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March 4, 2009 Semarang, Java

Written by GingerBlossom Published in
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Men in ikat sarongs, covered up ladies, the call to prayer and the pungent odor of kreteks, or clove cigarettes. We are soooo not in Kansas anymore. When I got up this morning the only thing planned was that I had a one way ticket to Jakarta. I thought that last night I'd have time to make some further travel plans, but the plane was late leaving Chiang Mai so as it was, I barely got five hours sleep before leaving Bangkok this morning. The idea was to just wing it when I arrived to Jakarta, and wing it I did, via Garuda Air, to Semarang. There's a lot of scary tales about Garuda Air, but they do have a frequent flyer program, so they must get return business. They even had guys with loaner umbrellas to use to get from the airplane to the terminal during a downpour of rain.

I'm having dinner at the Toko Oen, it is a genteel holdover from former Dutch colonial days, with ancient chandeliers, white table clothes and well-patina'ed mahogany. This is my celebratory dinner for getting here safely via Garuda, and a plateful of nasi goreng - egg-rice-veg dish- will only set me back two bucks.

Last night at the airport I met an interesting man from Myanmar, ex-Burma, in transit from Chiang Mai to Rangoon. He'd been in northern Thailand to attend a human rights symposium. He read the look on my face - I was wondering if he'd get hauled off by the secret police when he arrived at Rangoon - but he said that his passport entry point just showed Bangkok, so they'd never know where or what he was doing in Thailand. He also had the improbable last name of Hoecchstadder. His great grandfather had been a German engineer brought in to build bridges in Burma, and ended up staying and marrying a Burmese lady.

It was only a block's walk to get to the Toko Oen Tea Room, and I'm soaked, even with an umbrella. It's the end of the rainy season, and there are frogs hopping all over the streets. I'm glad I have a dress on, as I could at least hold the hem up out of the foot deep water. It's a little disconcerting, though, having unknown things floating in my shoes.

Having been ruled by the Dutch at one time, Java uses a western alphabet, so even if no one understands my pronunciation, I can write the Indonesian word out and they can read it. Everyone's been really really kind so far for seeing that I bumble my way through.
Speaking of Dutch colonialism, one of the few Dutch words that I know is cokaloki - cockroach- and I've got a huge one sharing my hotel room. I've put my suitcase up off of the floor so that I don't have uninvited hitch hikers with me tomorrow on the road to Jepapara.