Iceland. Part I.

I want to post every photo I took in Iceland. Every photo. No editing. No cropping. Just gorgeous. 

Don’t worry - we were only there for about 24 hours. So, it is not that many photos. And I am exaggerating. I won’t show you all of the photos of the sheep. Just a few sheep photos. 

For the rest of the photos, please see my other blog, Rooster Briefcase.

Nasi goreng

I woke up with a serious craving for nasi goreng (fried rice). If I were in Jakarta, I could get a dish of nasi goreng in almost any restaurant in the metropolis. Yes, even the italian restaurants, the bistros, the sushi bars - they all have nasi goreng. There is no american equivalent - no dish that is in on almost every menu in this country.*

Nasi goreng is simple everyday fried rice, eaten at any time of day in my world. In Indonesia, it comes with sambal, and often has an fried egg on top.  There are vegetables in the dish, and hopefully little crunchy fried shallots, as well. It may have poultry, tofu, seafood or meat, depending on where you are, and who is cooking. There are probably an infinite number of regional variations to nasi goreng.

It is reputedly a breakfast meal for Indonesians, but my sense is that it is acceptable to eat nasi goreng at any meal. The population of diners in Jakarta is incredibly, deeply diverse and has been this way for centuries. My guess is that all those restaurants have nasi goreng for a few reasons: 

1. Children love fried rice.

2. If you have a Southeast Asian guest who is unfamiliar and/or uninterested in western/european/japanese/other cuisine (imagine a picky, demanding grandmother figure, perhaps), it is no problem, because you have Nasi Goreng on the menu.

3. Nasi Goreng is delicious - spicy, bright, eggy, colorful and sometimes a bit greasy (in the best way). And therefore, it is the perfect thing to always have in your kitchen, and thus, your restaurant.

So, here’s my problem. If I want nasi goreng for breakfast here in Seattle, I have to make it myself. Which means I either need to (a) learn to anticipate my food cravings (very unlikely, given their frequency and diversity) or (2) always have the ingredients for nasi goreng on hand. Option 2 is somewhat complicated by the fact that nasi goreng is fried rice, which means I need cool, cooked rice on hand, or a very long wait for breakfast. 

There is another option  - I open a very small shop ( perhaps you might call it a stall, or a cart) which serves nasi goreng and sweet milky cofffee - and nothing more. Are you beginning to see how powerful my food cravings can be? Can you guess what I am going to be having for lunch today? 

* For further consideration: What is the most common dish on American restaurant menus? And what does that dish say about us? 

Meyer Lemon Scarcity. What would you do with your one & only homegrown Meyer Lemon?

(Reblogged from cmonstah)
(Reblogged from allaboutindonesia)

lazeryooth said: Hello, my name is Kemal. I'm Indonesian and live between Bandung and Jakarta. Just wanted to say I LOVE your blog. I love how you describe Jakarta in such positive way. You know, many people really hates Jakarta (mostly because of its fabulous traffic). But this one is different. And also, I love your posts about other Indonesians stuff; the details and the little things. They make me want to post more stuff abt Indonesia! Cool blog & cheers!

Thanks, Kemal. Jakarta is a challenging place, in so many ways, and there were certainly days that I found it incredibly frustrating. But, I am so glad I had the chance to explore Jakarta, and loved my time in Indonesia. Keeping this blog helped me to focus on the positive, interesting, fascinating aspects of Jakarta, and provided some balance to the very really challenges of life there (pollution, traffic…). I miss Indonesia, in all its complexity.  Thanks again for writing, Kemal. 

Leaping into the New Year at Golden Gardens. 

Surf Casting at Sunset

Thank goodness, I finally found my mittens.

A short list

A short list of what I am missing today, in no particular order:

1. Spice and warmth.

2. My big humidity hair (see below).

3. The sounds of street life in Kebayoran Baru.

4. The small everyday interactions with the people in our house & neighborhood.

5. Learning Bahasa Indonesia.

6. The opportunity & motivation to travel, explore and experience Indonesia from within.

7. The edge and the uncertainty that accompany unfamiliarity. 

Blue to the left…

The other side of the world

A little more than a month ago, Larry and I were in Sumba, a relatively un-touristed island in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. Sumba is literally the other side of the world from Seattle, and not just in the geographical sense of the phrase. There are deep and profound differences between here and there.

And our experience in Sumba further emphasized the world of difference that can exist between communities. Because we were staying in a lovely place - secluded, deluxe, exclusive and absolutely beautiful. But on one of our three days in this gorgeous place, we ventured out to go to the local market, visit the local watering hole (not  a pub - the actual watering hole for the water buffalo), see a bit of the agricultural projects going on in the community, and visit a village. 

So, the photos below are from our visit to the village. Our guide introduced us to the head honcho, who offered to share some betelnut with us as a gesture of welcome. We awkwardly and politely declined the betelnut, knowing that to do so would be seen as a gesture of rudeness on our part. But sometimes cultural greetings just don’t translate. And betelnut is not for me.

There are a few noteworthy characteristics of the villages in this part of the world. The shape and structure of their homes, as you will see, are incredibly distinctive. 

Houses, with megalithic graves in the foreground.

Their burial traditions are very much an integral part of their culture. They bury their dead above ground in megaliths, using stones from a particular site on the island. These above ground tombs hold multiple members of a family, and are sited in close proximity to the family homes. 

We had a fascinating discussion with our guide about the differences between Sumbanese burial traditions and a variety of burial traditions in the West. While talking about the tradition of communal graves, he said something along the lines of “We live together, why would we want to be alone in death?”. I thought it was a very compelling argument and indicated something about the importance of family and community in the culture. 

A water buffalo skull on the porch of a home. 

How cute are those kids? We were there around midday, and everyone was staying out of the heat of the sun, under the shady overhang of the roof. 

One of the other things that Sumba is known for are ikat, which are a particular type of textile that are woven by the women in the villages. Soon after we arrived, various families brought out their wares for display.  

Now, when you look at the photos that follow, please focus on the textiles and the village, not myself. And give me a little credit for a complete lack in vanity in sharing these photos with you. Because I know I look a total dork. 

Here I am, gracefully donning a skirt. 

Getting some assistance from the weaver. Note her very modern attire.

The fit is adjusted with some precision folding. 


Forgive my scowling; I think I am impatient with the photographer at this point, and quite possibly wilting from the heat. Larry and I happily bought several textiles in this village, and elsewhere in Sumba. And then we returned to another world, only half an hour’s drive away.

And as I write this now, Sumba feels half a world or more away from Seattle. But the photos help me remember, and we’ll hang the textiles on the wall and think fondly of Sumba and Indonesia and all the great and wide differences that exist in the world. 

Sometimes people are just beautiful.