If I’ve learned anything about home decoration & renovations in Indonesia, it’s that nothing is simple as a foreigner. Furniture shopping is no exception. We chose to rent an empty house this time around, as our last home rental was fully furnished. So this was our first experience with buying furniture in Indonesia. And what an experience it is! We don’t have a Rooms 2 Go or another one-stop shop for tables, chairs, shelves and couches. There’s one furniture store I’ve seen in capital city that reminds me of furniture shopping back home. One. And it’s three hours away from us. In our new town, we shop for furniture a little differently.
I’m still such a huge fan of podcasts. It’s almost all I listen to while traveling, cleaning, or trying to sleep. That’s why I put together my original blog post, 9 Podcasts for Long Travel Days back in 2017. I’m still following all those podcasts…and more! I recently found a few new [or new seasons] of podcasts that I just had to rave about. These episodes are sure to help pass those long travel days in no time, whether traveling by plane, boat, car or train!
This excellent podcast by the New York Times grabbed my attention from the first episode. It’s the story of ISIS, who they are, what they believe and their rise to power. It’s the story of an incredible reporter, Rukmini Callimachi, of whom I’d listen to podcast about for the rest of her life. It’s the story of individuals feeling lost and looking for an identity. It’s the story of a terror so evil, you may be tempted to stop listening. Don’t stop. Finish the final episodes. They will take your breath away and bring tears to your eyes. The podcast is put together in an interesting format, as Rukmini, a war correspondent for the NY Times, is being interviewed by another reporter for the NY Times. This unique format gives both reporters a chance for necessary exposition on the topics without feeling dry. If you’ve ever asked “Who is ISIS?” or “What are their goals?” or “How are they recruiting non-Middle Eastern peoples in their terror war?” … this is your podcast. The series is at it’s best when it’s following Rukmini around the battlegrounds, as she hunts for ISIS paperwork left behind.The series is not at it’s best when it’s stuck in a hotel room in Canada. But overall the series is SO GOOD. Your next international flight is sure to fly by [pun intended] with this series to binge.
Let the updates continue! We are slowly making progress on this new home, and the results are evident! After a few minor changes, we began some of the larger changes we wanted to make. Starting with the master bathroom.
We were ready for a sink in our bathroom! In the rare case that Indonesian houses have a sink, they often just hang from the wall. But after discovering our wall is to weak to support anything, we knew we had to choose the right sink carefully. So we researched I scoured Pinterest. We shopped in countless building supply stores in town. We not only wanted a good quality sink, but also one for a good price. Finally, we decided on a nice square porcelain sink, chose the faucet and found a great little table to set it on. The next step was installing it all.
Asia is such a fascinating continent. It’s wildly diverse. It’s mountainous, tropical, rural, urban, populous, remote, affordable, expensive, naturally stunning and architecturally beautiful…all at once! I first visited Asia in 2005 when I traveled to India. I immediately overwhelmed by new sights, smells, tastes and sounds. And I also immediately in love with Asia. I traveled to Cambodia in 2009. And then in 2014, my husband and I began to consider a move to Asia, so we started traveling around the continent. We visited about 9 countries in 6 months. We moved to Indonesia in 2015, and it’s been home ever since. I’ve had the great privilege of seeing even more of Asia since living here, so I thought I’d share my top 10 list of places I’ve visited in Asia (so far!) Hopefully it inspires you to see a part of Asia that you haven’t seen yet!
#10 Chiang Mai, Thailand
Northern Thailand is delightful, and Chiang Mai is the major city in the region. It’s full of Buddhist temples and delicious street food. We spent 2 months in Chiang Mai in 2014, and even got to celebrate Songkran, the Thai New Year complete with giant water fight! We visited the mountains and rode elephants. It was a beautiful experience and Chiang Mai will always hold a special place in my heart.
If you are going to be a home owner, or renter, in Indonesia, there’s one word you should learn in the Indonesian immediately. It’s the word tukang [pronounced too-kahng]. A tukang is the person you call when there’s a leak in your pipes, a hole in the roof, walls that need painting, tile that needs laid, or doors that need fixing. A tukang is a handyman. Some have specialities, like a tukang pipa is a plumber or a tukang listrik is an electrician. When we moved into our new home and took stock of all the changes that needed to be made, we knew we had to find ourselves a tukang.
Indonesia doesn’t have the yellow pages or even a Google listing of all the tukang in your area. I wish it was that easy. Just like most things in Indonesia, finding a tukang is done through who you know. We started by asking our friends who have lived in the area for a few months. We asked the manager of a hotel we stayed at last year. We even asked at the building supply store when we were buying tools and gear for our house. We got a few numbers, so we began to call and schedule a tukang for the first updates to our new home. We invited him over to meet him and explain some of the tasks we were hoping to do first.
We decided to start with some new paint. We were going to be out of our house for a few days, but had some friends staying at our place during that time. We planned to get the master bedroom painted while we were out. We went to the paint store and poured over sample books. We brought one home and held it up to our walls. A coat of paint can do wonders in a room. We decided to go with a pale gray, which would accent the dark hardwood details of our room nicely. We bought the paint, and the painting supplies. We scheduled our tukang. We left our list of tasks. And we left the house for a few days.
As with any new [to you] house, there’s going to be quirky little things. Maybe it’s an usual layout or tile choice. Every previous owner has different tastes and preferences. Well, the same is here in Indonesia…but on a totally different level. As I shared in my first blog post in this series, we are right in the middle of updating & recreating our newest Indonesian home. And before I share about some of the changes & updates we’ve been making, I have to share with some of the quirks we’re facing right off the bat.
I know I don’t live in America anymore. I haven’t for a long time! But it’s hard to turn off my American thinking when it comes to a house layout, function, and decor. This new house, while beautiful in many aspects, is still distinctly Indonesian. It is at times, completely in contrast to my American aesthetic. Here’s a few examples of some of the unique aspects in our new place.
I grew up in Florida. I know what it’s like to be hot. But I also know what it’s like to come in from the oppressive humidity of a Florida summer and instantly cool down in the glorious air conditioning. And while Indonesia lies directly on the equator, homes definitely don’t do air conditioning like American homes. The weather on our island ranges from 70 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit year round. Yet, homes here don’t have central air conditioning. Indonesian homes are designed to be opened with either doors or windows so the air can flow through. Single room air conditioning units can be installed per room, and can cool down a room quite nicely.
Our new home had one air conditioner already installed in the master bedroom. We checked it before we moved in to make sure it worked. Success. We could comfortably sleep in our new home the first night. However, we did fail to notice a few quirks in the master bedroom that would limit the coolness. For example, we have this beautiful wood carving for a bedroom door. It’s very ornate and very Indonesian. It’s also full of intentional holes that easily allow any cool air in the room right out. Oops. Also, our master bathroom has cutouts in the wall to let moisture or smelly air out…but also air conditioning. Just close the bathroom door you say? The house didn’t come with one. Add that as another quirk. So we spent our first night sweating it out under the “air conditioning” until we get up, buy a fan, and cover up all the air conditioning escaping holes of our room.
Home. It’s more than just a house. It’s a place to live and thrive, raise a family, share meals, and be with friends. In our recent global travels, we’ve been without a place to call home for more than 12 months. We’ve stayed in other people’s homes and hotels, but we haven’t had a space of our own in quite awhile. Now that we had moved back to Indonesia with our 4 month old baby, I was beyond ready to find a home, unpack our suitcases and finally nest.
We knew from past experience that finding the right house to rent would be no easy task. Previously, we had rented a fully furnished 2 bedroom/2 bathroom house for 2 years. This time, we wanted something a little bigger [now that we were a family of 3] and unfurnished, because it’s both cheaper and more customizable. To make things even more challenging, we were moving to a new town on our island. No longer would we be living in the modern, Westernized, big, touristy cities of the south. We were more to north side of the island. It’s a little off the beaten path, but worth the effort.
“Is it safe?” That’s what people kept asking me when I told them our layover back to Indonesia would be in Qatar. Well, after asking, “Where is that?” The Middle East, especially in America, is often talked about with fear and apprehension. It’s not really a top destination in the minds of many Americans. But as a not so typical American, I was quite excited about this layover. Instead of choosing just 2 hours to transfer flights from Chicago to Indonesia with our 3 month old baby, we decided to chose 25 hours instead. Qatar Airways helped seal the deal by offering a hotel promotion. Once the trip was booked, I began to start dreaming of deserts and camels.
We landed in Doha, Qatar, around 4pm. After a decent wait through immigration, we were in a taxi ready to find our hotel by 6:30pm. Thanks to the Qatar Airways promo, we were staying downtown near the souq or market at Souq Waqif Boutique Hotels. It’s a collection of hotels spread out around the Souq, and we didn’t actually know the name of our exact hotel until we arrived. We checked in at the main lobby, and then by golf cart we traveled to our specific hotel. We were given a beautiful 1 bedroom suite, which was perfect for our little one to have her pack n play set up in her own space. I loved the location of our hotel, because we stepped out of the lobby and we were in the marketplace.
Looking back, this is probably one of the easiest ages to fly with a child. I didn’t have to worry about kid friendly snacks or drinks. At almost four months old, all she does is breastfeed. I didn’t have to plan out hours of entertainment. She still can sleep for hours or be entertained very easily. Literally, my fingers moving slowly toward her face makes her belly laugh with glee. She’s not asking are we there yet, protesting the seatbelt, or fighting boredom. She was very stimulated just by taking in all the new sights, smells, and sounds of airplane travel. Of course she cried during the flight, it’s probably impossible to prevent that. But we were quick to soothe her, and I doubt many passengers even heard her. One man even said as we were leaving the plane that he’d fly with our daughter any time. I count that as a success!
But before we left, I was full of concern. We’d mastered flying within the United States. But were we ready for 2 flights totaling 24+ hours of fly time with an almost 4 month old? Honestly, I wasn’t sure. But we were doing it. After about 7 months back in the US where we not only gave birth to our beautiful baby girl but also soaked up fabulous time with family & friends, we were about to head back to our Asian home. This time, with an infant. We packed up all our possessions and began a long, but wonderful week of travel.
Motherhood. I was a little late joining this hood. It had always seemed like an elusive and exclusive club where I didn’t know the lingo or the handshake. Some moms I knew handled motherhood like they were born for it. Some moms made me surprised their kids survived each day. I knew my journey of pregnancy would one day end in motherhood. Questions continually loomed in my mind…Would I be ready? Was anyone ever ready? Was my entire life about to change in ways I couldn’t even imagine?
My first month of motherhood was awful. I could try and sugar coat it and find the good in it, but I’ll be honest. It was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.