Those expats living long in the tropics are fully aware of how difficult it is to explain the concept of ‘season’ to local acquaintances who have not travelled to a temperate zone: Spring / Summer / Fall / Winter, like clockwork, each different and each defined. You dress appropriately for the day, indoor or outdoor, and you choose what to eat also based in part on the time of year.
What are seasons? What a stupid question. No, not really. Think about your homebody friends back in Canada or Norway (the ones who get Thailand and Taiwan mixed up). When ask you about ‘…seasons in Indonesia…’ all you can tell them is ‘HOT & wet and HOT & dry’. But that’s not the whole story: you get wild cloudbursts, with thunder and lightning, even during the ‘dry season’. And then there is freak weather like in 1998 when it did.not.rain for eight months. My boss at the time rented a Gulfstream 4 and we went flying down to Jogja from Jakarta – the landscape of Java resembled the Sahara more than the lush thick green you usually associate with the equatorial tropics. People in the Sundanese mountain village where I live were forced to dig wells deeper and deeper and spent hours every day hunting for water when their wells and streams dried up.
It’s amazing to think of the adaptability of humans. Imagine being stuck in a refugee camp in Cambodia for years, under the blazing sun at 40° Celsius, and then suddenly you’re blasted in a metal tube across the planet to Alberta in February where it’s -40° Celsius. Surprising that people don’t just wilt and die like plants subjected to extreme weather change. But we don’t: people are amazingly adaptable.
In hot weather you get thirsty. Some people respond by drinking beer, which makes you feel good, but in fact makes you thirstier, because alcohol tends to dehydrate you. That’s fine with us at Ya Udah Bistro, ‘cause then you’ll drink more beer, and we have plenty left in the cooler for you.
Unfortunately that beer doesn’t stay with you very long and you’ll be mumbling ‘Where’s the Boy’s Room?’ after a few bottles (my dear old mother used to scold my dad and me by saying ‘You don’t buy beer – you rent it’ or just ‘Pour it back in the horse’ when she saw us pouring a nice foamy).
Speaking of which don’t forget to give a try to our two ambitious new Euro-beers brewed right here at home in Indonesia: the wheaty King Ludwig and the equally-delightful Prost. For beer-lovers (and Jogja and Jakarta have plenty of these stalwart citizens) these new flavors are a welcome alternative to the usual.
How about food and seasons? In ‘winter countries’ like Finland and Canada we tend to go for the heavy, starchy fare when the snow and wind are howling outside: meat, potatoes and black bread. Springtime? Fresh salads from the garden. Summer? Light fare to keep us from getting sleepy: sandwiches, fish, pasta, finger food. Fruit fresh from the harvest.
Autumn is a time for reflection, so we clean our plates so we can see our fat faces reflected on them. (I’m just joking – please don’t lick your plate clean, no matter how much you enjoy the food at Ya Udah Bistro. It might disturb other patrons.)
Actually Indonesians who have gone to study in Canada assure me that the extreme cold – and it is cold in a way that a local thinking ‘dingin’ simply cannot comprehend – is great for intellectual activity. Study skills are sharpened and it’s not much fun to go outside anyway. All the strenuous activity to stay warm also builds up a nice appetite for steak or fish or pasta. Hungry yet? Our sleepy waitresses are awaiting your order – I mean our eager waitresses, sorry.
Indonesia, on the other hand, is almost always pleasant outdoors (if you can avoid sunstroke or getting your skin fried like those crazy tourists baking on the beach in Bali). Even during furious monsoon rains – wait thirty minutes and the brilliant blue skies clear again. Everything is brilliant and glistening.