Santa and Mrs. Claus swing by the equator before the big sleigh ride

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hThis December, my parents came to visit me in Indonesia. They couldn’t stay over Christmas because of my 6 nieces and nephews–their grandchildren who needed Santa and Mrs. Claus to make their Christmas complete back in North America.

But I was so excited to host them in my new country for a time. I spent hours planning our 10 day trek across 3 islands (actually 6 if you include the 3 stops the fast boat to Gili Trawangan made on its route).



I hoped they wouldn’t regret the almost 24 hours of travel, the jetlag, the expense . . . it was the best Christmas gift ever. What I couldn’t predict was what would be most memorable. For me, it was seeing Indonesia again through their eyes. Here are some highlights from my perspective:

  • The reactions to insane driving. My dad would drive in New York City when we lived in New Jersey for awhile, no problem, but from the back seat of a car operated by a local driver, I overheard comments like, “I think we just took out that guy on the bike,” and “How fast are we going?” and a couple of winces as the car attempted to pass slow-moving vehicles by lingering in a lane of oncoming traffic. In contrast, my parents also enjoyed friendly exchanges with our various drivers.
  • Field Trip Day at the Sultan's Palace

    Field Trip Day at the Sultan’s Palace

    Experiences in various transportation. From Mercedes Silverbird taxi at the airport to train across Java to mini-van around Yogyakarta to plane over to Bali to fast boat to Gili T to horse drawn cart and bike around Gili T (where there are no motorized vehicles) back on a plane and then onto an airport bus transport then back in taxi . . . one of the only vehicles they missed was an ojek (motorbike). However, they relished taking pictures of the stream of ojeks as they surrounded us at traffic lights.

  • The treatment of bules (foreigners) as if they were celebrities. My parents absolutely relished taking pictures with the local children who approached them shyly producing  cellphones at the ready.
  • Tandems are so adorable . . . in theory

    Tandems are so adorable . . . in theory

    The awareness of tropical birds and wildflowers. My dad is an avid birder and enjoyed listening for local bird calls and examining local fauna.

  • The utter lack of any accessibility codes in Indonesia. Americans with Disabilities Act? That’s so American! My mom marveled at the scarcity of gangplanks when you disembark from planes. The number of stairs with no railing or ramps. The lack of elevators.
  • The tropical downpours–my parents arrived during rainy season which didn’t dampen our spirits at all, as feared.
  • The tropical heat. My mom could be witnessed in most conversations demonstrating how high the snow was (and is) in Michigan (back home) as the legendary polar vortex had already begun wintering in North America.
  • The juxtaposition of the wintery holy holidays with tropical holiday culture. Sacred Christmas carols poured from thatched roof cocktail huts and Christmas trees were constructed in “spring break” style.

It seemed fitting as my life began in our family because my parents were international teachers. Now, they had come to visit me, now also an international teacher.

Fast boats are the best

Fast boats are the best

Oh (Gili) Tannenbaum

Oh (Gili) Tannenbaum

Selamat Datang (Welcome!)

Selamat Datang (Welcome!)

Visiting Mount Merapi

Visiting Mount Merapi

Fly home safely!! Thanks for visiting!

Fly home safely!! Thanks for visiting!


About jaclynfre

Tech integration specialist, recipe adventurer, fast walker, sporadic writer, aunt, sister and daughter
This entry was posted in family, international teaching, travel and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Santa and Mrs. Claus swing by the equator before the big sleigh ride

  1. I loved all the details you included. This was my favorite sentence, “I hoped they wouldn’t regret the almost 24 hours of travel, the jetlag, the expense…it was the best Christmas gift ever.” That sentiment shines through your writing.

    • jaclynfre says:

      Thanks for reading this travel “Journal.” I wasn’t sure If I did the experience justice with my hasty writing as I was exhausted last night. However, it was an amazing gift of time and memories. Your response means a lot to me.

  2. newtreemom says:

    How much you all enjoyed the visit shines through in your writing. It was fun to read!

    • jaclynfre says:

      Thanks for reading! I find these pictures of my parents interacting with Indonesian culture priceless. I was worried I’d wear them out. But they were driving over 2 hours home as soon as they touched the ground in Chicago–in order to make it back in time for Christmas Eve. Whew!

  3. jhaworthoy says:

    I loved this. Your parents sound wonderful and the pictures of them are full of smiles. I can just see your mother demonstrating the snow in Michigan! This reminded me of how supportive my parents were when I was teaching…and always coming down to see the different activities I had my students doing. Thanks for the memories…

    • jaclynfre says:

      The memories of traveling with them in Indonesia will continue to live on. It’s especially interesting since I decided not to go home for Christmas, that means I haven’t had winter for over a year now . . . during the craziest, snowiest winter in North America. I do love listening to NPR in the mornings and hearing about school closings and wincing at the report of yet another snow storm warning. Nuts!

  4. jhaworthoy says:

    Oh…and we had to leave Chicago early because it looks like we are due for more snow…like 6-10 inches….and right at the time we would be driving home…from Chicago to Toledo….during the snow. So we returned today…our kitty is happy. Next time we go to Chicago…we will take your suggestions…they sounded good. Thanks…looking forward to tasting that hotdog. 🙂

  5. aggiekesler says:

    I can’t wait to experience these firsts with my parents, too! They are coming to visit me in October. I’m totally going to copy your idea and “look at China through their eyes.” Thanks for sharing!

    • jaclynfre says:

      Thanks for checking out this post. Looking “through their eyes” will happen inevitably. I hope you will have the chance to post about that. I can’t believe I’ll be back in the US in October, able to go apple picking by that time. What a lovely time for your parents to visit!!

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