Sunday, 13 February 2011

Weather Change

We are currently in what is known as the rainy season (aka The Wet if you are Australian). Traditionally it rains all night and drys out during the first hour of the morning, leaving behind cloudy skies and a very humid atmosphere, and lasts from late October to the end of February. Conversely the dry period is just that - high temperatures, cloudless skies and very sporadic showers.

However for the last three years the rainy season has failed to materialise. The general climate pattern in the region has been unsettled (possibly disrupted by deforestation) and rather than light and long rain showers we now get sudden, torrential downpours. These have been the cause of extensive flooding, triggering mudslides, throughout SE Asia.

This weekend's weather is a perfect example of how random it has all become: Saturday was clear and hot (about 35C) while Sunday morning was overcast and mild (perfect for our bike ride in the hills) but in the afternoon a howling wind blew up, thunder and lightening all around, 30cm of rain fell in 30 minutes and a 20ft tall water spout was spotted off the coast. Today it is clear and sunny again.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

McKFC Anyone?

Last Friday the expat community shook its head in wonder when the news that McDonalds had run out of icecream for McFlurry's and sundaes spread. Then there was a moment of shock when we found out that supplies of cheese and lettuce/onions/pickles had been reduced to nil. No worries we all thought, we can eat burgers. Our mood was soured yesterday when the latest update reached our ears: NO BURGERS!

Yes, that's right. The world's most famous burger chain had run out of meat patties! So instead of two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun a Big Mac now consists of special sauce on a sesame seed bun.

So what are they serving today? Fried chicken, fries and rice. This country rocks.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Another Taste of Civilisation

I have just got back from another enjoyable trip to Australia. It was nice being somewhere that I could understand all the conversations around me, and didn't have to stop mid-sentence to gather my thoughts and process my next response. Coming back was a culture shock - I transited through Bali where, thanks to the number of Australians in the airport, it was a 50/50 mix of English and Indonesian being spoken. When I got to Jakarta I was reminded that I was in a foreign country when I couldn't understand a word of what was being said.

Anyway, my trip was successful - three meetings in one morning. This is something that can't be achieved in one day in an Indonesian city due to the traffic. I was afforded some spare time to go shopping and so I stocked up on food (bacon and cheese mostly) and popped in to Tiffany & Co to buy a bracelet for Rae (one she'd lost in the robbery). I won points for that purchase :)

And even though I was surrounded by comforting sights and sounds, there was still an element to Australia that reminded me I was in a foreign country. During one of my shopping forays I spotted some some imported tinned Ayam foods (an Indonesian brand of food) and a book about living and working in Britain. Both are strange because in Indonesia we get imported Australian food, and in the UK we can buy books about living/working in Australia. I found it very perverse.

My next trip is scheduled for the start of march, and as it coincides with my birthday I'm hoping to take the family out with me and have a weeks R&R.


After months of speculation the Golden Arches finally came to Balikpapan. The hype was huge, as were the queues of people willing to wait an hour or so to get their greasy beef. The expat community was willing to wait even longer, and put off visiting the second McDonalds in Indonesian Borneo (an area roughly the size of France) for a week or so.

Rae and I were in the same mall last week and we decided to brave it and add another country to my McD count (15 so far). I was saddened to see that the Quarter Pounder wasn't on the menu but wasn't surprised at all to find that half of the food on offer was a combination of chicken and rice, the national favourite.

By and large it was a pleasant experience - I had a Prosperity Burger (marking the Chinese New Year), double cheeseburger, fries (exceptionally good) and a Coke while Rae had a blueberry sundae. What I can not condone is the local's practice of ordering fried chicken and sticky rice, rather than one of the half dozen KFCs or hundreds of cafes in Balikpapan. As usual it's all about status and the Indonesians want to have the prestige of being seen eating at an American (expensive) fast food (doubly expensive) restaurant (treble expensive).