Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pamper time

I took a shuttle bus from Padangbai to Kuta today and because I described it as a ride from hell yesterday, I was pleasantly proven wrong for today's ride. There were only six people in the van, including the driver, and it was one of the easiest trips yet (aside from the roads, of course, which always seem to be horrible in Indonesia).

Anyway, my big plan for the day was to check in to a hotel and then go get some pampering done. I ended up with a room for 100,000 rupiah which is, quite frankly, more than I've paid anywhere else in Indonesia. But that includes breakfast and there's a pool which figured nicely into my idea of pampering. I walked into a salon nearby, saw that they had a menu, and just started saying, "I'll take that and that and that. Can you do all that today? Great! I'll be back in a half-hour after I eat lunch." A few hours later I was painted and waxed and scrubbed and rubbed and steamed and feeling pretty great. When all was said and done, I had a pedicure, a wax, a massage and a facial for just under $18. Not a bad way to spend a day's budget, if you ask me, particularly since I know I won't be able to do that in Australia. Then I went back to the hotel and laid by the pool for awhile with a book.

I am really going to miss Indonesia. Maybe it's because I mostly took things slow here and spent a lot of time in fewer places rather than a little time in lots of places, but I really felt like I knew the places that I visited. Or maybe Indonesians are just super friendly and that helped me feel right at home. Regardless, everywhere I went people knew me by name and I had my regular places - mini markets, cafes, bars, restaurants, bookstores. Generally if I'm not gonna be in a place for very long, I don't like to go to the same place twice, even if I've had the best meal ever. But when I'm staying put for more than a couple of days, I do like to go to the same place because you get to know people more easily. There's something comforting in feeling like you're at home when you're thousands of miles away. 

Indonesia has everything. Mountains, beaches, jungle, volcanoes, diving, trekking. All kinds of stuff. There's so much of Indonesia that I haven't seen, so I feel like another trip here will definitely be in my future. And did you know it's the fourth largest country by population after China, India, and the US? I had no idea.

The other thing I really enjoyed about Indonesia was the attitude. People were friendly and laid-back everywhere I went. And my musician friends would like that music is MUCH appreciated here. Locals and foreigners alike are constantly playing an instrument, singing, and trying to get others to join into the festivities. I feel like my description isn't doing it justice, so I suppose you'll just have to take my word for it. Or visit yourself one day!

In less than 24 hours I'll be in Australia, my fourth (and final) continent of my trip! Will is already there - due to a goofy scheduling issue, he made it there three days earlier than he thought. But I'll be sure to say "I told you so!" when he picks me up from the airport. :-)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Road rules

Still more thoughts as I prepare to leave the developing world for a first world country. This time my thoughts are focused on transportation.

Plane, train, bus, car. You name it, I've taken it in the last eight months. Rickshaw, tri-shaw, tuk-tuk, pedicab, bemo, moto. There are a million variations depending on what country you're in. One thing's for sure. The rules of the road are a world of difference compared to the U.S.

Let's just have it be said right from the get go: Sometimes there are no rules. Complete chaos reigns supreme. Lane splitting. Babies not in car seats. Needing to walk in the road because the sidewalk is used for motorcycle parking. Regularly seeing vehicles going the wrong way on a one-way road, even on on and off ramps. I think you get the idea, but let me give some specific examples, as well.

Remember my 29 hour train ride from Mumbai to Varanasi? I don't believe I ever shared what I witnessed right before I got on that train. Passengers were forming a line on the platform. Men that I assumed to be police or security were yelling orders. They began to check tickets and then all hell broke loose. Batons came out and passengers were beaten. Women with babies were yanked from line and tossed aside. More yelling, more physical abuse. I had no idea what was going on and was just trying to stay out of the way. I asked a man what was happening and he explained that those were general seating passengers. General seating costs about $2, consists of hard, wooden benches, and the ticket was a number. People were supposed to be lining up according to number, but apparently there's always some line jumping in an attempt to get a better seat. Hence the aggressive police/line monitors. For comparison purposes, my ticket was at the complete other end of the spectrum, 2AC. It cost about $16 and consisted of a soft bed with blankets and pillows in a semi-private, A/C room. As the man explained it, these general seating passengers were poor, stupid, and needed to be beaten (!). I'm paraphrasing, but yes, that's essentially what he said. I've never seen anything like it before or since.

Sometimes I'm convinced that public transportation is a major feat of clown car engineering. There have been many bus rides with every seat full. That should be that, but usually even more is crammed in. From crates of chickens or eggs to huge bags of flowers, the aisle is always good for transporting something. If it's not saleable goods in the aisle, it's people. Minivans should accommodate 8-12 people. Figure in bags and luggage, however, and the comfortable max is eight. There are never only eight people in these things. Usually it's closer to 14 or 15.

Then what about the number of people on a motorcycle? The most I've seen is six, three adults and three kids. But I've also seen one man and two dogs on a motorcycle, so that has to be some sort of human/canine record.

It's not just people and dogs that overcrowd motorbikes. They are a main source of transportation and I've seen them loaded down with everything from plastic bottles bound for recycling to huge piles of cut down vegetation. I'm no longer surprised when I can barely see the motorcycle under the load it's carrying.

The state of the roads themselves makes for long, bumpy, often uncomfortable journeys. Add in super curvy roads like those in Mae Hong Son, Thailand and you get to deal with motion sickness, too. What? You don't think being jammed in with puking people sounds like your idea of a good time?

Red lights don't mean anything and there's no qualms against passing whenever the driver feels the urge, even on blind corners. Horns are used so often they start to sound like ducks with sore throats. Dying ducks with sore throats. A regular game of chicken is happening on roads around the world as people drive straight at each other, veering off at the last possible second.

I've said more than once that if I don't think I'm gonna die at least once during every trip, then it hasn't been a trip worth taking! Because, you see, a lot of this lunacy could be avoided. There are executive, VIP buses and private cars and fast ferries. All of these cost more, of course, but plenty of travelers opt for them. I choose not to, and not just because I'm a cheap sonofagun. I go with the option that most locals take. After all, I didn't come all this way just to spend most of my time with other foreigners; I want to experience what the locals experience. And I gotta say. Some of the nicest people I've met and some of the kindest things I've had done for me have taken place on public transportation, regardless of the craziness of the journey that led to those meetings.

Australia's next and I have a feeling that my experiences on the road are going to ease up a bit. Only time will tell. While part of me will be glad to leave the madness behind, the other part of me will miss it. But just a tiny bit. :-)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

No English? No problem.


In a few days, I head to Australia, my first native English speaking destination since London. And, really? Can I even count London since all I did there was spend a night at Heathrow? So, for the first time in eight months, I'll be among native English speakers again and it's got me thinking.

Not knowing the local language and lacking an ability to speak  a language other than English has been less of  a hindrance to me than I could have expected. I had the hardest time in Barcelona (although I know a little Spanish), but for the most part people I interacted with knew at least a small amount of English.

Except when they didn't:

* An old woman, noticing my difficulty in crossing a busy Saigon street, gave me a knowing smile, grabbed my hand, and walked me across. She gave me  a friendly nod and walked off before I could even thank her.

* In Lombok I was on a bemo on my way back to my guesthouse.I was the only foreigner among six or so locals. It was getting dark and I was intently watching the road for where I needed to get off; I had a habit of walking or riding right past the guesthouse and I didn't want to make the mistake again. The man across from me said something in Bahasa, the woman next to me patted my leg and said something else, and I smiled and shrugged because I didn't know what either of them were saying. The man watched as I looked out the window and he made the same comment again. I surmised that he was asking where I was going so I said Pondok Siti Hawa, the name of my guesthouse. From that point, he kept a watch for me and had the driver stop when it was time. I said kasih (thanks) and selamat tinggal (goodbye) as I got off the bemo and was rewarded with smiles all around.

* In southern India I was looking for a cathedral that I'd seen from a distance. I stopped at an intersection, trying to pick which road to take. A woman yelled to catch my attention and, when I turned to look, she was smiling and pointing to the other road. I'd chosen wrongly, but her simple direction got me right to where I wanted to be.

* My host Dina deposited me on to local transport, but I wasn't really sure how to get to the museum, even with her directions. I got of f the bus when it stopped only because everyone else got off. I'm positive I looked more than a little confused. A guy questioned me in Arabic and motioned for me to follow him when I said the museum name. He walked me all the way there, clearly going out of his way because he turned and went back the way we'd come once I was dropped off.

* On a bus in Sumatra a man turned to me and offered a cigarette. (It's the polite thing to do in Indonesia and they're always offered all around.) At his stop, he gave me a nod of his head and a wave of his hand in goodbye and he was off. He never spoke, either in Bahasa or English, but the kindness in his gestures told me all I needed to know.

I'm sure there are many more examples, but these are what came to mind straightaway. A good number of others involve me pointing at a dish at a food stall and the vendor showing me the exact notes I'd need when it was time to pay the bill. :-)

The moral of the story is that not knowing the local language is NOT a reason to stay at home. Particularly if you take the time to learn even a few basics - hello, goodbye, please, thank you - people will be kinder and more helpful than you could ever imagine.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

SHARK!

I came to Padangbai on Monday and barely made it here with my head. There was so much for sale  on the ferry - water, chips, cigarettes, t-shirts, cookies, instant noodles, fruit, rice, dvds, knives (!), blankets, matresses, peanuts, drinks, gum, hats, towels, jewelry, honey, and newspapers (yes, I actually made a list just so I'd remember) - and I said 'no' so often that I was sure I was gonna nod my head right off my body! But I made it here and I'm staying at a place called Kembar Inn, just a short walk from anything that I could possibly need.

After my five hour ferry, I decided to treat myself to a beer. I walked into Sunshine Bar and no one was there, but a local by the name of Newman introduced himself, talked to me for awhile, and said that live music would be starting in an hour. Awhile after that, when more people had streamed in, I turned to the table next to me and asked if any of them were divers. They all kind of laughed and I couldn't figure out what was up. So I went on to say that I just arrived, wanted to do some diving, and was looking for a recommendation for a dive shop. As it turns out, they laughed because they all work for dive shops! Happy coincidence for me, huh?

I really liked Gabby and Chris with OK Divers, so I decided to dive with them the next day. It was just me and them which was awesome. There were lots of new things about these dives compared to the ones I've done previously. Full wetsuit with booties instead of a shorty wetsuit without booties, a new type of boat to the dive site, a different way to enter the water, using toothpaste on the goggles to keep them from fogging up instead of plain ol' spit. And, perhaps you've figured it out by now. . .I saw a shark!! A whitetip reef shark, to be exact. How cool is that?! We saw two, actually, but we think that it was the same one. He apparently wasn't particularly large, but everything looks bigger (and closer!) underwater and I didn't care anyway, I was just excited that I got to see it. We also saw a cuttlefish hunting and catching a shrimp, lots of very colorful nudibranches, nudibranch eggs which look like a ribbon of pink tissue, and a huge clam. All in all, they were two awesome dives.

Today, after a breakfast of Bali coffee, a pineapple jaffle, rambutens, and mangosteen, I walked 20 minutes or so to a pretty, secluded beach. There's a much closer beach to my hotel, but I specifically chose this one because it's so quiet. I spent the rest of the day, lying on the beach in a shady spot, and putting a huge dent in the book that I'm reading. Tomorrow I expect I'll do more of the same. :-) I'd been planning on leaving on Friday to go back to Kuta, but I think I just decided tonight that maybe I'll stay here a bit longer. Kuta was rowdy/drunk tourist central and not really my scene. Padangbai is quieter and just lovely.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sunbathe, dive. Sunbathe, dive.


I alluded before to the fact that I needed some down time. Partially that's because of the crazy amount of travel I've done recently and partially it's because I know I have a crazy amount of travel ahead of me. When my friend Will joins me in Australia, he's only going to have a limited amount of time before he has to head back to his new USCG base in San Francisco. The plan is to fly into Perth, spend a couple of days there, and then fly to Cairns in northeastern Australia. From there, we'll (somehow) make our way to Sydney from where Will will fly back to the States. Here's the thing. If you've ever flipped through a Lonely Planet guidebook, you may have noticed that they give sample trip itineraries. The OZ LP designates a 6-8 week time frame for the Cairns-Sydney portion alone. Will has about 3 1/2 weeks. So, uh, yeah. It'll be crazy. No worries, though. Once he leaves, I'll probably turn back around to spend more time in places and do them "for real."

Anyway, for now, that down time consists of me doing one of two things: sunbathing or diving. Oh, okay, there's reading and eating and a few other not so strenuous activities thrown in there, too, but that's about it. Gili Trawangan (GT) beaches were perfect for relaxation and now I'm in Senggigi. I'm staying at a place called Pondok Siti Hawa where I have a bungalow that's practically right on the beach. It has a porch where I can read and listen to the waves crash, and an open air bathroom (so cool! well, until I hung my towel up to dry and it got drenched in the downpour we had this afternoon). The best part is that I totally have the beach to myself so it's really peaceful. There's no diving here in Senggigi, but I did get two dives in while I was still on GT. I saw LOTS of sea turtles which was just amazing and I also saw cuttlefish. The neat thing about these guys is that their skin changes colors to camouflage themselves and/or to communicate. Watching it happen right in front of my eyes was awesome.

In a day or two I'll leave Senggigi for Padangbai where I'll be able to do more diving. Then I'll head back to Bali for my last few days in Indonesia. Sunbathe, dive. Sunbathe, dive. :-D

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cinnamon trees and big-ass lizards

I'm back and that means it's finally time to post about Bukittinggi! It's been a week since I left Bukittinggi; talk about stringing you along mercilessly, huh? 


Not too long after my arrival in Bukittinggi I met a local by the name of Lala. He suggested a hotel for me which, honestly, was kinda crap, but he still turned out to be a pretty cool guy. He told me about a hangout cafe that was nice and very much needed after my long overnight bus ride from Lake Toba and then he offered to walk around with me and show me some of the sights. We went to Panorama Vista with very good views of the mountains Singgalang, Sago, and Merapi (a still active volcano). Next we checked out a couple of the markets (one of my very favorite things to do in a new place) and scoped the old clock tower in the center of town. When I finally decided I was so tired I couldn't possibly walk another step, Lala and I went back to the cafe for a coffee and some chatting. (Lala, btw, is a pretty interesting character and I'll have to tell you more about him some time. Someone remind me!) I was trying to figure out my game plan for the rest of my time in Bukittinggi and made arrangements to spend the following day with Lala on the back of a motorbike checking out the surrounding areas of Bukittinggi (it means "tall hill" in case you were wondering).

The next morning Lala had something come up and he couldn't do the tour after all, but he introduced me to Roni (as in the San Francisco treat) and I went with him instead. There were a number of scheduled stops for the day and after the amount of time that's passed, I honestly can't even remember the order of things, but it doesn't matter much. We started out by checking out a couple of villages, making stops along the way to take pictures. For one of these stops, Roni pulled some bark off of a tree and told me I could chew it if I wanted. The last time this happened was in Bukit Lawang when my guide handed me some bark from a quinine tree. It was very bitter and took forever to get that horrible, medicinal taste out of my mouth, so I wasn't in such a hurry to go tasting random tree barks. I smelled it first and immediately recognized it to be cinnamon. I tried it, expecting it to be at least a little bit bitter, but it was quite pleasant actually. Did YOU know cinnamon came from trees? Because it honestly never even occurred to me. Cinnamon wasn't the only plant I got a lesson on, either. Next Roni handed me a tiny, slightly closed up yellow flower bud that almost looked like a smaller-than-pinky-fingernail version of a chrysanthemum and told me to chew it. He hadn't steered me wrong yet so I didn't even hesitate this time and was only slightly surprised when my mouth started to go numb. Apparently this flower is used by locals for toothaches and other mouth injuries. And finally in the area of plants, Roni pointed out a type of fern that is sensitive to touch and actually closes up when you get near it (I'd also seen this in Malaysia and it's so cool), and we chatted with a guy who was harvesting coffee cherries.

Alright, so enough about the plants. We also saw lots of water buffalo (some super close to the road and making funny faces at us), flying fox bats, and monitor lizards. Now, monitor lizards aren't nearly as big as Komodo dragons (which live on the island of Komodo in Indonesia and isn't an island I'll get to before my visa runs out), but they're still pretty big, hence the "big-ass" descriptor in the title. And though we did see two of them, only one truly lived up to that, the other was downright tiny in comparison.

In addition to seeing more of the mountains I mentioned above, we also went to Lake Maninjou and Sianok Canyon. The lake was absolutely stunning and made for an awesome place to stop for coffee. But the road surrounding it, 44 Bends (or so called by Roni anyway), definitely added to it and was a lot of fun on a motorbike. Sianok was no Grand Canyon, but it was cool, too. 

And the villages. One was known for their brown sugar making and one for their silver making; we watched both activities for awhile before moving on. At lunch time we stopped at a place where I met the little guy in the picture. He was super shy at first, but he came around. :-) He must've been about four or so and in between spurts of playing he was working in a school book, the kind that preps you for reading and writing. It was with him that I learned (at least) four new Bahasa Indonesian words and had a great time doing it. If I'd stuck around even longer, I'm sure I'd know more.

The tour ended around 7pm, I took a quick shower, and went out for my last dinner in Bukittinggi. It was an earlyish night since I had to catch an 8:30am bus to Padang for a flight.

You're probably not keeping track of the amount of travel involved between Lake Toba and the Gili Islands. Let me recap for you. It started with the 17 hour bus trip from Lake Toba to Bukittinggi. A 17 hour bus trip made much worse by the fact that Indonesian roads are pretty horrible. You'll be tooling along and then all of a sudden have to come to a dead stop because the roads are rutted and rocky and, well, non-existent, actually. Two days later I spent the better part of nine hours on the back of a motorbike. The day after that I went two hours by bus to Padang, flew to Jakarta (two hours), had a one hour layover then flew to Bali (two hours). Two days after THAT, I rode 1 1/2 hours by bus to Padangbai, took a five hour ferry to Senggigi, rode one hour by bus to Bangsal, and (finally) took a 45 minute shuttle boat to Gili Trawangan. Is it any wonder that I wanted to do nothing for a few days (or weeks!) after all of that??

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gilis

I know I promised a Bukittinggi update, but it's going to have to wait a little while longer. I'm currently on Gili Trawangan, a tiny little island (no motor vehicles, pop. 800) off of Lombok. Internet is ridiculously expensive, so I'm gonna be kinda scarce for the next few days or so. But here's what I can tell you so far. There are volcanoes jutting up from the horizon, the water is crystal blue, and the sands are white, black, and super soft. And tomorrow I go diving!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Short update

I have LOTS to catch up on and not lots of time to do it, but here's the basic gist. Bukittinggi and the people I met there were great. I'm in Kuta on the island of Bali now (met up with Rowan again) and heading to the Gili Islands tomorrow. I'm in the process of writing a nice long write up on Bukittinggi, but wanted to go ahead and throw something up here to let everyone know where I am and where I'm going.

Stay tuned. . .

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hurry home

The other day I had an email exchange with ToadMama. She commented about how much restraint it takes her "to not say HURRY HOME every time I post something on your blog." I replied back that "I actually am hurrying home, it's just that time moves much slower in this part of the world, so it's hard for you to be able to tell." Which gave her a little giggle and hopefully took her mind off of the whole thing about me being thousands of miles away.

It got me thinking about the time that I've been away versus the time I still have left to go. I officially have more trip behind me now than in front of me. It's weird to think that I only have three more countries (Australia, New Zealand, Fiji) and less than five months on my itinerary. That is, unless I can stretch my budget or find work along the way, but let's not even talk about that lest some people out there start to have heart palpitations or something. :-)

Eventually I'll have to start thinking about my re-entrance plan. (Yeah, I don't know where that phrase came from; I've never referred to it that way before.) And I won't be able to wait til September 15th to do it either. But now's not the time. Right now I still have tons to look forward to: volcanoes, diving, meeting up with Will, the Outback and Great Barrier Reef, extreme sports in New Zealand, lots of beach time, and plenty of people to meet.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Soaking up some culture

On the ferry to Pulau Samosir the other day, I met three Malaysian guys who work in Indonesia and were on their way to the island for a short weekend trip. We got to chatting and they told me about a Batak performance happening later that night. The Batak are an ethnic group of Northern Sumatra. Since then I've been immersing myself in Batak culture. The performance included singing, dancing, instrument playing, and a little bit of flirting with the crowd. :-) It was a lot of fun and I'm glad I met Stanley, Go, and Jeff because otherwise I probably wouldn't have gone.

I got along so well with the guys that I quickly agreed to go for a bike ride with them the next morning, even though they wanted to meet at the ungodly hour of 8am. The bike ride was very scenic and had me taking notes of where I wanted to go back to later to take more pictures. Architecture in the Batak style is pretty cool, so I knew I had to get some shots of it.


(Stanley, me, and Jeff taking a scenic break from riding.)

Besides taking in the arts, the architecture, and the views, I've also been eating a lot, too. What? Food is part of the culture! Ever since Malaysia I've kind of been getting scared off of chicken. Too often it's more fat and gristle than actual meat and sometimes it's just mystery meat altogether. Luckily, I've found gado-gado, steamed vegetables, a hard boiled egg, peanut sauce, and rice served on the side. I suppose it sounds like an odd combination, but it's really good and I've had it a couple of times now. Fruit juices still rock and my current fav is passion fruit juice.

(Check out those crazy roof lines!)

I'm not exactly sure how I'll fill my day tomorrow. I have a 5pm bus ticket to Bukittinggi and although the ferry back to the mainland is only one hour long, I'll probably take the 2pm one. I've been advised that although the ferry is supposed to be hourly until about 6pm, there often isn't one after 2pm if there aren't enough people to ride. The bus should take about 15 hours; I'm out of practice with super long rides like that, so hopefully all will go well.
* * * * *

By the way, in case anyone heard on the news, yes, there was an earthquake in Northern Sumatra. And yes, I happen to be in Northern Sumatra, but no, I haven't been affected at all. Apparently a couple of people at my guesthouse felt tiny little rumbles, but I didn't even feel that and actually didn't know about the earthquake until I heard them talking. Take a look here if you're interested in more details.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all of my FAVORITE moms out there - you know who you are! Unfortunately, I can't be there to share brunch with you or give you flowers, so instead, go take a look at this picture and this one, and know that I'm thinking of you.

Much love and big hugs!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Could Lake Toba be any farther away?

Today was a long day. How long was it exactly? Well, I left my guesthouse this morning at 8:15am, walked for 20 minutes to get into town, and took a tuk-tuk to the bus station. From there I rode three hours back to Medan and took another tuk-tuk to another bus station, also in Medan (that took about a half hour). I transfered to a second bus and pretty much wished I was dead. The bus was crowded and very hot. I mean, what kind of bus doesn't have A/C and only has tiny little windows at the top that slide open?? Ugh. That bus arrived in Parapat about five hours or so later, but my trip still wasn't over. A short walk had me at the boat jetty where I scarfed dinner and waited an hour for the ferry to head to Samosir Island in Lake Toba. An hour-long boat ride and another short walk and FINALLY, I made it to Liberta Homestay where I'll be resting my head for a couple of days. Whew.

After all that, I think I'm in need of an ice cold beer. I'll try to upload the monkey and orangutan pics that I know people are waiting for tomorrow.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Success

If a successful jungle trek is measured by blisters, then I had one (big ugly) success today. If, on the other hand, success is measured by the number of wild orangutan spottings, then I had 11 times the success. Woo!


I was hot and sweaty and kept being bitten by mosquitoes because my bug repellent was being sweat right off, but when my guide and I turned a corner and I saw my first orangutan, I knew it had all been worth it. Well, until my guide started freaking out a little bit and telling me we had to get away from her. Fast. I was like, dude, hold on a second, I'll kill myself trying to get down this hill if I move any faster. Afterwards he told me that her name is Mina and she can be very aggressive. She's actually bitten my guide before and he had to go to the hospital.

Besides the orangutans, I also saw lots of long-tail macaques and Thomas leaf monkeys, too. The national park where I was trekking is also home to elephants, tigers, and rhinoceroses and man, wouldn't it have been cool to see those? But those aren't the types of animals that are hanging around the edges of the park and I wasn't up for a week long trek into the jungle.  

Well, internet in Bukit Lawang is expensive and agonizingly slow, so that's all for now. I will upload the rest of the monkey shots when I'm back in a city.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What's up, dude?

Since there's not a whole lot going on right now, I was going to wait until I had something interesting to write home about. But some people like to worry and the SPOT doesn't seem to be working, so here I am with a random bullets type of post.

* At least two people have commented "What's up, dude?" when I told them I was American. Either this is how they think all Americans talk, or the surf culture is so entrenched that even in the jungle you can't get away from it.

* Yes, I'm actually in the jungle again! Who woulda thunk it after I was so excited about getting out last time? But there's a good reason for me to be here. I'm currently in one of the few places in the world where I can see wild orangutans. That was one of the things I said ages ago that I wanted to do, so. . .here I am.

* In Bukit Lawang I'm staying at a cute place called Garden Inn (which, unfortunately, reinforces how much I was getting ripped off for my gross room in Medan because this place is way nicer and only Rp5000/$0.55 more expensive). There are three resident cats here named Michael Jackson (he's black and white), Mike Tyson (he's a fighter and you can tell from looking at him), and Eileen (she's a little unsteady on her feet, supposedly from a snake bite she received). Am I the only one who finds their names amusing?

* I'm figuring out that flying is just as cheap as buses in Indonesia, only much quicker, so it looks like I'll be flying a few times in the next month. Yay! I love flying.

Hmmm. That might be all I have for now, although I'm sure I'll think of something just as soon as I log off. . .