Yes, that means "Happy New Year." It’s weird, it’s 9:18 AM here and we’ve been up for 2 hours, and the ball is still hours from being dropped over there in the States. Kinda crazy. JM is happy that she finally beat New York to the New Year instead of watching re-runs of the ball dropping on TV in LA. Take that, Western Hemisphere.
We are back at our favorite Jakarta hotel. It’s a LOT busier this week, and there were tons of events. So not as quiet, but better people watching. We spent the evening having complimentary dinner and drinks in the fancy VIP lounge, and then we went to a cocktail buffet in the big fancy lobby lounge. There is a distinct feeling around here that the holiday is a somber one. In a nice little sign of multi-religious goodness, we had a moment of silence when everyone could pray in whatever religion s/he happened to practice. They also had a silent auction for a fancy room, the proceeds of which are all going to Aceh and North Sumatra, and they also had a small-change collection. It was great how many Indonesians were there–no Westerners except for us all evening. People watching was fun too…these are the folks who drive the Mercedes and can afford to shop at the glittering fancy malls. We also saw more overweight Indonesians and children than we’ve since put together up until now. There is a positive correlation between affluence and belt size here. One final benefit of being in a foreign country: real Cuban cigars instead of the "Cubalicious" cigars we get at the gas station at home for New Year’s.
We are very pleased to see that President Bush has upped the amount that the US will be giving to the Asia quake victims. This is really excellent. We hope now that this money can be put to good use in the areas that need it most, and this is something that it’s up to international relief agencies and national governments to do.
Tomorrow we embark on a journey through Java. We’ll be taking a train to Yogyakarta in Central Java, then probably a train further to Malang in East Java and then on to Banyuwangi on the coast across from Bali. From there, we will be taking a bus and a ferry and a bus again to Denpasar, where we will meet my (TP’s) folks for a nice vacation. We are very excited. In Yogya, we plan on seeing Borobudur, a gigantic ancient Buddhist temple that is one of SE Asia’s greatest sites. We also hope to see a Hindu temple complex a couple miles down the road called Prambanan which is almost as old and almost as impressive. In East Java we plan on seeing the beautiful scenery around Mt. Bromo, a big wildlife reserve where rumor has it you can–if you’re lucky–see one of the few remaining Javanese tigers that live in the wild. In Bali, we will be on the eastern coast for four days and then in the central highlands for four more.
What this means for us is that we will be checking email and blogging sporadically for the next two weeks. What this means for you is that you’ll have to find some other way to regularly put off writing your dissertation or doing your job until January 17th. But never fear, we will be back, and we plan on updating when we can.