January 26, 2010

Fly Along

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to fly along with David in the MAF Caravan.  This was the first time I have flown in the Caravan, and what a different experience it was from flying in a 206.  It was like trading out a Go-Kart for an SUV.  The Caravan was smooth and had all sorts of cool instruments on its dash board (or whatever the pilots call it!).

It was a stormy day when we headed out, but armed with weather radar we were able to dodge the dangerous areas.  David was actually a bit gleeful to have some weather to work so he could make use of the radar and the IFR guidelines the guys use for flying through the mountainous areas of Borneo.

We did eight take-offs and landings in four different villages.  I enjoyed watching David interact with passengers and airstrip agents.  This older couple below were so cute in their funky t-shirts and solemn expressions.

The man below was quite a character.  He had a hat on that said "Indonesian veteran" on it and told us he fought in the border wars with Malaysia (back in the 40s or 50s maybe?).  He was at the airport to say goodbye to his younger brother, who was going back to his village to die since the local hospital couldn't do anything to help him.

It was touching to watch the two brothers saying goodbye, knowing that this could very well be the last time they see each other in this life.  Then later when we landed at the sick man's village, it was heart-rending to see the somber crowd gathered to welcome him home.
Contrasting that scene was this man on the other side of the plane who was downright giddy receiving one of our "passengers" - a pig in a poke!

The weather continued to be an issue through the afternoon but we were able to make it to all our scheduled stops.  Rice harvest had started in several of the villages and from the air we could see men and women wearing conical hats beating out rice stalks on woven mats in the rice paddies.  One of our passengers was a pastor who was returning to his village after helping his wife start the harvest in the village where they used to live.  He was leaving her behind to finish the harvest, and David and I had to laugh about that because this pastor is a very small thin man (think Jack Sprat) and his wife is a beefy lady who could easily beat him in a wrestling smackdown. She was definitely the better choice for finishing out a physically-demanding rice harvest.

At the end of the day I couldn't believe how tired I was - and all I did was sit in the co-pilot's seat and look out the window.  Every time I fly with David I have a renewed appreciation for what he does and why he's so tired at the end of a flying day.

Another happy MAF passenger

Sampai nanti,


January 06, 2010

To Market, To Market

My house helper, Orpa, has been gone for the last month visiting her family in Sulawesi for Christmas.  I'm really glad for her, but while she's gone all the jobs she normally does fall to me.  One of those is making weekly trips to the pasar, or open market.  I have been to the pasar on numerous occasions and it is a job that I am very happy for Orpa to do.  It's a smelly, damp place, with all manner of creepy crawly things creepin' and crawlin' over the food you buy.  I have come up with a list of a few tips for those of you who may find yourselves heading out to the open market soon.

Pasar Primer

1.  Go in the morning.  The smells are much worse as the day goes on, so be sure to go first thing in the morning.  The produce tends to be fresher, too. 

Now, in addition to going to the pasar this past month, I've also been learning to drive David's motorbike.  He used to own a big dirt bike and it was just too big for me to handle.  So he downsized and bought a smaller bike that is easier for me to drive (it's so small that one of our co-workers said David looks like a Shriner in a parade).  I've always been hesitant to drive a motorbike here - the traffic can get kind of crazy and I've seen lots of accidents.  I always seem to have at least one child with me when I go out, and when I shop I tend to buy a lot, and you can only hang so many bags on a bike.  But the main reason I haven't learned yet is that I'm a chicken, but I am working to overcome my fears.  It's kind of like being a teenager again and earning my learner's license.  David has put restrictions on me, like I can only go to certain places and only at certain times.  All of that to say, another reason for me to do my marketing in the morning is that the traffic is light and it gives me a chance to practice the motorbike.

Early in the morning lots of vegetable sellers load up their motorbikes and head out to sell in the neighborhoods.

2.  Never look down.  If you know me, you might know that I have an irrational fear of cockroaches.  It was one of the things I really worried about when we first came overseas.  Silly, I know, but there it is.  The pasar is crawling with cockroaches, mice, rats, etc. so to keep myself from screaming I find it best not to look down, if it can be helped.  There was one time I had a panicky moment when I dropped some money and I was faced with the dilemma of bending down and picking it up and risking seeing something I'd rather not, or just leaving the money there.  I realized how silly that would look to the Indonesians around me so I held my breath and picked it up, with one eye closed.

3.  Never buy a doughnut at the pasar.  I think the photo below best illustrates this.  Raw chickens are on the left, doughnuts (uncovered, unpackaged) on the right, and you can't see the flies but they were doing circuits between the two tables.  Need I say more?

4.  Take the time to get to know the penjual (sellers) you buy from.  As much as I would like to rush through, grab what I need and go, I try to spend a few minutes chatting with each person.  They are more likely to look out for you on your next trip.  The little lady below sells all kinds of greens and one day she didn't have the type I was looking for.  On my next trip she practically grabbed me off my feet to show me she'd been holding some for me.

5.   Wash it, peel it, or cook it.  The hardest part of going to the pasar for me is dealing with all the stuff I buy once I get home.  In the U.S. I would just toss whatever I buy into the fridge - but here there is no pre-washed lettuce, or wok-ready vegetables, so everything has to be cleaned and put away.  But once that is done there is a great feeling of satisfaction at having survived another trip to the pasar.


On to other things...last night was Twelfth Night here in Tarakan.  I am always on the lookout for fun things for us to do and new traditions to keep (and reasons to make a cake) and after reading some about Twelfth Night I decided to try it out on our family.  First I made a King Cake which I am sure is unlike any other king cake since I followed no traditional recipe (apologies to my Cajun cousins who know what a real king cake is).  Zoe helped me hide a coin in it, since the tradition is that whomever finds the coin (or bean, or whatever) is then the king or queen for the night.  The coin was in my piece of cake, though Luke was so crestfallen by not finding it, I snuck it into his piece.  So Luke spent the evening giving out royal decrees that we his loyal subjects had to obey.   We also sang "The Twelve Days of Christmas" at the top of our lungs, ensuring the neighbors would have plenty to talk about.  I don't know if it will become a yearly Holsten tradition or not, but it was a lot of fun.

Sampai jumpa,