Posts Tagged ‘ Jakarta ’

Kamu mau jadi kekasih aku?

I had about seven hours to fill after purchasing my train ticket to Yogyakarta and before boarding the train to Yogyakarta. I left Gambir station and walked over to Merdeka Square. In between I also ate some ketoprak as I was still very hungry due to the fact that Jakarta’s streets are conspicuously empty on a Sunday morning, and the gado-gado stand I went to a few days before wasn’t where it was a few days before.

I had already spent a lot of time at Merdeka Square, the park with the giant concrete phallus ejaculating fire called Monas, short for Monumen Nasional, during my stay in Jakarta. I’m not sure why I kept going back there. Maybe the familiarity of the place gave me a sense of comfort and safety. And maybe just sitting there or walking around there was interesting in itself. There was always something to look at and falling into a conversation was very easy.

I sat under a tree in the shade, in the southern part of Merdeka Square, with my A4 size exercise that I had been writing in just before two guys came and started talking to me. They were members of an English language learning group in Jakarta and invited me to meet the group where they usually hang out. Unfortunately this wasn’t able to be done in the five and a half hours after meeting these guys and before boarding the train to Yogyakarta which I had bought a ticket for only one and a half hours earlier.

After we said goodbyes and the two guys continued walking around the park, I went back to writing in my exercise book. I wasn’t alone in my exercise book for long before a woman and a young girl walked toward me but stopped less than ten metres away from me. The women looked like she would be in her thirties or forties, was wearing a loose top over tight black leggings and her long hair tied back. Her two top front teeth were either missing, corroded or badly chipped. The girl looked to be in her early teens, and in contrast to the women, was wearing baggy blue denim jeans, a long sleeve white top and a white tudung. They just stood around giggling to each other until the girl came closer.

“Take poto?” she asked.

“Ambik gambar?” I asked back, still not used to adjusting my pronunciation to an accent more Indonesian.

Especially in Indonesia I’m often asked by random people for a photo. I’m not sure if they enjoy collecting white people, or pictures with white people, or its just their way of breaking the ice. Although it feels quite awkward to take a photo with a complete stranger, I usually agree to the photo-taking, treating it as an ice breaker and work at developing a conversation with them. Sometimes it works.

This time it did work. A few photos were taken with mobile phones, which looked like some sort of Blackberry copy, and they invited me to join them in walking around Merdeka Square. Since there was still about five hours after they invited me to walk around with them and before I boarded the train to Yogyakarta and curious as to where this will lead, I decided to follow.

We walked over to the fence that separated Monas from the rest of Merdeka Square, collecting two boys along the way who looked to be between five and eight years old. We stood next to the fence talking and watching small children slide between gaps in the fence and people who were bigger than small children jump over the fence. I figured that all these people were doing so to evade some sort of entrance fee. Though, considering that Monas is so huge, maybe walking along the perimeter of the fence to a more official entrance was just too time consuming and a little bit annoying.

The young girl invited me up to the top of Monas. I wasn’t really in the mood for it so I declined. She asked if I was scared. Not scared, just not really in the mood for it. And not really in the mood to arbitrarily change my brain mode to ‘in the mood to go to the top of Monas’.

She then invited me onto the car-train thing that drives around Merdeka Square. She said it was free. Which made me a little bit more in the mood for that. Along the way towards the place where people line up to board the car-train thing that drives around Merdeka Square the girl asked the usual questions – How long have you been in Jakarta? How old are you? Are you married? Do you have a girlfriend?

After replying in the negative to the last two questions I noticed a look, a smile, and a giggle between the girl and the woman. I wondered what that was about. Maybe the woman was trying to hit on me and the young girl was her wingman, or wingperson. If that was the case, I couldn’t find any reason to have a problem with it. There was less than five hours after that moment and before I boarded the train to Gambir, so nothing too awkward should be able to happen.

I still wasn’t quite sure what the relationship was between the woman and the girl. Was the woman the girl’s mother or older sister? Or maybe they were just two people who became friends somehow and hung out at Merdeka Square giggling and smiling at each other.

“Bisakah aku panggil kamu kakak?” the girl asked me but at the time I didn’t know that’s what she asked me. I didn’t realise that’s what she asked me partly because my skills in Bahasa Indonesia aren’t very good so I only heard key words. I think the main reason I didn’t know at the time that’s what she asked me is because I’m used to speaking Bahasa Malaysia and not Bahasa Indonesia and so unless you were unsure about my gender, asking me that question would make no sense at all.

So, putting together the words in my head, overlooking the real meaning of the words because my brain believed that meaning makes no sense at all, I agreed anyway, though not sure exactly what I was agreeing to. Maybe she was playing match maker between me and her older sister. Maybe the woman was her older sister. Or maybe she wanted to call her older sister and tell her about me and introduce us. Maybe call her older sister to say, “Hey I have another picture with a white person to add to our collection.”

After replying to her question with yes, she started to occasionally address me as kakak. Which meant that whenever she addressed me as kakak I thought she was talking about her older sister who may or may not have been the woman with us.

We saw that the line to be able to board the car-train thing that drives around Merdeka Square was long and decided against joining the group of people waiting to get on the car-train thing that drives around Merdeka Square that may or may not be free.

Apart from this being a time when many people line up to board the car-train thing that drives around Merdeka Square, this was also the time that the water sprinklers on the lawns at Merdeka Square are activated. Kids were running through the sprinklers, sitting on them or guiding the streams of water in the direction of parents, aunties, uncles, older brothers, older sisters and other people who weren’t playing with the sprinklers and showed little desire to get wet. Among the children playing with the sprinklers were the two boys that had been following us and one of them had guided a stream of water in the direction of the woman. We all giggled and laughed.

We walked back in the direction of the tree where we first met but instead of walking to that tree we walked to a man that was sitting next to a few bags of chips and other types of keropok and maruku. The woman and the girl sat down and talked with the man and I was invited by the girl to sit down too and she offered me some of the chips.

We sat and ate and I began to work out the relationship between the people around me. I figured that the man was the woman’s husband, and the woman was the girl’s mother. So the woman wasn’t trying to hit on me and she wasn’t the girl’s older sister. But where was this older sister that was always mentioned, or I thought was always being mentioned although the kakak occasionally referred to wasn’t an older sister but maybe was in fact me.

Though, maybe the kakak wasn’t me after all because while we were sitting down, the girl had taken out her phone and called someone. She called her older sister and tried to get me to talk to her.

“Tak mau. Malu! Malu!” I said, declining the offer numerous times. I felt awkward talking to someone on the phone who I’d never met before and wasn’t a call centre worker. I felt awkward by the prospect of some kind of matchmaking attempts. The girl kept on insisting I talk to her older sister.

Eventually I gave in and took the phone. We talked a bit, though communicating wasn’t so simple. Listening through a phone line to a voice without accompanying facial expressions and body language makes my ability to understand Indonesian even worse than it is. We struggled through saying hello, asking each other’s names, various other pieces of small talk and ended with her asking, “Can I add you on Facebook?”

After hanging up the girl asked if she could ask me something and I said that, yes, she could ask me something.

“Kamu mau jadi kekasih aku?”

“Apa?!” I exclaimed. I didn’t respond this way because I didn’t understand the meaning of the words she had just said. I responded this way because my brain didn’t know how else to respond to a fourteen year-old Indonesian girl wearing tudung asking if I would like to be her lover.

She seemed to think that I didn’t understand her words. So after what looked like the figurative act of ‘gathering courage’ manifested in the physical form of a facial expression, that made me feel kind of bad because in response to her courage in asking me that question all I could say in response was “What?!”, she asked me again.

“Kamu mau jadi kekasih aku?”

“Errr… Tak mau.”

“Jelasin kenapa nggak mau?”


This time I said this because I didn’t quite understand the words. I forgot that in colloquial Indonesian, the -kan suffix is replaced with an -in suffix. And, she repeated her question (if what she said is actually considered a question).

“Jelasin kenapa nggak mau?”

“Err… Sebab saya tinggal di Malaysia. Saya tak tinggal di Jakarta dan saya akan pergi ke Jogja malam ini.”

“Is it because you don’t like girls who wear tudung?”

I felt my insides burst into laughter. If only she knew. If only she knew about how much of a Yuna fanboy I am. If only she knew I had such a huge crush on a girl who wears tudung. If only she knew about the constant jokes made by friends and myself to the effect of me having an obsessive attraction to girls who wear tudung.

“I like girls who wear tudung. Some of my best friends in Australia and Malaysia wear tudung,” I try to reassure her that its not because I don’t like girls who wear tudung.

We sit for a few minutes longer and then her mother and father want to leave. We stand up, say goodbye and walk off in our own separate directions.

Sunday Morning Jakarta

I made a plan last night that I’ll trade the day train trip for sleep and to do a few things in Jakarta before getting the night train. The plan was to first use the internet, but buy some gado-gado along the way, then walk to Gambir to buy ticket and after that just wait until train time.

I left the hostel at about 11:30am excited to get some gado-gado. At the end of Jalan Jaksa I turned left to walk toward Serenah Plaza and tried to picture in my mind the place where I had bought gado-gado a few days earlier on the same road. Today, however, the streets were empty. Where did everyone go? Usually there’s people and food carts everywhere. But today, there were only a handful.

Even at about 12:30pm or 1pm when I left the internet cafe and walked past the McDonalds there were very few people there. Usually the McDonalds balcony is (strangely) full of people, all the time. Not this morning though.

Where was everyone? Even as I walked down the main road toward Gambir to buy my train ticket, there was still very few people around and very few people selling things.

Was everyone still sleeping? What happened last night? I was starting to think that maybe instead of just trading sleep for the morning train I also traded sleep for the staying up all night with Jakarta. Walking down empty streets I got the feeling that I’d somehow missed out on the world’s best party, and I’d just slept through it.

Cutting through Monumen Nasional on the way to Gambir I noticed a lot of people in the park around the monument. If they also missed out on the world’s best party then I feel a little better. At least I have some comrades.

But seriously, where is everyone in Jakarta on a Sunday morning?

Nongkrong on the corner at Jalan Jaksa

I had just said goodbye to my new friend that I had met through the Couch Surfing website. Although we didn’t end up making it to the Taring Babi house as initally planned it was still a good night of hanging out and seeing some cool Jakarta things. But now, I was alone again on the streets of Jakarta. At 10pm outside Sarinah Plaza I wondered where I should go next. It seemed a good idea to start looking for somewhere to sleep.

The decision was between looking for a street called Jalan Jaksa where apparently all the cheap backpackers stay or to make my way through Kepong Kacang and hopefully find my way back to the hostel that I had stayed at the night before. I wasn’t too keen on trying to find my way through the dark little streets of Kepong Kacang so I decided I’d find this Jalan Jaksa I’d heard so much about. I still didn’t know where it actually was but I knew that if I walked east I’d be on the right track.

After only five or ten minutes of walking east I did end up finding Jalan Jaksa. On the corner, just hanging out and listening to music, were a bunch of kids – probably 15-18 year olds, I don’t know. I can’t remember how it started, probably with a “Hello Mister” or a “Hey! Rokok?!”, whatever it was I ended up being invited to nongkrong, or whatever the Indonesian equivalent of lepak is, and so sit down and nongkrong with the local teenagers is what I did.

They offered me a drink. It was red, but in an Aqua bottle. I’m not sure what it was. I didn’t try it. They also offered a cigarette but didn’t take up that offer either. Remembering that I still had a bag of tempe goreng and pisang goreng in my bag I pulled it out and offered that to my new friends. All except one of them declined my offer quite strongly, I’m not sure why that is, but one of them took a piece of pisang goreng.

After the usual questions of mau ke mana?, dari mana?, sendirian?, sudah punya cewek?, etc. we somehow got talking about music. They had been blasting some reggae through the small speakers of their phones and asked me what it was I liked. Reggae? Metal? I asked them if they liked punk. Specifically, if they liked a punk band called Marjinal. Of course they all knew Marjinal! Fuck yes! Now this is the Jakarta I was looking for! One of the guys looked through his phone to find a Marjinal song while some of the rest of us started singing Hukum Rimba together. He found the song he was looking for and we gathered around to listen, the volume up as loud as it could.

I asked one, or some, if they’d been to the Taring Babi house. Most of them had. One of them told me that on Saturdays they have… um… they have something that my Indonesian skills didn’t quite understand. But whatever it was, it sounded as though I’d like to be there on a Saturday.

One of them then asked if I ever go to protests. They said there would be a protest tomorrow that they were going to attend. One of them told me it was an anti-corruption protest as another yelled out “Fuck korupsi!”. I asked where it was to be held but I didn’t quite catch the answer. Maybe I’d try to google it in the morning. I asked if I could follow them to the demo but their answer wasn’t so certain.

One of them asked about my religion and I told him that I had no religion. He asked if I believed in God to which I also said no. He asked why. The answer to this question is often hard for me to formulate in a way that I consider coherent in English but now I had to try to do it in Indonesian. I tried to start with points about contradictions in holy books (whichever holy books they may be), science and stuff that I’d recently read in Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion and made a mental ‘fuck yeah!’ note of. That didn’t seem to work though, so I just said, “Agama ada banyak hukum, saya tak suka hukum, jadi I tak suka agama.” I think that was an adequate answer as he replied “Ah, kebebasan!”. I also explained that part of my dislike of religion is probably a result of going to a Catholic school. He also pulled out his phone and started playing a different Marjinal song that he had and told me really liked Marjinal because they sing about freedom.

Others came and asked the religious question again and the guy I had just talked to or I would repeat my answers. The others were all Muslims. Just for insurance, I told them that although I don’t have a religion I don’t hate people who do. They understood and one replied with, “Kita bersaudara” and another said something that probably translates to “one love” or “love for all”. But we all agreed that if there’s no love then we must fight for it.

They asked where I was from, so I explained that I was originally from Australia but have been living in Malaysia for the last seven months. They asked where my parents were from and I explained that my dad’s parents had moved to Australia from Italy and that my mother was a descendent of the English colonisers. They asked why my dad’s parents wanted to leave Italy and I told them it was because of the war to which one of them replied “Saya benci perang!”

After finding out that I had come from Malaysia, another of the guys told me that he didn’t like Malaysia. He said something about stealing culture, arts, music, etc. I told him that the way I saw it, most Indonesians (at least those of Java and Sumatra), Malays of Malaysia and Malays of Southern Thailand were all pretty much the same. They all speak a language based on Malay, wear baju kebaya and most are Muslim. The only difference between Malaysia, Indonesia and Southern Thailand  are the lines that were drawn by the different colonisers. I had also heard about these sort of anti-Malaysia sentiments earlier when talking to other people.

At about 11.30pm we all said our goodbyes and I followed one of them as he showed me the way to get to a cheap hostel another Australian had told me about while I was hanging out on the corner.

I found the hostel and after checking in I sat on the bed in the dirty room eating the tempe and pisang goreng I had left. Although I didn’t make it to the Taring Babi house I had managed to find some of the ‘effects’ of the Taring Babi house. And that left me feeling a little bit more optimistic about the youth of Jakarta.