Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Hype

I could possibly be beginning to believe the hype- A person needs to be happy or at least know how to make themselves happy before anyone else can make them happy.

As I left the house yesterday to proceed through my regular Tuesday routine, I found myself grinning.  I went for dinner at Grand Indonesia mall like the last month of Tuesdays.  I go with or without company and I splurged last night.  I went to Pizza Marzano, had a margherita pizza and iced tea.  It was fantastic and I ate it all, a 10" thin crust slice of heaven.  The splurge was well deserved and kept me smiling right on through dinner. I then made my usual trip to Kempi Deli.  Their perishable goodies are half off after 8pm. I've started buying them out and reselling the quiche, meat pies or sausage rolls to the boys at work. Nearly all of them have families and live in the 'burbs so they don't get in for those specials any more. There used to always be at least A meat pie or a sausage roll. I think the owners realized how many were ending up at 50% off so they're making fewer.  Last night was the third week of no pies/rolls and the first time I felt let down by it. Four quiche and four mini croissants are nothing to turn ones nose up at though.  I ended with ladies night and my ladies at MO bar in the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Most of the good bars here are in hotels. I suppose it's logical, but I wonder if anyone ever really gets too drunk and decides to stay.  I know management's fingers are probably crossed anyway.

Several months ago, I was the first to arrive at a group function.  I was waiting in a bar where I was the only foreigner which made me the center of attention.  I've spent a lot of time, especially here in Jakarta though not only here, being uneasy as a center of attention. I've never considered myself as one happy to be or looking to be the center of attention. Being a bule (foreigner in Indonesian, though some consider it the equivalent of gringo) only triples the attention.  I am noticed everywhere I go.  In Spain, in Portugal, and Italy and Hungary I could blend in.  In each of those countries the locals spoke to me in the local language.  Even in Guatemala it wasn't as glaringly obvious.  OK, Denmark didn't work quite so well but I was only there a week!  So I was in this  bar, text messaging my friend, desperate for him and the others to show up.  He told me to live it up and be a star.  "Know that all the men want to be with you and all the women want to be you".  It still makes me smile. I wouldn't have believed it from most people, but he's quite the salesman.  Jakarta is a place that I feel it might be true.  The bule worship here is ridiculous. (more as an addendum below). I was able to rock it alone until the posse showed up, and didn't hide in the corner to do it.

Yesterday as I left my building, I walked across the patio and the 2 teenage boys that live here, or belong to someone who does, both smiled.  The ojek drivers just outside know me.  I'm learning their name but I know the regulars by sight.  I think the laugh at me on a regular basis but without real malice.  It probably more because they cannot wrap their heads around me. I know they laugh when  I get on the back of a bike side-saddle  at 7 pm in a skirt.  They notice and the whole neighborhood is secretly laughing, I like to think with delight, at this silly white girl who love the bike rides.  At the mall, I dismounted and headed for the appropriate, though not the closest entrance.  A pack of teen boys were milling about.  One said hi, so I said hi back with a smile.  "Nice dress miss" and my smile was ear to ear.

It might not matter what you wear, if you're having a good hair day or even how hot you are.  Maybe wearing a smile is the most important accessory.  Indulge me a moment. After working my way through six seasons of Sex and the City, I might be feeling a little Carrie Bradshaw.  No, I didn't see SATC when it was on TV, I didn't think it was me.  Yes Nora, you were right. Just like you were right on Monday. We were out at a restaurant called Potato Head, and to my chagrin, there were no Mr. Potato Heads on the tables. I was a mess when we arrived as I'd been caught not in one, but TWO storms that evening, both while riding on the ojek. After the first deluge I'd opted for jeans and something waterproof before heading out again. My hair was a frizzy mop, no make up, barely even lip gloss.  Its always those nights that a cutie walks by.  Nora gave me an excuse and pushed.  I asked him to take a photo of us.  He has perfect English, a great smile and cracked a joke. By the time we left we'd exchanged blackberry pins (that's what the cool kids do these days I've learned.  Phone numbers are sooo 2008).  Perhaps we can always push our friends to make a move because we can see in them what we often fail to see in ourselves.  As our friends, we see them at the beautiful, interesting, sexy, amazing, independent women that they are.  Obviously I don't speak for everyone, but I know there are regularly times that I don't feel any of that.  I am getting my Master's in the "fake-it-until-you-make-it" theory. It rarely works as well as you'd hope.

I can see my friends and know they are way too fantastic to be alone, unless that is their chosen condition. Why can't I see myself that way?  The new goal, find something to smile about and do just that.  Random things that made me smile in the last 3 days include:
* Feeling like I might just have taken a decent school photo
* Being in a place where I had to take a school photo again (ahhhh reminescing)
* Still thinking it's funny every time we go by a hospital here and seeing 'rumah sakit' which means hospital but also knowing that rumah is house and sakit of pain. This inevitable leads to thinking about house of pain which is the last thing you'd want a hospital to be. Jump Around!
* being honestly tickled that my ojek driver managed to message me "Miss, I met you for school tomrw, ya ok?"  He's never said more than 2 words in English to me, and just 3 days before I had to remind him that I speak very little Indonesian, I needed him to slow down.
* Seeing a guy on the back of a motobike trying to wrap his arms around a long skinny box with a 32' LCD tv, then five minutes later seeing a guy with one of the older version 32' tvs, the ones that are as deep as they are wide.
* Having smashed my knee yet again just as I was thinking, and as a friend said "be careful".
* The Minnesota Public Radio Podcast Single of the Day is from the new Ray LaMontagne disc.  I love him anyway but the disc title is "God willin and the creek don't rise" which is something my dad used to say.
* Vampire Weekend is doing a concert here in Jakarta.

I can't say this is a "grateful journal" or a "happiness diary" or whatever bullshit name they use to sell stuff like that, but when I see people who have to wait in line at the bus stop near Setia Budi for what must be hours.  The whole platform is full, and the line stretches the length of the pedestrian overpass bridge. They wait because the bus is only 2,000Rp. and a taxi or even ojek is too much . . well, it's a humbling reminder.  If the woman sitting on the side of the street every morning selling her 20 fish in the stink and the trash can chat with the women beside her and laugh, then what's keeping me from finding a smile?


Indonesians think that whiter skin is more attractive, no matter how much I explain that most Westerners think tanner is better.  This morning I saw a woman carrying a child of no more than two, with the tell tale white crust on her face from whitening cream. I hate to think what toxic chemicals are in there. Most motorbike riders where long pants and long sleeves not for safety but because they don't want their skin to get any darker.  The basis for this was originally the same as the men that have the creepy creepy long finger nails.  Lighter skin is a sign they don't have to do manual labor out in the elements, therefore a sign of wealth (or relative wealth).  I personally believe it's also part of the reason that many of the Chinese have a superiority complex; they are generally lighter skinned.
I've had my picture taken by many Indonesians. It's a phenomena I can't really wrap my head around.  I don't know what they do with the photos, or why its a socially accepted thing to ask (gesture really) to get photos with bule at monuments and parks.
Part of it is the opportunity to catch a bule ticket out of dodge but I think it's more than that. I just can't quite figure it out.

1 comment:

  1. I don't care if you disagree, but reading this post made me feel like I was reading a post from Carrie in SATC, and I loved it.

    I believe that the smallest and simplest things in life bring the biggest smiles, which by the way, is the best accesory one can carry.
    I have to agree with your friend, live it up! Be the star! You are the precious Bule there, savor every minute of it.

    As far as Asians wanting to have fair skin, I learned from a Taiwanese friend in the US, that dark skin is a sign of poverty and at times ignorance, since the only people with dark skin (at least in Taiwan) were the rice field farmers. So, people fight against their DNA if possible with that white paste they put on their faces. I knew about Asians and their desire of being white, but I didn't know the reasons why. I learned the reasons why from my friend as she stepped out of our hotel room in Chicago with her face covered in that white paste looking like a ghost.