Monday, February 16, 2009

The Malay Peninsula and a personal re-enlightenment

We arrived in Singapore after having only been in Jakarta for 11 days (me anyway). Janine had wanted to see the Indian Festival of Thaipusam (read her blog for more info). It's an amazing display of religious fortitude and craziness - I know those may not seem like they go together but it's the only way I know to describe carrying a fifty pound decorated metal cage connected to your body by a series of needles.

So since then I've done a bunch of stuff - almost two weeks worth in fact. So just to get it off my chest, here are the highlights so I can remember them and you can ask me about if you really care:
  • Singapore to Melakka bus ride - never get used to driving into other countries
  • Melakka - a CHEAP hostel with great WiFi in the middle of China Town
  • The Langkawi Bicycle Race Stages 2 and 3
  • Great Nonya, Chinese, Indian, and other food
  • Another bout of food bourne illness - it happens, mercifully short this time
  • The Jonkers Night Market (not really that great but it's why I stayed in Melakka til Friday)
  • A Mosque, a Hindu Temple, and a Chinese Temple (which worshiped Confucious, Tao, and the Goddess of Mercy) on the same street as my hostel - gotta love the diversity
  • The bus ride to Kuala Lumpur that cost the same as the taxi ride to the bus station
  • Kuala Lumpur Petronais Towers - NOT as tall as Sears Towers but two of the coolest looking skyscrapers on the planet.
  • The Red Palm Hostel - $5 more than the other hostel but a wonderful home away from home. I am nostalgic for my Africa hostel days (aahh... The Green Elephant in Cape Town)
  • Stage 7 of the Langkawi Bicycle Race
  • The madness of a Saturday night in Kuala Lumpur (especially on Bukit Bintang)
  • The Batu Caves sans Thaipusam - this is THE place for Thaipusam and we missed it. Still impressive in its own right.
  • The amazing skylift ride up to the not-so-amazing "Vegas-of-Asia" Genting Highlands
  • The constant sweltering as I do now at 11:00 pm on the patio with my computer - my body is aglow in tiny droplets of my own moisture.
So there's the to-did list.

Here's what I learned / remembered. I've always said "If you have a job that lasts about four hours a day, the rest of the day will take care of itself".

Now that I've been "on vacation" for the past two weeks, it's still true and I'm amazed. I put vacation in quotes because I've been carrying around my laptop with me trying to do some iPhone programming for about 4 hours a day. I've been surprised how challenging that has been - for two reasons. First of all - when I log work hours - they are true work hours - no interruptions, no checking e-mails, no getting calls or drop-ins from co-workers - just pure unadulterated thinking/coding time. At some levels, I love it - put me in my puzzle world and leave me alone. So 4 solid hours is hard to really do. You typically have to take at least one break and when you are surrounded by interesting stuff - sometimes that break will last for half of the day (which is the second reason why four hours is challenging and why often my log hours are from 9 until 11 at night). In the office environment, I get up and have a cup of coffee - maybe check some hoops scores. Where I am, I walk across town to check out the dragon boat races (or something to that effect).

And what's amazing to me, is there lots of other stuff I want to do that I just don't have time for. I've barely read the books I've brought with me. I haven't studied near the amount of Indonesian Language as I should have. I haven't really exercised that much. It's stunning to me how much time just slips away - through walking, through sitting down for a meal, through doing the little things that take twice as long as they would at home, through planning the next stage of my journey, through keeping up with correspondence (although this can be a real time-sucker at home too but it seems so much more important when your loved one's are far away).

So that's what this post is really about. Reminding myself that if I truly want to enjoy this experience, I have to allowed my time to be sucked away - difficult for me and my puritanical work ethic to allow this being-ness to exist. But thinking back to my six months in Africa - certainly a transformational experience for me - I have to allow for my work and play to be heavier on the play side - it opens me up for so much more than the puzzles I'm enjoying unlocking on my computer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This lead-up (and arrival in) Indonesia

Ready for Travel (although technically this is a Burning Man Photo)
So I originally set up this blog as an experiment for my class and to help Janine set up one. But I never had a clear intention of writing in it. Now that I've followed hers for a while and I'm realizing I want to remember this experience and a few people are curious about it, I might as well put down a few thoughts from time to time.

Currently I'm sitting in a youth hostel in Melaka Malaysia with my backpack and laptop but sans Janine (she's in Cambodia). But I think that's Blog #2, let me back up.

In August of 2008, having been married for four years to a woman who has long pined to live abroad, Janine was on the short list of candidate to work at the IFC, a branch of the World Bank, in Indonesia. Having spent much of the past year talking about creating roots, and family, and community, she felt this was not the best time in our lives to be doing this. To her surprise, I felt like the 6-9 month assignment could be managed in such a way that we'd both get a lot out of it. She pursued it, wowed them, got the job and left for Jakarta in October. I would finish up the semester, transition my classes to a new teacher (we luckily found a wonderful retired teacher who was both qualified and excited to pick up for me mid-year), and arrive in January.

Janine came home at Thanksgiving. I went to Indonesia for Christmas. It was a difficult 3 months apart but I'm thankful I had the time to finish up school in a tidy fashion while gradually tying up loose ends at home. Krypto and our home would be well cared for by a longtime friend until we returned August.

The first two weeks in Jakarta have flown by. I brought some contract programming work from home and was spending 4-6 hours on the Mac, while ducking out during mid-day to taste the local treats, explore the bus lines and a few neighborhoods, and fulfill my duty as errand-boy. I found a local orphanage that also operates as a community center and began a biweekly commute to teach Math/English/Computers to first and second graders. Janine had already identified the Indonesian Heritage Society as a good way to learn about the culture and make some new friends. I may start spending a half day a week in their library helping out and have at least one group meeting a week to now go to (of which, I am the only male - not too many house-husbands in Jakarta).

The plan was to explore as much of the region as possible through short trips and occasionally Janine's work. We'll likely be on the road for the entirety of July. So that's a brief update. Our first big adventure coming up soon....