How to Get Around in Salatiga

Getting around a new area can be pretty challenging when you are new. Some places, it’s harder to learn then others. For example, never drive through Ashville, NC cold turkey. Have a local drive you, for the first year, or more. Not even a GPS will help you save your soul from the devil roads there.

Even then, in the US, the transportation options locally are pretty obvious. Cars. Rent, borrow, buy, or whatever. Of course, there are green options, and if you live in a big city, those are more practical then in country, like say West Texas. Some of those green options include ride a bike, walk, take public transportation etc. Of course, if you can, I recommend the green options. Don’t tell Joy, but I think I’d enjoy riding my bike (which is somewhere in a boat right now rockin it’s way across the Pacific) around Salatiga more then my motorcycle, at least for most stuff.

Getting around here in Salatiga is not that bad though. There are quite a few options for the traveler. Some are greener then others. Some are cheaper then others.

First, there is walking. Nothing is far, but nothing is close either. Plan on spending half the day walking, and you can get everything done. You may get wet, but you will get there.

The second most common method is riding the “angkota.” It’s the public transportation. Combine this with walking and quite literally, the whole city is open to you. And the whole city will ride with you too. Great chance to make friends and learn Indonesian!Once you’ve been here about 10 seconds, you will realize that the vast majority of people here get around on scooters. There are a few varieties.

The Classic: Vespa.The Modern: Mio.The Old School Hotrod: ???The Utilitarian: Motortruck. (I named it that myself.) It’s a motorcycle with pickup bed and two wheels on the back. This one was made into a mini food stand. I want one for hauling kids around in a few years.

Of course, business, like moving furniture or produce to market, or goats, or friends is much more easily done with a small truck. There are plenty of big ones too, but here is one kind you will see a lot around town.For the folks who just can’t quite afford the $100-$500 down payment on a scooter, you can buy a good old bike. This kind is actually fairly well integrated into Javanese culture here whereas scooters seem to be considered more a young person thing.No city is complete without it’s taxi services. There isn’t a bigbox taxi service here, but more private ventures. Their vehicles are pretty old too. There is the dokar, which is a little two wheeled horse cart. Those poor horses are so skinny, but they get the job done.And then there is the becak. Becaks are pretty amazing. The drivers are always these skinny little guys, but they manage to get their fully loaded becaks up and down the hills. More often then not, I see them pushing the carts up hills, but they still get there.Naturally, cars are here too, but not nearly as many as there are scooters. Cars are rich people items, and you get to see some fancy ones too. That being said, cars are still the most comfortable way to get a family of kids around town for westerners.And finally, if you want to get from Salatiga to another town, there are buses all over the place that are more then happy to haul you to the destination of your choice, as long as that destination is also painted at the top of the windshield of the bus. Speaking of painting, most of the buses also have paintings of women on the side in varying degrees of sketchiness. When I took this picture, I hadn’t actually looked at the painting yet, and Joy asked me why I had taken the picture. Then I realized that this was perhaps the most sketchy paint job I had seen yet. So I gave her some coverup before putting her in the blog here.


Hike Merapi

I don’t think I slept much at all Friday night. I went to bed at a fairly normal time, or around 10pm. But as is my normal when I have to get up early, I slept fitfully, waking every 15 minutes or so to check the time. Finally, at 2:45am my alarm went off while Joy was feeding Zoe, and I got up for the day.

I was off to climb Merapi.

I met some folks at 3:30am at the gate to the International School. We were going to climb together. After a few minutes, we had our group of 6 folks together, and off we went. Since Merapi is on the other side of Merbabu, we had to drive around it before we could get to the trail head. We arrived at the trail head at about 5am.

Merapi is an active vulcano. I don’t mean active like geologists would call active. They call anything that’s erupted in the last the last 10,000 years and still has magma hanging out inside. (1) I’m talking about active; it erupted last year and you can hear stuff going on in the crater.

Before last year, the top of Merapi was supposedly green and beautiful. I wouldn’t know because I hadn’t climbed it yet. When it erupted, it lost a nice chunk of peak in the process.

Yeah, so that’s what we wanted to climb. On lower slopes there was terrace upon terrace of crops being grown by the local villagers. How they climb up there and work or carry their produce down the mountain is a fairly scary thought. I had a rough time on that slippery trail with just me and my backpack.

At a certain point in the hike, there was a clear shift from vegetation to ash and rock. Andrew Jackson got it right when filming Mordor. There was nothing but a monochrome of grey rocks and sand everywhere with an occasional yellow sulfur rich rock hanging out.

At one point we crossed a sand field that was roughly an +50- 55% incline. That’s more then half way to vertical by the way. It was tough going up, but the way down was really fun and easy.

At the peak, we were fairly well surrounded by steam vents which were belching sulfur fumes. Before us lay a sheer drop off into the crater. All we could see was a swirling cloud of steam. But far below we could hear something boiling.

Of course, at the top I popped open my bottle of victory Dew.

The trip back was fairly uneventful except for the monkey who tried to steal food from me and only got a beating from my elbow and a hiking pole.

One Two Three Four, I Declare a…


This little dude (Araknis Deathicus Epic 90 ^^^ x4) surprised Joy when she was carrying our clothes into the bedroom to put them away. I had already partially dismantled the bedroom looking for him, when I found him here. He was hiding in the top of the headboard to our bed.

This is a little closer up so you can see him. Yes, he has body hair, and is missing a leg. I think he’s more of a pirate type spider. If he had been ninja I would never had found him. Anyway, that’s a normal size pill bottle on the headboard above him. I put it there so you could see how big he was, and because there was no stinkin way I was getting my hand in closer for the picture once we were this close.

After taking this picture I tried to swat him with my flip-flop.

Fail. (He’s a fast little bugger.)

I got him in the end using the reliable, blinding flashlight/bug spray/broom smash/stomping combo attack augmented with panic (+50 billion speed – 5 damage).

Unfortunately, that combo attack comes with a -20 room orderliness.

I will now flaunt my epic victory by spamming the chat channels with gibberish.


Wait… I Understood That!

When I arrived in Salatiga simple tasks were terrifying. But now…

Perhaps you might understand a little of that fear. You grasp the phone and start transfixedly at the numbers you have entered. If you hit dial, someone will address you as Mr. or Mrs. and ask you questions about your what’s-it that broke. You have no idea what that what’s-it is called, and the only reason why you are calling is because there was a friendly sticker on the bottom that said, “For Sales and Service Call: 555-555-5555.”

Did the *gibberish**gibberish**more gibberish*? As your eyes glass over you manage an, “Uhhhhh… I’m not sure.” In the end, somehow they get your address and a creepy dude shows up, says something about “reset button” and your what’s-it works again.

Now, imagine that even the “Did the…” part of the phone conversation and the “reset button” part of the creepy dude’s gibberish also sounded like… “ofnaporif, aiunfabndei sionf.”

Yep, that’s life in another language! When I arrived in Salatiga, the thought of simply walking down the street and getting accosted into a simple conversation that went beyond, “Sup!” was terrifying, and embarrassing. Did I mention embarrassing? And terrifying?

I remember walking into a store to try and buy minutes for my phone. When I left, without any new minutes, the lady there knew two things. She knew I wanted to buy minutes, and that I didn’t know anything else. I repeated this humiliating process at three different shops.

But today was different. And today was a big day.

Our electric meter broke. We still had electric, but the meter stopped counting. So we reported that and the meter was changed for us. Since it took us so long to realize the meter was broken, we had about four months of back pay on the account for normal usage. So I had to go into town and pay.

That meant I had to navigate the system at the electric company (get directions, find it, enter, understand signs, discuss payment necessary, pay, and then confirm if anything else was needed) ALONE.

Eight months ago the thought would have possibly reduced me to tears or bribery.

Today, I didn’t even really think about it.

I am so happy that MAF understands the need for language school and allows their people to be otherwise “unproductive” for a year while learning how to speak Indonesian. It really pays off in the end.