Monty’s Expatriation, Ep. 5

MONTY GOT HIS EXPORT PERMIT!!!!

We are so happy to announce that Monty has been approved to leave Indonesia. His export permit will definitely be framed, alongside my (clean) Criminal History Report from Bandar Lampung, because those are easily the two most ridiculous documents that I have ever had to obtain. At least on Monty’s form, important things, such as his name, are spelt correctly. I Ccannot say the same about my criminal history report.

Anyway, Monty is one step closer to becoming an American cat. Now, I am working reserving him a place on my flights. I am on the right track now, but the whole process started much like getting the export permit did. “Call this person.” “Now call this person” “email this person.” “Just pay.”

See you in two weeks, USA!

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Monty’s Expatriation, Ep. 4: Too good to be true?

I, and everyone I know, expected Monty’s expatriation to a colossal headache. So far though, things couldn’t be going better!

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I’ve decided to just pay a guy to go to Jakarta and deal with everything so that I don’t have to. I got the money together, but then he wouldn’t accept it. He said that I should keep the money until everything is processed and Monty is approved to go.

Today, we called Qatar air to see how much additional we would have to pay for him and were told that so long as traveling with Monty doesn’t push me over the weight limit, there will be no additional charge!

I’m getting increasingly more optimistic that Monty will soon be living the American dream!

Too good to be true? Stay tuned.

Monty’s Expatriation, Ep. 3: Hand over money and take a deep breath

As a bule (foreigner) the only thing that I can be absolutely sure of is that I’m not getting all the information that I need. And so here we are with Monty’s expatriation.

I have been sent here and there and been told this and that, and we’re at the point where I hand over some money, take a deep breath, and hope for the best.

The guy dealing with all this nonsense claims that he has to go to Jakarta in order to process the final paper work. Some say that this isn’t true, but I’m not in a position to argue, and no one is really, because this is Indonesia. In Indonesia, whether a trip to Jakarta is part of the protocol or not, if the guy you need on your side wants to go to Jakarta for whatever reason, you send him, or else you will see the roadblocks arise, because HE (personally) is the one who is really deciding what has to happen, and he’s making these decisions on the spot.

If all goes well, then, in the next week or so, Monty will be approved to exit Indonesia. That being said, no matter what papers are signed and how many rupiah have been passed around, it’s not over until we get on the plane.

As if knowing that he's the world's luckiest former street cat, he's cranked up the cuteness level

As if knowing that he’s the world’s luckiest former street cat, he’s cranked up the cuteness level

Monty’s Expatriation, Ep. 2: The Wheels are in Motion

Well, after three days of persistent phone calls, the guy in charge of exporting pets came to EF today to collect Monty’s vaccination book and start processing the papers. The wheels are in motion and while I didn’t deal with him directly, my boss said that he seemed like he really knows what he’s doing.

My level of optimism is rising.

Monty’s Expatriation, Ep1: “You need to call …”

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Welcome to the first of entry of my latest series, Monty’s Expatriation! Monty has been there for me through thick and thin during this weird year in Indonesia, so naturally, I am going to try my best to get the Indonesian government on our side and bring him home with me. This is undoubtedly going to be a very Indonesian experience, or in other words, way more complicated than need be.

Monday, I took him to the vet to get the ball rolling. I met a politician at the Sheraton who told me to call him from the vet’s office and that he would be helpful. He really wasn’t. I was told to call the quarantine vet that works down at the port. Then someone else gave me a different contact, who might have a little more pull. I passed all the phone numbers and Monty’s medical records over to my boss and asked for her help. She called the higher up contact, but she was in a meeting, and then didn’t answer when she called again. Then she said that the vet who my vet told me to call was “very friendly and seemed like he wanted to help us, but we needed paper work from the person who handles exporting pets”. We’re supposed to call back today to get the number for whoever that is.

Simply getting a hold of the person who has the answers is ¾ of the battle when trying to accomplish anything in Indonesia. I am, in all seriousness, expecting this mystery person who has the power to grant Monty an export permit to tell me that in order for the forms to valid, I must fill them out while standing on my head in the middle of the road. We’ll see..

Myanmar Holiday Part 5: Inle Lake

After spending three days walking to arrive at Inle Lake, we spent a day and a half doing the perfect thing to reward ourselves: sitting on a boat.

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When we first arrived, we hiked around a bit at Inthein, where small pagodas on top of peaks gave us a bird’s eye view of a concentrated area of pagodas seemingly out of nowhere. It was not as dramatic as we had anticipated it being, and when we were underwhelmed, we realized how spoiled we’ve become by our travels…

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After getting a good look at Inthein, we rode an hour and half up Inle Lake to Nuang Shwe, the small town we were staying in. The calm water, slow-moving boats, and mountainous background made Inle Lake one of the most peaceful places I had ever been. We woke up early the next morning excited to see the lake at dawn, when the fog was so thick, that it was difficult to where the horizon divided the sky and water.

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Aside from the early morning mist, we were very excited to visit where cats are trained to jump through hoops. We told our boat driver to take us to all the most beautiful and special places at Inle Lake, but that seeing these cats was our absolute top priority.

The tour was beautiful. Entire neighborhoods of stilted houses where people’s only option is to travel by boat.

The Inle Lake Post Office

The Inle Lake Post Office

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Floating vegetable gardens – who knew that tomato plants could float?!

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We stopped at a cigar factory as well as a textile workshop, both of which were very interesting.

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Making Lotus thread... that spool is the result of one month of work!

Making Lotus thread… that spool is the result of one month of work!

And no jaunt in Myanmar is complete without paying a visit to a very old, very beautiful pagoda.

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As expected, though, the jumping cats were the highlight. The monastery was very cool and full of cats and kittens. There wasn’t a monk there putting on a jumping cat show (there are a few different stories for why not), so we made hoops with our arms and those cats did indeed jump!

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Since coming back to Indonesia, I’ve been trying to train Monty to jump. We’re making baby steps.

On Settling In

It has been nearly four months since I started my job in Indonesia. It has been challenging, rewarding, and much different than anything I could have prepared myself for. I guess at this point, you could say that I’m settling in. The culture shock is easing, though there is plenty that still irritates me. I’m getting tired of the food, but I do love rendang and anything with peanut chili sauce. Bahasa spills out of my mouth naturally, and though I’m sure I sound like a toddler, everyone tells me that I’m “pintar bahasa Indonesia!” – “very good at Indonesian!”  It warms my heart every time I hear one of my students use English that I taught them. And my slum-cat millionaire gets bigger and more hilarious every day. Yep. You could say that I’m settled in to Bandar Lampung.

Gado-Gado: rice and steamed veggies smothered in peanut chili sauce. give.me.more.

People tell me all the time that they are envious about how much more interesting my life is than theirs. This comment often confuses me because our conversations are mostly like this:

Friend/family member in the US: What have you been doing lately?
Me: Just been busy with work.
Friend/ family member in the US: Wow. Your life is so much more interesting than mine! All I do is get up, go to work, and come home. Same old thing every day.

Indonesian internet is pretty slow, so reception on Skype is usually fuzzy. Maybe they aren’t hearing me clearly when I say that I do the same thing that they do. . Monday – Friday. Get up. Go to work. Come home. But I wake up, go to work, and come home in Indonesia.

It’s like that Girls episode when Hannah goes back to Michigan for the weekend. Nervous to meet up with friends from high school, she gives herself this pep talk: “You are from New York, therefore you are naturally interesting.”

I guess it really is all relative. We settle into our cities, houses, and jobs and everything becomes mundane. We forget how hard we worked to achieve our routines. We forget the rush that we felt when everything was new. And it’s impossible to imagine that anyone would look at our routines and say “you are so lucky.”  But someone always does. So here’s to remembering that no matter where we live or what our jobs are, someone else is certain that our lives are more awesome than theirs.  Also, let’s never forget that being alive is endlessly interesting.