came in on schedule and our shipment actually got through customs a little faster than expected, so on Wednesday October 27th, our things were delivered to us by a crew of 15 Asian Tiger employees (10 at the house, 5 at the dock).  

Where have I been since then?  Buried under a mountain of boxes, paper, books, dishes, clothes, and furniture scattered around willy nilly. 

Every time we move, I say "no more!" - then in a few years I say "Okay!".  This is house number 15, move number 14 in our 32 years of marriage, so I guess we are unregenerate.

We can, however, see the end of our moving days coming down the pike because we are not as limber or tough as we used to be. A day of bending, lifting, shoving, and reaching leaves us with a wicked set of aches and pains, and sends us to bed at night exhausted and hopped up on Motrin. 

Anyway.  Here are some pictures of the arrival of the first lift truck (our street is too narrow for the container, so it was offloaded into 4 lift trucks [10 crates]).  

Watching the lift truck squeeze onto our street...

10 minutes into a 20 minute squeeze. This first pass was a challenge.

Finally in.

The ten guys who worked at the house were ready and waiting, and when the crates were opened Ted and their supervisor stood on the porch and checked off inventory on duplicate lists, while I stood in the foyer and directed each box to its proper room.  

Every room had been labeled with little taped papers, and the bedrooms had been labeled in Indonesian number words.  

I kept having to count on my fingers to remember the correct word for the room I needed- while ten guys backed up and waited for Nyonya Collier to get with the program.  

And of course, about 25% of the time I was putting things in the wrong room anyway and they had to be moved later when I discovered my mistake.  

It was hectic, often hilarious, and we all got short breathers as the empty truck left and was replaced by a full one. 

After lunch everyone came inside and the flurry of unpacking began.  Usually we take delivery and toss everyone out, but unlike U.S. movers, the Asian Tigers are very willing to do unpacking and we really didn't have much space for the detritus of moving, so we pointed out the things we wanted unpacked and assembled and the boxes we wanted unpacked (some boxes just shouldn't be unpacked by strangers, for example, our dainties) and we circulated around the house responding to the occasional chorus of "Ooh....!" which meant something had come out of a box or wrapping in a condition not assumed to be good.  

That is the peril of moving, under the column "Things to be expected."

There were times, however, when I would enter a room and someone would be proudly pointing to an item clearly marked FOR STORAGE.  In fact, this happened an alarming number of times.  

I would like to enter the following into evidence... 

And just to put too fine a point on it, here's a closeup of that sticker.

 Now I realize this is blurry, but I am pretty sure that all of you, on a different continent, with a bad picture, can read that.  


Would have been funny once.  Might have been amusing twice.  But we have a pantload of things here with us in Indonesia that had no business being shipped.  Books we've read, furniture we can't use, about half a dozen 110v. small appliances, and incredibly, our Toy Story movie poster, which had been rolled up in a cardboard tube and put in a room that was 100% storage.  Some packer went shopping for a tube sized item to fill a box and voila! it's here with us. 

That is the peril of moving, under the column "Things that Should Not Happen".  

And of course, the B side of our unexpected (and unwanted) booty is the unfortunate counterpart- things that were sea shipment that got put in storage.  

For instance a brand new room sized rug, Ted's noise canceling headphones, and things we haven't missed yet, but will, which will start a new frenzy of bad language and pointless stomping around the house wishing ill on our packers.

We'll get over it.  But it's still annoying.  So I whine to you.  

There is a third column, "Things I Didn't Know Could Happen".  

I figured cast iron was pretty safe, movingwise.  Ha!  Nope.  Check it:

Cast iron candle holder.  Cracked and bent at the solder.  So technically the cast iron didn't get damaged, but still...

I can use this one when I want my melted wax to be offloaded onto the floor automatically.  

Oh wait, I probably don't want that.  Ever.

Again, small problem in a world with lots of actual problems.  

A little bending, a little solder, and it's good as new.  But the Asian Tigers all gathered around this one when it came out and made all kinds of fussy noises.  This was a first for them too.  

At one point, the Basket o' Dog Things was unveiled, and Elliot was ready to check his squeaky toys for damage...

He was relieved to find, after exhausting tests, there was no damage and all toys were  in squeaking order.  

As you can see, Dead Frog and Soft Box with Balls won the "I Missed You Most!" Sweepstakes.

So once these... 


and these...

Became more like this...

...we reached a moment of truth.  

I have never had the movers unpack my kitchen, because I rarely know how things are going to be stuffed into my cupboards.

I usually end up arranging and re-arranging in an endless loop of "close to the dishwasher for unloading" vs. "close to the island for cooking" indecision.  

But our Asian Tigers were present, willing, and our small kitchen was, well, too small for all those boxes. 

Tidy, for sure, but not really accessible.  So my agreement to let them unpack the kitchen was met with bright smiles and an immediate flurry of activity in the kitchen.  

 There were actually five guys in there at one point... one of them sitting on the floor carefully arranging as many things as he could in the bottom cupboards since all the upper ones were full, and we still ended up with the back third of the kitchen floor full of dishes, glasses and pans.  

But all my boxes and paper were gone, and that was the ultimate goal, so yay.  

By 3 o'clock all our stuff was in the house, and a very major chunk of it was released from its cardboard bondage. 

Everyone disappeared in a pile on one of the lift trucks, waving and shouting goodbye, but by that time my camera was hopelessly lost in the mess so you'll just have to use your imagination. 

In the succeeding days in an attempt to keep my blood pressure at unnacceptably high levels, I found some choice items to remind me that moving is just hard on your stuff. 

And in the end it's just stuff.

But here's your parting shot in case you are tempted to move anytime soon and want to be talked down off that particular ledge...

October 18, 2010

Cultural Orientation Day Two

Welcome to Day Two of our orientation!  

This day was a little more interactive, thank heaven.  This is the official logo of the Miniature Indonesia park...

...and in the park itself is where we spent our morning.  Our hosts thoughtfully started the tour at 8 to give us the best chance of not melting into large puddles of expatriate sweat as we moved from place to place and stood in whatever shade we could find to listen to our guides.  

We were moved around in small 9 passenger open trams.  These were built like our current home, i.e. for much smaller people, and once again I offer my scale model to show the difficulty we had folding our tall selves into the space provided...

I am sitting at the same angle, shooting the picture, while our even taller friend Liu with PetroChina sat to my right in the same pickle, facing the opposite direction.  Our tram bristled with poking out knees and dangling legs. 

In fairness, we later learned that in some of the trams, if you grabbed the front three seats, there was sufficient leg room behind the driver and guide to actually sit normally.  

And we did, leaving our shorter compatriots to fight it out in the munchkin seats.  

Anyway, the tour.  Here are some samples of the architecture we toured...

Traditional Sumatran home

Traditional Papua home in village

Java (Bali).  I think. 

Rice house.

This rice house is cool- the rice is kept in there and as you can see there is no entrance or stair way. If you belong and want in, you will know the 'password' to send the ladder down to you.  Otherwise it will be hard to steal this person's rice.  Ha!

We also toured a museum that contained mostly exhibits of foreign dignitaries' visits and/or things that showed what a great and humble man Suharto was, at least according to Suharto.  Even the guides kept saying, the park is wonderful- just don't think about who started it.  :-)

By this time we were all pretty hot, sweaty and wilted, so we were whisked back to the pavilion for another presentation by BPMIGAS that covered their business position (basically "give us your knowledge then go home"- a common theme among developing nations with oil and gas reserves).  


I don't have to deal with it everyday like Ted and it just rolls off his back.  Indonesia is like so many places we have lived and visited- the governments are kind of dorky and the people are terrific.  

I'll stick with the people.  

Lunch on Day Two was just as yummy, and our table mates were two Malaysian men who were pretty darned funny and gave us great insight into the rivalry between Indonesia and Malaysia.  There is a lot of playful and not so playful animosity between the two countries, very much like state rivalries we have in the U.S. - lots of back and forth about who invented what and who has the best "-----" (you name it).  

Our lunch pals were not terribly impressed with our hosts and even went so far as to claim that Malay batiks are superior.  When I asked one of them if his shirt was an example of Malay batik he said,  "No! This is inferior Indonesia batik.  But when you are in Rome, you must be Roman, yes?"

Cracked us up.  

After lunch, we got a chance to hear the brother of Dr. Agoes, Dr. H. Arief Rachman, on the subject of Indonesian culture.  

He laid out for us, in many ways, how Indonesians see and react to the world, and did it in a very engaging and funny manner, even when he was touching briefly on his 17 arrests for dissenting with certain unpopular governments (if you have been paying attention, you can fill in your own presidential name here).  

He has a high giggling laugh and absolutely no self consciousness at all and he had us all practicing Balinese meditation, learning Sumatran songs, and working on our Bahasa Indonesia pronunciation.  

We got a lot of good and useful information about Indonesian Muslims and we will continue to learn about them throughout our life here, I think.  Knowledge trumps fear every time.  

Dr. Rachman was followed by a brother and sister from Bali whose parents have spent a lifetime learning, teaching and expanding Balinese dancing- you will probably recognize the style from the following picture-

That's Dewi (day-wee).  And she was spectacular. There is a lot involved in the movements and like any dance form once the nuances are explained it becomes so much more fun. Dewi runs a graphic design firm in Bali, but does this whenever she can... her love for the history and dance is so obvious. 

This is Dewi and her brother Marlowe giving some history and instruction before we followed them into the museum where they had laid out pads and oriental rugs for us all to go and do a Kecak dance with them, chanting and dancing with our hands in a circle on the floor.  

It was a hoot.  

The final part of the orientation, was our initiation into the joys of playing the Angklung (ahng- kloong).  They are bamboo instruments, each one tuned to play a single note and then played by a group (think carillon choir).  When we returned from the Kecak, each of our seats had an angklung on it, with a number sticker.  

Each number corresponded to a single note and our director taught us to play them (hold tight by the center with the left hand, shake rapidly in a side to side motion with your right), and then gave us hand signals that corresponded to each number/note while we played Beethoven and the Beatles.  

Then she dropped a screen sized piece of sheet music and we played Queen's "We are the Champions".  

We rocked.  

Our angklungs were given to us as gifts, and incredibly there were people there who didn't want theirs- (don't ask me... how could you pass that up???), so we now have three because I accepted one of the orphaned angklung.  Ted says I just took it, but I prefer to think of things left behind as "offered". 

Here's the original two...

That was the finale of our two day orientation, 80% fun and interesting, 20% boring, so all in all pretty darned successful.  As a parting gift we were given a small bag with two kinds of batik fabric.  Very nice.

It had started raining during the Balinese dance, and in addition to the thunder and lightning, the rain was pretty heavy and constant and on the museum roof were gargoyles that acted as rainspouts.  So as your parting shot for our two days at TMII here is a long shot and a close up of the coolest rain spouts ever.

October 16, 2010

Cultural Orientation Day One

This week we spent two days in a cultural orientation put on by the Government agency in charge of Oil and Gas Production, BPMIGAS.  

It's a newish requirement for expat employees in Indonesia, part of the process for getting one's work permit renewed.  (one of the requirements is 40 hours of language lessons, which is a solid idea in my opinion, and our company actually pays for 80 hours!  But out of self-preservation I have managed to forget all the other requirements...)

Spouses were encouraged to attend, and I can't resist this stuff, so I tagged along.  

They did it up right- even our name tags were leather!  That's a first for me.   

The whole thing was conducted on the grounds of TMII (Taman Mini Indonesia Indah) which basically means Beautiful Park of Miniature Indonesia.  

Included in the park are representations of Indonesian life and Indonesian ethnic buildings (both homes and public places), plus a large water feature with the entire archipelago re-created to be viewed from the air in aerial cable cars that cross the park, and a large children's play area modeled on a Disney type castle, along with many official buildings and museums.  They have tried to capture as much of the diversity of Indonesia in one place as they can.  

The park was begun by President Suharto (you might want to read up on your Indonesian political history if that name doesn't set off red flags in your sub-conscious), and aside from the self-aggrandizing displays of his humble beginnings and tremendous accomplishments, he had a pretty good vision for the park. 

At this point it is a little threadbare and greatly underused, except apparently on Sundays.

So this is the what we saw when we got out of our car...

It is one of the museums- this one holding costumes, depictions of everyday life and a collection of arts and crafts practiced by the many different peoples of Indonesia

and once we entered the Seminar....

The moderator is the guy on the right, and the gentleman on the left gave us an overview of the Government's position on the Oil and Gas industry in general and expatriate involvement in specific.  He was very polite and tasked with being the messenger for a policy that is restrictive, just a little insulting ("Expatriates will be treated fairly, but not equally." - don't ask me!), and boring as hell.  

To add to the treat, the guy read every one of his slides.  Verbatim.

Good news is, it didn't last long....

...and I had this lovely ceiling to contemplate while he spoke...

 Not the best photos, since I had to snap them with the camera in my lap, but you get the idea.  Lots of teak, lots of carving.  Really pretty. 


Ted and I figured that a lot of the stuff we were hearing that made us go "WTF?" was due as much to language problems as anything.  Most of the slides contained simple, common mistakes that are made when moving from Bahasa Indonesia to Bahasa Ingriss (bahasa means language, Ingriss is English- see how smart you are getting?). 

Mistakes using plurals, gender pronouns, and the lack of articles are  all easy to mix up when moving between the two languages and judging from the laughs and hilarity I get when speaking Indonesian, I do my fair share of caveman speak.

When the differences in culture are added in, what you end up with is a multitude of small language gaffes in a succinct, direct slide show from a culture that is very UN-succinct, indirect and unsure of how to convey hard truths tactfully (remember this is Asia and 'face' is very important). 

No harm, no foul.  The wish to be polite and welcoming was evident and we took the presentation in the spirit that was [hopefully] intended.   

After the blah blah blah stuff, we got a shot at the museum pictured at the very beginning.  Here's a sample of the stuff we saw, inside and out:

Wedding Attire- Java
Wedding headdress- central Java

Balinese masks

Museum grounds

Note upside down stump...

Then it was time for a terrific lunch, with a mind boggling mix of cuisine designed to please the multi-cultural crowd (U.S., UK, Australia, China, Malaysia, France, Kuwait).  

It was very very nice, all served in an outdoor tent (think wedding reception) with a pair of Indonesians doing wood carving and fabric painting the whole time to demonstrate just two of the many indigenous crafts done in this country.  

After lunch it was time for the Intercultural expert, Dr. Irid Agoes who has a PhD. in Intercultural Studies - it was fun and humbling to watch an actual expert speak to the subjects I covered at work everyday in the U.S. in orientations for company employees headed overseas. 

She covered a lot of information on the differences between world cultures and Indonesian cultures and helped us see ways to bridge the gaps and not spend all our time accidentally insulting each other.  

Since these kind of orientations are voluntary in our company, often the people I saw at work were not the people I really needed to see, so this was an additional opportunity for everyone (including the folks from companies who aren't clear on the positive business sense in encouraging intercultural understanding) to get a better handle on how hard it can be to, for instance, have someone ask "How are you?" and continue walking when you come from a country where the answer to that question would customarily be waited for as part of a respectful [Indonesia] or time wasting [United States] morning conversation...

Anyway, Dr. Agoes was animated and engaging, funny and full of information about how to bridge the differences between the cultures, and hopefully made some things more understandable for all of us.  

Her bottom line was 'embrace the differences while maintaining your sense of humor', which has always been, reassuringly, my bottom line too, so hopefully I have been on the right track, both personally and professionally.  

On a side note, I want to mention that Dr. Agoes' sense of humor has been sorely tested- she attended graduate school in the U.S. and has a grown child living in New York, so frequently travels to there.  As a Muslim Indonesian woman, she is stopped and body searched every single time she enters the U.S.  She has renamed herself Mrs. Random, since the TSA people always tell her she was chosen 'at random'.  She has accepted the unfortunate reality and now cheerfully agrees to her 'special treatment' without letting it spoil her experience every time. 

She was our entire afternoon session, and a terrific way to end the day. I could spend days more with her, but I expect everyone who meets her feels that way. 

Next time, I'll give you the skinny on Day Two. 

October 11, 2010

Fun (Useless) Facts

There is a fast food chain in the U.S. that sells chicken.  It's not as ubiquitous as KFC or even Popeyes so some of you may not even have heard of it.  

But for whatever reason, since we've never eaten there, we know the restaurant  and we were puzzled when the logo popped up in Indonesia.  

It's the same logo, but a different name.  And we spent way too much time trying to figure out what restaurant it was whenever we passed the sign.  

Now it's your turn. Sorry for the photo quality, but it was taken from a moving car. 

If you have seen this logo, try to remember the name of the restaurant in the U.S.  (hint: we believe the name change has to do with a major cultural difference between the two countries)

(Play the thinking song from Final Jeopardy in your head while you ponder.)

Time is up!  

Here is the logo for the U.S. chain:

Ta da!  

We suppose they were trying not to alienate their Muslim customers.  Because really- would you rush into a restaurant called Mosque's Chicken?  Probably not.  :-)

October 4, 2010

Hansel and Gretel Go to the Mall

Indonesia is so diverse- ethnically, economically, culturally, just about every way you can think of.  In population it is fourth in the world after China, India and the USA, but it's only three times the size of Texas (albeit with 34,000 MILES of coastline).  There is poverty equal to what we saw in Africa and affluence that rivals any in the United States.  The infrastructure is functional, although the water is only good for external uses, the streets are in really good shape- yet the traffic crush makes them unimpressive. 

I tell you these things to give a little perspective and minimize the brain torque you will be getting often in these posts; e.g. from Bajajes on the streets to today's subject: Monster Luxury Malls.

Jakarta has 12 million people and at least twice that many major malls.  

At this point you need to adjust your thinking a little re: shopping mall.  I'm not talking about a sprawling suburban one or two story place with long arms.  Space is tight here in the capital and the malls are all vertical.  Usually 8 stories.  And no straight lines anywhere.  You can't see more than two or three stores ahead of you before the walls make a turn in some other direction.  The farthest you can see is straight up.  

Malls here contain everything from Gucci to Ace Hardware to grocery stores.  There are food courts and multi-plexes and miles and miles of escalators.  

You can get Gap tees next door to the YSL store and then pop down a floor and buy a dog bed from Woof!.  Conspicuous consumption does not begin to describe it. 

So last weekend, Ted and I decided to try a new mall (his office is practically on top of two in Senayan and there are three fairly close to our house...).  We had Ivan take us to Plaza Indonesia, close to Central Jakarta.  This is the directory- a book with a fold out page complete with map for each floor, and a separate directory just for food.  

After ten minutes of navigating the mall, Ted and I sat down on a bench, looked at each other, and admitted we were totally lost and unable to decipher the floor plan.  

We were hungry and we knew that a restaurant that sounded interesting was on L5, so we took escalators up five floors. 

This is not a "turn 180˚ and ride" kind of set up.  If you are lucky you can do two floors without having to wander around looking for a new escalator that goes up or down far from where you popped up on your current floor.  

Anyway, we got to L5 eventually, wandered like Hansel and Gretel (i.e. without bread crumbs) and tripped over the restaurant we were looking for.  

As we gratefully sat and stuffed ourselves with pancakes covered in chicken and mushrooms, we faced the fact that we were completely and utterly lost inside this mall.  

I can't explain the sheer size and volume of this place.  We took pictures straight up a couple of times because that is the only direction that gives any perspective at all.  

And any of you who know Ted know that if he is lost, there is no hope for the rest of us.  He is the poster boy for directional savants.  He always knows where he is, and he can arrange the layout of any new place in his head with very little effort or time.  

Well, Plaza Indonesia kicked his ass.  

The english major and the engineer were reduced to wandering aimlessly,  occasionally tripping over a store of interest, and hoping to eventually end up at the correct exit door so we could catch a ride home.  

But did we absorb the lesson of this humbling experience and cut our losses? 

We did not! 

We noticed, instead, that there was a different Monster Luxury Mall just across the (large, mult-lane, extremely busy) street from Plaza Indonesia!  It was called Grand Indonesia and we decided we had to see that one too.  

We exited the first MLM on foot which was no big deal until we passed through the throngs of people waiting for their drivers and walked across the five lanes of cars moving past the entrance (think of white zones in airports... constantly moving cars picking up and disgorging people while men in uniforms whistle and yell and wave their arms).  

Once that gauntlet was run, we just had to follow the zebra stripes on the pavement to the area where another uniformed man with a crossing guard stop sign about the size of my palm would help us and the other two pedestrians across the street.  

This doesn't mean he stops traffic so we can cross.  This means he walks into one lane and we follow.  When he can walk into the next lane without being run over he does, and we follow.  Repeat three more times and voila! we are across the street and just have to get through the pile of cars in front of the entrance to the new MLM.  

Now we are inside Grand Indonesia Mall.  It has two sides- East Mall and West Mall.  We wander east a little, start to get overwhelmed, do an about face and wander west.  We are completely lost and dizzy within just a few minutes and after a quick Haagen Daas break (don't pretend you wouldn't have done the same thing), we moved toward what we thought was an escalator, but turned out to be the entrance to a Toys R Us.  

As we walked from the front of the store to the back, we realized that without doing anything but walking forward, we would be switching from Toys R Us to Ace Hardware.  

Currently Ace is our favorite store in Jakarta because it has just about everything practical you need at home.  We joyfully entered the Grand Indonesia Ace Hardware and grabbed a basket to hold our Yankee Candles and window washing squeegee.  At one point Ted was talking to a guy about an impact drill (we will need one to hang anything on our cement walls once our stuff finally gets here from the States), and I wandered off a little to see what I could see.  

I got lost.  

The store was so huge, and so full of interior walls and alleys, I had no idea where I was.  So I backtracked using landmarks of things I knew I had already passed... toilet seats-check, ceiling fans-check, patio furniture-check, until I ended up back with Ted and the drills.  

Once he was done, he asked me how to get out of the store.  I shrugged, pointed in the general direction of the likely exit and we headed that way.  

Obviously, we made it out.  But just barely.  And we're still looking at that mall map trying to make sense of it.