Friday, August 29, 2014

Catching Up With Korea

I still have a few friends over in the once and aspiring hermit kingdom of Korea. And I must admit the 11-12 years I spent there makes me more concerned with the goings on there. You could say I kind of like the place I guess. Sometimes I find Korean stories while surfing and sometimes I get them from friends still there. The things I have been reading about this week, not all bad, not all good, are providing lots of chuckles and head shakes. The occasional tsk tsk at the parochial path Korea looks to be on that will lead them right back to their past. Sometimes it seems there are those in Korea who won't be satisfied until their citizens all resemble THIS guy:

Maybe I'm too harsh. You be the judge. I started the week off with this gem. In Korea there is a penalty for smoking pot of up to 30 years in jail and you can be busted for it even if the marijuana is consumed in a country where it's legal! You heard right, folks, the citizens of Korea are policed worldwide! So you can probably sense a little hysteria. What did they call it back when all this stupidity started? Reefer madness? A Korean publication known as No Cut News even posted a picture with their article about the evil foreigners trying to tarnish the Korean racial purity with their vices. Here it is:
There you have it, a bag of Korean Pale. You just GOTTA wonder about the accuracy of the article after seeing this pic!

I said to my Korean student here that it seems to go in cycles in Korea. A while ago they changed laws for foreigners after finding some Canadians with fake degrees teaching ESL. They instituted all kinds of degree verification laws. Later it was found that the foreigners had nothing to do with the fake documents but that their Korean recruiters had obtained them for the foreign teachers. No punishment for the recruiters, the foreigners were deported and the degree verification laws remain. And, oh yeah, when they started checking qualifications for EVERYBODY there were tons of Koreans found with fake degrees, some very high profile. So they stopped that.

Then came the sex scandal. Not going into the details but cameras were put up in schools all over Korea and, what do you know, they found more Koreans committing sex crimes than foreigners. So that anti-foreigner crusade relaxed a little too. But the laws were changed so that foreigners now have to get criminal record checks across the board and those laws not only remain but the added inconvenience of having degrees and criminal record checks stamped by notaries was introduced recently.

STD's, AIDS, foreigners are blamed and have to be fully fluid tested before going to Korea. And I would suggest that with the increase in sexual activity while maintaining some absurd stigmas about HIV that scare the locals away from being tested, they'd find these problems more prominent amongst Korean citizens as well.

Now the drug thing. What do you want to bet it will soon come out that the marijuana or Spice trade in Korea is largely handled by the natives? And the users? Mostly Korean. It's just that when you raid "all foreigner" clubs, as the above article stated, you tend to find foreigners with the weed. I've seen plenty of all Korean clubs but never one that's all foreigners, however, I DO know that foreigners are extra special targets in Korea. I lived there. If you doubt my personal experience, here's just one article of a bazillion you could find to support the argument.

But when blaming the foreigners for your problems doesn't work, who can you blame? Big, rich businesses! I had a good laugh when I read this article. Korea's favourite alcoholic beverage, soju, blamed for alcoholism? If you've been to Korea the number 26 would jump out at you. That's all? Only 26 people are blaming their alcoholism on soju? Wow! If they win their lawsuit, every third Korean will have a good shot at some free money. Or at least a few cases of suju on the comp. I just loved the excuse that "The health warning labels are too small to read..." ... when you're blind drunk on soju, yes, they probably are! lol

Next I read about the flooding in Pusan. When I read stuff like this I genuinely DO feel bad for the good people of Korea. I still believe the majority of them to be good. Wouldn't have stayed there so long otherwise. But I also tend to let my mind wander to the faults of the rest of Korea. I found myself thanking my lucky stars that I didn't choose to go back to Korea and teach, and came to Indonesia instead. Why? Well, I WAS in Calgary during the great floods of 2013. If I had been in Korea during the Pusan floods just a year later I feel it might have been just a little too big a coincidence for Korean waygook busters to ignore. I'da been deported on meteorological suspicions.

But the news wasn't all bad. I found this to be too funny to exclude: Korean franchise Paris Baguette has opened its first store IN PARIS! Korea's "bang"ing on the French bread market's door! It must be "pain" ful for the French. Ha ha ha ha. Bang=Korean for bread and Pain=French for bread. Aren't you "roll" ing on the floor laughing? Or was that a "crepe" y pun? Well you can't have your cake and eat it too.

Finally, on another positive note I read that the 10th Gwangju Biennale will start September 5th in Korea. I always liked the Biennale. There was lots to see and do. In fact I participated in the kimchi making contest one year. The foreigners division. I recall that the first and second place prizes were taken by two Japanese ladies who were married to Korean men, spoke Korean, had lived there for ages, had participated in the event before and had actually brought outside accoutrements with them to the contest. I had no idea that was legal! They garnished their kimchi with fancy mushrooms and sprigs of attractive seasonal foliage. I tried to make mine in the shape of a maple leaf, a strategy lost on the judges who snubbed me that year. If I were in Korea on September 5th I don't think I could help but enter the Gwangju Biennale Kimchi Making Contest - Foreigner Division. And I'd bring along a dimebag of my OWN accoutrements, if you know what I'm sayin...
See that green stuff? You KNOW what that is!!! Hoo hoo haa haaaa! The 30 years in jail might just be worth it. I'd get shtreet cred yo! Then I could join the burgeoning Korean rap industry. K-rap, they call it. ha ha ha.

Anyway, shout out to all my homies in the R to the O to the K!

Peace!

Monday, August 25, 2014

There's Hope in Ferguson

Russel Brand has become something of a voice of reason amidst the moral relativism we mentally manufacture in order to keep plugging away at our little lives without having to face world issues head on. His take on the Ferguson fiasco is a beautiful example of one of so many simple solutions available to the world that corporate, capitalist spin-doctors are earning their keep de-contextualizing and un-simplifying. He reckons the global question, not just the question in Ferguson, is this: “Shall we have a more equal society or shall we fortify and bolster our means for oppressing people?”

It IS as obvious as that but many are reminding us about race issues, unequal representation, slavery, etc. trying to turn a class war into a race war. Or into anything but what it actually is. It's a sign of the times that I needn't even mention the reasonable course of thought here that will enable us to cut through the bull shit. Follow the money. Who are these people and what is their agenda? Who prefers a race war to a class war and why? It's the people who seemingly will do ANYthing to stop the other 99.9% of the world from taking action to amend the social inequalities and the ever-increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots both in the U.S. and worldwide that has created the majority of the world's problems. In a nutshell, it's the haves. A friend wrote on Facebook recently, and I am paraphrasing, “The oligarchs did look out upon the plains of Ferguson and, lo, they did behold that it was good.”

Just after Michael Brown was shot and demonstrations started two things happened: Looting and an increase in police, military and weaponry presence. Though the looters may not have been consciously making a social statement, it was significant. When a white guy shoots a black guy if it had been perceived as a hate crime or a race issue, the obvious reaction would have been to kill a white guy. Now it could be said, maybe accurately, that the looters were looking for ANY opportunity to upgrade their living room electronics but that takes nothing away from the point. It could also be said that the police in Ferguson were looking for ANY opportunity to upgrade their weaponry and their presence in the community, and THAT takes nothing away from the point either.

Many look at Ferguson and see something different than I do. All I see is what Walt Whitman called people being demented with the mania of owning things. Is it demented, maniacal to kill or die to “protect” the things we perceive to belong to us? I say emphatically YES! Yet it's almost a knee-jerk reaction, isn't it? How has it come to this? This is what gives rise to the compulsion in Uncle Walt and myself to just get away from the lunatics who call themselves “normal human beings” and live with the animals. But Whitman was no dummy. He knew that even doing that would require some precaution. “Falling asleep on the gathered leaves with my dog and gun by my side.” Ahhhhhhh...

But rather than escapism, what other alternative is there? There's just no possible way to change our human nature is there? Again, give your head a shake. It's the work of capitalist socialization that makes us think there is any creature in existence that would consider greed on the scale exhibited by humanity natural or normal. It's not normal. Well, how can I say that. If it's not normal then surely there must be people on the earth living in a state of relative equality. Where are they? What jungle tribe or igloo dwellers actually live in a sharing society? Please! That doesn't exist, does it?

Actually while the greedy, or as we euphemistically call them, “developed” countries have been busy bottlenecking their assets to smaller and smaller groups at the top, there HAVE existed several countries that were quite happy, well-educated, healthy and wealthy while maintaining systems of relative social equality. In countries like Canada or the U.S. we just don't learn much about them in our schools or on our media because it could be considered detrimental to the social fabric of our nations.

“And,” says the corporate spin-doctor, “I suppose you are going to say they have no violence and that there is NO chance of anything like Ferguson happening in those countries.” Well, no and yes. In fact I'll attempt to show you.

In 2013 there was a similar situation in Stockholm, Sweden known as the Stockholm Riots. The riots were not caused by any single incident, but rioters were expressing their general discontent with unemployment levels, standards of education and the police force, drawing parallels with the 2011 England riots. A local political group, Megafonen, had proclaimed at the start of the riots that their cause was a police shooting of a knife-armed 69-year-old man in Husby a few days earlier. A psychologist asked about the riots named Sarnecki dismissed this idea, saying that it was at most an excuse. Psychologist Arnulf Kolstad argues that the riots are an understandable and necessary reaction to marginalization.

And what about those England riots? Same situation there. Sparked by the killing by police of Mark Duggan, a black man. Disadvantaged areas, social inequality, again many write off the ensuing rioting and looting as inevitable behaviour that just needed an excuse to be carried out. There are lots of examples worldwide of similar things happening that have not lead to race riots or further violence, rather to a general admission of inequalities that need rectification.

Recently in Iceland had an incident in which a cop shot and killed a citizen. The first since its independence in 1944. They don't need any rioting or looting, nor do they need to bolster their police presence. Why? Just check out the state of education, social programs, average income, health care and social welfare in Nordic countries. That might be your explanation. Now see where they rank on any list of happy countries around the world.

Check out Australia or New Zealand, countries that have followed the Nordic model for more than just prostitution. People are just too happy to kill each other.

It's my, (and Russel Brand's), guess that more rioting will ensue in the States until things are put right. But it will not be easy to convince the hoarding 0.1% to pry themselves away from their extra trillions. If a person has a house packed to the rafters with, I don't know, Styrofoam burger boxes or bottle caps and can't bring him/herself to part with a single one of them, it's understood to be a serious mental dysfunction. You don't need all those bottle caps and burger boxes you've just developed a dementia that somehow makes you believe you do. Demented and maniacal behaviour. How are the super rich different?

It's going to take some of their extra money therapeutically donated to help equalize the people of America. I have no love for those rich scumbags, and although I just said that they are mentally disturbed, I have a really hard time showing compassion to them because they are much like people who commit crimes while drunk. I believe they were in a state of mind that contributed to their crime, but nobody forced them to drink either. Nobody forced the ultra rich to keep hoarding more and more money far past the point of gross excessiveness. And if somewhere along the line they lost all touch with values and the social responsibilities of wealth, well boo hoo. Stop your whinging and donate a billion to the poor and maybe then I will see you making an effort to help yourself.

But in actuality is any significant portion of the ultra rich in America truly so demented. I think a lot of them become rich through security companies, alarm systems, offshore hiding places for money, military equipment, for profit prisons, weapon manufacturing, weapon black marketing, the list could go on and on. These are all industries that will dramatically nosedive in the remarkably crime free environment that inevitably comes with equality. I think you have to look pretty hard to find a person worse than one who looks at cops beating people, race riots, looting, over-incarceration, general chaos and sees dollar signs. Maybe those who look at unstable governments, war, religious conflict, rapes, beheadings, suicide bombings, and see profit. Yes, they are worse and you don't really have to look all that hard to find them. But I would suggest they are part of the same hypocrisy, just on national and global scales respectively. The U. S. of A. needs to reign these buggers in, not treat them like the heroes of their economy. It will be an awfully difficult thing for them to do.

Forget all the ice bucket challenges that we see all over the media these days, I hereby nominate America to take the Ice LAND challenge and try to implement some social programs, funded by the astronomically rich of course, that will bring the rich closer to earth and raise the poor out of the muck. Bernie Sanders recently mentioned a couple things that I like to refer to as Bern burns on America.

“What kind of nation are we when we give tax breaks to millionaires but we can’t take care of the elderly and the children?” Sen. Bernie Sanders asked on Monday. He was reacting to a new report that more than 18 percent of Americans last year struggled to afford food. Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, are calling for deeper and deeper cuts in food stamps, a program that provides help mostly to children and seniors. We are living in “a very ugly moment,” the senator told the Rev. Al Sharpton.

But, as they say, the opposite of progress is congress. THEY are the representatives of the massively rich and it will take some doing to take down the intricate political machine that has created the situation as it is. But, against my nature, I think a guy like Bernie Sanders could help! I hope to see him as the next president of the U.S. I think events like Ferguson, if portrayed in the media as what they actually are, can bring about social change. I suppose we'll see what happens.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Aw KEMANG!

It's going to be a day of many firsts for me today. I've just been woken up from my first night's sleep in my new kost by a really confusing call. It was from the place where I buy minutes for my phone here. In my groggy phone fumblage I somehow managed to pick up, hang up, then return the call. Then I heard, with not a hint of accent whatsoever, "Good morning. XL telecom. How may I help you?" For some reason I panicked and started slamming numbers with my half asleep thumb managing to give the girl on the other end with the shockingly good English an earful of bleeps followed by a dial tone. Do they still have dial tones? They don't do they? I'm still not awake.

So then what do you do? If you're like me you sit there rubbing your eyes to hasten lucidity and clarify the paranoia as it sets in asking yourself if there is any possibility that she was someone you shouldn't have hung up on. And dreading the social awkwardness that will ensue if she happens to call back. But all I could think of was the highly unlikely scenario in which she was a member of the North American fledgeling XL Telecom company calling me up as an English speaking XL client to ask if I wanted a six-figure advertising contract as their spokesperson in Canada. Or something equally as absurd. So I'm pretty comfortable, not 100% but a solid 80% comfortable. that I didn't hang up on anyone important. But that 20% gnaws away at the brain as I sit at my much nicer desk in my much nicer desk chair drinking my first morning cup o' tea in my much nicer living quarters.

I think maybe I'm a bit more phone fearful today because of a call I received yesterday. You see I moved from the Kuningan area of Jakarta to an area called Cipete. I have two main, uh, friends who I meet regularly for non-commercial English conversation, ahem, in Kemang. Kemang is within walking distance of Cipete where I am now. The only conversation partner I have in Kuningan is Mr. Lee but we only talk two hours a week whereas the two in Kemang make up the bulk of my hours. 16 between the two. So I thought it was a wise decision to move closer to my main English conversation sources, so to, um, speak.

Several days back I started packing up a bag at a time and bringing them to appointments with the two guys close to my new kost. I'd tell the taxi driver to go first to the kost and wait while I ran up to my room, emptied the bag, brought it back down, empty, to the cab and proceeded to meet with whoever I was going to meet with. Yesterday, Monday the 11th, was my last bag of stuff. You know, fridge stuff and bathroom stuff that you save till the end of a move. It was 4 PM and I had a meeting with Herry, my colourful new language exchange partner. Heh heh heh. Herry's a hoot! You shall read about him in this blog I'm positive. Anyhoo, I was supposed to meet him at 7. It normally takes half an hour from Kuningan to Kemang, maybe an hour in heavy Jakarta traffic. As I got into the taxi I got a text from Herry postponing our meeting until 9 PM. Which was fine. I could unpack the bag of stuff and put it away before our meeting. The weather was a bit rainy so going was slow but nothing to make me suspect that the trip would take more than 40 minutes. Until we got close to Kemang. It started to rain harder. A lot harder. I started getting more worried. A lot more worried. Traffic started moving slower. A lo- it just stopped is what happened. I actually had packed a big, canvas bag, two plastic grocery bags with food in them and my backpack into the trunk of the taxi. I thought many times, completely without hyperbole, that even carrying all that I would have made better time if I'd walked. But then I would have been soaked and the plastic bags would have filled up with water and burst, my computer would have gotten soaked, etc. etc. I HAD to stay in the cab. I was trapped! SOOOO frustrating!!!

To make matters worse, because, remember, this is me here, the taxi driver had the flu, a cold, Malaria, Ebola, I don't know, some kind of ague that had him coughing violently and often enough for me to doubt he was going to be able to make it to our destination. What is the only thing worse than being stranded in traffic? Breaking down in traffic and giving that insufficient facial explanation and shrug to every jackass who punishes you for their lost time as they drive by with a horn honk and angry look. Maybe some angry words. It's happened to me before and it's about the worst feeling in the world. I was a bit panicky thinking that my driver was going to pass out forcing me to try out that look and shoulder shrug and see if it translates to Indonesian. Because, of course, it's all about ME! The tragedy was not my dying driver, it was the time and social comfort he could cost me. What a jerk I am, eh? ha ha ha.

My driver pulled out a tube, squeezed some salve onto the tips of two of his fingers and shoved them right up his notrils. The taxi started smelling like eucalyptus. Whatever was in the tube seemed to work. My driver's coughing downgraded from tubercular to manageable while I was in the back seat chanting mental mantras, "E pluribus unum, cogito ergo sum, ohm mani padme hum..." Traffic, however, remained unchanged. We spent easily 15 minutes negotiating our way through a major intersection snaking our way to one side and completely to the other in tiny cracks between cars and motorcycles that developed an inch at a time. Meanwhile the traffic lights above us changed dozens of times completely unheeded.

However, the journey was not a complete waste. I have already been in the taxi in traffic often enough to wonder how it happens. I mean there is not a single motorist who doesn't want to keep going yet the exact opposite is happening. Why? I saw a couple things that day that went a long way to explaining that to me. At least as far as Jakarta is concerned. One is this insanely optimistic piece of municipal mismanagement they have all over Jakarta that I can best describe as a traffic X. It's an intersection without lights and whereas a normal intersection is more of a + with vehicles crossing at angles more easily seen, these suicide traps have traffic crossing at oblique angles often in motorists' blind spots. You know, the kind of things designed by little boys with Hot Wheel tracks. Two streams of traffic going the same direction. Let's see what happens if we CROSS those streams. Hoo hoo haa haaah! It's worse than Ghostbusters.

But the traffic X could probably be workable if not for that old failing known as human nature. As I saw, (experienced first hand thanks to Mr. Consumption, my taxi driver), they are excellent character tests these traffic exes! When traffic is not moving or moving by the inch, as it was yesterday, and you come to the X, you have two choices: 1. you can leave the width of a car between you and the motionless car in front of you so that traffic can cut in front of you through the X letting many others reach their destinations more expediently, or 2. you can nose up to the car in front of you gaining yourself and others in the car with you exactly NO time but blocking many, MANY other motorists. Guess what my driver's choice was. If I had any language ability I would have called him on it between his bursts of coughing but instead I had to suffer the humiliation of being the plug in the traffic bottleneck and having a hundred horns blown at me. I knew the fogged up, raindrop covered window I was behind was opaque enough to maintain my anonymity, and I was well aware that I was not the selfish driver who had made this decision, but I still felt the burning of blocked drivers' glares across the X axis. I dunno, maybe I just FEEL too deeply. I'm just too nice. Har har!

Anyway, around 5 PM I text Herry something like, "It's a good thing we changed to 9 o'clock because I'll probably be stuck in traffic till 7. It's crazy out here!" This was an outrageous prediction, I was well aware, but just a little levity to hopefully ease my tension in the back seat of a stranded taxi. I reached my new kost at 7 PM. I was RIGHT! 3 hours it took me to make a half an hour trip. I'm so glad taxis are cheap here! In Canada that would have broken me. Here it was 14 bucks. Still, it's usually only 5 on a bad day. But these were extraordinary circumstances.

I'm not sure where the pic in that link was taken but that is exactly what Kemang looked like. Knee deep water and roads closed. That's why traffic was so slow. But I didn't know till I tried to go to the pub. You see, Herry had meetings at work all night so he ended up just cancelling our meeting. As it turned out I needed the extra time. You see I am fond of a pub here called E P. That's Eastern Promise. It's where I met all the guys from the Jakarta Gentlemen's Club, and still meet them regularly there. It's where I watch Aussie Rules Footy on Saturdays. It's where I've met the majority of my friends here in Jakarta. It's an easy place to spark up a conversation with a stranger.

Well it's their 25th anniversary and the owner, Lens, has a promo going in which a lucky card recipient, (I got one!), gets a stamp every day for 25 days just for going in to E P and having himself a free beer. I've already got 6 stamps. If you miss a day, you lose the challenge, but if you make it the 25 consecutive days you get a 25 million Rupiah bar tab. That's $2,500.00. That's an extra good month of work for me! I can buy a lot of curry and beer with that! On Monday I still hadn't gone into E P to get my stamp and by the time I got to my new home I had only 5 remaining hours in which to do so. I figured I had better get a move on.

So I put all my belongings away and set out for E.P. I knew it would be a bit of a walk, like maybe 45 minutes, but I needed the exercise after sitting in the cab for 3 hours and I knew there was a refreshing, free beer at the end of the journey. The place I live is in a bit of a labyrinth of residential roads, sideroads, alleys and offshoots. I hadn't really done much recon since moving in. Another reason I was champing at the bit to get out there. So I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I knew Herry's place was close and it was on the way to Kemang so I decided to try to find the route to Herry's and then continue on to Kemang where E.P. is. I got lost. I mean really lost. It was a beautiful, post rainfall fresh smelling evening to get lost, however, so I didn't fret too much. And this is the kind of butt puckering I seem to thrive on when I'm not in my home country. I just kept walking. I had found that to be effective when lost in Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, you name an Asian country, I've likely been lost in it. There weren't many taxis driving by so I figured in a big city I'd come to a big road eventually and I could catch one. Sure enough after about an hour of wandering I saw what looked to be a busy street up in the distance. A cab pulled up behind me and blew its horn. I waved it down, got in and said, "Kemang." The driver waved his hands, shook his head and after uttering a few phrases in Indonesian that I didn't understand he said, "Water too much." I understood that to mean Kemang was flooded. So I showed him a piece of paper with the exact directions to my kost written on it. He again waved his hands and gave me a confused look. I really DO live in an out-of-the-way corner of Jakarta I guess. So I got out of the cab and walked to the main street. It turned out to be Fatmawati. I had gone the opposite direction I was supposed to have. It happens a lot to me. But taxis were driving by every few seconds and it was no problem to flag one down, then another, then another, then another. NONE of these people would take me to Kemang because, I ascertained through multiple charades, it was flooded, and not a single one of them knew where I lived.

From my severely undependable sense of direction I calculated that the main road leading to my area, Jalan Abdul Majid Raya, couldn't be too much further down Fatmawati and I was pretty sure I could find my place if I made it to Abdul Majid so I started walking. I turned onto one of the unmarked streets that went the direction Abdul Majid goes hoping it was in fact Abdul Majid. Luckily the road had gates and, (here they are again!), YES, security guards! I asked in my paltry Bahasa, "Ini jalan Abdul Majid ada?" I'm not even sure how accurate that is but I think it's approximately, "Is this Abdul Majid street?" There were about five of them and they hopped right to giving me directions. One of them spoke some passable English and told me I had to go back out to Fatmawati and go another 200 yards to reach Abdul Majid. I thanked them profusely relieved to no longer be lost and still have a shot at getting the stamp for the day.

I found Abdul Majid and was able to get back to my area. It was still only 8:30 so I started out in the opposite direction than the one I had taken. After another half hour of walking I was lost again. But I just retraced my steps and got back to the kost. I went into my place and called E.P. One of the bar girls answered and told me it was indeed flooded and I couldn't reach the bar, but that they were still open and, she said, I guess you could walk from the main street. So I asked one of the guys who works at my kost to call me a taxi and ask if they could take me to Kemang. He was nice enough to do so. I was surprised that he was so fast about it. I guess it's the advantage of speaking the language.

At about 10:30 the taxi arrived and the driver said he could take me to Kemang. I started off for the third time to get my beer at E.P. But we got to the road that leads to E.P. and it was blocked off. I just paid the taxi driver and got out. When I walked just a little way down the road I saw the river below the road flowing dangerously fast washing debris down it and almost reaching the height of the bridge itself. It reminded me a lot of the Calgary flooding of last summer. I walked just a little farther and the road and sidewalks disappeared. They were under water. I'm talking water as deep as the girl in the above picture. It was dark but it looked like this:

What could I do? I was a block away from my goal. I just walked right through the knee deep water right up to the front window of E.P. where one of the girls gave me a smiley wave and pointed me to the door. I got inside the bar and noticed that most of it had ankle-deep water on the floor. This might cost Lens some renovation money. The first thing that went through my selfish mind was, "Oh no! Maybe I won't get my 25 mil!" But I got my beer anyway. It was now around 11. The girls told me they were about to close down for the night but I asked if I could wait till 12:01 so I could get my free beer for Tuesday as well. They said that would be okay. So I played pool, had a few beers and left at 12:05. I took an ojek, (motorbike taxi), to my place. It was ridiculously easy to find. I have no idea how I could have gotten so lost so many times!

And, oh yeah, the call I received in the taxi that I completely got sidetracked from telling you about was from the Japanese embassy. There is a dude there who would like to practice his English with me. Maybe I can practice my Japanese too. Apparently we had arranged a meeting weeks before that I had totally forgotten about. If was supposed to have happened at about the half way point of my 3 hour taxi ride. So I had to reschedule my meeting at the Japanese embassy.

Life just keeps getting interestinger over here!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Kill, Rape, Pray

I'm not going to submit any claims here to more than an average understanding of what is going on in the world today but I have studied many spiritual philosophies and religious texts so I think I have a pretty good handle on that area. At the very least it's good enough to say with utter conviction that if you ever find yourself beheading a child and/or raping a woman for your god, you are a drooling, Pavlovian, classically conditioned extremist and you had better give your head a good shake, floss your brain, and, maybe for the first time, think independently about your spiritual walk and the people who are pitchforking you down the road you are on.

Just give it some thought. Think first about where that road is leading. I can certainly not tell you but if you are of the belief that it will lead to a heaven in which you will have 72 virgins with “swelling, pear-shaped breasts,” “appetizing vaginas,” and you sporting an “eternal erection,” that's not heaven, bro! The maximum you will get is 72 virginal lays. That's not complicated algebra. So let's say that with your raging woody and 72 women who belong to you, you only get it done once a day. That's not even 3 months of heaven!

But that's only IF you can manage once a day. I guess the attraction to virginity in a woman is the same attraction there is to ownership of one: the fact that you and only you will ever enter her “holy of holies.” They're rare here on Earth but I have known a few virgins of the age where sex would not be inappropriate and there were good reasons for all of them to have remained carnally unblemished. Though they may have had swelling breasts and appetizing vaginas, most or all were either socially stunted, mentally unbalanced, horribly disfigured, plain in appearance, aggressively bitchy, scared of sex, or gay and had not had heterosexual intercourse. A lot were a combination of two or more of these.

There are always reasons why women remain virgins and you, my frightfully optimistic friend, will have an eternity to wrestle with the complications that come with the hardened and habitual confirmed virgin. 72 times the complications! 72 times the sexual turn-offs and turn-downs and all the while you will have a throbbing and thoroughly unsatisfied sexual member. Unless all these girls have 24-hour hymen regeneration and the only reason they are virgins is because they were all waiting for you and are perfectly willing to share you with 71 others, (and you need some off the charts faith to think that that's possible even in heaven), you have a situation, at least in my mind, much more accurately characterized as hell.

And forget about that, think about it this way: is that what it's all about? Life? Is it all about sex? Putting your penis in a woman's vagina? A pleasurable feeling, yes, but only for a short time and I would put forth the suggestion that it's best that way. I mean riding a roller coaster is fun but riding one for all eternity? Maybe the exact opposite.

Or here's another way to look at it: who are these people who are telling you that you will be rewarded in heaven with 72 virgins if you rape this woman and behead her son? Are they leaders of your church? Clergymen? Are they leaders of a group trying to amass enough wealth to take down the financial strongholds that the enemies of your faith have established in this world? Well then they are more like salesmen or CEO's. Or are they just advocates trying to represent Islam like lawyers? On the list of top 10 occupations to which psychopaths are attracted, clergy is #8, salesperson #4, lawyer #2 and CEO is numero uno.
Psychopaths, people who lack empathy, are highly egocentric, persuasive and goal-oriented, and tend to have the superficial charm to get what they are after, are the very kind of people who just might look at a virile, young population of men and ask themselves how they could be persuaded to do things like fly planes into buildings or strap bombs to their person and detonate them in highly populated areas? What do virile, young men want most? A parallel question would be what do horny, young men think about once every 7 seconds?

That's right young man who is simultaneously raping, killing and praying, if you can go without jackin' it long enough to read this, (but, no, please, clean the pipes first so you can maybe read it objectively), you just might see a shadow of doubt creep across your moral relativism that you never saw before. That shadow should translate into something like, “What am I STUPID?” The answer is yes. Yes, you are stupid. But all is not lost. There is yet hope for you. You see every man, young or old, with more blood flowing through his wiener than his brain is stupid. The good news is it should be only temporary.

If the 72 virgins are not your motivation then it might be something like your friends or family were raped or killed by someone and you should repay them in kind. But that is most likely what the people who raped or killed your loved ones were thinking about while they were doing it. If not the virgins.

This is how rape and killing last forever. I have made light of this a bit thus far but it's no joke at all. Right now in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, and all over the world people are witnessing another generation of revenge being justified. More killing and rape will serve only to perpetuate more of the same. It will be empty revenge at best. I've seen pictures of men with their young sons holding disembodied heads of non believers. I actually saw a video that I hasitated a long time to view. I wrestled with the morality of viewing a video that showed a Christian man on his knees with hands tied behind his back being forced to renounce his faith and testify to a forced belief in the faith of his executioners. He did so and his "reward" was to not be killed with a bullet. Rather his head was sawed off with a sword. Not in a fast painless way. While this was happening the surrounding soldiers, wearing masks, began manaically shouting their OWN forced faith in their god because they'd rather be the guy with the sword than the guy under it. It's going to be awfully hard for a little education to overcome violent beliefs you were raised on or justified fear of believing, or practicing what one knows is right. I say "justified" because as I watched the video, (and I am not going to share it here. I'm sure you will be able to find it if you want to lose your last meal), I imagined myself as a bystander and I was scarred by it. The fact is I would probably do the same thing as the other bystanders did, "YEAH! I TOTALLY SUPPORT THE FUCKING PSYCHO WITH THE KNIFE!" And maybe I am more gutless than most, but maybe not. Maybe most would do the exact same thing. Maybe the people in North Korea don't really believe Kim Jong Il got 5 holes in one his first time golfing. Maybe they only eat if they profess this belief. Maybe they have used all of their mental power to force themselves into a GENUINE belief in his golfing miracle. Maybe there are only a tiny number of genuine Muslim extremists who commit such attrocities for any other reason than just plain fear. And maybe all they are waiting for is the prospect of safety, or just survival before they will live the lives they want to live.

I live in a country full of good Muslim people. The prospect of killing Muslims is idiotic. Most are not extremist murderers and rapists. In fact a lot of the ones committing the murder and rape are probably not murderers or rapists at heart. But throughout history there have been small factions of extremists within groups that have made life worse for us all. Charismatic psychos with powers of persuasion instead of empathy. Do you think all the Nazis were genuine Nazis? Do you think all of Lenin's followers or the supporters of the Chinese Communist Party or Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge actually didn't know they were all full of shit? I have a hard time believing that. I believe almost all of us know what is right and wrong. Yet, we almost all sit by and watch from positions of safety. Which is worse the violent, extreme minority or the impotent majority who does nothing about them? I can't say that I'd have even half the balls to stand up to the scumbags who are forcing scared, young men to kill and rape for their god. I only wish that someone WITH balls would tell them, "Don't be either the insane minority or the inactive majority." That's the kind of teaching that I think will stop the attrocities. There must be a generation of thinkers who can stop the insanity. And a generation of thinkers begins with just a few. Be one of the few.

That is all.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Prabowo a No-No

My recent posts have been, (mostly), about my adventures in my latest country of residence, Indonesia. I have had some wild and crazy experiences so far but nothing as unexpected and completely out of character for me as my inexplicable interest in politics. I can only guess that it may have something to do with my disenchantment with politics in my own country, which is absolute. Well maybe not absolute. I am a bit interested to see whether Harper will be able to sell all our fresh water to France before it gets contaminated by fracking and/or oil and bitumen spills. Harper is a sell-out but I am not convinced we'd be in better shape with any other of the corporate sycophants that people the political landscape of Canada. I think it was Bernie Sanders, (who just might be a good president some day, (me and Phil Donahue both like him)), who said recently that no governmental decisions can be made in the U.S. without corporate approval. Same in Canada.

It's an interesting situation. This article is a pretty concise explanation. This whole mess that America is in started with the 14th amendment to the American Constitution. Not even! Just a note written by a court reporter, a former corporate leader, (railroad president), who took it upon himself to write an addendum to a case that was being tried to decide on proper taxation of the Southern Pacific Railroad. He wrote that the court had decided that corporations are people under the 14th amendment. In actuality the supreme court had ruled only that the state that charters a corporation has the right to tax it. They didn't actually make a ruling on the peoplehood prefix at all. So it did not constitute a law, but it became a matter of legal record and was subsequently used as precedence. The 14th amendment was mostly to ensure that recently freed, (by the 13th amendment), slaves would have the same rights as eveyone else in America. The corporations have fiendishly used it to usurp undeserved rights and freedoms that have significantly added to their power. That's how the American people got, ahem, railroaded into the state of corporate oligarchy that exists now.

I guess I'm interested to see if politics in Indonesia are as much a case of Mammon worship as in North America or not. As the man says, "May you live in interesting times." Things are getting quite interesting. Here in Indonesia it's a two horse race between Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo, nicknamed Jokowi. Election day came and went and as near as anyone can tell right now the election was a tie. Early indications show that Jokowi was the winner, but anything can happen. In North America we all know that the person who loses the election, or is found to have cheated can still be the leader of a country. We all know what happened with Bush but a lot of people don't know about Harper's election shenanigans in Canada. He cheated in 2006 to first become PM. He spent more than allowed on advertising. Not such a bad sin but still against the rules. But then in 2011 he won with 39% of the vote. That's right 61% of Canadians had had enough of him by then. But there's more. There were these mysterious automated phone calls that directed voters to the wrong polling stations. This lead to an investigation into Canadian voting procedures and the conclusion that there were rampant procedural errors made by polling officials. The election is still disputed but we kept Harper anyway. So what do you do if you're Harper? A couple years later you cut the election watchdog's budget by 8% to make sure that this MAY happen again. That's the office whose job it is to straighten out rampant procedural errors. Sounds a lot like the rampant procedural errors in Florida, (governed by Jeb Bush), during the 2000 election in the States doesn't it?

Right now it looks very much as though something like this could happen here in Indonesia. Here is quite a scary article that shows quite clearly what I'm talking about. Quick counts after the July 9th election all favour Jokowi. All the legitimate ones that is. But according to the article there are some quick count agencies, known for innaccuracies in the past, who have claimed Prabowo won the narrowest of victories.

Now watch this: where a BBC reporter reads the stats to Prabowo and he says, "No no no no. It is completely the other way around." He says the sources cited are partisan in favour of Jokowi and not to be trusted. Part of a "grand design to manipulate perception." And then the statement that gave me a chill, "Let us rely on the legal institutions of Indonesia." This looks a lot like the tried and tested political manouvre, (or manure however you spell that word...), that I like to call the "I know you are but what am I" ploy. Recognize that you suck, pinpoint your shortcomings, then accuse the opposition of exactly those problems. What I'm saying, and what the previous article is saying, is that perhaps Prabowo, not Jokowi, is guilty of grand designs to manipulate perception in Indonesia. Probowo calls Jokowi a "product of a PR campaign" and a "tool of the oligarchs." I have a feeling I know which candidate is the bigger TOOL here. As for the PR campaign I read an article written by an Indonesian who can understand the speeches he gives in Indonesian and that writer characterized them as hyper-patriotic, jingoistic rabble rousing in which he has made flamboyant entrances on horseback and spectacular exits via the stage dive. He also says that the Jokowi supporters are the violent ones and HE, the former Lieutenant General in the military, is preaching peace. And I just LOVED his response when asked what he will do if he loses. "WHAT?" He has been quoted as saying, "Losing is not an option." That worries me. And in a more famous quote from 1998, the year of Suharto's fall, when the riots were happening and he allegedly ordered kidnapping and torture, he said he was willing "to drive all the Chinese out of the country even if that sets the economy back twenty or thirty years." Maybe this is what he means when he says in the interview that he is fighting for a "clean" Indonesia.

In evasive answer to the reporter's question about allegations of human rights violations he committed in 1998 during the Suharto regime in Indonesia, he states that he leads a coalition that is comprised of two thirds of the voters in Indonesia. How could they be so stupid to support me? Not even a minute later he mentions that Indonesians have been considered a stupid, lazy people. Then he evades the second request for him to unequivocally comment on human rights violations he has been accused of and he uses another political tactic. I HAVE! Many, many, many, many times. Check the record. This means I may or may not have actually answered this question in the past, but I'm not going to answer this question NOW. The statement about relying on the legal institutions of Indonesia is chilling because I have been here only a few months and have already had plenty of first hand experience with what the whole world knows about Indonesia's legal institutions: they are corrupt. A long lasting remnant of the Suharto government to which Prabowo has strong ties.

He was a high ranking, very important military officer in Suharto's Indonesia. He actually married Suharto's daughter though they are now divorced. I recently read a rumour that Titiek Suharto will get back together with him if he wins the election because a traditional muslim country prefers a married president. But apparently this was just a rumour. Couldn't have hurt him in the minds of the incredulously fond reminiscers of the Suharto era. Who vote, by the way. Just read the article. An estimated 73 billion bucks of Indonesia's money passed through the Suharto family's hands. Suharto killed an estimated half million rivals to his "presidency." Who knows how many he imprisoned? Prabowo and Titiek are still incredibly wealthy today because of the Suharto years of violence and corruption. Yet still today there are many who speak of Suharto in almost god-like terms.

After Suharto stepped down, Prabowo demanded that his successor, Habibie, put him in charge of the army. Instead, Habibie demoted him. Furious, Probowo stormed into the Presidential Palace with a sidearm and some military trucks. He was blocked, but it's no secret what he was about to do. When he says in this article that his family has always "served the country, served the people, served the society" it is mind blowing that any of the country, people, society of Indonesia can take that seriously let alone a MAJORITY of them! Read the article, please. The death of two of his uncles on the same day in '46 during the war of independance against the Dutch inspired Prabowo's military career. Sounds more inspiring before you figure that this was 5 years before he was born. He never knew those uncles. Racial slurs endured as the only Asian in class while studying in Switzerland, the U.K. and Hong Kong? First of all, boo hoo. Studying in Switzerland, U.K. and Hong Kong. Poor fella. Secondly the Swiss and the English are not the first nationalities that would come to mind if I were pondering anti-Asian sentiment by country. And thirdly, I doubt very much he was the only Asian in a class in Hong Kong or he was subjected to racial slurs there for being Asian. Here's a theory and there's really no way of knowing, but maybe, just maybe he was a child of privelege with a PERSONALITY that people didn't like, not a race. He has a notorious temper and as the article says he thought of his teachers as stupid.

Here we are back at that word again: stupid. Prabowo is fond of furthering the myth that people think Indonesians are stupid monkeys. Where did he get this from? One of my fellow expats here posted this article on facebook today. As you read that article did you think for an instant, "Okay, a power tripping soldier uses his uniform and position to extort less than five bucks from a guy who is parking at the prime cultural site in all of Jakarta ostensibly to absorb some culture. The guy won't pay so the soldier goes through the unthinkable process of dousing him with gasoline, (for all we know more than 5 bucks worth), lights the guy on fire and for doing so COULD serve jail time! That must be a perfect example of how all 237 million Indonesians think. They are all stupid monkeys." I hope you didn't. Because THAT would be stupid.

But Probowo seems to think that there is a perception of Indonesians as stupid, lazy monkeys. Another theory here: given the life this guy has lived, the corruption he has benefitted from, the harm he has already brought to Indonesia, and the fact that he fully expects to win this election, this may be another one of those "I know you are but what am I" situations. Not that HE is a stupid, lazy monkey, but that he may be the one who views Indonesians in this way. In fact he may be depending upon it.

I think if he somehow becomes president it will almost certainly be through unscrupulous means. I wonder if his tactics will resemble the North American election thefts or if he'll just storm the Presidential Palace again. I doubt he'll reunite with his ex wife but there is a real danger in Indonesia that the Suharto regime will be renewed along with the corruption, government enrichment and citizen impoverishment characteristic of it. I don't know much about Jokowi but it seems to me there's nowhere to go but up from here.

Am I wrong?

Addendum: Today is July 23. The official count is in and it's Jokowi with 53% of the votes so the reputable quick count agencies were, once again, right on the money. Prabowo is, of course, challenging the voting process as "unfair" as he said he wouldn't in the BBC interview. I suppose the very fair process of demanding a political position and if refused assassinating the refuser, (like Prabowo attempted to do with Habibie) is preferable. Incidentally, the link I used with the quick count stats showed up on my compose blog screen properly but on the blog site when I clicked on the link it went to the wrong page. I just changed it and hope it works so you can see the accuracy of the quick count agencies Prabowo said were partisan and tools of the oligarchs. The agency that had him with 60% of the vote is now being violently silenced by members of the Jokowi camp I guess. Indonesia dodged a bullet here. I have little doubt that Prabowo would have been a terrible president. It will be interesting to see how long it takes Jokowi to be corrupted. I'm a complete cynic when it comes to politics. Oscar Wylde said about cynics, "A cynic knows the price of everything but the value of nothing." I can't find much, if any, value in politicians but I DO see the price the whole world has paid for this elitist sport. I'll probably go back now to pretending I'm ignoring it.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Ahn of Green Gables

Check this out. If not, check THIS
out.

Do you recognize her? She used to be a 17-year-old fan of the Belgian soccer squad until the above photo was taken at this year's World Cup. Now she has a modeling contract with L'Oreal.

Anybody know this cutie?
Why that's Canada's own Pamela Anderson! Many nips, tucks and implants ago, but that's her. She was cheering on the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League when her picture was broadcast on the big screen above center field at B.C. Place. Labatt's, a beer company in Canada, noticed the ovation that rocked the stadium when she was on the screen and decided, and rightly so, that, hey, people might drink more of our beer if she tells them to.

I mean

don't ya just wanna

slap on some make-up and drink some Labatt's Blue? Be right back, I gotta get a beer. (not kidding)

How about this:


Do you know who she is? She's young, blonde, gorgeous, and like the other two, will be highly sought after to use her youth and beauty to convince the public that, I dunno, the catgut in Wilson tennis rackets is superior to the cheap doggut Slazenger uses. Geez, I'm probably decades off with THAT example. Do they even USE catgut anymore? Okay the polypralene used in Penn Tennis Balls has been scientifically proven to give a truer bounce than other brands. How bout that? Because if there are two things we, the public believe, it's science and sex.

This is Eugenie Bouchard. She's Canadian like Pam and like both of the other girls she was discovered at a sporting event. One difference though, she wasn't just watching. She has recently risen to prominence in the tennis world not just because of her looks, a la the mediocre Anna Kournikova:

(nothing mediocre about her appearance though), but Eugenie has played some great tennis. She made it to the recent Wimbledon finals. Didn't win but still impressive. USA Today is calling her tennis' next "golden girl" and warning of a bombardment of Eugenie in the media that rivals the bombardment of spam ads you get after a few seconds on the USA Today sports page. And as you can imagine it's not just tennis questions she'll be answering when the media bombards her. During Wimbledon it was revealed that she was named after Prince Andrew's daughter. She was also asked such complicated tennis strategy questions as, "If you could date anyone in the world, who would it be?" Her answer reminded everyone that she is only 20. Justin Bieber. Like Kournikova who could get a bigger rise out of the crowd with a flip of a pony tail than a spectacular crosscourt winner, Eugenie had the media falling all over themselves to hear how she thought Bieber should be allowed to sit in the royal box to watch her play. Or at least Oprah. Then she dazzled them some more fielding questions about marriage proposals and even a question about sports: whether she liked hockey or not. Then finally some tennis talk! The media mentioned her famous fan, Jim Parsons, (Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory), and said that it's appropriate given the "big bang" she is making in tennis. She scolded them for the corny joke. I mean who is acting like the young kids here, Eugenie or the media? She was mature and professional but I wonder how long it'll be before she gets tired of her non-athletic celebrity and tells the reporters to stick to tennis in their interviews. One thing is for sure, like the independantly wealthy Kournikova who made less than 4 million bucks in pro tennis, never won or made it to the final of any tourney let alone a grand slam event like Wimbledon, win or lose she will be able to make a bazillion bucks as the face, body and personality of anything from tennis shoes to sports drinks to strawberries and cream. I'd be very surprised if the bloodsuckers are not knocking down her door already.

Now I'll give you a thousand won if you can tell me who this is:

This is Korean athlete Ahn Sun Ju. No she's not blonde, she's 27, she's not hot, so why would anyone pay attention to her? Because

she

WINS!

She's playing on the Japanese ladies tour and has 16 wins in 4 years. She has three already this year: one in April, one in May and one in June. As I write this she is 2 under par, in fourth place, only 3 shots off the lead at the Ricoh Women's British Open with the weekend still to play. She is SMOKING HOT! Just not in the way we've been talking about. HERE is a recent article I read about why she, a Korean, is golfing in Japan. And is number one there. She is sponsored in Japan by 6 Japanese companies, (Yonex is one), but Korean sponsors thought she wasn't very marketable. They told her to get plastic surgery, which she refused. She even has the nickname, "Big Mama." I prefer "Ahn of Green Gables" myself.

I am going to start paying more attention to golf because of this chick! I am not kidding! If her choice to refuse plastic surgery is any indication of her character, she IS someone who I think could be a good athlete/slash role model for an awful lot of kids, AND a lot of adults out there. She's not going to get the chance unless the messed up values toward women in sports change. But I'll be rooting for her.

As for the erstwhile Eugenie Bouchard I have some advice. Go on a pasta and beer diet. Put on some poundage. While you're at it get a bit of plastic surgery. A couple facial warts, maybe a nose crookeding. Not a hump or hunch but a little scoliosis would go a long way. THEN if you can win I'll root for you all the way. I just don't want to be accused of band wagon jumping or cheering for you because you're a babe. Sorry. Good luck anyway though.

Who am I kidding? I'll still vote for Eugenie. Despite her appearance. Sigh. And to be honest, I will still watch women's golf AND tennis and enjoy the young and attractive girls as a bonus added to the sport action. But I'm not going to root for them or buy the products they flog because they're hot. Ahn Sun Ju? Yes. She keeps winning! I think maybe I'll look into some Yonex shafts for my clubs. When they get here.

SO THERE! We obey young attractive blondes when it comes to what beer to drink or sports equipment to use. It must be the truth. These ad execs do their homework. Surely they arent' throwing away their billions blindly. Then there's this gal:

Young, (23), hot, blonde Kaitlin Pearson is a special ed. teacher in Fitchburg, Mass. Right now she is under investigation by the school board because they found some sexy pics of her. Not nude, just sexy. The school board is evaluating whether her side jobs as a sexy model and spokesperson are in conflict with her job as a special ed teacher.

Oh the trials and tribulations of being a hot, young, blonde babe! I have seen much sexier pics of Kournikova than Pearson. But I am sure she remains a role model and spokesperson for young tennis hopefuls all over the world. She is looked up to. But Pearson is looked down upon. Where is the consistency? Can Eugenie ever know for sure whether people are throwing flowers or stuffed animals to her, or proposing marriage because of her looks or her talent? Can poor Kaitlin ever know for sure whether this student with his hand up wants her help because he respects her knowledge and opinions on the subject matter she is teaching, or because he wants to look down her shirt when she leans over at his desk to help him? Did Tommy Lee REALLY "fuckin' love" Pamela Anderson? They may never know...

And how are you supposed to know how the rest of the world, (that'd be us ugly people), wants you to behave? It's good, I suppose, for hot, young blondes to participate in sports. That's one inalienable truth we can gain from all of this, isn't it? Well, not if the sport happens to be hunting. Remember that first pic? The Belgian gal? I think her name is Axelle. Well she tweeted a pic of her posing with a dead antelope or gazelle or impala in Africa just before the U.S. vs. Belgium game and commented that she was going hunting Americans. L'Oreal, who are strict about animal rights and not testing on animals, promptly gave Axelle the boot. Easy come, easy go. I'm sure she'll land on her feet.

You know who's got it made? Ahn of Green Gables. She KNOWS she's respected for her skills! She KNOWS her sponsors are legit! And when I email her a marriage proposal she will KNOW I am in love with her for her character! And when she sees me she'll KNOW she has to love me for the same reason. True, she is a bit young for me and the cultural divide is vast, but with our love for golf and each other we will overcome. Life is too complicated when you're gorgeous. Be thankful, most of us, that we're ugly!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I finally go swimming in Indonesia

Yesterday was Monday. I had a craving for two things: Mcdonalds and stirfry. The kitchen at my kost, (place where I live), is not so great. We have no rice maker and only a small wok for stirfying so Mcdonalds came first. I went to Ratu Plaza. I decided that I'd have a Big Mac for lunch and then go to Lotte Mart to get the fixins for the stirfry. Lotte Mart and Mcdonalds are both right beside Ratu Plaza and it's very close to my kost so in the cab I got. It was a 30 or 35000 Rp. taxi trip there. A bit of traffic but that's to be expected. Took about 15 minutes.

I ordered a Double Big Mac meal. The girl looked confused. "Double cheese?" she asked. I looked at the menu and although there ARE Mcdonalds' in Jakarta that HAVE the double Big Mac, (one at Plaza Festival and one on Fatmawati), this location didn't offer it. So I said, "Okay just a single Big Mac meal. Number one. Satu." The Big Mac meal is number one, (satu is number one in Indonesian), on the menu. Then they asked if I wanted it big sized. Here's where they get me. The Big Mac singular is not enough for the upsizing of drink and fries whereas the double Mac is usually worth it. But here in Jakarta they have two choices on the Mcdonalds menu: one is the set and I forget the way they describe it. I think it may be in Indonesian. The other is "a la carte." Now this is an accurate way to describe ordering just the burger without the fries and drink but it's so much more ambiguous than ordering just a Big Mac, McChicken, Filet of Fish or whatever. They have no Quarter Pounder here. Since they use the French phrase "a la carte" I wonder if they'd call the Quarter Pounder a "Royale" here if they had it. Maybe someday we'll find out. At any rate, when I get asked if I want the big size I usually think they are referring to the entire meal with fries and drink. So I usually end up getting extra fries and drink when I don't really want them. Oh it's not a problem to finish them, I just don't need them is all.

So my order comes in pieces. First the big drink. Next the big fries. Finally a double cheeseburger. So that's fine. I needed extra burger for the extra fries anyways. So I order a Big Mac. "A la carte?" she asked. I said, "Yes. No fries, no drink please." While I was eating the double cheeseburger she brought me my Big Mac. This is why I wanted a double Big Mac. I think the Big Mac patty has gone the way of the Wagon Wheel. Remember Wagon Wheels when they were big? I am pretty sure they're half the size now and double the price. But maybe they just seemed bigger when I was a kid because I was smaller. I dunno. Don't think so though. Anyways, the patties on the Big Mac have shrunk. I'm sure of this. And most places the amount of lettuce you get on your Mac would almost qualify it as a beef salad. The bun is like croutons, the pickles are cucumbers, onions are onions, cheese is cheese, and the special sauce is Thousand Island dressing. This Big Mac had a garden of gnarly lettuce hanging out of it everywhere! The lettuce cutter got a bit lazy. There were long hunks of lettuce in the box, outside the box everywhere. It needed a shave before eating. I could just barely taste the meat. But it was good anyway. Never go shopping hungry they say.

I got to Lotte Mart and decided that since Tuesday I would officially get another client for 6 extra hours a week, I could buy a couple things I needed for my room. I went to appliances first and put an electric kettle and an iron in my buggy. Now I can have tea without running upstairs to get a pot from the kitchen, running back downstairs to put clean water into it, then running back upstairs to the kitchen to boil it, and finally returning downstairs to my room to drink it. I've already had a couple cups of tea and I am happy with my purchase. The iron I haven't used yet. I'm waiting until it dries out.

You see, after getting all the fixins for my stirfry along with a couple cups, tea, creamer, crackers you know just in case I invite someone over for tea, I go up the escalator with my five bags of groceries and it is raining cats and cats. I have seen a few more dogs here but still not enough to warrant the "cats and dogs" idiom in this country. There were several people at the doorway staying dry while waiting for husbands, wives, friends or drivers to come pick them up. There were a couple of enterprising gents sopping wet with umbrellas. They were collecting tips from people to walk them to their cars and cover them with their umbrellas. They asked me if I wanted their assistance but I needed a taxi. I asked them, "Taxi?" and they shook their heads. Most malls have areas, usually sheltered areas for use in the rain, where you can form a taxi line-up and there are workers who flag taxis and sometimes even record where it is you are going. Not Ratu Plaza. No problem, I have the number for Bluebird Taxi. I have called it several times. I know it works. So I take out my not so trusty, yellow Nokia and call up Bluebird. I get the musical recording that says, "The number you have dialled can not be reached." Or something like that. I dialled several more times and got the same recording. Did they change their number? Was this another misleading message and really the line was just busy? Or was this just another way the taxi system grinds to a halt in the rain? Do they actually shut their phones off in the rain? I may never know but today I called Bluebird and it rang. I hung up before anyone answered but, hey it serves them right.

The main entrance to Ratu Plaza was just across from the Lotte Mart entrance to I took my 5 bags of groceries out of the buggy and carried them over to the entrance where I'd ask the two security guards how to get a taxi. The second my foot hit pavement it was under a flow of water up to my ankles. It was really coming down hard! Even though the area between Lotte Mart and the Ratu Plaza entrance was covered, there was water getting through and I got a lot of it on my head, shirt, and, of course, glasses. So I get to the security guards with wet feet and damp upper body and ask about a taxi. They refer me to the umbrella dudes who have already shaken me off. The security guards seemed like they were arguing a bit with the umbrella dudes but finally one of them agreed to show me to a taxi. We got out into the pouring rain. My head was covered by the umbrella but rain was soaking my groceries. We walked all the way down to the main road. This is the main road in Jakarta! I think it may be called Jalan Sudirman. Sudirman the main downtown area I think. We couldn't just flag down a taxi there. Nope. We walked through some construction, through some fast running, clay coloured water and to the walkover bridge. This is the overpass that you take to catch a busway bus in the middle of the road. The one place I had taken my disastrous, and only, busway trip. The overpass provided decent shelter from the rain so I stood there with about 50 other people while the umbrella dude tried to flag me down a cab.

There were people waiting out the rain, people selling food, people on motorbikes who didn't want to ride them in the downpour, ojek, motorbike taxi drivers and people going to and coming from the busway. And there was me. I was still holding all five bags of groceries because there was no good place to put them down. I think the other people had found the best spots because everywhere I seemed to stand was underneath a stream of water. I was getting wet even under the bridge. There was a fast running stream of dirty water that was about an entire lane closest to the curb where I was standing. Some ojek drivers were sitting on their bikes in the current but it was otherwise unused by traffic. So it would have been very easy for a cab to pull over and put me and my groceries into it. But, as I have experienced before on rainy days, cabs just ignored my umbrella bearing flagger. And it wasn't like traffic was flying by either. Several of the taxis slowly crawled past right in front of me so that I could see clearly that their lights were on and they were empty. Curiously all of them were Bluebird. I have been told that Bluebird is the best but almost all the trouble I have had with taxis here in Jakarta has been with Bluebird.

Finally an Express cab was seen in the distance with its light on. The umbrella boy asked me in facial/body language if it would be acceptable and I nodded my approval. The Express taxi pulled over for me! The umbrella guy opened the door for me and waited with the umbrella. Between me and the taxi was a fast flowing stream of brown water about 10 yards wide. My feet were already soaked anyway. While stepping off the curb, I began to say to my helper and the cabbie that I wanted to have the trunk opened. Never did finish that sentence. You know how it is when you think the ground is closer than it actually IS? I think there must have been a sewage drain right where I stepped. No way to see that because the water was the same level as the ankle deep water around it. But whatever I stepped into it was knee deep. I didn't get a second step and with the five bags of groceries it was all I could do to stop my fall with the knuckles of my left hand still clinging to three bags of groceries. But the knuckles didn't take much of the fall. Mostly my chest. Yup, it was an epic faceplant. Like the reverse Nestea plunge. Somehow my face didn't hit the pavement although my whole head felt like it was completely submerged. Lucky I guess.

So there I was scrambling to retrieve vegetables, cups, jars and meat packages from the fast flowing water and put them back into the now VERY heavy grocery bags half full of rainwater. One of the bystanders, a young man, helped me. I was too embarrassed to do anything more than say, "Thank you." to which he replied, "That's okay." In English. What a nice kid! I did the usual glance back at the place where I fell. You know to check whether there were inconsistencies in the walking surface or whether it was just klutziness. But I didn't have the ability to look at the crowd. I wouldn't blame them at all if they were laughing their asses off. I mean that must have looked hilarious! With some Howard Cosell comentary in the background, even funnier. "Down goes the bule! Down goes the bule!" Bule with an accente gu on the e so it's pronounced bool eh, is the slang word for foreigner here.

I think I managed to get everything and with myself and my groceries DRIPPING with muddy water I loaded up the cab and got in. They never did open the trunk. I gave umbrella boy 5 thou for his trouble. I think that was too little but he wasn't complaining and I just wanted to get out of there.

So I am in the back seat of the cab with an inch or two of water already on the back seat car mats going through my groceries to see that everything is okay and bleeding from some road rash on my knee. And we start our journey back to my place. It's a little after 4 PM. The driver was very nice. He gave me his tissues and I cleaned my knee wound with one and my glasses with another. To tell you the truth I was just laughing about it with him. And it was kind of refreshing on a hot day. Plus being wet the air conditioning is like doubly effective. But traffic, because of the rain, was MURDER!

This is not the rainy season. I'm told it rains almost every day during the rainy season. So why aren't the drivers of Jakarta a little better at driving in the rain? It's a mystery to me. It took more than two hours to make the 15 minute trip. Instead of 30 or 35000 Rp. it was 100,000! And we couldn't make it to my door. I had to grab my 5 bags of groceries and cross two local streets that are usually not busy at all but now were jam packed with stationary motorists blowing horns and inching closer to the cars in front of them. It was only raining a little now so I didn't get too wet walking back to the kost.

There wasn't as much damage to my groceries as I expected. I had 10 eggs and none were broken. The boxes the iron and kettle were in were completely soaked through so I shot them out. I saved the English instructions for the iron. While checking to see if they had included English instructions the phrase I read was, "Do not submerge iron in water." So what would that be called, brace yourselves, IRONy? heh heh. Thank you very much.

I made the stirfry and it was DEEElicious! I ate the whole thing too. Probably shouldn't have but I needed my broccoli fix. I watched the Cloud Atlas while eating. Pretty good movie I thought.

All in all I can't even say I'm not GLAD that happened to me! What would I have blogged about otherwise? And as previously promised, I will continue to blog about other such occurences that are sure to occur during my Jakartian initiation. It's a steep learning curve and if you know me, I only learn the hard way, so this is probably going to be entertaining.

Stay tuned.