All posts by iamlabunda

Cash crisis 

Have you heard of the Indian cash crisis? I had read a little blurb last week on The Skimm, my daily sassy news blurb, but didn’t think a whole lot about about it.

“At the root of this chaos is the fact that India is an overwhelmingly paper currency country: some 90% of the transactions are done with cash….The two scrapped denominations – 500 and 1,000 rupees – account for more than 85% of the value of cash in circulation.” *

Basically much of India’s economy runs on cash and many people who operate in cash never pay taxes. In an effort to force the issue, make more people pay taxes, and register the money they currently have, the government declared the two biggest bills, 500 and 1000 rupees, worth just over $7 and $14 respectively, to no longer be legal tender. They gave 4 hours notice for this.

Can you imagine? Suddenly most of your money, say all your $20s, is completely worthless and ATMs only give out $1s.

There will be new bills coming at the end of December, but until then, the 100 rupee note, worth not quite $1.50, will have to be exchanged for at banks with ID and only those notes are available at ATMs.

I hope I didn’t lose you yet!

Blah, blah, blah…right? But this is significantly affecting our stay in India! Anywhere we can pay in card is fine…but those places are very few and tend to be the relatively expensive restaurants and shops. Most places operate in cash only. The cash that Paul had obtained from an ATM before this announcement is dwindling and it has proven very difficult to exchange the last big bill he has. The banks have gigantic lines spilling onto the streets long before they open every day.

Why don’t we just get more at another ATM? They are all out of cash. All of them! There are long lines or crowds around all of the ATMs and banks in the area until that machine is empty, then the crowd rushes to the next one only to have the same experience repeated. Not to mention, there is a really low weekly amount that can be withdrawn anyway. We have visited multiple ATMs multiple times a day since arriving with no luck yet!

We have been in countries with interesting government and bank situations happening before, but it has never affected us quite this directly. When we visited Athens, Greece last year we knew well ahead of our arrival of the bank crisis and were able to stockpile Euros in preparation. Unfortunately, the demonetization in India occurred while Paul was already here, and since there are no new bills yet, I couldn’t even order money ahead at home.

Yesterday and today, as the kids and I went in search of a place for lunch that would accept credit cards, we were told no at several establishments. As we walked around, we passed about 4 banks/ATMs with lines/crowds around them. All of us felt the frustration of the men there. That isn’t to say that I feel unsafe…I just don’t want to hang around any longer than absolutely necessary.

In a classic example of Indian culture and not telling someone “no,” the manager of our apartment has told us every day that he will exchange our big, now worthless bill at a given time or part of the day and then never shows. We will see! Today he says he will be here “post lunch” for the exchange…I’m not holding my breath!

In the meantime, one of Paul’s co-workers has kindly spotted us some cash and another is working with a reputable agency to help us exchange at a reasonable rate some American cash we brought.

Until we get more cash, we will continue visiting a little “provisions” store that sells some western grocery items and accepts credit cards. Lunch yesterday ended up being an Indian version of Top Ramen with some eggs and Coke. It works for now. Just don’t tell my mom that I didn’t have any vegetables with that meal! 😊

Thankfully, this story is not going to end on a sad note.

Late in the afternoon, the apartment manager came to the door and exchanged the 1000 bill for us. Yay!

The Thomas Cook agency that exists only to exchange money is all tapped out. So, they won’t be of help to us yet.

But late at night, Paul went to three ATMs. He was the 26th person in line at 11:30 at night. 30 minutes later the machine still had money and we are thrilled to have some cash in hand!


Today, this is what victory looks like: brand new bills in serial number order. 

(Here is a good, quick, updated article on the situation http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-37983834 and The Skimm linked to this article http://money.cnn.com/2016/11/08/news/economy/india-rupee-notes-ban-currency/ )

*http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-37947029

The first 24 hours in India, a deliriously tired brain dump

Getting here from Seattle took almost exactly 24 hours: arriving at the airport 3 hours before the flight, one 14 1/2 hour flight to Dubai, a couple hours in that airport, and a 4 hour flight to Delhi. Arriving in New Delhi you could see from the air the dichotomy of big nice buildings next to shanties as well as the pollution which lay like a big blanket of thick fog over the city.

Leaving the airport took about an hour: winding our way to immigration, finally finding and filling out the official arrival forms which were in short supply, standing in line and passing through immigration, walking straight through customs, locating our bags on the luggage carousel, and making our way through bunches of people to meet up with our fearless leader and our ride. The forms were the weird thing for me. Why were the forms in short supply? This seems so silly as there are large planes arriving often. An old man made the rounds, carefully placing on the tables a few forms at a time from his ample supply. It struck me as funny that these would be so carefully rationed. Then the sour faced immigration officer barely said a word other than, “go”. He was the same with my daughter who almost always gets a kind or curious smile at these official desks. The baggage area was clear and efficient, but we had to make our way through an entire plane load of returning Indian army men …a touch intimidating! Then through the maze of exits, through the third crowd of people holding signs to meet incoming foreigners, just a moment, and then seeing Paul. We made it! Three weeks was a LONG time apart. Hugs all around. 🙂  https://www.instagram.com/p/BM0jXFdFNcw/

From the baggage claim area to the parking garage, the air seemed to get thicker and stinkier with each step. By the time we were all the way out, our eyes stung a bit and we talked about making ourselves breathe through our noses. “Should we get our masks out?” asked my very sensitive-to-change T. Not yet, let’s let our bodies make some of the adjustments. The cigarette smoke and car exhaust was amplified in the covered airport pickup area. You could see the haze in the air, even just looking from one door to another. (For an insightful article on the pollution of New Delhi, read http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/04/160425-new-delhi-most-polluted-city-matthieu-paley/)

We were met by a car with a driver and guide. This feels so luxurious! We make our way to the car which is a Toyota Innova; not available in the US, but almost just like the Kijang we rode in Indonesia and a seating arrangement like a slightly miniaturized minivan. Seat belts in the front and middle seats, upper belt but no connection/bite to be found for the back ones. If this ends up being the same car we ride all over in a couple weeks, I will have to dig around and find them, I am sure they are there somewhere! I don’t want to go for long drives without that safety feature.

The roads themselves are pretty bad. Huge potholes and (completely unnecessary) speed bumps abound. As we get on to the main road it gets a little better.

“Don’t even worry about them driving in the lanes,” Paul comments as I am looking ahead. I think he misread me. I’m not worried even a bit. At home I would be concerned about driving anywhere like we are (I really like knowing and following the rules), but somehow I am comfortable with the fact that lane use is not a thing here. Drivers move fluidly all over the road to avoid ruts, potholes, or each other, usually on the left side of the road, but not always. Sometimes, a couple times every minute, a high beam flash or a horn communicates that someone wants someone else to move. It is just the language of the drivers.

There isn’t a ton to see as it is totally dark and in the middle of the night. We can see that things are just different…cars are parked an odd spaces on the edges of the road, empty shelters which I guess might be a restaurant during the day, a couple abandoned street food stands, and several wild dogs just standing in the road.

The kids and I are taking it all in and Paul announced that we are just about here. We turn off the main road (about the size of a four lane highway) and onto a side road. This road is about as wide as a nice residential street, but both sides have cars parked, squeezing the driving space, but the road is deserted now at 4:15 am.

We climb the stairs to our apartment. Paul did a great job scouting out the place. We think the manager may have read the blog and offered him an upgrade to a bigger place. We are in a huge, newly renovated, 3 bedroom apartment! We enter at the foyer and remove our shoes. The clean marble floors are nice and cool. Off to the left are a kitchen, living room/dining room, bedroom with attached bathroom, and a powder room. To the right are two more bedrooms each with attached bath. (There is actually a 4th bedroom there too, but it is shut off and under construction.) The main hallway is about 6 feet wide and extends from K’s bedroom door, along the length of T’s room, through the foyer and door, past the powder room and my bedroom on one side and the kitchen on the other through to the living room. The living room has three comfortable couches. Wow, this place is great!

Apparently they don’t install plumbing with p-traps here. As a result, the sewer smell comes up through the drains. To combat the smell, 2 marble-sized urinal cakes sit on every sink and shower drain. The resulting strong camphor smell permeates the place. When you close the bathroom doors for a while, then you can instead smell the smoky garbage/sewer from outside. Potayto-potahto.

We picked our rooms and set our bags down. I do some unpacking. We brought beef jerky and protein bars for snacks. Paul picked up some tea, coffee, cookies, and bread at the market before we arrived. The management has stocked the fridge with several liters of bottled water and a liter of milk. We munch on some beef jerky and drink some water. Flying that long definitely dehydrates you and when you only have short naps on the plane for that long, you body clock is all messed up. We are excited to be here, but exhausted, hungry and can’t stand the thought of food!

Then we decide it is time to sleep. We all slept from about 5:00 to about 9:00 I thought. Later K told me she got up at 7:00, talked to us, and then took a shower. Hm, I totally missed that, apparently I was tired! After three weeks without Paul and then traveling, I was ready to be “off-duty” for a few hours!

The Seahawks game started at 7:00 am our time. We missed most of it, but awoke in time to see most of the fourth quarter. What an ending! Go Hawks!!

Our “road scholars” at work in our living/dining room

After a semi lazy morning of sleeping in, showers, and some work/school work it was time to get out, walk around the neighborhood, and find some lunch. The kids and I are pretty dazed, but Paul guides us along as we see things for the first time. This is so much like Indonesia! The roads with cars, scooters, auto rickshaws, and bikes all weaving in and out of each other. Sidewalks that are molded cement pieces placed on top of deep storm drains that are mostly in place between uneven driveways and trees.

We made our way to the Green Park Market, a strip mall of sorts about a 5 minute walk away. We walked up and down the two blocks checking everything out. There are store fronts with lots of little shops selling everything from underwear to groceries, hair salons, and cafes. There is a broad sidewalk in from that leaves lots of space for vendors to set up shop selling food, flowers, vegetables, scarves, or henna. We found a shop where we could buy some peanut butter and Nutella to go on our bread and a few other supplies. Then we got momos from one of the three stands selling them outside. These delicious dumplings are stuffed with chicken, paneer (a kind of tofu consistency cheese), or vegetables. I imagine we will be buying these often.

Mmm, fried momos and fried rice!
Back to the apartment. It wasn’t a hugely long outing, but we want to break the kids in gently.

I notice that there are many men about, but very few women and no children. Men are wearing long, dark pants and any variety of shirt you can imagine, most long sleeved. Women are dressed in everything from full saris, to colorful jilbab/hijab, to slacks and button-down dress shirt, to jeans and a T-shirt (though this last is much less common).

It did not seem that anyone noticed us at all! I know that even though we tried to wear clothing that would somewhat blend in, we stick out like a sore thumb. While traveling in other areas of Asia, we were stared and pointed at on a regular basis, but here we received only fleeting glances. If we made eye contact with someone, we may receive a half-hearted smile in return for ours. Interesting.

We are in a good neighborhood in the “nice” part of town, but most people we know would still be shocked at what is here on our block. Next to our nice apartment building is an old, broken-down brick building in which several people live. Across the street is a park in which people bathe out in the open, their clothing hanging on the fence while not needed. There is trash all over the place. Men lay in carts on the side of the road most of the day. (Still trying to figure this one out. Maybe they work transporting things in the morning and evening and just wait the main part of the day?) Stray dogs wander or lay where they like until some car honks at them to get out of the way. Cars honk constantly, I mean constantly! Sometimes I get the giggles hearing how incessant they can be during the day, though, thankfully, they quiet down at night because the road is theoretically closed from midnight to 6:00 to through traffic.

Broken building and pile of bricks that some call home. If you zoom in under the tree you can see people preparing breakfast.
The park across the street. If you zoom in, you can see a man bathing. 😳 (Don’t worry, he isn’t actually naked.)
 

In the afternoon, the kids did some homework and then we all crashed asleep. “Just 20 minutes” easily turned into several hours. Oops!

We woke, watched some tv and munched on beef jerky and dried mango. We intended to go out again for dinner, but we started watching a movie and then had a nice long video chat with Michaela, our dear friend, in Germany. Mid-way through the call the kids said goodnight. My eyelids were getting very heavy, so we said goodbye to Michaela and fell into bed before 10:00.

I slept hard until about 3:45. The first horns started honking outside just before 5:00 and the neighborhood pack of dogs had some sort of barking challenge going on shortly after that. Instead of laying frustrated, I decided to write about these first 24 hours. I can’t believe how much and how little we did and it seemed like the longest 24 hours ever!!

I will leave you with this clip of the street outside our door.

 

 

Knock, knock! It’s the Bundas calling.

We have visited so many places and the part of travel that is the most interesting and soul satisfying is connecting with people. This is one of those times when I feel like writing about our experience can only give a dull and flat reflection of something beautiful and rich. I wish that I was a real writer and could better portray these feelings! Sure, Disneyland Paris is amazing and we had a fabulous time time there. Seeing the wonders of Rome was awesome in every sense of the word. But spending time with new and old friends has made this time incredible. I could go on and on for ages about all of the friends we met and saw, but I will keep it to just the four families we stayed with.

We like staying with people for many reasons. We feel like we get a more realistic view of what it is like to live in a given place. What kinds of food are in the cupboards and what condiments are on the table? These things are different everywhere you go. Connecting with people is so much easier in a comfortable setting like a home. We had the opportunity to spend precious time with some old friends as well as stay with family of friends. Really, how cool is that: inviting strangers to stay with you based only on the fact that they know your sister? A couple of the friends we visited have children and seeing our children become friends is one of the most beautiful experiences!

In Paris we were privileged to be able to stay at the home of our old neighbor’s sister. I could not believe how welcoming they were! We were pulled in and treated as if we were part of the family even though we had never met and it was a little difficult to communicate due to the language difference. From the moment we walked on the door and were greeted with champagne and snacks while every evening we were absolutely spoiled with gourmet dinners as we began to develop a friendship. Their son, Antoine, was also home and added many memorable moments to our conversations and dropped us off at the train station in the mornings. Marie-Ludovich and Emmanuel hope to one day soon come visit some of the U.S. National Parks and I sincerely hope we are able to connect and spend time together again.

Emmanuel and Marie-Ludovique in Paris.
Antoine: “If it’s not French, it’s not cheese!” 🙂

Once upon a time I had a very cool youth choir director that became a good family friend. He married a very sweet gal from church and they are now serving with their three kids as missionaries in Brussels. Well, when you are spending almost two weeks only a couple hours train ride away from an old friend, of course we would pop over for a visit! This was the first time on this trip for our kids to have time with other kids. It was so much fun to see the kids playing together until late at night while we got to spend time chatting as adults. Glen played the role of fabulous tour guide, they treated us to spectacular dinners, and all of the kids were glad to play together. Visiting Glen, Dana, and the kids was a special time for us.

Moules-frites (Mussels and Fries) with the Johnsen Family in Brussells.
The Bunda and Johnsen kids are pals now!

In southwest England we had the blessing of staying with the Ackrill family. Clare had been on the same DTS school as Paul 21 years ago and I had the opportunity to meet this sweetie the following year. She and Dave jumped to volunteer to have us at their home. We spent time exploring the Somerset area (Did you know that Cheddar is a place? Like where the cheese comes from?) and generally getting along amazingly well. Their girls and Kamaile now regularly text and are Instagram pals.

Bundas and Ackrills in front of the Wells Cathedral.
Fish and chips together at Papa’s in Weston-super-Mare.

So, what is it about the combination of spending time with people we haven’t seen for ages with seeing our children get along? There is something special there that is really difficult for me to articulate!

On the last couple days of our adventure we were able to stay with the Dahers in Switzerland. They treated us like family, welcoming us to their home and table and showing us some fabulous sight of the area. They introduced us to my new favorite food: reclette. If you need to know more about this heavenly dish, you can read this.

Lawrence and Doris were fabulous hosts in Thun, even introducing us to reclette here in their sunroom.

We are forever grateful to each of these families who provided us with a comfortable place to stay, introduced us to delicious local food, and welcomed us in their homes as family. We feel blessed for our time together and have come away with a richer experience than we even hoped for!

Down Day

We have been going hard for weeks now. We have all been thoroughly enjoying our travels but have gotten pretty exhausted by the pace we have been keeping. We have all begun to have shorter tempers and frustration levels.

Paul and I had initially talked about planning some rest days in our calendar, but somehow when you only have 2-3 days in any given place it is hard to make yourself stop. There is never enough time to see and do everything!

Last night we were out until 1:00 am with the kids. The Milan Expo 2015 was fun and worth our time there, but we are wiped out now! You should have seen us dragging ourselves home.

 

The USA Pavilion at the Expo. Interesting, but not as impressive as many of the other exhibits.
 
So, we slept in until after 10:00. Then we got up, hung laundry out to dry, I cooked some food (Risotto was a hit!), and we proceeded to stay in our pajamas…for hours. I admit, it is nice! We parents took care of some travel details. The kids worked on blogs, caught up on social media, and read. But that is all. 

 

Trey working on his next blog.
 
I’m sorry, Milan, that we have missed almost a whole day of time with you, but I am not sorry for the day we are enjoying! I promise we will hang out tonight. 

All in all, it has been a good day. A necessary day. Congratulations, Kamaile: it is 4:00pm and you are the only one dressed. 

Laura, dear, what will you wear?

The #SeattleBundas are back at it. This time we have an amazing itinerary over the next seven and a half weeks taking us all over western Europe: Frankfurt, Wurzburg, and Rothenberg ob der Tauber, and Weil am Rhein, Germany; Paris (including Disneyland) and Maison-Laffitte, France; Brussels, Belgium; London, Bath, Clevedon/Somerset, and Haywards Heath, England; Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Milan, and Venice, Italy; Thun, Switzerland. We also have a one-week Adriatic Cruise starting/ending in Venice, Italy and visiting the following along the way: Dubrovnik and Split, Croatia; Ancient Athens, Greece; and Ancient Ephesus, Turkey. 

As many of you know, we have been committed to the carry-on only, One-Bag travel philosophy now since the beginning of the year. 

Before our Japan trip in March, Paul spent many hours researching convertible backpacks. The bags carry like backpacks or they can be carried by a side handle or shoulder strap with the backpack straps tucked away. Also, when it is time to access the bags, they unzip and open all the way flat instead of having to reach down into the top to access like a traditional backpack.  

 

Backpacks in action in Tokyo
 
We ended up choosing a couple different bags, all with many fabulous features. We purchased eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Junior backpacks for the kids because they have a slightly smaller form factor while maintaining the flexibility of several types of compartments. I chose the Minaal bag, with a very simple form factor and fewer sections. I tend to squirrel lots of different things away, so this forces me to stay streamlined and organized. Paul picked the Osprey Farpoint 55 travel backpack which has all of the features we looked for in addition to an attachable/removable day pack. 

We each also carry a smaller day bag. Paul has the detachable day pack from his Farpoint, Trey and I have side pouches, and Kamaile has a camera case with a tiny bit of storage. Additionally, we purchased a set of eBags packing cubes for each of us. Everyone gets their own color so we can always identify whose stuff is who’s. 

So, has it worked and do we still like this concept? Absolutely! Time after time we see others struggling with large suitcases as they labor from one train platform to another and are so grateful that we carry everything on our backs. So far, both Asia and Europe have had many stairs, cobblestones, and uneven pavement that makes roller suitcases very impractical. Plus, we have saved lots time and money as we have avoided checking our luggage. 

One bag does mean a limited number of clothes. But what about laundry? If you don’t have many clothes, you do have to wash them every few days. We have found that it is very simple to wash things in bathroom sinks or bathtubs, or find a laundromat or laundry service. Hotel shampoo actually does a decent job. Keeping up with the laundry only requires a little forethought….You don’t let yourself run out of clean underwear more than once! You also can’t do laundry the night before a travel day because things might not be dry by the time you have to pack up.  

I know, I know, all you really wanted to know was what I brought in my bag. Again, we started with research. Basically, I scoured Pinterest for ideas. (If you need a starting point, feel free to look at my pins @labunda or Laura Bunda.) There are many many boards for carry-on only traveling for all seasons and areas of the world. The are also tons of ideas for capsule wardrobes. Travelfashiongirl.com is a favorite site of mine. Paul and I have both also learned a lot from Nomadic Matt . com as well as ricksteves.com. Eventually I picked my favorite plan and modeled my wardrobe after it. I, who cannot follow a recipe, cannot follow a wardrobe plan either, it turns out. So I sort of followed this plan. And this one.

Very important, because I stick with mostly neutral colors, these 13 or so pieces can be mixed and matched to make many outfits. If you believe the articles and pics on Pinterest, over 25 outfits! 

My wardrobe for 2 months in Europe

One dress, one pair each of jeans, black leggings, and green travel pants, a pair of khaki shorts, one black cardigan sweater, one 3/4 sleeve charcoal blouse, one gray long sleeve tee, one black cami, one reversible skirt, three short sleeve shirts (one blue solid, one black print, one with stripes), one blue tank top, and a scarf. At the last second I decided to throw in another gray cami that is not pictured. Also not pictured are a rain coat, swim suit, five pair of socks, six pairs of underwear, two bras, and a long sleep shirt. This is pretty much the same type of wardrobe that I brought along to South East Asia earlier this year. 

Halfway there. Packing cubes are our friends.

My travel outfit consisted of jeans, the gray cami, striped shirt, sweater, and sneakers. Everything else was rolled and put into packing cubes according to category: tops, bottoms, toiletries, and everything else. Together with my bag, this all weighed about 10 1/2 pounds. A few more toiletry items and my Keens were thrown in last minute making my total a little under 13 pounds. 

Just need to zip the bag closed and I’m ready to go!

The next question I often hear: Do you want to burn your clothes by the time you get home? The answer is yes. Some of my clothing pieces I left behind in Indonesia when we departed. Several of the items, however, have earned an encore performance and have come along on this trip as well: reversible skirt, travel pants, charcoal blouse, and black cardigan.One week in and the scheme is holding up well. I have done two sink loads of laundry that hung dry on shower curtain rods and hangers. I think this whole plan is going to work again! 

Do you have any stories or advice about packing for traveling? I would love to hear them. 

My feet have dust…

…on them from five countries I never thought I would visit. It never occurred to me to see Thailand or Indonesia. When growing up, it was crazy to think of one day traveling to Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia. Now I have been to all of these. 

My tongue has tripped to say thank-you in those languages as it has appreciated the tastes of so many new dishes and flavors. Who knew you could prepare rice in so many ways. 

My eyes have seen amazing ancient wonders and sites of horrible human atrocities. We saw signs declaring areas now clear of landmines. We spoke to people who had parents imprisoned and “re-educated”. We climbed over temples and grounds a millennia old. 

My ears have grown used to ignoring the sounds of unfamiliar languages that mystify me and perking up when I hear any English. Mosque prayer calls, the ringing of a bell in a Buddhist temple, chickens and roosters all hours of the day, and someone always trying to sell me something are all in this month’s soundtrack. 

My heart is full of appreciation and love for the people we have met. I am touched that we have made friends all over. Our family of four is now knit tighter because of our shared experiences.*

The next phase of our adventure has us in Bandung for a few more weeks. I am looking forward to many more new experiences and friendships.

* Editor’s Note: This is the first post in nearly 3 weeks. If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you know that much has happened since then. Be on the lookout for a series of posts from all of the #SeattleBundas capturing some of those experiences in the coming days. Thanks!

Just when you think you know what you are doing…

Today’s experience on the way to, as well as at the airport was a strange one!

We arrived at the airport in a shuttle that delivers us from our hotel. Picked up at the lobby near the front gate, we made our way around the hotel to the other lobby to pick up more passengers. So far, so good.

Then, the driver proceeds to leave the driveway and heads across a field to a dirt track. Wait…this wasn’t the way we came in yesterday! After a couple minutes of off-roading, a guard opens a big gate in the wall and we turn into a (this is a generous term here) road. Our shuttle is a pretty large vehicle for this road, which would definitely be a one way road at home. Then, as we approach a corner, two big construction trucks come barreling our way. All the drivers slam their brakes and inch to the sides of the walls on the road. I was really not convinced there would be room, but after after slowly crawling and maneuvering we managed to pass by with at least an inch to spare. [Note: an inch of clearance does not appear adequate passage when one is in a large shuttle van passing a garbage truck style vehicle!]

After a few more tight passes (one involving a bridge with no side walls and another large vehicle), we turn into yet another dirt “road” and scrape the gate as we turn off. At this point I leaned over and told Trey that I was really glad we were on the way to the airport: if someone had picked me up at the airport and taken this route to the hotel, I would have thought for sure that we were going to be bad news headlines. He totally agrees. Eventually we turn back into a track that we would all acknowledge as a road and are delivered uneventfully at the airport.

 

The “road” to the airport from our hotel

Upon arrival, we checked in at the kiosk and pass through a light security screening. We were three and a half hours early for our flight and do not see a gate assignment so we decided to sit and have a coffee. We wasted some more time and played each other in our new favorite family pastime, the Monopoly App. 

At two hours to our flight, we still don’t see a gate listed for our flight. Hmm. Strange. Well, we decided to go ahead and go upstairs to where the gates are.

Oops! We haven’t gone through the real security OR immigration yet. With hearts pounding a little faster, we hurry over. 

Thankfully, there aren’t many people in line at all. Only two people in front of us in the immigration line and we pretty much walk right up to the screening area of security. We are so practiced at this now! I am very proud of the kids and how they have been able to stay organized and go right through with minimal fumbling with gear. Yay us! 

Phew, we’ve made it through, no problem, plenty of time to spare. There are lots of seats around. Paul checks at the desk to be sure we are in the right place. OK, we can relax again. After about 40 minutes or so, I walk over to the window to check things out. Huh, I notice that I only see airplanes from a different airline…then I notice that there aren’t any jetways attached to the building. I do see a bus driving around the tarmac with the airline label on its side. I wonder how this is going to work?! I walk around the area and find a flight of stairs that are roped off and a turned around sign indicating our airline and boarding rows. Just then I see a group of flight attendants approach and had down those stairs. Ok, maybe we are in the right place. 

A few minutes later we hear an announcement that our flight will be boarding from Zone 5. Panic sets in: there are only even-numbered zones here! We quickly run over to the desk at Zone 4 along with a couple other English-speaking passengers. They laugh at us. There is no Zone 5, they say. Uh oh! We zip over to the desk at Zone 6 and ask again about our flight number. She smiles, answering that now is the time to board and indicates to top of the same stairs I mentioned earlier. Um, I wonder what happened to Zone 5? Maybe just a translation error? [Note: I (Paul) most definitely heard “Zone 5” as well.]

We are flying in Priority seats this time and get to go through almost first. Down a flight of stairs, we arrive at a door to the tarmac at an obvious loading area, but no bus. We wait a few more minutes and one shows up. We climb aboard and ride around for several minutes to the new terminal that is under construction. Yes, the terminal is under construction, but planes are all lined up outside like it is already completed. The kids are so excited that we get to climb up the stairs to load the plane…just like President Obama! Or something like that. 

 

Air Asia flight, brought to you by Chevrolet.

Thankfully our flight was uneventful with very cheerful flight attendants! Even though with every bump of extended turbulence I panic a little and think of another Air Asia flight that passed over this area of the world not long ago…

What a weird airport morning. Sometimes you just have to laugh at how things eventually work out and thank the Lord for His protection!

Now, we turn our sites on Thailand, beginning with Bangkok. I hope they are ready for us crazy #SeattleBundas!

Indonesia: Our First Two Weeks

Around Bandung

Friends, there are so many things to tell you about this place, things you will understand and things that will make no sense. 

 

Some kids playing in an alley as we drove through the city
 

Indonesia is a beautiful country; well, truly I can only speak to the tiny bits I have seen in and between Jakarta and Bandung. Hills covered with houses and terraced gardens or rice paddies separated by jungle gorges with dirty, garbage strewn streams. Lush tropical greenery grows from the earth wherever it can. Things we transplant as tiny annuals at home, like impatiens, and sweet potato vines, grow wild and two feet tall. Banana trees are plentiful. Yet, familiar flowers like hydrangeas and day lillies are also here.

 

View of the lush green valley near our home away from home
 

I hear birds that remind me of the doves we are used to hearing in Hawaii, roosters crowing and dogs barking all hours, and nearly constant crickets and cicadas.  Then there are many sounds we are unfamiliar with, a few we have identified, but so many we have not. Mostly birds and insects, but we hear there are monkeys and haven’t yet figured out if one of the calls belong to them. We are also keenly aware of the five times daily Muslim calls to prayer as we can hear the loudspeakers of a half dozen mosques near our home. 

We knew there would be bugs, and have not been disappointed! We found a rhino beetle almost the size of a golf ball! A wasp with a body the size of two thirds of my pinkie finger was flying outside our room. Butterflies are all over, I don’t even know how many varieties we have seen: big, little, black with blue, brown and orange, bright orange, all white, and more! Not surprisingly,  the caterpillars they come from abound. We keep vigilant watch for ants, small or large, who may be searching for any food crumbs or otherwise trying to invade the house. Geckos are welcome guests in every room to help manage the mosquito population. I think I currently and avoiding scratching ad many mosquito bites as I got in a month or more at home. Paul had some sort of grasshopper land on him in the middle of the night, but it hopped away before we could get a very good look at it.  We have seen a number of spiders, one that nightmares are made of who’s body was several inches long and whose legs would have covered my dinner plate. Thankfully we spied him on a walk around the neighborhood, not in the house!

Traffic is a totally different animal here! On a road that at home would be a neat and tidy two lane road, one in each direction, here would have two lines of cars in each direction, and four lanes of scooters (motos) weaving in between. As long as you haven’t actually contacted another vehicle, it is all good. When you want to go a certain place or turn across traffic, you just start going and people make space.  Drivers are in high alert for all other cars, motos, and pedestrians. Generally traffic is moving slow enough that any collisions are pretty minor. Drivers also must remain vigilant as to road conditions that are extremely varied.

Speaking of motos, you would not believe how versatile they are! We have seen families of five riding together. We have seen then used as a delivery vehicle for large floral displays, lumber, long pipes, even a small  refrigerator! Ladies often ride dressed nicely for work in their heels, but we have seen people ride in flipflops or barefoot also. 

Other things are also ubiquitous as we explore the city. There is trash everywhere. Little bits of litter are all over. Piles of trash bags and loose garbage can be found anywhere. It is common to burn trash, so there will often be a smoldering fire alongside the road. Another thing we see all over are mobile carts! I am impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit of the people here. People sell all kinds of foods, drinks, necessities, and knick knacks from mobile carts. Sometimes these carts have put in a foundation and become  permanent. Either way, they are everywhere, on major streets, residential areas and alleyways.

School Visit

No matter where you go, some things remain the same!

One of the things we are doing while we are here in Bandung is to explore and visit organizations who are working with children that the missionaries here may be able to partner with. 

Along those lines we had the opportunity to visit a local Christian school one day. I really  didn’t know what to expect. What we found was a beautiful facility, well equipped, organized spectacularly, full of happy kids and teachers. Granted, this is a private school and not a typical neighborhood school, but it  was not a place to pity the children at all!

 

Happy pre-schoolers and dedicated teachers

We were able to meet with the curriculum director, principal, and vice principal. It thrilled my heart to hear them speak of not only being  teachers, but having the privilege to help shape the lives of the next generation of leaders.

As we chatted with the administration about their struggles, things sounded so familiar. In the classroom, their concerns were how to help the young ones develop the intrinsic motivation for good behavior and how to incorporate Biblical values into classroom talk and activities.  However, the biggest desire they have is for parents that are truly partners with the school as they train this generation. Similar to  home, more and more, parents are failing to engage in the training of their children, abdicating this role to TV, electronic devices, and school teachers. Being that the kids at this school primarily come from more affluent homes, this problem is exacerbated by a culture of helpers who work in the home as tutors, maids, and nannies who do most of the “work” of  parenting.

These awesome administrators even took us out to lunch when we were done talking. They treated us to a traditional style of restaurant where they bring plates and plates of food to the table and you pay for what you eat. Everything was delicious!

 

Enjoying Nasi Padang with the administrators Santy and Ruth
 

If you think of it, please pray for the parents of this school to be engaged and inspired to be full participants in the lives of their children and for the teachers to keep the vision of both daily and lifelong impact they have on the kids. 

T minus 24 hours

or thereabouts, depending on how you count it! 

About twelve hours until we leave the house, about 24 goes until we leave to go to the airport, and 29 1/2 until we take off. 

I look around the house. Bags are packed in the front room. Our things are almost all put away. The kitchen is almost clean, counters all cleared. The refrigerator is almost empty, I just finished the last of the milk. We’ve run all of the errands. We’ve had most of our last meals with friends and family. It is difficult to name all of the feelings going on. 

Sad to miss friends, especially those who are moving away while we are gone and the neighbors we are used to seeing every day. 

We are excited for a big adventure: new sights,  sounds, smells, and tastes. 

There is definitely some nervousness and concern. 

I am concerned about our first flight out, I would really appreciate it if you would pray about that with us. For our first flight (over twelve hours), we don’t currently have any seats together. I really do not love the idea of my sweet kiddos sitting next to complete strangers. We will be getting to the airport plenty early to see if there can be any movement. 

We are so excited to arrive in an area of the world that is so unknown to us. We will be in Indonesia for the first three and last three and a half weeks of our adventure. The middle three and a half weeks we will be touring  Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia.  I am anticipating learning so much about people, language, food, and culture. We have watched videos and read books in preparation, but I can’t wait for it all to be “real” to us. Bandung, here we come! 

Above all, I have a huge feeling of something amazing about to happen. 

Continuing to live out what we call our S.A.F.E. principles for this time: 

  • Service (our friends and people we meet) 
  • Adventure (um, everything about this trip from eating to moving from destination to destination) 
  • Fun (see amazing cultural and natural sites) and 
  • Education (again, just about everything we do well be a learning experience) 

I really don’t know what God has in store for us, but we are ready to see!

But we have awesome health care coverage…

Hooray! We have made more plans: We are heading out to Indonesia for a couple of months and will be spending a three and a half week chunk of that time on a tour of Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia. This is all so exciting!

Warning: the following blog is full of obnoxious and unresolved tedium. I may be ranting rather than blogging. 

In preparation for travels, we are following the CDC recommendations for vaccinations. We are all up to date with regular vaccines and were easily able to acquire the oral Typhoid vaccine as well as the Malaria meds for all of us and the Hep A for those that didn’t have it yet. Yay. 

 

Paul getting his Hepatitis A vaccine
 

We are so blessed to have amazing health care coverage. Wait for the “but”…

But…it was all smooth sailing until we tried to get the vaccine for Japanese Encephalitis. 

This is an illness that is considered endemic in many Asian countries. It is carried by mosquitos and incidences go up when the rains come down and more so away from cities, especially in and near rice patties. As we will specifically be in these areas at the beginning of the rainy season (the beginning of peak season for the disease) we and our doctors thought it would be good to get this vaccination in addition to the others.  No biggie, right? 

OK, seriously, I have spent over twelve hours on the phone over the last three days trying to obtain this vaccine in a way that is covered by insurance. We have been through four different pharmacies, multiple phone calls to our medical practice, and many hours on the phone with insurance. Each time I speak to the insurance company I think I have been helped and guided in the right direction, only to find out that isn’t the correct information once we have contacted the next pharmacy location! Then I get further info, with a more restrictive set of directions to follow and repeat the process again. This pharmacy isn’t covered, that one is. That pharmacy doesn’t carry that vaccine at all, oh, that pharmacy that has the vaccine in stock isn’t actually covered for this item as it has to be billed through medical, not prescription, and they aren’t allowed to do so, oh that pharmacy is covered but not really, now you have to go to a certain kind of clinic, wait, that clinic doesn’t take insurance at all (wait, why are they on my preferred provider list then?), and so on. 

Gah! This is ridiculous, people!

Why don’t we just pay for it out of pocket? Because one shot is almost $300. Ouch! Besides, isn’t that why we pay to have insurance?

And, as I said earlier, this is not a solved issue yet. I will let you know what the end result is later. Sigh.

Rant over for now.