The Second Version


Impressions of Jakarta, Part 2

The Traffic
I already mentioned it, but traffic in Jakarta has to be seen to be believed. It is heavy, but also utterly chaotic. Drivers are supposed to keep the left hand side, but on the backroads they seem to keep whatever side of the road is more convenient. Motorbikes (hojek) - often with two or three people on them - pop up from everywhere, trying to enter the road, overteke or switch lanes at anytime from all sides. Cars and those terrible three-wheeled taxis do more or less the same. The honk is your best friend over there. Passenger buses ride with no front and rear doors (I dare to guess that it's the only ventilation system they have) and not just seldom passengers perform incredible stunts to hop on and off moving buses with their luggage. Pedestrians have to be quick and sharp while crossing roads - but you can see many happily walking up and down the side of expressways. Or maybe it was just because the flood made things even worse than usual. A lot of vehicles are old and battered; I thought the traffic in Italy (at least the North) was bad, but Jakarta is a couple orders of magnitude worse.

It had to be coming, Indonesia being the most populous Islamic country. But let's start with a clarification: as far as I know, Indonesia is a federal republic in which the constituent states (or provinces; you get it) have rather large autonomy. The constitution of the Indonesia is a secular one.
The kind of Islam I've seen in Jakarta seems pretty easygoing. There are many mosques, but also a number of Christian churches. I haven't seen a single burqa - while I have seen many in London: most Indonesian women seem content with wearing a hair-covering veil over modest but western-style clothes; ankles and forearms are often exposed. A few women wear also long vests, but that's about all. Alcohol can be bought almost everywhere, and pork products are just a bit less common. It was close to the Chinese New Year, and this being the year of the Pig, many shops were openly selling pig toys and other pig-themed items. Edgware Road, London, looks much more Islamic (and Arabic) than Jakarta. Of course, I know that Indonesia has its own set of radicals and jihadis. One episode I witnessed was...

The Disturbing Souvenir
I went to this huge shopping mall, Taman Anggrek, and in there some shops also have smaller stalls on the mall's inner concourse. One of these stalls sold souvenirs - small flags, statues, fridge magnets and all that. I noticed a souvenir that was a reproduction of the WTC in New York complete of the first plane slamming into the tower and a big, golden, grinning Bin Laden's face beside the Twin Towers. I muttered "That's sick" and walked away. The sick souvenir just lied casually among US flags, Leaning Towers of Pisa and many other innocuous items: I do not know whether I should be more or less disturbed by that. I did not try to engage the girl at the stall in conversation for various reasons: Most people over there do not speak enough English for an abstract conversation; she was in all likelihood just a worker with little if any say in the matter - and first of all, it is not exactly wise to rock the boat when you're alone in a foreign and even Islamic country.

Read Part 1
Read Part 3

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2 Commenti:

  • Grazia...

    assurdo ha pensato -
    Dio delle rese di Europa
    di speranze di Universo

    odiare la sua colpa di cultura orgogliosa cristiana
    te stesso ed appena rinunciare

    Di Anonymous USpace, Alle 26/2/07 21:25  

  • Apprezzo i commenti dei lettori, ed apprezzo il tuo sforzo poetico, ma cosa c'entra questo commento con un articolo in inglese che tratta di tutt'altro argomento?

    Hai lasciato lo stesso commento anche sul vecchio blog: questo è prendere una brutta strada.

    Di Blogger Fabio, Alle 27/2/07 08:25  

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