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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...

December 31, 2003  

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. . . w i l l . . w o r k . . f o r . . h a n d p h o n e . . .

Roll back to the year 2000. I got my first cellphone (oops, I mean handphone). It was rare among my friends to have one, and so therefore, I felt just a little bit cooler than them. Yeah I know, now they’re a dime a dozen, but back then it was more of a time for pagers and answering machines. Keep in mind this was in the States, and we’re at least a couple of years behind Asia as far as techno gadgets are concerned.

Fast forward to 2004.


Ok, now that I live in this “developing” country, I witness poverty beyond anything I could have imagined, and wealth that parallels America’s finest.

I would have thought that handphones would have been quite rare and only used among the elite or the business crowd. Nice assumption jackass.

Handphones are a lifestyle here. Not unlike the car you drive in America, your handphone represents your place in society here. That’s why I bought Nokia’s bottom of the line, “look at me I’m a cheap bastard” lowest color handphone – because I know around every corner I turn I’ll see a six year old Indonesian sporting the newest video / mp3 / video game system – in a handphone. Everyone has a phone. Security guards, shop workers, cashiers, children, even pembantu (maids)!?!

Now tell me how much sense that makes? Why does a maid who is making $70 a month, with a baby and a husband, feel the need to buy a $200 handphone? Stature? Image? I’m honestly not trying to rip on them, but c’mon, where do your priorities lie?

I notice this is a continuing theme throughout this country. The average worker makes around $100 a month and yet when they get that paycheck, they spend it on needless items. They’ll go to the arcade, buy countless cigarettes, purchase vouchers for their three-months-salary-to-buy-handphone, and then complain that they can’t make ends meet.

Yes, I realize that I sound like a heartless prick, but I actually mean well. I would love to see this country get ahead somehow – yet in reality it will be nearly impossible until the average Indonesian changes their thinking.

I can understand that they may feel that there is no hope for change with the corruption that runs rampant throughout every facet of their life here. There seems to be an air of acceptance for their fate, and that they were born into their niche in society. I’m probably way too optimistic – it’s easy to be when the average expat makes about 40 times the salary of an Indonesian.

Maybe the handphone represents one slice of hope that they may cherish and be proud of. Maybe with that single handphone, they feel as if they have something in common with the wealthier class, and for a moment don’t have to feel as if they are barely getting by.

Case in point…

I know a girl who sings in a local band traveling the circuit of shady clubs throughout Jakarta. She makes more money than most workers – around $250 / month – which affords her a slightly better life. She never knows where she’ll work the next month, or if she’ll have any work. After ingesting copious amounts of cigarette smoke, working until 4am, and pretending to enjoy the 50 year old German guy trying to molest her on stage, she saved enough money to finally feel a bit ahead of the game. I hoped that she would use that money to launch herself into a better situation.

The next time I saw her, a sound system erupted in her pants! Beyonce’s voice was booming from her thighs. Confused as I was, it didn’t take long to understand. With pride she whipped out the latest $500 Nokia handphone from her pockets. Yeah, it’s an awesome phone, with a digital camera, mp3 player, and even a few porn movies built into it. She was so ecstatic about her phone that I didn’t want to bring her down.

I’m sure while she’s on stage, being groped and chocking on the stench of Jakarta’s finest, she’ll be at ease knowing that with her hard earned cash, she finally earned a place among the Indonesian elite.

That is, until the next year’s model comes out.

posted by Brandon | 2:55 AM

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. . . i . . s e e . . d e a d . . p e o p l e . . .

Well that new maid that I mentioned last week… yeah, she’s already gone. Four whole days she worked for me.

Apparently she quit cause she was afraid of something. This culture is very superstitious, and often they speak of magic, ghosts, and psychic abilities. Well, I’ve had about 4 maids and a roommate say they feel ‘something’ upstairs. The other maids did not leave because of this, but they were constantly afraid of being alone in the house.

This last girl takes the cake. After a total of 3 nights spent in the house, she came to me and said she wanted to leave. She felt a ‘presence’ apparently. So she left the next morning to my surprise.

My house was just built last year. I don’t really believe in ‘ghosts’ but even if I did why would there be reason to have one shackin up in my bedroom if the house is new?

So, I called up my old maid, Ningsih, and she’ll be returning in two days.

Most expats here have the same maid the entire time they live here, sometimes people have the same maid for decades. I’ve been here 18 months and have gone through 6 of them!

I can’t figure it out. What’s up with that?

Is it the ghosts? The house? The handcuffs?

posted by Brandon | 2:44 AM

December 28, 2003  

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. . . a s i a n s . . w i t h . . d i r t y . . f e e t . . .

I just checked my website "stats" which lists how many people have visited, what country they're from, and other various facts related to this blog.

I was browsing through the section which shows the words that people typed into search engines to come across my site... at times it's quite amusing. I came someone using these search words -

"asians with dirty feet"

What the hell is that? I mean c'mon guy! Get with the program! What kind of sick fetish is that? On Christmas day? Can't you go eat some turkey or play with your kids?

It's an odd world after all.

posted by Brandon | 1:43 AM

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. . . e x p a t s . . o n . . t h e . . r u n . . .

It’s funny how so many expats bolt from Java as soon as they have a chance.

As soon as we have vacation time, where do they run off to? The tropical beaches of Bali only an hour’s journey? Beautiful islands of Thailand nearby? Shopping in Singapore?

Not a chance.

Most of them return to the very place they were so eager to leave. It’s understandable that they would wish to see family and friends, but think about it - they spent their life in the same country with the same surroundings, dreaming of tropical beaches and the “exotic” life. Now that they have the chance to actually realize those dreams and easily explore these breathtaking islands – they return to the safe harbor of their home.

Fortunately my job affords about 3 months of vacation time a year. That’s a wonderful chunk of time to really sink into a place and get a taste of the lifestyle beyond the average tourist. In my opinion if we’re already here in Southeast Asia, why not make the best of it by experiencing things that we may never see again?

posted by Brandon | 1:35 AM

December 18, 2003  

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. . . t r a d i n g . . s p a c e s . . .

The power of color.

It's unbelieveable how much colors can affect our moods. I decided to paint my house.

It seems that most people feel that "white" is the best color for interior walls. It's like they feel that it's "better for resale", or "nice and clean", or "makes the room feel larger". I'll tell you what - coming from the all white school of thought, I now know that changing the colors of my walls has a dramatic effect upon the ambiance of the house.

I decided that to best reflect the feeling of Indonesia, I would choose warmer tones. I've used a pallette of deep oranges, buttery yellows, terra cotta reds, and a sand color for the majority of my walls. Now when you walk in, it feels as if you've stepped into the American Southwest, Mexico, Spain, or Indonesia. I love it! I never thought that painting my house would get me so pumped! Now with some deep natural wood furniture, wrought iron, ceramics, sculptures, and some paintings - I actually feel like this place is livable.

Ok, anyway. I went a whole month without a maid. That sucked.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking - that I sound like a punk - however the majority of people here have live-in maids. I really enjoyed having the privacy afforded by kicking out a shitty maid, but all in all, I didn't enjoy the dishes, laundry, and cleaning that goes along with privacy.

I have a new one. She's 20 years old, straight from the village, and probably has never seen a white dude anywhere but on T.V. She doesn't speak a word of English, so I'll have to get by with my crappy Bahasa Indonesia!

On another note - I finally purchased a domain name and web hosting. If you have no idea what I'm talking about - it means that the http://www. will now change to my own name that I have chosen. Once I finish the site, I hope to load it, and this blog will become part of that site. Hopefully I will be able to integrate a lot more into my site.

I'll keep you posted.

Did you hear about that orgy in China with 500 Japanese men and 400 Chinese prostitutes? That's a lot of lovin!

Can you imagine the smell of 900 people gettin it on?

posted by Brandon | 8:37 PM

December 16, 2003  

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. . . c o l l e c t . . e m . . a l l . . .

You gotta be f@#&^ kiddin me. What the hell is this?

"It didn't take long, and just in time for the holidays, the "Captured Saddam," action figure, presumably fresh out of an imaginary spider-hole, has been rushed to store shelves.
"We got him," advertises Herobuilders.com. "We are thrilled at the fact that we can respond to new world circumstances within 24 hours.

"We still mold and hand paint each and every action figure right here in the Good Old USA," adds the company which specializes in political playthings, and also is proud to feature Uday Hussein and macabre DOA (dead on arrival) Uday dolls.

Also in the company's line-up are an artificially muscled George W. Bush, talking and non-talking versions; an Osama Bin Laden and an earlier "Butcher of Baghdad" model of Saddam, clad in an S and M outfit, sold separately, black beret and sunglasses."

Can you honestly tell me that after a hard days work, you can go home to your wife and feel like a man after producing these?

posted by Brandon | 5:54 PM

December 15, 2003  

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. . . n e p o t i s m . . .

You have to see this… it’s a gallery of my younger brother’s photography. I promise you that he’ll be famous in a few years! Just take a look and your skepticism will be laid to rest.

He’s only 22 years old, yet has a magical eye for photography. He has lived in Japan, and traveled across Namibia, South Africa, China, to name a few. He has the ability to capture the soul of a place – not just the image.

posted by Brandon | 5:15 PM

December 11, 2003  

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. . . r e s e m b l a n c e ? . . .

So what do you think? Does my little sister look like me?

It's crazy how quickly time can pass. I left America in July of 2002 and haven't returned yet. I called my dad last night for the first time in a year and a half (it was his birthday). Even though my family is pretty close, we're physically all very distant. There's something much more personal about a phone call than instant messaging or emailing.

It's funny how technology can move us closer, and yet distance us in so many ways.

posted by Brandon | 10:05 PM

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. . . n a k a l . . .

Why is it that anytime we learn a foreign language, the “dirty” words are the first to be learned and never forgotten? Is it because we are all perverts? Cause we are fascinated by the sound of swearing in a foreign language? I think that guy had it right in the movie “Matrix Reloaded” in the scene where he swore all in French – sometimes it just sounds better.

I know that I simply enjoy being able to shock the Indonesians when I can tell them they’re an ass for cutting me off while I’m driving.

Take the word “breast” for example. It’s a simple word, but not that poetic in English.

Now listen to the word, “buah dada” – in Bahasa Indonesia it means, “fruit of the chest” – much more descriptive, fitting, and honestly more pleasing, invoking images of . . . apples? cantelope? watermelons? – nevermind. That’s another discussion for another time!

At any rate, I still find it funny that I can say the word for “clitoris” (itil) but I have no idea how to say something like, “you have a great personality”.

I guess I'm the ass!

posted by Brandon | 7:04 AM

December 08, 2003  

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. . . g e t t i n . . h o t . . i n . . h e r e . . .

Most Indonesians live and die within sight of a volcano.

The islands of Indonesia are a volatile part of the “ring of fire” that spans across the Pacific from Japan, California, Hawaii, and Southeast Asia. Indonesia is the sight of two of the world’s greatest volcanic eruptions, Krakatoa, and Tambora – which still have major eruptions 10 times a year. The volcanoes provide Java with some of the most fertile soil in the world! Why do you think the coffee is “java”, or it is part of the “spice islands”?

On a clear day, I can look around and see a ring of volcanoes in the distance – only 20 miles from my home. That’s a bit disconcerting if you stop to think about it!

Actually, I live only about 80 miles from Krakatoa – the site of the largest eruption in recorded history. It erupted in 1883, killing more than 36,000 people – it was heard 5000km away in India, Australia, and Southeast Asia. The rumbles were felt in France and England. The ash from the volcano caused such unusual blues, greens, and colors of red in the atmosphere that even in the States, firemen were called thinking that a fire was burning. The world experienced unusual sunsets for 3 more years after the eruption.

Actually there’s a bestselling book out right now about this volcano – I’ve only glanced at it, but it seems interesting.

In September, a group of 10 of my friends and I took a four hour boat ride to Krakatoa. We spent the first day snorkeling and camping. The next morning we climbed one of the volcanoes that is part of Krakatoa – an absolutely awesome experience! To be able to hike on the site of such a powerful force was breathtaking. The hike was difficult through the ash, but well worth the effort. The volcano is still smoldering, and is still considered very active; in recent years visitors hiking have been killed by eruptions.

I’ve visited other volcanoes in the area – the photo above this post was taken in Bandung – about 3 hours east of me. It was still very much alive and active. Unfortunately, no photo can capture the feeling of peering down into an active volcano.

For all my bitching about Indonesia – I still appreciate its raw, visceral, and often stunning beauty.

posted by Brandon | 6:56 PM

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. . . s e e i n g . . i s . . b e l i e v i n g . . .

I have started the process of embedding some photos within my posts. As of now, every photo you see was taken by me. I have a strong love of photography and hope to share some of my experiences with more than words. All of the photos were taken in either Cape Town, South Africa or from the islands of Java, Bali, or surrounding islands in Indonesia.

I still wish to maintain simplicity, but with a bit more interest those with ADHD.

posted by Brandon | 12:54 AM

December 04, 2003  

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. . . d a . . v i n c i . . .

I read a fascinating book titled, The Da Vinci Code. It's been a long time since a book has actually made me interested enough to research its material on the 'net.

Take a chance and check this book out - every person that has borrowed it from me has been gripped by the stories mix of fact and fiction. Let me know what you think if you've already finished it.

posted by Brandon | 7:11 PM

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. . . p l a s t i c . . c h r i s t m a s . . t r e e . . .

Apparently that's what I'll have this year.

Believe it or not, it's a bit tough finding natural 8 foot pine trees in Jakarta. Well, and the fact that the country is 90% Muslim.

This will be the first time in my life when I'll have to relinquish the smell of pine needles, the impossible task of balancing the tree, and the never-ending fight to give more water to the tree than blood from my arm getting scratched on branches.

Somehow, I will make the best of it, realizing that the Christmas tree is not what the holiday is about. I had planned on going back to South Africa or America, but that's just not going to happen yet. I suppose I'll venture around the island of Java, maybe hitting Bali, Bandung, or Yogyakarta (I still can't spell that word right).

Actually for being such a Muslim country, Indonesia sure puts effort into decking out their malls. Maybe it's cause the mall is such a vital part of their social existence. Of course this only applies in the large cities - but it's true!

This will be the first year that I can't spend Christmas with my family. It's a bummer.

. . . . . .

We're heading into the rainy season here. Pretty much it's sunny for most of the day with a slight chance of torrential rains in the afternoon. It kinda sucks that my windshield wipers just won't turn on - it makes driving home a bit like playing "Frogger".

I don't mind the rain. Actually it's much better than the monotony of perpetual sunshine. Things cool off, breaths are easier to take, and the flowers seem to take off as if on steroids. It can only hope that the roads don't flood like two years ago!

. . . . . .

If anyone reading this is interested in visiting Bali, Java, or Indonesia, let me know and I'll hook you up with some good deals and some great places to stay. I've found some amazing things to do and some "exotic" places to see. Send me an email! I love hearing from anyone. javajive55@hotmail.com

posted by Brandon | 12:37 AM

December 02, 2003  

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. . . c h a n g e s . . .

Where have I been? Why haven't I written?

You sound like a worried mother.

You wouldn't even believe me if I told you everything that has happened in the past three months - so I won't even begin to tell the tale. But basically the past three months have brought about more changes than any three month period of my life - mostly for the best.

posted by Brandon | 1:22 AM
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