On the loose in East Java

I was invited by Koming, Maya and Mira to go to Surabaya in East Java to go to a conference. I’ve met many people over the past year or so, but I would definitely call Koming, Maya and Mira friends, so of course I said yes. We laugh a lot. I can be myself with them. And I know their families and their lives. Also the conference was going to be on leadership so I thought it might be interesting to hear about that too. And I also thought it would be my final opportunity to go away with them before I leave Bali.

We all departed Denpasar Friday morning (except Koming who came Friday night). Mira took her family (husband Made and their 6 month old boy Putu) and Maya took her family too (husband Dewa and 6 month old baby girl Nova and 7 year old Gita). Koming flew on a later flight that evening. It is always a beautiful morning flight to Java….across volcanic mountain ranges and lush jungle, but this time the clouds were equally spectacular.

Mira and everyone ready for take off

Last conference, in Sumatra, I shared a room with Nining. This was like my worst nightmare. I’m very fond of Nining, but she was difficult to share a room with and I didn’t get much sleep due to her constantly coming and going, constantly packing and repacking, scrunching plastic bags, and constantly praying to Mecca! Anyway, I survived, but i said I’d never do it again.

Koming arrived later that evening about 9pm. I opened the hotel door with excitement, as I was looking forward to seeing her…..and she was standing there with Nining who had decided to gate crash the conference and stay in our room. Nooooooo!!!!! Nining pleaded and said it was only for one night. I looked at the two single beds and at Koming and said “She’s not sleeping in my bed”. So Koming and Nining shared a single bed for one night. Koming got 2 hours sleep. We actually laughed a lot. There was one priceless moment where we all realised how different we all were and we were stuck in this room together. Nining was dressed in her islamic prayer robes and was attempting to pray, but none of us could stop laughing. There has to be a joke somewhere about a Muslim, a Hindu and a Catholic in a hotel room with two single beds? It felt like a teenage slumber party.

Off we went the next day to the conference. It was nice to see people that I had previously met at other conferences and other places around Indonesia. However, the focus was not so much on the conference but on shopping. I was dragged to so many shops and markets and all with two 6 month old babies in tow as well. We also went to the Surabaya zoo which I had heard through my language teacher was quite good. I’m sorry to report, that the conditions were appalling. Even my fellow friends were disappointed, even though they didn’t say anything, as they made an excuse to leave within 30 minutes. A large black bear had scabs all over his legs. The cages were so bare with no vegetation or comfort for the animals. They smelt like they had not been cleaned for a while. The animals looked very lethargic and just very unhappy. It’s up there with the saddest places I have seen in Indonesia. Other photos I took, I just cannot even post here.

Surabaya zoo

Mira with her husband Made and son Putu (in shock about zoo conditions)

Maya with her husband Dewa and kids, Gita and Nova

Evidence that we did attend the conference....once. Me, Maya & Koming.

The second night, Nining had vacated and all seemed to be going sweet. I managed to fall asleep at a fairly reasonable time, only to be woken by Koming watching TV at 2am and then waking at 5am, because she thought it was 6am (and her watch was still on Bali time). Oh well….when in Indonesia!

I had a cunning plan to stay in the hotel that morning and just sleep, as I thought they would be going to the conference, but no. I was informed that we were going to pack up all our stuff and check-out of the hotel and go SHOPPING and sightseeing again and then go straight to the airport, so that ruined that plan.

We visited a district called Porong in Sidoarjo, which I have blogged about before. In 2006, a gas and oil company caused an underground disaster when they allegedly drilled using inappropriate equipment, causing what can be only described as a mud volcano and Indonesia’s biggest ecological disaster. Since I saw it a year ago, I can see how much it has grown and deteriorated. The 15,000 villagers which were displaced have still not been compensated. They lost their homes and their land and some lost family members. It’s a huge problem which no-one seems to be wanting to tackle, leaving the local community extremely desperate and vulnerable. And it’s only going to keep getting worse. The noxious gas being emitted is also dangerous and flammable. The locals are surviving by turning it in to a tourist attraction and selling souvenirs.

The video footage shows you the plumes of mud that just spew out from time to time.

Remnants of the village and mud as far as 7km wide

After this sobering ‘tourist attraction’, we went to a another shopping mall, to while away the hours until our flight. At least I got to hang out with little Putu in a coffee shop.


In true Indonesian style we arrived at the airport to find that the check-in had closed. We didn’t have the right flight time. We thought it was at 4.20pm but it was actually 3.40pm. We turned up at 3.30pm. After much begging and pleading, and flashing two 6 month old children at the Garuda staff, they allowed us on the flight. It had been delayed, which was the only reason we got on that flight. I was so relieved. Another night in Surabaya would have finished me off.

Lesson learnt. Ask to see an itinerary well in advance.

Even though there were times I was so unbelievably bored and a little frustrated, I loved spending time with my friends, who have been there for me this whole time. Just because we don’t relax and enjoy ourselves the same way or sometimes even think the same way, doesn’t mean the time spent together crammed in a car, driving from shopping mall to shopping mall, wasn’t greatly appreciated and cherished.


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