As a little 4-year-old kid, watching the Gerakan 30 September massacre movie was traumatizing. Every 30th of September, TVRI would show that movie as a reminder of our ‘fallen heroes’ and propagate awareness of the enemy that is communism. In 1998, after the dethronement of former president Soeharto, they stopped showing the movie because it became under suspicion of being a media for spreading propaganda concocted by the former president himself and his cronies. For y’all conspiracy theorists out there, this here‘s a real treat for ya.
Putting aside all political aspects, the movie is actually very entertaining to watch. Best part is watching a guy get his eyes gouged out for being a fervent nationalist, a devoted hero, and a casualty to the cause. It’s no Scarface or A Clockwork Orange or Ichi the Killer, but it still does a good job of exhausting your gag reflex.
Haunted historical sites
Ghosts are fun. Admit it. Supernatural mysticism adds to the unique qualities of a place. A broken down old building becomes beautiful classic Dutch-architecture when you add a few Caspers to the history. The gorier the tale, the better.
Jakarta is abundant in stories of haunted spots. Some examples:
– RSCM or Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital with their supposedly bloody and very dead doctors and nurses wandering the halls.
– Jakarta History Museum which was used by the Dutch Colonials as a city hall. The main court was used to hang a number of Chinese people in the olden days of feudalist chauvinism. At night a few ghosts can be seen there. The dungeon is believed to be haunted by number of floating deads.
– Jembatan Ancol (Ancol Bridge) – Legend has it that a young woman was raped and murdered (in that order, I hope) at Jembatan Ancol. Until this day people have claimed to see her walking around at night.
– Jeruk Purut Cemetery – Legend has it that a priest was beheaded here. Reasons for his horrible capital punishment is unknown, but to this day, he supposedly walks through the cemetery with his decapitated headin his hand and his big, black dog by his side.
I’m seeing stars…or not
I’ve just recently spent a week on an isolated island where there are no motor vehicles and the electricity comes from a generator. Said electricity is shut off at 12 AM every night unless you have a backup generator in your backyard. But even in the darkness of midnight, it wasn’t dark at all. The sky was blazing with stars. There, the moon exists not only for aesthetic but functional purposes, illuminating the earth with a warm glow. I have never experienced this in Jakarta. Okay so it’s a big city enveloped in a permanent layer of smog hence rendering it nearly impossible for divine light to reach the ground. I get it. I just really miss being a smart-ass by showing off to my friends and (wrongly) naming random constellations in the night sky.
Ah street fashion. The benchmark of a city’s sartorial worth. The best place to be fashionably inspired is no longer the catwalk, but the sidewalk (metaphorically speaking, that is, because technically Jakarta owns no sidewalks) and Jakarta Street Looks is where all the “cool kids” are.
Jakarta’s fashion sense is hands down an eclectic explosion of flair and creativity. Sure, there are many (and I mean MANY) generic fashionistas trolling around the streets, but the true fashionable individuals (you know who you are) make Jakarta sui generis when it comes to street fashion.
The sartorial creations I’ve seen here…peculiar yet enamoring. The DIY movement is used and abused to a pulp.
Check out their counterpart, Jakarta Shit Looks for random and harmless amusement.
Or Circle K. The equivalent of the 7/11 mini-marts, providing us with food, booze and emergency toiletries 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For some, it provides a place to get in touch with their inner hobo. I can’t count the innumerable times I’ve parked in Circle K’s parking lot in the middle of the night to “search for philosophical answers to life’s questions” equipped only with a bottle of Bintang and a pack of Dunhills. A lot of my rational and emotional enlightenment took place in the parking lot of a Circle K, I didn’t even need a backpacking trip through Europe to “find myself”. If Circle K existed in the Middle Ages, the Middle Ages wouldn’t have happened and we would’ve skipped right to the Renaissance.
“Look, Ma! No Hands!”
I see them at nearly every traffic light. Little handicapped children in the arms of their “mother/father”, begging for money with their puppy-dog eyes and whiny voices. It’s a fact that sometimes, their “mother/father” isn’t really their mother/father, but their pimp who collects their earnings at the end of the day. Child exploitation is nothing new in Indonesia, and this line of business is actually quite profitable.
A few years ago, I took part in a campaign organized by UNESCO to get children off the streets and into classrooms. I found out that by ‘keeping’ and ‘selling’ these kids and sending them out to take advantage of our simpathy for a couple of thousand rupiahs, their pimps could receive a daily intake of roughly 120.000 rupiahs, and that’s not even counting the weekends which can reach around 150.000 to 200.000 rupiahs per day. Ka-ching! When I talked to these kids, some actually told me they were on the streets by choice. The majority of their reasons were similar: “Sitting in a classroom doesn’t put food on my family’s table.”
I’d give them my pity, but hell, they make more than I do working a boring nine to five desk job.
Melting pot of energy
It has to be said that the magic of Jakarta, to me, rests in its colorful smorgasbord of energy.
The hustle and bustle, the angst, the passion, the culture, the art, the love, the taste, the frivolity, the exoticism, the mysticism, the inconceivably hectic traffic, the stress, the heat, the noise, the aroma of bittersweet frustration, the history, the unique and friendly people, the culinary orgasms, the third-world enthusiasm, the kitschy superficialities, the smog, the hypocrisy, the stupor, the spirit, the physical high, the suffocation, the nighttime lights that bathe the city, the smell of defeat, the sights that are always new, the architecture, the constant surging of fear, the adrenaline rush, the linguistics, the philosophies, the jungle fever, the music of the streets, the flea markets, the spontaneity, the not-knowing, the recurring what-if syndrome, the drive to be enlightened on a daily basis.
All these only make up some of the long list of elements that violently collide to create the magnetic force that is Jakarta.