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Gypsy Thoughts

Updated: 2017-08-11T11:25:10.338-04:00


Ramadan in Indonesia



Marhaban Ya Ramadhan. Introducing our new#RamadhanCup. Taken from Islamic Arts and architecture from around the world 💕💕

Available during The Ramadhan Month#StabucksIndonesia

Love celebrating Ramadan (the Muslim holy month of fasting) in Indonesia, they have these cups to mark the month, so cool!



Once again I'm neglecting this blog, terrible of me. I have to say that the lure of short attention span twitter and facebook has attracted me as that the future of the human race, short attention spans??

Just went on vacation to Thailand, Phuket. It was lovely, beautiful beaches, so warm. I did try to enjoy the ocean and swim a bit but I couldn't help but think in the back of my mind, to keep aware of any tsunamis, crazy, no? I made escape plans and how fast could I run and where too and how to save the kids. I'm sure the likelihood of another tsunami in that area happening is like 1 in 100 but the images from the 2004 disaster is still vivid in my mind.

Some days I want to just sit in bed and read all day - anyone else?

I'm so in love with my children, I like to watch their videos while at work, mind you I live with them, so its just missing their cuteness in the middle of the day. aye.

Fly By Night Travel


Back in the day, if you remember from many many posts ago (see 2003-2006) when I was a traveling fiend! Someone asked me, could I still do that type of travel.

I don't think I could do my fly-by-night trips anymore, old age has caught up with me. That was when I was young and carefree, working for the airlines. I remember for a few months (when I was infatuated with a boy) I would do weekend trips to London, leaving on Friday night, getting there Saturday morning and leaving Sunday morning back to the USA - crazy! But I made great, fond memories and got to see the world. Now, I've transitioned from quick world trips to wanting to live for extended periods in a location, I suppose its  a progression as I grow up - yet continuing to feed my gypsy/nomad/world-exploring bug.


Culture of Late


Yesterday I went on a field trip with my daughter, using up valuable annual leave, but I thought it was important because she missed the last field trip because we had just come back from vacation and couldn't plan for it, and she is a sweet child, didn't want her to be left out again.

First off, the school doesn't take the kids to the location, its up to the parent to get the child to the location (what kind of field trip is that?!), and than we have to stay for the field trip. I understand this is a group of 4-5 year olds, but why do a field trip if the parent has to do all the work? I could just take the child myself, no?

The field trip doesn't start until 9:30, already an hour and a half into my work day; at least if it started earlier I could finish early but this was not the case. Daughter and I get there and the event starts late, parents are made to sit downstairs while kids get to take the tour and go upstairs, again not clear why parents were needed, besides as taxi services?

My other child, the 2 - year old meanwhile is at pre-school, regular day for him. The nanny is expecting my daughter and I to be done by 11am, so she and the driver and my daughter can go to pick up the 2 year old at school (he has to be picked up promptly at noon or we get dinged). When does the field trip end....11:20, she doesn't hear from us and leaves at 11:30 via cab. We get home by 11:45, but now the nanny is gone, so of course I have to stick around, can't leave my 5 year old by herself. Traffic at that time of day in Jakarta, terrible. Nanny doesn't get home till 12:45, I don't get to work till after 1pm; thankfully my boss will let me only use 4 hours of annual leave and make up the rest of the time by working through lunch.

What is the point of all this rambling...the fact that it seems here in Indonesia, no one has any sense of urgency, I work for the US government, we don't run that way. But Indonesia, doesn't matter if someone is waiting, you take your time, traffic is so slow because of this, there is no sense of urgency, no "I gotta get there" more like "we will get there when we get there," which is fine if you are on a Sunday stroll but not when one has to get to work. What I can't understand is that no one seems to care, I told the nanny to hurry but I'm sure she was still chatting with her nanny friends before leaving the pre-school. I find it very frustrating, but I suppose such is life living abroad, aye!

Saving Money


I'm trying to save money, this summer we want to take the kids to Disneyland, a not cheap proposal at all! Every time I do my budget, it seems I'm doing well, but come the end of the month and I've only saved $50 or so. How does this happen...I know very well, I sit at a desk all day, during the off time, I surf the Internet and that involves e-shopping.

Nothing seems easier then e-shopping, I have to make a very strong effort to NOT shop online, not only do you get that rush of shopping but an additional rush when the package comes in (especially here at the Embassy as its like Christmas, since it can take packages weeks to get here). I find the best way to solve that package rush is when I go home for vacation, I make a bunch of packages and mail them back to Indonesia, so I have something to look forward too.

As for e-shopping, I've found the best way to dissuade me, is I put a post-it note of my credit card card balances on my computer monitor, seeing those numbers makes me weary to increase them.

Losing Weight (not!)


Rainy season is over in Jakarta and now it is hot, hot, hot!! Its pool weather for sure, walking from the cafeteria back to the office, I could picture myself jumping into the pool easily instead of what I had to do, go back and sit in front of my computer for another 3 hours. Joy.

Which leads me to my next point, still on the weight loss program here at work and sad to say, my plan of eating less but not exercising is, surprise surprise, not working. Aye! They weigh me here in KG, so I did the conversion to LB's today, seems I need to lose about 7 pounds. This can be done, I must start exercising. My first plan was to swim, take the kids in the pool but those lucky ducks usually swim when they get home from school, so not sure if they would want to go in again and that too, if its good for their little skin to be in the pool so much. I'll have to figure something out, thinking maybe even just getting up from desk every hour and walking around for 5 minutes, its not much but it at least will get me moving, no?

On a totally unrelated note, so happy to hear Bernie Sanders won Wisconsin today (well last night in America, which is roughly 12 hours behind Indonesia). Not sure if he will win the nomination but I'm rooting for him. He is the only candidate that interests me, but either way, whoever wins the Democratic nomination will get my vote.


Weight Loss Program


I'm participating in the Embassy weight loss program, its 16 weeks and I'm suppose to lose something like 10% of my weight, there are cash prizes.

I've been doing fairly well, though not losing much, like portions of a kg, not even one kg yet (since they weight us in kg, not lb's). Today, I went in and I had gained weight! I was so made at myself, I know this is my fault, this week I did not stick to the diet or exercise, but still I thought I could counter that with two days of fasting and some tough walking for one hour one day. Guess not. I must buckle down and get serious, especially if I want to win the money!

For me the weight loss is more because I hate that I have clothes in my closet that I can't wear anymore and that here in Indonesia, when I clothes shop, they immediately start me at large or XL, what the heck?!

God, I miss my teen days when I could eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I envy my 5 year old daughter this morning I left for work while she ate Girl Scout cookies, Thin Mints for breakfast. Yum!

Gabrielle - Dreams


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Jakarta Protests


This is going on in Jakarta today.... 

Jakarta taxi drivers protest against Uber and Grab

Not affecting me directly, though I do use Jakarta taxi's all the time, have never used Uber or Grab here, but on my India trip we did take advantage Grab, only because you couldn't get taxi's easy in the neighborhood my aunt lives in. 

I will say taxi's in Jakarta are fairly cheap and easy to find, so perhaps there are too many, which makes them very competitive for money. When we went to Singapore, we had a heck of a time with taxis, many taxis around but you couldn't hail one at all, they were all pre-booked and than when you would get one to stop on the street for you, he would decide if he wanted to go to your destination or not, sometimes he would drive off, guess didn't need the fare all that much. We never have that problem here in Jakarta. On occasion I'll take a rickshaw or motorbike for hire, while the taxis are safe, they can stuck in traffic something terrible. The motorbikes can really bob and weave; though sadly the price of a nice air conditioned taxi and a hired motorbike is the same. Crazy, no??

Hopefully, tomorrow everything will go back to normal.

Segregation of India



The Segregation of India

In the building where I grew up, Hindus and Muslims lived side by side.


Another fascinating NYT's article. Very interesting and sad, I too remember India from my childhood being so much more secular, now it seems so divided. I mean everyone lives and works together but at any second a match could be lit, violence simmers below the surface. It was seen this summer with the death of Mohammed Aklas, when the local Hindu Priest in this tiny town said Aklas and his family had beef stored in their refrigerator, a mob went and attacked the family and killed Aklas. Modi government silent on the entire incident. Family of Aklas resigned to this being their fate, that there will be no justice for their father. 

Just sad. 

I get why politicians use these ethnic/religious divides, its for the easy win, the easy gain in power; but to be a true leader, a good leader, is to move your people forward to a sustainable future, maintaining ethnic divisions through violence and bullying is not sustainable. 

Caste System


The Enduring Curse of Caste

Instead of withering away as Indian democracy matures, social discrimination has asserted itself in new ways.

How appropriate I was sent this article today, as I and family have come back from a trip to India. It has been 10 years since I've been to India. The country has exploded, even more so, if possible. But one thing I noticed this time, was the simmering tension between Hindu's and Muslims, not least fueled by the Hindu Nationalist government of India led by Mr. Modi. He has in the past referred to Muslims as 'rats.' 

The injustices in that country are bubbling and wanting to burst forth and still, I also get frustrated at this caste system in that, it is so unfair and yet all of these caste issues can easily be set aside when the powers that be call for violence against Muslims, telling the uneducated masses that all their problems are because of the Muslims and thus easily deflecting attention from the ills of the caste system.  The uneducated, poor lower castes do the killing but the wealthy upper castes, like Mr. Modi, stay in power. And nothing changes. 

While there, I saw the marked difference between the have's and the have-not's, much more pronounced than in Bosnia or here in Indonesia. India is hurtling forward to the future, a growing middle class, but it is also leaving a portion of its population behind. I just don't see how that can be sustainable or successful. Even we in America grapple with this. 

Right, sorry, didn't mean to go off on a rant, but this is front in my mind of late, I saw more and more, issues of religious divisiveness this visit (or perhaps it had always been there but I hadn't noticed because all the other times I was in India, I was a child??). 

Singapore Trip


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  1. Sitting at my desk, it is raining. I like the sound of the rain, while I sit inside, its a cozy feeling. 
  2. Stupid snapfish site isn't working, just as I was in the middle of finishing making a book, annoying.
  3. Came back from trip to Singapore this weekend, a disaster, I totally ruined it. Made my Mom's time here visiting with us, terrible. Sigh. Feel awful, wish I could turn back time. 
  4. Not much in the mood for writing, Mom leaves in a day, sad about that. Feeling a bit blue in general. 
  5. Linking to something that makes me laugh. 

Work Venting


I just need to vent about work and what better place to do it than here on the blog, no?

This post I'm at, I'm not feeling it. People seem very selfish, self-centered, maybe I got lucky on the first post, but this one seems like no one cares to help anyone else out. There is no sense of team. I tried to send out a nice reminder to everyone in my section that W-2's are out and I was shot down, like why? They already know. Is that wrong of me?

I was trying to help my replacement and she wanted none of it, as I predicted, she knows the score and doesn't need my assistance (unless something screws up, than I'm sure it will be my fault).

I don't know, if the person before me, wanted to teach me how they did things, I would take their advice. I had a great mentor at my previous post and she really taught me a lot about how to do things.

Here I think I have to just disconnect and not care; as it seems everyone else seems to be doing.

On top of which, I signed up for this special project and the three other people on the project seem to be making it into this massive ordeal which I'm not seeing. I kinda snapped yesterday at one of them, the only guy on the team (clearly a recent college grad, full of lots of talk but little action, I was beyond annoyed).

Right, I gotta check out of this mess mentally at least. I think it would help if I had better friends here at post, but that is not the case. Hard to make friends here for sure.

Thank you Cards


Does anyone do thank you cards anymore? I mean the handwritten kind. I do, I find them nice but I'll be honest when I get them, unless they have something very personal written on it, I don't pay much attention.My mother gets very upset when people don't write a proper handwritten thank you card. While I think it is polite to do so, I don't mind if someone doesn't, but it would be nice if someone would at least acknowledge when they get something from you. For me this is especially true as I live abroad and most often send gifts by ordering via the internet, flowers, cookies, baby gifts, gift cards and if the receipt doesn't send me some form of a nod or wave, I have no way of knowing if they truly got it or if it was delivered to the wrong address or something. This happened to me one time, I ordered for a sister-in-law, a baby gift and after about two weeks from the time it said it was delivered, I contacted her and found she had moved and I had the wrong address. I guess who received it on the other end never sent it back but the story has a happy ending. So I reached out to the company, and they resent the entire order, free of charge! Shout out to The point is that I think a thank you in some form is nice, it doesn't have to be a card but at least registering that someone has done something kind or good for you, should be de rigor, no? If you can't do that, what type of society do we live in? Entitled? I hope not.[...]



Soooo....last Thursday, it was a regular day, I had run to get pictures taken for my India visa when this happens

Jakarta Terrorist Attacks January 2016

Yeah, that was not a fun day from 10:45am on, this attack happened less than 2 miles from the Embassy. Thankfully the kids school is not in the vicinity and they were none the wiser about what was going on. A bit scary initially but as the day unfolded and we heard that the attackers had been caught and than as we watched the video and footage (thank you social media), it seems the terrorists were part of the "c" team, not good at all, not organized, nothing. Thankfully, Indonesian police arrested the "a" team back in December when threats of attacks at Christmas and New Year's surfaced.

Just another day in the foreign service :)

Office supplies


Three months after putting in an office supply order, a local staffer comes back to me and tells me that you can't put both items in the same request, which fine, I get since this is the government and normal way of thinking doesn't apply but what really gets my goose, why did it take the local staffer 3 MONTHS to tell me this?! URGH! #neverwouldhavehappenedinSarajevo

Happy New Year


Happy New Year from Jakarta - or as they say in Indonesia, Salamat Tahun Baru! One of the few expressions I can say with ease.

I stayed up late to watch the fireworks and it was quite worth it. Amazing, for 20 minutes the city was a symphony, ablaze with fireworks and with our apartment building being in the center of town we had an amazing view, the best view I have ever had of a fireworks show, front seat balcony so that one can see from far and wide and all in my pajamas with a ready bathroom and not freezing (i.e. Times Square).

As fireworks are not regulated in Indonesia, every tom, dick and harry was lighting them off; which can be dangerous (I did see one house fire in the poor shantytown in front of the river) but did make for a beautiful fabric of colors and sounds that was a joyous way to enter the new year.

What was even more interesting was that I was celebrating New Year's 12 hours ahead of my family, so it was fun to wish people a happy new year and know that I was already in 2016 while they were waiting for the clock to turn.

Customer Service USA vs. Indonesia


This morning I was waiting in the Starbucks line, not moving and realizing the stark differences between customer service and or the customer's expectations from American customers versus Indonesian customers. 

The barrista's working the line were very nice and pleasant, but very slow (as perceived by this American), being the only non-Indonesian in the line, no one else seemed to mind the turtle pace. The cashiers seemed unable to do more than one task at a time and each thing was done with painstaking care and no worry for how long it would take. The barrista making the designer drinks was busy chatting and occasionally paying attention to composing the drink. There was no concern by either the customers or the employee's that anyone had to get back to work, that they were "on the clock." I was trying to make a bus shuttle and I had one minute to go, at one point I did finally tell the woman behind the drink counter, "please hurry, I'm trying to make the shuttle." She was still unconcerned. 

It made me think of what would have happened in the USA, first I would not have been put in that situation, as the initial barristas I came in contact with, would have pumped me out, quickly taking and executing the order. And if their was a line, Americans would have grumbled and the manager would have come out and pitched in, working to clear the line. 

But does this take away from the customer service provided, are they American barristas not as friendly or warm. On the contrary, I find them equally engaging as in Indonesia but understanding the needs of their American customers, where time is money. 

As I write this, I wonder if the difference isn't between customer expectations but our concept of time??? 

I will say this, these cultural differences are often the biggest of foreign service challenges. 

Saudi Wahhabism


I was forwarded this NYT op-ed and found it fascinating. 

 One of the commentator's  to this article had this to say (below in pink)  and I thought she was on point, a point I had never thought of, but now makes much sense, the Saudi family has done A LOT to spread Wahhabism, they finance the building of and up keep of many mosques around the world, their money definitely spreads their version of Islam and perhaps that is now the seeds we are seeing. Because truly if one reads the history of Islam, particularly after the Prophet (pbuh) and the early decades, Islam seems much more peaceful, able to live with others. Now all of sudden its renewed its relationship with violence, why? What was the trigger? 

What is crucial to understanding this phase of Islam, where searingly harsh, inflexible doctrine prevails, is the spread and infiltration of Wahhabism into the major centers of theology. Since its rise, Wahhabism has shown itself to be brutal and unyielding in its expectations of violence. The economic prosperity of the Saud family has resulted in the financing and indoctrination of young clerics from around the world, who then preach this in their home countries. 

We Muslims are at fault for not loudly decrying the debasement of the religion by the Saudis. Islamic spirituality is very individualized. We should be practicing moderation and compassion, charity and benevolence, not following the cultural dictates of spoiled Arab dauphins. 



We got back from our first vacation, to Bali! It was lovely! Truly a paradise on earth, warm, beautiful, relaxed. I didn’t want to come back to Jakarta, but then as I told the children, vacations are only fun because we work all the time, I suppose a bit like desert after dinner, ha ha. While there, there was an Indian wedding party going on, and the staff kept mistaking us as part of the wedding party. We would have totally crashed the wedding but we didn't bring any Indian clothes.  The kids and I spent three days just playing at the beach or in the pool, now we are all battling sun burn, its a pain but I'll take sun burn over cold and snow any day


A little bit about Islam in Indonesia


One of the things I do see here in Indonesia is a practice of Islam exactly as I have been and continue to practice, people say their 5 time prayers, but than go back to work. Alcohol and pork is served at restaurants and no one gets upset, people just eat according to their religious dietary restrictions. Islam in Indonesia is integrated into everyday life but not at the expense of or to the exclusion of other things. And yes,  the point about the Indonesian Nusantra is very true and Indonesians are proud of the fact that they  can show the world that Islam can cohabitant peacefully with other religions, perhaps I think because to an extent Indonesians see themselves first as Indonesians than to their religious affiliation. 

“The problem with Middle East Islam is they have what I call religious racism,” said Azyumardi Azra, an Islamic scholar and former rector of the State Islamic University in Jakarta. “They feel that only the Arabs are real Muslims and the others are not.”

This comment could not be more true - I have seen it time and time again even in America, this idea by Arabs that somehow they hold the real Islam and the rest of us, not of Arab descent, should yield to them, we are inferior to them - and I think a large part of the problem and why these radical groups seem to be taking hold of the Islamic world is because of this inferiority complex suffered by non-Arabs (I see it heavily in many of my Pakistani friends) this desire to prove their "Muslim-ness."   At the local mosque in Virginia, it is always the Arab ladies who stand up and boss everyone around (how to stand, what to do during prayers), as if to proclaim they hold the truth and the rest of us are just saplings. Yet, in Indonesia that isn't the case - so far I haven't found anyone who lords over another during prayer times or at Islamic holidays, like a prayer police officer. Its very freeing. 

Life in Indonesia


Life in Indonesia continues to get interesting, they found a python in the parking garage here at the office. Needless to say I was not amused, the good thing is that I don't drive around here so I've never been in the garage and now with my death fear of snakes, will never go down there! 

We have been getting earthquakes nearly daily, but as the locals seem completely unfazed, it must not be something unusual. As they say, Indonesia is in the ring of fire (and here I thought that was just a Johnny Cash song, ha ha). 

Otherwise, nothing else too exciting, its weird to know that its fall in D.C. over here we are hitting monsoon season and the weather remains hot. Last Friday we had a torrential downpour, which wouldn't have been so bad except that the roads in Jakarta flood immediately and I had to miss my book club meeting because I couldn't even get a mile down the road (traffic came to a complete standstill). I was totally bummed as I was so excited to read my book. Thankfully, the next book club meeting will be in my building, so no chance of missing it (ha ha). 


Where have I been?


we are finally settling into Jakarta, its ok, my heart will always be in Sarajevo, the people and the country were just so kind and warm, here it is a big city with all the big city trappings. Its tough also with the Embassy because the town is so big to have any sense of community, you tend to just hang out in your neighborhood, traffic here is terrible, but we are exploring a tiny bit more, I went shopping with the baby this past Wednesday (Indonesian holiday) and had a blast at a local market, finally found a mall that is affordable (where all the locals go - Blok M!). We have made a few friends at the Embassy and where we live, people like us, with small children, so we can hang out together with ease. 



Fall is upon America, a lovely time, though lets be honest, I was never a huge fan, spring/summer more my style. That is one thing good about Indonesia, never gets cold. But on the whole, I am still very much missing Sarajevo. Its a bit tougher to make friends and do things in Jakarta - because it is so huge and everything requires a bit more planning. Driving is impossible, so we are constantly arranging transportation. 

We have finally planned our first trip outside of the city, to Bali, for Thanksgiving weekend, so that should be fun! I'm looking forward to it.  And one thing I'm noticing is, time does fly, it seems just yesterday it was July, now October is upon us, before we know it, we will be moving. 

We did finally get our stuff (two months after arriving) so the apartment is feeling more like a home, which is nice. I've even felt comfortable enough in this city to finally join a book club! Its a work book club but in Sarajevo, with the kids being so small and hubby and I have a much more active social life,  I never joined one there. Here, the book club will be the one "Me" thing a month I get. The first meeting is this Friday, I'm super excited! 



 One thing I’ve noticed since being here in Jakarta is the grand difference in nationalism from what I saw in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There, in the Balkans it seems ethnicity is the most important thing, people are their ethnic background first, Bosnians second. Yet, here in Indonesia, pleasantly, they seem to be Indonesians first and then whatever religion or ethnic background second. To be honest, I don’t really know the history of Indonesia but I’m not sure if they have ever had long standing ethnic tensions, like in the Balkans. Indonesians were more subject to colonial rule, which I suppose under one oppressor unites all the different factions (though it didn’t work long term for India, but that’s a different story).

A good example of this pride in being Indonesian could be seen last Friday, when I went to a Bon Jovi concert here in Jakarta (that was mad fun, standing a crowd of thousands of Indonesians singing along to Bon Jovi, they knew every word). Right before the main act, the reigning Indonesian Idol winner came onto the stage and began singing the Indonesian national anthem. First, there are words (big difference from Bosnia, where they can’t agree on which language to use or what words to put so their national anthem is just music). Second, and the biggest surprise, EVERYONE in the stadium sang along and they sang with great joy and pride (similar to as I see at baseball games in the USA). 

It was heartwarming for sure!

That is one nice change about being in Indonesia; they see themselves as one country, one people, good for them!