Sunday, September 27, 2009

Idul Fitri in Jakarta

These last few days are lazy days. It's the end of Ramadhan, with the feast days of Idul Fitri and Labaran making for a whole week of slowed business and an air of vacation and many take off work for the whole week.

Most of this time I have been doing preparatory work for the new project in Bali, whence it looks like I will be moving in the first full week of October.

In the free time, and when Ilham was free from his own family obligations, we biked around Jakarta looking at some sights that I hadn't seen or hadn'te visited for a while.

On the Thursday (September 24th) Ilham suggested we go and see the old Dutch era cemetery, which is now a museum (or as he cleverly says, a 'musuleum'. Many havy old slabs, heavily engraved in Dutch proclaiming the qualities and origins of directors and captains of the Dutch East India Company. All of these mostly dead by the age of fifty, just as in Malacca. Other than these, the Victorian cast iron monuments to piety (as perceived by the pastor), the fine marble plaques of the Belle Epoque and simpler cement ones cast around with no sense of care.

We also stopped by the once-Dutch, now Catholic, cathedral. There is an active Christian community in Indonesia that dates back to the first Portuguese traders. A distinct minority, their descendants are quite evident at the church here.

The structure is still austere as the few baroque ornaments the Catholics have fixed to the walls barely impact the somber Dutch feel. What does stand out is the chocolate brown wooden ceiling, its planks arching overhead like an upturned boat. The one touch of lightness is outside as the two spires are a white painted open lattice of iron fretwork.

I jumped off the bike to go inside a park and snap a foto of what Ilham told me is the liberation struggle of/for Papua. A desolate park of cracked concrete and unhinged marble tiles, used now by some equally abandoned souls for god knows what purpose. Reminds me of many other liberation monuments set up by liberation governments who then moved on to the next theme of the political season.

On Saturday (September 26th) we went to old Batavia once more as I wanted to take some sunset shots of the harbor. Just a bit too late in getting there, but having a look around sunset isnt the right time to be here - dawn is.

However, sunset and the early evening is a great time to be in the main square of Batavia. It was full of students and street traders, just as I remembered from my visit last year. Ilham went one way, I went the other and managed to take a couple of OK fotos.

In the course of my wandering around six teenagers came up to me and asked if I would speak English with them. This doesn't happen frequently, but for sure most times when Im out many teenagers will shoot phrases at me to practice. Good sign, that. So these six girls pulled me into the light of a food stall, started to ask me questions and even began videoing the whole 'lesson'. I'm famous!

Sunday dawn (September 27th) found me back in the old port of Sunda Kelapa, shooting for the warm pastels of the fishing vessels moored against the harbor wharves. Timing is OK, but its way too early for most people so there's almost nothing going on. Just boats at rest, the occasional fisher with his craft in the breakwater beyond and one or two sailors caulking the hulls of their boats.

Sunday evening brought us to the obelisk in Merdeka Square, Jakarta's iconic tower with viewing platform that dominates the center of the city. The park was absolutely full of families spending the last day of the holidays in picnicking, kite flying and general relaxation. It was too late to join the queue to go up the tower - and anyway the queue was way too long.

As we walked around the park, the late afternoon turned quickly into sunset, twilight and night. Still the children played, the music played, the muezzin chanted in the distance.

For me too the long period of preparation is over. One more week to set some things moving, sort some other things out - and then I'm set for Bali.

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