03.11.2011 - 06.11.2011 25 °C
If you're lucky, you might be able to cross a road in Jakarta in a good 15-20 minutes (although, admittedly, the locals are much more skilled at doing this than myself), but all too often a simple task such as crossing the road proves to be a profound impossibility. Either way, when crossing the road proves this difficult, you know you're in a mad, mad place. In fact, Jakarta is so mad that most people have long since ruled out the possibility of walking from A to B, and the only option in getting from A to B is either driving to B yourself or taking some kind of public transportation. In itself, this can also prove problematic, for traffic jams are a constant pain. At just $20 a month, it is almost tempting to rent a Ojek (a motorcycle). Everybody else seems to do this, but I am not everybody else. I would die.
Since I last wrote, as you can imagine, I have devoured much food. I have also moved from the hotel into my new flat, a cool little place, recently refurbished. I decided to stick with my instincts and move into a residence largely occupied by locals. I have yet to see one Westerner in the complex; in fact, rumour has it that I am the only one. As much as this pleases me, not speaking a common tongue with my fellows can also prove difficult as the vast majority of people here in Jakarta speak little English; and for the most part, those who do speak English tend to frequent those shopping malls and bars indistinguishable from those same establishments in Manchester or London, and I have endeavoured to resist these vile establishments with all heart and soul. Just the other day (November 3rd), for example, I took to the streets of Jakarta alone and in search of something to fix both hunger in my stomach and desire in the tongue. I then stumbled upon a waroong, whereby ordering a dish proved extremely difficult. In the end, however, the fellow operating the waroong brought me fish (I had no intention of eating fish) and the matter was settled.
Upon ravishing the fish, I then chanced to hear the sound of music from a distance. It was a kind of Arab/Middle-East/Disco-thing (I show my ignorance here), and I followed the sounds with haste. Upon finding the source of the music, I then proceeded to enter the establishment. It was built from wood, a kind of shack, overlooking a lake in Gading Nias, North Jakarta. Earlier on in the evening I had been warned about walking the streets in these parts during the night, and so not surprisingly I was the only Westerner present. This is a tragic shame. I have since discovered that the genre of music is called dangdut, and it is extremely popular in Indonesia. The occasion involves a person singing ala karoake, only the microphone is passed more frequently. Unable to speak Bahasa, naturally I passed when offered the microphone, yet my presence in these parts had obviously aroused the attention of the locals. I proceeded to the bar and was soon confronted by a number of fellows, all of them smiling and amiable. They gestured for me to sit and sup with them; they implored me to engage them in dance and offered me cigarrettes, to which I obliged, and before long I had made a number of friends, each of us brothers and sisters despite the distinct and obvious lack of communication. We did not understand each other, but within the moment we loved each other, and it is with great pride that today I call these fellows my friends:
It was a terrific experience, one which the rulebook or manual to "staying safe in Jakarta" would have seen me deprived. At no point did I feel threatened, at no point did I feel unsafe; in fact, since arriving in Jakarta, never before have I felt such warm ejaculations of pleasure as those experienced from the passing crowd, who offer nothing but smiles and the occasional "Hello Mister." Admittedly, it is a peculiarity at first to be constantly looked upon by each and every passing crowd, yet I am already growing accustomed to it. The saddest aspect of being here lies in my inability to properly communicate with the people, and learning Bahasa has now become a priority.
Another thing I deem viable of discoursing upon are the variety of toilets which I have perused. Admittedly, thus far I have only perused three different types of toilet, yet each day I am on the search for more. There is the standard toilet which we are all acquainted with, to which I will spend no more time discussing. Yet in the shack/bar place previously discussed, I also became acquanted with this contraption:
This, of course, requires the individual to squat. The image below is the sink.
This, on the other hand, is a toilet typical of our own. However, unlike those toilets which usually occupy our establisments in England, this toilet lacks toilet roll. Instead, the individual must utilise the contraption I hold in my hand, which is practically a shower. Of the two toilets, there can be no doubt that this method is by far the most difficult, and it was with much distress that I was eventually able to succeed in my endeavour.
Anyway, enough of toilets!
This evening I was out exploring the city when I stumbled upon this establishment.
With deep curiosity and interest, I immediately entered the place and set upon the menu. Now, as mentioned previously, I can neither read or understand Bahasa Indonesian. However, with the aid of my dictionary plus some input from the waitress, I soon discovered that the pictures of Cobra, Turtle, Bat, Lizard, Hare, and Monkey were all represented on the menu, and then some. The establishment also serves a variety of Rat, not to mention Crocodile and Komodo Dragon, and specialises in a wide selection of Snake dishes. In particular, I soon discovered that many of the locals utilise such establishments so that they might sup Snakesblood, which apparently has a number of qualities beneficial to the human body and mind. Now, at the risk of causing offence, I can safely say that the discovery of this place has by far and away been my greatest discovery yet, and I will certainly be frequenting the place again in the not-too-distant-future. To this moment, I feel dread at the consumption of Monkey, and I understand Turtles and Komodo Dragons are endangered species (although I could be wrong), so I refuse to eat them. However, the prospect of devouring a Rat or a Bat fills me with carnal anticipation and delight. As it were, I ordered myself King Cobra Kebab (sate) and Crocodile Soup. I was then offered the opportunity to explore the premises, whereby I was introduced to a variety of snakes:
Returning to my table, I was naturally excited at the prospect of this new culinary adventure. I was not disappointed. First of all I was offered the Cobra, which was cooked in such a fashion that at times I genuinely thought I was close to orgasm. There cannot be a greater meat, at least when it is cooked like this. I refuse to describe it in more detail, other than if you enjoy food you must get yourself to Jakarta and sample this ludicrously delicious treat. I doubt I will eat it again unless I must. I have a great respect for snakes, but I am certainly glad I tried it.
As for the crocodile soup, it was salty and served with seaweed. The meat was chewy and genuinely delicious. The taste was not overpowering and kind of like fish, only meatier. In fact, it is a meatier version of monkfish, if you know what I mean!
So, in all my first week in Jakarta has been exciting and physically fulfilling, at least in terms of the food! Work begins on Monday however, and if anything is going to spoil a party its gotta be work. But still, I am excited about starting my new job and hopefully it'll be fun! The people who work there all seem to enjoy it and everybody seems pleasant enough, especially the students! Anyway, I am off to bed! Its 03:08 am here and a man must sleep! Farewell for now and much love to both my friends and family. I love you all! x