Friday, December 24, 2010

Airing of Grievances

In the spirit of Festivus, I have decided to cleanse myself by airing my grievances for the year. In no particular order, here are my grievances for the year 2010

"I got a lot of problems with you people! And now you're gonna to hear about it."
Frank Costanza

1) Rizieq Shihab and the FPI (Islamic Defender's Front) - You are a constant thorn in the side of Indonesia and the tens of millions of Muslim Indonesians who are happy with the way things are. For some reason, you justify your silly acts as a necessity of security and lifestyle. Stabbing female priests and burning things down is not OK, even if it is in the name of God. I do applaud your effort to ensure that nothing bad will happen during Christmas but I am sure that it will be business as usual for you come New Year's Day. Stop trying to be every one's daddy and let people have free will to make their own decisions.

2) The Jakarta Post - For years now, I have had to put up with your overly sensationalized news. Your newspaper reads like a tabloid and is filled with spellink and grammatical mistake. Thankfully, there is The Jakarta Globe which enables me to avoid having to digest your literal diarrhea.

3) Mother Nature - You must be getting old and senile because you can't seem to decipher when the rainy and dry seasons begin and end. It rained throughout the dry season this year. The last couple of weeks have been the driest of the whole year yet it still rains pretty much every day. Ironically, this is the rainy season. I am sick and tired of you causing floods, traffic jams and a general malaise. What gets me the most is that you screwed with mango season, the thing I look forward to most at this time of year.

4) First Media - In the modernity of 2010, I STILL cannot get you to provide me with cable and internet service, despite living within spitting distance of one of the wealthiest areas of Jakarta. All I want to do is be able to come home at night and watch a hockey game on television. A colleague of mine recently told me that you told her that your services were not available in her complex despite the box on her front lawn that said FIRST MEDIA on it. After she called you 3 times, you finally agreed that it was indeed available in her area. Please get your head out of your ass and provide cable to the entire city.

5) BB's Blues Bar - The only grievance I have with you is that you have closed your doors. Despite having not been to your bar in a while, I always looked forward to your reggae nights. You will be sorely missed and don't deserve to be on this list.

6) Zebra Mosquitoes - I really hate that you choose to bite people in the morning hours and give them dengue fever. When you did this to me, my life was really screwed up for a couple of months. Can`t you just be like other mosquitoes and be nighttime ankle biters? I would appreciate if you would refrain from giving me dengue fever again in the upcoming year as it really really sucks.

7) The Old Security Man on My Street - You really are a nice and friendly old fellow but is it really necessary to bang your stick on the iron bars of my gate at 2 and 3 and 4 A.M. every night? I understand that your purpose is to inform people that you are indeed keeping watch and not sleeping but there really is no need for that. This is similar to calling someone on the phone every hour to inform them that everything is fine. This reminds me of Homer Simpson's everything's OK alarm invention. It keeps making noise as long as everything is OK.

Well, that's about it, glad I got that off my chest. If any of you have any grievances that you wish to air, feel free to comment. I can take it. This is my strong suit as I don't stand much of a chance in the Feats of Strength. Here's to hoping that your Festivus miracle comes true.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nickel & Dime

With the Indonesian Rupiah having such a low exchange rate, it is sometimes very easy to get hung up on a small amount of money without realizing it. The usual exchange rate is around 9000 Rupiah for 1 American dollar. This can get quite confusing as you are always thinking in tens and hundreds of thousands or even millions. I like to tell the people back home that I am a millionaire. The irony of this is that 1 million is only $110 US.

Cash transactions can be very confusing as you have
to constantly think on your toes. Buying a few
items at the supermarket will set you back (for example) two hundred and thirty four thousand eight hundred and twelve Rupiah. Once you get used to it, it's not that difficult but I still regularly ask people to repeat the price of things. When this gets really weird is when you are bargaining.

It is common to haggle over the price of things in Jakarta. Any time
there is no price tag, the cost is negotiable. In many instances, I have found myself hard bargaining over a kilo of mangoes or a motorbike taxi ride. It will get down to a difference of 1000 Rupiah and I will stand my ground in order to get the price I want. Afterwards, I will reflect and realize that I managed to save 11 cents. In the heat of negotiation, it seems like a big deal but really it's nothing. When you hear the words one thousand or 500, your mind instinctively thinks that it is a decent amount of money.

Sometimes, these situations are more about respect than the actual m
onetary value. A pack of cigarettes used to cost nine thousand or nine thousand five hundred rupiah. Whenever I would buy a pack, I would give a ten thousand Rupiah bill and wait for my change. Quite often, the vendor would blankly stare at me and ask what else I wanted. I would insist that I wanted my change. They would then give me either five hundred or one thousand Rupiah. Literally nickel and diming.

Another fine example of this is a motorbike parking lot. The standard price is around five hundred Rupiah for the first hour and then one thousand extra for each additional hour. It is dirt cheap really as it rarely costs more than two thousand Rupiah.

Just a couple of days ago, I was exiting the parking lot at Gandaria City (lovely, by the way) and my parking fee was a whopping five hundred rupiah. I have a one thousand Rupiah bill (smallest bill, five hundred is a coin) and the attendant asked if I had uang pas (exact change). I replied that I didn't and she took the one thousand bill and said I'd have to pay that much. I objected and she replied with "Hanya lima ratus" (only five hundred). I argued that if this was the case, I wouldn't pay as it would be "only five hundred". I snatched my bill back and said I wasn't going to pay as I had a suspicion that she was lying. She then opened a drawer filled with five hundred Rupiah coins and gave me my change. Did I care about the 6 cents? Not really. It was more the point that she was probably doing this to eve
ryone and going home with a nice chunk of change that didn't belong to her. Did I feel a little like Larry David? Yes, I did but I just want to be treated with respect and not be scammed, even if it is "only" 6 cents.

So what do I do with all of these coins? It's simple, I
them in a jar as most westerners would in their home country. One day I actually decided to count
my change. There are five hundred, two hundered, one hundred, and fifty Rupiah coins. They are made of an inferior metal that makes tin seem strong. I've heard that this is because a decent metal would be worth more than the value of the coin itself. As I set out to count my coins, I realized that I had a large amount of one hundred and two hundred coins but barely any five hundred coins. After some serious thought, it occurred to me that my maid had likely been swiping the five hundred coins thinking that I wouldn't notice. All of my nickel and diming had manged to put an extra 3 dollars or so in my maid's pocket. At least I have my pride and my collection of 200 Rupiah coins, they make
great gifts.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Can You Repeat the Part Where You Said The Stuff About the Things?

One of the biggest obstacles facing expats in Jakarta is coping with the local language. It isn't the most difficult language to learn and I will shamelessly admit that my Bahasa Indonesia is decent. Over the years, my pronunciation, as well as local people's ability to understand me, has improved dramatically. When I was a newbie, I'd repeat words over and over and get upset when people didn't understand me. Over time, I've learned how to intonate properly in order to be understood. Nowadays, I get compliments from Indonesians that my Bahasa is quite good. I don't think it's that good but maybe that's because I want to improve.

Once one learns the language, one has to deal with some people's inability to listen. I have learned the hard way that some people, once they see that you are not Indonesian, automatically assume that they will not be able to understand a word you say since they don't speak English. When this happens, their ears fill up with wax, their brains go into hibernation mode and their comprehension skills go out the window. It is quite frustrating when this happens.

Some days, I will converse in Bahasa with a dozen people who will have no problem understanding me. Then comes number 13, they just look at me like I am speaking gibberish. They can't understand a thing that I say. Correction, they DON'T EVEN LISTEN to word I say and therefore get confused. If this happened with the majority of people that I speak with, I would consider it to be a fault of my own. Since it doesn't happen most of the time, I feel vindicated.

Here are a few examples:

1) Sometimes, I will be in a taxi with my lady. We will be coming up to a street where we need to turn. I will say "Pak, belok kiri" (elder man/sir, turn left) "Pak, belok kiri" "Pak Pak......Belok kiri" "BELOK KIRI PAK!!!!!". The driver does not even acknowledge that he hears me or that I am speaking. My lady will then say (in the EXACT same intonation as me) "Pak, belok kiri" and the driver will immediately say "Oke" and then turn left. Every time this happens to me, I am absolutely dumbfounded.

2) I am filling my motorbike up with gas. The attendant will ask how much I want. I say "lima belas" (fifteen) He will respond with "Berapa?" (how much). I will repeat myself "lima belas" He will then reply with "sepuluh?" (ten, which sounds NOTHING like fifteen). I slowly repeat myself "liiiima bellaaaaaas". He then replies with "sembilan belas?" (nineteen). I then retort with (whilst counting with my fingers) "satu, dua, tiga, empat, lima belas" (one, two, three, four, five....teen). Blank stare, no response. I regroup and try again whilst pointing at my hand showing 5 digits. "Mendengarkan aku......lima......belas" (listen to me....fifteen). Finally, a response and a shy grin "oooh lima belas, mister"
This is a clear cut case of the attendant seeing my face and losing all composure to the point where he resorted to guessing. If he would have confused tiga (three) with lima (five), I could understand since they sound very similar but the numbers he was guessing did not even sound remotely close to what I was saying.

3) (on the phone, my personal favorite) I call Domino's pizza. "selemat sore, Domino's pizza" (good afternoon, Domino's pizza) "Hello, aku mau pesan pizza" (hello, I want order pizza) "oh, ya, sebentar ya, mister" (wait, ya mister). I get put on hold and eventually another voice comes on the line "Yes, hello mister, you like eating pizza?" (translated into English, this means: Yes, hello, mister, may I take your order). I humor them and switch to English "Hi, I'd like to order pizza" They respond with "Yes, mister........uuuh you eat order pizza? Can Please I have........ number phone" I reply very slowly with "". By this point, I switch back to Bahasa as I can tell the guy is totally lost "kosong.......delepan......satu.....tiga" (zero eight one three). After 3 or 4 times of going through the numbers of my phone number and them not being able to find me in their database, the guy puts me on hold again. It is much easier to give them the correct number as opposed to trying to spend 20 minutes explaining my address and exactly where I live. Been there, done that, not easy. Eventually, another voice comes on the line "yes mister, nomor telephonenya?" (yes mister, number telephone you?). I repeat my phone number quickly in Bahasa and the guy gets it correct the first time, no problem. I then place my order and within 30 seconds, everything is accomplished and I hang up. This after being on the line for nearly 10 minutes.
I've played out this situation on numerous occasions. There have been many instances where I "Press one for English" only to have an operator eventually hang up on me because they can't understand me.

A while back, I felt that if I honed my Bahasa Indonesia skills that these instances would cease. It is now abundantly obvious to me that they will never stop, only happen less frequently. The next time I call Domino's, I'm going to ask for the guy who listens well to get on the line.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Right Outside Your Door

As today is a national holiday in Indonesia, I plan on spending my day doing absolutely nothing. This desire was reinforced by enjoying myself a little too much last night and waking up in a somewhat rough condition. This state had me longing for some Panadol Merah (a cheap local aspirin that costs 80 cents for a pack of 10). Luckily, there is a warung (general store?) less than 50 meters from my door that sells pretty much everything imaginable. I peeled myself off the couch, grabbed my keys & wallet, put on my sandals and set off on my short journey.

When I arrived, there was a young boy (maybe 8 years old) buying cigarettes. In Indonesia, you can buy packs or single cigarettes. This young boy was buying 3 cigarettes while his 2 friends waited outside. I smiled and wondered if they had sent him in because he looked the oldest. The store owner was even gracious enough to throw in a pack of matches for free. The boy tucked the cigarettes away in his pocket, joined his friends and left. I purchased my panadol and also left.

I set out for the journey back home and had to deal with a truck parked on the side of the road. I had to carefully walk around it and watch for oncoming motorbikes and cars. As I was walking beside the truck, a horrendous aroma entered my nostrils. I looked inside the back of the truck and realized that it was FILLED with cow guts and skins. A couple of oncoming motorbikes forced me to pause at the side of the truck. The bikes passed by and I walked away briskly, narrowly avoiding vomiting on the side of the road.

By now you are probably wondering why there was a truck full of cow guts parked outside. Simple explanation: today is Idul Adha (read more here: ) which is the day where people kill goats and cows. Hence the day off work.

I got back inside my house, took a couple of panadol aspirins and resumed doing nothing. I reflected for a moment about all of the oddness I had just experienced right outside my own door. This is why it is impossible to get used to this place.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Groundhog Day

Every day, at the exact same time, the exact same event occurs outside my house. It is what I wake up to on a daily basis. At precisely 5 A.M., a mobile bread vendor drives by outside my house. For some reason, the dog that lives across the street takes exception to this and starts barking insanely. Unlike all of the other dogs in my area, this dog's bark is a high shrill that sounds as if he/she is being stabbed repeatedly. The same dog does not bark at the odd car, motorbike or other street vendor going by before or after. This has been baffling me for some time to the point that I'm almost obsessed with it.

The passing bread vendor is known as Sari Roti. As I've mentioned before, each vendor has their own unique noise or song. Sari Roti has a song that goes something like...
This little tune repeats itself endlessly throughout the day. There are numerous other vendors going by around the same time but their melodies don't seem to bother the dog in question.

What's even more astounding than the dog's reaction is that the Sari Roti vendor passes my house at EXACTLY 5 A.M. every morning, not a minute sooner or later. Jakarta is not what you would call a punctual place, you are hard pressed to find 2 clocks in the same building that are synchronized. Generally, most scheduled times are an -ish time, never precise.

Some mornings, I am tempted to get up to see if it is actually the same Sari Roti vendor driving by at 5 A.M every day but I am too lazy. From that time until the late morning, there are dozens of other Sari Roti vendors that drive by but the dog doesn't bark at them, only at the 1st one. By listening, I have deduced that the bread vendor is not stopping at or near the house the dog lives at. This would explain why the dog barks. It has gotten to the point where I sometimes inadvertently wake up at 4:58 A.M in anticipation of the event to come. A few minutes after 5, I realize that I have another hour or so to sleep and am grateful for that.

My first memory of each and every day has been the EXACT same for weeks now; the Sari Roti song followed by the adjacent dog's painful howl. I'm starting to feel like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day where he wakes up to the exact same song and speech on the radio every morning.

If for some unexplained reason, this event does not occur one morning, I am going to take it as an omen that I should stay in bed because the world has tilted off it's axis. How can precision clockwork occur right outside my door in a city that nobody would ever in their wildest dreams dare to describe as precise?

Does anybody actually buy bread at 5 A.M anyways?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Does Java Land Really Rock?

Last night, I went to the first night of the 3 day long Java Rockin Land music festival. I was super excited, especially since the headliners were none other than The Smashing Pumpkins. It is a rare treat in Jakarta to get to see a band of that caliber and there was no way I was going to miss out.

The festival was at a place called Ancol which is on the waterfront of the Java Sea. It is not as pretty as you may think but nonetheless made for a great music venue. The ground was super muddy and luckily the skies were clear after a downpour earlier that afternoon. I felt great anticipation once I got there after having to endure a very long taxi ride and an even longer walk to the venue.

The next thing I knew, my friend and I were in the front row and Billy Corgan was serenading us with nostalgic tunes from my forgotten adolescence that still managed to rock after all these years.
We were ecstatic and couldn't stop jumping and singing along.

A few songs into the set, I started to look around. Everyone else was just standing there with relatively blank stares. Quite a few people were trying to take photos with their phones. The only people "rockin out" were my friend and I and a couple of other white guys. I started to notice that I was somewhat annoying people in my vicinity as I was bouncing around. They were giving me looks that said "stand still and be quiet, don't you know how to behave at a rock concert?". I was admittedly a little buzzed having visited the Carlsberg refreshment tent before the set began but I could not for the life of me understand why these people were just standing there looking forlorn. Double cross the vacant and the bored. They're not sure just what we have in store. They were obviously Smashing Pumpkins fans but were acting like they were at a piano recital. As the show went on it became more obvious to me that the people around us thought that we were insane maniacs. The truth is that we were just in the moment and really enjoying ourselves.

Then, the guitar gave a little teaser of bullet with butterfly wings. I was ecstatic and must've jumped 3 feet in the air. Then, as quickly as he started, Billy stopped playing and said "Are you alive out there, Jakarta?" There was a polite applause. We were jumping and screaming as to say "Billy Billy Billy, look at us!" They then proceeded to play bullet with butterfly wings (for those of you who don't know: a really heavy guitar song that makes you want to go nuts) and we proceeded to go nuts like rats in a cage. We started jumping and singing along even more than we were before. Once again, people were eyeballing us as if we were a disgrace.

I'm used to going to concerts where the whole crowd would be acting like we were. In my mind, we weren't acting out of the ordinary. The only explanation I can offer for the deplorable behavior of the crowd is the general lack of outward emotion that Asian people express. I know this is somewhat of a stereotype but I can't for the life of me think why else people were quietly standing there while the band was putting on such a great performance.

The show ended and it appeared that there would not be an encore. As soon as the band left the stage, everyone around me started to walk away. Not me, I was clapping and shouting Bill-ly Bill-ly. Alas, it wasn't meant to be. The lights came on as a sad sign that there would be no encore tonight ladies and gentlemen. The crowd didn't earn one I guess. I was really really hoping they were going to come back out and play 1979 but it wasn't meant to be.

Today is the greatest day I've ever known. Well maybe not but I do have that warm feeling in my bones from rockin out last night. It's been too long and I hope the next time comes sooner. The lack of accessibility to top notch live music is probably the thing I miss most living here. That's just how it goes.

Did The Smashing Pumpkins Rock?
Did I rock out as hard as I could?
Does Java Island Rock?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Smoke on the Water

After recently being hospitalized with a bout of dengue fever, I decided that it would be a good idea to spray my house for mosquitoes. After some thought, it occurred to me that spraying wouldn't do much good unless everybody in my neighborhood sprayed.

I asked the owner of my house to talk to the Pak RT (head of the neighborhood) about spraying. He deemed it not necessary despite the 3 cases of dengue that we knew about. There could be even more cases but that didn't seem to concern him.

Normally, September is the tail end of the dry season in Indonesia which means most areas are bone dry and mosquitoes are not able to breed. Thus, spraying is not usually necessary at this time of year. This year, the dry season just didn't happen. It has rained pretty much every day over the last several months. This is unprecedented and a great time to be a mosquito.

For those of you who don't know, mosquitoes breed in standing or stagnant water. Dengue fever
is passed from a certain type of mosquito that usually bites people in the morning. The normal
way to get rid of mosquitoes is to have people go around with these big chainsaw looking contraptions that spray some kind of poisonous smoke. These guys go up and down the street spraying and will even spray inside your house if you throw them a little cash.

The owner of my house graciously offered to spray my house and her own house, which is 2 doors down from me. I patiently explained to her that this wouldn't do any good since the mosquitoes that were not located in our houses wouldn't get killed and that mosquitoes can easily fly from one property to another. After a lot of explaining, she got my point (or pretended to) and decided not to spray our houses.

A week or so later, the Pak RT had a sudden change of heart (perhaps someone in HIS family got dengue fever) and decided to spray the whole neighborhood. Having been through this drill before, I prepared to leave as soon as they finished spraying inside my house. I put my motorbike outside my gate, put on my jacket, grabbed my backpack and was ready to leave the moment they had finished spraying.

Eventually, they arrived at my house and went in to spray. The smoke, when sprayed indoors, is so thick that you can't even see. As the guy was inside spraying, I was standing by my door, key in hand ready to lock the door and leave. His co-worker advised me not to go inside and to stand on the street because the smoke would make me sick. I tried explaining to him that I was going to lock the door and leave. He told me that it was not necessary and all I had to do was stand on the street.

As I looked out onto the street, most people who were home were standing on the street where they had JUST sprayed. The road was foggy, mothers were standing holding their babies with rags over their faces. I tried to convince my maid to take her young son and leave for an hour or so. She told me that it was OK as long as you stood outside.

As the guy finished spraying and I was in the process of locking my door so that I could leave, even more people became concerned for my safety and tried encouraging me to go stand in the smoky street with them. I once again explained that I was locking the door so that I could leave and that they should do the same. They looked at me like I was crazy so I gave up. My better half and I hopped on the motorbike and went to the mall for a few hours (as we had planned when we heard they were going to spray). It was painful to see so many mothers and children standing on the street choking on the poisonous fog. Sometimes you can't help people help themselves and it's hard to swallow.

Part of me wanted to slowly explain to them that bug poison is ALSO PEOPLE POISON!!! but there was no point as they wouldn't listen. People here sometimes have the attitude that since somebody here is a foreigner that they simply don't understand. They were under the impression that I didn't know what was going on.

So I did the only thing I could, drive away and leave them to choke on the smoke.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Kepada Kepala Kelapa

In Jakarta, the best way to repair something is the cheapest way possible. This is not up for debate. Nowhere is this more evident than on the roads. It is not uncommon to see a newly filled in pothole revert back to its original pothole state within a week. This is caused by the repair men using the cheapest cement or tar/stone mixture that they can find in order to save money. A week later, they will repair the same pothole using the same material (in order to save money) yet again. This trend will sometimes repeat itself for weeks on end. Eventually, it will be filled in with a slightly more expensive material after the first 6 tries to save money (huh?) failed miserably.

Messed up roads are something that you just learn to live with in Jakarta. I never pay much attention to them except when it's raining and they turn into invisible land mines. Anyways, just a few days ago, I encountered a new groundbreaking, innovative and Eco-friendly solution to the pothole dilemma: fill them with COCONUT SHELLS.

To give you a little background, coconut shells in the tropics are always green on the outside, not brown like the ones you see in the supermarket as a child. There are stalls that sell a drink called es kelapa muda which literally translates to ice coconut young. They cut the top of the coconut off and put a straw and a spoon inside. You then drink the sweet young syrup and eat the white meat from the inside of your coconut glass. It is a refreshing drink, not to mention it looks like something they would drink on Gilligan's Island.

The es kelapa muda place around the corner from my place came up with a great way to kill 2 birds with one stone. They put their empty (young) coconut shells in the pothole directly in front of their establishment. Well, let me tell ya, that pothole has been filled and stayed filled for the last 2 weeks. The shells have defied the odds and have managed to outlast the average cement pothole repair. These people could be onto something huge. There are a LOT of empty coconut shells around town. Instead of tossing them in the ever growing garbage heaps, why not toss them in a nearby pothole? It is definitely better than having axle breaking holes in the road.

If you've never had an es kelapa muda, I highly recommend it. But make sure to have it in the coconut, not out of a plastic bag. After finishing your refreshing drink, have a look around for the closest pothole. If you are inclined to do so, throw it in and jump on it a a couple of times. You will be helping the environment and providing a civil service.

Use your kepala and reuse a kelapa...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Pimpin' Ain't Easy

For the last couple of years, there has been some controversy surrounding who has the rights to broadcast English Premier League football in Indonesia. This story is a bit long and complicated but I will try my best to explain it. If anything I say is incorrect, please clarify by leaving a comment. To the best of my knowledge, this is how the story goes...

Football is broadcast on the Singapore based ESPN/Star Sports and also occasionally on local Indonesian television stations. Many years ago when I first moved here, it seemed that virtually every EPL game was televised live on both cable and antenna TV. The beauty of this was that the large majority of Indonesians who couldn't afford the luxury of cable television could watch their favorite teams in their own homes or at the local food stall.

Starting in 2007, football rights were sold to the highest bidding cable company. The first cable company to win was ASTRO TV which is a Malaysian company. What this meant was that you could only watch EPL football if you had an ASTRO subscription. Anybody who had INDOVISION or FIRST MEDIA (called Kablevision back then) found out the hard way that football games were not televised and alternate programming was shown on ESPN and Star Sports during those times. The shows showcasing goals and highlights of the week were also blocked.

With their backs against the wall, many people subscribed to ASTRO just so they could watch football. My roommate at the time was British and insisted that we get ASTRO so I went along. Every weekend, we had the luxury of having live football on TV. At one point close to the end of the season, the Indonesian government stated that ASTRO had committed some kind of violation and had their cable license revoked pending the payment of a fine. Coincidentally, this happened 3 days before arguably the biggest match of the year between Chelsea and Manchester United. Everyone who had ASTRO was shocked to turn on their televisions to find black screens on every channel. A couple of bars around town had foreign satellite channels and were able to broadcast the game live. Apparently, they had lineups to get inside. By the next weekend, everything was back to normal. I assume that ASTRO paid their fine.

The next August, as the new EPL season was about to start, nobody had the rights to broadcast EPL football. If I recall correctly, only pubs with foreign satellite had games televised for the first couple of weeks. After that, an Indonesian minister was gracious enough to start his own cable company called AORA. They now became the new "it" cable subscription as they had landed the big prize. They also landed full coverage of the Beijing Olympic games. Needless to say, I didn't watch a single second of the Olympic games that year. The only thing wrong with AORA was that they only offered a total of 8 channels. This is a far cry from the 50 plus channels that most subscribers offer even for basic cable. What this meant was that if you wanted real cable TV and EPL football, you had to subscribe to 2 cable providers. A few hardcore fans did that, the rest did like I did and caught the odd game at a bar and neglected to watch most games that season.

To the Indonesian branch of ASTRO, this was a kill shot. Once EPL football was no longer available, many people simply stopped paying their bills despite having 1 year contracts. A sign of how desperate they were was that it took nearly 4 months of our household not paying the monthly bills before they shut our cable off for good. Nowadays, you still see the odd ASTRO satellite dish here and there. Mostly, they are forgotten relics of past supremacy.

Fast forward to the beginning of last season. I considered subscribing to AORA when I heard that they had expanded their channel line up. When I looked into it, I found out that they had expanded from 8 to 12 channels and decided not to subscribe.

I was expecting another year of living in relative football oblivion when a surprise email appeared on my screen one Friday night in August. The email stated that INDOVISION (hands down the most popular cable company in Indonesia and the one I subscribed to since no others were available in my area) had won the rights to broadcast EPL football for the upcoming season. It turned out to be a wonderful year of football watching for yours truly as they not only had every game broadcast live but all of the football highlight shows and match replays shown midweek on EPSN/Star Sports. A local television station called TV ONE also had some games televised live. The only downside to this was that Champions League games and highlights were not shown on ESPN/Star Sports version of Indovision. I didn't watch a single Champions League game that season since they are mostly broadcast live at 2 A.M. local time and were not replayed.

Lo and behold, here we are on the verge of the kickoff of yet another season of EPL football. The first game between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur is tonight at 6:45 P.M. local time. As of yesterday, the Jakarta Globe reported that a deal had not yet been reached as to who would have the rights to broadcast EPL football on ESPN/Star Sports. Apparently, the price tag has doubled from last season and negotiations are still in progress. There is no better negotiating tool than a ticking clock. TV ONE has stated that they will not show EPL football as they cannot afford it. You can read more here

By now, you may be asking yourself why I keep unnecessarily adding ESPN/Star Sports to sentences or why I refer to 'Pimpin' in the title of this blog. Well, as I see it, here's the major problem with all of this.....

When one subscribes to a cable company (INDOVISION in my case), one is paying for the right to view certain channels. If a subscriber opts to get a movie package or a sports package, they are paying for the right to watch HBO or Cinemax or ESPN/Star Sports, not to be sold selective programming of those channels. They are NOT paying for the right to watch specific programs only available to specific cable providers (this is called PAY-PER-VIEW everywhere else in the world). What I mean by this is that if you subscribe to HBO, you are paying the cable company for the right to watch their programming, which they in turn have paid HBO for. In this case, people are paying for the right to have unlimited access to any program shown on ESPN/Star Sports, which is NOT based on the cable provider. The programming schedule and content for CNN (for example) is the exact same on any cable provider in Indonesia 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

I know that this is a little confusing as it took me time to wrap my head around all of this. Let me give you an example that may help to clarify what it is they are doing with EPL football:

If you subscribe to HBO, you are paying to view the content of that channel. To make an analogy, this would be similar to if somebody sold the rights to a single cable company to have the exclusive right to broadcast "The Wire" or "The Sorpanos" or "Band of Brothers" which are all HBO shows. So if you had INDOVISION, you would be able to watch these shows on HBO but any other cable provider would have these shows blocked out on HBO.

Or, this would be like if you could only watch "Spongebob Squarepants" on the INDOVISION version of Nickelodeon.

To me, this is like a middle man jumping in to re-sell (or pimp out) a service that you are already paying for in the first place. There are certain channels such as FX and FOX Channel which are only available on INDOVISION or ASN which is only available on FIRST MEDIA. In those cases, you are paying for exclusive access to those stations.

In this case, ESPN/Star Sports (which every cable provider in Indonesia has access to) is paying the EPL for the rights to broadcast their football matches. This means that you should be able to watch this content regardless of what cable provider you have as long as you subscribe to those channels.

I don't know if it is ESPN/Star Sports out of Singapore or some branch of the Indonesian government who is doing the middle manning but I know who I'd put my money on if I had to make a bet.

So as of now, I am keeping my fingers crossed and patiently waiting to see if I will get to watch football from the comfort of my own home later on this evening....

Thursday, August 12, 2010

We Don't Care

Recently, Carefour (the big box everything in 1 store store) inexplicably moved their hand held shopping baskets. This confused yours truly to no end. They used to be at the entrance right next to the shopping carts. I almost never get a cart because it makes it that much harder to navigate through the crowds and I can't fit a cart's worth of groceries on my motorbike. Anyways, there I was staring at hundreds of carts and not one single little red basket.

My first instinct was that they had run out so I wandered all the way around to the checkout counters (it's farther than you think) figuring that I could swipe one from there. When I got to the checkouts, there weren't any. I looked around for another couple of minutes before finally asking someone.

The friendly checkout girl told me that they should be at the entrance. Thinking that I maybe had had a few too many drinks the night before, I sauntered back towards the entrance (completing the loop). Once again, no baskets. I asked the employee closest to the entrance. He pointed towards the inside of the store. I walked until I reached the electronics section and still no red baskets.

Against my better judgement, I asked one of the guys standing by the televisions. I got the answer I expected "di depan" (at the front/entrance). Convinced that this could not be true, I asked the next guy I saw in the housewares section. He pointed towards the back of the store and uttered some word that I could not understand. The next guy I asked pointed and said the same word.

This trend continued with the next 3 employees pointing in the same direction and uttering the same word. Verification is good in a place such as Jakarta as misinformed answers occur way more often (I've been told that this is because it is more polite than saying "I don't know") than you might think. By the time I got to the last employee, I reasoned out that they were saying: fabric (same as English) as in the fabric section.

Finally, I spotted them! A big fat stack of red shopping baskets in the very back of the store in the very back of the fabric section. Maybe if I had been functioning on a higher level that day, I might have thought of looking in the fabric section without assistance.

A few days later, I visited a different Carefour with similar results. Luckily, I knew what to do when I saw that there were no baskets at the entrance. This particular branch seemed to be much more organized as they had placed the baskets halfway to the back of the store and only 50 meters from the entrance.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

First Media, we don't need it do we?

After a recent move, I decided that I would like to switch from Indovison cable television to First Media cable. The main difference is the channels that are available. Indovison has the rights to EPL football (which is a topic for another day) but First Media has a new channel that plays ice hockey.

Being a big hockey fan, I drooled at the chance to get to watch NHL hockey in the tropics. I called First Media and asked them when they could come to my house and install cable/internet. They asked for my name, address, postal code and where exactly I lived on my street. After a brief pause, they informed me that First Media is not yet available in my area. This was shocking to me since I live in a somewhat posh area (but not in a posh house).

They informed me that if someone else on my street got First Media, then I would be able to get First Media at my house. I asked how it would be possible for that person to get it since they would be told that it is not available on their street unless someone else on the street gets First Media first. Confused? So am I.

So now it looks like there will be no hockey at home for me this October. I don't quite know how a cable company can stay in business with a limited coverage area in the small hamlet of Jakarta. But what the hell do I know?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ace in the Hole

If you've never been to an Ace Hardware store and happen to live in Southeast Asia, I highly recommend visiting one. It is quite the spectacle. The name, however, is misleading. Captain Obvious would say that "a hardware store sells hardware" but in this case, it just isn't so. They do have a small selection of hardware and a decent selection of tools. If you're looking for something like drywall plugs and screws or a piece of wood or an extension cord, you are in the wrong place.

I went there wanting to buy a pack of drywall plugs with matching size screws. After 30 minutes of searching (it is pointless to ask an employee, it will take them twice as long as you to find it), I finally found them next to the plumbing accessories (there's no point in asking why they were where they were). They did have a couple of packs, one was 3 mm and the other was 15 mm. Those are extremely small and large sizes in case you were wondering. They also had a couple of packs of screws but no plugs or packs of screws that come with matching size plugs. This got me thinking; maybe they should change their name.

I propose that Ace change their name to Ace Lifestyle store. During my screw search, I saw an ultrasonic cleaner (high frequency liquid cleaners that are of no use for 97% of the world's population), a popcorn cart, velvet ropes with poles, buffet trays and aquariums but not much in the way of hardware.

After a brief conversation with myself, I decided that I couldn't justify spending $500 on a popcorn cart and left the store. I wondered if they sold drywall plugs at the popcorn store but figured they didn't. I stopped at the supermarket to buy food (captain obvious!) and while wandering down a random aisle, I stumbled upon packs of screws WITH matching size drywall plugs in the same box.

So if you are ever in Jakarta and are in a situation where you need some kind of hardware, do the prudent thing and go to the supermarket. If you happen to be looking for a DJ mixing board, a hamburger shaped flash disk or a full sized popcorn cart, do what Captain Obvious would do and go to the hardware store.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

Pros of living in Jakarta:

1) 24/7. You can buy pretty much everything whenever and wherever you are. This includes food and beer. There is ample selection of food at any time of day/night and some bars stay open all night or long enough that you don't care that it's time to go home.

2) Cheap cigarettes. I was paying upwards of $8 for a pack of cigarettes back home. In Jakarta, a pack is around $1. You can also smoke pretty much anywhere in Jakarta (don't know if this is a pro or not)

3) Great Food. I enjoyed having really good, properly made pizza back home. There were a few other delicacies that I was happy to have but the novelty of that wore off quickly. Jakarta has excellent food from all over Asia and it is possible to eat fresh food pretty much every day. A lo
t of food back home is processed. The portions back home are massive! I'm glad to be back here eating rice and less than 2000 calories in one sitting.

4) Endless Summer. It's always hot in Jakarta. It rains a lot but the temperature is pretty static. There aren't 10 degree fluctuations from day to day which makes it a little easier to handle. You also know what to expect. It's either going to rain or it isn't.
Side note: Fahrenheit is stupid and you sound stupid when you use it...

5) Transit. There are countless ways to get to where you need to go in Jakarta. These include multiple types of buses, taxis, motorbike taxis, and bajajs. The best part is that all you need to do is go stand by the road and they will come to you. Back home, if someone wasn't driving, I was pretty much stranded or forced to take a very expensive taxi.

6) Cheap & Easy. Everyday items are dirt cheap in Jakarta. Street food is abundant and inexpensive. Everyday items don't break the bank. Gas is around 45 cents a liter and never cha
nges. Lighters don't cost $1.79. Beer may be the only exception to this.

7) Bidets. If you've never used a bidet before, you don't know what you are missing. Nobody uses toilet paper in Jakarta. Every toilet has a spray nozzle sitting next to it for you to spray you know what. It is 1000 times cleaner. Toilet paper is horrible. This is hands down the number one thing that I missed about Jakarta when I was back home. It's a kind of difficult thing to explain so I didn't bring it up much when I was there.

Cons of Living in Jakarta:

1) Traffic. Saying that there is traffic in Jakarta is kind of stating the obvious. I kept making the mistake of overestimating how long it would take to get to places back home. 10 km drives only take 5-10 minutes, not 2 hours. It was funny to hear friends and family back home complain about the traffic when there were more than 5 cars at a street light.

2) Endless Summer. Yes, this is a pro and con. I don't miss cold weather but things never change here. The sunset is at the same-ish time throughout the year. Christmas doesn't seem so festive and nobody really appreciates a beautiful day in Jakarta. The late sunsets back home were awesome. I often forget people's birthdays or important days since it's hard to make a distinction between May or November in Jakarta.

3) Music. Most bars/restaurants in Jakarta all play the same music. I know the lyrics to more pop songs than I would like to. When a band is playing at a place in Jakarta, I often leave since the sound mix is horrible. Often, the high notes from a guitar make your ears twitch a bit. I saw quite a few excellent local musicians playing on a random night at random places back home. I also saw a great concert and could have seen a couple more if I had the money. The radio back home has countless stations that play countless genres of music.

4) The Internet. On a good day in Jakarta, the Internet sucks. It took a trip back home to make me fully realize this. I felt like an old man who was fascinated by being able to watch youtube videos without waiting for them to load. You can watch pretty much anything instantly and can download at shockingly fast speeds. I get pretty excited when I can download at 50 kb/s in Jakarta.

5) Lack of Green Space. There aren't really any parks in Jakarta and not many people have back yards. People back home were starting to think that I was weird because I often wanted to walk to places nearby or hang out in their backyards all day long. This makes me feel bad for my dog more than anything (kasian-jing).

6) Stranger in a Strange Land. No matter how long I live here or how well I learn the language, I'll always be a 'bule'. This will never change. It took me years to realize this. Back home, I'm just another face in the crowd.

7) No Family. I've made some lifelong friends here but friends come and go. Family is forever. Seeing my family, especially my sister's baby made me realize that. Wish there was some way that the other side of the world wasn't so far away. I guess Skype helps.

No matter what way I slice it, I'd never be content being here nor there. So I'll just have to look on the bright side of things. The durian may be spiky and smell bad but there's some good stuff in there.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bylaws Will be Bylaws

In Jakarta, abiding by the law basically means that you can break the rules if there isn't a policeman in sight. Nowhere is this lawlessness more obvious than on the roads. You can observe a traffic violation every couple of seconds by simply standing on a street corner. Oddly, the police appear to spend more time directing traffic than they do actually fighting crime. They even have kiosks set up at major intersections. During peak rush hour (which is more like a crawl), police direct traffic at said major intersections. Their main purpose is to ensure that vehicles of all shape and size actually STOP when the light turns red and don't GO until the light turns green. Hard to believe but true. The cops have finally had enough. They are planing on leaving the comfort of their kiosks to do something about it.

For 20-ish days, the police are clamping down on traffic violations, especially those committed by motorbikes and buses. Some of these violations include not wearing an approved Indonesian safety standard helmet, driving the wrong way down the street, motorbikes not having headlights on in the daytime and buses stopping in places where they shouldn't. They plan on issuing fines for these violations. If they do actually fine every one of these infractions, they will be rich as dozens of these infractions occur every minute.

What I find odd isn't that they are fining people for blatantly obvious violations but that they are actually letting people know that they are doing this. So much for the element of surprise. I'd like to personally thank the Jakarta Police for notifying all media outlets of their intentions. In all fairness, it is good that the poor and underprivileged have fair warning so that they can avoid fines. But why would they actually make it a point of telling people that it is only going to be for 20 days? Wouldn't it be wiser to say that they are going to run this crusade indefinitely? Thanks to their warnings, I have started driving with my headlight on during the day and temporarily stopped making illegal u-turns. Dare I say that this clampdown really has no teeth and is nothing much more than a money making scheme?

I'm assuming that after the 20 day crackdown, things will gradually go back to normal and that people will carry on with their bad road etiquette. I'm all for making people wear helmets that actually provide protection but I just don't see this happening. Recently, there are a lot more child size helmets for sale. I won't bother going off on a rant about the irony of dad wearing a helmet and the kids not. I commend the police on making an effort to protect people from themselves but maybe 20 days just isn't enough.

One more thing, without getting into details, I was once detained for not having my passport on me. At one point of my detention, the police put my friends and I in the National Drug Headquarters "war room". There on the bulletin board in plain sight was a map of Jakarta with push pins and strings leading to cards that detailed where and when they planned on doing drug and/or immigration raids. Not one of (ahem) Jakarta's finest sitting in the room with us seemed to mind that we were essentially reading their secrets. Had any of us known any drug dealers etc, we could have been able to tell them exactly when and where they were coming. I can't help but repeat myself: so much for the element of surprise!

You can read more about the clampdown here:

All you motorcyclists out there remember to turn your light on in the daytime for the next week or so....

Friday, March 26, 2010


Any expat who lives in Jakarta for long enough will inevitably ask themselves "Why am I living here?" without really having a justifiable answer. Jakarta is an extremely polluted, overcrowded, noisy, smelly, gridlocked hell hole. It is nearly impossible to walk down most streets due to non-existent sidewalks and pollution. The sky is almost constantly filled with smog. Traffic can turn a 10 minute drive into a 2 hour excursion. The concept of being outdoors is mostly a concept despite the endless summer weather. Garbage fires are a daily sight. Noise pollution makes it nearly impossible to find peace and quiet. There isn't much to do besides drink beer, walk around a mall or eat. There is constant harassment when walking "hello mister" "taxi mister?" "buy something mister". Heavy rain causes floods and obscene traffic jams. Getting out of town is so exhausting that many don't even bother. These factors lead me to wonder: Why would anybody of sound body and mind choose to live in this urban nightmare?

The answer is simple: Jakarta is extremely addictive! I've lived here for years and often have my "Jakarta days" when I can't take it any more and just want to scream. Many other days, I find myself mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the city. Even though most of the city looks the same, there are endless wonders to behold.

I often have 45 minute taxi rides that are extremely entertaining thanks to the odd sights and near traffic accidents one can observe. No matter how many times I see a bus with 50 young boys standing on the top pounding a drum in adoration of their favourite football club, I get excited. Seeing the odd way people make money such as dressing in drag or having a monkey ride a bicycle still get my attention every time.

Motorbike trips are even more exciting. Just the other day, I saw a man carrying what looked like a marmot tied to a string on the side of his bike. Often, you can go places on a motorbike that cars can't go which allow you to see what I like to call the real Jakarta. Small shacks with barefoot children playing in the streets, old men enjoying a cheap coffee and a cigarette, impromptu streetside markets selling items that range from bras to avocados. Sometimes, I take the long way to a destination just for a little excitement or to find out where that road leads to.

These factors lead me to believe that Jakarta is as addictive as a city can be. Even getting lost can be exciting. When friends visit each other, one of the first topics of conversation is often the voyage to the meeting place. Whether it be about the traffic, getting lost or a strange sight, it is always interesting to see or hear. Years ago, I thought that this weird fascination would wear off with time. It hasn't worn off yet and I doubt it ever will. The next time you find yourself asking "why the hell do I live here?", try to imagine yourself back in the town you are from and what the consistent dullness and predictability of daily life is like. It just may make you appreciate this uninhabitable hell hole a little more.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lead by Example

For the last few days, my house has reeked of smoke since somebody nearby has been burning leaves and trash. A little know fact about trash is that it disappears if you burn it, kind of like the poop spray does in that movie 'Envy' ( ). After a day or 2, I got really annoyed with the constant stench of burnt plastic fumes filling my house. I went for a bike ride to see where the fire was coming from. It turns out that the garbage fire was being stoked by the pillars of the community: the local Mosque. I can understand when a poor man burns his garbage because he doesn't know any better or doesn't have the money to pay to get it removed but I surely would think that the pillars of the community would know better. Knowing when I'm beaten, I didn't say a word. I went home, lit some incense and pretended that burning plastic fumes were good for you. Today's blog is short and sweet but there's really nothing more to say except thank's for the nagchampa incense, Mr. PG.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Smoke 'em If You Got 'em

Jakarta is probably 20 years behind the rest of the world when it comes to smoking bylaws. That makes this city a smoker's paradise. Smoking is allowed virtually everywhere. A smoker in Jakarta is a free man/woman. Suddenly, the walls have been torn down, you can smoke at a bar or club without having to go outside. Smoking in restaurants is pretty much always an option. Some have very small non-smoking areas right next to the smoking area. It is often socially acceptable to smoke inside people's houses and cars. It is not uncommon to see a father driving his car with the window cracked slightly while his 2 children sit in the back. The downside to this is that it makes one smoke much more than they normally would.

The complete social acceptance is only one side of the coin. The other is the cost of cigarettes. A pack (depending on the brand) generally goes for close to $1 USD. They are so cheap that I don't care if I lose a pack or if friends bum smokes (or fags) from me all night long. People often share the packs of cigarettes littering a table at a bar as it is often difficult to remember which one belongs to you. This is a far cry to my back home smoking days when you would guard your smokes with your life. These factors are great for a while until you realize that you've been smoking and occupying smoke filled rooms for years on end.

The whole "smoking is bad for you" phenomenon hasn't really caught on yet in Indonesia. Young children may tell you that it's bad but the adult population doesn't really buy it. They don't think that it's good for you but they may believe that it's bad for you the same way that Coca-Cola is.
Smoking is what men do in this country. Indonesian cigarettes are often a mixture of tobacco and cloves. They have a sweet smell and crackle when smoked. One company called Gudang Garam proudly advertises itself as a MAN'S cigarette. They have these over the top television commercials where people are skydiving in Patagonia or white water rafting. Whenever they complete their physically demanding activity, they sit down and light a Gudang Garam. Another brand of cigarettes called Dji Sam Soe was invented as a cure for bronchitis. They are extremely large, dense, heavy cigarettes. It takes a REAL man to finish just one.

For years, I thought that this whole smoking culture was very liberating. The only places I've seen where not smoking is actually enforced are schools and fast food restaurants (probably because they are from America). There are smoking bylaws in many places but they are not enforced. Hospitals only allow smoking in certain areas. Many other public places will have a "designated smoking area" that is out in the open. This means that the smoke can travel all around a room but you can only smoke in one corner of said room. Now, I've decided that it's time to quit. The liberty of smoking has now become very repressive. It is almost impossible to go anywhere where people aren't smoking. If you go out to a bar or club, your clothes will smell like smoke for days. I never realized how smoky it can be in some places until I wasn't smoking in them.

I haven't done that well with the quitting so far but this time I have a long term plan to stick with it. I'm sure you've heard that one before. The short term quitting is not that difficult. The long term becomes difficult when you walk into a room and half of the people in there are smoking. I have friends who have quit numerous time and usually fall back into it slowly. I predict that smoking in public places in Jakarta will not happen much before the year 2020 and that it will take another 2 years to actually get people to stop. In the meantime, I'll try to endure this one time paradise that has turned into my personal hell.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Just When You Think You've Seen Everything...

Anyone who has spent as little as one day in Indonesia can see that safety is not really a priority. The best example of this is the way people drive. It is complete chaos. I've lost count of how many times I've seen people narrowly avoid death or injury. Many seem oblivious. The hazards can go way beyond the road but the road is always nearby.

It is amazing to see people walking beside (or sometimes in the middle of) a road. They barely blink when a motorbike narrowly misses them as it zooms by. It is also not uncommon to see someone (especially a child) run into the street without looking or to run into the street and then look to see if there is a vehicle approaching. News Flash: There is ALWAYS a vehicle approaching!

Years of observing and asking questions have led me to a few conclusions.....

First of all, there are so many vehicles and so few sidewalks that people are used to vehicles driving dangerously close to them as they walk down the street. I guess it's kind of like getting used to garbage smell if you live next to a dump.

Secondly, there seems to be more of a reactive than preventative approach when it comes to safety. This means that nothing is really considered unsafe until someone actually gets hurt. I've had a quite a few of these instances where I've tried to warn someone of impending danger only to be told that it isn't dangerous since they've never seen THAT happen before. My favorite instance of this was a toddler left unattended in a kitchen with a pot of boiling water directly above where he was playing. I made a fuss and the parent considered me to be a little bit strange.

Third: motorbike helmets are NOT for protecting your head. They are worn to avoid being pulled over by the police for not wearing a helmet. This leads having to pay a "fine". I've seen people turn onto a small road where there aren't any police and immediately pull over to take off their helmet. Ironically, I've seen way more accidents on small roads than on big ones. Sending an SMS while driving a motorbike also isn't dangerous.

Fourth: hard hats and shoes of any kind are not necessary at construction sites. One of my favorite memories is sitting in a taxi in front of a construction site. A guy from the 5th floor threw a bucket to the ground without even looking. Another guy, barefoot, was walking by on the ground. The bucket fell right in front of him. He stopped, looked up, smiled and waved at the guy on the 5th floor and carried on with his day.

Fast forward to this afternoon. I was sitting in a food stall enjoying an afternoon coffee. The woman who runs the food stall was in the corner cutting some vegetables. Her daughter, who was around 3 years old, was sitting next to her and had a knife of her own. It was a small but very sharp knife. At first, she was poking at a small onion in her other hand. How she avoided cutting herself is beyond me. Then, with her mother watching, she got up and started running around with the knife. Then she started swinging wildly at a cat in front of her. She was swinging so wildly that she almost cut herself a few times. Eventually, she swang too close to the cat's tail and it ran away. Then, she started throwing the knife on the ground and then picking it up by the blade.

I couldn't stand the thought of this little girl cutting herself so I left. The alternative would have been watching or having a very confusing conversation with her mother about the safety of knives. It would've been like the "Who's on first?" conversation......."That is dangerous, she could hurt herself!" "What do you mean, she plays with the knife all the time." "But she could cut herself very badly." "But she has never cut herself before?" "The knife is sharp, if she cuts herself, it could kill her." "But she didn't cut herself!"....... and on and on and on.

One more observation...

Knives, scissors, jagged metal or any other sharp metal object you can think of is NOT dangerous and no care is needed when handling them. This is especially true when walking with one of these items in your hand.

Just when I thought I've seen it all: A toddler playing stabby-stabby with a knife while mom proudly watches. As I'm writing this, it occurs to me that I have no idea what the Indonesian word for dangerous is. First thing I'm doing after finishing this blog is looking it up and memorizing it. Not that it will do me much good.