So… back to Wellington and the house of my mom’s cousin, Jonathan, and the big Indonesian party.
Wellington is a lovely town; reminds me very much of the San Francisco Bay area, with houses teetering precariously on hills overlooking the water.
It’s also called “Windy Welly” because there’s nothing to slow down the winds coming from the Antarctic, called the ‘southerlies’, which bring stiff gales and cold-ass temps. It was SO nice to have a respite from the road with the hospitality extended to me by Jonathan and his wife, Ati, and 10-year-old (soon to be 11, on New Year’s!) son Jason – it was all too easy to stay safely ensconced at their house in Lower Hutt.
There was unlimited electricity (no need to frantically try to complete my work with a nervous eye on my ever-diminishing battery levels), a nice clean (huge) bathroom for hot showers (no need to glare suspiciously at and avoid touching most surfaces, lest a residue have been left by germy hippie backpackers), big king sized bed to sprawl out in (no trench in the middle, made from pushing two mattresses together, for me to find myself sinking into each night), family meals eaten at a table ON PLATES (not slurped out directly out of the pot used for heating to save dirtying another dish, which might have to wait around a bit til a suitable washing environment with running water was located). There was a washing machine and dryer for laundry (no more desperate searching for one last pair of clean socks), and I was ceremoniously installed on the chess table in the family room for my ‘office space’, looking out onto the Wellington Harbor and the ferries going back and forth from North to South Island across the often stormy Cook Strait, about which I was regaled with tales from both father and shipwreck-interested son about high, nausea-inducing seas and tragic accidents in which all hands were drowned in sight of land. As you can imagine, this did not ease my slight nervousness about the sailing I’d have to make to continue my journey, and I eventually had to admonish them to please put a moratorium on any more horror stories at least til I was BACK safely on the North Island.) Jonathan was also a great source of family lore, old pictures, and tales I’d never heard involving my grandfather, always a total ham, comedian, and social butterfly, and at age 91 (–as of tomorrow!–) still an avid charmer of the ladies, who he spins around the dance floor several evenings each week.
Atil had also planned – “just for celebration,” as she put it, a huge party for her friends and members of the local Indonesian community, including the Indonesian defense attache (well, I think that was his position; or something very close to it) who had just returned from making the Hajj.
About 150 people were invited. The array of food and busy preparations for this festival were amazing; Ati was up several nights until 2 or 3am making dozens upon dozens of carefully prepared and spiced hamburgers. Guests arrived bearing further goodies – I had very little idea what anything was, but of course I was in heaven and sampled everything EXCEPT the enormous array of hamburgers and specially made Malaysian sausages Ati and Jonathan had ordered, because I erroneously assumed there was so much food there was no danger of them running out (WRONG). Everything was delicious, and I particularly favored Ati’s special secret homemade chili dipping sauce (to be scooped up with either lettuce leaves or cucumber slices, presumably to help cool the heat a bit), and a potato and chicken liver concoction. The huge array of sweets included a lot of things with coconut, palm sugar, and rice or tapioca flour. There was also a soupy fruit salad with avocado – everything totally intriguing and exotic and delicious.