Thursday, March 23, 2006

Another Day at the Mall

Went out shopping today, first time in ages. Took the car and driver into town, through wet streets and bad traffic, to a place my boss had said sold DVD’s and mp3 cd’s. Got there to find that they only sold Indonesian music, seems there has been a huge crack down lately on copied films and music. Not sure why, but as usual, one just has to wait it out. A lot of shops closed, and a guy that did show me some DVD’s, pulled them out from under a bench and looked furtively around before displaying them. He was scared, but also out to make a quick buck. Could I view the film briefly before buying? I ask. A normal practice that I’ve done countless times. He said no, and so I left him to the bare shelves of his shop and took a look around to see what other shops were doing. All were the same. Some actually said they didn’t have any DVD’s, and pointed to the local fare of “Dangdut” (Indonesian pop music) cd’s as their only stock.

Something has got the shop keepers in a state, and after talking to one of the local satpams (guard), I was starting to get a better idea of what has been going on. Seems Surabaya is the national production city of pirate DVD’s, and a number of factories have been closed down recently, with cops triumphantly trumpeting the news in the local media and promising more to come. Shop keepers have been threatened with huge fines, and there is a lot of tension in the air. After all, buying films is a national pastime, and to try and change the mindset in one fell swoop spells disaster down the track. Seems to me someone hasn’t been paying their dues to the cops, or, are the cops actually cracking down due to orders from on high? If so, who? What is in it for them? Why now?

The answers are not clear and most probably it will never be properly explained. Conversely, pirated Playstation 2 and Xbox games are a dime a dozen, with most DVD shops changing over to them. The sheer number being sold has had a huge effect on price; with the cost now a third of what it was a couple of months ago. Now call me strange, but pirated Playstation & Xbox games are ok, but DVD’s and mp3’s aren’t because…because what? Is it cos they have paid their dues? Or the bonafide game manufacturers don’t have the clout of the film distributors to influence the powers on high? Or is there something else going on? I know that the president is ardently trying to get overseas investment into Indonesia, promising massive reforms of everything from the docks to taxation, and maybe he sees this as a way of getting the American government on side. Time will tell.

So, I wandered around Tanjungan Plaza, a huge mall spreading out in four different ways, five stories tall, with a large open area in the middle, from which you could look down into from every level. It’s a glamorous place, every designer name is present, the cafes and restaurants beckon with beautiful surrounds and lovely aromas waft through the air.

Had a coffee, a very nice one in fact, Jamaican no less, at one of the cafes that surround the sides of each level. Ideal place to people watch and after awhile noticed something interesting. I have always been aware that Indonesians love the balustrade that goes around each level, and will spend ages hanging over it looking down, across and up. Seems it’s a national pastime to just hang out and watch everyone else. So there I am, sipping my coffee, when I start to notice single girls also hanging over them, seemingly innocent, well dressed and just…waiting. Then after a few minutes, a guy joins her, they first ignore each other, guess she is checking him out as subtly as she can. If she likes what she sees, she turns towards him and they start to chat, if not, she shifts away and to another position. After awhile, the newly met couple walk away together.

I continue to watch and see a number of meetings occur, and some that don’t. For one huge guy, massively corpulent, it didn’t work out. He moves over and stands next to a rather small Indonesian girl. She takes one look and legs it to the other side of the mall. He wanders off disconsolately. I’m wondering, some sort of singles dating scene? This idea is quickly thrown away when I notice one girl standing not too far from me, just across the way and is giving me the eye. I look around to see if she is looking at anyone else around me, not me surely? The thought goes through with some trepidation. But, yep, it’s me she’s interested in. Now here is the thing. The only time I’ve seen given the eye is when I’m at some bar where, unfortunately, at times working girls tend to hang out in the chance of picking up a rich bule (white guy).

Now I know malls are an important part of Indonesian daily life, but working girls? I talk to the waiter who is hovering nearby and ask him to clarify what’s going on. He laughs. Obviously finds my naivety amusing but explains that most of them are school girls, or shop girls, or waitresses out to make a few extra bucks. They are not professional working girls, and would be offended if one were to treat them as such. But, they are there to pick up some extra cash and the easiest way is to meet some guy, go to a hotel, have a quick fling, then its back to the mall to do some shopping. The going price was around Rp300, 000 the waiter tells me, and shrugs; it’s a big sum for some of them. I did a quick calculation and figured it was around AU$45.00. By indo standards, at least a third of the average shop girl’s monthly pay packet.

Personally, I found the whole thing depressing. These girls are not hard bitten bar flies but are instead uniformly young, attractive and would not look out of place if taken home to meet the parents. Yet they are out to sell themselves for the sake of whatever item that’s caught their eye. Seems the mall is not just a place to buy goods but also innocence. Capitalism at work I guess, but hell, it isn’t pretty.

So I ignore the eye giving girl and finish my coffee and wander off again. However, wherever I walk, I now notice that it’s occurring all over the place, girls hanging about just waiting, and it’s no longer the innocent act of teenagers hanging out at the mall. This mall, this trendy, sparkling, expensive zone of designer goods and aromatic cafes, lost most of its glamour for me today.


A Quick One

Once again I am reminded that it’s been ages since I’ve written here. Not sure what to make of that, possibly the idea of sitting down and writing has waned somewhat in the past few months, again, not sure why but this may have something to do with the fact that work is as busy as ever, and when one gets home, its play with the kids, relax, read a book, catch up with the Jakarta Post, dinner, a movie then bed. Weekends are usually family time, so, here I am, just back from a short four day holiday with family to Lombok, and its still holidays and time to catch up on stuff.

For those of you who appreciate brilliant photography, check out the new link on the side. He has a blog but most importantly, this guy can take photos. Beautiful stuff. For a sample of what he does best , try this : Java Jive

Also added is a blog I’ve been reading over the time I’ve been here, a fellow who is much more disciplined than me and always makes interesting reading. Check it out.

And no, I have no idea what has happened to my tag board to the side, and cant remember my password to get in and change it, so have to wait till they email me with the p’word. Looks as if somehow I’ve been infected by another board...as long as its clean stuff...it can wait!


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?