2016
06.08
NICOLA AND ET

NICOLA AND ET

SYNOPSIS:  About a garish man and yet another journey.  About Nicola Ainsworth’s arrival.

If I averaged this out, this would be my seventh flight in seven days with my fifth airline…  Yikes.  I will be doing more flying on this trip than usual; the distances are just too time consuming over land.  Indonesian carriers for the most part are banned from European airports due to safety issues, but come on! — most of our cars would be banned from the German roads, especially the Autobahn, too.  And yet, we get into our old cars and drive around every day. (OK, I know this analogy leaves much to be desired).

Today, it was time for Garuda Airlines.  Many foreigners opt only to travel on Garuda as it is the only one up to snuff with all the safety issues.  But therefore, it often is the most costly.  I will fly with whatever gets me from one place to the next most economically.  I am taking the fatalistic approach:  it is just as likely that my airplane will fall out of the sky as it is for me to win the lottery.

The only immediate difference I could tell between Lion Air and Garuda was that we were served food both on the 2.5 hour flight from Banda Aceh as well as on the one hour stretch from Jakarta to Yogyakarta.

I am heading from one of three special regions to the second:  Yogyakarta is the only Sultanate in Indonesia!  The lucky ones (very few) can see the Sultan on special holidays in his regalia, particularly, his very funny pointed golden ears that look like a Spock impersonation.   

We only hope to get a glimpse of the palace and perhaps a museum or two.  We?  Yes, that would be me and Nicola Ainsworth.  In 2007 we met, sight unseen in Pakistan and traveled for 2 + weeks through a country that soon erupted in a mini civil war, following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.  Thankfully, Nicola is a seasoned police officer, now retired; nothing much can phase her.

In 2012, she joined me in Iran for two weeks, and in 2014 she did not hesitate to come along on a trip most others would have thought twice about: North Korea.   Following that, we  traveled for a few days into Northern China.  And here we are again: a week together in Indonesia.  Our focus will be the Borobudur.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  I was just counting my blessings, that on the last stretch of the flight I might have an empty seat next to me, when the last passenger, out of breath, came running into the plane.  Within minutes he was engaged talking to three people — to the one in front of him in English, to the one sitting to the right of him in Indonesian, and to me in German.  And I bet you, this was not the extent of his language skills.  He seemed pleasant enough, but just a dose of “too much”. 

He was Dutch, he said.  After a while I asked:  Your nationality might be Dutch, but you don’t look Dutch.  There is a lot more going on.  What is your background?  He smiled and whispered:  I am Jewish, but we don’t talk about that around here. I live in Holland and have Dutch and Indonesian ancestors. 

He was the embodiment of what I now begin to see as an “Indonesian”.  I was looking at three of our flight attendants.  Each of them a beautiful woman; each of them from a clearly different ethnic gene pool: one looked African, the other Chinese and the third Southeast Asian.  All three were Indonesian.  What a colorful palette that is.

The journey was uneventful.  The taxi ride to my little guest house was a stop and go through rush hour.  And in the five hours before Nicola’s arrival I did my usual chores from laundry to email to grading papers. 

I love our guest house.  It is a huge contrast to the fake gaudiness of Linda’s house.  Some of her 18th century castle-type heavy plastic furniture and her fake flowers, really upset my sense of aesthetics.  Here, on the other hand, somebody had taken the Japanese approach.  Different natural materials worked in juxtaposition yet in harmony: stone slabs were placed at the entrance providing step-stones over a small goldfish pond.  Natural woods and white walls alternated in a Frank Lloyd Wright kind of a way (and of course, he was Japanese-inspired).  And  tasteful decorations showcased local history and created a warm and homey yet modern and stylish atmosphere. 

Our room is spacious with a big tiled bathroom.  Counters, tables, chairs, all are in the right place and where you need them.  There even is warm water!

The feng-shui is right.  I will like it here. 

Good night.