I feel like every time I post a photo these days the word “juxtaposition” jumps to mind. It’s become the running theme of my experiences here in Indonesia. The modern steel and glass architecture exists right next to the brick and mortar architecture of previous decades. Brand new vehicles drive past people pulling makeshift carts. Asian fusion restaurants with valet parking are situated in the background of an “Ayam Bakar” street cart.
I took this photo because she reminds me of a lady who never fails to greet me on my morning walk to work. I also like the vision of the Coca-Cola fridge in the background while the lady prepares a meal in a burned, old pot. Modern life in Jakarta looks a little different here than it does back in Canada.
This building is old. I don’t know how old, but there seems to be little of the building left. The top floor has very little roof. But the first, second and third floors are still occupied. There are signs of life all around: open windows, electric fans, store fronts. The decay is juxtaposed with the signs of life.
I love this city.
What I’m finding the hardest part of Jakarta life is the towering architecture next to the destitute people. I’ve blogged about this before, but dichotomy is a way of life here. I want to save every one of these people who look like they need help. At the same time, I can’t always tell who needs help.
This lady looked sad. She could be really tired. Maybe exasperated. I don’t know.
This is a Catholic church that is in Jakarta, directly across the street from the Masjid Istiqlal (the mosque from my photo a few days ago). Before moving here, I was given the impression that there was tension between Islam and Christianity in Jakarta, but I’ve not found that yet. There seems, from the people with whom I’ve spoken, to be a mutual respect.
Also, is it just me, or is the ceiling a little tribute to Darth Vader? I am a huge fan of all things Star Wars, and sometimes I think I see Star Wars everywhere, but the ceiling really does look a little Vader-ish, right?
Not much to say, except that I’m not going to have time to post later today as I’m flying home to my loving and lovely wife, amazingly talented daughter and awesomely gifted son.
I’ll see you soon family.
Here’s another shot of the Petronas towers – a little ode to symmetry.
I’m liking Kuala Lumpur. It’s an interesting city. Admittedly, though, I’ve only seen a very small part of the downtown area, and I won’t see much more of it. I’m quite comfortably restricted to my hotel and the places to which I can get on foot.
I think that I get a better sense of an area when I can walk it.
Oh. Yeah. That’s the Petronas Towers again. What do you think?
I’m in Kuala Lumpur. For those of you who don’t know, the photo above is of the Petronas Towers. They are at the heart of Kuala Lumpur. This city is pretty amazing. There are definitely some big high-rise canyons around here. The towers are actually mostly on their own. Not entirely, but the developers here have at least left them mostly alone, not surrounded and smothered.
Oh, and if you get the opportunity to take photos of them, hang around late enough to shoot them at night. They are magnificent.
…then it’s probably really hot.
I moved to Jakarta last month. 11 July, 2012. Before I moved here, everyone I knew who had been to Indonesia told me to prepare to be overwhelmed by the heat. You see, I’m from Canada. The Great White North. I had lived my entire life above the 49th parallel. I had endured 40 degree summers (Celsius – we’re metric up there) and minus 40 winters. I had lived for twenty four years in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, which is temperate and rainy…like, all the time.
What most people don’t know until they get to Canada, however, is that we love to talk about the weather. When the locals find it hot in Canada, they talk about how hot it is. They update Facebook statuses commenting on the weather. They discuss it at Tim Horton’s (donut shop). They Skype/Facetime/Google+Hangout and discuss how the weather is.
In Jakarta, however, no one discusses the weather. There’s no point. In the last seven weeks, the variation in temperature has been within a few degrees. It’s hot. We’re very near the equator. It has rained for one hour in the past seven weeks. Yes, you read that correctly. One HOUR. Not a day. Not a week of drizzle. One hour.
But, what I’ve noticed is that no one here complains about how hot it is unless they’re from Canada. I wear shorts daily. Our security guards at our apartment building wear full, long-sleeved, long pants, paramilitary boots uniforms on a daily basis and they never sweat. Me? I look outside and sweat. I live in the pool. I keep hoping that I’ll wake up one day and it will be 18 degrees.
Yesterday seemed hotter than usual, and I snapped this photo of a guy who was cooking chicken in oil in a street-food cart on asphalt. Even he seemed to think it was hot.
My son and I rented a tandem bike from the bike rental guys in the Batavia City Square. The bike was too small for me and too big for Ben, and whenever he pedaled the chain fell off. I did all the biking, and we had fun, but next time I’m riding one of these bikes. I’ll look a little less like the circus bear riding a bike.
Today was an awesome day. I was in awe quite a number of times. My friends Ian and Karl put together an adventurous day of places to visit and things to learn. Here’s a few of the highlights:
1. The Jakarta Port (the area in which boats are moored that move cargo around the islands of Jakarta).
2. Old Batavia/Jakarta Kota Tua (the old city, built largely by the Dutch).
3. Gereja Katedral Jakarta (a Roman Catholic church built over 100 years ago).
4. The Wayang Museum (wayang are the shadow puppets that are an iconic Indonesia art and drama form).
5. The Misjad Istiqlal (a mosque that holds 200000 worshippers).
I was really excited to get to see all of these places. If I had to be honest, the Istiqlal Mosque was the place I was most looking forward to seeing, and I didn’t even know we were going to see it until halfway through the day. A totally amazing surprise. The place is massive.
The photo above doesn’t do it any justice at all, but I hope that it conveys some of the wonder that I felt standing in that huge place of worship. I should probably point out that the words in Arabic that surround the dome are a prayer that Muslims pray daily (according to our guide). Oh, and the dome you see above is 45 meters in diameter (that’s about 150 feet for my American friends).
…but no, we did not go “night-swimming.” I’ve always loved that song by R.E.M. I’ve also always loved the thought of getting down to my knickers and having a go at a pool late at night when no one else is around. Never done it, but there’s always tomorrow.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, night-swimming is a term referring to swimming without clothing – skinny-dipping – at night.
There have been few times in my life that I’ve been a visible minority. There are parts of Vancouver, Coquitlam, and Richmond (British Columbia, Canada) where being Caucasian makes me a minority. I have never been so visible a minority that people stare, point, and talk about me. I’ve also never been felt like a celebrity because I’m “white”.
That changed today. I took my family to the Ragunan Zoological Park in Jakarta, Indonesia. We weren’t even in the park yet when my daughter was being pawed by a lady standing outside the gate. This lady was trying to convey something to my wife and making some comparison between her own daughter and mine. We went into the park and quickly realized that we were the only white people in the park, and we weren’t the only ones who knew it.
The lovely young lady in the photo above was the bravest of her friends and approached my daughter. “Can I take a picture with you?” she said. My daughter looked at me, like she was asking permission. I said, “We’ll trade. You can take a picture with Hannah if I can take a picture with you.”
It was the most interesting and strange experience of my life. We were interesting just because of our skin color.
There is a story here…but I’m not telling what it is. Please feel free to write a comment explaining the story you see in this photo. I immediately felt the presence of a narrative that doesn’t match the reality at all, but this is a photo that is worth the proverbial “thousand words”. Well, I think it is.
What do you think?
I wondered, when everyone told me, “You wait for the Lebaran holiday…just wait for Idul Fitri. The city empties,” what they were talking about. How can traffic differ so much because of a holiday in a city of 28 million?
Then, this morning. I noticed that there was no noise at all as I walked back to my apartment from the pool. No traffic. No background hum. No Jakarta. It was as though the city was shut down. Everyone had gone home. No one was stirring.
I snapped the bottom photo a little over a month ago. I snapped the top photo about two hours ago. I’d say that I get what everyone was talking about.
This is what it looks like when a person – in this case, my son – merges with our pool. Well, the pool that belongs to our apartment complex here in Jakarta.
Oh, and yes, this was as fun to shoot as it looks.
I stitched four photos together in order to show you the height of the Grand Indonesia Mall. This mall, however, has many, many more floors than I’m showing you here. The designers of malls around here are in love with cool geometry. There are few floors that have escalators running the same direction, and none of it seems to make anything more efficient. It’s all for looks. Very cool.
I don’t know if those masks are for Idul Fitri or not, but Jakarta is really changing right now. The end of Ramadan coincides with Independence Day here and the city is turning Red and White (the national flag colors) and really devoutly Islamic right now. If I wasn’t suffering culture shock already, I’d be feeling it now.
Taking a Bajaj (pronounced “ba-jai”) is probably not life-threatening. It is, however, the cheapest thrill ride you’ll ever take. This photo doesn’t do the ride justice, as the road ahead is relatively clear of other vehicles, but not a minute before I took this shot we were bumper to side fender with a van. Our driver leaned on his horn – it sounded like a goose with laryngitis – and continued our journey home.
This monument is the Selamat Datang monument, and selamat datang means “welcome”. It is located in Central Jakarta. I managed to shoot this from one of the top floors of an ACE home center in the Grand Indonesia Shopping Center.
The traffic looks nice right now, but an hour and a half later, when we left the mall, the “three lanes of traffic” were stuffed with somewhere between four and six lanes of drivers. It seems that the traffic lanes around here are just suggestions.
We’re having some technical difficulties here. I should be posting daily again very soon.
I’m stuck not knowing how to react to the city in which I live. I walk, daily, past people who subsist on very little. They live on 1 000 000 Rupiah (that’s $100 US approximately) a month, sometimes less, sometimes more. I walk past open sewers that are sometimes smelly and sometimes revolting. I walk past mansions that exist next to shacks. Mercedes driving past men pulling home-made carts.
What does all of this have to do with a flower? There are no parks but lots and lots of green. There is asphalt and trees, and because it’s always summer (or seemingly) the blossoms on trees and vines bloom and die all the time. I’ve been here a month and I’d almost gotten used to it. Leaves fall off trees all the time, but it’s never Autumn. I wonder if I’ll get used to all of it. I hope not. I hope that I’ll always be shocked, saddened, enraged, curious, and hopeful.
This is purely a family project. It’s not a great photo. It’s not the best photoshop job…but it is my son. Today, at the pool, I set the camera to hi-burst mode and took shots of my kids jumping in the water. My wife snapped off a couple of me too, but I won’t post those here as some people may not have strong stomachs.
As my family, my parents and sisters and their families, wakes up in a couple of hours, this will greet them in their email in-boxes. I’m posting it for them. Mom and Dad, Kerry, Alison, brothers-in-law, niece and nephews, we miss you and love you and we’re having fun.
Another mall. You’re going to start thinking that all I do is go to malls, but you’d be wrong. I don’t. I also go to school, donut shops, and banks. Although, all of those could also be in malls. So…maybe all I do is go to malls.
The pool in our complex is a wonderful respite from a hot day, which is nearly every day here in Jakarta. It’s not heated, but that’s a very good thing when it’s 34 degrees celsius outside.