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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...

May 31, 2003  

So, back to my point. As I wander through the aisles of Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, and "bule" food, I feel the naturally cooler air towards the meat section refreshing. However, upon cooling myself for a second, I glance down and notice sprawled out chicken, plucked and buck naked. If I look to the left, I see an assortment of frogs, squid, shrimp, lobster, snails, prawn, etc. If I look to the right, I'll find more "exotic" cuisine: fish head, chicken feet (yeah, just they're little clawed feet), a nice cow tongue complete with taste buds the size of a nipple, pig skin (for what?), an assortment of brain from chicken to cow, goat penis (ala John Bobbit), goat testicles speared on a stick and grilled as "sate" - just imagine how would that feel!, cow tail (for soup).

Ok, so I'm back home, watching Fear Factor. My roommate's girlfriend is sitting next to him, eating some Sumatran food... smells a bit spicy, but pretty much I don't take notice. On Fear Factor, the team has to choose to eat a 100 year old egg, beef brain, intestines, among others. My roommates and I are completely on the verge of puking just from watching the girls dry heave from gorging on the green eggs. My roommate's girlfriend starts almost gagging from the sights, and in a sympathetic way, I tell her to try not to watch the show, but to instead concentrate on her food. That is, until, I look down at what she's eating - a slippery, slimy, and yellow swirled piece of some kind of flesh. My stomach turns. "What the hell are you eating?" I ask. "Cow brains", she replies nonchalantly. Holy Shit! If you click on "cow brains", you'll see what I mean. How can she be grossed out by Fear Factor while munching on some neurons and cortex?

The brain is about the size of an apple, completely covered in this placenta looking goo, and steaming still as if straight outta the skull...

posted by Brandon | 10:50 PM

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. . . t o n g u e . m y . b r a i n . . .

Let's talk about food. Everyone has to eat. But our cuisine choices seem to differ around the planet. I've traveled a bit, I've seen some strange food, but let me tell you... Indonesia has some of the strangest choices I've ever seen, smelled, and had the audacity to sample. When I am feeling ambitious, I let my maid chill and I go shopping for groceries... it's quite the experience. First of all, when you walk into the grocery store, you notice unlike American stores, you can see clear to the other side of the store. Hmm.. why is that? It took me a while to realize that it may be due to the average height of an Indo. All in all, Indonesians are a bit shorter, so obviously the food aisles don't need to be stacked 3 meters high.

The next thing you realize is there's none of the shady marketing that you find in U.S. stores. In America, the food marketing wonderboys set up the store so that you'll follow a natural progression. They place certain food in certain areas, especially placing the more profitable food at eye level. Did you ever notice the cereal aisle in the States? Cereals like "Blueberry Morning, Special K", etc are located right at eye level, so that the consumer will pay $5 a box. (as much as beef per pound if you do the math) Then they place the sugary please-make-my-kid-as-hyper-as-possible cereal a bit lower so Junior will beg and scream till Mom throws it in the cart. See, there's a devious strategy to all of the American grocery stores.

posted by Brandon | 10:50 PM

It is simply a reminder to Hollywood to step back and learn from some of the Asian directors. Many followers of The Matrix fell in love with the fight scene choreography, and should realize that the fight scene choreographer Yuen Wo-Ping produced them. If you’re not familiar with him, here's an interesting article about his work. In fact, much of the camera work and perspectives from Matrix were inspired by Asian films. It’s fascinating to witness some of the same techniques threading through popular modern films.

So what did you think of Matrix Reloaded? I won’t get into that right now… everyone has their own theories and opinions. Needless to say it wasn’t as brilliant as the first, but hey, when are sequels often better?

posted by Brandon | 1:32 AM

I’ve been finding some pretty awesome films that were never popular in the States. If you’re a fan of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon… (as I am). You should check out “Hero” with Jet Li and the same girl that was from CTHD. The film was produced for Chinese, by Chinese, so you better be ready to read subs. The atmosphere, colors, and graceful choreography are astounding. With each path in the storyline, there are subtle changes in coloring that take place. The pace moves a bit quicker than CTHD, but is not a straight up fighting movie. What drew me in were the beautiful perspectives, the intense emotions and tragedy, and the way a brutal fight scene can somehow become an elegant piece of filmmaking.

posted by Brandon | 1:32 AM

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. . . a s i a n s e n s a t i o n . . .

Ok, enough of rippin on Asia. Now for my real thoughts…

Here in Indo, I can buy almost any DVD, CD, computer program, Xbox game, etc for around $1.50. Yes, I said a buck and a half! How cool is that?

Hooray for 3rd world pirating!

Needless to say, my movie/game/music collection is getting ridiculous! I’ve bought at least 60 movies, 25 Xbox games, and 50 computer programs. Probably legitimately around $30,000 U.S. for around the price of one share in Ebay stock.

posted by Brandon | 1:23 AM

As for my assumptions… let’s go over them using Indonesia as an example.

1. Asians all look the same? Indonesians look nothing like Japanese. Maybe their hair is the nearest similarity. If anything, Javanese look Hawaiian to me. Now it’s like saying that all Americans look similar to French.
2. That was just a dumb assumption on my part - no answer needed.
3. Indonesians offer peace and patience? Hell no. There is so much political unrest here it’s ridiculous for me to even live here (ever heard of Timor or Aceh?). Patience? Well, maybe they do have that; it’s me who doesn’t it anymore!
4. Asians are never rude? Yeah sure. In Sumatra it’s even expected that after a good dinner, the guests will burp. Nice huh? So they’ll just be talking and mid-sentence, you’ll find a surprise… “Honey, how was your bllalahh day?”, “Oh, traffic bllaeehe was decent today, bleahhaa it only took blaah 2 hours to get to work!”.
5. Most Asians know martial arts? Hmmm… I don’t think so. I’ve yet to see an Indonesian even get into a minor scrap. I’ve been close to a few bar fights, but that was with some loud, obnoxious Australians (as the expats often are here!). Even the security guards here look as though a stiff breeze would knock them over… maybe it was the washer fluid (read my post from 2 days ago.)

So there it is. I’m being a typical American guy, running his mouth and making brash generalizations. Maybe I’m just aching for some feedback ( javajive55@hotmail.com ).

posted by Brandon | 1:18 AM

Now that I’m completely off point… let me wander back. From what I’ve seen, Asia is a land that all of the world should devote time towards learning about. From any standpoint: travel, education, investing, militarily, arts, and culturally, Asia has a tremendous offering that many people will never learn about.

posted by Brandon | 1:17 AM

If Americans have a holiday, we tend to visit beautiful places within our country, or those nearby. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s simply a part of the reason we don’t learn enough about other countries. Since the Sept. 11, SARS, Bali Bombing, political unrest, and situation in Iraq, I can’t say that I think people should blame Americans for staying home. I guess most people wouldn’t think a nice trip to Beijing sounds wonderful at the moment, but I think we have to step back and think, “When will it be any safer to travel?” I wrote my opinion about this in the “archives” section, back in November. The world is changing more and more every minute. Shit happens, and it always will.

posted by Brandon | 1:11 AM

. .
. . . t y p i c a l a m e r i c a n . . .

I'm absolutely fascinated by Asian culture. I can’t explain why, or how this happened. What I do know is that since I can remember, I’ve had a yearning to experience Asia in all it’s simplicity, wonderment, and artistic presence. Being American, I grew up with many assumptions… here are a few examples:

1. Asians all look the same.
2. China and Japan are pretty much the same place.
3. Every Asian person exemplifies peace, spirituality, and patience.
4. Asians are never rude.
5. Most Asians know martial arts.

Now I know that sounds extremely naïve to most educated people, and I did consider myself fairly cultured. I admit that I still have much to learn but I’m sure many Asians would read what I just wrote and laugh their ass off, knowing how untrue most of that is. What they need to understand is that Americans typically devote much more of their history lessons in school to learning about Europe. I remember devoting maybe a total of 3 days to learning about the geography and/or history of the continents of Africa, S. America, Asia, Australia, well… I guess pretty much the rest of the world. Even after my mom announced she was moving to Cape Town, S. Africa a couple of years ago, I had no knowledge that South Africa was anything but, well, the south part of Africa! Oops.

posted by Brandon | 1:10 AM

May 28, 2003  

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. . . o u t l a w s . . .

My roommates and I have decided that at times our morning routine feels like the movie "Groundhog's Day", where every day begins in exactly the same way. We wake up around 6:15, have our maid cook breakfast, get in our car, and drive to work. After leaving our driveway, every day feels the same for approximately 10 minutes. The same scenes - security guards defending our homes, young guys sitting on the curb burning time, and the same jackass drivers who pull out in front of anyone.

To break the monotony of this, we decided to engage ourselves in a bit of mischief... "Jackass" style. (I'm referring to the movie). You see, we drive to work in a Toyota Kijang - an SUV style vehicle - 70% of the vehicles in Jakarta are Kijangs... and most are blue or green. So you see, with millions of Toyotas driving around, no one could spot the difference between them. So when we decided to modify our windshield washer sprayer, we knew nobody could trace it back to the "white people". One morning we noticed the amazing capability of the nozzle - being able to not only clean our windshield, but practically able to water the neighbor's lawn, and came up with an ingenious discovery. Why don't we spray people with it! Now, I know what you're thinking, "that's very mature", but if you lived here and had to deal with some of the blatant stupidity that takes place, you may find yourself in a similar situation.

With the nozzle now facing directly perpendicular to our vehicle, we were able to spray at least 10 feet from the car - leaving us fairly inconspicuous. Our first test run proved successful. As we passed one of the "duduk and moroko" (sitting and smoking) men posing as our security guards we nonchalantly hit the wipers. "Hello mister!" - as they mockingly say every morning - turned into a look of absolute confusion. The next victim was a 20-something hoodlum lurching in the shadows of a bus. Upon being soaked, he actually looked up at the sky with a dazed and confused look, "How can it rain when it's sunny?". Quite funny.

I know this seems cruel but if you were witness to some of the people we deal with, you may understand our desire to break the routine. It is something that must be seen to appreciate, but nonetheless, we accomplished our goal of making every morning just a bit more interesting.

We now walk into work with broad smiles beaming from our vagrant faces.

posted by Brandon | 9:29 PM

For anyone who looked at the "map" link I posted earlier today, and wasn't sure where Indo still was.... here's a zoomed out version, including Southeast Asia and China, with Australia at the bottom...

You may notice that many of my posts may be small segments within the same day. This is due more to the fact that Indonesian Internet access SUCKS! If I post a long page of writing, the bandwidth cannot handle it, so it will not post. I seem to be alright most of the time if I break things down into smaller posts. I know it makes it harder to read, and my apologies go out to those patient enough to continue! Sometimes, the Internet allows people within Indonesia to check sites that are based in Indo, but if anyone tries to reach the rest of the world, the pipeline is simply broken - one of the irritations of living in a "developing" country...

posted by Brandon | 8:04 PM

To anyone who is new to reading this, I'm sure you're looking for a clear definition to what this site is all about. I suggest you scroll to the bottom and start with the first posts. I explained about myself and why I'm crazy enough to move my life to Java.

Also, many people (especially in the U.S.) have no clue where or what Java is. Here's a map.

Java is an island in the country of Indonesia. It is what used to be part of the "Dutch East Indies" or the "Spice Islands". Yes, it is also famous for coffee (although I spend too much time in Starbucks - American company). It's one of around 17,000 islands comprising Indonesia. I live in Jakarta - a crazy city of around 12 million people. Indo is also the 4th most populated country in the world - 230 million people. Big figures for a country most people never have heard of. Indonesia also has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world - bet you didn't know that!

The people are fairly similar in appearance. They typically have black, straight hair, are shorter than Westerners, and have darker skin. I suppose if you're having trouble picturing this; think Hawaiian or Brazilian - a very similar look.

More to come... promise....

posted by Brandon | 7:52 PM

I felt as though when I first arrived in Java, I was wide-eyed... everything was so amazing because of the complete opposites I was encountering in everyday life from that of America. You can see the posts from back in October, and the obvious excitement show through. I've been here about 10 months now - sufficient time to go through many phases. At times I love it here, other times I hate it. I guess it's as though I've become more calloused and have seen the "true" sides of the country and its people.

Something I've grown to learn is that people are people - the world over. We may speak other languages and have differing customs, but after all is said and done, many of the issues and relationships between people correlate with all others.

I hope to begin writing again - it provides an interesting way for my friends and family to keep updated, as well as providing some interesting feedback from those of you who write me with responses and criticisms. So please continue to visit...

Please write me at javajive55@hotmail.com … I love reading responses.

I a m b a c k . . .

posted by Brandon | 7:46 PM

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. . . r e l o a d e d . . .

Well, anyone who is reading this may notice that I haven't written in almost 5 months! It's not because I'm lazy, bored, or losing creativity. I simply needed to stand back and gain some perspectives in everything that is happening. It's been a pretty amazing year with arriving, having the Bali bombing, traveling, experiencing the Iraq situation from a Muslim country, and even everyday life. I believe some of my views have changed, and my perspectives seem a bit more "realistic". This was my goal in stepping back from writing - I wanted a definite rift in my situation so that I could see some definite changes occurring.

posted by Brandon | 7:41 PM
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