When we left off last time, Natalia, Grace, Aldo, and I were at the hotel, and we were preparing for another day of shooting pictures. Once Natalia was ready we took a few pictures at the hotel and the restaurant beside it. Like I said, both were very picturesque. We then got in the car and took off to our next destination, which was the volcano Kawah Putih. It took about an hour to get there from where we were staying, and we drove through more villages to get there, and up a winding road towards the top of the mountain. There was a small village at the top of the hill where we parked, before walking up a cobblestone pathway that went up a ridge, and then back down towards the volcano itself. When we got down the ridge we could see what we came for. The basin was completely surrounded by tall mountains, most of which had trees and vegetation, however the far side was a vertical cliff. In the center, there was a very large lake that was bright greenish blue color, colored that way, I assume, by the minerals coming from the volcano. There were several jets of steam billowing from the lake. The ground was mostly rock and sand, but along the edge of the lake there was a greenish foam from the minerals in the water. There was one island in the lake that was actually a peninsula, so you could walk out on it and feel surrounded by the lake.
It was very sunny at first, and the photographers were disappointed because the conditions weren't what they wanted for taking pictures. Nonetheless, we started taking pictures right away. After about an hour of shooting, we took a break and ate lunch. It started getting cloudy and looked like it was going to rain. It only sprinkled a little, but it got cooler and suddenly there were very low hanging clouds that concealed the tops of the mountains, and there was a mist that formed over the top of the lake. The photographers were excited because these were the conditions they were after. We took another round of pictures and then finished up.
We then went back to Bandung and met with Grace's Sister's family again and then spent the rest of Tuesday night driving home. It was an exciting trip!
Just to get you caught up on what has happened since the Bandung trip, on Wednesday we met with the vendors, which was not too exciting for me, because I don't understand the Indonesian language well enough to follow along or participate in a conversation. I sat there and listened as well as I could. From what I could tell, they talked about the arrangement of the ballroom, which I think I mentioned is gigantic, the music, the flowers, the photography and the slideshow. The meeting with the caterer had been earlier in the week. During the meeting there was a prayer group of about 50 Muslims that used the other end of the ballroom to pray, which I watched, and found to be very interesting.
After the meeting we ate at Mbok Berek, which is a place where you eat with your hands. They serve fried chicken, so the eating with your hands part wasn't so bad. It got interesting with the remaining dishes, which were, rice, kangkung, which is like green beans, gudeg, which is a mix of cow skin, jack fruit meat, and boiled eggs. This was all served with sambal, which is a hot sauce. You would take a clump of rice between your fingers and mix it with chicken or vegetables or whatever you were eating and then dip it in sambal. It was fun to eat there, and got about as messy as it gets when you eat barbecue ribs. They didn't have wet-naps, but instead they serve the meal with a dish of water you can use to rinse your hands off at the end of the meal.
After the meal we went to Tanah Abang which is a wholesale shopping center. It was a very crowded area and didn't seem to be the best area, but the prices are supposed to be great. Grace wanted to buy new curtains for the room Natalia and I are staying in. This is part of the tradition of fixing up the bride and groom's bedroom for their wedding night. Mom and Grace already fixed up our room at home, but Grace is also fixing up the room here. The visit was very short and they picked out the curtains and then we left. I had meant to look at the prices, but because of the rush the only price I saw was a very expensive looking dress for 75,000 Rupiahs, which is about $7.50. However, it wasn't my color, so I passed on it.
Later on we went to Pondok Indah Mall, which was very nice. Grace bought some towels and we ate at a Thai restaurant, which was good, but probably didn't help the stomach situation. It sounds like a really dumb move on my part, but my thoughts at the time were that I could eat Thai or Indonesian, both of which tend to be spicy and can get to your stomach, so why not have some Tom Yam.
So, that was Wednesday, and then Thursday I wrote about already with my stomach problems and Natalia's Visa. Later in the day we met with the photographers and got the pictures back, which turned out great, as you can see from the postings. We then went straight to bed and woke up this morning at 6:00.
One thing I can't remember if I have mentioned or not is that Indonesia is very Islamic. It is visible in the architecture and in the way people dress, and in what you hear. Specifically, you hear prayer over loudspeakers from whatever Mosques are nearby. Since there are about five Mosques near Natalia's house, you hear prayer over loudspeakers from each. This would be fine, except for the fact that not all of the singers can sing very well. It is really sort of a chant sound, and doesn't really sound like it has words. It's really more of an "AAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH AHHHHHAAHAHHAAAAHHHHHHH" sound than anything. Think Dahler Mendhi, the beginning of "Tunak Tunak" (you can look this up on YouTube if you haven't seen it), though Dahler Mendhi is Hindu and not Muslim, so my statement is not entirely accurate. There are two problems that I can see with this system. First, they put the bad singer in the Mosque closest to Natalia's house. This means that you can hear the good singers off in the distance, and you start to listen to the subtleties of the music, and it's not half bad. Then all of a sudden you will hear the local guy bust in and just totally overpower the other singers. This guy sounds like Darth Vader after smoking about 20 cigars in a row, and Darth can't hold a tune. "HRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHAAARRRAAAAAAAAAAAA" Don't they have tryouts for this job?
The other problem is that all the different Mosques sing in different keys. No matter how nice each singer sounds by themselves (aside from our local boy, of course), when you combine it sounds like a bunch of alley cats. This is especially a problem since each Mosque. jacks up the volume like they are trying to compete with each another. Couldn't they have picked one key, like they did with the slot machines in Vegas?
Nonetheless, I do get a charge out of the chants every time I hear them, because its like nothing I've ever heard before. They pray 5 times a day. This is a month of fasting for Muslims, which means they do not eat after 4 AM and before 6PM. So for this month, there is an early wake up call, again by a guy who gets on the mic and yells, "SAHUR, SAHUR, SAHUR!" Which apparently means, "Muslims, it's 3:00. Get up and eat before 4:00. Non-Muslims, see if you can sleep with this megaphone blaring." This has woken me up a couple times, but last night it didn't, so hopefully that continues.
That should bring you up to speed. I'm still planning on taking pictures of the house so you can see it. Tomorrow we are flying to Surabaya to visit Jane, and we are going to stay there until Monday.