Sunday, October 24, 2010

Today, I had a piranha pedicure

... and I didn't like it. Not a bit. Yet I kept putting my feet back in the water. I wanted to be able to say that I'd done it. Fish therapy, that is. You see fish spas all around Indonesia. Some are fancy and you pay $6 for an hour of therapy. The one where my friends and I went was $2 for 30 minutes. And the ponds were in the hallway of one of the local malls.

I've often walked by these ponds, looked at the locals sitting there totally relaxed, as if there really aren't about a million little fish stuck to their feet and legs. OK. Not a million. But those suckers know how to vie for a piece of property.

Like I said, I just couldn't keep my feet in the water. I tried. I may have kept them in for 15 seconds at the most. But the constant nibbling sensation was just eerie. (It's actually sucking, not nibbling, really. Those suckers don't have teeth.) An hour after the therapy, it still felt like I had fish nibbling/sucking at my skin.

I kid you not.

It was an impromptu decision to do it as a treat for one of my colleagues' birthdays. We've all been curious about it, but no-one wanted to do it alone. Had we planned to go, I would've taken my camera. I'd go back with friends simply to take photos, not to put my feet back in the water.

Granted, they're not piranhas. They're garra rufa, or "red log suckers." Or doctor fish. Call them what you may, having them suck at my skin gave me the heebie-jeebies!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Really? Avocado on your sandwich?"

Today, when my kids were finally down for their short nap, I was able to head out for a quick bite to eat at one of our school's 6 cafes. They're called cafes, that's right. Not cafeterias. You get served food on nice, colored plates. And some of the cafes have the most beautiful decor. I'll post photos sometime.

But that's not my point.

I decided to head to the Middle School Gaja Madah building. (Our buildings have names, not designations. You'll understand when you see the photos.) This building has traditional Indonesian decor, and the cafe serves Indonesian dishes in addition to the regular pastas, rice/chicken dishes, salad bar etc.

I wanted a grilled chicken panini.

Then I noticed avocado on display. "Ah! Could you add some avocado to that, please?" I politely asked.

"Avocado? You want avocado on your sandwich?"

"Yes, please." (I thought maybe the avocado was just part of a display, judging from the response.)

"The avocado is for juice bar. Not sandwich."

"Yes, but can I please have avocado on my sandwich?" I smiled. And thought how utterly unappealing an avocado drink is to me!

(Lots of talk among the Indonesian serving staff. And some frowns. And some shaking of heads, as in, "You bules* are very strange!")

The lady carefully put a couple of slices on my bread, and minutes later, I had the perfect panini. But as I sat at the Balinese-style table, enjoying my sandwich, I caught all the wait staff staring strangely at me... I smiled again, gave them a thumbs up, and gulped down the last few bites before rushing back to my crazy little kids.

Funny, isn't it, how some customs (or foods) seem oh-so-strange when transferred from one culture to another.

I cannot help but wonder if you've ever encountered something similar. Please share!

* Bule is the Indonesian term for gringo. Or waiguoren. Or crazy white people. :)

Forgot to upload these...

I was working on some school photo stuff, and realized that some of my personal photos had been downloaded to my work Mac, so I never got to share these. Enjoy!

When I was living and working downtown, I used to walk through the backstreets, past the homes of some of Jakarta's poorer population. I loved every time this old man was out on the street in the morning... The kids pay just a few cents for a ride on his fun-mobile. The little scooters rock back and forth, not powered by electricity but by the man peddling!

See the white powder on the face of the girl in the foreground? I was told parents put talcum powder on the kids' faces as part of the cleaning process. Since this is in the slums, you'd see the kids standing by the gutters many mornings, being washed down in public. Wash. Dry. Powder up!

The next two shots are from my visa trip to Singapore. This is the first view of Singapore's Marina Bay Sands Hotel as seen from my friends' apartment building (though not their own house, it is from the observation deck on the 50-something-eth floor.)

This is taken from the same spot, but looking at the hotel (and Singapore's many, many apartment blocks) as reflected in another high-rise building (the NTUC building, for those of you who know Singapore.)