Monday, June 16, 2014

Along the way ... the journey at 50

 So I went to Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. So much happened, I don’t know where to start. I had many wonderful experiences.

When Frances Marshall and I landed in Bali, it was scorching hot and humid. At the end of our time together, Frances reminded me that my first comment was, “Great, I brought the right clothes.” You have to admit, there is nothing worse than being on vacation and not having the right clothes for the temperature.

Frances and I were roommates during our time together (Bali, Jakarta and Yogyakarta). We had a huge bathtub in the bathroom at our hotel at Junjungan, Bali. When I say huge, it was the size of a small room. It was so large you had to step into it to reach the taps – a minor design flaw, the taps should have been on the nearside of the tub. Needless to say, I enjoyed many baths in that tub. I think I will miss it.

One word about jetlag - it sucks – okay two words.

En route to Bali we flew over, or maybe through, the International Date Line. That was incredible, well it would have been if I had known exactly when it happened. I was probably asleep during that momentous occasion. Obviously I’ll have to do it again in order to make sure I’m wide awake to experience it.

The exchange rate in Bali is something like 10 ringetts or 11 ringetts to a US$. While out shopping we found a store that was selling a dress for 1,000,000 ringetts. I looked at the price tag. The dress was beautiful. My friends assured it me was only US$100. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that it was a 1,000,000 and I couldn't see myself paying 1million anything for a dress. It stayed on the hanger.

I learned that not all airports are created equal. The airport in Yogyakarta was quite casual. You get off the plane and walk to the terminal. Nothing unusual there, except we had to dodge rolling planes and speeding airport vehicles. I learned that culture might dictate how you get off the plane. I expected the rows to empty into the aisle in an orderly fashion, where you wait until the folks in the row in front of you move off before taking your turn. This isn’t always the process. You don’t stop or wait, otherwise you will never get off the plane. As soon as the plane holts, you make a mad grab for your carry on and then you get off the plane as quickly as possible, the best way possible.

In Jakarta I found out that I'm no photojournalist. The morning of our only full day in the city, we caught a cab from the hotel to the mall. After a few hours I had fulfilled my mall roaming quota for the city and decided to venture out and take pictures of the environs. We did notice a large number of police officers on the streets en route to the mall. I didn’t give it a lot of thought, I didn’t know if this was a usual occurrence or if something was happening that day. While wandering around I found out there was a demonstration taking place in the city.
As I walked around I noticed about two blocks away there were police in front of a huge mob. I took a few pictures until a security guard from a nearby building came over and said to be careful, it could be dangerous.

I had to make a snap decision. Was I going to take my photography to the next level or run scared and return to the cool safety of the mall? Needless to say within a few minutes, I found myself inside of H&M contemplating the red shirt or the blue?

One comment about the cab drivers in Jakarta – none of them knew where our hotel was located. The driver of the cab we took from the airport spent an hour driving around in circles looking for the Morrissey. He would occasionally get out to ask for directions. It took us longer to find the hotel than it did to fly from Bali to Jakarta.

By the end of the ride, we all got out of the cab with the view of making sure we all got directions, despite the fact that we didn’t know the language or where in the world we were. Needless to say, we were extremely happy to finally get to the hotel. An experience, I’m sure, none of us will forget.

Have you ever been through the airport in Kuala Lumpur? OMG! It is brand spanking new and very sexy, if airports can be sexy. Once I cleared immigration and was walking towards ground transportation I felt as though I was in a James Bond or Jason Bourne movie. I lie to you not, I started thinking like a spy. I gave myself the name James Bourne or was it Jason Bond. I looked around for my contact and sports car while planning how I was going to nab my prey. I was cracking myself up at my overactive imagination and would have laughed out loud as I walked through the airport if I thought it wouldn’t get me arrested and put on international stop lists. How do you rationally explain to an airport official that you were laughing because you aren’t really an international spy!

The whole spy thing stayed with much for much of my time in Kuala Lumpur. Whenever I was out alone, I scoped out hiding places of my imaginary nemeses and determined how I was blending in with the local folks. Keeping in mind most of the people are Malay, Chinese or Indian. Since I am none of these ethnic groups I didn’t blend in well. Perhaps I should ask M for a West African country assignment.

Lost taxi drivers, spying in Malaysia and Bali belly (yes, my stomach did not act right the entire time I was in Bali) aside, I could never have anticipated the adventures, camaraderie and fun that highlighted my birthday celebrations. I encourage everyone to turn 50 at least once in their life!

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