Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Jakarta Travels in Cambodia

Some random shots of people, places and things from a recent trip to Cambodia.

Kids being kids on the Ton Le Sap

Victims of landmines playing traditional music outisde of the Banyon temple
Evidence of landmines were everywhere, the most disturbing being the large number of maimed people. There are many organizations in Cambodia trying to assist in this frustrating siutation. The most successful of the development programs are the ones that train and encourage the affected people to help themselves. One of the more interesting ones we experienced was a restaurant whose employees were primarily street kids and orphans. They learned the business while sharing the various duties of running the restuarant. The food was excellent and the waiters memorized all the orders. They brought me the wrong thing at first but we all laughed about it and they seemed pretty good natured about the whole thing. The place was packed out so the work crew was defintiely learning the hard way - which is often the most effective. I think the place was called the Banyan Tree and it is located in Phnom Pen across from the school turned prison by the Khmer Rouge This group of musicians performed along the trail to the Tom Pra. They accepted donations and sold CD's of their music. Very nice to stroll through the forest of the temple complex accompanied by their playing.

Lonely Planet Guy
Probably the most photgraphed old guy in Cambodia. He is on the cover of one of the editions of the Lonely Planet: Cambodia. He hangs out at the place where picture was taken along with a couple fo the Lonely Planet books, gets his picture taken and sells trinkets.

Girls Playing in Siem Reap
I snapped a shot of these two pirls playing a game which involved using chalk to mark out the various grids formed by the tiles in the sidewalk. Soon after I snapped the photo I was in the bargaining session of my life over a few postcards and some bracelets. I am not a big fan of such activity but I had nothing better to do while Alicia was pouring over every nook and cranny of some nice little shop with really special things to buy so I figured I would hang out and mess around with them. They were full on and had a very good pitch going. They asked where I was from and then told me all sorts of random facts about the US. They then started producing the vaious goods they had to sell and went to town. Finally they wore me down and I went into get money from Alicia. When I told them I had to do that they asked what my wifes name was and when we walked out of the store she was greeted with a chorus of "hello miss lisa". The next several days whenever I would see one of the girls around the streets they would smile and address me by name. I don't know what the racket is but I am sure that most of their money is turned over to a guy wearing a bad suit and see through dress socks or the Cambodian equivalent of such a uniform, which is sad. But these girls sure had some attitude and won't be easily forgotten.


The entrance to the Banyon temple

One of the many giant faces of Bhudda at the Banyon

Life on the Ton Le Sap: Houseboat

Life on the Ton Le Sap: Small boat

Life on the Ton Le Sap: Small boat at sunset

Ton Le Sap sunset

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Jakarta Baby

Not so tiny anymore ... Emmerson is a bit bigger and a lot more mobile than my last Jakarta Baby post. These are from our recent trip to Cambodia.

Not so tiny baby in the airport

Tuktuk in Siem Reap

We hired a driver (car), Sawan, for each day we were in Siem Reap. Its relatively cheap and a good way to get from town to the various site seeing venues. Sawan was a really nice guy, very flexible and fun to talk to about things going on in Cambodia. When the Khmer Rouge were in power he was a little kid. His parents were sent away to work and he was raised by a family selected by the Khmer. I guess this was supposed to strengthen the tie to the state by weakening the link to families - another one of Pol Pots brilliant ideas.
But for getting around town a Tuktuk is the way to go. It is a carriage attached to a motorbike and is a pleasant way to travel. Many do take Tuktuks out of town and it looked pretty fun but not the best way to go with a squirmy little baby.

Emmerson and the waitress

Emmerson enjoys attention from pretty much anyone who will give it to her and the Cambodian people certainly obliged. My favorite was when we were eating at a restaurant and Emmerson began to fuss. This waitress came and took her away. She and Emmerson ended up hanging out in the back with the kitchen crew.
The food in Cambodia has some similarities to Thai - without quite as much heat, and to Vietnamese but with more of an emphasis on coconut curries. But it is unique in a variety of ways and is certainly its own cuisine. It was excellent.

Emmerson enjoying the attention

This group of monks was visiting from Korea and asked if they could get a photo with Emmerson. I snapped a few while they were posing for their friend.

With the boat guy on Ton Le Sap

Phnom Pen is attached to Siem Reap by the Ton Le Sap River and the lake by the same name. It is a rather bizarre natural situation as the river flow changes direction and the lake alternates between being a source or terminus for the river depending on the season. During the dry season the Ton le Sap River flows south towards the Mekong River and eventually into the South China Sea. In the wet season the rivers reverse direction and flow into the lake casing it to dramatically increase in size. Of course the people living on and around the lake have figured out how to take advantage of this phenomena and the area is the "rice basket" of Cambodia supplying most of the rice and fish for the country. Supposedly up to four crops of rice a year can be grown in the flood plains around the lake when the water recedes. i very much enjoy visiting the worlds natural wonders and was quite excited to finally get to see Ton Le Sap. Emmerson liked it too.

Emmerson on the boat

Not so tiny baby at Angkor Wat

At the Banyon

Sunset on Ton le Sap

Emmerson munching on a stalk of lemon grass. She seemed to like it - but then again she likes to chew on my wallet and keys as well.

Emmerson in the rice.

The rest of the pictures from our trip can be seen here Cambodia 05

Monday, November 07, 2005

Jakarta Travels Cambodia Temples

Monks relaxing during a visit to the Angkor Wat complex

Last week Idul Fitri was celebrated marking the end of Ramadan; the month of fasting in the Moslem calendar. The city of Jakarta gets real mellow as the effects of the fast (and lack of sleep - the prescribed time for the first and only meal until sunset is in the wee hours of the morning) begin to set in. Also many leave the city for their hometowns and thus traffic tends to be light which makes a huge difference in Jarkata life. While a week in a mellow Jakarta was enticing we opted to venture off to Cambodia via Singapore.

Singapore is always a pleasant and orderly respite from the craziness and chaos of Jakarta. There are many who criticize Singapore as too sterile, rigid and boring and praise Jakarta because it is not, but I enjoy the change. Its the simple things like a stroll through the city on an actual sidewalk without having to worry about dodging a motorized vehicle or maneuvering in, around or over a pothole, street vendor, cat family, garbage pile, parked truck, sleeping bajaj guy, and/or a number of other random and often curious objects which do make Jakarta perpetually interesting and yet rather taxing at the same time. Actually there are very few working sidewalks in Jakarta and those that do exist tend to disappear at random and often very inopportune times. For example, a supermarket might have a very nice and completely navigable sidewalk out front but it disappears at the end of the supermarkets property depositing the walker directly onto the street to fend with the madness of Jakartan traffic - which is traumatic enough in a vehicle let alone on foot. Or perhaps the sidewalk leads the foot voyager directly to a giant muddy field or maybe into a construction zone, again both quite exciting experiences, yet perhaps not the type of thrill one is seeking while out for a simple shop. A ride on the Singapore subway is a similarly simple yet soothing experience to the Singapore sidewalk stroll. The Jakartan answer to the subway, the bus way, just doesn't cut it. Maybe when they get the monorail up and running..... if you ever need to use the idiom "pipe dream" in a sentence, here is a good one: "The planned completion of the monorail in Jakarta is a pipe dream". I like Jakarta and I like Singapore and both for what the other is not.

After Singapore we headed off to Cambodia - a wonderful country with beautiful people - and I am not just writing that because that is what you are supposed to say about the people of such countries that tend to be off the beaten track and thus hold a certain mystic. Althoug our contact was limited in time and place, the people we met were incredibly helpful, genuinely friendly and simply pleasant to be around. Perhaps they are just happy to be rid of the horrors of their recent past and glad to see people from the rest of the world again or maybe it is just they way they are - anyway it was a special week.

The places we went are the typical things most tourists due - the temple tours, a visit to the Ton Le Sap (big lake), sites from the Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge nightmare. I think these were experiences that are represented well through images - so I am going to post a few from the bunch we took. One bit of advice - if you are planning on visiting Cambodia and have a rather detailed, busy and time sensitive itinerary, and have a baby who is just starting to crawl and is making up for months of immobiltity by trying to move around as much as babily possible - DO NOT miss the last plane of the day flying into the Cambodian city of your primary destination - it can really set in motion one serious butterfly effect. Some day, after time allows the mellowing mechanism of my brain to work its magic, I will see the experience as a funny little travel tale ... some day.

Cambodia: Temple Complexes

Ta Prohm entrance way

Ta Prohm - a tree flowing over the temple wall

Angkor Wat

A secondary building at the Angkor Wat complex

Emmerson making friends with some monks visiting from Korea

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Jakarta Traffic


Bajaj driver relaxing a bit before getting into the action

My Jakarta clean driving record went up in a giant puff of diesel exhaust the other day. I managed to get in three fender benders in about 20 minutes. My first one occurred when I refused to yield my position to the scourge of Jakarta roads, the public transport minivans. We began "the dance" properly enough. But it soon became evident that this merge was not going to end well as the minivanguy continued to pull into my lane and I continued to not yield. Laws of physics took over "when two moving objects attempt to occupy the same space ...." and the side of his car hit my front side bumper. The driver stopped and looked menacingly at me. I threw up my hands and did other stupid angry guy stuff. He then pulled over and checked the side of his vehicle for damage - of which there was about a 5 years worth of un-repaired fender benders. I got out of my car grumping and growling. He eventually conceded that the bump did no new damage to his vehicle and after a bit of drama scurried off to try someone elses patience. It was stupid all around - but these vehicles are one aspect of Jakarta traffic that I have not yet come to terms with.

Frazzled and rattled I carried on with my afternoon ritual. This involves driving to a few places all within less than a mile radius but takes a ridiculous amount of time because Jakarta traffic is stupider than guys when they get angry. My next annoyance occurred while I was dealing with the guards at the security stop for the neighborhood where our exercise club is located. I go here almost everyday and the guys act like they have never seen me before - actually I go through several times a day because I take Alicia there, leave and go hang out with Emmerson and then return to pick her up, exit and then enter yet again to go workout myself. This particular time they had some new thing where they actually made me present identification - the first time in two years. I found my wallet that was buried in my gym bag, and pulled out various cards for them to peruse. They saw my club member card and asked me why I didn’t have a sticker for my car. I told them because I was never issued one. This seemed to satisfy their desire to seem secure and they waved me through. As I was fumbling around with various papers, cards and my wallet, I took my foot off the brake to go forward. What I did not realize was that my car was in neutral and perched up a bit on the speed bump that they have at the security check. When I took my foot off the brake the car lurched backward into a motor scooter that was positioned about two inches off my back fender (space is a very relative concept). I stopped to survey the damage. The guy on the scooter was not concerned at all because nothing had happened to his scooter. But the security guys were trying to convince him otherwise - perhaps indicating “hey this is a grand opportunity for you to work this guy for some cash” - which indeed it was. They kept shaking various lose items on his bike implying that I was to blame - that most of the things they were fiddling with were moveable parts was irrelevant. The scooter guy just waved me on and I proceeded humbly on my way.

Dejected and disheartened I pulled into the downstairs parking lot at the club, drove to the spot where I typically park and began my pulling in ritual – which I have done hundreds of time without incident. But this was a special evening for me, and my car came to a sudden halt accompanied by an unpleasant crunching sound. I had miscalculated my turn and my bumper had crunched into the parking pillar.

Fortunately the guy who had the car before me decked out all the bumpers with reinforcement material so no physical damage was done, unfortunately I can not say the same for my emotional and psychological state. Jakarta traffic claims another victim.

Emmerson dealing with Jakarta traffic - going ....

going ....


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Summer Expedition

Base Camp - Freeport, Illinois at Mom and Dad Collin: Ross and Emmerson sporting her new "Sweet Child O' Mine" suit.

A little out of sync here with the posts but we were a little slow getting the pictures of our summer travels and visits ready. It's great living in Indo but is always a joy going home. The States is a pretty nice place. We set up base camp in Freeport, Illinois at Mom and Dad Collins. From there we made various excursions including trips to Indiana and Wisconsin. Alicia's relatives, Grandma Dorothy and Bill, graciously lent us their car; an Olds Delta 88 forged sometime back in the 80's. It was one of those great American cruising cars that seems to float down the highway. We also made a week long journey out to Colorado to visit more family and friends in the Denver area. This was Emmerson's debut in the States so I would typically say hi, present Emmerson and relegate myself to the background. It was great to see her interacting with all her cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, and new friends.

Base camp fun: Emmerson enjoying her first swing at the famous Krape Park. It has a really old carousel, duck feeding, frisby golf course, running trails, swan paddle boats, and the name itself is an anagram to boot! We all enjoyed Krape Park very much.

Taming the carousel.

Base Camp: An evening at the park with Grandma and Grandpa.

The Wisconsin Excursion: We have several friends and a few family members in the Madison area. It was fun driving there in our borrowed highway cruiser through the rolling hills of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Quite the difference from Indo driving. This was at the cow shed. The state fair livestock competitions are serious business. This hefty heifer was getting her measurements taken for the "pageant" - a curvy 483-536-462.

Emmerson wasn't quite sure what to make of the food court at the fair. I think the reality that they deep fry cheese curds and snickers bars blew her mind -or maybe it was just Shelly.

Emmerson's first cow.

Solo Excursion: I went to Indiana to visit the Duell clan. The Indiana Duell's have all returned to the area where they grew up and are fruitful and multiplying. Alicia, Mom Collin and Emmerson drove me half way and met my Aunt, Carrie and Maddy. This was taken at Grandma Sally's, a very fine breakfast eatery in Wheaton where we did the meet and swap.

Nate, Kara and kids took me to the airport where we met Alicia and Emmerson and introduced the little ones to eachother. Then it was off to Colorado.

The Colorado Excursion: Emmerson's first experience with cold up in the Colorado Rockies. She flapped her arms and legs a lot and kept trying to taste the wind with her tongue.

Another scenic view from our drive up into the Rockies with Ardis, the kids and Nana Duell.

Emmerson with Papa Duell

Emmerson very excited about being baptized.

Emmerson with the Colorado kids.

Our reunion with friends from our days in Honduras who are all from the Denver area.

Return to Base Camp: Back in Freeport, Emmerson bonding with Oscar the giant cat.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Jakarta Travel

Traveling in style. Emmerson in her fancy airplane bed somewhere over the Pacific.

We figured our travel time, door to door from Freeport, Illinois to Jakarta, Indonesia, was about 43 hours. There once was a time when I rather enjoyed long journeys especially if it involved airline travel; food, read, movie, sleep - repeat. Not a bad way to spend a day or two. But this was back in the footloose and baby free days. Emmerson is 6 months old today. She is quite a good traveler and has flown maybe 15 some odd times but the potential is always there for a mid-air major blow out. Air travel is particularly difficult with a little one. It’s not like you’re in a theater or restaurant and can step outside and go for a calming walk at 23,000 feet. Once airborne all you can do is hope for the best. I have become that disheveled looking guy clunking his way down the aisle laden with various unruly overflowing carry-ons, wet wipes bulging from the shirt pocket, blanket over the shoulder, spare binkies clipped here and there, a Mr. Banannaman dangling precariously from a diaper bag side pocket and one, wild-eyed, sleep-deprived, drooling baby that everyone desperately hopes does not sit anywhere near their seat. Needless to say my fondness for long distance travel has changed some.

We disembarked or is it embarked (does anyone ever accurately complete those arrival/departure cards? I fill them out differently every time and have never been questioned by immigration) from Chicago and just to mix things up a bit left from Midway, O'Hare's lesser known little sister. That leg of the trip was much less eventful than our first time we left from Chicago for Jakarta a few years back when we drove through one of the worst thunderstorms I have ever witnessed. It included torrential rain and intermittent periods of hale that had cars scurrying for any overhead protection they could find. Our luggage was on the roof rack and thus we began our epic journey with several dripping wet bags. I’m sure the baggage checkers loved rummaging through that mess. This time around the weather was fine. We arrived in LAX around 5 p.m. and hunkered down for an 8 hour layover. LAX is quite the scene. It is one of the worst international terminals I have experienced; rather ironic since it is a primary point of entry for visitors to the US. One might think the city of LA would construct a showcase airport, designed to energize and excite expectant visitors and see off those leaving with a heartfelt, good ole American “Y’all come back now, you hear?” or at least a Hollywoodesque "See you at the Movies" or "Keep Reaching for the Stars". Instead the message one gets is “don’t bother me and while you’re at it go home” which is maybe the sentiment many in California have these days…. I liken the international part of LAX to a cattle yard except a bit more depressing. Everyone mills around the huge central area looking befuddled, anxious and a bit scared. Various surly airline "cowboys" herd the passengers into the correct (sometimes) "corral" where they wait for their fate to be determined:

Traveler: “Hi, we would like bulkhead seats and our bags to be checked through to our final destination if possible.”
Airline Person: “You need to pass your bags through security before you get your boarding pass – see that line over there with 5000 people in it, you need to go there and have your bags checked, then you can come back here and check in.”
Traveler: “But I have already waited an hour in this check-in-line to get my boarding pass and check in our luggage!”
Airline Person: “Didn’t you see that sign over there at the entrance to the check-in-lines concerning baggage security?”
Traveler: “Oh you mean the sign that the construction guys digging up the floor have hung their jackets over?”
Airline Person: “Yes that’s the one. Have a nice day.”

Throw in various LA oddballs, dramatic Latin goodbyes, security guys with machine guns, peddlers, people sleeping in corners here and there and it makes for a pretty interesting scene, unless you are in the midst of it with a small child - then it is rather tedious.

Fortunately my brother Eric and his family live in the area and met us for dinner and a visit. Emmerson was wired out of her gourd. It was well into her sleeping time but so much was going on that she did not know what to do. She was wide eyed and appendage flapping the entire time. My two nieces, Erica and Ashley, loved Emmerson in this mode and kept her occupied. Xiamara, my sister in law from El Salvador, and Alicia commiserated over the difficulties of living overseas and saying goodbye to family. Eric fulfilled his elderly brother duties and made fun of me for what I was to experience in the next day or so.

My brothers family at LAX with one very wired baby.

The flight from LA to Taipei was not full so everyone was able to spread out and we had two empty seats beside us in the middle bulkhead section. Emmerson slept in a wall mounted bassinet for most of that leg of the journey. In the a.m. of that flight an elderly Vietnamese women came and sat beside us and became Emmerson’s surrogate grandma. She held Emmerson for a bit and then gave us all sorts of advice on how to keep her happy. She also informed us that we should give Emmerson lots of water or she would not grow hair. Emmerson is still pretty bald so I hooked her up to a water bottle as soon as we arrived home. The rest of the trip was without incident and we took some video footage of Emmerson in the various airports.

Making friends

Chang Kai Chek International in Taipei is a rather strait forward, no frills type of airport. They pleasantly warn visitors via various signs that the death penalty awaits those involved in drug trafficking in Taiwan – and have a nice day. Kuala Lumpur airport is quite modern, very clean and nice to hang out in. That you are in a Moslem country is evidenced by; the high number of women sporting black, head to toe burqas along with really expensive designer sun glasses and high fashion shoes; the conveniently placed prayer rooms; and the outrageous price of beer. Not only the women were shrouded this time around in KL, but the entire city was covered in a mysterious fog. It just so happened that our arrival coincided with a curious environmental situation that would eventually escalate into what the Malaysian government has deemed a national emergency. Smoke from fires in Sumatra were blowing across the Straits of Malacca and engulfing peninsular Malaysia in a lung busting haze.

Finally we landed in Soekarno – Hatta International Airport, where we met Samsun, our friends the Wilsons’ driver and were whisked away through Jakarta’s own locally produced lung busting haze. It was incredibly difficult to leave friends and family in the States but after two car-rides, five airports, one monorail, three airplanes, five airline meals, and 43 hours it was finally good to be home.