From the Jakarta Hilton

Okay, another case where I only have ten minutes to post something but at least this keyboard has all its keys. We have been in Jakarta two nights. The Hilton is pretty nice, although apparently several foreign governments have issued warnings that this hotel is a terrorist target. We saw on CNN interviews with unconcerned Australian tourists. My Dad said that he got interviewed too but we didn’t see that. My brother John keeps slipping into a really bad Australian accent. None of us know why.

The weather outside is hot and humid and feels about like the butterfly garden at the Science Center. And, guess what? Lots of butterflies! My favorite so far is a velvety black one with dots on its wings. But they come in blue and red and orange and other colors. There are bats too. I watched them at dawn this morning (around 5:15 local time) when I couldn’t sleep.

They have metal detectors and a solemn guy with a big rifle standing at each of the entrances to the hotel. This seems to be a formality, they aren’t very diligent about checking bags and things. Yesterday Madrim, my brother’s fiancee (the reason we’re here!) conducted us all to a big mall that was a few blocks away. We walked, which isn’t that easy to do and isn’t commonly done by tourists. It was kind of dangerous — there aren’t any traffic laws here, and there was one point where we were squeezed in between a reeking drainage ditch on one side and cars and motor bikes going around the cars on the other side. (and to all of you super-libertarians who think we have too many laws in the U.S. I say, “phhhblt!” Lack of traffic laws sucks. I thought we were going to die the whole way from the airport.) My brother Mike pronounced us “bule gila” (boo-lay ghee-la) which means crazy foreigner/white person. Gila is the crazy part. The mall was like malls anywhere. And decorated for Christmas. There was even a Santa Claus whose lap you could sit on, but I think he was bored. He kept saying “Merry Christmas!” to people who passed by. He said “Merry Christmas again!” the second time I passed him. His female assistants were wearing clothes that looked more like bathrobes than like the usual “sexy elf” costume they wear in the U.S.

In addition to butterflies and bats, Jakarta is rife with feral kitties. They are cute but sad looking. Super-skinny, by physical type in addition to lack of food. The semi-rural areas around the airport seemed to be teeming with feral goats as well but I haven’t seen any in the city.

Gotta go.