.(“The World I Love”)
‘Indonesia’ – a name that will immediately evoke images of the exotic. An archipelago characterised by colour: blue seas, white sands, lush green palms and dazzling yellows of Durian flesh alongside the ravishing reds of the ‘rambutan’ fruit (it means ‘hairy fruit’). ‘Angkots’ painted in bright purples, blues and oranges that zip dozens of huddled passengers round dusty streets blaring out that same old D’Bagindas album from 2010 through speakers that crackle under the pressure of the driver’s desired volume…
…And the ominous dark grey skies that hang over the nation’s capital, Jakarta, as I sit alone inside a fast-food outlet at Arion Mall in the east of the city. Outside, the rain hammers down on traffic that will choke up the streets for hours to come, but the inevitable arrangement of horns thankfully cannot be heard from the refuge provided by this Mall. Instead, I am heckled by a quartet of teenage girls who marvel at the colour of my skin. Tourists don’t really come to these parts. I am here visiting friends who grew up in neighbourhoods not far from here, and if it weren’t for them, I doubt I would have come here either.
The young girls ask me a series of questions and take it in turns to pose with me in a picture. Picture after picture. The forced smile slowly dwindling into complete lack of expression with each flash from the Blackberry. I have humoured this contact for a while, but now I really just want to be finishing the half-eaten plate of fried chicken that sits before me. The girls ask for my Instagram username and when I eventually return to a place with WiFi I’ll suddenly see that I have four new followers. They’ll upload the photos from our meeting and decorate the captions with #foreigner.
Before I leave the Mall, I decide that it’s time to buy some Batik garments. I have always liked Batik, with its bright, bold colours and patterns. An assistant with a huge smile approaches me. He is wearing a waistcoat and looks like he could be about to break into song, maybe an Indonesian version of Agadoo or something. “Hello Miiiiss, can I help you?”.
(How did he guess I wasn’t Indonesian?)
I immediately reply in basic and broken yet better-than-nothing Bahasa Indonesian that, “I like Batik. I look for Batik”
The assistant’s smile extends further and he begins to rifle through the collections passing me every damn item of Batik to try on. He’s a natural salesman. Having trialed each piece I eventually emerge from the changing rooms with the couple of dresses I have selected to go on and buy. The assistant eagerly waits by the door, enthused to hear about how I got on. He is pleased with the items I’ve chosen, but is also keen that I reconsider my decision not to buy a rather dreadful-looking black and red piece. Whilst watching him redundantly point out all of its merits another dress catches my eye, and it looks like the size on display would fit me perfectly. I go and take a further look.
“Errr maybe not this dress for you Miiiiiss as we only have this size, and errr you have fat”
For a second I take offence though it’s hard to continue to do so when it’s clear that none was meant. What amuses me most is the way in which a steadily growing rapport could suddenly cease due to a moment of lingual naivety. I smile at my new friend – my new attentive stylist – as he goes on to initiate the payment process before we bid one another Selamat Tinggal forever.
I go out into the rain and join the traffic on the Transjakarta busway back to my friend’s house. A five minute journey takes half an hour due to the clogged nature of the traffic. Equatorial rule dictates that daylight is limited, and so it’s already dark outside. It’s September 2015 and this is worlds away from the Indonesian experience of 2010 – which was much more reminiscent of the opening paragraph to this piece – but it doesn’t matter, because these real, rugged, unfiltered experiences are all just a part of Das Dunia J’adore…
Song of the Day: Jr Jr – Change My Mind
Detroit indie-pop. This song, written and released only last month, has quite a powerful message behind it and I must admit to being somewhat awestruck upon the first listen, especially having read the artist’s personal description of what it means and where it came from. I do wish songs like this had more prominence in the media, as this is exactly the kind of thing that people need to hear…