Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

We were up early again. D was turning on fans at 5:57 when Carter appeared. MA was going to sleep in but joined us at 6:15. The sun rises early here, one of the reasons we seem to awaken so early.

After both boys were packed off to their respective schools, and Jon to his office, we and Briton piled into the car for a trip to Mangga Dua. As near as we could determine, Mangga Dua is both the name of an area off the road to the airport and a shopping complex there. Actually, there seemed to be several shopping areas with similar names. The one we went to was the polar opposite of our previous shopping experiences in Jakarta: it was a flea market like the one we go to on Sample Road in Coconut Creek with more stalls and shoppers and cheaper merchandise.

We were dropped off by Kusnadi at a hotel entrance and found our way into the shopping area adjacent to it via a one-way door. We could exit the hotel for the arcade but could only re-enter if we were hotel guests. This area, several stories tall, held electronics and camera stores. There are entire shopping towers made of shops like these; we visited one two years ago. Pirated DVDs were also available for about 70 cents per disc, but we were not concerned with any of this today. We found our way across a bridge to the flea market itself. It was an up-and-down process with escalators up and steep stairs down [the same was true on the reverse trip when we left]. We found ourselves at one end of the third of seven floors. Almost as soon as we started through this indoor arcade, the power for the entire complex failed and we were in almost complete darkness. Within five minutes, however, the lights started to come on and we continued.

The walkways between the permanent stalls were crowded and close together, making progress difficult. We tried several floors and ended up on the bottom level of the seven [no Dante jokes, please] where Briton was able to find a suitable rolling back pack for Carter whose had suffered mortal injuries during their trip to the US last summer. She also found a Prada knock-off purse she liked and was able to bargain almost twenty dollars off the price. The assumption in bargaining is that if both parties are happy, the customer paid too much; if both parties are a little dissatisfied, the price was probably about right. MA and D got exercise.

The ride out to Mangga Dua took an hour or more because of traffic. As has been noted elsewhere, Jakarta’s traffic is unbelievable. Between the scooters and motorcycles, trucks, cars and vans and the general disregard for lane markers, it is surprising that there aren’t many accidents or incidents of road rage. An added wrinkle, at least in the city, is the presence of bajajs. These are tiny three-wheeled vehicles built around scooter motors, we think, and containing a compartment which holds the driver in front and up to two passengers in the rear. They are all painted orange and serve as a dirt-cheap alternative to taxis for many of the economic underclass. They are neither as powerful not as spacious as the tuk-tuks we found elsewhere in Asia last year, but they tend to make a similar putt-putt [or tuk-tuk] noise. Mercifully, they are physically unable to travel the highways.

We have noticed a lot of off-road work as we have been chauffeured around. Whether sidewalks are being installed or sewer lines, we can’t tell. What we have seen is men in trenches, digging. Nowhere have we seen any heavy equipment, trenchers or back hoes. In this, we are reminded of China, especially, where we saw massive road projects being carried out by legions of hand laborers. Labor in Indonesia is cheap, as Jon has pointed out, and plentiful. Many Indonesians come to Jakarta [and probably other urban areas] looking for work and leave their families behind. Ati has children aged 10 and 7 who are living with their grandmother so she can work in Jakarta; Briton says she sees her children 4 or 5 times each year. This is similar to the men who work on the cruise ships being away for 11 months at a time so they can provide for their families. It is sad but, from their perspective, necessary.

We explored the possibility of eating at the deli housed in the hotel building, but the smell of stale cigarette smoke drove us out the door before we had gone even five feet. Briton called Kusnadi to retrieve us and we headed downtown for lunch at Potato Head in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel building across the street from Jon’s office. He joined us for a few minutes but had a meeting to attend in fifteen minutes, so his visit was short.

[Warning! Food notes to follow] Briton and MA shared an order of escargot as an appetizer but allowed D to soak some bread in the garlic butter. MmMmmmm! For her main course, Briton had a Philly cheese steak which she loved. She told us it is the best item on the menu, but we ordered other things anyway. MA had a roasted vegetable quesadilla and sweet-potato fries and D ordered one of the “monthly specials,” described as “Crispy soft shell crab sandwich served with crab salad Louis and pickled paprika.” Served on dark multi-grain bread, it contained arugula, Louis dressing [a sort of Russian dressing] and the crab. The pickled paprika was not visible but added a lot of spice to the sandwich. Not altogether what a Marylander would want in a soft crab, but for eight bucks, it was a good choice. Briton had tiramisu and cappuccino for desert. By the time we finished, met Kusnadi and got home, it was almost 3:30.

Both boys were waiting for us, of course, when we got home and begged to go swimming. Both offered kisses and hugs, so how cold we refuse. The five of us played in the pool for an hour or so with nary a squabble or tantrum, so it was a good afternoon for everyone. Dinner at 6 even though Jon didn’t get home until 6:15. Mariati fixed a curried beef served with the ever-present rice and a mixture of carrots, brussell sprouts and baby corn.

After dinner, the boys and Jon played “Hop on Pop” which is exactly what it sounds like. When he could take no more punishment, he halted the game and the boys brushed their teeth, gave their grandparents hugs and kisses and prepared for bed. MA read until 8 o’clock and then turned in since she again missed her nap. D played catch-up with the journal and then posted it. It will be an early night for him, too.

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