Sunday, January 22, 2012

Around the World: Jakarta, Indonesia

January 23, 1992

This was the shortest flight I've been on yet.  As soon as we were airborne, the meal service started.  Beginning at the front of the aircraft, the trays were dealt, with the utmost courtesy, to each passenger like a high stakes poker game.  Once the seats in the rear of the plane had their meals, trays were collected from the front rows.  I asked for a beer as I handed my tray to the stewardess racing past, pushing the service cart to the rear of the plane.  She politely tossed me an unopened can of beer as she dashed by in the opposite direction. When the plane landed in Jakarta, I still had the beer, half full, in my hand.

Harvey met me at the airport and shuttled Anna, Tracey and I off in a taxi to meet his business partner, Erwanto, for "Padang", a traditional Indonesian lunch. The waiter brings out dozens of plates, each containing a different dish. You eat what you want and the waiter calculates the price at the end of the meal.  After lunch, Erwanto brought everyone to a shopping mall where Tracey and I split up from Harvey and Anna.  Most of the stuff I was interested in buying is made in India, so I'll wait until I get there.  When we met up again, Erwanto brought us to his house for supper, where his wife prepared a traditional, home cooked, Indonesian meal.

Erwanto tells us he lives in a safe neighbourhood.  His house, located in what I suspect is suburban Jakarta, is surrounded by a ten foot high and two foot thick concrete wall, embedded with hundreds of glass shards along the top.  Inside the wall, is a small courtyard to park cars, store bicycles, and other outdoor items.  Over the front entrance is a secure, but flimsy sheet of corrugated sheet metal, strong enough to provide shelter, but not enough to support a person trying to gain access to a second floor window.  There is also an alarm system and closed circuit cameras constantly monitoring the perimeter of the house.

The thought of what a ghetto in Jakarta is like has me genuinely frightened.

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"Today, give a stranger one of your smiles.
It might be the only sunshine he sees all day."
~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.