A couple of days ago the ‘glum’s’ descended on me and I started to feel homesick. In fact very homesick indeed. In case any of you are about to hit the ‘sympathy vote’ button, please – DON’T! I’m absolutely fine now and back on track. It would be pretty unnatural for anyone moving to the other side of the world not to get homesick at times, especially so if the life you have left behind was a good one and you have children and friends that you love and miss madly.
Silly little things can trigger off homesick feelings like not being able to explain what you want/need in a shop or just simply wanting to talk to people for the joy and pleasure of normal social discourse. The frustrations of the language barrier and lacking the language skills required here is a bummer. It’s a daily game of charades trying to explain that we need another 20litre water bottle for the cooler for example, or that the washing machine is leaking for the ‘umpteenth time and a plumber is needed, or when eating out, ‘Is there dog in this curry?’ (speaking of which, I have only seen one dog (alive) in the 3 weeks that we’ve been here)
Another occupational hazard of living in a developing country is that the Internet and electrics can be a bit temperamental at times. Twice within the space of a week the Internet has gone off, and once for 24 hours. This also affects the cable TV but since I don’t watch television very often that’s not my main concern. What does concern me is when there is no way of contacting the outside world via email or skype and I can’t talk to our children or friends plus it also leaves, one, very antsy Facebook junkie on Pedro’s hands to deal with which he doesn’t need right now. One last small niggle before I get on with the blog story in hand…I don’t consider myself particularly feminist, and in fact sometimes I feel somewhat guilty for letting the sisterhood down, (brazillian waxing, a fondness for bleached hair and a penchant for MAC make-up certainly on the exterior, hardly single me out as one) but here now in Indonesia, my new-born inner feminist is rearing to be let rip.
I am talking here about the profound difference in people’s treatment of Pedro and myself and the differences in our status. Because Pedro is a senior ‘white’ male and a lecturer to boot (he’s called Prof), he is treated with the utmost reverence so there is much shaking of his hands, head nodding, saluting, and yes, even bowing! In shops the assistants swarm around him like bees to a honey-pot bending over backwards to assist and eager bank managers are all over him like a rash, (I wonder if they will still be doing that when we have an overdraught?) I, on the other hand, feel really lucky if I get so much as a cursory nod. I feel quite invisible stood by Pedro’s side except for my yellowhair, which does draw much attention, but not in the way that I would like to be noticed.
The only reason that I’m telling you about this short lived ‘emotional low’ blip is that I don’t believe that I would be doing my job properly as a ‘blogster’ if I only included the ‘All’ good parts and excluded the ‘Warty’ ones. In writing about my experiences of living here in Jakarta I hope to give you a picture of how it really is ‘for me’.
Pedro decided that an evening out would help to cure my homesick blues and, as it so happened, he was right on the money. Neither of us wanted to venture far, so rather than go to the Pedang Kitchen which, as you may already have gathered, we did possibly over do a bit in our first week, we thought instead, that we’d head off across the road to a restaurant that Pedro had been to previously with some work mates. I’m not going to bang on about roads and traffic again but if I can just ask you to visualize 2 hedgehogs crossing the race track during the Grand Prix at Silverstone plus make a quick risk assessment, hopefully you’ll get the picture. With our Prayers sent up to St Christopher and then, mercifully answered, we landed unscathed on the Eaterie side of the road and headed up towards it. The walk there was very picturesque as it entailed circumventing a large Pertamina Petrol Station with dozens of queuing cars and also teeming with buzzing mopeds waiting to fill up. They sounded just like a swarm of hornets as we made our way past them and on to the restaurant that was adjacent to the petrol station forecourt (Pedro really does know how to spoil me!) The restaurant was on the first floor of a very unprepossessing large concrete building, which was also home to the garage’s offices, a snack bar, and hairdressers.
Entering the restaurant we found a ‘romantic’ table in the front part that was open to the elements on one side. We chose this particular table as it gave us spectacular panoramic views of the petrol station; it’s oily forecourt, and our tower block apartment in the distance.
I am always extremely dubious of any restaurant that boasts ‘Foods from all over the World’. Personally, I think it’s preferable to hone your skills and concentrate on one type of ‘cuisine’, rather than ‘traverse the globe’ culinarily speaking and cook it all very badly. Sadly this was the latter, but as I’m trying to diminish in my proportions right now it was not such a bad thing that I couldn’t eat all of my ‘Bento Box Teriyaki Salmon Special Extravaganza’. Pedro played a bit safer and stayed with ‘Austria’ and a chicken schnitzel.
After my particularly inedible ‘from Japan’ meal, imagine my absolute delight when Jakarta’s answer to Barry Manilow rocked up. Setting up his microphone he then adjusted it to full volume and started singing ‘Copacabana’ at the top of his voice. At first I thought he was just synching to some CD, but no it was for real, and he truly had a fabulous voice. We (us two, and the three other lone diners) were treated to a veritable smorgasbord of Barry Manilow songs, swiftly followed by a fair few Billy Joel numbers, all of which had more than a trace of a German accent about them. (I fancy that at some stage, this talented crooner may have had a German lover or two).
His finest hour during the course of the evening was a rendition of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a wonderful world’, firstly sung in a Louis Armstrong voice and then, wait for it, Pluto, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. It was hysterically funny and we wept laughing – indeed it is a WONDERFUL world! And I felt much cheered.