One of the many anomalies in Jakarta culture – a Catholic church in a Muslim country. This is what makes my environment so interesting.
I celebrated my 39th birthday today. My birthday gave me cause to contemplate my current context. I spent thirty-eight and a half years in Canada. Now that I live in Jakarta, my understanding of the lottery I unwittingly won by being born in North America has become so much better developed.
Take this photo, for instance. It is a “river” nearby to where I live, and that’s a “motorcycle” on the second floor balcony of an apartment that is adjacent to this river. This photo bothers me, and reminds me that I’ve had a pretty lucky existence.
There are many things in the photo that should bother the viewer…I’m wondering what bothers you.
I’m loving the motorcycle. It gets me to roads and places I’ve not been to before. This is an alley I have been down, but I’ve never come down it from this direction. Good times.
We LOVE breakfast. Culturally speaking, “breakfast as dinner” is a strange concept. In Indonesia, a meal is not a meal until rice has been eaten. My students eat Nasi Goreng (fried rice) for every meal, it seems, and my idea of having certain foods only at certain times of the day is seen as strange.
This was my breakfast this morning – ham and egg muffins and a piece of grilled toast. The eggs are scrambled with a bit of milk and ham and dropped in muffin tins for about 17 minutes at 350 degrees. The toast is a piece of bread, buttered and grilled, as I still have not purchased a toaster here in Jakarta. Probably never will, either.
My love? Breakfast.
Water: so devastating and so peaceful.
This is the water temple in Bali called Tanah Lot. It is located on the Indian ocean and it is beautiful. The sound of the waves coming in is nearly hypnotic. The Hindus in the area were celebrating a full moon when we were there and they walked quietly through the water to get to the temple to make their offerings. So serene.
On the other side, the side of devastation, my city of Jakarta is still underwater. We got news today that a Kampung (village) in East Jakarta where my wife visited only last Saturday is now entirely underwater. The inhabitants had to evacuate without anything they owned, which was not much to start.
Please pray for the people of Jakarta, that they will find serenity soon.
This is not the best photo I’ve taken. This is not a photo I took recently. This is a statement about the city in which I live, my city, Jakarta.
We are experiencing a particularly bad rainy season this year…although I have nothing to which I could compare it as I’ve only been here six months. Today, it flooded so badly in Jakarta that the city’s government and the nation’s government have declared the highest level of flood threat.
My school has been shut down for tomorrow in light of the distance that many of our students drive each morning to attend takes them right through massively flooded areas. My wife spent seven hours…seven hours…in a car trying to get from where we live to North Jakarta and back. Halfway there, the flooding was so bad that kids in rafts were floating past her car on the toll road. Our school’s driver decided to turn around and it took him three and a half hours to get back.
There are thousands, tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands (it is a city of 20-some million people) of people are out of their homes tonight because there is too much water in their homes. There are homes that have been erased by this flood. There are, reportedly, people who have died in this flood.
The boat, above, is maybe the best place for many people tonight because it’s on top of the water, not under it.
One of our many examples of graffiti here in the Kemang area of South Jakarta.
I went for a ride on Saturday and found many more examples of what’s happening around here in street art. There’s some crap, some territorial scrawlings, but there’s also some really beautiful, really well-done art.
I’ll let you decide into which category this falls.
A little bit of both. This is on the corner where Kemang Raya, the main street in our neighborhood, breaks off into two one-way streets. The graffiti, as you’ve seen in the last few days, is in the wreck of a former building. Adjacent to the old building is an old hotel. It sticks out because it is one of the taller buildings in this part of Kemang.
I’m trying to think of something witty or poignant to say about this,but nothing’s coming to mind. All I can think about is that I didn’t sleep well last night and now I’m so tired that I’m lucky that breathing is a reflex.
This is another shot from Saturday morning’s bike ride around Kemang. I like how what used to be a building frames the art that’s growing up around the area. I will say this, though: there is little more difficult than trying to figure out which horizontal line in this photo should be straight. One of the rules of a good photo is that the horizon should be straight. The problem with this photo is that there are a couple too many horizons.
I still liked it enough to post it.
How about you?
I resolved to get to know my city a bit better. I bought a motorcycle in the early days of December, and, now that it’s finally licensed, I’ve been driving it around my neighborhood. I bought it so that I could get to and from work more easily, but it’s offered so much more than a commuter vehicle ever could.
Jakarta is an immeasurably large city. There are five areas, as far as I can tell, that actually make up the city of Jakarta: South (where I live), North, East, West, and Central. Then there are all the other towns, villages, cities that have been absorbed by the greater Jakarta area. On top of that, the council of people who plan out how the city develops seems to be non-existent. Streets start and stop, lead to suicidal corners and dead-ends, narrow to daredevil dimensions. If rhyme and reason play any part, they are a funeral dirge to the hopes of newcomers wishing to get to know their new city.
Add to all of that the “macet” (literally translated as “jammed” – referring to Jak’s horrible traffic), and buying a car was out of the question. So I bought a motorcycle. What’s great is that, in the three or four days of driving it around my neighborhood, I’ve already scouted a number of places I had no idea existed.
What you see above is an example of one of those places. I particularly love the juxtaposition of the mosque and the graffiti.
I’ve found some new-found freedom here in the Big Jak. I’ve been driving my motorcycle a lot this week, now that I finally have licence plates for it, and it’s given me some ability to get around and snap photos that I’ve not had the opportunity to take.
This girl, painted on a wall at a corner on a one-way section of Jalan Kemang Raya, watches me every time I go by her. Today, I got out and took her picture. I like her headband-ears.
Now that I’ve got mobility, I think it’s time to find some more street art.
This year has been momentous. I have watched as my family and I have adapted to our move from Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada, to Jakarta, Indonesia. I moved from teaching in a public school to an international, private school. I moved from one of the most beautiful places in the world (nah…it is the most beautiful) to a place I haven’t figured out yet. I moved from mountains and rivers to busy streets and overpopulation. I moved from ease and comfort (with a bit of financial challenge) to a place of challenge.
2012…the year of the move.
I love when I’m shooting and I find that, to my surprise, my candid photo has turned into a posed photo.
We were sitting in the Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Jakarta, waiting to leave on our Christmas trip to Bali and I was taking some photos. I thought I had Ben without his knowing it, and then he turned to look right up my lens as I shot this. Ha! My son cracks me up.
We’re going to Bali tomorrow, and I’ve got a big, whanging headache. I’ll try to write something more poignant and witty tomorrow. We’ll see.
I am somewhere around 188cm tall, and just over 100kg. This makes me huge by Indonesian standards. Everyone is so much smaller than me. I particularly enjoy my experiences shopping here. I’ve asked the salespeople if they have shirts for guys my size, or pants for my size, and I get total honesty. No run-around at all.
“Do you have a shirt my size?”
No checking in the back. No asking around. No looking on other racks. They know that I am an anomaly.
So when I bought my motorcycle and the salesman delivered it with a helmet, I was cautious in my optimism. It turned out that the biggest helmet they had sits quite a way above my head, not so much on it. I had to do some hunting, but the helmet that you see above not only fits, it fits well. It was more expensive than some, less expensive than many. I tried on twenty helmets, and this one did not leave me gasping for air, claustrophobic, or feeling like I was going to tear my own ears off trying to remove it.
The Kemang area of South Jakarta (Jakarta Selatan) is home to many interesting inhabitants of varying importance. This is the home of a German diplomat. I don’t know who lives here, but there’s more security cameras on this residence than most around here, and a conspicuous absence of security guards.
Often, people around here will make jokes about how, if you wanted to, you could not get the attention of the police if you really needed them. Maybe this is why the expectations of Jakartans are not that high.
…in someone else’s shoes. In this case, the shoes belong to a man who scavenges for a living. I pass men, women, and children who scavenge to live every morning as I head to school. They work their way through the trash of Kemang residences, looking for things that will bring them income.
Walk a mile in this pair of shoes. I doubt I would make it through a day.
As soon as I aimed the camera at it, this cat was giving me the eye. I felt like he was thinking, “What are you lookin’ at?” He watched me take his photo and then stalked me down the alley-way afterwards. It was a bit weird.
By the way, cats in Jakarta are ubiquitous, and not treated very well. It’s sad, really. Oh, and most of them are missing some, most, or all of their tails. I haven’t figured out why this is, but they are all maimed in some way. I’m not a cat person, but I feel sadness when I see them.
Or is it “peek-a-Benz”?
The problem with doorways is that you may never know what’s on the other side until you go through them. These beautiful, carved wooden doors could hold a gigantic mansion with servants and drivers and nannies. These beautiful, carved wooden doors could hold an abandoned, run-down, shack with squatters. You’ll never know until you step through the door. Oh…you can guess at it, try to look over the wall, but at some point, in order to really understand, you need to go through the door. Or, you can settle with never knowing.
Possibilities are like that. You never know exactly what you get until you walk through the door.
It’s how I ended up in Jakarta, taking photos of beautiful, carved wooden doors. I stepped through.
I live in Jakarta. I live in South Jakarta. I live in the Kemang Area of South Jakarta. I live in an apartment in the Kemang area of South Jakarta. I live in a second-floor apartment in the Kemang area of South Jakarta.
Today’s lesson in specificity has been brought to you by…
There are two seasons in Jakarta, maybe in all of Indonesia: hot and sunny(ish – it’s not always easy to tell with the smog), and hot and rainy. The rainy season is a bit of a debate – most people have their own definition of the rainy season: oh, it’s from November to January…no, it’s from October to December…no, wait, it’s from December to March. Then, wait, it’s from March to April. No one seems to know. The consensus right now is that we’re in the rainy season. This is what the sky looks like after it rains.
Yes,it’s full colour. Yes, it looks like it’s been shoved through a filter. Not, it hasn’t been.