As Ibu Sitha and I pulled away from the crowded streets near Sarinah, Sitha rolled up the car windows:
"It's not a fear factor...it's because of the you factor; the bule factor."
Sitha and I had a good laugh at this, but at nearly 5'10" with blonde hair and blues eyes...yeah...it's a little hard to blend in. Sometimes this is good. It's a particular draw to children. Sitha and I were stopped in a courtyard by two junior high aged kids. They asked Sitha if they could interview me in English about my experience in Indonesia. For the record, they did a great job. :) Later, while Sitha and I ate dinner, two toddlers lingered at our table for a bit to stare until mom ushered them away. I'm also fairly certain that the stifled laughs coming from three teenage girls squished in the elevator beside me were not because of some outrageously funny joke they'd just heard.
On the other hand, there are the negative aspects of being a giant, iconic American in Indonesia. First and foremost are the "bule prices." A painting that was 100,000 Rupiah (roughly $10 USD) will suddenly be $200 USD when a bule comes in view. Travel is also an issue. Taxis here are not expensive 4 or 5 dollars, but there are cheaper ways to travel. Particularly, one can hop on the back of an ojek (motorbike taxi) and get to the destination much quicker because they can weave in and out of Indonesia's nightmarish traffic. However, without the language skills to negotiate a good price, I'm stuck hailing my bluebird taxi every time. Sigh. We're also a magnet for beggars, and sadly, they are in abundance in Jakarta. Just sitting in traffic, young, barefoot girls with babies fastened to their bodies by a fabric sling will walk between the cars looking for money. They will press their foreheads up against the window of your car until you either give then some change or ignore them long enough.
But enough of that depressing news...
Yesterday was wonderful. The joy-filled Ibu Sitha (of the fabled "bule effect" above) and I were connected through a mutual friend and ELF (Thanks, Michael!). Sitha is also an English teacher in Jakarta and is frequently tasked with teacher trainings throughout the 30-some provinces of Indonesia. To me, she is an invaluable source of teaching advice, a well-versed guide to the city, and a fast friend. She picked me up from Alila in the afternoon, and we spent the rest of the day romping around the city.
|The only "Flying Wayang"|
|Finally, someone taller than me. I think that snake shirt is really going to turn people off, though.|
|Wayang Puppets, each hand-carved|
The Wayang Museum was located in the middle of the old city center of Jakarta. Old meaning when the Dutch were in control. All of the buildings in this area of town were built by the Dutch: white buildings, pillars, and rows of shuttered windows. There are multiple museums housed in these relics, so I can't wait to return to explore some more.
Next stop: Sarinah. Sarinah is another shopping center, but what's unique is that it has two entire floors devoted to batik. After expressing my love of this Indonesian treasure, Sitha suggested we go explore. Batik is fabric with either stamped or hand-painted designs. The motifs and colors are often very particular to a region or province. Learning about each pattern and the history behind it has become a new goal for my time here in Indonesia. There are even a few textile/batik museums in Java that will surely make it on my to do list. Pictures to come.
We rounded off the evening with dinner at Bakmi GM and some gelato at a nearby Italian restaurant. I had very tasty fried noodles and am happy to report that my stomach is much better now.
I'm so spoiled by the kind hearts of my new friends here in Indonesia...