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Jakarta Day 8: Monday, July 31, 2017

Mosque and tower

A modern styled mosque in front of a high rise office building as we walked to supper in Jakarta.

For supper, four of us walked from the hotel to a nearby shopping center building called Citywalk. There are no sidewalks on the sides of roads, but there are pathways if you know them. I didn’t, and followed Doug and the two Jennifers around corners, through alleys and small staircases, around parking lots, and finally to the Citywalk Center. We thought there might be some shopping we could do there, but it wound up being more of an office building with food courts on three floors, most of which were Japanese food. This whole building must be owned by Japanese interests. We looked around and found a place that served fried chicken. I got some Hawaiian and Louisiana Rub flavoring on my boneless ribs, French fries, and a refillable blueberry Fanta.

We talked of many things, and Doug asked us where we wanted to go to next in the world. I’ve thought about this, and talked to my wife about it, and we are saving up for a Mediterranean cruise, from Spain to Italy to Greece. It will take several years to save up enough for all four of us, but at least we’ve begun.

In the meantime, I plan to apply for the Einstein Fellowship program again; although my experience interviewing and not being selected wasn’t very positive last time, I am willing to give it one more shot. If that doesn’t pan out, then I will take the plunge to get my PhD, something I’ve always wanted to do, not because I think having a PhD is necessary per se, but because I now have the experience that will help me make sense of the theory I will learn and be able to apply. I want to contribute to fundamental research on project-based learning, global education, and STEAM education and test the theories I’ve developed over the years. I know I will never work long enough to pay off the investment, but I’m not going to do this for the money but for what I know I need to learn and the time it will force me to spend on a dissertation and research. I also want to contribute to teaching as a profession by training new teachers, something I’m already doing informally.

This coming year will therefore be my last one teaching at the middle and high school level. I plan to make it my best one ever, and to apply to several other opportunities to travel, such as the Transatlantic Outreach Program or Goethe Program for a 10-day trip to Germany next summer to study their STEM organizations, or the Grosvenor Fellowship with National Geographic to spend 10 days on a research vessel in Iceland or elsewhere, or to spend a week at Space Camp in Alabama, or to travel to Chile for the Astronomy Ambassadors program. There are still many other opportunities, grants, and awards I will apply for, one last time. We’ll see what happens.

When Jen spoke of her desire to go to Ireland, I told them stories about my ancestors and the coincidences in my heritage and life. I’m afraid I talked too much, but they seemed interested. After an hour of talking, we walked back to the hotel and I spent the rest of the evening writing up these blog posts.

Although the formal part of this experience is almost over, I don’t want it to end. I am still learning so much, but eventually I have to go beyond learning and start to share what I’ve learned. That’s why I’m spending so much effort to write these blog posts, so you can share my experiences and maybe learn from them. Eventually, what I’ve learned will be reflected in what and how I teach.

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Jakarta Day 7: Sunday, July 30, 2017

View from hotel

Traffic in Jakarta as seen from the Le Meridien Hotel. I had gotten used to clear skies and stars in Banjarmasin, and Jakarta seemed very crowded and smoggy now that I was back.

Our flight back to Jakarta was uneventful. We landed and pulled in toward the terminal building, but there was no room at the jetways so buses came and got us to the terminal. I was separated from Craig because the bus door closed right behind me, but we met again at the baggage claim. I got a luggage cart (I’m beginning to know where everything is in Terminal 3) and we got our bags. We were met by a taxi driver with our names on an iPad, and we walked with him up the elevator to the parking garage. Our ride had been arranged in advance by Sarah Sever. She’s really good at the details.

Walking to dinner

On our way to dinner after our return to Jakarta. We had a lot of stories to tell about our nine days in the field.

We drove back to the Le Meridién Hotel and got our new rooms. I’m on the 8th floor in room 820 this time. We had several hours before our reunion/welcome back dinner, so I laid down and tried to sleep but wasn’t very tired. Plus they were doing some construction work on a nearby room and it was noisy with hammers and buzz saws. I worked on these blog posts and uploaded photos. I went downstairs and got the TGC bag out of the Concierge room.

Walking to dinner 2

Another photo of us walking to dinner. We were anxious to talk and share our experiences now that we were back together.

At 5:00 we met in the lobby downstairs and were all excited to share our experiences. Matt and Doug were the last ones to arrive after another eight hour drive. They and some others had been to Borobudur yesterday with long drives, and another long drive today. My trip to Loksado didn’t seem so bad now.

Nikki Sarah Novianti

Nikki, Sarah, Novianti, and Anu at our Italian dinner.

We boarded a Pariwisata bus and traveled to an Italian restaurant. All the other teachers have been using an app called WhatsApp as they all have smart phones (except Anu and I) to communicate with each other and send photos while we’ve been on our field experiences. As they talked about some of the funny things they’ve been saying back and forth, I felt a bit left out of the loop, as I had known none of this. Yes, I do need to get a smart phone and join the revolution.

Group at dinner

Our cohort group at the Italian restaurant upon our return to Jakarta.

I had crab linguini and wasn’t expecting to have it actually stuffed into a crab shell. It was not quite as good as I had hoped, as it didn’t really taste very Italian to me. Matt’s birthday had been two days before, so we sang happy birthday and had cake. He got some black and white balloons.

The atmosphere was very relaxed and fun. I talked with Jenn who was sitting to my left. She is from northern Louisiana and actually knows the people who star in Duck Dynasty – they live just down the road, but their house is much nicer than the one shown in the show. I’ve never watched it, and have no desire to do so.

Crab linquini

My crab linguini. I wasn’t expecting it to come complete with crab shell, and was a bit more spicy than I thought.

We walked back through the lobby of the plaza where the restaurant is located and re-boarded the bus. Our trip back to the hotel was fairly short for Jakarta. Although I still didn’t feel like going to my room, I didn’t see anything else to do, so I called it a night.

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Jakarta Day 5: Wednesday, July 19, 2017

View from hotel

View from the Le Meridien Hotel looking down on traffic on Jalan Jend. Sudirman and Jalan Kh. Mas Mansyur. This is around noon and the traffic is rather light compared to normal.

As we were traveling today in our Whitehorse tourist bus, we had to make our way through some very narrow streets in a crowded area of Jakarta, and we got to see how Indonesian traffic works in great detail.

I’ve heard it said that Jakarta’s traffic is among the most snarled in the world, and I can see how it has that reputation. But I want to say at the outset that after over three weeks in Indonesia, and seeing all sorts of crazy driving and jammed streets, I never did see any accidents or dented cars or motorcycles or even people yelling at each other over traffic frustration. No road rage. So even though I don’t know how, it somehow works.

Directing traffic

The man in grey is stepping out to direct traffic through a turn around opening. The light blue van by him is a bemo, or taxi van.

On our way to the public high school this morning, we had to travel for a distance in the opposite direction as the school in order to find a break in the wall between the lanes of traffic. You see, the two directions usually have some barrier between them inside towns or cities. This prevents head on collisions, but there are not very many lights at intersections (at least in Jakarta) so to go one direction, you sometimes have to travel the opposite way until you come to a break that allows you to do a U-turn and go back the way you need to.

Since there are no turn lanes, any cars or motorcycles, Gojeks, and bemos trying to do the same as you have to stop in the fast lane to make the turn, backing up traffic for blocks and also blocking the oncoming traffic. This would create hopeless bottlenecks except that volunteers step forward, sometimes wearing safety vests, to direct traffic through the U-turn breaks for a small fee. These volunteers actually make their living accepting the coins and bills that drivers hand them for their services. You see the same thing in parking lots where people need to back up and there isn’t much room – someone will step forward to help direct drivers and get small tips for their efforts. Drivers keep a pile of loose change for this purpose. The road systems in Jakarta seem oddly designed at first – this is partly because they drive on the left, so it always seems that things are backwards. The local streets are on ground level, and the faster expressways are elevated but have only limited access and egress points, so it can take some slow driving locally to get to an on-ramp to a toll road where traffic moves much faster.

Gojek drivers

Gojek drivers waiting for fares. These are like Uber but on motorcycles.

Everything is complicated by the large numbers of motorcycles. I saw no bicycles in Jakarta, but quite a few in other places in Indonesia. The motorcycle drivers are very bold and will squeeze through the smallest spaces, suddenly accelerating to get around slower cars and intertwining through all the other traffic. The roads have lane markers but they seem to be basically ignored as motorcycles weave across the lanes. A larger vehicle like our small tour bus has a hard time making it through all of this. I was certain I would see squished motorcyclists everywhere we went, but never saw even one accident or injury.

Blue bemos

Blue bemo vans, which are shared ride taxis with benches in back.

This would not work in the United States because we are not used to motorcycles. We don’t know how to look out for them or keep an eye out for their independent and unpredictable behavior. I remember living in Taiwan in the southern city of Kaohsiung, where there were several traffic circles. There were many motorcycles, Vespas carrying whole families, three-wheeled motorcarts, ox carts, overloaded bicycles, taxis, and assorted other vehicles. Throw in a couple of Mormon missionaries on oversized bicycles with ridiculous yellow signs and it was like Chinese roulette: let’s see who gets out alive! I had a few close calls and a sprained ankle or two, but somehow we survived. It is a different style of driving.

Doug with spinner

Doug with a fidget spinner he bought from a street vendor while we were stuck in traffic.

Jakarta doesn’t have much room for sidewalks. Businesses grow up along old roadways, but with more vehicles every year, the roadways need to be expanded leaving no room for sidewalks or much for parking in front of the businesses. Sometimes cars have to park in the slow lane to go into a business, causing more snarls. This is complicated by the many stalls and mobile carts along the sides of the roads selling food, souvenirs, toys, and everything else you can name from bakso to satay to nasi goreng. Drivers stop to buy their wares where there isn’t enough room for the food cart let alone a parked car or motorcycle. And wherever the traffic jams up, vendors jump into the snarls with bags of goodies on their heads to sell to the backed up drivers, everything from fidget spinners to newspapers to amplang fish crackers.

Moped mobility

Motorcycles are the most common type of vehicle. They weave in and out of traffic and basically ignore traffic lanes.

Wherever there is a little bit of room or a quiet corner, food carts congregate and men are parked playing chess or waiting for customers. Many of these are Gojek drivers, which is like Uber but on motorcycles. They wear bright green jackets, and they are much more common than taxis now. Getting around is much faster on a motorcycle since they are more maneuverable, so people prefer Gojeks to taxis. I think it would scare me to death, and we were told on no account to use their services.

Loaded cart

A loaded hand cart full of house wares to sell. These carts add to the complexity of Jakarta’s traffic.

So on our way to the school this morning I tried photographing some of this and captured a few videos. My sense of direction is messed up, and I’ve never figured out which way we’re going or much of how we got there; I’m just glad someone else was driving all the time. I think we traveled about three-four miles in an hour. Maybe less.

Marketplace

Vegetables for sale in an open market we passed through.

After we finally got onto the expressway, we traveled a few miles and exited back to the surface streets. The driver was trying to find the way to the school, and had to go around in a loop a few times until he found the narrow alley through which he squeezed the bus. Around the circuit we passed another school, a bunch of bemos parked awaiting customers, Gojek drivers hanging out, Gado Gado Boplo food joints, and a sign for a Wong Solo restaurant. It became a running joke: that Wong Solo must be Han Solo’s long lost brother.

Trinket cart

A cart full of trinkets and toys to sell, being pulled by hand through the open market.

Once we found the alleyway we had to move slowly, because there was not room for a bus and a car to both squeeze through except in a few spots. We passed an area of an open market, a few neighborhood mosques, and then entered a slightly larger road that twisted its way until we crossed some railroad tracks and found the entrance to the school. We exited the bus and walked down a side street a short distance and entered the school itself.

Open market

Open air market. All the motorcycles parking here on these narrow streets with stalls selling food makes for a bottle neck every morning.

Early morning architecture

High rise buildings are becoming more common in Jakarta, but they don’t always have adequate parking planned with them and therefore add to the problem. Jakarta has no room to grow sideways inside the city, so it has to grow up.

Cartoon cop

There are occasional clashes between the police (polisi) and citizens in Indonesia, and the people don’t have much confidence in their police, because of bribery, kickbacks, protection rackets and other factors. One of those factors could be that they represent themselves as cartoons.

Office supply district

Businesses tend to cluster in districts. This is a shop in the office furniture district.

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Jakarta Day 2: Sunday, July 16, 2017

Me doing batik

David Black working on a batik design of Ondel-Ondel at the Museum Tekstil Jakarta.

After our morning sessions at the hotel, we ate lunch at the buffet (the desserts were amazing) and boarded out Whitehorse bus to visit the Museum Tekstil Jakarta, or the Textile Museum of Jakarta. Sarah Sever had set up a class for all of use to learn how to make batik. I was very excited by this, as learning how to do batik is one of my main goals for what to learn in Indonesia.

In my STEAM it Up class, we tried batik at the end of the school year. I ordered a kit from Dharma Trading Company with wax, a canting (the wax pen), and other materials. The instructions were not detailed enough on how to heat the wax, how hot to keep it, or how to hold the canting. The wax was very difficult to keep molten without burning it, and it kept plugging the canting’s tip or not penetrating the cloth. We tried silk and linen, and our results were less than ideal. Then we had trouble getting the wax out of the cloth.

Attempted batik-triangle patterns

One of my STEAM it Up student’s attempts at doing batik. The wax kept clogging the canting and wouldn’t penetrate into the cloth. And it kept dripping.

We walked to the workshop room, which had seats arranged around a series of small burners with wax melted in a bowl on top and cantings for each person. We chose pre-drawn patterns already in embroidery hoops, and a lady showed us how to dip and use the canting to trace the patterns. Where the wax soaks in to the cloth, the dyes won’t penetrate and the cloth is left white. It is a wax resist process.

My own attempt at batik in STEAM

My own attempt at doing batik in the STEAM it Up class. I had the students create a tessellation, such as these arrows, by drawing around a stencil on a pre-died piece of linen. Then we applied wax using a canting. But it kept dripping and clogging.

My pattern was rather complicated, a pair of figures called ondel-ondel with elaborate costumes and headdresses. I saw two things immediately: the wax used here melts at a lower temperature and stays liquid longer that the wax I got from Dharma, which has too much paraffin in it. Here, the wax (or malam) has more beeswax and other ingredients and is more of a brown color.

Craig-Matt-Nikki batik

Craig, Matt, and Nikki working on their batik patterns using canting (wax pens).

You dip the canting into the wax to fill the small reservoir, then hold it at a 45° angle against the cloth, which is held on your left knee (if right handed). I had some trouble with the wax dripping and making splotches on the cloth, but found if I rubbed off any excess wax from the dipping process, this problem would minimize. It felt much like using a traditional pen to do pen and ink drawings; you have to rub off the excess to keep it from dripping there, too.

At Tekstil Museum

Teachers for Global Classrooms educators at the Museum Tekstil Jakarta.

All the teachers enjoyed the process. I was one of the last ones done, and had to rush through waxing the opposite side of the cloth. The next step was to hand the cloth to the man doing the dyeing. We could do red or blue or a combined purple. I chose purple and videotaped him dyeing my cloth as well as others. The wax was then melted out in boiling water and the clothes hung up to dry.

Anu doing batik

Anu working on the same pattern I had: the traditional Ondel-Ondel dolls. Notice how she is holding the cloth at a 45° angle and tipping the canting at the same angle to avoid spilling wax (malam).

While they were drying, we stopped at the gift shop and I purchased some cantings and wax, using money borrowed from Nikki as I had not yet tried to exchange my U.S. dollars for Indonesian rupiah yet. I’ll talk about the exchange rate in a later post. We then took a tour through the museum, where they had examples of batiks from all over Indonesia. A wide variety of plants and animals are used to make the colors of the dyes. We then walked over to the separate museum on weaving techniques and styles.

Kate and Wendy see batik

A master batik artist shows Kate and Wendy her work. She later gave Wendy one of her pieces.

After these tours, I went outside because it was stuffy in the non-airconditioned buildings. It was very humid outside, but at least there was some air moving in a slight breeze. It will be a challenge to adjust to the humidity.

Professional batik

A master artist applying the malam wax using a canting pen. Notice the delicate hand work and how she is not dripping any wax. It is similar to learning how to do hand-dipped pen and ink. I just have to practice.

As I was walking around the grounds trying to find the restroom, the afternoon call to prayer (salat) rang out from several nearby mosques. This is not the first time I had heard the prayer call. In 1984, I traveled with my family to parts of Europe and Israel, and while in Jerusalem I visited the Dome of the Rock and heard the calls to prayer. The calls ring out loudly so that all people can hear wherever they are and whatever they are doing. These prayers are done five times per day, and begin with the Kalimah, a statement of belief that there is only one God and Muhammad was his prophet. This is one of the five Pillars of Islam. The imam for each mosque then decides a passage from the Quran to read, and the muezzin calls out the passage as a song, which is quite beautiful to listen to and rather haunting. I recorded some of it.

Everyones batik drying

Teacher batik hanging up to dry. We could choose red or blue or a combination. The border was painted on and cracked by one of the museum teachers.

Sarah collected our dried batiks. Mine wasn’t exactly a work of art, but it was much better than my earlier attempts in my STEAM it Up class. We re-boarded the Whitehorse bus and traveled gradually toward our next destination. I took photos of bougainvillea and other flowering plants along the way. I have missed the colorful flowers of the tropics.

Batik sample

Batik sample in the Museum Tekstil Jakarta.

Batik sample 2

Other batik samples in the museum.

Me with ondel ondel

David Black with Ondel-Ondel statues. I bought some canting at the museum store for use in my classes at school.

Flowering bushes

Flowering bushes, mostly bougainvillea. Although native to Mexico, this bush is now found throughout the tropics in Asia.

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Jakarta Day 1: Saturday, July 15, 2017

Mie Yogya hot stuff

Mie Yogya, a very spicy dish of fried chicken, steamed rice, and vegetables. And I didn’t even add any sambal sauce.

We met in the lobby of the Le Meridién Hotel in Jakarta at 6:15 to board the bus to our welcome dinner. It was nice to see the other teachers, and they welcomed us and heard our tale of woe and our unexpected detour through Sydney. They arrived about 1:00 last night and at least had a good sleep all morning before heading to the National Monument this afternoon.

The restaurant was called Tjikini Lima, and we sat at a long table near the entrance and ordered various Indonesian dishes. I decided to try Mie Yogya, which turned out to be a very spicy chicken stew with steamed rice and carrots. It was delicious but my mouth was on fire. There is a good reason why they call these the Spice Islands. I was glad to have a water bottle, and I had also ordered a berry shake, which was more like an Italian soda in consistency but very good. It helped to cut the burn of the food. The flavor was amazing.

Welcome dinner

Some of the educators in the Teachers for Global Classrooms program at the Tjikini Lima restaurant in Jakarta, Indonesia.

I managed to stay awake enough through dinner, but found I was clumsy and very jetlagged – I dropped a bunch of utensils on the floor. Kate and Christie were kind enough to try to keep me talking and engaged, but I found I could not stop nodding off. I hope I can sleep well tonight.

Our in-country consultant is Dewi, a high school English teacher from Jambi on Sumatra. She is very funny and positive, the perfect host. We were also met by Novianti, the host teachers for Mike and Ursula, who will be staying in Jakarta for their host school experience.

Welcome dinner 2

Teachers at our welcome dinner for the Teachers for Global Classrooms program in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Once we got back to the hotel I headed for my room and fell asleep almost immediately. This has been a very, very long journey and my first time across the Pacific Ocean in over 36 years. I’m happy to finally be here in Indonesia. Except for some major jet lag, I am ready to go!

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Trans-Pacifica Part V: Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sydney international terminal

The International Terminal in Sydney Airport.

The final leg of our journey to Indonesia began in Sydney, Australia. The Garuda flight wasn’t in any hurry to board, probably because the plane got in a bit late. I walked over to the gate and asked if it was time to get our official boarding passes and they told me yes, but it took some time as the attendant wanted to know a complete, detailed description of my baggage, despite the customer service person in San Francisco going through the same details. As it turned out, I’m glad she did. Once the boarding began, they didn’t call out groups as in most boarding procedures except that they boarded business class first, then everyone else in a kind of mob. But we got onto the plane eventually, taxied out, and took off.

Sydney departure board-relax

The departure board at Sydney International Airport. I like their advice for waiting: Relax! It’s also interesting to see departures to places like Ho Chi Minh City that you can’t get to from the United States.

This is wintertime in Sydney, but its latitude gives it a climate something like Southern California. The bays and inlets of Sydney Harbor shone invitingly from the air. I could see the downtown area, but never spied the famous opera house. No little clown fish or blue tang in the water, either. But it looks beautiful. I must return sometime. I don’t think staying in the airport without feet actually on the ground counts as having visited a place.

Currencies

International currencies in a donation box at Sydney airport.

We flew south, then turned west and flew over the center of Australia. There wasn’t much to see, and I spent most of the time talking with my seatmate. His name was Paul and he was originally from Germany, working in Australia among other places, and on his way home to visit his wife and children in Jakarta. He had served for many years in the German Army as part of UN Peacekeeping forces around the world. He had five brothers, and all had been in the German military. Two brothers had died in the line of duty, one while rescuing hostages in Mogadishu, Somalia (I tried to find more information on this, but haven’t been successful). Paul had lost his left eye and been wounded in the left arm and leg when a land mine exploded, which he was tried to disarm in the former Yugoslavia. After this accident, he was put on Embassy duty, eventually winding up in Indonesia. Lost in the streets of Jakarta, a kind man took him home and fed him. He met the man’s daughter, became friends with the family, and married the daughter. Now semi-retired, he runs a security firm on the side.

Coast near Sydney

The coastline of Australia near Sydney Harbor as seen from our flight to Indonesia.

We crossed over Alice Springs – not much to see below, just flat desert with some meandering watercourses. At the northwest coast there were many ridges and islands, evidence of submerged valleys from the rise of oceans after the last ice age. Our flight attendants were very attentive (I guess that’s what their job title implies) and kept us well fed and watered. I learned a few Indonesian words, such as kamar kecil (restroom) and keluar (exit) from reading the signs on the airplane. After Australia a large stretch of ocean appeared with occasional rings of atolls below. I tried to sleep without much success. Finally, after six hours of flying, we saw the coast of a large island made visible by the stacks of clouds above it, clustered around a central volcanic peak. I took a few photos out the window. I’m not sure which volcano it was, but it was definitely a composite cone. Let’s hope I get to see a few of these up close! If one of them ever erupted while I was nearby, I would be like Pliny the Elder, last seen running toward Mt. Vesuvius as it erupted.

Sydney Harbor

Sydney Harbor as seen from our plane’s window. I was using an iPad camera here with low resolution and I am zoomed in quite a bit, so the image isn’t very good. Plus, it’s taken out of an airplane window, after all. The white blob at center left may be the Opera House. Hard to tell.

We crossed Java and turned for Jakarta as more clouds appeared below in ordered puffs over the sea. We landed about 30 minutes late and deplaned. We walked through embarkation (I got my passport stamped) and were met by representatives with a sign. Both Mike and Alicia had been told as they boarded the airplane that their luggage had not been transferred to the flight, so they had to fill out claims in the luggage department. Alicia had a change of clothes in her carry-on, but Mike was forced to wear the same clothes for three more days until his bags finally arrived at the hotel. My bags were on the flight, thank heavens, so I got a trolley and walked through customs (basically a hand-wave as the representatives just handed our forms to the officials and we walked on through). We had a car waiting for us outside the terminal. As we walked outside, I could feel the humidity soak into my clothes. I’m back in the tropics again. It’s been a long time – over 36 years.

Volcano from air

A volcano on Java as seen from our Garuda Indonesia flight to Jakarta.

We drove into Jakarta and it was a bit disconcerting to have the driver on the right side of the car – I kept thinking the driver was missing or that we were in an automatic car. Maybe in 10 years this will be true, although I don’t see it being successful in Jakarta’s heavy traffic. It took some time to get to the Le Meridién Hotel, as Jakarta is a huge, sprawling city. But we did arrive finally, put our bags through the security scanner at the front door, and got our rooms. Sarah Sever met us in the lobby and was visibly relieved to see us, after missing our connection through Narita with the rest of the group. She will be our mother hen for the next three weeks. We arrived at the hotel at 5:30 and our welcome dinner departs at 6:15. I had just enough time to go to my room (620) and shower and change, which felt wonderful after two days of flying in the same underwear and compression socks. My right leg is not happy.

Garuda flight from Sydney

Our Garuda International flight before leaving Sydney.

I am here at last. My adventure in Indonesia can finally begin!

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