Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wednesday's Window

We are interrupting posts from Indonesia for Wednesday's window which comes from Zen in Centralworld.

I love the silver elfy one and the colourful stripey one but I'm not a massive fan of the pink rabbit ears; I don't like the Playboy bunny girl connotations but here I've attempted to desexualise her with a head and shoulders shot.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A volcanic life in Indonesia

Driving up to Merapi, we saw lots of Indonesian life.

A peak at one flank of Merapi
We didn't see much of our first volcano: Merapi near Jogjakarta because it was rainy season and there was so much cloud cover. It made us a bit nervous; were we going to come on a volcano watching holiday and, er, not see any volcanoes? It was disappointing but actually didn't change the impact of the thing. Thousands of people still live and farm the flanks of Merapi and some of them were there to collect toll/entrance money and to sell souvenirs and fruit to any passing tourists. It was a sobering experience.

Merapi, meaning Mountain of Fire, is considered to be one of the most dangerous active volcanoes, (in Indonesia? The world? Claims vary...) famous for its pyroclastic flow (hot gas, ash and rocks that flows (like liquid) along the ground at up to 450 miles per hour. Pyroclastic flow reaches temperatures of 1000˚C, can move hundreds of kilometres and it can cross water. This phenomena is what happened at Pompeii.


It's last big eruption was 2010, 2006 before that... the next one is due, our guide told us, in 2014. Stupidest question of the week was definitely mine: I asked him if it was frightening living here under these volcanoes. I just don't think I could do it. He shrugged and said, 'it's our motherland.' I think, maybe, if you grow up with it, you learn to live with it.

After failing to see much of Merapi we visited the museum. They had a huge model of the volcano and if you pressed the button, it would erupt for you. I don't think I was alone in finding the earth tremors of this replica, terrifying for the shadowing of what it might really be like. We saw just what pyroclastic flow could do, stripping motorbikes of all soft fittings, leaving behind a metal skeleton. And I learned the different ways they are monitoring Merapi and his brothers in Indonesia. (I didn't learn any of this in school. I switched off that day because it didn't interest me. It's one of the many things I've understood about myself as an adult. I am lucky enough to realise NOW how fascinating it all is.) They use photography from both satellites and ground level (bulges are a comment early sign), seismic measurements, monitoring the fissures on the surface and monitoring the gases from the output. I may have forgotten other ones....

Unsurprisingly, there are strong spiritual beliefs about these volcanoes (Merapi and Mount Bromo, the one we did get to SEE at New Year) and the Javanese people still make offerings to them to keep them appeased. I think if I lived here, I would too; it couldn't do any harm, could it? But if you didn't...

You can see here what Merapi does look like without the cloud cover.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Crispy cracker, snack capital of the world

Our holiday, this Christmas, caused me much consternation; probably not as much as it caused Husband, who had to book it, but still enough for me to make a total arse of myself.

Husband proposed a trip during New Year to see volcanoes in Indonesia. I agreed but told him he would have to organize it. Time passed; I made silly creatures, hats and costumes and wondered if anything would get booked. People kept asking what our plans were. Sometimes I’d be vague (I had a permanent, slightly vague sense whenever questioned about our holiday but I thought it was because I’d passed the responsibility to Husband) and other times I’d wave aside the nauseous doubt and I’d say that Husband was meant to be booking something; we’d laugh. Maybe, I’d say, we wouldn’t get anything at this late notice but we hoped to be going to the Philippines. Daughter couldn’t remember where we were going either (I wonder where she gets THAT from) “Where are we going for New Year?” She’d text. “The Philippines” I’d say, feeling geographically knowledgeable. Eventually, Husband started sending tentative itineraries to me. And it was during this time that I had a brainwave. Maybe I could use the trip to pick up some millinery materials. The Philippines are where they make sinamay, a material made from banana fibre used to make hats. I began googling sinamay manufacturers hoping that I could tie a side trip into some of the places I’d seen on the travel agents’ details. It was odd how when I found a place that made sinamay, I could never find any of the names nearby of the places on our itinerary….

Of course, this idea of mine wasn't ever going to come off, given that I was talking about the Philippines and Husband was talking about Indonesia. *Sigh* One of my best friends in the UK lived (before I knew her) in both the Philippines and Indonesia. I’ve known for a long time now that I get these two places mixed up and no amount of map checking cleared it up for me. Both locations have amalgamated in my head as foreign archipelagoes *waves hand vaguely over to the left* down there somewhere and I’m doubly embarrassed now that I live in SE Asia because I’ve waved many a friend off from Bangkok to Indonesia, or maybe it was the Philippines….

Anyway, there we were; it was all finally booked and we were off. Yes, definitely to Indonesia: six flights in six days and two dawn starts. Crumbs.

Anyway, Indonesia was most charming. I glimpsed a life lived under the threat of active volcanoes. I peered down inside a smoking crater. I saw my boys wearing sarongs (Don’t panic, David Beckham, you’re quite safe) and yes, I have photographic evidence. Though their coffee seemed to contain generous quantities of volcanic ash, those lovely Indonesians also drank tea, which pleased me enormously. The food was delicious (mie goreng – fried noodles – ooh yum – and a spectacular clear soup, served with crackery crisp things.) In fact, though often spotted in Bangkok, Indonesia struck me as the crispy cracker, snack capital of the world (a choice of four, yes FOUR, crispy crackery snacks with breakfast!) Mostly commonly spotted where the prawn cracker type things, but other crackers in spirals, squares, circles and hula hoop shapes, were all over the place, made variously from rice, potato, tapioca starches. Awesome. 

We had an incredible trip; seeing the dawn of 2013 overlooking the crater of Mount Bromo. We saw Borobudur, a ninth century Buddhist temple; Prambanan, a ninth century Hindu temple, both UNESCO world heritage sites.

And I, finally, worked out the difference between Indonesia and the Philippines. 

Waving my hand vaguely over to the left

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Christmas Creatures 2012

The Christmas Creatures are a long held family tradition. My Dad has been making them for all the children (and guests and ‘hangers on’) for some 38 years. (You can see some examples from over the years here.) In conversation with my Dad just before Christmas, he told me that one year, what with cousins and extra small guests, he made sixteen of that Creature! SIXTEEN? And I stress about four!

Last year, my Dad handed the tradition over to me. This was my first one: intended as a testament and honour to my Dad’s years of Christmas Creature production. (He's a retired doctor.)

Here is this year’s creature:

Christmas Creatures have a cavity, into which tiny gifts, wrapped in tissue paper, are inserted. Of course, with a chicken... it really HAD to be an egg, right? (Found in Sampeng Lane, Chinatown.)

I have to confess that the design is not my own. I hope that this is not deemed cheating; rather I see it as utilizing the opportunities of the 21st century and once I had seen LiEr's truly brilliant pattern, nothing I could have done would have come close; this was everything I wanted the chicken creature to be. It was found here and purchased, as insurance, (here) in case time ran away with me. Time did run away with me; lion costumes and holly headpieces took up more than I anticipated and two of the creatures have to be sent ahead to the UK.