Saturday, March 24, 2012

Death of the Javan Rhino

A long time ago, when I first came to Indonesia, I discovered an amazing drink. What initially drew me to this drink was not the flavour or a recommendation but the fact that the can had a picture of a rhinoceros on it. The inner child in me could not resist buying a rhino drink, not to mention the cryptic Arabic writing on it. It turned out to be a pretty tasty drink, like gatorade but less sweet. Also, it came in a variety of flavours such as orange, apple, strawberry, guava and lychee.

What started out as a novelty soon turned into a staple as you could often find what I like to refer to as rhinoceros juice in my fridge. When Indonesian friends would see me drinking this, they would ask me if I was feeling OK. Turns out that my "rhino juice" is really a type of jamu, which is a type of Javanese herbal medicine. I would reply that I just liked the taste and the fact that there was a rhino on the can.

This led me to do some translating/investigating. I mean, why did it actually have a rhino on there? Would its herbal properties give one the strength of a rhino? Or perhaps impenetrable skin that would metaphorically maintain one's health? As it turns out the real name for rhino juice is LARUTAN PENYEGAR CAP KAKI TIGA. This roughly translates to refreshing solution that stamps with three legs. A what???

The part that really wow'ed me was the 3 legs part. I suppose this means that you have some kind of extra leg/foot which gives you extra strength. Further investigation revealed that "larutan" (as it is called by the locals) is said (on the can) to "refresh the body, treat heartburn, fever, colds, canker sores, sore throat and constipation." I later found out that cap kaki tiga (stamp three legs) is a brand name (like Nokia or Kraft) and doesn't actually mean anything.

So, it is a medicine of sorts for whatever ails you. This is why everyone was always asking me if I
was OK. Further questioning as to why there was a rhino on the can seemed pointless. Indonesians I asked simply said they didn't know or that they have often wondered the same thing. Questions about the Arabic writing on the can provided similar answers. I decided that there was no point in asking why and that I should just get on with my life and continue to enjoy my "rhinoceros juice".

Years later, last week to be exact, I started to notice a design change on my beloved rhino juice. The rhino was being phased out with a new can design. This new design completely got rid of the rhinoceros and replaced it with the kaki tiga (three legs) logo.
Seeing this broke my heart a little. My old rhino friend would no longer be part of my life. I have grown to trust and depend on him over the years. The strangest thing about this is that the original design with the rhino has him standing on what appears to be a rock or mud and there is the ocean in the background. The kaki tiga logo still has the ocean in the background and it just looks weird. Sure, the contents of the can would still be the same, but it is as if coca cola put a picture of Hitler on the can. I needed to find out more.

After some intensive research and with the help of google translate, I finally found out the answer. Or so I thought. I found a story about a Sumatran factory that produced soft drinks and ice. They put a rhino on their packaging since there were so many rhinos in the area. Further reading led me to conclude that this is a completely different company since their products are only available in the North Sumatra province. I have since given up and decided to not let my dear friend leave me so suddenly. I am childishly searching around town for every can I can find that still has the Rhino on it so that we can stay friends for a little while longer. Eventually I will have to say goodbye to my dear friend, a day which I do not look forward to.

Here is their website...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How to Stay Dry in A Monsoon

At the moment, Jakarta is in the midst of its rainy season. For those of you who have never experienced rain in SE Asia, it generally comes in large quantities over a short period of time. All day long light rain is not the norm, it is massive downpours that will soak an individual to the bone in seconds.

The rain can cause paralysis as it is virtually impossible to walk, or sometimes even drive in. Most people will tend to remain where they are when a storm comes. However, this is not always avoidable, especially when riding a motorbike.

Those of us who ride motorbikes usually have rain gear stashed under the seat for such an occasion. Some Indonesians prefer to hide under a bridge or overpass, I prefer to don the rain suit and giv'er. Finding the proper rain suit has been a bit of a difficult task for me as of late as I kept managing to get wet in one way or another, here is how I found the ultimate solution....

Years ago, an old girlfriend of mine had a bright pink poncho that she never wore. I used it in a pinch one day and found that it worked quite well. The down side of a poncho is that it doesn't really keep you dry from the knee down and it flaps around in the wind. This flapping around can be quite dangerous if it latches onto something as you will be pulled off your bike. Sensing the danger and wishing to have dry calves, I decided to try something new: the 2 piece rain suit.

This 2 piece type of suit had always worked well whenever I went hiking back home so I thought why the hell not. I bought a relatively cheap suit on the side of the road and it seemed to do the trick. It managed to keep 98% of my body (minus my feet) dry. The downside of this was the 2% that did get wet.... Sitting on a bike, a puddle tends to form in the crotch area and eventually seeps through the seams in the pants. This results in what I refer to as a "wet basement". This is not a pleasant experience. I often would show up to work being totally dry except for the lower crotch area. Not comfortable or aesthetic. The other downside of a 2 piece suit is that it does not keep your backpack dry. I always have my laptop in my backpack which means it is essential to keep it dry.

Feeling defeated, I decided to take it up a notch and purchase a more expensive heavy duty rain suit from one of my favorite stores: Ace Hardware ( This getup would not be complete without buying a rain cover for my backpack. This was surprisingly cheap and easy to find. Now there was no stopping me, I would be dry and comfortable and safe. Not so much. I was all of these things for a couple of wet bike trips. Then, when it rained heavily one day, I realized that the backpack cover allowed for water to fall down my back and seep into my backpack, right in the area where my laptop sits. I then realized that with a little rigging, I could tie my backpack rain cover in a way that water would not seep inside.

Then, something completely unexpected happened. The fake leather on my bike seat started to rip, exposing the inner foam. The problem with this was that every time it rained, the foam would get wet (and stay wet for days) which would in turn leave me with a wet basement every time I used my bike. After a slow and painful search to get my seat cover replaced, I realized that there was a place that could do it across the street from my office. It cost Rp. 35 000 ($4) and took 10 minutes. Now, rain or shine, nothing could stop me! Not so much.....

A few days later, I ended up having to drive in the rain for 30 minutes as I was far away from home. Turns out that my expensive "waterproof" rain suit wasn't so waterproof. By the time I got home, I was completely soaked, my jacked leaked badly around my shoulders and I had a wet basement of epic proportions. Upon further inspection, I found that my jacked had ripped under the shoulder, leaving my torso completely exposed. Dejected, I went back to the drawing board.

A few days later on my lunch break, I stumbled across a bike accessory shop that sold mostly helmets and rain gear. I managed to find a cheap poncho that was also gigantic. It was so big, that I could tuck it under my butt and avoid the flapping in the wind, not to mention keep my backpack dry. This combined with the pants that came with my "expensive" rain suit turned out to be perfect. The front of the poncho covers the crotch area and prevents basements from getting wet while the pants keep my calves and ankles dry. Now I am completely waterproof (except for my feet). Turns out, as often happens in Jakarta, I took the long way around to the easy solution. The answers were right in front of me the whole time, not to mention right outside the door of my office.

No more wet basements makes for a happy blogger.

Selamat Jalan