Black Magic and a Brat's Holiday Remorse

I’m experiencing a bit of holiday remorse. Four weeks in Bali was almost too much of a good thing. In fact we changed our tickets and returned 5 days early to Jakarta (DOH!). That plan bit me in the ass for reasons I won’t go into at the moment.

I’m coming to the conclusion that perhaps 1-2 weeks of an amazing holiday would be more worthwhile than four weeks of moderation. This is not an invitation to receive criticisms for sounding like a yuppie, spoiled, expat-living-like-a-king (yeah right), etc, etc. I’m just saying that maybe it’s better to go for quality over quantity. One week of bliss in Thailand over four weeks in Ubud may have been the preferable route this time. Maybe this is stemming from the fact that I’ve spend three of the past 13 months in Bali. Or, maybe this is just a slight amount of home-sickness creeping in. After all, I have only returned ‘home’ to the States once in my 4+ years in Indonesia. I’m wondering if it would have been more wise to leave the country at least, as now my colleagues are returning with fresh faces, raring to go for yet another year and I’m only partially recharged.

Overall, Ubud was wonderful but the quiet nights got a bit too quiet. I love it there, but after three weeks anyone needs a change. Fortunately, we had the chance to hit the beaches of Sanur, Seminyak, Dreamland, and Balangan (my fav). I put a solid 1000km on the Jeep but most of them were burned up driving back and forth from Ubud to the Bvlgari Resort, unlike the other trips to Bali exploring every inch of the island.

What’s the flipside? I am looking forward to getting back into the gym (I’ve lost so much muscle that my shirts are actually fitting well), spending time with friends, and continuing on my photographic endeavors this year with a couple of tentative projects that have yet to take shape.

The day I arrived back in Jakarta the security guards at my place of work informed me that my Honda’s tire had been flat the entire time I was gone, my maid told me that the drain in my shower was stuck and they’d have to rip apart the tile to repair it, and I had to pay extra corruption fees to receive a package that my brother sent from Singapore – after he already pre-paid all the shipping charges.

When I said that returning home early bit me in the ass? Actually it’s an amoeba. I’m on horse pill antibiotics that warp your world. Ever have one of those take residence in your intestines? Betcha it’ll make you write a post like this one. I’m beginning to believe in black magic.

It’s good to be home.

P.S. – I’m dedicating this entire post to this discussion.

You Can't Title a Post Like This

So I’m in the grocery store with Novita looking for hand sanitizer. I find the proper aisle, and am surprised by the variety of shapes and colors offered for hand cleaner; usually it’s just a small square boring bottle. These bottles were curvy and fit the hand very well. Pleased with my selection, I’m joined by Novita:

“What are you doing?”, as she inspects the label.

“Buying hand sanitizer.”

“That’s not for cleaning your hands!”, with a devilish grin.

“What the hell is it for then?”

“Cleaning vaginas.”

Bali Bomb Cleric Freed From Jail

Nice to know this f***’er is only a few kilometers from me. Absurd decision-making. Absolutely absurd.

From the BBC:

“A Muslim cleric convicted over the 2002 nightclub bombings on Indonesian island Bali, which killed 202 people, has been released from prison in Jakarta.

Abu Bakar Ba’asyir was found guilty in March 2005 of conspiracy in connection with the bomb plot, but he was cleared of more serious charges.

Security experts say the cleric is a founding member of a regional Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiah (JI).

Supporters gathered outside the prison, cheering as he left the building.”

2 Live Crew for 5 Year Olds?

So the other day, my Chinese buddy invited me to his kid’s birthday party. Actually it was for his 5 year old and 10 year old (girl & boy respectively). Despite the fact that he’s obscenely wealthy, I had visions of a dozen kids screaming around a flaming birthday cake while the adults got buzzed up in the corner on the spiked punch.

Um. Yeah. Wrong.

Driving past the gated security in one of the most prestigious (and quiet) neighborhoods in my area, I saw what appeared to be a massive block party. It looked like the whole town was on ‘shrooms – chest-thumping bass, neon lights smearing the sky, and a full blown stage set up complete with performers and magicians. I had never actually seen such a sight in this area prior to this experience.

Apparently it was indeed a very good year. Stepping out of the car, we were welcomed by the ‘registration desk’ – a booth whereby you must sign in and announce your pedigree. 250 children, their maids, and parents were having the time of their lives. Women dressed to the 9 in glittering evening gowns, men talking Mafia-style in the corners of the yard, and children e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e.

Looking around, I saw enough high-tech equipment to run a TV station. Closed-circuit video was being played on TVs hung throughout; video of the magicians on stage visible from any seating position, a DJ spinning the latest toons at jet-engine decibels through speaker the size of shipping containers.

This is the other Jakarta. (compare this to yesterday’s post)

Food vendors had been hired and set up in strategic places along the property, with a cake that would put a wedding to shame, sitting directly in front of a billboard size full-color banner of the two children.

As I started talking to some of the guests, I quickly noticed the conversations turning to business endeavors. A typical chat began:

Me: Hey there, how’s it goin…

Notme: Fine, fine, just brought the kids over for some fun.

Me: Yeah, I see – So what do you for work?

Notme: I own a resort on the west coast of Java. You should stop by sometime.

Me: Wow, that’s great, how many rooms do you have? (thinking a half-dozen)

Notme: 267… I’ll make you a booking, here’s my card… So what is it you do for work, Brandon…

Me: … … … Um…You wanna grab some food?!?…

As I crept away to the quietest seat I could find, the DJ put a new spin on the party. I fainly recognized the beat from 1989 but thoughts of junior high corrupted my cranium. I couldn’t quite place the song… until it hit me. Well, the lyrics did at least – “Heeeyyy….. we want some P*SSY!”

The DJ had decided to play 2 Live Crew’s most sexually explicit song full-blast at a 5 year old’s birthday party…

Ce La Vie!

A Story all too Familiar to Jakarta

I blatantly ripped this off of a post by fellow expat, Indcoup, but found it disturbingly true.

She is thirty-two years old. Her real name is Darmasiah. She has five children and is a widow – or to be more accurate she used to be a widow. A year ago she married a builder’s laborer called Asmawi. They lived in a shack and their only possessions were a bedsheet and a rack for storing crockery. Four of the five children had been sent to live with relatives, but they tried to care for the youngest child themselves.

But the household could not support three people. Often they did not eat for a whole day. They could not afford rice, let alone anything to go with it. Iyut wanted to work, but her laborer husband would not permit her. Finally she gave up hope and went to sell the bedsheet.

Iyut managed to get 20,000 rupiah for the sheet. She went from the place where she sold the sheet to another place where she bought a tin of baygon household poison, and then went home and drank it. She wanted to leave this world – or at least she wanted to leave the world that she had known.

But she failed. Unconscious and near death, she was found, taken to the local hospital, and revived. She stayed on a few days in hospital even though she was allowed to go home. The reason: she didn’t have enough money to pay the treatment.

Her husband, Asmawi, came to visit her a few times in hospital. He needed money to do this. And so he was forced to sell their only other possession, the dish rack…

Written by Goenawan Mohamad (translation by Jennifer Lindsay)

Within a one mile radius of my home are multi-million dollar homes, some of Southeast Asia’s largest malls, an army of Mercedes, Beamers, Audis, and conversely, slums that would absolutely blow the mind of most Westerners. This ties in well with one of my photo essays on

Protests Spread in Indonesia Over Caricature

Protests spread in major cities over caricature

The Jakarta Post, Bandung, Semarang, Surabaya

Despite calls for restraint, protests intensified in the country’s main cities Monday over the publication in European media of caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Protesters in most of the cities decried what they considered the use of freedom of the press to justify insulting Islam.

About 200 protesters from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in West Java town of Bandung threatened to conduct searches for Danish nationals in the country if Denmark — where the series of 12 cartoons was first published last September — did not try those responsible.

Protest coordinator Asep Syarifuddin warned that the group would transport Danes to the airport to be repatriated.

Without getting into the conversation of the caricatures, I simply abhor the fact that these protestors would threaten to “conduct searches for Danish nationals” in Indonesia. This is the kind of sh$% that angers me beyond belief. Absolutely absurd.

When George Bush invaded Iraq, should my friends and I have been escorted out of the country as well? Think about the fact that many foreign nationals not only disapprove of their leader’s actions, but are completely upset with the decisions leaders make while representing their country.

I am truly disappointed to see the level of threats taken against these foreigners who may have lived here most of their lives and/or have Indonesian family members under their love and care.

– Disenchanted in Jakarta.

Quiet in Kuta, Ubud is a Mood

Foreword: As many of you may have noticed, my site was down for about 5 days! I’ve never had that happen, but there was a ‘miscommunication’ with my web host. I won’t vent my frustrations now, but I apologize for that happening. In three years time, that’s never happened. It should be fine now.


Well after one of the worst landings of my life (on Adam Air), we arrived in Bali. When the plane hit the ground, I literally thought the landing gear was going to pop up between my legs – we hit that hard. The pilot had to throw on the reverse thrusters at a higher rate than I’ve ever experienced. It’s funny, but my first reaction wasn’t fear – it was anger. I wanted to drag that pilot out on the runway and have a few ‘words’ with him. I think I’ll be using a different airline on the way home.


We stayed a few days in Kuta after arrival – I’ve never seen it that quiet. Walking by the Raja’s place that was bombed was eerie. It almost feels as if there’s an air of depression around Kuta and Legian. Tourism has definitely taken a big hit. Most of the tourists I see are Japanese or European, whereas usually the majority would be Aussies. It’s odd being in a place where you have to walk into a bar or club wondering how likely it’d be labeled as a target to be bombed. My buddy and I went to the Hard Rock – somehow it was hard to clear those thoughts from your mind.


Three nights there was enough. We moved up to Ubud, where the slower pace is the norm, not a result of the bombings. As most of you know, I love this area. The cool nights, the endless rice fields, and the overall atmosphere is more my style. We rented a shoebox to get us around for $10/day and managed to venture up to the volcanic lake of Lake Batur.

Some more friends will be arriving today and this weekend; it’ll be nice to have some people around for Christmas. I’ll check back in soon. If you don’t hear from me before the 25th, Merry Christmas!