25.12.2011 - 25.12.2011 25 °C
“I want to do something exciting. What can I do in Jakarta tomorrow?” Tomorrow would be Christmas day yet I didn't acknowledge it as Christmas. “What can I do, something to celebrate Indonesia?” My student gave me a surprised look and responded with the obvious: “But it's Christmas.” “It is not Christmas,” I replied. “Christmas is back home with my family, eating roast beef and Turkey. I am not back home and I am not with my family. I am thousands of miles away. What can I do?” Of course, I was not interested in Christmas dinner; at least, not in the traditional British sense. It would only disappoint me. So, thousands of miles away from home and without the company of my family, I decided that I would not celebrate Christmas. Instead, I would celebrate Indonesia. And so I did.
My student recommended I go to Taman Mini, which resides in Southeast Jakarta. Opened in 1971, Taman Mini was conceived by the wife of then president Suharto. Today, it is a 100-hectare park which celebrates the cultural diversity of Indonesia. The park consists of full-scale traditional houses for each of Indonesia's provinces, with various displays and museums. There are also a host of restaurants and theatrical and musical performances. I collected an assortment of pictures.
Recently, I have been exploring the various musical forms and genres indigenous to multcultural Indonesia, which are as complex and diverse as anything we have in the West. One of the more popular genres, Dangdut, utilises all manner of string instruments and blends Arab, Indian and Malay musical styles. I have become particularly fond of it, and revel in the fact that the musical genre is heavily associated with villains, vagabonds, prostitutes, and wretches; that is, the music is associated with the working class. Also, the tendency of mine to enjoy a good night out in a local dangdut bar (better termed “shack”) has not gone unnoticed. In fact, whenever I mention to any of my ( very rich) students that I greatly enjoy Dangdut, their responses are almost always the same: disbelief and shock, followed by heavy laughter, all mixed together with a high degree of confused wonderment. This repudiation of Dandgut is understood better when one realizes that these same people idealize and glorify MTV. The horrors of globalization, for sure. I have much more to say on the matter but will leave it for now.
Alas, in Taman Mini, I was overjoyed at hearing the sounds of dangdut from a distance, and of course, I followed the trail. Unfortunately, there were few Indonesians present, and I resisted the temptation of making a fool of myself by dancing alone on the stage.
Before long, however, I was gestured by a fellow to join him on the dancefloor. He could not speak English, yet it was clear that he wanted me to follow his moves. This caused me a great excitement, and I figured that it would be foolish to pass up on the chance to learn the moves of Dangdut from a local.
Unfortunately, I am not quite the dancer, and the static nature of my performance left little to be desired. Still, I made a friend, and we lunched together Jakartan style and supped tea.
During the day, I decided that I wanted to treat myself to a feast. If I could not have a Christmas dinner, I would have a Jakartan dinner, and I would eat the very best of Seafood. This led me to Bandar Jakarta, a restaurant in Ancol, a town in Jakarta which excels in Seafood, if little else. Bandar Jakarta is a seafood lovers dream. It is a restaurant by the sea which consists of a market, where all manner of fish and shellfish, alive and fresh, are selected and then cooked. To all Seafood lovers out there, I urge caution: these pictures are enough to make a man jealous.
The final result of my order was shark, tiger prawns, parrot fish, squid, and crab (all cooked Indonesian style), with kangkung, and naturally, rice.
I supped a beer and gazed upon the ocean. It had been a great day. Bagus!