Saturday, March 10, 2007

The EXTRA LONG Trip Home from Indonesia

Hi everyone! I am safely home back in Iowa!

Man, it took a REALLY long time to get here! As you know, our flight in Banda Aceh was really, really late. Kristin didn't tell me until we were home why the plane was late because she didn't want me to be worried. I thought King Tut was just mad at Kristin again. But she says an important piece of equipment on the plane wasn't working. I knew she was worried we would miss our next flights, but now I think she was worried about the plane. Whew! I am glad the plane was OK. King Tut must not have been too mad at Kristin!

I thought we were late because the power kept going off at the airport. It was really strange, all of a sudden the lights would go out and it would get REALLY dark. Kristin says the power goes out all of the time in Aceh. I had no idea! The power was on all of the time we were at the hotel. Kristin says that's because the hotel has something called a generator. The generator makes the lights stay on even if the power goes out. Who knew?

Here I am watching Kristin's bags at the Banda Aceh airport (while the power was on!).

While we were waiting for the plane, Kristin started talking to a very nice woman from Canada. Her name is Huguette. She stayed at the same hotel we did in Banda Aceh. She was waiting for the same flight Kristin was taking from Banda Aceh to Medan. And, she was also supposed to be on the flight Kristin was taking from Medan to Singapore.

It was really dark outside when we finally got on the plane in Banda Aceh. It was also REALLY hot on the plane. When the plane finally took off, the take-off was really, really bouncy!

It's a good thing Kristin and Huguette started talking. They knew when we finally got off the plane in Medan that we had missed the flight to Singapore. Huguette was sitting much closer to the door on the plane, so she walked really fast to the airline office. The airline (Garuda) agreed to pay for hotel rooms for the people who missed their flights. But, the airline said Kristin and Huguette had to share a room. I thought this was really strange. Kristin did too, but she wasn't going to argue. She just wanted to get to the hotel so she could get our flights fixed.

Here I am at the hotel.

Kristin was able to get her friend Susan at the Stanley Foundation on instant message. Susan was then able to call Kristin's travel agent and send all of the info Kristin needed for our new flights. Then she told me that we were going to have to spend the night in Singapore. That meant we were going to get home a whole day late. Oh no! Kristin must have seen the look on my face because she told me not to worry. She said everything was fine. She also told me she sent a note to Aunt Lynn to tell her I would be late getting home.

Since Huguette was able to help get the hotel room in Medan, Kristin and Susan then helped Huguette get her flights fixed. Kristin and Huguette got to bed VERY late, but they had seats on the next flight out of Medan by the time they turned the lights off.

Kristin woke me up very early so we could get to the airport. She didn't want to miss our flight to Singapore. Everything went fine at the airport. Kristin and Huguette got seats on the plane and the flight was on time! Whew!

While we were on the plane, I asked Kristin where we were going to stay in Singapore. She told me not to worry. Huguette had a room at a hotel and she offered to share it if the hotel didn't have a room for Kristin.

The hotel, the Pan Pacific, was WAY better than the hotel in Banda Aceh! And, they had a room for Kristin. It was hot and sunny in Singapore, but Kristin let me spend some time on her room's balcony while she was working on her computer.

I could see water from the balcony. I also saw a a cool metal thing from the balcony. Kristin told me it was the most interesting construction crane she has ever seen.

Kristin and Huguette had dinner at the hotel's restaurant that night. Here I am with my new friend Huguette!

Right after dinner, Kristin told me I needed to get to bed because we were going to have a long trip home. She was right!

It took more than 6 hours to fly from Singapore to Tokyo, Japan. I've never been to Japan before! I wanted to go out and explore the city but Kristin told me we didn't have time. :( I guess I will have to keep Japan on my list of places I want to visit again. Kristin knew I was disappointed, so she found a map of Japan on her computer while we were waiting in the airport for our flight to Chicago.

Our flight to Chicago was on time and Kristin was able to get us home from the airport without having to drive in a snow storm! But, I was SO tired that Kristin decided to let me sleep instead of taking a photo of me.

I want to thank Kristin for taking me to Aceh. I learned lots of new things and saw tons of cool animals! I also want to thank Kristin for helping me get my blog updated. The Internet connection in Aceh was SO slow that Kristin would spend LOTS of time after I went to bed posting my photos. Thanks Kristin!

I also want to thank my new friend Huguette for being so nice to me. I MUST thank Kristin's friend Susan in Iowa City for helping Kristin get the cool upstairs seat on the plane to Singapore. And, I want to thank Kristin's friend Susan in Muscatine for working with Susan in Iowa City to get us back to Iowa.

Man, I am really tired again. I must have that jet-lag stuff. I have one more story about Aceh I want to write about, but I think I will take a nap first. I'll try to get the last story done tomorrow.

Until next time....

Friday, March 09, 2007

Safe in Singapore!

Hi everyone!

King Tut must be mad at Kristin AGAIN! Our flight was so late leaving Banda Aceh on Thursday night that we have now missed all of our other flights home. OH NO!!

Kristin has been working very hard to get us home. Right now, we are in Singapore at a nice hotel called the Pan Pacific. We are on the 11th floor of the hotel. Kristin's room even has a balcony!

We leave here tomorrow for Tokyo, Japan. See if you can find Tokyo on the map. We will fly from Tokyo to Chicago.

Kristin has been so busy trying to get new airplane tickets and get us to Singapore that she hasn't had time to anything else. I have more pictures and stories to post about Aceh, but Kristin needs to get back to work. I will update the blog when I can.

Until next time....

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

We Are Safe!

Hi everyone. Kristin says many of you have sent messages to make sure we are OK.

I am great! Kristin is working on her computer and she is watching me as I swim in the Banda Aceh hotel pool.

I'm not sure why people are worried about me. The weather is hot and the pool is nice! But, Kristin told me that there was an earthquake in Indonesia yesterday and a plane crash here this morning. Oh no!

She says we were about 500 miles from where the earthquake happened yesterday morning (Indonesian time). Kristin says she didn't feel the earthquake and I am pretty sure she would have told me if she did! The earthquake did happen on the island of Sumatra, where we are staying. Banda Aceh is on the northern coast of Sumatra and the earthquake happened on the western side of Sumatra.

The plane crash happened on the island of Java. Kristin says that is a different island than the one we are on. Kristin says there are hundreds and hundreds of islands in Indonesia. I had no idea!

Anyway, Kristin says she can understand why people are worried. Kristin doesn't want me to be scared but she told me it was OK to be a little worried about the bad news. I am more worried that Kristin won't have enough money to pay her bills!

Kristin needs her computer back. I promise to stay safe and I will update the blog with new stuff about my big trip outside Banda Aceh this week when Kristin takes a break from her computer.

Until next time....

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Monkey Business

Hi everyone! I hope all is well with you.

I have just returned from one of the most exciting field trips yet! Today, Ahmady took Kristin and Jocelyn to a village called Meudheun. It takes about 3 hours to get there by car.

When Ahmady picked us up at the airport, I was riding in the backseat of the van. And I was so busy looking out the window of the van when Ahmady took us around Banda Aceh the a few days ago that I didn't realize until today that something looked very funny. The steering wheel on Ahmady's van is on the wrong side! See what I mean?

Kristin says there are many countries in the world where the steering wheel is on the right-hand side of the dashboard (it is on the left in the United States). I had no idea! As soon as Kristin told me this, I noticed that Ahmady was also driving on the wrong side of the road!

I told Kristin I was afraid we were going to crash. She just smiled and told me that there are also many places in the world where people drive on the left-hand side of the road (in the US, people normally drive on the right-hand side of the road). Who knew!

The road to Meudheun runs along what Kristin calls the "Indian Ocean" coast. Just outside of Banda Aceh, we had to cross a wooden bridge. I was afraid our van would crash into the water below. But we didn't. Whew!

There are LOTS of curves on the road. There were SO many curves in places that I thought I was riding a roller coaster! I also thought we were going to crash in the ocean sometimes!

Don't worry. Kristin made sure she had her seat belt on and that I was in a safe spot at all time!

Kristin told me that she and Jocelyn wanted to go to out today to look at a road project. Kristin says the United States is helping to build a road here that was damaged by the tsunami. She says the road project has been delayed but I did see some construction work while we were in the van.

While we were driving, I saw lots of different animals including goats, chickens, sheep, cows, and ducks. But I also saw some very funny looking cows with BIG horns. Kristin told me they were water buffalo. Cool!

Do you remember when I was in Africa that sometimes we had to stop for the camels in the road? Well today we had to stop a few times to wait for monkeys in the road. That's right, I said monkeys! Can you believe it?

I have never seen so many monkeys in my entire life. The monkeys would come up to the car and make this strange "eek" sound and flash their teeth. Kristin said some of the monkeys were hoping we would give them food. That's why they were not afraid to come near the van. I liked looking at the monkeys, but I was afraid they might snatch me out of Kristin's hand. So she quickly took this picture of me while I was in the car and then put me in a safe place.

Here are some other monkey photos Kristin took. They sure have long tails, don't they?

After what seemed like FOREVER, we finally reached the village of Meudheun. Kristin told me
the earthquake and tsunami damaged many of the homes here.

The road that goes through the village is part of the road the US is going to help rebuild. Kristin told me that most people in Aceh are glad the United States is helping to build the road. But she says some people, like this man and his family, are still waiting for something she calls a "fair price" for the land it will take to make the new road.

I am not sure I really understand what Kristin is talking about. She told me that it is OK if I am confused. She says the road project involves politics and politics is hard to understand. Whew...I am glad she isn't going to test me!

This is Kristin's favorite picture from the village. It is the man's young daughter.

After we left the village, I knew it was going to be a LONG ride home. I wasn't so sure I wanted to spend that much time in the van. But Kristin said if I paid close attention, I might see more monkeys on the road. Guess what? She was right!

We even saw a big black monkey. It looked like a small gorilla!

Ahmady was shocked! He says he has NEVER seen one like this. Kristin took this cool picture of it climbing away in a tree. How AWESOME is this!

After I saw the monkeys, I got very sleepy. So I took a nap for the rest of the car ride back to the hotel. Tomorrow Kristin says we are going on another LONG car ride.

Until next time...

Kristin's Green Scarf

Hi everyone. I am still having a great time learning new things here in Aceh.

Today (Saturday), Ahmady took Kristin and Jocelyn to a meeting of religious leaders. Kristin says Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. I had no idea!

Just before we got to the meeting, Kristin pulled a green scarf out of her purse and put it on her head. I couldn't understand why she would want to put a scarf on her head when it is SO hot outside. But then she reminded me that she wore a scarf when she and her journalist friends has a meeting with a religious leader in Egypt.

I still think Kristin looks funny when she wears the green scarf on her head. But I remember that she told me it is a sign of respect for a woman to wear a head scarf when meeting with religious leaders in Muslim countries.

I am still really tired from that jet-lag stuff, so Kristin told me I should take a nap. I really don't like to take naps. But I feel asleep before I could argue with her.

Tomorrow, Kristin says we are going on a long car trip and she says I might see some interesting animals along the way. I sure hope so!

Until next time....