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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...

September 29, 2004  

Ahhh. That's better.

My blog headache has been taken care of. If you've noticed, things have been messed up since Monday - actually I was not able to see any of the new posts, but the rest of the world could. My I.S.P. had some kind of lock on that wouldn't allow pages to be updated. Something about sunspots. Hmm.

At any rate, I do apologize, but things are back in working order. I even have the possibility of moving everything over to WordPress as I had initially intended to do. It doesn't make much sense to keep using blogspot considering I pay for webspace and for thejavajive.com site. I really need to tie it all together well. JErm at JErm express (check out his site!) is working on helping me out - I'm grateful.

Good news! - I've installed a gallery! It's not perfected, and it only contains a few images, but I hope it's a step in the right directions. It's finally the answer I've been looking for in presenting my images the "right" way versus on a blog. I think I'll continue to put the smaller versions on my blog, but visitors will be able to check out the gallery for some better organization and improved visual candy.

Please tell me what you think!

posted by Brandon | 7:54 PM

September 28, 2004  

and on and on

The west coast of South Africa yet again. I have so many photos that I've never shared, begging to be brought to life.

posted by Brandon | 9:54 PM

big bang

The Atlantic coastline seen from Cape Town. Words will never capture the serenity of this moment.

posted by Brandon | 12:53 AM

September 26, 2004  

gila sekali

Ok, you know you're getting older when you see this photo and think, "Damn that's dangerous!" - as six 10 year olds cruise by at 50kph.

Then I realized that it wasn't long ago that I was doing the same stupid stuff! I must be growing up - as much as I rebel against it.

posted by Brandon | 5:56 PM

September 23, 2004  

The view from above.

How often do you ask for a window seat when flying? I suppose I’m like a little boy still filled at the wonder of flying, always requesting one when the chance arises. It boggles me how many people will close their shade as soon as the plane takes off, only to open it upon landing.

I’m definitely a geographical nerd in love with maps and seeing the world from any angle. When I was young, I spent hours looking at atlases memorizing the contours of coastline, names of exotic cities, and the shapes and proportions of places I had yet to see.

I was thinking of the phenomenal sights that I’ve witnessed while most other passengers were sleeping. Here are just a few of them:

* The entire length of Africa, from the brick red sands of the north, through the lush Congo, the scrub land, and finally the cape peninsula in which Cape Town is nestled – 9 hours over one continent.

* The early morning sun rising over Italy, shimmering over both the east and west coasts at the same time – displaying just how small the country actually is, or just how high we really were.

* Eastern Canada locked in a frigid mass of snow and ice, but gleaming in the radiance of the blue sky above.

* Ireland from 35,000 feet, rocky and barren, yet spectacularly green, and appearing as nothing more than two large islands in the churning Atlantic.

* Greenland, with its lack of any noticeable cities or communities, appeared as a flat plain of pure white snow with little in the way of civilization evident from the skies.

* The simplicity of the Dutch canal system and the resulting fields of crops, producing a truly peaceful scene.

* Central Paris, and the Arc de Triumph visible from the air.

* The majestic beauty of the Austrian Alps at 5am, covered in January snow, with valleys of isolated farms and villages straight out of a children’s story book.

* And most recently, the sunset catching the peak of Mt. Fuji; appearing as if someone had pasted a Japanese watercolor upon my window for only my eyes to see. This final site was truly awe inspiring, witnessing the scale and proximity of this legendary mountain so perfectly symmetrical with Tokyo not so far off in the distance.

posted by Brandon | 5:18 PM

September 22, 2004  


An old Javanese canoe harvests the light of another morning.


Occasionally I wish I was one. Living in Asia has afforded me the opportunity to realize how much of the world remains indigenous and from one single bloodline. I’m sure “pure” is relative, seeing as most cultures have been mixed to a certain extent by this point in history, but overall Asia is a continent of people with one single culture. America, by contrast, has such a mixture of cultures, races, and citizens, that not many people can still claim roots to one sole line. I would go as far to say that the vast majority of Americans do not even know the origin of their ancestors beyond family rumours.

Take my own family for example. I have been told that we have Native American Indian blood from both my mother and father’s side. As much as I’d like to take pride in that, my blond hair and blue eyes don’t exactly reflect that heritage with much solidity – the percentage cannot be very high, even if it were the “majority”. I’ve heard that some English and German are also mixed in there somewhere, although that hasn’t been sufficiently proven either.

In racing, when horses are of one bloodline, they can be worth millions of dollars, and yet when they’re mixed you find them in petting zoos. When dogs are purebred, they often become show dogs, priding their owners with their grace and beauty. The “mutts” are the backyard pups sniffing their own asses. What does that speak of me and mine? I hope that those of you with one solid heritage take pride in your blood and appreciate just how lucky you are to carry that line.

Gotta go, it’s feeding time in the stables.

posted by Brandon | 5:55 PM

September 21, 2004  

Since everyone seems to be talking about the election in Indonesia today – I’d like to reflect on the other aspects of an election day.

With everyone having the day off to vote, there were amazingly few people on the road. It’s phenomenal how this impacts so many other things. I spent the day buying plants and flowers and landscaping my tiny yard. The first thing I noticed this morning was how quiet the streets were. This in turn, lowered the pollution levels immensely, creating a brilliantly blue sky. I know it sounds odd to dwell on such a simple thing, but believe me, if you saw how white the sky is day to day from pollution, you’d realize just how great it is when it dissipates – if only for a moment. The city had a calmness to it that I wish was seen everyday.

The election also holds the wondering of who will win, and if it will spark demonstrations and protests as has been predicted (especially if Megawati takes the vote). So far Megawati only has 40% of the votes, but that could change on a dime.

On another note – I’ve heard through sources that there has been credible information leading to the possibility of additional bombings in malls and religious spots. This warning has been posted on the U.S. Embassy’s website for two years, but the recent information is something new. Great, considering I live only 5 minutes from two of Jakarta’s larger malls.

I have also heard that sources have gained information that the suicide bombers may be hiding out in North Jakarta. Guess what? That’s my ground. Many of Jakarta’s expats live in the Central or South parts of the city, whereas we are located in the Northeast corner – needless to say, this information wasn’t too comforting.

There aren’t many of my friends that actually have to plan their day around a bomb warning. Guess I can do without sushi and Starbucks for a while.

posted by Brandon | 6:27 PM

September 20, 2004  

I'd really like see people posting in the forum - It'd be great to know more about those of you who visit regularly, as well as some links to your own sites!

I know it hasn't been used much in the past, but I'd really like to see that change.

posted by Brandon | 8:58 PM

quality time

posted by Brandon | 7:56 PM

To the pain.

Remember that line from the beloved “Princess Bride”? Well I’m encompassed by it for the stupidest of reasons – male pride.

I love working out, and in Indonesia, I’m generally forced to bring those workouts indoors, to a health club named, “Casablanca”. I try to get in there 4 to 5 days a week, although it hasn’t been that frequent lately. Usually I’ll lift weights for an hour and a half, and then run or bike for 30 minutes.

I’ve noticed that most people that work out there tend to stay away from weights, so I have quite a bit of room to myself. Of the regulars who do work with weights, most are older men who are more into a routine of light weight lifting rather than trying to build muscle as I am. There are, however, a handful of young Chinese, Taiwanese, and Indonesian men who have similar goals in mind. Usually these guys are friendly and decent.

The exception to this is a couple of fairly muscular guys who tend to have the attitude of superiority about them. You know the look - the squat, robotic walk that says, “outta my way little man!”. They’re the guys flexing in front of the mirrors, finding a reason to change their shirt in the middle of the gym, and dropping the weights just for the thud value. I’m not trying to generalize, but they tend to be the Chinese guys in my club. I’ve noticed that the Chinese especially tend to look muscular with relative ease. Any white person to approach the weights is automatically under the watchful eyes of these guys.

I suppose it’s natural for men to compare themselves in any gym around the world, but here it’s more of a curiosity than a raw comparison. Either way, it still happens here. One other observation that I’ve made is that often these heavily muscular Chinese guys cannot lift nearly what their physiques would suggest. I haven’t figured this one out yet. There are a couple of guys who I would assume are able to bench press at least 300 pounds, and yet struggle with 170.

The other day I was working out with shoulders and back, when one of the young bodybuilders comes in and starts taking the weights that I had been using. I dismissed it as an oversight, and simply grabbed the next heavier pair. When I set these down and grabbed some water, I returned to find them in his hands. That’s twice. I admit, when I’m in the middle of a workout, I tend to be overloaded with testosterone a la Tim Allan, and resort to grunting not dissimilar to a caveman when pissed off. This guy was making a firm statement of dominance whereas I was just trying to get a workout in my busy day.

So does he bring the weights back to me? Nope, he actually walks them over to the rack, sets them down, and passes a glance my way. WTF man? He proceeds to the smith machine to work on his traps (the muscles between your shoulders and neck). Increasing the weight set after set, he checks to make sure I can see how much he can lift from the corner of his eye.

I decide that enough is enough and that if he’s going to be this way, I’ll stoop to his level and play the neanderthal game. He’s straining, sweating, grunting, and making noices similar to a constipated horse. He finishes his final set after having worked up to shrugging 220 pounds and grins at me. In broken English, I get “please you next, he he.”.

Fuck it; I let the alpha male side of me take over. I start out with 150 pounds. He’s eyeing me from the water cooler, smirking to his buddy over his past feat, and noticing that I’m using lighter weights. Next I add 40 pounds. By this time he’s moved on to hitting on some sweaty Korean woman, but maintains his glance to reassure himself. I decide to add on another 30 pounds the next set – to match his max of 220 pounds. By this time he has wandered over to the window, pretending to make a call on his handphone while nervously wondering if I’ll be able to match him. I decide to play with this guy, so I strain, grunt, and act as if I’m killing myself in the process. I finish my set and grab some water. His pride is not shattered – he matched my weight.

Then he does something that always sparks my irritation – he opens the windows next to me. Not the one next to him 15 feet away – but the one directly next to me. Why the hell do these guys feel the need to let mosquitoes, rampant heat, and choking pollution enter the tranquility of air conditioning? I feel my heart rate rise. My face gets red. And I forget one very important rule about weight lifting – NEVER LET YOUR PRIDE TAKE OVER.

I go back over to the weights, and put on about 315 pounds and continue with another set. This is beyond what I would generally use and my body knows it. I finish the set – this time the straining and sweating is real, but I managed to finish. The Chinese dude is shitting a brick by the look on his face, and he promptly goes for a swim with his tail tucked between his spandex.

Fast forward to the next day - I wake up with the most back breaking pain in my spine. It’s as if taking a deep breath will drop me to my knees. I try 3 panadol – nothing. I have the massage lady come over and rack me for 2 hours – nothing. I stretch, I crack, I bitch, I complain – all to no avail.

It’s been three days now, and I’ve missed two workouts, while I’m sure the Chinese guy has been enjoying the club pain free. I’m sitting here on my ass all weekend, reading “The Count of Monte Cristo” on my balcony, praying that the pain will dissipate. As I write this post through the blur of 3 painkillers, I’m wondering why it is that testosterone has this effect on half of the planet. I’ve been working out for over a decade and certainly know better – so why is it that I let myself get into a “mine is bigger than yours” situation?

Here is my theory. Take any two males. Put them in a room, and one will assume dominance over the other – in any way possible. Be it physically, mentally, financially, with wit, charm, or even politeness – it always happens. I suppose underneath the veil of civilization, and modern society, we’re not that far off from cavemen after all.

Ouch, my spleen!

posted by Brandon | 2:17 AM

September 17, 2004  


Stumbling out of the villa at seven in the morning, I wondered down to the cabana overlooking the beach. Sipping on Javanese coffee and gazing out upon the majestic Indian Ocean, an odd scene formed before my eyes. At first I wasn't sure what to make of it - three oddly clothed individuals carrying what appeared to be a mass of wood. As they came into focus I realized that not only were they carrying a significant amount of weight, but that the women were old enough to be my grandmother. As horrible as I felt at composing a photograph of them, I knew that I had to share this image with others.

My heart goes out to those in need - and those who are unable to rest with age. Poverty rapes this land and these people, forcing them into work that would be deemed unimaginable in other countries. How is it that we may help them? How will this woman ever find rest? How unfair is it that we are born into our situations without control over our levels in life?

I pondered these questions for a moment before realizing that even the camera that I was holding would take them years of punishing work to purchase. Imbalance was the only answer that I could provide myself with.

posted by Brandon | 11:01 PM

September 16, 2004  

coconuts forever

The most magical drive occurs between north and south Java, slicing through the rolling volcanoes. Passing coconut plantations, rubber trees, cocoa, and tea plantations as far as the eye can see, squeezes amazement out of me without fail. Wondering through the hills we encounter villages every few minutes which offer a glimpse of the life these unique people live. For them, even Jakartans are tourists, and the big city a whole world away. The spectacular drive affords time to begin pondering the reality of where I am - on top of a volcano as far from America as I could possibly be - and loving it.

These are the memories engrained upon my life which the march of time will never steal.

posted by Brandon | 11:33 PM

September 15, 2004  

the scream

posted by Brandon | 11:01 PM

September 14, 2004  

b l o s s o m

Beauty never lasts - infinitely more true with the delicacy of flowers. One exception to the rule may be Audrey Hepburn; I believe she defined grace and beauty until her dying moment.

A larger version is available here.

posted by Brandon | 8:26 PM

September 13, 2004  

lead me upstairs

little surfer girl

Another awesome 3 day weekend getaway to the south coast. I took many photos, soon to be displayed - so if my "theme" tends to be leaning towards beach life for a little while, bear with me. I have such a strong attraction to the ocean that I can't help but take too many shots.

The weekend took a sharp downturn for the worst last night on the drive home as we encountered 6 hours of stop and go traffic. The cars, motorcycles, and buses drive absolutely insane - it can't even be discribed in words. I had to make a "lock your brakes, oh shit we're gonna hit 'em" type stop and balded my tire to the point that the belt is showing through, causing my Blazer to rock uncontrollably for the last 30 miles.

To top that off, somehow I forgot my suitcase either at the villa, or some punk stole it while I was unloading in front of my house. Either way, things didn't go as planned for the last half of the day. I have my fingers crossed that they'll return to me.

The beach was alive this weekend with Indonesians and tourists frolicking in the waves, dancing on the beach, and sucking every drop out of life with pleasure and smiles. The celebrations went on throughout the night and right on into the sunrise, ceasing finally near noon the next day.

posted by Brandon | 11:15 PM

September 08, 2004  

I’ve decided to respond to this comment a bit more thoroughly than usual. It was posted by "Tiara" after the photos displayed on August 24.

“You are bitching too much about Indonesia. I have been living in the US for 7 years and I have been travel around the world butI still love Indonesia. The food, the people,etc. Indo people are the most friendly people in the world. I'm sure people treat you as a first class person, they treat you like a king. Indonesians adore western people. You should be grateful that you live in Indonesia and the people welcome you.”

First let me say that anyone who comments on here is absolutely entitled to their own opinion. I welcome different perspectives, as they often open my eyes to other realities. Let it also be known that I am one to respond to such comments rather then let them pass unnoticed.

Let’s break this one down.

“You are bitching too much about Indonesia”

Probably this is very true. I find, as others have also noted on their sites, that we tend to write not when everything is going well, but when something has happened, when we’re in a bad mood, or when life just sucks for the moment. It presents a way to vent, and maybe offers more of the reality beyond what people assume a place is like. This site was never intended to be a bright sunny point of view all of the time – I like to tell it how it is – I’m not writing a travel brochure for the Lonely Planet.

“I have been living in the US for 7 years and I have been travel around the world butI still love Indonesia.”

Great! I’m happy that you’ve had the chance to live in the States for 7 years. I’m sure you have a very clear perspective of what it is like to live there. I’m also sure that you can compare and contrast the two countries very well and note the differences. I have also traveled around the world, and find that what you say is true about still loving Indonesia. This country has captured my heart in many ways.

“The food, the people,etc. Indo people are the most friendly people in the world.”

This country is full of wonderful, caring, and warm-hearted people. I’m always telling people that I think it’s crazy to listen to the U.S. State Department warnings about not visiting Indonesia. I’d rather be anywhere in Jakarta than downtown Detroit at 3am. The vast majority of Indonesian people are among the most welcoming, caring, and supportive people in the world.
I have noted in previous posts just how amazing it is that despite such extreme poverty, the average Indonesian exemplifies happiness and contentment with what they have. Families here are, in general, more stable and more respectful of each other than my own generation in America. The generation that I grew up with (in the 80’s and 90’s) had most everything that we needed. Teenagers especially were disrespectful, greedy, and basically self centered. We took most things for granted, including our parents. Now, I can see that the teenagers here do not go through nearly the same phase of angst and disrespect for their families. All in all, Indonesia has retained that sense of family in which Americans seem to have lost.

“I'm sure people treat you as a first class person, they treat you like a king. Indonesians adore western people.”

This assumption may be going too far. I completely agree that, all in all, Westerners are treated a bit differently here – in both good ways and bad. However, “like a king” is pretty far off from the truth. Near my home, there are many construction sites developing. The men who work at these sites repeatedly will make comments, stare, and make fun of foreigners. My own security guards will make comments if I’m walking with a woman, even a colleague, calling her a “kupu-kupu malam” (night butterfly or prostitute) and making jokes. Perhaps they thought I couldn’t understand. At one point, I told them I’d throw them in the canal if they ever said that again, and they finally shut their pie holes. I do understand that these men don’t represent the average Indonesian man. Construction workers and security guards are notorious the world over for being a bit less than suave. I worked construction in my teen years and speak from experience.

I’ve had numerous comments made regarding Americans here. Overall, George Bush and his posse have made Americans the world over less popular – not that I disagree – I think he’s made a mess in Iraq – but don’t assume that Americans are always welcome in Indonesia – or anywhere for that matter.

On the flip side, you’re absolutely right that often Westerners are adored here. In a country that is homogenous in many ways, foreigners are fairly rare. Any new bule knows what I’m talking about – when you walk into a bar the girls swarm like mosquitoes, when you venture out into the malls, people stare as if you’re a circus freak, and there’s rarely a day that goes by without some dude trying practice his English with “halo Mister”. This can be both flattering as well as a curse, depending on your mood and your length of stay.

You mention that you’ve lived in the States for 7 years – so obviously you’ve noticed that no matter where you go, you do not stand out. America is so diverse that no one culture is anymore obvious than another. So, unless you’ve been a white person exploring Indonesia, you may not fully realize the perspective from which I’m speaking.

“You should be grateful that you live in Indonesia and the people welcome you.”

Don’t mistake my words – I am immensely grateful that I’ve had the chance to live in Indonesia. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. The people that I’ve met, the places I’ve seen, the friends I’ve made, and the lifelong stories I’ll be able to share, greatly outweigh any negative aspects of Indonesia. Keep in mind also, that I live in Jakarta – a ridiculous metropolis of 12 – 17 million people, full of pollution, noise, grit, and the problems that arise from any such gathering of human nature. The city is a horrible representation of the country of Indonesia. In many ways Jakarta is exciting, exotic, and welcoming, but overall, I’d much prefer to live in Bali or other more natural environments. This weekend I’m going down to the south coast of Java to Pelabuhan Ratu – an absolutely breathtaking place to relax. Locales such as this offer a much more positive view of what Indonesia has to offer.

I really do love Indonesia – but at times hate Jakarta. Please make the distinction. I could never expect someone to offer a complete perspective of America from the polluted and crowded view of Los Angeles – but if they spent 95% of their time there, they may offer a different opinion than if they lived in such varied places as the Florida Keys, Seattle, or Santa Fe. My point is that often if it seems I am “bitching” about Indonesia – it is a reflection of Jakarta – not Indonesia or the people of Indonesia. Every country has its good points and bad, while each culture has its own faults and wonders. I am simply attempting to offer a personal glimpse into the life that I’ve experienced in the time spent on this amazing island so far from home.
*Within minutes after writing this, the Australian Embassy in Jakarta was bombed. It never ceases does it? Perhaps foreigners are not so "welcome"*

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A powerful explosion rocked
central Jakarta on Thursday, mangling the Australian embassy gate and killing at
least three people, witnesses said.

An emergency room staffer at a nearby hospital said:
"We have three bodies so far due to the blast," and added that dozens of people,
mostly Indonesian office workers, were being treated.Australian television said
all embassy staff were accounted for although some had minor injuries.

Windows of buildings in and around the embassy were
shattered.A Reuters witness on the scene saw pieces of a head, hair and flesh
and other body parts on the street.

"Get out of the way. You are stepping on evidence.
There are flesh, bones, and remnants all over this place. Back off," a police
officer said over a megaphone."My friend Anton just died, my friend Anton just
died. He was a security guard," guard Siti Riani said, sobbing.

Hundreds of police were outside the embassy and
thousands of people swarming in the street. Police were forming a line pushing
people back.

"I was driving and suddenly there was an explosion,"
said one survivor, Paryadi. "Now I'm bleeding from the head."

Bleeding victims being taken from the embassy complex
to ambulances, but police said the actual explosion was probably outside the

"It seems that the blast came from outside the
embassy. If you look at it, the buildings that are most damaged are the
buildings around the embassy, not the embassy," police major Widodo

Ambulances and fire trucks as well as police were on
the scene but authorities gave no immediate data on casualties or information on
their nationalities.
Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous nation, has
been hit by sporadic bomb attacks in recent years, including blasts in Bali in
October 2002 that killed 202 people and at a luxury Jakarta hotel in August 2003
that killed 12.

The fortress-like Australian embassy building is
surrounded by a tall fence made of thick metal tubes and has a large reinforced
gate. The building is on Rasuna Said Road, one of central Jakarta's busiest
roads, which is lined with office towers, embassies and hotels.

The blast occurred just two days ahead of the
anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and
Pentagon, in which about 3,000 people died.

posted by Brandon | 9:06 PM

September 07, 2004  

somewhere in paris

posted by Brandon | 8:10 PM

September 06, 2004  


posted by Brandon | 6:22 PM

September 05, 2004  

she walked on . . .

people of the sun

posted by Brandon | 8:20 PM

September 02, 2004  

the weight of the world

posted by Brandon | 7:05 PM

September 01, 2004  

posted by Brandon | 7:47 PM


This week's photofriday challenge was "modern". I figured since I haven't participated in the past 3 months, it'd be nice to jump back in, now that I've returned to Indonesia.

The photo was taken in Ashville, North Carolina - an absolutely beautiful city. I would put serious thought into living there at some stage in my life. There is a great mix of the new and the old. Historic buildings nestle modern architecture in a way that does not take away from either.

posted by Brandon | 1:29 AM
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