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Dispatch: Detour To Indonesia

The chance to travel to a destination race also opens the door to explore exotic new places, even if at first glance totally unrelated to triathlon.

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“Dispatch” is an online column from Triathlete Editor-at-Large Holly Bennett that features pro updates, industry news, happenings afield and otherwise random reports related to multi-sport. Look for “Dispatch” every Thursday on Triathlete.com.

The chance to travel to a destination race also opens the door to explore exotic new places, even if at first glance totally unrelated to triathlon. I try to maximize every travel opportunity I have, making the most of layovers or tacking on a few days pre or post-race in surrounding areas–which is how I landed in Jakarta and Bali, Indonesia in between coverage of the Laguna Lang Co Triathlon in Vietnam and the Challenge Taiwan race.

I’m fortunate to have a childhood friend, Kendel, who lives in Jakarta, serving as a counselor at Jakarta International School (JIS), so I’m making her home my base for two weeks of Southeast Asian exploration. My arrival here coincided with Earth Day and I was fortunate to celebrate the occasion with JIS students on a trip to the Ragunan Zoo. The students made enrichment toys for the zoo’s population of endangered orangutans–bamboo sticks or papier mache balloons stuffed with peanut butter, nuts and fruit to stimulate the primates’ curiosity in an otherwise dull environment. We were joined on the zoo jaunt by members of the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), a group devoted to the rescue and protection of both domestic and wild animals that are often horribly mistreated here.

In addition to the zoo trip, Earth Day festivities at JIS included a student concert and an all-day craft fair with an array of affordable, sustainable and unique products, many of which are handmade by and help support poor populations within the city.  I maximized my time that day by making a major dent in my 2013 holiday shopping! I’ve also enjoyed time at JIS on a few other occasions, taking advantage of the perks of running on the Middle School track as well as tapping into the school’s wifi (a must for staying connected to home).

Beyond Kendel’s professional environment, I’ve also gotten to know her neighborhood. A stroll up the street–amidst the chaos of motorcycles and scooters screaming along the narrow twisty lanes–takes me past a row of craftsmen carving intricate headstones for the nearby Muslim graveyard. A little further up, a small shopping district features a few boutique clothing and furniture stores, a day spa, an oddly placed New York style bagel bakery and the shop of cobbler Kadir, who delights in custom creations of ladies footwear and handbags (and who insists that the color orange will be all the rage this year). Any stroll through Jakarta is likely to include a soundtrack of chanting, as mosques throughout the city loudly broadcast five-time daily prayers.

In addition to downtime in Jakarta, Kendel and I spent a long weekend getaway on the neighboring island of Bali. Bali is truly a magical place, laden with rituals and traditions that intertwine with modern life. Our adventure there included time at the beach (sunbathing and surfing), shopping the endless boutiques offering local handicrafts and jewelry, a visit to a temple (complete with a special good luck and good health blessing from the women therein), a hike among terraced rice paddies, a stroll through the sacred Monkey Forest and a whole lot of delicious food.

The amount of time I’ve spent doing anything related to triathlon during this portion of my trip has been minimal. However, I can’t help but draw parallels between much of what I’ve seen and experienced and endurance sports. I suppose what we see in the world is always altered by our personal viewpoint, but thankfully that adds to a feeling of connectivity, despite the vast differences that do actually exist between people and places around the globe. In the interest of illustrating this perspective, here’s a photo gallery that offers a somewhat lighthearted look at several of these common themes.

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