|Jakarta (this is another entry from Alissa; how refreshing)
Today is Sunday, November 13th. I have two days to think of and acquire for
Christopher a birthday present. We are having several pieces of furniture made for
his office, but I don’t think that would be a very nice of me to pass off the furniture
as a birthday present. His office is the focal point of the house (two computers…
girls arguing over who gets the laptop…) and the bookshelves and credenza will be
an excellent addition to our ability to stay somewhat tidy and organized.
As it is Sunday morning, I have spent a few minutes flipping through the pages of
The Jakarta Post. It’s the English language paper, published daily. You should read
it for about a month. It will give you a very good sense of the country. www.
thejakartapost.com And do take note of the unusual style of newspaper writing…
half factual, a third editorial, and the rest loosely connected to the topic.
Yesterday's headline story was about why Indonesia can’t take on a mass culling of
chickens. According to the quoted Minister, it was just not a sociologically
acceptable solution. For now, Indonesia will continue to cull only in the immediate
areas where infected chickens are found. Of course, Christopher and I just shook
our heads and said, “IT’S BIRDS…” The next story was about the death of a
nineteen-year-old from bird flu.
The other day there was an article about how Indonesians have become lazy due to
the plentiful supply of very cheap labor. It is quite strange here. My Indonesian
friends at work, unless they have lived overseas for a LONG time and not as a poor
college student, do not know how to cook. And the thought of being without their
nannies and maids for the Idul Fitri holiday almost depressed them (as opposed to
me, who would be jumping for joy to get rid of them for several days at a stretch).
There was much discussion about how they would have to wash clothes and clean
house… and do the dishes, and cook. According to the article, a maid is paid
approximately Rp250,000. per month, with food (rice, sugar, tea, perhaps some eggs)
and a tiny sleeping room. A clothing allowance and some medical may or may not
be provided. Rp250,000. is, give or take the fluctuation in exchange rate, US$25..
That is less than US$1. per day. Needless to say, the expats are considered to be the
best employers as we pay anywhere from Rp800,000. to Rp1,200,000., with food,
medical, etc., for a maid. A friend of mine is trying to convince her maids to learn
English so that they can go work for expats and quadruple their salaries. But the
maids are young (19 and 20) and are more interested in jogging at the park than
The people working as maids and gardeners, perhaps they have been to school to
second or third grade. With their salaries, they support themselves, their families in
Jakarta (if they are here), and their families back in the kampung (village – which
could be anywhere, any island, but usually Java). It is not unusual for someone to
come to Jakarta to work, but the family stays back in the kampung. That was the
case with our gardener when he first started with us. His wife and two sons lived
back in the kampung, about two hours away. They now live around the corner and
Koko does not live in anymore.
There is almost always an opinion piece on the front page of The Jakarta Post (I
don't think it always appears online). Today’s was about Indonesian attitudes
towards graphic violence and kissing. Graphic violence is perfectly acceptable (this
is a society that at least tacitly condones the hacking to death of petty thieves by
neighborhood people), but NO kissing. ZERO kissing. Edited out of movies, TV
shows, photos (if they could control all the print media). Actually, that’s not
entirely true, because we went to see the new Zorro movie and there was too much
kissing between Bandera and ZetaJones… weird, jaw-gaping kissing. But it is the
first kissing in a movie we have seen while here. It must have slipped through the
censors somehow. Or perhaps they thought it was as repulsive as Christopher and I
Editorial note from Christopher: Rather than repulsive, I thought it may have been an inside
joke about flexible temporal-mandibular joints.