Saturday, January 29, 2005

Jalan-Jalan (Walking-Walking)

Today was the first day that I was able to really spend time where I am, and to explore some of Jakarta. It was Saturday, and I convinced two of the people that I work with, Alistair (middle aged Kiwi, logistics specialist) and Liz (mid thirties, finances) to come with me to the center of Jakarta.

First off, I slept last night better than I have slept up to now, by a lot. The 13 hour time difference (from Madison) has meant that literally day is night and night is day. But last night I was able to finally get a good night’s sleep. Such a luxury. But we set off around 10 in the morning. We caught a local bus as a downpour was beginning to fall. It is the rainy season here, and at least every other day there is a huge pour. Within the first ten minutes of being on the bus we were driving through a flood. On the lower parts of the road, the water reached up to around a foot deep.

At the end of the line we dove into Block M, an ultra fancy mall near the bus stop. I was feeling a bit queasy because of the anti-malarial medicine I’m taking, so we waiting out the rain, and then caught a cab to the center of the city. A 25 minute cab ride costs less than the bus in Madison.

We went to the old city, to the port of Sunda Kelapa. There is an industrial port, where the real industrial shipping takes place, but we went to the port where the old sailing ships still come and unload wood and oranges from Kalimantan, and other products from all over Indonesia. The boats now have motors, but many of them are still rigged for sail, and they use them when the wind is favorable. When I was nine, my mom and I took one of these ships to Pontianak, a three day trip across the Java sea. No one that I talked to, however, remembered a nine-year-old white girl. Most of them were really too young to have remembered.

We walked up and down the docks, talked to the sailors, and watched them unload tons of wooden planks from Kalimantan off the boats. One boat had its own gibbon, who had to be the happiest gibbon in captivity, ever. It was swinging off the clothes lines and rigging on the boat. When we reached the ends of the docks you could look straight out over the sea. It was the first time I have seen the sea since Coney Island, almost 6 months ago. Then we rented a small motor boat to take us around the port in the water. The boats that had just arrived, or were ready to go, were loaded so that their decks were only a couple of feet above water. The unloaded boats were towering over us.

The small boat took us into the village across the port, and to the Pasar Ikan, or fish market. Finally, I was in an Indonesian village that reminded me of the places that I had known when I was in Kalimantan. It was ramshackle, and all on stilts, because of the tide. There were hundreds of very small houses, and store fronts, and lots and lots of kids. And everyone was so nice. In this kind of place, you say “Good Morning” to a person sitting outside their house, and you get a huge grin, and a greeting back. It is a wonderful feeling, especially because I can speak Bahasa, and can therefore have a real conversation.

We stopped on the way and got langsat and mangosteens, rambutan and little bananas. We got fried cakes, and Liz got food to cook dinner with tomorrow. Neither Liz nor Alistair spoke any Indonesian so I got to talk with all the merchants and do all the bargaining. It was so wonderful. Everyone was so nice, and there was so much color, and good smells, and people being kind. I got some wonderful ibus (literally moms, but perhaps “matrons” is better) who loved my Indonesian. The banana lady gave us the bananas for free, to the shock of her husband sitting behind her. The vegetable guy told me the prices of everything I wanted, and then cut the price by half when I asked him what the final was. It is just something that would never happen in America. Even the things we may have over paid for made the people who sold them so happy, that it is more than worth it. After all, we have the money.

Then Alistair wanted to go to the maritime museum, which is in an old Dutch building right in the market area. I feel asleep on a bench while he and Liz wandered around the dank building. I am still jetlagged and get tired easily. There is a way of being tired when you are surrounded by things you don’t know. Everything requires active attention.

But we were all exhausted after that and we wandered a bit more, and caught a taxi home. By the time we were leaving the market, people ahead already knew who we were, and that I spoke Indonesian. I think little kids had run ahead and shared the news.

And tomorrow we are going to go up to Bogor, a town an hour out of Jakarta on a mountain. It is famous for its amazing botanical garden.

On a different topic, my job, things are a bit better defined. They want me to go to Aceh, but there are issues with letters of permission, inter-organization politics, etc. It looks like it will take a couple of days to figure those out. I was told by one of my bosses that this would mean I would probably get going to Aceh (knock on wood that it all works out), but the end of next week. In the mean time, I am working on a short term project compiling information about the situation of children in other parts of Indonesia, who have been ignored because of Aceh.

Send me info about life in America, or where ever you are. I would love to know!


At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Bria!

Sounds like an amazing time you're having out there. It's great to be up here in my office on fourth Newman, about to walk home through the darkened wintry streets of Ithaca, and read about your warm jaunts around Jakarta. Wow!

I think you're getting the better end of the deal, somehow.

My basics: I'm working hard and steady but enjoying it for the most part. I've been learning a piece from the soundtrack to the Piano on the piano that I've always wanted to be able to play. I had an amazing trip back to Carleton two weekends ago to do recruiting for Teach for America. It was great to have a purpose on campus- an excuse to interact with lots of current students in a meaningful way. I skiied in our beautiful arb, which I had missed so much. This weekend I join my fam in Ellicottville just west of here. We're going to ski and generally live it up.

Say hi to a gibbon for me. A pet gibbon was my most precious stuffed animal as a young boy- ah, so long ago.

Your old old friend, ah by back!


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