Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Weekending in Jakarta

above: pictures from the Papuan music concert I went to last Saturday. I have videos, but they would take weeks to upload, and with the power outages, it would never happen.

So! After a gritty, wonderful experience at Gunung Gede, I was pumped up for some adventure. I made tentative plans to take a 3-hour boat ride out to the thousand islands off the coast of Jakarta to the north. The weather prevented this, however, so I stayed in Jakarta.
Nina works at Jakarta International School's elementary school campus. A group of teachers there are putting on a Christmas show in mid-December, and Nina brought my name up, so I joined them on Friday afternoon. We played and sang through "White Christmas," a group of maybe 8 gathered around a piano. It was nice to be around a piano. Dwiwarna has a keyboard (apparently), but exasperatingly, I can't get access to it after weeks of trying and being told "yes." As we discovered in Bandung so long ago, I've been getting "yessed." So it was refreshing to be around the keys, and to be around a really capable player and some singers. I think I'll forget how to play completely if I don't get access to the DW keys soon.
Anyway, Sabina (Nina's daughter/Lavina's sister, 21) and Rohan (ETA from last year in Papua, who I would have succeeded before they switched me to DW. He's been back for about a week, and has a job teaching English that starts in a few weeks) let me know that they were in Senayan City (massive classy mall) and planning on seeing 2012. JIS is pretty close, so I met them at Senayan City and we grabbed some frozen yogurt before going to the theater.
Indonesian movie theaters (at least, the ritzy ones at world-class malls in central Jakarta) have some muscle. The seats are enormous, red, and tremendously comfortable. When you buy a ticket, you pay for specific seating, so there's no way people can sneak in and prevent you from seeing a popular movie, and if you buy early you are guaranteed good seats. 2012 wasn't that packed actually. The movie was hilariously clichee, but fun. The characters were likable and the lack of plausible explanation for the disaster or even any attempt at just added to its charm.
We had made plans to join Angie Kilbane and John Colombo, two more previous ETAs, for dinner in Kuningan. Unfortunately it was raining heavily all afternoon and night, which in Jakarta on the weekend means the taxis get booked. We wandered around and waited for twenty or thirty minutes trying to catch a cab before heading off to the busway. Dripping wet, we took the busway a few stops but were still far from our destination. Taxis proved impossible to find available, so we had this brilliant (read: stupid) idea, to take three separate ojeks, or motorcycle taxis. Had three ojeks signed on for this, we would have been in for an endlessly long night. Thankfully, they had the presence of mind not to "yes" us. They knew it was too far and/or they didn't know the way, so they refused to take us. Randomly, a bajaj (Indian three-wheeled put-put) showed up, and we recruited it to take us to our dinner. We were now a solid 45 minutes past our scheduled dinnertime.
The bajaj was in very poor shape, and we rode in it for a good while, ending up in some narrow Jakarta sidestreets. One guy told us our destination was definitely that way; another around the corner suggested with confidence the opposite direction. We went in a circle and tried again, somehow ending up across the street from our destination restaurant. We were an hour and a half, or was it an hour and forty five minutes late? Doesn't matter, jam karat (time is rubber - blanket idiomatic excuse for Indonesian cultural tendency for tardiness).
Angie and John were still at the restaurant and graciously had yet to order! We had a delightful meal, sharing stories about Indonesia, AMINEF, and life in the "real world." Angie is teaching English to elementary, 8th graders, and other teachers. John is working for an energy company and getting married to an Indonesian in January (Chris Boveroux will be coming in for that and other revelry). It turns out Angie had the privilege of translating the all-time bestselling Indonesian novel to date (from bahasa Indonesia to English, soon-to-be-published), Laskar Pelangi, so yeah, she's fluent.
On Saturday, after sleeping until 11 and spending hours and hours eating and playing online chess, I met Angie for a Papuan music performance at TIM. TIM is a performance venue, a sort of cultural campus/collection of theaters and a planetarium in downtown Jakarta. The concert was not what I had expected. They featured a star from Indonesian Idol, Michael, who Angie met through a co-ETA from last year. A note on his Facebook page was the reason she knew about the concert and told me about it. He sounded like he could have been on American Idol (turns out he's traveling to the US from January till March. He'll be in PA and some other places I forget. He asked me if it would be cold there. If only I could live inside his head to experience those first days of winter, having grown up in Papua and lived my whole life in Indonesia). The performance was playful and very theatrical. There was alot of group percussion on hand drums, alot of simple beautiful vocal parts in harmony, and alot of a didgeridoo-type instrument. It sounded altogether more African than I would ever have expected.
Sunday I had more frozen yogurt at the Grand Indonesia with Christine and Sarah who had come in from Depok. Christine, you'll remember, is an ETA stationed in Depok, and Sarah is an ETA from Gorontalo, all the way in North Sulawesi. She had come to Bandung to pick up a computer, then contacted Christine. We hung out, went to the expensive import grocery store, and then hit the busway to the Fathonys. There Sarah and I relived our orientation glory, singing Simon and Garunkel. Rohan and Sabina showed, and Eyang, Nina, and Herul completed a cozily packed house for dinner, music, and relaxed conversation. It was a familial end to a weekend that showed me how familiar Jakarta is becoming.

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