January 11: Toilet Travails

At some point soon I’ll be writing something comparing Beijing and Indonesia (which I know a lot better) on my other blog, at http://felicitybloomfield.wordpress.com

Why is it that Indonesian adventures are always somehow toilet-related?

My partner and I are in Indonesia now, on the same island as the illustrious Jimmy Bind (no sightings yet, though, sadly). We’ve spent two days getting to our current location (and we’re getting picked up at 5am tomorrow to go and see Mount Bromo, an active volcano) so today was a rest day.

Rest days are usually boring. *I* certainly didn’t do anything exciting. My husband, however, dutifully picked up the slack.

We’re staying in a rather nice area of a quite nice city. All the houses around here have a series of annoying security things – fences are locked down on various roads at night (you can still get to any house by wandering around, so it’s really just annoying), and each house has a huge gate out the front, which residents need to reach through to unlock (sometimes blind and one-handed). My husband, who likes security, approves of this arrangement. I don’t – if it was up to me (which it isn’t), I’d leave at least one door of our house unlocked at all times.

However.

Our house is empty because the people who live there are away. We’re staying in the guest area out the back, which has a bedroom and bathroom (both lockable) coming off a tiled verandah.

Oh yeah, and a castle. Honestly.

Immediately over the back fence is a castle, complete with crenellations (bigger than on the Great Wall), turrets, and everything a megalomaniac could want. The owner is from Saudi Arabia, and he had the castle built specially (coz it’s pretty. Obviously).

Technically we’re not alone in the house – a dog walker comes every day (which means we need to unlock everything), and so does a “pembantu” (literally a “helper”) who cooks and cleans and generally becomes a paid member of the family. Our pembantu is called Mrs Ani. She’s one of the best.

Indonesia is tropical, and it’s wet season. Breathing is a little bit like drinking, and a little bit like being dunked upside down in warm soup. It’s smelly (one reason Indonesians shower twice a day), but it’s great. The doors to our bedroom and bathroom are made of wood, and they’ve expanded in the heat. That’s less great.

So my husband went to the bathroom, and since there were two Indonesians in the house (who could choose to use and/or clean the bathroom at any time, and who don’t speak English), he closed the door.

Big. Mistake.

Mrs Ani heard his calls for help, and was the first on the scene (somewhat bemused at this wacky Australian habit of actually closing bathroom doors). I heard her yelling and came to help.

The three of us pushed and pulled at the door, and yanked and kicked it and placed our backs against it. It did nothing. My partner told me later he was all right – his only concern was how we’d get food in to him over the next few days.

Mrs Ani and I began gathering an assortment of tools. We used two screwdrivers, a hammer (whacked against a thong so we didn’t break our absent hosts’ house), a plywood shovel-thing, large quantities of detergent, an electric fan, and a crowbar.

Mrs Ani became increasingly concerned and phoned our host (who, incidentally, we’ve never met – he’s a friend of some friends, Mr and Mrs Baik, which is how we ended up in his house), our actual friends, and the dog walker. No-one answered.

Because it’s so hot and the bathroom has no windows, Mrs Ani was afraid my husband would pass out.

Later Mrs Baik told us that Mrs Ani’s message had got through to the house owner. Too bad he’s on holiday in Australia. Nonetheless, he phoned Mr Baik long distance to let him know their mutual guests were locked in the toilet. My husband has already incited an international incident. That’s not bad after two days.

After about an hour, Mrs Ani gave the door yet another hefty shove, and it suddenly opened. My husband and Mrs Ani and I stood in shock for a moment, staring at one another.

Then there was much laughing and hugging, and much drinking of cold water and having a nice sit down. Mrs Ani left us alone and went to spread the tale (with abundant joy and, presumably, embellishments). Mr Baik arrived soon afterwards, and we went to their house. About 15 people are currently staying there, and all of them knew part of the tale and wanted to hear the rest.

Welcome to Indonesia.

We also discovered an oh-so-exclusive coffee that has an unusual claim to fame. Civets (big cats) apparently have exquisite taste when it comes to eating coffee beans – they only eat the most fresh; the most succulent. So after ten-twelve hours, when those amazingly good beans exit the civet, they are picked up by this coffee company and made into very very expensive cappucinos.

I’m afraid I chose not to have one. Apparently it has a lovely aftertaste, though – sweet and pleasant.

2 thoughts on “January 11: Toilet Travails

  1. I have a very similar story from my time in the Cook Islands….

    (Should have tried that Civet… um… PROCESSED coffee, by the way – it’s, by far, the most expensive coffee in the world.)

  2. Pingback: S#49: Get mentioned on TV « Louise Curtis

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