I spent exactly twelve hours in Denpasar. Including time spent trying to sleep (between the abrupt change in climate, the Muslim call to prayer, and the roosters, I didn't get much), checking out and in at the airport, and packing, I had a grand total of 30 minutes to walk around. That thirty minutes was really wonderful. I have some fabulous photos of the little Hindu shrines that were everywhere on the narrow streets near my hotel. Sadly, the Aerofans Inn near the airport has wifi that does not appear to support Windows 8, so you'll need to wait for another day to see them.
I was picked up from the hotel by Sarah Louis-Ford. Sarah's maternal grandmother was a Moroccan Jew, and Sarah has proudly reconnected with her heritage. Sarah lives in Bali but travels to Jakarta to the little Indonesian Jewish community there. Now that she is expecting a baby, she won't be traveling for a while. She does visit the strictly Orthodox Chabad centres which are all over Bali, but does not appreciate how unbendingly rigid they are. We had a lovely and lively chat at the airport Starbucks (where there was also a tiny Hindu offering!) before we said goodbye and I headed off for my next flight.
I hereby retract all the dire predictions I made about Lion Air. The airline is very professional, and my flight to Jakarta was absolutely fine. I was surprised at the Denpasar airport to see women wearing the niqab, with only their eyes visible through their black veils. On the plane, I sat next to a young Muslim couple with an adorable baby daughter. As the plan taxiied to take off, the baby's mother pulled open her blouse to nurse her without making an effort to cover up in front of their female co-passenger. The two hours to Jakarta went by a lot faster since I had a baby to play peek-a-boo with who rewarded me with gorgeous smiles showing off her two little teeth!
At the Jakarta airport, I was met by Benny Verbrugge, head of the United Indonesian Jewish Community. He is so excited to have me here! We drove miles and miles past the enormous airport to our hotel, which bears an uncanny resemblance to a very large state prison--at least from the outside. Jakarta so far is hot, steamy and a bit grungy. I'm only here overnight; tomorrow we fly out early to Manado in the centre of the country. I'll get to see much more of Jakarta when we return on Thursday. Hopefully by then I'll have figured out how to post photos!
Rabbi Shoshana Kaminsky
I've been the rabbi of Beit Shalom Progressive Synagogue in Adelaide since 2006. As part of the Council of Progressive Rabbis of Australia, New Zealand and Asia, I'm preparing for my second trip to Indonesia to meet with Jewish communities there.