Saturday, November 17, 2007

Jakarta Halloween

We never got to fully experience the spectacle that is Halloween in Jakarta so this year, our first Halloween as a family in the States, we pulled out all the stops.

It started with several pumpkins being bought a few weeks before Halloween to decorate our porch and get the festive atmosphere set. It was nice except for he fact that the same squirrel tandem that has reeked havoc o by yard digging for grubs also laid waste to the pumpkins. I like animals in general but I do not like these squirrels. They are precocious and quite "cheeky" nonchalantly ignoring my verbal tirades, which forces me to get physical. Typically I end up throwing something at them which usually suffices in sending them scampering a few feet away where they, bristle and run to the backyard to dig p more grubs.

The official Halloween festivities began when we carved several pumpkins. We thought that Emmerson would be really into it but she thought it was gross and avoided the entire ritual. So Alicia carved one and I ended up carving the first pumpkin in my life and then another. I was quit proud of my tow pumpkins and kept them inside until the actual Halloween day to avid the squirrels form getting at them.

The Brookfield chamber of commerce organized "Monster o Mainstreat" where local business open their doors to trick or teeters offering Emmerson a test run of the real thing. It was funny to see Emmrson bellied up to he bar of the local tavern in her bumble bee suit loading up her pumpkin shaped satchel.

She did well in the test run and I was excited to take her out Halloween evening for the real thing. I came home from work and expected her to be waiting expectantly at the door in her bumblebee outfit ready to go - but such was not the case. She did not want to go. Eventually, I convinced her to fire up and get her suit on so we could go and get some loot.

Once we hit the firs house and she realized what this was all about - getting candy, she was full on into it. At the second house we hit the lady ladling out the goods cooed about Emmerson get up but then said "oh she must be so cold without any socks on". It was indeed a chilly night and in the rush to get going I forgot to pt socks on her. I offer Emmrson my socks but she was in the zone and flitted off to the next potential source of treats.

It took her a few run through before she got the "Trick or Treat" chant in order - at first she would ring the door bell and then say "Trick or Treat" before anyone came to he door - but eventually she go the hang of it. We loaded up, so much so that I had to carry her candy laden pumpkin bin and it was a good time overall.

These are actually the second Halloween in Brookfield as evidenced by the recycled bee suit from Emmerson the year before.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Chicago Summer 07

Getting big, little girl in front of Buckingham Fountain in Grant Park, Chicago.

Whoa Ada!!

Street fest dancing.

Krape Park duck boats

A few excerpts from some emails I recently sent. Presently too busy trying to figure out what is creating all the huge holes in my lawn to properly tend to this post. It looks like a discourteous golfer took chipping practice in my backyard.

Listen to my last 24 hours. Interrupted five minutes before school got out yesterday afternoon by an announcement - "tornado warning - this is not a drill". so we get the kids (3000) of them out into the hallways and wait fro the storm to blow over - and blow it did. trees down everywhere, power lines, etc

an hour later we are released from the building. i walk to the train line and their are branches down all up and down the tracks. after about a 3 hr train commute - i get home to a house with no electricity. so i sat around in the dark waiting for the elctricity to come back on so I could watch my newly installed cable. no dice. woke up this morning at 5:40 - 20 minutes late - because still no electricty and manual clock not obnoxious enough. no hot water in the shower due to electric hotwater heater.

walk to the train station only to see my train pull up when I was about 200 yards away - no way I could make it. turned around and walked home - and on the way realized that my car was in the garage - which has an electric garage door opener. by this time i had worked up a healthy sweat due to my brisk walks. fortunately my garage is goofy and has two big doors - but one opens up onto the lawn and is not electric - so i opened it and white trash like drove across my lawn to get to the street.

halfway into the hour drive i get a call on my hp from my father in law telling me that they called his house (where i stayed this summer) to tell me that my school is closed. so here i sit in my empty school thinking about how nice it was to hear the generator click in while i was watching tv at night during a power outage...

from the other side ...

thursday we had the stomr i told you about the other day. power out all over chicago. friday morning power still out but we had set manual alarm clock - for FIVE TWENTY - the time I now have to get up. the alarm did not work as well and I got up at 5:40. i was about 200 yrds from the train when i saw it pull up to the station - all i could do was get really sad and watch it pull away. turned around and headed back to the house to drive. my run to the train had got my sweat going - so i was prety well sturated - nothing quite like being saoked with sweat in your work clothes that you are going to be wearing for the next 10 hours. as i approached my house i realized i had quite a serious dilema ahead of me. my garage door is electric and the power was out. i could not turn on the lights in the garage to see how to do it manually so i was screwed. but fortunately our garage also has a big door facing the lawn which is manual. so i opened it up and drove across our lawn to get to the street. half way to work i get a call on my handphone - school was canceled for the day .....

i'm considering making a reality show

of my present life - my life as a clueless new homeowner.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jakarta to Chicago

We have moved to the Chicago area to a small community called Brookfield. Moving to the States has been quite the adventure. The various times we have moved overseas, everything has been prearranged concerning housing and such making the actual move rather strait forward. Not so with this move back to the States as we touched down in Ohare airport with two little ones, no vehicles and no where to live. Fortunately we secured jobs while still in Indonesia. So the last few weeks have been a blur of car and house shopping and dealing with other items to get ourselves established over here as a family. After looking at around 20 houses and having one deal fall through, we have a contract on a house. Now we jump through all the paper work hoops and write lots of checks.

Our first house. It has a deck, a good kitchen and seems to run well, so I like it.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Jakarta Baby Revisited

I am presently typing with one hand because my other is helping to cradle our three day old baby. Ada Rose Duell was born at 4pm in Medistra hospital, Jakarta, Indonesia on the 17th of May. She is presently making little sheep like sounds while sleeping.

Emmerson is growing nicely into her big sister role, We were a bit curious to how this would go because of some of the comments made by Emmerson about her prospective little brother or sister. When I told her that we were going to bring home a baby - she looked very concerned shook her head emphatically and said "no baby". Wayan, Emmerson' s nanny, told me that Emmerson said "give the baby to Lelise?" - who is another nanny of friends of ours. More to come later as this one hand typing is getting quite unpleasant.

Here are the vital statistics and my initial thoughts on the birth of Ada.


Name: Ada Rose Duell

Weight: 9lbs

Length: metric - Alicia figured out the poundage and told me - I failed the metric unit in the 5th grade and have no idea what the centimeter equivalent is so ignored this bit of data.

Ian here reporting for Alicia. We (and yes, I realize I did basically nothing - my duty this time around was to fan Alicia when she got hot - but am still going to use the inclusive plural) were expecting quite an ordeal due to our experience with Emmerson, but what a difference.

Emmerson took something like 36 hours to have - Ada didn't (I don't know when women officially begin counting the hours - have to wait for Alicia for that data)

The epideral with Emmerson didn't take - the epideral with Ada knocked Alicia's lower half into a very content state of being. At one point she said something like "I think something is going on, can you get a nurse" - the baby was already visible!

Emmerson took an hour of pushing with intense pain - the nurses had to tell Alicia when to push with Ada because she could barely feel the contractions.

Emmerson finally arrived, bleated like a lamb once or twice and then slept for several days all bundled up in her wrap - Ada came out screaming like crazy and had already removed her wrap five minutes after being placed in the incubator.

Emmerson had a fine mist of blond hair - Ada has a huge mop of black hair

After Emmerson, Alicia was a sweaty mess - less than an hour after Ada, she was eating dinner and watching American Idol

I came home and showed the video I took of Ada on our macbook to Emmerson and told her the name of the new baby - she looked intently and said her name, so hopefully she will be a good big sister.

Alicia is doing fine - impressively beautiful even after pushing out 9 lbs of kid. Ada is wrinkly and beat up looking but I am expecting her to pan out fine.

Burrito baby.

Excited big sister and mom

Celebratory sign outside our apartment - typically done in Indo.

Jakarta to Kalimantan

Can not locate these pictures anywhere .... too bad - actually, I think I uploaded many onto a powerpoint ... will post those but am missing many so the write-ups don't relate to some of the images but want to keep the write ups for memory sake.

Mining is big business in Kalimantan as evidenced by this sign that greets arriving visitors in the airport. This is the first sign that you see as you enter the airport from the tarmac.

This picture is taken from the lodge that is built into the slope of one side of a valley. At the base of the valley is a group of mandmade islands where the orangs that are being rehabed live. On the other slope are enormous cages that house the rehabed orangs waiting for reintroduction into their natural habitat.

The ecolodge - very impressive.

The fire tower provides for an excellent survey view of the area and of the work being done by the Samboja group.

Dave H. making a commando style exit from the "Jungle Truck", which was needed to navigate many of the muddy roads in the area. It was a Mercedes Benz truck made for farmers back in Germany. It was widely used in Germany during WWII and is often modified to serve safari adventures.

An orang on one of the rehab islands. You can not get too close to the orangs as they must break their relationship with humans to successfully be reintroduced into the wild. Also orangs are very susceptible to human diseases, another reason for keeping the distance. One of the islands has several orangs that have hepatitis - they will never be reintroduced into a natural habitat as they could easily decimate a population living in the wild by spreading the disease.

We played a friendly match against the Samboja team. They played some nice football and the pitch was huge - actually it had no side boundaries and the ref was quite willing to let play progress well into the underbrush bordering the field - definite home team advantage

Samboja refers to an area in Kalimantan about an hours drive from the capital city, Balipapan. About fifty years ago the area was clear cut by logging companies and left to fend on its own. The results were typical of deforested areas: soil depletion, species loss, and hearty fast growing "weedy" plants covering the previously forested landscape. The Samboja organization, part of BOS (The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation), consists of three different projects; orangutan and sunbear rehabilitation and with the orangutans, eventual release back into their natural habitat, reforestation of the area with hardwood trees, and an ecolodge. We took our students to Samboja for a week so they could experience first hand a very interesting and unique aspect of Indonesia.

Planting teak trees. Difficult work as the scruff that has grown up in the area is quite dense and needs to be removed in order for the teak saplings to successfully take root and grow.

Preparing seedling soil pots in the nursery. One of the highlights of this part of the trip was sampling the various fruits growing in the nursery area. When the head gardener noticed my curiosity in the different fruit trees, he began taking me from tree to tree, giving me fruit to try - very exciting as several types were new to me.

In the honey bear compound.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Jakarta's Latest ManU Fan

The other day Emerson exchanged her clothes for one of my soccer jerseys. She then proceeded to run around the room yelling "Go ManU" for the next twenty minutes.

still hunting for this image ... will have to settle for this one until I find the Man U chanting child!

Emmerson in mid chant.

And Emmerson with a studious look.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Santa's Sleigh: Bonding in Jakarta

I do believe these images are lost forever, which might just be for the best as they were rather disturbing .... read on.

Safari Land. The blurry effect is to replicate what your mind has to be like when you enter into this land. You can see the dragon returning to its stable and the giraffe emerging from Jungle Land taking a brave little girl for a ride she will never forget - even if she wants to.

I have finally arrived at the point in parenting where I can manage going to those “funland” places where they have ball crawls, see saws, bouncing things and various other dangerous devices. There was a time in my life when I would never even consider stepping foot in one of these places let alone actively participate in and support its existence. But things have changed and now I join thethrongs of nannies in making sure that the little ones are not crushed by the big hyper kid doing a WWF style, off the ropes dive into the ball crawl.
The “funland” at our mall is called Safari Land and the play area has a sort of jungle theme and is called Jungle Jumpland or something of the sort. There is a procedure to getting your kid into Jungle Jumpland and of course it is filled with all sorts of complicated steps and maneuvers. The workers already treat me with a bit of wary skepticism – because I am not Indonesian and not a nanny. Add to the fact that I forget the requisite socks and look like a slack jawed yokel because I enter into that glassy eyed, just short of shock stage that dads go into when they undertake things like themed restaurants, toddler/mother care type stores, and “funlands”.
But I am changing and now enter Safari Land like a seasoned veteran, bring my own socks and help manage the tumbling toddlers determined to somehow hurt themselves even though everything has rounded edges and is relatively soft. Due to my new found confidence, I felt it was finally time to conquer one of the more bizarre offerings of Safari Land; the forward moving, machine operated, rideable creatures.

The Chinese Dragons make quite an impression as they lurch out of Safari Land into the mall proper.

Four years ago, upon first seeing these things in action, they were so startlingly strange and unusually fascinating that I would actually follow them around the mall. Unfortunately, a description does not do these things justice but I will give it a shot. They include a variety of animals, a few Chinese dragons and a Santa’s sleigh attached to two reindeer. Most are in various states of disrepair, the lion is missing an eye, the fur on dog is ratty and patchy so it looks like it has contracted mange, the elephant has one tusk and it is sagging. They make quite a frightening site as they shuffle jerkily around the mall like something out of a Hollywood, B Zombie movie.


Four years of living in Jakarta and two years of being a dad do a lot to a person, and today I actually thought this forlorn looking group of critters looked neat and that Emmerson would enjoy a ride on one. I bought her a ticket and then allowed her to peruse the lineup so she could choose one to ride. She chose Santa’s Sleigh. I didn’t like Santa’s Sleigh and tried to urge her to select the deranged dragon or the mangy dog, but she was set on the sleigh. She had to wait her turn as another kid had dibs and I watched with a tiny bit of concern as the reindeer began shuffling and the sleigh began jerking rather violently up and down, and back and forth. My concern grew as the sleigh came into site around a corner on its return journey. The carriage was still bucking erratically and the kid had a strange look on his face – one that said “I know this is supposed to be fun and I should be smiling but in fact it is scary and I am confused by this whole experience”. Unfortunately, Emmerson's skills of observations and intuition are not quite as keen as mine and she did not understand the look on the child as he came down the final stretch of a very disturbing experience. When I urged her to select another of the less violent looking creatures she again, insisted on Santa’s Sleigh.

The infamous Santa's Sleigh waiting for its next victim/rider.

I believe the chicken was out of commission or it had been acting particularly ornery and its handler had put it in the corner for a "time out" session.
When the guide (a handler trained in the unique idiosyncratic behavior of each of the creatures) spurred the reindeer on and the sleigh began to buck violently, I realized that even though Emmerson was smiling, she was actually in danger of getting whiplash from this ride. After about 20 feet of shuffling and bucking I actually placed my hand behind Emmerson’s head to keep it from whipping backward as the sleigh lunged this way and that. Every time I would take my hand away she got that same confused look on her face worn by the previous rider. To add to the overall bizarre and increasingly disturbing quality of the experience, half way through the trip, we heard emanating from deep within the bowels of one of Santa's reindeer not Jingle Bell's or some other appropriate Christmas themed music, but Celine Dion's voice belting out a particularly emotional rendering of the Titanic theme song. Finally, the handler guided the reindeer home and the sleigh was put to rest. I looked at Emmerson and she at me in a special, knowing way; for we had just experienced one of those unique moments in life where a special bond is forged that will remain with us for the rest of our lives. So in the future when she is angry at me for not letting her stay out late, upset because she failed her driving test again, or mad at her mom for embarrassing her again in front of her friends, I will simply have to say “Santa’s Sleigh” and everything will be seen in its proper perspective, and be OK.

Another "fun" land. Emmerson and I on the elephant ride.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Jakarta Traffic

The other evening I went out for a run. My route primarily consists of two residential neighborhoods which are quite nice to run in. But to get from one neighborhood to the other, a few busy streets need navigating. It was late afternoon on a Friday and the streets were full up with rush hour traffic. I was half way into my run when I came to the first crossing. I stood on the curb for only a brief moment before I turned towards traffic, lifted my arm as one would do when parting waters, evoking a higher power, or acknowledging a crowd of devoted followers and stepped directly into the line of cars barreling down on me. I strutted across the street, arm held high, staring each car down, exuding absolute confidence as I stepped defiantly into each of the three lanes of oncoming traffic. When I made it to the other side and began running again, I thought to myself, what in the hell did I just do? It was then I realized that I had unconsciously used for the first time, one of the superpowers that all residence of Jakarta eventually get which enable them to survive life in this city - the ability to stop moving vehicles by simply holding one's arm aloft and stepping boldly into the line of traffic. Perhaps it was simply a matter of time before the two required pieces came together - as both the arm motion and bravado are essential - attempting a crossing using one without the other is courting disaster. And I think when you leave Jakarta the superpowers stay behind - so don't raise your arm and step boldly into the path of an oncoming New York cabby.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Jakarta Flood

The street in front of the school.
Parts of Jakarta were flooded last week. It rained hard for two days but the ground was not yet saturated as the monsoon had been mild so far this year. So the rain alone should not have been enough to cause the massive flooding that certain areas experienced. All sorts of explanations have been whirling around but most point at corrupt and/or ineffective government. Much of Jakarta is at or below sea level so it is very important to control the amount of water coming into the city from the surrounding hills and within the city itself. This is done by a canal sytem through which water can be moved from one part of the city to another and eventually out to sea. Well, this did not work last week. Several of our friends houses and cars were damaged and we were inconvenienced somewhat but 1000's of people lost everything - and as is typical in the developing world - it is the poor who are most effected. Those with money have second stories on their houses and the means to evacuate. If you want to help, go and make a zillion dollars, pay off all the government officials to go away, then hire a team of urban developers and engineers the likes of who appear on the Discovery Channel type shows like MegaMonsterMachines. Pay them a ton of money if and only if they successfully rebuild the infrastructure of Jakarta.

Actually there are a number of relief agencies doing an excellent job of taking care of those in need and of course they need money. We are focusing on several members of our Indonesian staff who lost most of their stuff. The following are some images from our experience with the flood.

Our school is built up a bit from the street so most of it remained above water. The soccer field became a lake but that was about it. We also had a generator and our own supply of water, both of which were unavailable throughout the rest of the community. Several teachers who lived off campus ended up making their way to the school. Here is Olga, with her two little ones, Kiana, and Isabella, making her way to school from her flooded house, with the help of a few other teachers. It ended up we could not stay at school because getting off the campus was impossible unless you walked in thigh deep water or you hired a large truck to get you out. We did not have enough food at school to feed everyone. We also had many kids, including several toddlers and newborns and Alicia is 7 months pregnant, so we decided it would be best to evacuate to an unaffected part of the city for a few days.

The army truck leaving NJIS.
We decided to evacuate on Sunday, two days after the flood began. The water had been slowly increasing and all sorts of rumors were spreading about flood gates in the hills being opened, super high tide not allowing the water to recede, pumps here and there being broken. NJIS is built on a little high ground so it becmae a vitual island. Our generator kept the power and water running but we could not get out to food, medical service and such as the roads had become rivers. So somone made a few phone calls and the army came in one of their big transport trucks to get us out of the flooded area.

The army truck trying to navigate a way out of Kelapa Gading.
In addition to the water, broken down abandoned vehicles, underwater hazards like potholes and curbs, and various people walking and floating about made driving a challenge.

Emmerson on the truck.
She was pretty good thoughout the entire ordeal but the truck ride created a bit of a dilemma for her. It was during nap time so her body wanted to sleep, but it was exciting so she did not want to miss anything. Her curious mind won - but it was a battle.

Arriving at the hotel, where we could only stay for one night before moving again, because their water pump broke - not good when it is full to capacity of evacuees - many who had waded through nasty Jakarta flood water to get there.