Here Thar Be Monsters!

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25.8.12

My Summer Vacation

Thank God vacation is almost over so we can go backto work and get some rest!  If there's a part of the Universe where logic ceases to exist, then Indonesia is the gravitational center of that region.

What we started with...
We just spent the past 10 days wrangling the Far Side World Headquarters-Java Branch into shape.  It was getting burdensome having to take the ferry to south Kalimantan, take the Vietnam-era Jeep as far as the roads could go, paddle the lizard-skin canoes up to the camp, and get all the monkeys back in line to get things running.

Now we have the Java branch that is much closer, much cooler and with far fewer wives to worry us into a tizzy.  Now we just load up the Far Side Micro Bus with cheese and crackers, and head for the mountains.  Only problem is we haven't finished training the monkeys yet, so there's no one to run the cable or pedal the generators so we can get on the internet.

As a consequence, we found out just how addicted to the internet we really are.

Whipping a jungle house into shape is no easy feat.  First off, Nature put all the trees in the wrong place, so we have to move them around and arrange them just so.  After all, you don't want a coconut falling on you during siesta time, right?  And banana flowers make a horrible mess and are relegated to the back 40 where we don't have to step in all that.

Our poor elephant...
Second, Nature rarely provides a putting green, so there was the matter of leveling and adding good coastal grass, not to mention running into the village to choose just the right goats for grounds-keeping.  And of course goats mean fencing, and not just any fencing.  They can get out of any maximum security state correctional facility without even trying.

Third, trying to level out and square up a bamboo hut is not as straight-forward as you might think.  There's a lot of slop in coconut-fiber rope.  As a result, half the doors won't stay shut, and the other half won't open.  What's more, if you get one side of the house leveled up, it pulls the other side out of plumb.  On top of that, First Wife insists on sweeping dirt floors the whole time, so we have to wear breathing apparati which makes it really hard to see (don't ask).

Then there's the whole matter of mosquitoes.  Now, coming from Texas as we do, you'd think we'd have no problem with this.  After all, Indonesian mosquitoes aren't all that big - only the size of vampire bats or so.  Fact is, the little buggers are really strong.  We put in a triple layer of ultra-fine steel mesh strong enough to stop a charging water buffalo, and then electrified it as a secondary measure.  Finally, we sank the edges into three inches of pine resin and buried them in cement.  The bastards still found a way in...

The last major chore was indoor plumbing.  Now, the natives have no problem squatting in the bushes, but we require a proper throne with an ample library and hot/cold running water in the bidet.  We simply cannot abide an ice water rinse at the crack of dawn.

Now you'd think bamboo would make the perfect piping, right?  After all, it's tube-shaped, comes in various sizes, and once it's dried and cured, would give steel a run for its money.  All of that is true until...you have to turn a corner.  We successfully managed to bend the green poles and dry them in position, but at some point, you just have to have a 90-degree angle.  We won't even mention making the traps for under the sinks and toilets.  Needless to say, that took a doctorate in civil engineering along with a lifetime of good ol' Texas farmboy know-how, and a lot of high-octane lubrication to keep the blood pressure down.

Amidst all this fun, First Wife kept calling us out to look at where she had placed the orchids, and did we like the artistic way she had coiled the flamboyan vine around the porch columns, and what was the bast arrangement for the rosemary and lavender bushes?

The finished World Headquarters!
You may not know this, but rosemary and lavender keep mosquitoes away, so we sunk the GDP of some small nations into buying up the entire regional supply.  Needless to say, the Java branch of the LFS World Headquarters smells like a properly simmering pork roast.  We woke up every morning with our pillow soaked from saliva.  If we could just find a pig in these parts...

One of the things that really irks us around here is that us Great White Hunter guys are like walking clouds of inflation.  The locals, for some stinking reason, think we are just endless supplies of money, so all the prices immediately jump when we walk into a room.  For example, a bundle of bamboo wall stiffeners would cost a local guy one coconut and three puka shells.  We come in and VIOLA!  It's now two coconuts and half a dozen clam shells!

For that reason, we send out scouts in advance (First Wife) to determine the real-world price of things.  On top of that, our scouts can pinch a penny and hand you a dime, which is a primary reason we married her.  Of course, we're still trying to train her that low prices on cheap goods is not the same as a good price for quality.  Also, she hasn't quite figured out that getting things on sale is STILL spending money, even if you get more for less.

Thankfully, it's the Dry Season.  It didn't rain a drop the whole ten days, which is a blessing.  The dirt up there is red volcanic clay.  On the benefit side of things, the soil is so fertile, your goats get pregnant without any billies around.  On the negative side, the stuff sticks to everything when it's wet and hardens into solid stone.  When you walk around in it for a while it builds up on your feet, so that by the end of the day, you're a full ten inches taller than when you started.

Another drawback is trying to plant anything around this time.  It takes a jack-hammer to get more than an inch into it.  Unfortunately, First Wife had the poor elephant so loaded down with furniture and snacks that the beast looked on the verge of collapse by the time we got there.  First Wife kept saying that perhaps our gold-inlaid sedan chair with the 362 silk pillows might have made a difference, but we weren't going to sacrifice our comfort for anything.

Besides, we were able to squeeze a few sticks of dynamite in our suitcase, which made planting the mango trees a snap.  And talk about fun...!

The Look-Alike
At any rate, we finally made it back to civilization.  The traffic coming back was mild, though we wouldn't know, since we were lulled to sleep by the gentle swaying of the elephant's stride.  But First Wife said she had no problem guiding the beast through all the horse carts and guys carrying stuff on bamboo poles on their shoulders while wearing big cone-shaped straw hats.  Wonder how much they paid for that bamboo?

So we're back up to our neck in heat, humidity, noise, and pollution.  Thank God!  All that vacationing was about to kill us!  We sure miss the cold nights and fresh well water, though.  Did wonders for our libido.  Or maybe it was all that fertile soil...

At any rate, on Monday, we once again assume our disguise as mild-mannered editor-in-chief and squirrelly, bespectacled Rudyard Kipling look-alike.  None the worse for the wear, we daresay.  We can't wait to get back there in three weeks to continue the adventure!

It all brings a poem to our mind, one penned by our mentor and look-alike:

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!