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J a v a J i v e :: Paradise is not all that it seems
a boy leaves everything he knows for the tropical island of java, Indonesia - soon to find that paradise is not all that it seems...

November 17, 2002  

. .
. . . m a k i n g . . a n . . a s s . . o f . . . m y s e l f . . .

Well I may as well break up the seriousness of some of my writing by explaining how much of a jackass I can be! This is something that happened when I first arrived in Indonesia in August... but failed to tell many people!

I had only been in Indonesia for a few days, and decided to finally venture out into the city...

After an exhausting night in this crazy city, I took a shady looking taxi home. The driver didn't speak English, and I sure as hell didn't speak bahasa Indonesia yet (but I'm on my way now!)... so after a ride home conversing with hand gestures, we approached my house. I paid the man, got out, and walked to my gated home. I had forgotten my keys, and couldn't open the gate, so in my incredible wisdom, I hopped the fence. No problem. I walked to the front door, turned the handle, but the door was locked. I shook the handle a bit harder just to check I guess... when all of a sudden a young woman threw open the door and scared the shit outta me! Maybe it was the force from which she opened it, or it could have been the fact that SHE WASN'T MY MAID! Well before I knew what was happening a big man stepped out from his bedroom balcony above me with a pipe in his hand... he was yelling at me, thrusting the pipe in anger... and I couldn't understand a word he was saying! To make things look even worse without thinking, I tried to hop the fence again, but got caught on the steel prongs...

Not only could I not get out, I had to wait for them to get the keys to let me out... Ok, yes, many homes look alike here... but I swear it was identical to my house... To make things worse, I found out these people only lived 2 houses down from me! Yeah, pretty cool way to be welcomed to the neighborhood. Even worse, I found out that every maid on the street gossips and soon everyone knew what I had done. Oh well, it's cause I'm "bule"...

posted by Brandon | 4:24 AM

November 15, 2002  

. .
. . . p a r a d i s e . . l o s t ? . . h e l l . . n o ! . . .

That was the “phrase of the day” after the Bali bombing last month. Well guess what? I’m goin in 3 weeks! Screw the terrorists. I think it’s absurd for all nations to declare Bali unsafe and to strongly encourage people from avoiding it. Bali is probably safer now than it was before the incident. Plus, if you don’t already know, Bali has been voted the most beautiful island in the world numerous times.

So F#(@$ the terrorists… if we don’t continue to visit the island, then they got what they wanted. I want to contribute back to the people who are having their lives destroyed by tourism. This creates such intense desperation for the gentle Hindu Balinese – many earn their entire living from tourism. Plus, I feel safer in Bali than I do in Jakarta! In fact, I’m planning on staying for 10 days in March. So to those of you who may be canceling your trips because of the incident, please reconsider… and realize that there is no guarantee you are safe anywhere in this world.

After the Bali bombing, the American Embassy sent much of its staff and families home to America for safety. Ironic that most of these families were from Washington and Virginia, where there was a SNIPER on the loose! Life is funny, and so are politics.

posted by Brandon | 1:06 AM

. .
. . . t e r r o r i s t s . . i n . . t h e . . p l a y g r o u n d . . .

Just in case you’ve noticed, I was lacking in writing this week. I hope to write almost every day from now on; this week was absolutely crazy though. Hang in there, I promise this site will be regularly updated!

Yeah uh here’s an interesting story:

November 15, 2002

The Embassy has received credible information about possible targeting
of schools in Jakarta associated with Western interests. This
information is being provided to the Indonesian security authorities and
international school officials so that they may take appropriate action.
American citizens should consider avoiding school attendance at this time.

The Embassy will continue to monitor the situation and will inform
Americans of any further developments.

My school was one of the only ones not to close today – not cause we’re brave, death-defying souls. It’s cause the American Embassy, in all it’s great power and wisdom, told every international school in the city of the danger except mine. Hmmm. “Oh sorry, we forgot to mention you may have a terrorist attack today.”

Anyway… as I said, life is always interesting here. This school closure and terrorist threat made headlines around the world, and yet not one of us knew about it until 2 pm today after a full day of school.

posted by Brandon | 12:49 AM

November 06, 2002  

. . . c a p e .. t o w n . . .

I just got my tickets today!! I’m so excited cause I’ve been “waitlisted” for 2 months. My mother actually moved from America to Cape Town, South Africa (all the way at the bottom of Africa) in the summer of 2001. I was there for 5 weeks last Christmas and will be able to stay for 3 weeks this time, joined by my brother and sister as well.

Cape Town is probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Politics aside, it is absolutely fascinating knowing you are in a country so far from the rest of the world. It’s as though like paradise has swept the land, leaving bits and pieces of the world all in one spot.

The Cape Peninsula trickles down the southern coast of Africa in a path of ominous red mountains. The mountains have one of the most widely known features in the world – Table Mountain. It is named so due to the extreme flatness of its plateau. From there you can gaze miles of land warmed by the African sun.

The frigid Atlantic Ocean meets the warmth of the Indian Ocean at the Cape Point. The point feels like the end of the earth, and quite literally – is. The churning water creates a never-ending orchestra of waves drumming the cliffs. Here you can feel just how small and insignificant our lives can be in the whole scheme of things.

If I haven’t stirred your curiosity to visit the land… here is a link that should provide an ample taste of what I’m attempting to describe. - (ooh… well I’m gonna have to figure out how to link it to my personal pics…. Be patient!) I promise to put pics on within a day (or two!) For now, here's the tourism link...

posted by Brandon | 6:58 PM

November 04, 2002  

. . . p r o s t i t u t e s . . .

You know, I come from an area near Chicago and Detroit. Sure, cities of that size have prostitutes. Of course we do. The difference is many prostitutes I’ve seen in American cities look like hookers. The dress provocatively, showing as much skin as possible. They typically look as though they’ve been strung out for days, stayed up all night, and haven’t showered in anything but Kmart’s best perfume.

That’s in America.

In Jakarta, I’ve been told… there are MORE prostitutes per square km than of anyplace in the world! Wow. What an interesting little tidbit. More even than Bankok! Now, I personally haven’t done any research into this but I do know that every time I venture out to the bars and clubs, it’s like cats in heat. Sometimes I’ll stroll into a bar and find 10 girls to every guy. Normally that could be interesting, but somehow knowing they may only see $$ makes me a bit cautious. Don’t get me wrong, I realize these girls are just people trying to make a living in a poverty stricken city. The sad thing is many of the girls actually go to university and simply know they can make much more money selling their bodies to dirty foreigners.

The prostitutes here don’t dress like prostitutes; that’s the disconcerting thing. I see girls dressed completely normal, not showing any cleavage, nothing skin tight, and just a little makeup. They look as though they were stepping out from the mall, or on their way to class. Some of these women can’t be more than 16 years old. Occasionally I gaze upon prostitutes who could have a very profitable modeling career if only their luck was different. Not joking, there are some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen in Indonesia. Maybe that’s just my opinion, but I am fiercely attracted sometimes – however, that lifestyle is not for me. Besides the obvious risk of STDs, I simply lose all attraction knowing that a girl has no interest in me besides my money. Good thing! Too bad the Western men here don’t care.

Part of me feels sorry for them, and part of me accepts this as a fact of life here. If there is demand, there will be a supply. Unfortunately, much of the demand comes in the form of older white men (bule). I find often that these guys are 40 – 60 years old, out of shape, and look as though they couldn’t get laid if their life depended on it. I wonder sometimes what the bedroom scene really must be for them. The girls must love it - they get lots of cash and they guys probably finish in 3 minutes flat. I feel bad for the wives these guys might have, the children they raised thinking their father is off doing important work and sacrificing everything for the family. Little do they know that pops is off gettin his rocks off with a local wanita (girl) young enough to be his granddaughter!

I’ve learned that it’s these guys who make a bad name for all Western men in Indonesia. Of course the locals are cautious of bule. We are taking them for granted, thinking that we’re somehow superior and that our money raises our stature in the local society. It’s widely assumed that if you’re white skinned, that you’re: rich, loud, fat, stupid, lazy, play golf all the time, eat pork, drive beamers, love prostitutes, and hang out at Hard Rock Café or Planet Hollywood.

I know, I know, I’m making broad generalizations… but it’s extremely prevalent that many Indonesians don’t like Westerners – and I can’t say that I blame them. Tensions are high especially now after the Bali incident and the situation with Iraq and America. The outlook on Westerners is not something grand at the moment.

I’m far from perfect, but I do represent a percentage of twenty-something American males. Some of the people I meet have never even met a white boy. If I’m their first acquaintance, I wish it to be a constructive one. All I can do is hope that the people I meet slightly alter their perceptions upon meeting me…

posted by Brandon | 9:56 PM

. . . t h a n k .. y o u .. f o r .. y o u r .. b r e a s t s . . .

Don't I feel stupid! The other night a friend of mine wanted me to go to dinner with her family. Despite her being just a friend, I still wanted to make a good impression on her family. Following a wonderful dinner, I was fully confident that I had earned their respect. As luck would have it I may be wrong. The car pulled up to my house to drop me off, I turned to her mom and said, "Terih makasi, da da" ... meaning, (well I thought) "thank you, goodbye" .... Apparently, I actually said, "thank you for your breasts!" !! Oops! Maybe I should study up on my language skills!

posted by Brandon | 2:10 AM

November 03, 2002  

. . . m a i d s . . .

Maids here are a part of life. The Indonesian word for maid is “pembantu”. When I say a part of life, I mean that most middle / upper class families literally have one or two maids that may or may not live with them. Generally, they are women, aged 18 - 24. Of course sometimes they’re men, sometimes they’re 16 and other times they’re over the age of 40. But my maid is typical of an Indonesian household. Her name is Leli (sounds like Lay Lee) She’s cute, friendly, and only 22 years old. Her warm smile is enough to brighten a bad day, no matter what’s going on at work. I can come home and be welcomed by her unconditionally. She’s not only the maid; she cooks, cleans, does the shopping, pays our bills, and does the gardening. Her aspects don’t stop there… she interprets for me, teaches me language skills, makes sure the house is secure, and generally makes the house a home. I have never had a maid before, so I’m feeling rather spoiled.

I hope I’m very careful never to take Leli for granted. I realize that once I leave here, I will most likely be doing these things again for myself, but for now it helps out immensely. The positive side is that it also helps her out. She has a nice house to stay in, plenty of food, a decent salary, and lives in a very relaxed environment. When I see the poverty that racks this city, I see how fortunate a life she actually lives. I only hope that someday she develops a plan to rise above being a pembantu. It is alright for now, but I hope she can find a better life. I believe it’s not easy to break out of a lifestyle here. If you are in one job and it’s not very prestigious, your chances of moving up are very limited. It’s not my place to interfere, and certainly not my choice to question the situation, but I do wish her the best once I leave.

posted by Brandon | 7:38 PM
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