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My final week in Jakarta...

...and second last week in Indo :(

Now it’s time to cast my mind back to those last fond Jakartan memories. I never actually thought I’d use the terms ‘Jakarta’ and ‘fond memories’ in the one sentence. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a tough city to live in, but with the right crew, you can have a lot of fun.

So work that week was actually quite tough for me (comparatively) seeing as wait for it, I had to source my own stories, and didn’t just get the press conferences or contacts handed to me. This meant that it was a much less productive week for me (I only got two or three stories published) but still a fair effort. I also spent a fair bit of time posting things I though were incredibly witty on the ACICIS page on Facebook (well at least I thought they were) as I was doing my research…oh that’s one thing I’ll definitely miss about ACICIS…how witty we all thought we were posting articles or incredulous blogs or embarrassing photos of each other on Facebook whilst we were meant to be working. And don’t deny it – you all did it! Anyway, I found my story, got the article published (even with a really dodgy photo that I took and got the credit for), and also got an opinion piece and an article, believe it or not about gym, published that week, so it was a good work week.

Outside of work, it was a week of ‘lasts’. Last of our kos meetings (which really just consisted of eating oreos and dancing to Beyonce), last week of eating at our local warung, last week of going to the canteen lady at work and ordering ‘satu’ strawberry juice and ‘satu’ Silver Queen. However, it was also a week of a few out of the ordinary activities. For instance, Royksopp. It was friggin amazing. Actually it was more than just Royksopp, it was like a whole festival thing (where the tickets cost $35!) but Royksopp were headlining, and the only other band I had actually heard of that played were Bag Raiders. Still it was awesome. Much different to festivals at home which are held in parks or showgrounds, large open spaces that are in the city but in places that are supposed to be as resident-friendly as possible, this gig was held in a shopping centre carpark, surrounded by a select group of Jakarta’s many skyscrapers. It was a tiny space compared to what we’re used to at home, but unlike the rest of Jakarta, it was immaculate. They had rolled out fake grass, and amongst other quirky things there was a bar (this is quirky for Jakarta), free photos booths, stickers that people could wear to indicate their relationship status (e.g. “single and ready to mingle”), and wait for it, girls that gave out free cigarettes. And you wonder why Jakarta is not a very healthy city to live in… However, Royksopp, the reason we were there, was amazing. I can’t actually describe it, but no joke, one of the best live gigs ever. Once again we thought the whole crowd was really going off and totally into it, but they were probably all just standing there, bobbing and videoing on their phones whilst us crazy ‘bule’ chanted ‘satu lagi, satu lagi’ (one more song) for a good few minutes. Once again, we all thought we were tres witty.

The next day was a bit of a blur, due to the craziness of the night before, but I would like to point out that on my last day of work (and the day after Royksopp mind you!) I worked until 10pm! So yes. Dedication much? Or maybe nerd much…

Friday was a day of ceremonial proceedings and goodbyes. The Jakarta Post invited us for lunch to talk to us about how our experience had been there and what not, but mainly they just wanted to hear our stories of how we had found Jakarta as ‘bule’. And they laughed at us a lot. I think that’s actually why they gave us a free lunch…

Then we had to go back into Atma Jaya for some ceremony where basically the point of it was to get out certificate and our transcript from language class, and wait for it, duh duh duh, guess who got 100%? Yes that’s right, yours truly. Oh if only Signora Simoncini (my year 12 Italian teacher could see me now). Saya fludent di Bahasa Indonesia (except for the word fluent apparently…) So it seems I can learn other languages, maybe it’s just that two weeks is my limit. And remember how I said how me and the guy sitting next to me in the test (Ben – I guess he’s worthy of getting his name mentioned in here by now…) were talking during the test and our teacher thought it was hilarious? Well guess who got second top of the class…oh yeah.

Then that night was the shindig at the Australian Ambassador’s house. First funny thing about that was that the dress code on the invitation said “lounge suit or Batik”. Firstly, what the hell is a lounge suit?! And secondly, wearing Batik is like wearing a Hawaiian shirt – how is that Ambassador – appropriate?! There were a lot of us there, as there are people who do ACICIS programs in Indonesia for the whole year and all ACICIS students were invited. However, they had to do performances and stuff, so we had the luxury of making the most of the free alcohol. This was a very exciting prospect for us. However too exciting for some, as wine was served (Shaw and Smith to be exact) and not having drunk wine for six weeks, we got a bit excited. We literally drank him out of wine. They had to go down to the cellar to get more, and then they had to go down again, only to find out that it was all gone. Don’t think some of the official ACICIS people were too pleased. However the Ambassador himself seemed like a true Aussie bloke who loved a good beer (or wine), so at least he didn’t seem to mind. Only problem was that the Ambassador’s house was meant to be our pre-drinking location for our final night out, and some people didn’t even make it out. Some did but probably shouldn’t have. So props to those of you who lasted until 6.30am – bagus effort!

Being the intelligent person that I am, I foresaw this potential problem, and so had not booked my flight to Bali until the Sunday, meaning that I had all of Sunday to recover and pack up my room. To be honest, this had to be done in half hour shifts, but I got it done. Then that night, those of us left caught up for a ‘quiet one’ and the Beer Garden in Kemang. It was a quiet one comparatively to the night before, but still, I didn’t get home until 3.30am! I felt quite sad that night actually. I was the only one left at my kos and there was such a small group of us out. Unfortunately due to many of our antics the night before, not many people got to say proper goodbyes. But luckily, compared to with my time in Siem Reap, most people on ACICIS live in Australia, and a large proportion of this is Melbourne. So I shouldn’t complain.

There are a lot of things I won’t miss about Jakarta. The traffic. The taxi drivers who drive past with their light on and don’t stop. The taxi drivers who don’t know where they’re going. They taxi drivers who say they know where they’re going but don’t know where they’re going. Well to be fair, most of my issues with Jakarta were with the traffic and the further problems that that causes. (Oh and the prayers – did I say that at our local mosque in the last week during the prayers they said “Australia New Zealand” in English? They must have been talking about us, counting down the days until our departure…) But there are many things I will miss. Warung food. Ojek rides. Hearing “hello Mister” as I leave my kos every day. Crazy gigs like Foster and Royksopp that I would probably never be able to afford to go to at home. And of course all of the amazing people I met and friends I’ve made. Honestly after my time in Siem Reap I didn’t think it was possible to have that much fun again, and I won’t deny that it was a polar-opposite type of different experience, but I had an absolute ball. To everyone I met whilst in Jakarta, thanks, it’s been a pleasure. (And of course the obligatory “sorry for whatever it was I did last night/thanks for taking me home”). And I sincerely hope that we all do keep in touch via the miracle of Facebook, which we all managed to spend so much time on whilst earning us those credit points, and when we visit each other’s cities. So until next time teman-teman saya…terima kasih banyak. xxxx

Posted by ljmac2 03:46 Archived in Indonesia Tagged buildings people parties planes mosque taxi jakarta indonesia siem_reap festival wine bars kos prayers beer_garden batik atma_jaya jakarta_post australian_ambassador ambassador's_house lounge_suit kemang ojek royksopp foster_the_people bag_riders Comments (0)

How to pack when heading to Jakarta...

Step 1: Bring heels!

storm 27 °C

When packing for South-East Asia, heels didn’t come to mind as a ‘must pack’. In fact, they didn’t even make the ‘maybe’ pile, as lets be fair, they’re not really my thing. I mean the last pair I bought for the races I took home and showed Mum, who replied “Really? You’re going to actually wear those?!”

So yes, they’re not my thing.

Jakarta though, apparently loves them. And also apparently, you are not ‘cool’ or can’t go anywhere ‘cool’ without them. So after being rejected because of my inappropriate footwear both last Saturday and this Friday night just gone, I finally caved and bought the cheapest, shortest pair of heels I could find. Sucked in Jakarta, two can play this game!

And yes, I got in. Although we did go to watch the Liverpool versus Man U match at a beer garden before we went to le club so I did feel rather ridiculous, but oh well. Probably about as ridiculous as Talia felt when we went shopping with me to get them and all the one’s she suggested I turned my nose up at…”they’re too high…they stand out too much…” Etc. Etc.

So yes, in a nutshell, I spent the weekend going out, getting turned away, buying shoes, and going out again…ahhh the luxury of staying in one place for a long period of time so you don’t have to be jumping out of bed early everyday to go and see the Monas or something. Truly, it’s not really worth it anyway.

Although, those of us who were still alive on Sunday did settle back for a relaxing six-hour tennis watching session…totally worth it! And thank god we decided to do that for the men’s final and not the women’s, otherwise by the time we got there, with the Jakarta ‘macets’ (traffic jams), it would have been all over. It was quite an odd experience though, with at the end of the fourth set it being so tense – would Rafa make it to five sets? – whilst there was Rasta music playing in the background…just wasn’t the same atmosphere really….

Also how could we forget Australia Day last week!? Another year and I’ve celebrated it in another country…although in quite an unusual style, sitting at work and streaming Triple J’s Hottest 100, whilst everyone else from ACICIS is also doing the same thing and commenting on in on Facebook! Then that night we went out to a pub which wasn’t remotely Australian, but apparently it was owned by an Australian…surprisingly there aren’t a huge number of Australia Day parties in Jakarta…I wonder why???? But it was great in that Thurdays is free martini night for ladies! Sucked a bit for the boys, but it was the cheapest night out ever!

Then on the Friday night the Australian Embassy had another drinks on for Australia Day, so we all dressed up in our finest and hit the town for a night at the embassy! I must admit, it was a rather odd feeling having your passport and camera checked in and going through about a thousand security checks before you get to the bar. Fair enough though…we were all in a bit of a sitting duck situation really. But it was good though, even just to be able to drink wine instead of beer…I’m so sick of beer! And there was karaoke – how many people can say they have sun Spice Girls at the Australian Embassy?!

Anyway, once again I am distracted from the real reason I’m here…hmmm work…last week, what did I do? Well on Tuesday was that Women in Sport seminar I think I mentioned last time. It was long seeing it was five hours all in Bahasa, but I sat with Greg Wilson, the guy I interviewed from the week before, and his wife, who luckily is Indonesian so she gave me the rundown of what was going on. I also got to interview the some athletes and coaches, and the President of the Indonesian Olympic Committee. Plus the Minister for Sport was there, and everyone seemed very excited that he actually turned up, as apparently his brother is involved in some corruption scandal at the moment. (But then again, so is every second person in Indonesia right?! ) So the Minister gave a speech at the seminar, and then was answering questions outside for reporters in Bahasa. I went up at the end as asked him if I could ask him a couple of questions in English and he loved it! He pretty much relayed his whole speech in English to me, whilst all these people stood around and took photos of him talking to a token white girl…hilarious.

Then on Wednesday I went to a press conference held by Barca FC, as they are opening up a ‘football’ (I really should try and use the correct term I guess) academy in Indonesia, which seems to be a pretty big deal seeing Indonesian’s love the sport so much, but their national team is shot due to all the internal politics. So hopefully this will work out for them…Barca seem to think they’re the bees knees so it better! When I got to this press conference I thought “yes, white people” thinking they would speak in English for a change…but no, they spoke in Spanish and it was translated to Bahasa! It is almost a little bit of a perk being white and English-speaking at press conferences over here as people seem to want to go out of their way to talk to you.

Speaking of press conferences, they are somewhat of a shenanigan here! Jakarta is a very inefficient city in terms of the fact that people seem to work a lot longer hours and get a lot less done than they do in Australia, and when you go to the press conferences you can see why! They’re all in these grand hotels or function rooms that would cost and arm and a leg to hire, and there’s an hour-and-a-half allocated at the start of each one for eating all the free food they give you and mingling with people, then the actual conference itself actually goes for two hours, and at the end there’s question time, where you could literally ask questions until the cows come home, and everyone would still be there. Most sleeping or on their phones, but they would still be there. Jenee, the other NZ girl who is also working at the Post, went to a press conference last week that was a preview for a concert. Only half the band was there, and so someone actually asked, “is there going to be another press conference?” How much can one write about an event that hasn’t even happened yet?! Plus they love taking photos of press conferences and they actually end up in the paper…what boring viewing, when you could have a photo of the band performing or whatever. Anyway, this is just one of many incredulous differences between Indonesia and Australia…

Ironically, that’s what I have pretty much spent my time at work from then until now doing – writing a feature on the differences between the Indonesian and Australian sporting industries. It’s been so interesting, but I have discovered that I don’t think I am a very good feature writer – luckily my editor is lovely and very patient with me, so he helps me out with my structure and the technique and what not, so hopefully that will get in the paper in the next couple of days. But I think I’m better at hard news, as apart from that, it’s just been writing short stories from press releases to fill up the pages – with the Australian Open on that has dominated the whole two pages devoted to sport since I got here (although to be fair, the entire paper is only 28 pages long), and all those stories come from wires.

Anyway, that’s about all my news for now. It’s actually amazing how much work (at least I think) I’ve managed to get done, when work is so relaxed! We can pretty much go in and leave whenever we want, plus I’ve never spent so much time sitting on Facebook or literally watching the live cricket and tennis scores scroll up the page! And look at me right now writing my blog…I guess I better get back to it. Although no tennis or cricket on now – what am I going to do?!

Posted by ljmac2 01:33 Archived in Indonesia Tagged people parties night football jakarta indonesia australia siem_reap australian_open language jakarta_post sports_industry barca_fc Comments (0)

A guide to making the most of prayer time...

...it's pretty indie...

semi-overcast 27 °C

So have totally worked out how to combat 4.30am prayer time – don’t come home until after they start…then you’re already awake! Ok so I feel the stage that I reached in Siem Reap when I can start using names in my blog… Talia, one of the NZ girls on this trip (apparently New Zealanders flock to me over here!) who stays at my kos and also works at the Post, is a very light sleeper and constantly woken up by the prayers at 4.30 every morning. No joke, she can tell whether it’s Jim or Bob rostered on for the 4.30 shift each day by the tone of their warbling. Sometimes they even work in a bit of a harmony/competition with their neighbouring mosque to see who can be the loudest. Anyway, we got home at around said prayer time Saturday morning and were banging on the gate of our kos saying “malam, malam!” (“good evening” – It sounds weird in English, but that is the appropriate evening greeting), before we realized that possibly we world get a better response if we said “pagi, pagi!” (good morning), and then the prayers started up and Talia yells “haha I beat you, I’m already awake!” Hilarious.

As a side note, we read an article when we first here about an American man here in Ramadan last year, when the prayers are super loud, who unplugged one of the mosques loud speakers and got jailed for five months. Talia was very glad she read that early on…

Anyway, this weekend is a long weekend in Jakarta because of Chinese New Year, which I find very interesting that it’s a public holiday here and not at home, when we are supposed to be more accepting of other cultures and religions and what not. However similar to at home, being a long weekend it is quite expensive to go away, and also being a ‘journalist’, you do not have regular working hours, so a bunch of us spent the weekend hanging in Jaks.

On Saturday I went to the Monas, which is the national monument and also Jakarta’s main (and pretty much only) tourist attraction. However, unfortunately for Jakarta, it is nicknamed by the locals “Suharto’s last erection”. Awesome. Pretty much it’s just a big statue/tower thing in the middle of this park which is quite nice (the park I mean). You can go up the tower and view the metropolis that is Jakarta, but somehow I think that Jakarta is not really worth the three-hour wait in the queue. However, I think the Monas might be known as a ‘tourist attraction’ as locals just go there to hang out and get photos taken with us whiteys. No joke, we have so many photos taken of us…what do they do with them, put them on Facebook? Even just wandering down the street our kos is on, all the locals say “hello” as they are following us with their camera phones. I mean seriously? We’ve been here for three weeks now, surely they’re over it! Anyway, at the Monas people just yell out at you “Mister, Mister” (everyone is ‘Mister’ here apparently) and ask to take your photos. Ella who I was with (she’s from Tassie, but it’s ok, she’s still pretty cool…) would say to them “No…Mrs…”, and they would look back at her oddly and say “No…Mister…photo?” Haha.

So Saturday night we went to I guess what you would call a club, Red Square, and it was first time we’d actually been clubbing in Jakarta. By Jakartan standards I’d say it was quite small and relatively tame, but it was the closest I’ve seen anywhere I’ve been so far to Pub Street…there was like this runway thing to dance on, and they played the classics such as “We No Speak Americano” and like all of Rihanna’s back catalogue. Although no buckets…poor form.

One minor glitch from Saturday night was that my camera got stolen. No biggie really though, as it turns out getting a police report in Jakarta is even easier than in Siem Reap! Not that it was hard in Siem Reap, but it shocked me at how easy it was here! Maybe just because I could only speak “sedikit sedikit” Bahasa Indonesia (very little!) so they couldn’t be bothered to question me about it. Although apparently my religion is vital fact required when filing a police report. I said Christian. Apparently ‘Atheist’ (or ever ‘Jew’) doesn’t go down that well here…not that I really look like a Jew…just thought that was an interesting fact.

It was nice not having to rush around and sightsee on the weekend as it meant we could have a lazy Sunday. No Gossip Girl, but we did manage to find real Western brunch. Unbelievable. It turns out that Jakarta is just a city of malls. Like at first you may think most of them are trashy ones with a few high-end one’s in between, but no, there are as many posh ones as there are un-posh. And obviously I belong in (and can afford – not) the posh ones! But the one we went to yesterday, Pacific Place, had a massive dragon for Chinese New Year that stretched from the top to the bottom floor (maybe 6 or 7 floors?), and then the level we were on had a lake with boats on it and a lighthouse…crazy! The place we had dinner was so cute too – like kitsch, Asian cute – but amazing! It was called ‘Nanny’s’ and made into what I assume was meant to be your Grandma’s home. So we ate in a shower, but there were sinks and what not scattered all around…very bizarre.

Last night we went to a gig at the Jaya Pub, which according to someone on Google is the “worst place in Jakarta” but actually it was so cool. Plus, calling it the worst place in Jakarta made me want to go there more! All these Indonesian bands played, but each one of them was a different genre…you know the usual…Indonesian Irish folk rock, Indonesian power ballads…and a band that were basically like the Indonesian version of The Presets, except cooler if that’s even possible (The Presets are pretty cool…) as they wore sunnies that lit up and made noise. No expenses spared.

So yes, that’s been the weekend…but I guess I should actually mention something as to the real reason why I’m here. I’m struggling a bit to remember I’m here for work experience and learning – so much fun to be had! But actually I am really lucky with my placement. I’m loving it at the sports desk and despite the fact that the team there is so small – two reporters and one editor – they look after me really well and give me cool stuff to work on.

On Tuesday, my first real day of work, I went to a amateur golf tournament which is run by six-time major winner Nick Faldo’s charity. It’s a tournament series run all throughout Asia and Europe with the aim of making it easier for up-and-coming golfers to make it onto the tour. So I got to interview of the CEO of Nick Faldo’s organization, and the head of the committee for the Indonesian event, who is this guy called Rudy Hartono, and apparently is an Indonesian sporting legend! He used to play badminton and won the All-England Championships (equivalent to World Championships back then apparently) and won it seven times, six consecutively. My editor who went with me that day didn’t know he was going to be there so he was so stoked! We had photos taken with him and everything.

Then on Wednesday I went to a press conference with another one of the other reporters, Niken, which was about the National Games, pretty much the Indonesian version of the Olympics. It’s held every four years and like Aussie kids grow up dreaming of winning the Olympics, Indonesian kids grow up dreaming of winning PON (the National Games). However, as with everything in Indonesia, it was running super late, so we all just sat in the foyer outside the lift. People were very amused that I was there, and were taking photos of me and interviewing me…I think I was also on Indonesian TV that night saying that I though Barca was going to beat Real Madrid 1-0 – they care a lot about the Spanish soccer here since they won the world cup apparently. That particular press conference was all in Bahasa so I only picked up a few words such as ‘teman’ (friend) and ‘teman-teman’ (friends)…but it was an interesting experience.

Oh and there was a letter from FIFA being passed around that day, to the Indonesian Football Association, as they are in all sorts of strife. Everyone was taking photos of it so they could take it home and make it into a story, which was pretty cool.

On Thursday night I went to a press conference about this Indonesian group that are climbing the Seven Summits, which I found fascinating seeing really, you don’t associate the words ‘Indonesian’ and ‘mountaineering’. But they were a full on professional outfit, with only one peak remaining – Everest. The press conference was all in Bahasa again, but I got to interview the chief climber afterwards, who spoke very good broken English. I got a good feature out of it though – it even made the caption for the sport section under the title on Saturday’s paper.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/01/21/mountain-climbing-next-stop-everest.html

Then on Friday I had the true journalistic experience of working from home – lucky I have a Mac now so I can compete the SATC cliché right?! I wrote up my mountaineering article in the morning, went for an interview with a guy at lunchtime, and then went back home to write up the article. The guy I spoke to was really cool. Greg Wilson was an elite Australian weightlifter, won bronze and silver medals at Worlds’ back in the 80s, then became a sporting academic, and now in between coaching Indonesian athletes in strength and conditioning, works with the Indonesian Olympic Committee. So we were talking all about the differences between sport in developing versus developed countries, using Indonesia and Australia as the case studies, and about why Indonesian athletes have little to no motivation to compete well on an international scale. Basically they get paid millions of rupiah when they win at a national or regional level, and at the Olympics they are not going to win anything, hence get no money, so why would they try harder? I know – unbelievable. Also, apparently they are incredibly good at blue ribbon events such as dragon-boat racing and wall running – both which are unfortunately yet to fit into the Olympic schedule.

So this Greg Wilson guy that I interviewed invited me to another press conference tomorrow about women in sport and so hopefully I will get an opportunity to get some more sources for my big feature that will compare sport in developing versus developed countries. Anyway, I better go – I’ve got an hour and ten minutes of interview material to transcribe, which I swear takes about three times the length of the actual interview. And also I am lagging a bit after the long weekend…it’s been a good month since my Siem Reap days now, I’m out of practice ☺

Posted by ljmac2 06:58 Archived in Indonesia Tagged people parties night jakarta indonesia siem_reap sport english bars islam pub_street jakarta_post nick_faldo rudy_hartono seven_summits Comments (0)

Saya fluent di Bahasa Indonesia

...I also play tennis...

sunny 27 °C

Day 1 at the Jakarta Post down. Although to be fair, I don’t think it was an accurate representation of your average day of work there. We started at 3 (yes, that’s 3pm!) and sat in on an editorial meeting, which I guess we normally wouldn’t, although it was quite amusing (and interesting) to hear them discuss the issue for the next day…I think there is going to be a big picture of George Clooney on the front tomorrow, as one of the female senior editors was very keen on that idea! After that we met with our editors (I’m on sport – yes!) but I didn’t really have to do much work today, just edit some article written about the local cricket league in Jakarta. It was written by some guy who just plays cricket, he’s not a journalist or anything, but the actual sport’s reporters at the Post can’t write it a they don’t understand the game, hence it is rarely in the paper here. For instance, today they asked me “what does ‘tea’ mean?” and “how do you know when the game is over?” Hilarious.

To be fair, I think it’s quite hard to be the sports editor at an English-language newspaper in Indonesia. The big Bahasa Indonesia papers cover all the local sports, so the English papers are left to the international sports that will supposedly interest expats. However with only two full-time reporters on the desk, plus one editor, they don’t have time to go out to do research for lots of stories to fill the sports section of the paper everyday, so a lot of the international stories come from the news wires. Tomorrow however I’m going with the sports editor to a press conference for an upcoming golf tournament, so I might get a local sports story out of that…

It all seems a bit surreal that the placement part of this trip started today. I just got back into the swing of study and now I have to be a ‘professional’ for really what is the first time in my life. Don’t really know how I feel about it…just putting on supposedly professional clothes was weird…that’s the best think about coaching – trackies!

Anyway, last week was just language class every morning, followed by an array of field trips and lectures in the afternoon. On Wednesday our ‘trip’ (which was actually a free lunch) got cancelled (or rescheduled to tomorrow, but I can’t go because of this press conference), but that was actually rather convenient seeing a bunch of us had tickets to the Foster the People gig that night! (Because of the traffic here, a field trip may be meant to be during the afternoon, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get home three hours later!) The gig was awesome though. It was held at an indoor tennis centre, I guess similar in a way to how it would be at home, except for the fact that they don’t sell anything inside the gates…no drinks, nothing! It was the most well-behaved gig I’ve ever attended. And actually, I was surprised at how many of the Indonesians knew all the words, especially seeing they’ve only got one album. They were all full-on into it…but when we tried to get on each other’s shoulders and stuff they got a bit angry…

Thursday’s trip for the journo’s was to a school at a tip. Apparently it’s quite famous and well-known in Jakarta because it is funded by several big NGOs but run according to the Indonesian state school system, and it is for the kids of scavengers and tip workers. Similar to ABCs and Rice in Siem Reap it is there so the kids’ don’t have to work at the tip all the time and can get a formal (and free) education, but unlike ABCs, this school has some serious money behind it. Not that ABCs isn’t amazing, as it is (and obviously I’m rather biased on this matter), but the school we saw on Thursday was a proper structure with windows and doors and electricity and a paved play area. There is no doubt that these kids live in poverty, as literally the school is perched like a castle on the top of the tip and the houses are all shacks presumably made from things found at the tip, but the road leaving up there is paved and lined with power lines and street lights…it was all just a very bizarre experience.

Also, I struggled a bit with the fact that we just did a ‘drop in’ on the school for less than an hour (especially when it took an hour to get there and three hours to get back). Again I guess I’m getting up on my high horse a bit, but I hated it when people did that in Siem Reap and would just come to school for a short period of time like it was a tourist attraction. And it wasn’t just like there were a couple of us going to this tip school, there was a whole group. Sure the kids all got an exercise book and a pencil from us, and the school library got some books too, but really it wasn’t like they gained anything from it, it was all meant to be for our own personal gain, disguised as a philanthropic exercise. I mean, I felt bad enough leaving ABCs after 2 months – what really what good is it to get to know a whole lot of kids and then just abandon them? Anyway, I guess that’s just my little soapbox moment. At the tip school we just all sang ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’, the ‘Hokey Pokey’ and ‘Five Little Ducks’ and I just wished I was back in Siem Reap ☹

Anyway, no need to stress…except for the fact that Friday was the day of our Bahasa Indonesia test! But really it was fine. I actually really enjoyed learning a language again. Even though the classes were four hours a day, they weren’t that bad, the only annoying part was having to do homework. But our teacher was really cool as well. Like during the test me and the guy next to each other were discussing the answers, and the teacher was just standing outside the class pointing at us and laughing – seriously, if she was standing outside the class what did she expect?! (Actually we were trying to remember the words for our hobbies – in the end I just played the safe card and said “saya bermain tenis”. I play tennis…duh).

Also one of the girls had an unfortunate incident in class where instead of saying “saya suka laki-laki ganteng” (“I like handsome boys”) she said “saya suka adik laki-laki ganteng” (“I like handsome little boys”). The teacher thought it was hilarious, so from then on whenever some exercise came up in class with “adik laki-laki” in it, the teacher would say “Gayertree, would you like to read number 14?!” LOL.

That afternoon we went to CIFOR (the Centre For International Forestry Research) which is in Bogor, technically an hour as the crow flies from Jakarta, but really, that means nothing. Anyway, it was actually really cool out there, and beautiful, except for the fact that it was raining so we we’re allowed to walk in the forest, so instead we had to walk around the outskirts of the forest and look at the fence and other people’s umbrellas. We were given speeches and presentations and the usual, but they were actually really engaging. A couple of the development studies people were staying out there to do their placement, which would be pretty cool.

That day was also one of the guy’s birthdays so a lot of people stayed in Bogor to celebrate it there rather than sit on a bus again for three hours. Bogor isn’t famed for having a whole lot to do (and it pretty much rains 24/7 as well, which led to some very nasty war wounds from falling over all the time…well at least on my part!) but it was heaps of fun. Then the next day some of us stayed on and went to the Bogor Botanic Gardens, which were beautiful – literally a breath of fresh air out of Jakarta. It was also where Suharto had one of his many lairs, so it seemed to be a pretty popular spot for school excursions – and boy had they hit the jackpot when not only were they on an excursion, but there was a bunch of white people wandering around! One of the guys, Jimmy, is tall and has dreads and stands out from the crowd a bit I guess you could say (Kevin Rudd definitely felt the need to comment on him!) and so all the kids were yelling at him “don’t touch my body, don’t touch my hand!” What well trained Muslim children! However probably the highlight of my day there was the cutest kitten ever that climbed up another guy’s leg and just stayed there as he walked around, and had a great time ☺

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We got the train back to Jakarta on Saturday night, as it was someone else’s birthday so we were all going out for dinner and then hitting the town. It turned out to be quite expensive really (well by Jakarta standards at least!) but I at least managed to have a grand time! It’s just rather difficult going out in a group of 20 people in Jakarta…you tend to stand out a bit from the crowd…

So yes. That is my life in Jakarta up until now. It’s going to be weird not seeing everyone everyday at uni now, although there’s always events here and there, so I guess if we finish work early enough will still be able to catch up during the week…sometimes I’m finding it a little hard to remember I’m here for work; so much fun to be had ☺

Posted by ljmac2 08:20 Archived in Indonesia Tagged people parties jakarta indonesia bus siem_reap raining sport work language english tip volunteers abcs_and_rice bogor botanic_gardens cifor jakarta_post Comments (1)

Good Morning Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City

overcast 24 °C

In an effort to make up for my slackness on my blog during the latter stages of my time in Siem Reap, here is a very timely update on my time spent in Ho Chi Minh City, my first taste of Vietnam.

Let’s just say that despite being less than an hour’s flight from Siem Reap, Ho Chi Minh is a world away. I don’t know what I expected when coming here, yet it is very different from my expectations. It is much ‘richer’ than I imagined it to be, and whilst I’m sure in the outer districts and villages poverty is rife, Hoh Chi Minh pretty much reminds me of a slightly smaller Bangkok, with less smell and more motos (if that’s even possible!) Brands are prevalent here. In Cambodia the only legitimate international brands I saw while I was there was KFC (which possibly stood for Khmer Fried Chicken) and believe it or not, Adidas. Here they’ve got everything, from Chloe and Gucci, right down to Gloria Jean’s!

I feel a little bit sorry for Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh on me coming here straight from Siem Reap, as I feel like Cambodia’s my second home by now and so my judgment is rife! However, so far I do feel that what I have heard about there being a certain warmness to Cambodia that there is not in Vietnam, is true. It’s not that the people are necessarily unfriendly, but they don’t go out of their way to talk to you or introduce you to their culture. Hence, I still know no words in Vietnamese after being here four days already, so everywhere I go I just want to say “au kawn” (Khmer for thank you). Also I suspect there is a much stronger Christian presence here, as it is like a typical Asian city that is obsessed with Christmas. There are decorations and carols everywhere, and you can’t walk into a shop without someone wearing a Santa hat. For those who think I am the Grinch when it comes to Christmas, never fear, Vietnam will get that out of me! Plus whenever people say “hello” to you here, there is not the obligatory bow holding your hands together in the praying position, as there is in Cambodia and Thailand. Maybe it’s the communism, I don’t know…

Also, given how big this city is and that it is a bit of an international business hub, it is surprising at how poor a lot of the English is here. Many shop attendants right in the centre of the district where all the tourist hotels are, speak very limited, if any, English, which is a shock given that this is a tourist town as much as Siem Reap is, and a much richer one at that. It’s got to come down to how much they hate the American’s here. I guess I expected them to still hate them, but just not so openly. If you’re an American tourist coming here, you better have thick skin! You can’t even change Vietnam Dong, the local currency, back into US Dollars, even though they accept both currencies here, which made it very difficult for me when I was trying to get my Indonesian visa, which like all countries pretty much, only accept payment for the visas in US cash!

I may sound like I am being negative but don’t get be wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here. Unlike most places I go on holidays with Mum, I haven’t been here before, so this time we have been quite touristy and learned, visiting a lot of things, particularly to do with the war. First there was the War Relics Museum, which was interesting, mainly due to the fact of how one-sided it is. To be fair, the Vietnam War is one I know little about, but I feel coming here has not increased my education much as it is so one-sided! Inside it is full of exhibits showing letters from other governments and photos of rallies held around the world that were against the Vietnam War. Literally, there is a map of the world listing countries that are ‘friends’ with Vietnam, and every country is listed! However, outside was pretty cool, as there were all these restored US tanks and plane and choppers, which was pretty amazing that they actually went to the effort to restore them seeing they belonged to the US! It’s annoying in one way how one-sided it all is, but at the same time, what do you expect in a communist state? They have never been taught anything different so they don’t know any different. And to a much lesser degree, do we really know Germany or Japan’s perspectives behind World War II? Not that I think I would agree with them or anything…

Yesterday, we went to the Independence Palace, which I don’t really understand the significance of seeing it’s not where the President lives anymore, but it was bombed during the war and then when the South won their freedom from the US or whatever, they crashed through the gates and that was a huge deal apparently. However, ‘palace’ is a bit of an odd term to use for it, especially after seeing various ‘working’ palaces throughout South-East Asia. Seeing that it had to be restored after being bombed in the 70s, it is 70s architecture at it’s prime, which I’m sure was very hip back then, but now it looks somewhat tired. Wouldn’t dare tell the Vietnamese that though!

We also went to see the Cu Chi Tunnels, which are about 70ks out of Ho Chi Minh (which translates to two hours because of the traffic!) They are incredibly proud of these and apparently they were instrumental to their ‘victory’ in the South during the war, but I find this odd seeing Mum hadn’t even heard of them until she left home! However, to their credit, at least they achieved their goal of being secretive… Basically the tunnels are a network of 200ks of underground passages that the Cu Chi ‘guerillas’ and community lived in for 15 years, from 1960 until the end of the war in 1975. I don’t mean to be insensitive, but I would have just let the American’s bomb me and die a martyr and come back as something good rather thank live like that for 15 years. Seriously they must have really wanted to live. Although now apparently all the residents of Cu Chi live the life, as they get houses and rice fields and a never-ending pension from the government because of what they did for their country during the war. Thankfully they are looked after seeing that out of the 16,000 people that lived in these tunnels only 4,000 survived.

There is one section of the tunnels that they have opened to tourists and widened so tourists can go in them, and no joke, everyone had to crawl. I wouldn’t call myself claustrophobic, but there’s no air down there, and when people stop and it’s dark and you can’t move, it’s not fun at all…and that was only three meters down travelling for 20 meters! There were three levels of the tunnels and the deepest was 10 meters! Apparently the location of the rest of the tunnels remains a secret because quote, unquote “one day we might have to go to war with Cambodia or China”. Oh dear! However, out at the tunnels was pretty interesting, they showed you all sorts of things about how they lived out there, namely all of the different kinds of traps they made to kill the Americans and all the bomb craters where the Americans tried to kill them but they didn’t succeed because the tunnels were so deep…seriously there was a lot about how many Americans they killed and how dumb the Americans were…although to be fair at one stage the tunnel people built one under the US Army base and would sneak up there and kill approximately five soldiers a night, and it took the Americans a year to work out where these people were coming from… We also watched a lovely propaganda video, where again, quote unquote, they Americans were described as “crazy, evil demons”…

Anyway, besides exhibits on how much the Vietnamese hate the Americans, there is other stuff to do in Ho Chi Minh. Mainly shopping to be fair, although again, nothing is anywhere near as cheap as Cambodia due to the prevalence of all the air-conditioned, high-end shopping centres here. However, there was a good market right next to our hotel that was open day and night, which was rather convenient ☺ Also, the French influence is still very prevalent here, with some beautiful buildings such as the Notre Dame Church and the City Hall. I guess seeing this whole Vietnam/Cambodia/Laos region used to be known as French Indochina that’s pretty understandable, it’s just that you don’t notice the architecture as much in Cambodia and Laos, as they do not have the money to restore their buildings to their former glory.

Anyway, it has been quite a relaxing time here, and I must admit it has been lovely to sleep in a room with curtains that block out the light, and in a bed when I can sleep with a doona and I don’t get hot because there’s air con! Right now we’re at the oh-so-flash Ho Chi Minh domestic airport heading to Nha Trang by the beach so now I hope to get a real tan, not just a riding-your-bike-to-school tan!

Posted by ljmac2 06:03 Archived in Vietnam Tagged shopping cambodia siem_reap vietnam laos vietnam_war ho_chi_minh_city nha_trang cu_chi_caves independence_palace war_remnants_museum french_architecture french_indochina Comments (0)

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