Sunday, July 31, 2016

A Couple of Photos

Its hard to say how long I'll find this city charming, but I hope I don't ever stop noticing the little pockets of beauty in everything here.  Our neighborhood is filled with crumbling old mansions and jungle vines climbing through filigreed gates.  The most beautiful thing on the walk to church yesterday?  The street above - we reveled in a clear sidewalk with a full curb to the street and the sewers entirely underground.  Plus, look - no garbage on the street. 

Our home is filled with beauty as well.  Our many windows all open to balconies, filling our home with light and providing ample space for plants.  Because of the monsoon, it has rained for the past few days, with intensity varying from a light drizzle to a steady downpour.  During a break in the rain last night, Sophia stepped out on the patio to enjoy the cool breeze.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Fresh New Day

Just like our every arrival seems to come on a dark and rainy night, international moves also seem to inevitably include fresh new mornings.  Yesterday was a long and exhausting day where I stayed awake until 10:00pm - and was very proud of myself for doing so.  That late bedtime helped me to sleep until 6:30 this morning, a perfectly rational time to wake up.

That early morning hour made me the first in the house to wake up, and brought that fresh new day feeling.  The sun is filling the living room with light, I've managed a hot cup of tea, and the house is quiet aside from the absurd number of bird in the sky... and the 6 year old who just joined me on the couch.

We have moved enough times for me to recognize the patterns - the film noir evenings and the fresh new day mornings.  One of my patterns is concentric circles - where we explore gradually larger spaces. 

After we arrived on Thursday night, the girls and I stayed in the apartment all day Friday.  It is a lovely apartment with loads of windows, a pleasant kitchen, and plenty of space.  This will be a happy home and we already feel cozy in this space. 

On Saturday, I drew a larger circle around our home when Dave took us out for a walk.  We strolled down the promenade at low tide and saw the mangroves with their streamers of garbage.  We walked up to the market street and checked out a few of the many shops and stalls.  Most of the vegetable stalls looked delicious with large cauliflower, beautiful garlic, these adorable striped baby eggplants, and plenty of other appetizing vegetables.  The fruit vendors have their own stalls, and we only saw two, both covered in flies.  That may take some more exploring.  We saw butcher shops and chemists and housewares shops and electric shops.  We learned that you do not buy nightlights at the housewares shop, where they sell buckets and hangers.  You buy nightlights at the electric shop, where they can also advise you about moving your microwave - and, in fact, will be happy to do it for you on Monday.  We saw the main grocery, which is more similar to a market at a children's museum than to a Safeway.  This is no supermarket, although the workers were very helpful and kind.  They remembered Dave on sight and introduced themselves to me right away.  We learned that you can not approach the store expecting to grab everything you need.  You must go to the store with a list.  If the shopkeeper does not have everything on the list, you move on to another store.  That next store had air conditioning and homemade peanut butter at a surprisingly reasonable price and a large selection of organic dry goods and a $15 bottle of maple syrup.  Overall, the shops seemed pleasant and not particularly intimidating, although it will be a long time before our kitchen feels fully stocked.  After shopping for a few hours, we came home with only some fruit, some eggs, some yogurt, and some pricey maple syrup.

Saturday evening, we broke out of that cozy little neighborhood circle to attend a dinner party on the other side of town.  Everyone was warm and friendly, the kids played together happily, the food all tasted good.  And the evening kept us awake to a reasonable time.  Breaking out of the circle was worth the effort, but also exhausting.

Today's circle will broaden only slightly.  We'll go to church in the neighborhood and figure out how to watch a movie at home.  We may eat at a restaurant, something that appears daunting to me but which seems easier than making pizza at home.  Tomorrow I may leave the house without Dave, and Tuesday will be the first foray to the school.  Wednesday will take us to the Consulate and the circles will progressively widen from there.

Mumbai has a charming feel to it, as if a familiar city was placed in the jungle and then smooshed in  from all sides.  It does not look American in any way, although every once in a while a Starbucks sign will pop up.  It does not really look British, either.  But something about the whole neighborhood feels a bit familiar, as if people not so different from me are living here.  And if all of these people can live here without too much trouble, than clearly I can, too.

Friday, July 29, 2016

It was a dark and stormy night...

It was a dark and rainy night as the quiet driver weaved the bus through the wet streets of Mumbai, past the palm trees and the shining lights of the still wakeful city. 

As the driver maneuvered the bus next to the lobby, the family adjusted their eyes to the light and tried to assign meaning and direction to everything they saw.  They tumbled out of the bus, happy to be home, and to see what this next home would look like.  The elevator, crowded with a family's worth of luggage, each bag packed with a year's worth of peanut butter or Deet spray, dragged itself up the building to their new door.

The doors sleepily pulled themselves open to their floor of the building, and the children raced to unlock the door and see this new space.  With the flip of each light switch, the shadows and dark corners of the large apartment went from dark and foreboding to bright and sterile.  The government issue  furniture was arranged inoffensively and the white walls hung bare of any warmth.  But the beds already had their sheets on them, and once the mother pulled their blankets from her luggage, the children snuggled into their new rooms and fell fast asleep.

It seems that my every arrival at a new post has taken on a film noir air, and last night's arrival in Mumbai was no different.  The apartment is nice, though it will feel like a rather strange hotel until all of our things arrive.  Happily, they delivered our air shipment yesterday and so we spent the day unpacking.  Our sea shipment should follow in a matter of weeks, making one thing easy in what looks to be a very complicated city.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Jakarta Shortlist: The Indonesia Archipelago

Jakarta may be a stress inducing city, but it is in a nation of amazing natural beauty.  We did not take many opportunities to explore the Indonesian archipelago.  Out of somewhere around 18,000 tropical islands, we only managed to land on a few.  But each of them had striking and rough beauty and we are blessed to have scratched the surface of this amazing country.

In May, we took a quick day trip to visit Krakatau, an active volcano whose explosion in 1883 had major atmospheric effects around the globe for the next three years.  On the day we went, it took us 3 hours to drive to the coast and then over an hour to ride a speed boat to Anak Krakatau, the baby volcano that has grown from the devastation of the 1883 eruption.  After such a ride, we were greeted with rain and cloudy skies.  The weather was not great for photography, but seemed to have cooled down the side of the volcano and made our hike more pleasant.

With our friends, we climbed about halfway up the side of the volcano.  We slid down ash, collected obsidian, and felt heat rising through vents as we walked.  We only hiked for about 30 minutes.  Then we grabbed a picnic lunch and began the long journey back home.  The return ride was double the morning commute and so we arrived back home at 10:00 that night.  Although most of the day was miserable, we all agreed that the experience was well worth the journey.

A month earlier, our family traveled to Komodo National Park where we lived on a boat for 4 days and three nights.  We snorkeled and swam, played on the beach, hiked and kayaked.  We spent most of our days either in intense sun or in the water, but always surrounded by beauty.

Komodo National Park is the only native home to komodo dragons, and they are just as impressive in person as you may have dreamed.  These monsters are six foot lizards with no predators, and they are lethal killers.