Home, Sweet Home

Amy and I moved into a new house last week and quality of life has increased exponentially. The only bits of our old house that I shared with you were my bathroom and my bedroom after my bed frame completely collapsed. Let me assure that the rest of the house wasn’t much better. Our electricity was spotty and our water generator broke frequently, which meant that some weeks would behave as if we were in a drought and had to ration our water. When the water generator did work, however, it was extremely loud and I was starting to get used to constant noise. Another problem that the old house had was a lack of natural light. This made Amy and I feel tired and cranky all the time and Monty was always trying to escape. I wasn’t keen on him going outside because we lived right on the road and I was worried about him getting hit by a car, motorbike, or being harassed by people and other cats. I also didn’t want him getting into any garbage.

But enough about the old house, we are in a happy place now. We are only a ten minute walk from work, which has enormous benefits and last night we test drove the coffee shop that’s two blocks away and it exceeded all of our expectations. We have luxuries such as beds, consistent water without a generator, and a cool breeze that keeps our yard and the inside of our house perfectly cooled without a fan and snuggling up in a blanket is essential to be comfortable at night.


Amy and I each have our own bathroom in our bedrooms. Yes, that is a full-fledged toilet that even flushes. We also have sinks and shower heads with excellent pressure. We don’t have a water generator anymore to worry about and a have a constant supply of water, which is great because we can do things like shower while we do laundry. Something I never thought I would take for granted. Amy has a bath tub in her bathroom, which I am welcome to use any time, but haven’t taken her up on it yet. I’m still relishing in being able to stand up in the shower and have enough pressure to actually clean myself.

toilet, I am never going to take you for granted again.


There are big windows in the living room and in both of our bedrooms. During the day, we never have to worry about turning the lights on because the sun pours into the house.


As comfortable as the inside of our house is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the outside. We are off the street and have a huge yard and garden. Our balcony is furnished with wicker chairs and overlooks a hill filled with coconut, papaya, and durian trees and there’s a constant flock of swallows swooping around. We can see the bustling of Bandar Lampung from a distance and past the houses and buildings are the bright blue waters of the Lampung Bay. We spend 95% of our time at home sitting on the balcony and basking in how peaceful it is. Monty is a full on indoor/outdoor cat now and he never leaves the yard and doesn’t like to be outside when we’re not outside, which is a great peace of mind. He’s really just the best cat in the world.  



Yes, life is good in Bandar Lampung in our cozy new home. Every time we walk down our driveway, we feel like the house warmly says “Welcome home! Kick up your feet and relax.” as opposed to our old house, which said “Oh, you’re back. Don’t worry, I made sure to stay swelteringly hot for you and the mosquitos are alive and well.”

Check out that breeze!


Bali Hai

Amy and I took a much needed break from EF and Bandar Lampung and escaped to Bali for three glorious days. The trip was extra special because my friend Yuli, who I worked with at Esan Thai, is Balinese and she was back home from Bloomington to visit her family and beloved island. It was wonderful to see her and she was a fabulous guide! Our trip was perfect mix of culture and partying, relaxation and activity. Bali was so different than what I know to be Indonesia (Lampung) that it was hard to believe that I was even in Indonesia.

After a long and exhausting bus-ferry-plane-taxi journey, we arrived in Ubub, the cultural center of Bali. We checked into our bungalow at the Kupu Kupu Foundation, which sat the in the rice paddies just outside of the city center. The only sounds we could here for the frogs and ducks and at night, all we could see were fire flies and stars. The setting could not have been more perfect, and neither could have the breakfast that was included. Everything was made better by the fact that the foundation gives jobs, education, and medical care to people with mental and physical disabilities in Bali.


our heavenly bungalow

After meeting up with Yuli, we had our first meal since the night before on the bus and then went to a dance performance at the Ubud Palace. The costumes, precision of the dancers, the gamelan music, and stories were gorgeous and it was a wonderful welcome to Bali.

the Barong and a monkey

Day two was full of activity. Yuli took us to the Ubud market where she taught me how to be a hard bargainer. She was making deals like a pro, while I found the vendors scary. They would give me a price, and then as if it was a game they would smile and say “but you can bargain!” It ended up being pretty fun, and everyone was happy in the end. I’m absolutely certain that being able to speak Bahasa helped in this process, because I saw lots of tourists having less pleasant experiences in the market. Mom and Jill, look forward to some pretty awesome birthday presents. Mike, I bought you some stuff too, and I have to get them in the mail quick before I decide to keep them for myself!

After the market, we went to The Sacred Monkey Forest. Those monkeys absolutely know that they are sacred and behave accordingly. I bought some bananas, thinking that it would be cute to feed the monkeys and have them climb on me. Five meters into the forest, a fat greedy monkey climbed up me and stole all the bananas out of my hand. Later, a monkey jumped on Amy’s head, which was cute for about half a second until it started biting her head, pulling her hair, and stole her sunglasses.


The greedy banana stealing monkey.

The monkey who stole Amy’s glasses. Amy then let me have it that this a reason to have cheap sunglasses… a monkey might steal them.

After we had had enough of being harassed by monkeys, we rented a motorbike and drive through small towns and cities to Kuta Beach. Amy and I had forgotten how much fun it is to be at the beach with tons of other people around having fun! We found a gorgeous lounge to have a couple cocktails and watch the sunset. It was absolutely perfect. I forget how it came up, but Amy shared that she had never been to a drag show, which shocked Yuli and I after we left the beach, we made sure to change that. The clubs in Kuta Beach were nothing but fun!


Beachside lounge. Perfection.

We spent our last day giving a new meaning to the term “relax”. We woke up pretty early after a long night of clubbing and went to get a traditional Balinese massage. It included a full body massage, an herbal scrub followed by a yogurt scrub, and then ended with a bath in a tub full of flowers. It was the most decadent thing that I’ve ever done for myself, and it cost ten dollars. After our massage, we just took it easy in Ubud and wished that we had enough money and space in our backpacks to buy all the pretty things. Yuli had some running around to do with her family, but we met up with her for dinner and had one final pork meal. Being predominantly Muslim in Bandar Lampung, pork is extremely difficult to find… that was not the case in Bali and we indulged in it big time! We spent another fun night at a club and got very little sleep before leaving for the airport at 5:30am to make it back to Bandar Lampung to work later that afternoon.


Your morning cup of coffee….

Saturday night, Amy and I went the bar in the Sheraton hotel in Bandar Lampung to quench our thirst for a dirty martini. While we were there, we met an Englishman who is the director of a large coffee factory just outside of Bandar Lampung and he invited us to take a tour. This morning, his driver came to pick us up and throughout the tour, our minds were blown by the tedious process of coffee production and how valuable it is. The cup of coffee we were given on arrival is what is exported to Starbucks. It was delicious, and I’ve had Starbucks’ Sumatran Blend and didn’t remember it being as good. Peter said that what he had was the pure Sumatran Arabica coffee and after Starbucks buys it, they blend it with other stuff to make it cheaper. I’m struggling to remember a cup of black coffee that I enjoyed more than the one today.

Throughout his office and on our tour, we saw coffee beans in various stages of preparation. Every bean must be husked, washed, and polished leaving many of them a beige color, not dark brown. The beans must then be sorted by hand to filter out any garbage that has made its way in as well as defected beans. Sampling for defects is done to bags of coffee similar to how people sample giant wheels of cheese. You poke a hole in the bag and pull a sampling from the center. 80 defects per bag or less is what to aim for. Once packaged, the coffee can be stored for three years and retain most of its quality. The husks are compressed into logs and power the machines.

After the tour of factory and warehouses, we saw the people hand sorting for defects and tasting the coffee. The people drinking the coffee slurped it up like wine tasters, spit it out (not swallow it), and then would announce whether or not it was good, or dusty, or fruity, or give any other comment. Amy and I thought they all tasted like coffee, though I could kind of see where the dusty critique came from. I’d love to learn how to discern the different flavors.

All in all, it was a really interesting morning. I hope that you appreciate your morning cup of coffee a little bit more after reading this and understand that it went through a long journey before giving you your will to live. Coffee from this exporter is shipped throughout the world, so it could very well be in a mug beside your computer at this very instant. You can know that it was hand picked by Indonesian farmers using environmentally friendly practices, hand sorted, and passed a very critical board of taste testers before making it to your lips.

Have you eaten? and other basa basi…

If it’s before 11:00am, probably not. I don’t like to eat breakfast. I never have. The only times that I have regularly eaten breakfast was when I was a victim of mountain hunger, and therefore hangry (hungry-angry) all the time. I simply like to start my day with two of my favorite vices: a cup of coffee and a cigarette. That being said, I will never turn down biscuits and gravy, and I love finding occasions to go out for brunch. “I’ll take another Bloody Mary, please.”  After breakfast, I’m good until lunch. After brunch, my day is over. Do I ever love lunch, though! I am a big fan of big hearty lunches between 12pm and 2pm. Very rarely, I’ll snack between lunch and dinner. Very rarely. I’ll do dinner around 8pm or 9pm, maybe have a snack later on, and then I head to bed feeling satisfied, but not over stuffed. I am as regular of an eater as one could ask for, but that doesn’t stop the same people from asking me the same question day after day.

Never in my life have I been asked such a mundane question so frequently. Whenever I go into work, I am asked by at least ten people if I’ve eaten and if the answer is no, I am urged by those same ten people to eat. Unlike in the US, this question is never followed by an offering of food or invitation to lunch. I simply just answer yes or not yet and they walk away. This, among other things, has been a major point of culture shock for me.

This may seem like a really small Indonesian cultural thing to get bent out of shape over, but oh trust me, it’s making me mad.

 I am a human. I need food to survive and when I am hungry, I am completely capable of obtaining food.

Ask anyone who I’ve been on a road trip, or any trip for that matter, what it’s like to be around me when I’m hungry. I turn into the most unbearable hangry shogre (she-ogre). It’s bad. My dad and younger brother, Mike, love recounting stories of our trip to the Dominican Republic in 2009. I had lived there for 5 months by the time they came to visit, and on top of not following my advice on how we should navigate the country, they didn’t seem to make eating a priority. It took a few days before Dad learned to throw food at me, and I will calm down. Annoying things might still be happening, but I’m much less likely to go off on someone when I have a full stomach. Nobody likes being hungry. NOBODY. Throughout time and space, people have tried to find a way to feed the world, because being hungry is absolutely miserable.

My close friends, Caitlin and Jill, marching to dinner at an archaeological work site. Can you feel their hanger?

Not everyone gets hangry through. Most of my friends do, and I love them for that quirk. We all understand each other, and we’re all well fed. Mike, however, doesn’t get the slightest bit hangry. A while back we were talking about this phenomenon and I gave my “being hungry is the worst feeling in the world and cause for anger” argument. Mike responded with, “Sure, no one likes being hungry, but hunger isn’t an excuse to be mean to the people you love, Mary!” Bingo. I don’t want to mean to the people I care about. Trust me, Indonesia, I’ll keep my belly full, because I really hate being a shogre.

If I’m not hungry, few things irk me more than being pressured to eat.

Have you ever had the most exquisite meal in front of you that you just couldn’t get enough of us? I’ll bet you could’ve gotten just enough of it, and if you were me, you would have stopped eating at the precise moment that you knew. I don’t eat the ends of my sandwiches. EVER. Because I know when to leave it alone and not let too much of a good thing become a bad thing. And because sandwich ends are just gross.

Near the end of a perfect meal, you must recognize when you are only one bite away from a belly ache. And that’s when you should stop eating. That bite might as well be being handed to you by a serpent. I know the times that I’ve taken the forbidden bite, I’ve been punished with a belly ache and expanded waist line so severe that it clouds all memories of how happy I was for most of the meal. I know better now. I always shoo that serpent away and not a single bite early.

This was a perfect meal to practice self control on.

At altitude, it is especially dangerous to over indulge because one digests food at a much slower rate. That’s one of the reasons why people drink coca tea and chew coca leaves in the Andean highlands: it helps in the digestion process. Coastal Peruvians will drill into your head before you go into the highlands you should “caminar despacito, comer poquito, y dormir solito!” “walk slowly, eat only a little, and sleep alone!” Unfortunately, as Peruvian food is to die for. My dad came to visit me when I spent a semester in Lima, Peru in 2010, and a trip to Peru isn’t complete without going to Cusco. He had been adhering really well to our friendly coastal advice and he loved the bit of folklore that our tour guide gave us about how everyone has a guinea pig inside them and if you overfeed it, it will get angry. All that being understood, Dad lost all control at a lunch buffet featuring many different ways to enjoy alpaca meat, and did he ever overfeed his guinea pig. I have never seen my father more uncomfortable than he was later that night on our ten hour bus trip to Arequipa, and I hope I never see him that uncomfortable again. Use this as a cautionary tale the next time you think about giving in to gluttony.

Pressuring me to eat when I’m not hungry is offering me a belly ache and the opportunity to hate food. Peer pressure is dangerous in any arena and friends don’t let friends hate food. Please, Indonesia, when I say I’m not hungry, I mean it…. unless you’re offering me pempek or gourami crackers. I really just don’t like those.

Why should anyone care whether or not I’ve eaten?

Have you eaten is a boring question with a boring answer. I used to think of it as a demonstration of concern to make sure that I wasn’t hungry and was feeling OK, but now it feels nosey and like people are digging for reasons to talk. At work. Where I don’t really want to talk, I just want to get my work done. Other weird mundane questions that I’m burdened with are

“Why did you paint your nails that color?” Because it looked good with the clothes I want to wear this week.

“Did you drive your motorbike to work today?” Yes. That’s why I’m carrying my helmet.

 “Why didn’t Amy come to work the same time as you?” Because Amy starts later than me.

 “Do you have a today class?” Of course. Would I be here if I didn’t?

“Did your cat eat today?”  Yes.

*Just a side note. Monty my look sweet and quiet, but he meows like a dying dragon when he’s hungry. It’s in everyone’s best interest to keep his food bowl full.

 “Did you shower today or is your hair wet because you went swimming?” I showered.

Boring questions with boring answers that I’m not convinced anyone really cares to know. I can’t speak for all of western culture, but I really miss the way people in the United States frankly don’t give a sh*t about one’s day to day doings and reserve questions and conversations, especially at work, for interesting events.

My conversations with my co-workers feel like George Costanza’s pitch of “a show about nothing” to NBC

“Nothing happens!”

George: What did you do this morning?

NBC: I woke up, had a cup of coffee, read the paper, and came to work.

George: There! That would be a show!

NBC: Why would anyone watch that?

George: Because it’s on TV!

NBC: Not yet it isn’t….

Immediately after drafting this post, I went to my Bahasa Indonesia class and asked my teacher, Irul, if he could offer any explanation of this behavior. As it turns out, in Indonesia, it’s rude not talk, but on most days nothing noteworthy is happening, so they fill silence with really boring conversations. Also, Indonesians know this is boring stuff and they don’t really care about the answer, or elaborating on the conversation, but it’s friendly just to ask and equivalent to saying “hello”. Confirmation that people who ask these questions really don’t care what my answer is makes being interrupted to answer a pointless question even more annoying, because it turns out that, as suspected, they really don’t give a sh*t. There is even a word for these types of questions. Basa basi: meaningless conversations only to be polite.

Irul told me that in the past, a teacher from the States went off on somebody because he asked “why is your motorbike dirty?” This absolutely cracked me up and made me feel a bit validated that I’m not the only one who gets irritated by basa basi. My dictionary translates basa basi as “courtesy questions”, but as far as I am concerned, it’s only a courtesy to ask someone if they’ve eaten if it’s followed by an invitation to dine together, and pointing out that someone’s motorbike is dirty is only courteous if the person who asks is offering to wash it as a favor.

A Whole New Look

I’m adventurous, but you all probably know that. I like to climb mountains, SCUBA dive, work and play in the dirt, and I crave extended periods of time without electricity. That being said I am a girl and I like to make sure that I look good. I once went on a rant with a team of archaeologists that I was working with about how working in the field is no excuse to look homeless, and I stand by that. Wear clothes that fit (NOT oversized t-shirts and holey pants), color coordinate, and for heaven’s sake keep your hair under control.

Me and two of my archaeology girls. This featured outfit is what I call my “archaeologist costume”. Mel and Jillian are also doing a great job at not looking homeless.

In a nutshell, as rugged as I am, I maintain total control over my appearance, and I like it to work.

Ignore the mosquito bite in Canada. I can only hope that if mosquitoes bite my tattoo, they do so in mountainous regions.

Last week, I finally mustered up the courage to get the tattoo that I have been meticulously planning for years. Over the years, I have also made two appointments for this tattoo, which I cancelled due to my fear of needles and self-inflicted pain. I had three of my Indonesian friends come to the tattoo parlor with me and fortunately, one of them was as crazy about controlling the situation as I was, and he had the language ability to do so. He’s an artist and he drew the final draft for me, under my strict guidance of course. The result of having Anpan, Jaka, and Dedy there was that none of my desires were lost in translation, the price was appropriate for the design, and I was given clear after care instructions. The end result is that I have a perfectly placed and shaded tattoo of Abraham Ortelius’ 1564 map of the world, Typus Orbis Terrarum. Besides my right hip, this map is also found in Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas. I love it.

You are probably saying to yourself “of course you should be controlling about a tattoo, Mary! You’ll have that thing stamped on your body for the rest of your life!” But it doesn’t stop there. I always match my weekly manicure to the outfits I plan on wearing that week. That means that if I choose red, I’m restricted to my red, white, and blue America themed clothes and all the pretty pink outfits I have must wait until the next manicure.

I’m also crazy about sunglasses and my friends H-A-T-E sunglass shopping with me.

Old lady? Perhaps, but try and tell me this outfit isn’t coordinated or that those pretty Coach shades will go out of style!

I don’t understand why anyone would buy cheap sunglasses. Your eyes are important and you only get one set of them, so puh-lease protect them from harmful UV rays! You might as well not even be wearing sunglasses if they aren’t good ones in my opinion. I also only choose frames that are as timeless as my wardrobe. And tortoise shell. Why? Because I like wearing brown clothes, shoes, accessories, so why ruin a perfectly coordinated brown outfit with black shades? That being said, tortoise shell is perfect because it also works with black outfits.

All that being said, I cannot explain why I let my guard down so much when I’m at the hair and make up salon. I usually walk in and say something like “I have no idea what I want, just make it pretty!” That is often followed by a list of requirements that my new do must adhere to: I need to have the option to put it in a pony tail, my cowlick must be hidden, and try to give it more volume, but not TOO many layers (for the pony tail requirement). Some of past stylists, such as Ali from Senoj in Bloomington, IN, have been true artists and might have mind reading abilities. Unfortunately, I’m far too transient to keep a stylist for long, which means a lot of trial and error with every move. I won’t bore you with my bad hair saga in Key Largo, FL, but there were many tears and I went off on a receptionist once.

After getting my tattoo and a motorbike, I wanted a haircut as bad ass as me: blunt bangs. I was hoping to still keep my length though. I behaved as I normally do in salons though and told the stylist to do whatever she thought best, and so a chin length bob it is. I miss my long hair a bit, but I’m set up perfectly to be a flapper for Halloween, so that’s a good thing.

The spa across the street from school invited me to be a model for one of their make up artists. They do classes there, and I was nervous that that was what I was modeling for and I was relieved when I showed up for my appointment and the head make up artist just wanted to add some photos of a buleh (foreigner) to her portfolio, and I was the chosen buleh. There aren’t too many to pick from here in Bandar Lampung. Being a model at the make up salon meant that for an hour, people fussed over my face and hair, got me whatever I wanted, and took a bunch of glamour shots of me. When I say that I got whatever I wanted, I’m not exaggerating. Maya, the artist asked me if I liked beer and I said that I love it. The receptionist heard and snapped her fingers. A man showed up, she handed him money and sent him out on a beer run. It was noon and I was on my break from work. It was awesome! I told her that I wanted “daily make up” because I had to go back to work, but she could do whatever she wanted besides that. I kind of wish that I would have told her to leave my eye brows alone. Oh well, like my hair, they will grow back, and she didn’t shave them completely off… they are thinner than I’ve ever had them though. You can’t tell in the photo due to the penciling in of big eyebrows. I was given an eyebrow pencil as a parting gift, so that I could practice doing my eyebrows at home. I don’t color them THAT much, but I’m glad I have the pencil to fill in my very thin blonde hairs.

This is final outcome “daily” make up makeover. Words they used to describe this look were “subtle” “soft” and “natural”. I’m eager to see what her “dramatic” make up means….

Meet Monty!

My dreams of cat ownership have finally come true! This is Monty and he is awesome. He was a street kitty in my friend’s neighborhood and I’m giving him a taste of the high life. I’ve had him for about a week. He’s adorable and hilarious, albeit awkward and disproportionate. He is also brilliant and learned how to use his kitty litter box at record speed and has never once made a mess in the house! He doesn’t act very brave around the house, but he was really a champ at the vet and he actually enjoyed it when I trimmed his nails. He’s pretty much the kitten that dreams are made of.

Monty’s first bath was a terrible experience for both of us.

Check out that big paw! He hasn’t quite grown into himself yet… big ears, big eyes, big paws, and long legs. I’m sure he’ll be a handsome cat!

Everyone asks why I got a ‘kucing kampung’, pronounced ‘kooching’, (street cat) instead of a fancy angora or persian. My kucing kampung (word of the day!) is perfect…. why would I want a prissy foo foo cat?

He plays with anything he can find around the house… except the expensive cat ball that I bought for him. Go figure.


So peaceful. He woke me twice this morning… the first time was because he had to use his litter box. Good boy! The second wake up, at 7am, was because he REALLY wanted to play. I wasn’t as happy about that one…

I’ve enjoyed having him so much that I’ve considered changing this blog from a travelogue to a cat blog. My readership might increase if I do that, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t love searching the web for adorable pictures of cats?

Island Life is the Life for Me

The third installment of our Lebaran holiday was a three night stay at Palau Balak, which is a security outpost in Lampung. One couple lives there and there is one guest house. We were excited by promises of phenomenal free diving and no other people. The free diving was great, but a rather large and very noisy family left the island not as deserted as we had hoped.

Hellooooo, Palau Balak!

That being said, waking up and starting the day out snorkeling on an extremely lively reef has got to be the best way to start the day. Even with all the children and their tendency to wake up very early and be very noisy, Palau Balak was easily the most relaxing stop on our trip around Lampung. The reef was full of big angel fish, bright blue star fish, schools of parrot fish, clown fish, and many more colorful characters swimming about. I felt really luck to dive down and see a sea turtle swimming away from the reef and into the blue. It was beautiful, and I was extra excited because the last time I saw a wild sea turtle was Nature Day at the Dickman’s, and that one had swallowed a fishing hook and had to be rushed to the sea turtle hospital. It was nice to see a happy turtle swimming around.

These fins have been seeing a lot of action lately

We hired a local boat to take us around on a tour of the bay and to the fish farms which was really cool. The next time you buy grouper from grocery store, see where it’s from! I know in Bloomington, IN, Kroger gets some of their grouper from Indonesia, so it was really interesting for me to see the grouper swimming around in the farm. There was more than just grouper though. The farm we stopped at had lobster and array of other fish. The foodie in me was losing it and I was very disappointed that we couldn’t purchase any one of the fish on site.

Fish farm

Palau Balak: white sand beaches, crystal clear blue water, lively reefs surrounding the island, and local fisherman coming in to sell their catch to whoever happens to be there. Three nights and one full day wasn’t nearly enough time for me there.