Earlier today as we approached a stop light at the crest of a small hill we
happened to be behind a bus.  I may have mentioned earlier that the larger
busses have attendants clinging to their open back doors, helping people in
and, I suppose, although I’ve never witnessed it, facilitating the collection
of fares.  The first several times I spotted these guys hopping off to help
small families get everyone on the bus or helping the elderly aboard, I
thought it was testimony to the courteous and communal nature of the
Indonesians.  It turns out they’re just doing a job.
As this particular bus came to a stop on the incline, the attendant sprang
from his post and, with a well-practiced economy of motion, placed a
rough-hewn, wooden chock behind one of the back tires.  Perhaps this
should have engendered some measure of comfort, but it really just
reinforced the rationale of the company policy to stay off such public
transportation.  Not that these busses offer any sort of allure in the first
place.  After all, a 30-minute ride in a Silverbird – the “executive” taxi –
might cost $2.
Also decidedly not tempting are the various roadside food carts.  Although
the smells occasionally wafting from them are not at all unpleasant, the
conspicuous lack of refrigeration quickly curbs any appetite.  Okay, call me
an unadventurous germ-phobic, but some of you may remember the
genuinely yellow complexion of a certain Mr. Brummer – a former
colleague who had a fondness for the food stalls in Korea.  On the other
hand, hepatitis-induced jaundice may be the next supermodel look,
following the anorectic waif look and the despondent insomniac look.
Displayed in small stacks atop these mobile eateries are the (sometimes
very) raw materials of their trade – eggs both white and blue; entire, small,
apparently deep-fried chickens (yes, of course, heads and all); stiff noodles;
various homemade condiments; mysterious small mounds of meat (almost
certainly not pork, in this 85%+ Muslim country); and a variety of entirely
unfamiliar produce.  I’m sure their consumers are regularly transported
into a gastronomic rapture, but we must steel ourselves and forego that
aspect of the Jakarta experience.
Not so tangentially, Alissa informed me just yesterday of a report stating
that virtually everything grown in the city’s soil is frighteningly laden with
pollutants.  Regular consumption of local fruits and vegetables will almost
certainly lead to at least low-level toxicity.  This news thwarts at least two
of our number: Nani, the cook, who is stunned by the amount we pay for
fruits and vegetables at the “expat” grocery stores, and Annaliese, who for
six months clung to the idea that she would pass her Saturday mornings
strolling, a slight sea breeze playing gently with her hair, through the
exotic, open-air food bazaar.  Sorry kid, the shrink-wrapped Australian
tomatoes from Ranch Market will have to suffice.

To help Arianna develop her soccer skills we now have on the household
staff a half dozen training partners.  They usually work out in the front
yard and occasionally just outside the gate.  They can’t really leave the
premises because the trainers are actually here in their official capacity as
security guards.
I believe I’ve mentioned elsewhere that we have three guards assigned to
us; they rotate in eight-hour shifts to give us 24-hour coverage.  Three
weeks ago a second set of three began showing up, so that we always had
two guards at a time.  We finally learned this was not indicative of a
heightened security stance; the extra guys are just new-hires doing their on-
the-job training at our house.  As far as Arianna is concerned, though, it
just increases the chance that somebody at the house will be willing to kick
the ball around with her at any given moment.
We’ve already grown fairly accustomed to having the guards around.  
They dash out to open the gate for the car (and, now, the school bus); they
help us bring in groceries or whatever acquisition requires hauling; they
keep a log on all the comings and goings of workmen, language teachers,
and anyone else visiting the house; and, after dark, they sporadically
inspect the entire perimeter of the house.  This last task requires that they
walk past our large, not-yet-curtained master bedroom windows and into
the backyard.  No particularly awkward or embarrassing moments have
resulted so far, and we expect our curtains to be installed within a week.  I
have woken up to readjust a pillow or some such, and been subjected to a
sudden flashlight beam seemingly penetrating my brain, but most nights I
never notice the patrol.

Also on the security front, the company mandated the installation of an
alarm system, which was put in this week.  It did give me cause to ponder
when I noticed one of the alarm installers sporting an Osama bin Laden t-
shirt.  I inquired of a variety of sources what to make of this, and I was
universally assured that, to paraphrase Dr. Freud, sometimes is t-shirt is
just a t-shirt.  That aside, we can’t figure out what to do with the alarm
system.  They installed an alarm trigger for our master bedroom door and
motion detectors for the backyard.  However, if we arm the motion
detectors for the backyard, the guard can’t go back there without tripping
the signal.  We also now have two “panic buttons” beside the bed.  The
first one was installed the week we arrived – it simply sets off a siren and
flashing light in the front of the house to alert the guard(s).  The second
one is part of the new alarm system and will alert the local, private security
patrol and, in turn, the company security office.  In our rather brief
experience here, and upon comparing notes with those who have lived here
for years, this is all rather excessive.  Ultimately we believe it’s designed so
that U.S.-based parents, relatives, and insurers have a sense that we’re
gently nestled within an envelope of safety and security.  If we ever have
to use it, I’m sure we’ll be very grateful.  Otherwise, I’m just careful not to
accidentally call out the private militia when I’m reaching to click off my
bedside reading lamp.
Flagging Sales (below)
Wednesday, 17 August, is celebrated as Indonesian Independence Day.  The Indonesian flag is red and white;
the other pennants are simply to add more color to the festive atmosphere.  We hung two long, red-and-
white banners and two of the multi-color pennants in front of the house.  (The six-meter bamboo poles as
thick as your wrist cost an additional 65 cents.)
Javalogue 8: 11-12 August 2005
Metro-Mini Bus
A standard-issue bus, really.  But
there are many of them here.  
I'm pretty sure I've seen them
with their doors closed, but I
can't say with certainty.
Annaliese's Beloved Bajai
I understand that these colorful
yet noisome, exhaust-belching,
reckless little tricycle taxis are
also to be found befouling the
streets in India's major cities.
the Javalogue
Durian Ice Cream Vendor
Many of you have heard of
durian, the pungent-to-the-
point-of-sickness fruit that is
banned from many of Asia's
public transport systems.  
That same taste treat is now
available in ice-cream form from
this gentleman.
A Cooperative Bus
I don't mean that it was
cooperative enough to stop
rolling long enough for them to
disembark without leaping off.  
These little ten-passenger
busses (that's right, ten people
facing one another on the side
benches) are somehow
operated through a cooperative.
 Note the ancient Hindu symbol
on the rear window of this one.
Yet Another Means
Just because it's smaller doesn't
mean you can't still try to fit ten
people, right?