Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sop Kambing dan nasi(Goat soup with Rice))

(reporting from Indraloka Resto and Bayonet Internet Cafe)

Since I have been here in Indonesia, I have gotten used to many things. Ironiocally, I have a friend from nearby Malaysia who is visiting the United States. She told me that she actually misses the humidity. As an American, I am very used to listening to friends telling me that the one thing they cannot handle in tropical climates is the humidity.

I am used to new diets. Despite my previous comments, I am actually enjoying some better health here. I am eating less, and not eating my old fast food diet from California. With the diagnosis of MS, I have become more accepting of these changes in my body. The heat and humidity here are harder on me than in times past. I am grateful, however, I have rooms with air conditioning, and still believe copious perspiration to be cleansing.( but here in Jogja there is a per item charge on laundry, so my sweating does have a dollar amount attached).

I remember in months past, I joked about eating burgers as a way to improve the myelin production in my body. Ironic, or perhaps intuitive that I should discover that myelin is the chief culprit in my challenged nervous system. My family has joined me in this process of discovery, as we hope to minimize the problems I will experience.

Today was a wonderful day here in Jogjakarta. I went shopping in local markets, looking at all kinds of crafts, and cloths. The process of batik is wonderful. These cloths are painstakingly drawn, painted on with colored waxes, followed by more wax detail, and then plunged in a chemical dye bath to finish the coloring. After drying, the fabric is then dipped in boiling water(gasoline is used for silk batik) to remove the waxes.

The market trip was exhausting. Getting in and out of my chair, I feel blessed I am not bound to it. Still, all the market is filled with people, and thin aisles forced m,e on my feet to get some exercise. The whole process of touring the market was exciting, though stressful. So after the market was lunch in a restaurant where we sat on mats on the floor, and ate rice, chicken and jackfruit off plates with our hands. Ricka ate a chicken's head, an d then ordered another one because she was still hungry. Chickens head can only be appreciated b y soeone willing to suck, chew and scrape the bones, to get a full experience. If you are not willing to eat the eyeballs and brain, perhaps this is not the selection for you.

Following evening Mass at a Catholic hospital chapel (delivered in English), we traveled across the str5eet to a sidewalk diner where we sat on mats on the sidewalk and devoured bowls of sop kabing (goat soup) served with sambal (chili based condiment), cut limes, and bowls of rice. The food was exquiusite, and I went to the hotel wholly satisfied with the day.

Thank you for reading.

I always wonder how suggestive my mind is. Upon arriving in Indonesia, I was told by Ricka that many travelers suffer from diarrhea. I never thought about this before, until I ended up in the restroom the past day. The angst I felt was minor, but I was already thinking of the implications:

Could this be the symptom of a greater problem?

What did I eat?

Will I end up at the doctors office again?

Indeed the implications are much scarier than the moment by moment reality. My vacation is not ruined. I even went on a city wide tour of Jogjakarta with a paid driver that loaded and unloaded my wheelchair everywhere I went. His name is Marmin. He does not speak any Engliush, but traveling with him he found many folk that were able to show me the sites, and explain to me Javanese culture, historical and religious significance of each place we traveled.

The first plaec we stopped I saw myself enveloped in trees, as we had climbed to great heights to find the viewing point of Mt. Merapi. Mt. Merapi is an active volcano, and draws many visitors. I bought one Tshirt, and one dvd. I enjoyed the view. Still, I watched several people climbing to a better viewing place while I saw enormous cloud cover, and no mountain.

The whole day I was focused on relaxing, seeing the sites, and waving off aggressive vendors. Upon purchasing a hat (USD 5) the lady looked into my money pouch as I opened it, and very confidently pointed to a set of bills, and said “It's the blue one!” I really appreciate her helpfulness in getting my money.

This was all done while my girlfriend stranded me to be in a remote village, and attend to family things. She then told me how concerned she was I was here in Jogja where there are so few English speakers. My experience having no problems getting what I need has done nothing to stop her worrying. Also, Jogjakarta is a small college town, and has a greater number of English speakers. This place is wonderful, and I also am pleased at its cooler weather, and the ready accessibility of malls, cafes , and restaurants.

In my trip today I saw batik fabric factory, Indonesian silver workers, the palace of an Indonesian sultan, and a building from 1758 where another sultzn had built with a huge pool to where he could watch, bathe, and house his many wives and concubines. Dining was delightful. I ate in one rumah makan (restaurant) where all my food was arranged on small plates at my table, and I selected and ate what I wanted.

In my time here, I still refuse to eat fish eyeballs and brains. I ate a chicken's brain, and thought it seemed gross. Chicken's hearts feel icky when I chew them, and I do not always enjoy my food as much when someone explains its origin. This is my report for now.

Thank you for reading.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I am having a hard time finding reliable WiFi hot spots, and still own a flash card sufficient to store pictures and writing files. I will have to change my modus operandi. I can get online, but Hot Spots are unrelable at best. I would hate to pay for meals, and settle down with my computer to find I cannot access my mail...

I am still n Jogjakarta, and having a great time. I will reprt mre later

Monday, June 22, 2009

Waiting For MyToe to Heal...

I am typing now from Pizza Hut, a central location where you can indulge in the finest in traditional Indonesian dining. I am not able to get online, as the router here in Pizza Hut is apparently connected to a challenged DSL line. So, I get a sterling connection to the router in Pizza Hut, but no connection to the Internet. I just finished an ice cream topped with whipped cream and peanuts. I delight in them as peanuts are practically becoming outlawed in the United States. Yes, we can buy them. Nowhere in Indonesia will you find peanuts referred to as “potential allergens.” Here they are content to call them peanuts, or the word in Indonesian that means 'peanuts.

Still, I am going to be off to Mass celebration where the service will be given in English, and I will be catching a cab in a few minutes to dress for that. I did have surgery on my toe the first couple days here, and my limitations walking became more exacerbated by my sore toe, which does feel much better thanks to a doctor who speaks English confidently, but incomprehensibly.

In the days to come, I will be traveling to a smaller province called Jogjakarta, about which I will have much to report. Asking for a second coffee is a challenge. Though I ought to relax, as my taxi will arrive soon.

(later on)

I arrived too late at the apartment to make it out to Mass. So, after reading the Mass readings, an engaging in appropriate solemnity, I went out in search of a good buy on a wheelchair. My sister pitched the idea to my girlfriend, Ricka, and she pitched the idea to me.

I love walking. I love the freedom it gives me. But, when all is said and done, walking Indonesian streets with bum legs is a killer. When I get tired my foot starts curling inward, and walking becomes impossible. Determined to enjoy my visit here, as well as my upcoming trips to Jogjakarta and Bandung, I am thrilled at having this new accessory.

This trip I was able to enjoy a meal at an outdoor diner, manned by several men with pushcarts that will all be gone by tomorrow morning. I had sate ayam (skewered barbecue chicken), nasi goreng gila (crazy Indonesian fried rice), dim sum, and a plate of very spicy fried tofu pieces,served cold in a sauce with big chunks of raw chili peppers. I am self-conscious, though, since leaving Redding weeks ago,my belly is noticeably bigger. At 24 Hour Fitness Center in San Jose I weighed in at 203 pounds. I am terrified to think what has shifted in the week since

I have to find a way to exercise while I am here, because I do not want to fill out all the extra space on this wheelchair. I now know how easy it is to lose my edge by moving away from the regular gym workouts, and my hours spent on the job. I am amazed, truly bothered by this. I will find a way, some way to burn some extra calories everyday. I will enjoy Jogjakarta more if I am working to stay in shape.

So, as I continue my tropical adventure, I reflect on my life history, following diet trends in America. I remember the Scarsdale Diet, the Grapefruit Diet (lousy if you are on many medications), the Atkin's Diet (and I know you Atkin's converts are still out there, the water diet, and many, many others. I can still watch the parade of spokespeople lined up for Jenny Craig, and the giant corporations built out from Weight Watchers, and Nutrisystem. I also have met many people that have lost weight participating in the 12-step group Overeaters Anonymous (which asks no money from participants).

I think about all these things as I remember this beautiful woman walking through Safeway years ago. I stopped her to comment on her shirt. She was working as a dietitian, and was wearing the message that changes my world today:

“It's the Calories, Stupid!”

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

my first three days...

I am sitting in a room, content in that I have my computer, a loaf of chocolate marbled sweet bread. I just finished taking a shower, sitting in a chair, with a plastic bag on my foot, scrubbing my leg with a loofah, and a bar of soap. I have moment to pause, and think how this evening is perfect, and I am thrilled to be where I am.

I had my girlfriend assist me by going to the nearby ACE Hardware on her motorcycle, and retrieve for me a transformer that makes it possible to plug in electrical devices designed to operate off 110 volt sockets, when the room I am in has nothing but 220 volt sockets. She also retrieved for me a surge protector that has sockets designed to accept either 220 or 110 volt electrical devices.

Until now, I have been unable to use my computer or recharge my camera battery. When I was with my sister three days ago, I did not think today was going to be how it is. My sister offered to take me to the airport, and now I am on the island of Java, sipping coffee in a beautiful room, back in my technology once again, enjoying my camera, and my computer. Three days ago my neurologist confirmed my MS diagnosis, and that did nothing to stop my travel.

So, after two full days here on Java, I have finally retrieved the gear I need to make my computer ready to use here. It is wild that with all this time I had to wait until now to get my techno gear intact. Of course,it is obvious that I was probably preoccupied with juice drunk by a straw from a cut coconut, endless beaches, and meals of rice and fish served wrapped in banana leaves.

While still in San Jose, my family in all their frivolity, bought me not one, but two walkers. They argued with me as to my need to take them (instead of my handy, high-utility cane), and then equipped one with two brand new Wilson tennis balls on the back posts. It is quite a leap for me to accept my health has come to this. But, before I left San Jose, my mother helped dress a wound where one of my toenails was ripped off, and I did not notice it.

So, now I will discuss why I was bathing with a bag on my foot. With the nerve problems I have experienced so far, I do accept that things can happen, like a toenail ripping off my foot with no pain. Still, that was cleaned up, and secured days ago. Yesterday, walking along with my girlfriend in Jakarta, I as aware of pain in my foot, and my big toe swelling up. I remember my mother talking to me foreboding of Indonesian doctors cutting off my foot in the event of a rampant infectiuon.

I decided to go to the doctor. So, my first full day on the road, and I am acutely aware of an ingrown toenail, and enormous pain from it. So, with little cash, and no insurance, I went to the hospital. The doctor confirmed my analysis, and told me he wanted to operate. Operate? No! I am thousands of miles away from home, and I asked him what such a procedure would cost. He looked at me, and told me it would be two million rupiah. Two million rupiah? (approximately two hundred United States dollars). In five minutes I was wheeled into a procedure room, and my foot was being swabbed down with iodine.

I did take issue with the doctor telling me that "some pain was acceptable. This was, of course after he pinched my big toe, and asked me if this was the right one. I let out a piercing yell, and he cheerily set about shooting my toe with Novocaine. The man raised an enormous chunk of toenail up, and showed me h fruits of his labour, and then quickly sewed my toe back together. All fear mongering aside, I am grateful no one needed to chop off my toe. I was given drugs, and sent happily on my way home.

So, my tropical vacation begins a bit rocky, but with all that is going on in my life, I am pleased that so far, this is not that bad. I love the smell of the humid, island air. I love the time I am spending here. I am very happy I have the Internet to share all this with you. More on my trip forthcoming.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I am back home again...

Sigh. I am back at home with my family in San Jose. I was on a train all night, and getting sleep was a lost cause.

I was grateful that the train was on time. Trying to get to San Jose is a challenge to my patience, bcause the train only passes through Redding once a day, and has to take a backseat to nearby freight trains that may be using the same tracks. For this reason, the Amtrack will regularly be late 30 minutes to three hours late for its 2: 20 AM schedule.

The train caught me off guard. I was coming out of the bathroo when I saw no one in the waiting area. I quickly gathered up my stuff, and hustled out to the train loading area where conductors were already calling off names for passengers with reservations. Hustling has become more challenging with my balancing issues. I gathered my bags, and hobbled out to the front door, where I was shown where to sit.

My seating reminded me why I like to travel with Vicks VapoRub. Vicks is indispensible when traveling with people who for religious or perhaps medical reasons do not bathe. A little Vicks goes a long way to making such situations more bearable. The man I was seated with was outrageously smelly.

He was confused, and was not sure where he wanted to depart. He leaned forward, and made deep sighs, and smacked his gums a lot I closed my eyes, and tried to sleep. After Sacramento, though, he departed, and a couple arrived with a walker. The husband had walking difficulties and mentioned MS. I was amazed at how many of his symptoms matched mine. Him and his wife shared much information withj me. I do not still know if my diagnosis is MS, but I do at least know what resources are available to me if that is the case.

I moved my seat after Sacramento, trying to get away from the stinky man's seat. I curled up, and was able to use my night shades to get a couple hour's sleep. I arrived back in San Jose, where I await my trip to see Jakarta, Indonesia. Pictures are forthcoming...

Thank you for reading!