Something has happened this week in Jakarta and its called Christmas. Call me miserable, churlish, call me old fashioned, call me Scrooge even, but ‘Christmas’ in a hot sweaty climate, simply does not work. In fact, it absolutely sucks. It especially doesn’t work when you know it’s just a ruse for us expats to spend more money. Where’s the fun when it’s not being celebrated as a festival, religious, or otherwise, by the rest of the 239,870,940 Indonesian population?
I know that some of you reading this will think I’m being damn right curmudgeonly, especially my Antipodean friends, but I’ve spent my entire life having very lovely cold, freezing, or even just ‘coldish’ Christmases to date and I’m having a bit of a struggle coming to terms with what Christmas is all about here. Please bear with me.
Cold, icy, freezing Decembers are what I’ve grown up with. They are what I am used to. Hissing log fires,( or at the very least a fake fire), the shortening days getting dark at 3.30pm, drawing the curtains, lighting candles, satsumas, tangerines, bringing in mistletoe and holly, and generally ‘battening down the hatches’ for a long winter are/were my norm. Until now.
So folks, I really bear exception to hearing, as of yesterday, ‘ I’m dreaming of a white Christmas’ belting out from every supermarket and shopping mall tannoy whilst my hair sticks to the back of my neck, and I’m perspiring from every pore in my body. To put it bluntly, there is no way on this bloody earth that it’s going to snow here unless there is some ‘Armageddon’ type freak accident of nature. To top it all, the lovely sales assistants, and supermarket check out girls, are all sporting the most ridiculous ‘reindeer’ headgear and Santa hats.
They look so utterly stupid, and unbelievably awful on anyone, let alone a nation of beautiful raven haired people who really, do not need any titivating in the least, let alone to have to don the head attire of something that in Shakespeare’s time, would have suggested that they were all a load of cuckolds.(Pedro says that cuckolds is only men, but for artisitic licence ,please can we include women?)
The last straw was late afternoon yesterday, when, having spent over half an hour trying to find my way out of an horrendous ‘canned carol, cheesy Christmas music playing’ labyrinthine shopping mall, (having been sat for the previous 4.5 hrs in a hairdressers getting my ‘roots’ fixed)(highlights take a V long time here), was then having to listen to Dean Martin’s ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…’(which incidentally I love) BUT, the line – ‘the weather outside is frightful’ sent me straight over the edge and into, almost apoplectic rage. I absolutely promise you, it was not. The weather outside was 35 degrees, and very sunny, and exceptionally humid. With the greatest will and imagination in the world, I just could not even start to pretend otherwise.
So this morning, just for my sanity, I decided that I would get as far away from shopping malls and the fakery and trickery of a ‘tropical Christmas’ as possible, and go take a trip up to the old harbour at the far north side of Jakarta which is about 45 minutes from where we live in Pancoran.
Sunda Kelapa, was everything that I hoped it would be, and more. It wasn’t calm or tranquil; it was a veritable hive of buzzing maritime activity. The harbour named after the Sudanese ‘Coconut of Sunda’ was filled with the old wooden Pinisi two masted tradional wooden fishing boats, it was just what I needed to get away from the manic, crazy buzz of Central Jakarta and it’s frenetic materialistic shopping malls.
Farjar drove me up there and together we walked in the midday sun down the length and breadth of the port taking in the sights and sounds of the harbour.
I was the only westerner there, and pretty much the only woman aside from the occasional lady, cooking and selling, quick meals from their food carts. It did not seem to matter in the least as everyone welcomed me and shouted ‘Hello!’ ‘Hi!’ ‘Hello Lady’ ‘What is your name?’ and I shouted back, ‘Lottie’ and we laughed and exchanged greetings.
I had brought with me some cold drinks, water, chocolate, and cigarettes, and I shared them around as I took photos of the boats and the men working.
After Farjar and I finished our walk at the harbour, I did unfortunately have to face going back to a shopping mall. This time however, it was for ‘Father Christmas’ presents for our children. I lightened up a bit and forced myself to get into the groove as the incongrous carols and Christmas songs filled my ears and I busily filled my basket with the kids stocking presents. Whilst the sweat trickled down my back, I even found myself dreaming of a ‘White Christmas’ next week and I felt so utterly happy at the thought of seeing our children again, and sharing time with them, that everything seemed as perfect as ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire’.