We’re back in Jakarta, again…

travelling, a letter home

it’s almost not fair, flattening my mind against such contradictions and changes at such speeds. so far it has kept up, though meltdown is not an impossibility. not to mention the negotiation of (1…2…3…4) ya, about four languages within a single week (no wait, five), and of course the jumping from climate to climate and public transport to public transport (southeast asia style) that has me expelling large amounts of snot and coughing a lot. but hey, this would be great fun, even if it weren’t for the strong vein of masochism that manifests itself in self-planned itineraries such as this one.
went from kunming, china, down to hanoi, vietnam, of course, and spent about 10 days in that country indulging in all the marvelous things that i have found to indulge in there. then, seems like yesterday but about a week ago i guess, from hanoi to my rumah kedua malaysia, to kuala lumpur. kl has turned into one of my favorite cities in the past couple of years, not only because of but greatly helped by the fact that one of my best friends lives there. didn’t do as much shameless indulging as i would like, putting more energy into trying to recover from the cold that i picked up in hanoi (i blame air-conditioned hotel room). but i always enjoy kl, and i always get treated far too well by my friends, though we all know that i don’t deserve one bit of it.
yesterday morning, back on the budget airline, this time bound for a reunification with indonesia. will return to malaysia in a week, though, so don’t have to carry all my massive luggage, which makes it so much more pleasant. my friend suroto was waiting at the airport for me, subverting my attempt at masochism once again, which is the only way to describe trying to negotiate the traffic from the airport in jakarta without really knowing what you’re doing. i am so lucky to have such amazing friends. now, i could never have imagined that i’d be seeing these little places again, little minute details that are seared so deep in the images in my mind. about a week to see everyone and everything here in indonesia, which can’t be done but we’ll have to work with it, before back to malaysia for the final stretch.
just an update from this side of the world. hope all are well.

Coastal Vietnam

Religion, always an interesting subject. Even on the ferry between the Vietnamese coast and the small island of Quan Lan, in the country’s northwestern Bay Tu Long Bay. Not quite sure who to pray to, perhaps they are just trying to cover all their bases. Or, it could be a service to the passengers of the boat that goes back and forth every day, for during the occasional storm that sends the tiny boat rocking and bobbing. Clutching the wooden seats, chewing on lips, they can pick whichever deity is their favorite.

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Continue reading “Coastal Vietnam”

North East coast, Vietnam

Arriving last night in the sea-side tourist hub of Bai Chay, gateway to the famed Halong Bay, I was surprised to find that my Chinese language was far more useful than my English. As a matter of fact, if I couldn’t speak at least a little Chinese, I would have had to continue wandering the city, quiet on a weekday night, to find a place to sleep, despite the hundreds of hotels. Of course this is northern Vietnam, but it still indicates that increasing degree to which China’s afluent are moving around.

Perhaps this is the way things are going, however. For example, Lenovo, the massive Chinese computer company, owns IBM’s pc division, and it’s all over the news that the company is probably going to buy the European computer company, Packard Bell.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

I’ve been spending a lot of time these past few days thinking about the past year, the places I’ve been and the things I’ve done. And, inevitably, about going home. They say that reverse cultural shock can be much worse than the original thing, which I surely do not doubt. I feel very different from a year ago, though Minneapolis is still my home and I am still the same person I was when I left there. Being successful in another culture, which sometimes means just not going crazy, often means completely opening yourself up, letting go of so many of those norms and concrete thought patterns that fit so well into your life back home so that you can suck up all the nuances of life wherever you are. Once they’re all scrambled up, I am not sure it’s quite possible to reassemble all those little pieces so that you can just go back to being “normal” in your “normal” place.

I have also spent some time thinking about how to answer that most expected of questions, “So how was (insert country/ hemisphere)?” So, you have nothing to worry about, ask away. My canned answer will hopefully satisfy your canned question. Of course, feel free to put a little more thought into it, if you want. Better yet, buy me a cup of coffee, we can meet each other again for the first time.