This has been a happy year for the Gamble family in Jakarta. The biggest and best news is that we are expecting a baby in mid-February 1994. The Gambles will soon have all the responsibilities anticipated by a married couple.
When we married in March 1992 we hoped to start a family 6 to 12 months later; as it turned out we took slightly longer - 14 months - probably because we are getting on a little in life. In the end, at Usa's request, we consulted a doctor specializing in the area; he gave Neil some medication and that seemed to do the trick. Very soon after that Usa became pregnant; we are very fortunate as there is only one doctor who has this type of practice for men in Jakarta.
At the moment Usa is into her 7th month and her doctor is telling us that all is going well. We certainly have our fingers crossed that we have a strong, healthy and happy baby in February without complications.
This year we had a pretty good traveling year. Neil went on a short business trip to Hong Kong in September and Usa accompanied - her first trip to Hong Kong. Again we were quite lucky, because it's better for Usa to go to Hong Kong now, without having to worry about children and in case the place changes significantly after 1997, which is less than 4 years away now. With us starting a family there may not be another chance for an "easy" trip to Hong Kong before it reverts to China. Usa was 4 months pregnant at the time, so we were not able to rush around shopping or seeing the sights, we had to take it easy to make sure everything would be OK for the baby. But we still managed to do quite a bit. We also didn't do a lot of things - like use the Star ferry or go to the top of Victoria Peak - so we still have reasons to go back if we can.
We refer to this trip as "predictably exciting", meaning that when in Hong Kong you expect excitement, but you don't know exactly what form it will take. On this trip it was the weather because we encountered a typhoon, which is the reason we couldn't do those simple things mentioned above. Hong Kong has a scale for typhoons - 1 means there is one in the general area, 3 means it may be approaching, 8 means the storm is threatening HK - businesses and public transport (except the MTR) are closed, 9 means it's almost upon them and 10 means ... well, perhaps it's over Victoria Peak! We arrived on a Wednesday afternoon and left on the Sunday. On Friday late evening they hoisted a level 3. It was raining a lot, on and off, and the wind was blowing, but things were OK. We woke up on Saturday - still level 3. No problem, we went eating, shopping, going around. Tiring and certainly wet, but generally OK. We planned to do last minute shopping on Sunday, and as the flight wasn't until 3.15pm we figured we could shop until around noon, pack until 1pm or 1.30pm, get to the airport and have no real problem. Wrong. Sunday morning, while we were eating our breakfast they hoisted a level 8. All businesses and transport except for MTR (train) closed. We were staying in a hotel Hong Kong side but were in Kowloon at the time - about 9.15am. At first we didn't know what happened because the shops, one by one, simply pulled down their shutters. When we figured out what happened we completed what shopping we could while most of them were closing and made our way back to the hotel, abandoning our original plan to use the Star Ferry for the trip.
Going to the airport, surviving the crowds there and actually getting out was certainly "exciting". Not the type we would like to repeat too quickly, though.
Probably everyone who had to leave HK thought the same -- that they'd better get to the airport early in case of problems. So there were many more people there than normal. (Even we arrived a full 2 hours before the scheduled flight time, which we've never done before.) Because of the weather conditions most flights were delayed in landing. Thus the flights were delayed in their departure, either because they were denied landing gates or they simply arrived into HK late. Because flights were delayed, there were more people again in the airport than normal, so now there were two reasons for the airport to be crowded. HK airport does not have departure lounges, you have to queue up at the gate, so everyone is in a big holding area, casually aligned around their own gate. From the airport Usa was going to Bangkok & Neil to Jakarta. Usa was in one way fortunate because her gate (13) had a large-ish area outside it and there was an opportunity for a queue to form. Outside her gate there were shops, but a fairly large area. My gate (10) was in a corridor that was maybe 10 meters wide, as it backed onto the airport restaurant and washroom facilities. Luckily our flights were scheduled at about the same time, Usa at 15.15hrs, me at 15.20hrs. Both were delayed, by about 45 minutes. So I took Usa to her gate, left her near the beginning of the queue and took off to my gate. At my gate they had two flights listed to take off at the same time. My flight to Jakarta and another flight to Kuala Lumpur. The KL flight had been moved from gate 6 to gate 10, obviously a mistake. All gates from gate 11 to 1 were trapped in this corridor. It was packed like sardines and people trying all the time to get through to their flight gate. Then came an announcement that the flight at gate 22 was being moved to gate 6. After about 20 minutes of being bustled and shoved an announcement came that gate 6 had been moved to back gate 22! Those poor people had just fought through us to get to gate 6, now they were being moved back to gate 22. They had to fight their way through us again. At the same time they announced that the KL flight was moved from gate 10 back to its original to gate 6. Wonderful. Now the people ex-gate 6 were fighting to get down to gate 22 and the people from gate 10 on the KL flight were heading in the exact opposite way to get to gate 6. I have never witnessed such poor airport management; I also have not been in a monsoon before, but I don't take that as an excuse for this mess. The result, as you might imagine, was pushing and shoving matches, and we at gate 10 getting pushed and shoved by whoever was stronger at the moment. At one point, tempers were so high that some people came to blows. It was not a happy experience. I am just so grateful that (pregnant) Usa was in a reasonably open area and that she was not in the middle of all this stupidity.
It finally happened, someone came to their senses and allowed our flight into the small pre-boarding hold area; that made some space in the corridor and people managed to start getting through. When we got inside it became obvious how stupid the whole thing was. With tempers rising outside, people pushing and shoving, some coming to blows, inside the gate was an empty area with enough room for about 100 people, maybe more if pushed, and they wouldn't let people in even to ease the congestion. Seems pretty stupid to me.
The next month, October, we went to Bali. Again, it was the first time for Usa to go there, even though we have been married and lived in Indonesia for 19 months. As Bali is the generally acknowledged Indonesian paradise, that was probably too long to wait. But we went, spent 9 days and enjoyed ourselves. As it was only the second trip for Neil (the previous one was 5 years ago) and the first for Usa we decided to spend time in different places to see what they were like. We spent 3 nights in Sanur, in the Bali Hyatt; 2 nights in Ubud in a hill resort called "Kupu Kupu Barong"; and 3 nights near Kuta (in Legian) at the Holiday Inn Bali Hai. Sanur and Kuta are both beach resorts that have their respective better and worse points. Sanur doesn't have as many tourists or touts and was therefore more relaxing. There were shops close to the hotel, but we found out later that even after bargaining the prices were not as cheap as Kuta. The Bali Hyatt has a nice beach that you can enjoy without being disturbed, but we thought the water was a bit dirty (not the beach, but the water). It also has the advantage of being a sister hotel to the Grand Hyatt in Nusa Dua, which you can go to on a free shuttle service during the day. That hotel is even grander, but as the vegetation is not as well grown (it's a new resort) we thought it was hotter than Sanur. Kuta was relatively inexpensive. The hotel was half the price of the one in Sanur, but there was nothing wrong the place - it was really very nice. They also have special dinner events in the hotel every night which feature good food (usually barbecued) at reasonable prices (like US$11 - US$15 per person for seafood or mixed seafood and meat - as much as you can want!). To get to the shops from the Holiday Inn, though, you had to take transport; once there the range of inexpensive shirts, dresses, handicrafts etc. was amazing. We bought quite a few things. However, the touts were very aggressive and annoying, both in the shopping areas and on the beach. The Holiday Inn has its own "private" beach, but there are still people selling things there, not allowing you to relax and enjoy yourself. We ended up spending time at the pool in both places. In Ubud we stayed in a very exclusive and private resort - there are only 26 bungalows in the place. Each bungalow is a standalone native Balinese hut with modern finish. We only spent two nights there. We were fortunate that one of our friends arranged for a local artist's daughter to show us around the painters' shops & homes; we managed to increase the size of our art collection considerably, at a comparatively modest cost. But now we have been spoiled; we notice that all the paintings we see in Jakarta are too expensive!
For the home, Neil finally relented and bought a PC. It's an identical unit to the one used in the Citibank Indonesia office to make it easy to exchange data and, yes, work at home when necessary. That has always been the reason we have not bought one until now! The PC we have is a Compaq Prolinea 4/33 (486dx, 33 MHz with 12 MB memory & 240 MB hard disk). We did, however, invest in a better printer than used in the office because we want our letters and documents to look good. Another reason for the good printer is we have both English & Thai Windows and for the Thai characters to print clearly we figured a laser printer would be the thing to have. When in Hong Kong we also bought a CD ROM and sound board. So now we have a multimedia PC. We are using the CD for reference materials (encyclopedia and medical dictionary) and games, but it has to be said that the software companies haven't conquered the technology or refined their offerings yet. They can still be improved a lot. At the moment the reference materials are more impressive than the games.
In closing, both of us here in Jakarta hope you have a happy and successful 1994.