mysophobia 潔癖

Nastiness Diagnosis. Anthropology. Religion. Gender. Justice. A Personal Notepad For the General Public.

Jakarta Luxury: un/helpful initiation of fieldwork?

“Enjoy these things as much as you can,” says Neldan, when we walk in the fanciest new huge department store in Jakarta Pusat, Grand Indonesia. I am stunned by the decoration of the mall, but mostly reminded by the wealth gap in indonesia that always haunts me, a point only made clearer and clearer. Passing by Gucci, Chanel, Banana Republic and cosmetics counters including SKII and Lancome, I suddenly forget where I am, and why I am here.


Who would foresee that 2 and half years later, I would have a nice place, precisely located in Permata Hijau area, one of the most elite residence area in Jakarta to stay? I knew Pak Yosef since summer of 2007, where I studied bahasa Indonesia in UW-madison. He gave a speech upon the propaganda followed by the 1965 coup in Indonesia. I was quite impressed by his brilliance and clarity, even though at that time my Indonesian proficiency was much more limited. He didn’t know me. It was until this summer he became a teacher in the SEASSI program of the 3rd year Indonesian class, to which I belong.
Yosef’s role in Indonesia is surprisingly different in Indonesia. Even though he got his PhD in history at UW-Madison, he just came back to Jakarta, still running the family business. I was waiting to get my Simpati simcard today in their office. The office is quite spacious, even though the staff’s reception room is not. Behind the office there is also a bedroom, which to my surprise comes into existence when I am told to pass through to reach the bathroom. Like living in the cozy house in Permata Hijau where house chores are handled by pembantu, in the office everything is taken care of by the secretary. They always smile, sometimes even laughing over me. Maybe because I have a weird accent, but somehow still manage to speak in their language, or just because I am a foreigner? In any case, I need a sim card, ask the secretary. We want to order lunch delivery, ask the secretary. I want to know what the office hours of the RISTEK office are, same thing. I need a blue bird cab, same. I feel so privileged and protected all day long, simply following Yosef and Neldan’s wisdom living in this capital city. The traffic jam in the city is really overwhelming, but otherwise things go well in the RISTEK office. The girls there think I am funny and speak fluent Indoensian (katanya “hebat”), asking me how long I have studied Indonesian. I was very delighted, but just couldn’t help but wonder how bad other foreigners’ bahasa was to make them think my so-so Indonesian was excellent. It is so easy to make these office girls giggle, as if every word every gesture that comes from me is sufficiently entertaining.
In the evening I follow Neldan to the Grand Indonesian mall. A friend of her is with us. The film is pretty good, mostly intense but entertaining, maybe just too easily manipulative of superficial emotions, typical of Q Tarantino. The delayed dinner brings us in a German restaurant, where Neldan met a British friend who has lived here over 12 years, currently writing a new book about politics. We had some interesting and superficial conversation mixed in English and Indonesian. The British man was impressed by my Indonesian.
I will need to get up early tomorrow for the report in police office at Jakarta Selatan, where my first residence is located (i.e. Permata Hijau). To avoid the Friday Prayer I will also hurry up heading back to RISTEK so that I can obtain more letters that I need to finish my arrival as a foreign researcher.
To live in Jakarta one really needs patience. To be a foreign researcher in Indonesia you’ll need a double doze of patience.

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This entry was posted on October 30, 2009 by in 【Indonesia-ish & SEAsia】.
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