Friday, March 19, 2004

A Visit to the Mall

Sunday visits to the mall, a Jakarta cultural centrepiece, where people congregate in their thousands to wander about, shop madly then retire to huge food areas to ride roller coasters and snack in between the assorted death defying rides. The malls here are huge, bigger than anything I’ve seen in aussie, and way more glamorous...the industry of malls here is a cultural phenomenon, I read the other day that they are springing up at a rate that beggars belief… I’ll have to dig up those stats again… supermalls and malls are the place to go, and have fun at. There is precious little else to do except go to the mall...ask my students on Monday what they did on the weekend and you’ll get a litany of the malls they went to, the shops they visited and the movies they watched...the youth and indeed the families here go the mall, nothing else...it’s a place to meet and greet friends, to wander about, to sit and watch others wander about, to eat and shop if you have deep enough pockets, watch films at the cinema, play video games (lots of cyber cafes vibrating with the crash and rattle of machine gun fire as kids play LAN games against each other), floor spaces packed with shiny cars (its rare to go to a car showroom my students tell me, so the car showroom comes to the mall) and brochure wielding salespeople trying to get you to sign up on the spot as most cars are sold on credit here...they have to...the prices are way beyond that of the average Indonesian - still cant figure out how come there is so much traffic on the roads given the cost of cars compared to average salary – there must be a lot of credit floating around out there...

So last Sunday, we did what everyone else does and went to the supermall about 25 minutes up the tollway from our apartment. Hopped into a cab, got there for about AU$6, driver asks if we want him to wait (as far he is concerned it’s a good fare), politely say no, thinking it’s hard enough to brave the wilds of the mall without the lingering guilt of the fellow waiting for us to finish our fun so he can take us home again.

Enter into the mall; stand for a few moments trying to get our bearings, then head off to do what everyone else does, that is, look at the shops. All the international brand names are here from Lacoste, Bodyshop, Nike, Reebok and the list goes on. There are also supermarkets, clothing emporiums, and all the rest you would expect to find in a mall. The food courts are enormous, with every type of food imaginable, to one side a large fun park with rollercoaster, games, rides, etc etc.

I wandered into a tailor to look at some suits and was immediately accosted by the salesman, a friendly fellow who shakes my hand and within minutes has me rubbing yards of cloth up and down my arm to feel the quality. In fact, its surprisingly cheap to get a tailor made suit, trousers, waistcoat and jacket with a good quality material around AU$250.00. Two fittings during the process are required, and they guarantee satisfaction...I can also choose whatever style I want, bring in a picture and they will faithfully copy it...start imagining a wardrobe full of Armani copied suits and then I find myself thinking what a great idea to get a suit or two, never mind that they will hang in my closet for the next year or two…its with some reluctance that I pull myself away and join the better half and lil one who are waiting patiently, embarrassingly accustomed to the foibles of your truly…

The lil one decides she needs new shoes, as the ones she is wearing are pinching…we did try and point this out before we left but she has the stubborn qualities of a mule...arms folded, “nope”, shakes head firmly...so we let it go...big mistake… so here we are in a shoe shop where the salesgirls hustle about the lil one, her blonde hair acting like a magnet with g-force strength...at one stage we have 5 girls clustered around us, eagerly bringing shoes of all sizes and descriptions, most of which are glaringly awful, but we do manage to find something for her and out we trot with a sigh of relief, the lil one triumphantly carrying a stuffed toy given as a parting gift, her picture taken by all the girls with their mobile phones...at times she gets a bit upset by all the constant cheek (face) pinching and pats but this time round she handled herself with aplomb.

The supermall trip ends after the obligatory meal and we head home with some relief… secure in the knowledge that once again we have managed to brave the elements with the lil one in tow and survived.

Indonesian TV

Life is like this at the moment, work hard during the week, Saturday recovering from it all, spend time lazing by the pool reading, TV in the evenings, a choice of 40 odd channels to pick from yet really there are only a few channels you would really bother watching. The documentary channels are my better half’s favourite, cartoon channels for the lil one, and Cinemax and HBO delivering up a mixture of recent and not so recent films to sometimes suit my own tastes.

Indonesian TV at times can be interesting, soapies that are somewhat akin to “Neighbours” with the emotional quota of muzak and emphatic heart rending looks raised to lofty new heights and strewn about with reckless abandon...or the “Dangdut” channel which has gyrating middle aged female singers tucked into impossibly tight costumes with a retinue of fixedly smiling dancers bopping about as she winks and sings through pop songs, all seemingly with the same beat and tune...fun though.

There is even a show with an Indonesian guy who looks a bit like Tom Jones, deep voice, sings a collection of golden oldies to a golden oldie audience who at times feel the need to get up and stagger around the dance floor, precariously balanced on tottering limbs that look as if they are going to give out at any moment...encouraged by the “yes baby, that’s the way” from our suave smiling host and singer…

Indonesian/Asian MTV with trendy young things, all with American accents, looking a bit self-conscious in their trendy gear (the hipsters seem to cause a lot of embarrassment, the female presenters keep tugging down their tops to hide the offending belly button) as they introduce the latest pop song and read letters from 12 year old fans who just love the show and can you play my song and my favourite MTV presenter is Annabelle or Alexis or… also peppered with zany competitions such as guessing the time the MTV car takes to drive from one city to the next - cut to dotted weaving lines across a map representing the travels of the car, cut to brightly painted car pulling into a car park, cut back to weaving lines. Leaving you wondering and sometimes wishing the weaving dotted lines would stop in one place for a few hours – I reckon it would add realism to the whole competition by including the nature of traffic here which invariably jams to a standstill… Competitions are held in the malls in which members of the audience are invited to get up and sing a song, or show off their latest dance steps picked up from, no doubt, the Dangdut channel, with the winner given a bag of goodies and so it goes…

The criminal catching programmes can be fascinating, those with an interest in the criminal minds of the Indonesian underworld are rewarded with a series of shows on police catching crims, police interviewing crims with news flashbulbs going off at the rate of an Australia Day fireworks celebration, police showing off the scene of the crime, and visits to the local morgue where bodies are panned by the camera in some detail.

The crims are mostly poor sods who got caught ripping off a m’bike or road side stall, almost always are bandaged here and there due to the rough treatment of bystanders who always join in with gusto when after the bad guy…some crims sporting gunshot wounds to the leg or arm as they are hauled off the back of a truck to face the cameras (medical attention seems to be something for later, I haven’t yet seen a doctor summoned to check them out, instead the bandages are usually the crims own shirt torn into strips) before being paraded around then into the cop shop to be interviewed by half a dozen cops who seem to conduct the whole affair almost apologetically, as does the crim who alternates between a touching eagerness to confess and shamefaced wringing of the hands at being so stupid as to do wrong…

Murder scenes can be harrowing, bloody trails across the floor, the crime weapon waved about by a cop accompanied by inserts to a damaged body lying in the morgue. There is no squeamishness in presenting the dead victims; instead there is a certain matter of fact attitude in the camera as it displays the gore and stiffening limbs.

Then there are the historical programmes usually of an Indonesia where Sultans reigned supreme, chat shows with a religious bent, comedies which can be of anything and everything, a popular one at the moment revolves around a couple of cross dressing blokes… and the list goes on. One thing is for sure, there is never a dull moment on Indonesian TV. You may not understand the language or what’s going on, but sometimes the pictures alone are more than enough…


Saturday, March 13, 2004

I am having fun with this blogger site! Wandered about and added some features to it.

To leave a comment under a particular entry (you didn't like the subject, hated the spelling or really, really wanted to share your awe and wonder at such insightful prose-hehe), press comments,


if you want to just say hi, use the tag box on the left hand side, and no, you don't have to leave your email addy, but a name would be nice :)

It's the rainy season at the moment, pours down most afternoons, sometimes all day. Only had two bad days of flooding..Jakarta is just not designed to take rain, lack of sewers, storm pipes, runoffs and catchment areas means that if we have two days of rain, then half the city becomes a bogged mess..which isn't half bad at times..makes for some excitement getting to school and wondering if half your students would be turning up as most of them live miles away, some drive for upto two hours each morning to get to school...

its a long day for them, school starts at 7.15 am with devotion (I'm at a christian school) lessons start at 7.30am and school goes till 3.10 pm. Each period is 40 minutes, but most subjects are doubles so we actually get the kids for 80 minutes..but in the last two periods they are wilting and its sometimes quite a challenge to get them interested and enthusiastic enough to get something from the lesson. I've had to rely on just about every teaching skill/activity I've learnt, practiced and/or heard of to get them through it but most times its worth it. When you see that spark of interest, the faces lighting up, and kids even participating (kids here don't as a rule actively participate much in class - isn't part of the culture) its a good feeling when you walk away at the end of the day. When it doesn't happen, and hey, that's teaching at times, then chalk it up to experience and try to reflect on just what happened and why.

So, yes, its a long day for them, not to mention the extra tutoring most kids get when they are at home, add to that study and homework, and they are rarely in bed before 11 pm, only to be up again at 5 am.
Parents here are paying what is, by Indonesian standards and most probably Aussie standards as well, a huge sum to send their kids to our school..something in the order of AU$500 per month. For this amount they get a school consisting of: a tiny library with hardly any resources and no cataloguing system, no sport facilities except for a crumbling basketball court, crummy desks and chairs, airconditioned classrooms (a huge plus) with perpetually grubby walls, three computer labs where the computers and the internet continually break down,... and that's it.

However, they also get an interesting mix of teachers from both Indonesia and overseas. The teachers on the main part are dedicated, knowledgeable, highly qualified (Phd's and MA's are littered all over the place), and while many nationals (Indonesian teachers) have no actual teaching degree (cos they are hired based on degrees in subjects rather than in teaching!), they seem to be getting results. Most teach the way they themselves learnt, that is, chalk and talk, students are expected to sit, absorb, rote learn, and as far as exams are concerned, it works. As far as actually developing independent thinkers and learners, we fall far short. However, the bottom line in Indonesia are the results, that is, the final grade and ranking. Parents will come up to you and say their Budi is ranked number 33 out of 100 or 15 out of 100, or 10 out of 100..., this is terrible and what can be done??

Given that all the expat teachers are using student centered learning as their primary teaching methodology, at times there can be quite a conflict between the two cultures. We have to encourage the kids to actually say something, ask an openended question to the class in general and you will find that most will never answer, they just don't know how. So, its back to targeting questions and inviting discussion through group work that has the better effect. Kids love to work in groups, they are extremely sociable, group harmony in the classroom has to be seen to be believed. There is little if any, conflict between students in the same class, I've only seen it once since I've been here. Given that for almost all subjects the class stays together for the entire day, from Homeroom till end of day, the group dynamics are hugely important.

Now that I've rabbited on, its time for a coffee... see you next time.. btw, if there are any spelling mistakes etc don't bother to email me..I know they are there lurking in the undergrowth, but I'm a two fingered typist and anyways, this is supposed to be a spur of the moment kind of thing..maybe I should type in word first then post..could save embarrassment...


Monday, March 08, 2004

So, here I am, a newbie, literally, to the art of blogging... not sure where to take this but for the moment, I guess it'll be the ramblings of an english teacher amidst the hustle and bustle of a 15 million plus city (Jakarta, Indonesia) where anything and everything can and does happen...
A place where the culture and lifestyle is so far different from Australia that it at least deserves a mention or two..a city that heaves and wrangles itself round post suharto government, heading to a major showdown amongst interested paries with the first real democratic elections to be held here ever..or at least, thats what the citizenry are continually told..
so, stay tuned..


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