29 September 2011

Why I always accept a lunch date with Vidya

My friend Vidya, who has moved on from being an architect to designing leather goods (and has refurbished my beloved carry-on bag from Siena), feels that every time we meet she should provide photo opportunities for my blog. On Tuesday, 20 Sept, we had our rendezvous at the West Mall of Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, which fully deserves the "grand" in its name. Here are glimpses of the light and water spectacle we watched from the mezzanine right before settling down for lunch.

Vidya knew about this noontime show, but what really drew her here was the Magnum pop-up restaurant. The café, the first in the world dedicated to Eva Longoria's and Rachel Bilson's favorite ice cream bar (check out a few of their commercials here and here), opened in February and was supposed to close three months later; Vidya refers to it as a "seasonal restaurant," which will move to another city like Surabaya next.

Those other cities have to wait, however, because the Magnum Café has been a huge hit with Jakartans. Here it is in all its OTT semi-Victorian glory.

 Vidya being shown to our table.
 The placemat.
The merch.
 We also had quesadillas and pasta with shrimp and chili, but the creative use of Magnum bars in the desserts is the USP.
 Our choice (shared): a Magnum bar with fresh fruit on crisp, honey-coated French toast.

View looking back as we left for Alun Alun, the big handicrafts shop at the top of upmarket Japanese department store Seibu, where I had already bought a beautiful silvery grey silk tenun before Vidya arrived.

 I forced Vidya to pose by the giant Magnum bar for scale.
Chairs for the overspill crowd. Even Reuters has reported on the Magnum Café phenomenon. Queues are notorious: see the place jammed with young Indonesians looking for a sweetly innocent good time here. Hard to believe that this all this fuss is about an ice cream product from Walls. The company has certainly changed tack since the days when it was proved there was no problem with the long voyages their shipments to South Africa had to take:  their ice cream contained no dairy products. Or was this simply an urban legend of the 1970s?

Another theme restaurant, though this one doesn't serve the pastrami and rye you'd expect. Menu is strictly Indonesian.
 More restaurants as we wandered through the mall.

 Yes, Kentucky fried chicken also sells in Jakarta.

 Last photos. I really liked the outside of this Japanese restaurant.
 Thank you, Vidya!

Think: opening scenes of "Slumdog Millionaire"

 Michael sent me the link to this Guardian article.

We remarked soon after we arrived back in Jakarta that although we weren't recycling here, we knew a "system" was in place that was very likely more efficient than our dutiful separation of glass, paper, and metal back in London.

Living off the landfill: Indonesia's resident scavengers

Jakarta's 'mountain' waste tip provides a living – and a home – for 2,000 families

  • guardian.co.uk,

indonesia rubbish dump
One of the many Indonesian families who live on the Jakarta waste 'mountain' in a home built from rubbish. Photograph: Javad Tizmaghz for the Guardian

They call it "the mountain": a sprawling, 110-hectare mound of Jakarta's rotting rubbish that stretches as far and nearly as high as the eye can see. Dark clouds of flies hover over decaying vegetables, cloth rags, mattresses, plastics, broken tables, medical x-rays and greasy car parts. Squelching among it all are the mountain's stray cats, goats, rats, cockroaches – and thousands of men and women, rifling through the rubbish to find their own personal treasure.

"Woo hoo, a mobile!" cries one 20-something scavenger as he pockets the phone with a blackened hand and, with the other, flings a plastic bottle into the wicker basket on his back.

All around him, scavengers are loading their baskets with aluminium tins, glass bottles and plastics of every variety. Some dance among the mountain's many bulldozers, their mechanical arms busy flinging rubbish skyward, while others scavenge the fresh loads of trucks that wind around the mountain's base and deposit the 6,250 tonnes of Jakarta's daily rubbish anywhere there is space.

Scavenging at Bantar Gebang, Indonesia's largest trash dump, is a 24-hour business – and business is booming. "I came here because the work is good and I can be my own boss," says Umi, a 47-year-old former paddy farmer who, after living on-site for 20 years, proudly declares herself the mountain's resident trash lady. "When you farm rice you have to wait for the harvest and the work can be backbreaking. Now I work when I want to work. There's always something to find."

Bantar Gebang, 20 miles east of Jakarta, is a peculiar case of Indonesian self-enterprise. Built in 1989 on rice paddy fields, the tip today is awash with former rice farmers who once dug the earth for their food and now dig the "mountain" for their earnings, with many of them living atop the tip in constructions made from the rubbish itself.

Their one and two-bedroom huts, fashioned from scrap wood, cardboard, rugs, plastic advertisements for credit cards and nails rummaged from the tip, blend like ragtag camouflage into the mountain's hillside. Cafes furnished with abandoned tables and sofas offer tea and biscuits to scavengers, while fields of trash are levelled at dusk for ad-hoc volleyball games. A small outdoor cinema, boasting scavenged speakers, shows films once a week, and the call to prayer by resident imams often wafts over the mountains of rotting waste.

Around 2,000 families are estimated to live and work at Bantar Gebang, but as Jakarta's waste increases, so does the tip's population. Most are unskilled workers from Java, some of whom have been scavenging in streets and rubbish bins their whole lives. But life here, says new resident Dadi, 25, can be a difficult adjustment. "I couldn't eat properly for weeks when I arrived, the smell was so bad," he says of the tip's stench of curdled milk. "I vomited every day."

Despite a strong sense of community on the tip, many also find that they are stigmatised when they cross its borders. "For a long time, it was hard to go back home," says Sar Jok, 59, a "boss" who recruits new residents into teams of scavengers and sells their findings to independent recycling companies. "People would say, 'Why do you live on the dump? It smells bad, you smell bad'. But when they saw I made good money, their opinions changed." 

Scavengers, some of them children as young as five, make around 30,000 rupiah (£2.20) a day. Like the few paddy farmers who still till what's left of the neighbouring rice fields, many of Bantar Gebang's residents must do all they can to survive off the land. Nila, 31, a mother of three, regularly scavenges for her family's dinner. "I'll find vegetables, and fish or meat on the mountain," she says, cooking dinner over an open fire. "If it looks and smells OK, I take it. So far we've been lucky – nothing's happened to us."

Local charities have lobbied for greater healthcare for scavengers, who are at risk of everything from minor skin irritations and vitamin deficiencies to tuberculosis and tapeworm. Landfill landslides can be deadly. But the municipal government already faces difficulties just dealing with Jakarta's waste. Recent initiatives to trap the tip's methane production and build on-site recycling facilities have eased Bantar Gebang's pollution. But the Indonesian Solid Waste Association recently admitted that the capital city of 10 million may need another decade until it can fully manage its own rubbish. Renie Elvina Tiurma, head of a Jakartan household and corporation-targeted recycling initiative called the Green Project, says that the unofficial reliance on scavengers to remedy the problem cannot continue.

"Scavenging is not optimal because 40% of the 'recycling' is still not recyclable, it's too dirty to be processed," Tiurma says. "If Jakartans just sorted their own trash, we wouldn't have landfills like Bantar Gebang. Around 48% of a household's waste is recyclable and another 40% is compostable. But there's not much awareness or understanding here about recycling, as it's not yet government policy." While Jakarta is still years away from diminishing its rubbish to a level that would pitch the scavengers into other work, just the thought of a different future is too much for some.

"I met my partner here, my life is here," says Nila. "I honestly don't know where else I would go."


View from the 39th floor

I watched this blaze earlier in the week, both smoke and flames clearly visible from our apartment.

Smoke rises above a fire at a crowded residential area in downtown Jakarta on Tuesday. The huge fire burned dozens of houses in Bendungan Hilir, but no casualties were reported. (AFP Photo) Smoke rises above a fire at a crowded residential area in downtown Jakarta on Tuesday. The huge fire burned dozens of houses in Bendungan Hilir, but no casualties were reported. (AFP Photo) 

Update: Jakarta Blaze Leaves 1,100 Homeless
Ulma Haryanto | September 28, 2011

Hundreds of families in Bendungan Hilir, Central Jakarta, watched helplessly as their homes turn to soot in a massive blaze in the densely packed residential area on Tuesday.

At least 1,100 people have been left homeless after more than 70 structures, mostly leased space, were destroyed in the blaze.

“The fire is believed to have started at 11:20 a.m. in a home rented from a [person named] Soemarna. He has already been brought to Bendungan Hilir police station for questioning,” Second Lieutenant Parwadi said.

Soemarna told the Jakarta Globe that a boy renting one of the upstairs rooms ran downstairs and shouted “fire!”

“We went up together, but the smoke was already so thick,” Soemarna said.

Soemarna tried to extinguish the fire with pails of water, but was unsuccessful. So he gathered together residents and rushed them outside.

“When we came out we saw the fire had already spread,” he said. “We didn’t think of taking anything with us. Tomorrow my daughters have to go to school with the same uniform they wore today.”

Some 28 fire trucks took two hours to extinguish the blaze.

Three people were wounded by falling debris: resident Sasmito, 33, and two photographers, Toni Hartawan from Tempo and Gunadi from Jurnal Nasional.

Some of those left homeless have found shelter with relatives. For people with nowhere to go, several evacuation posts and a soup kitchen have been set up in the neighboring Al Falah mosque, some nearby offices and the house of Rita M., the RW 01 community unit head.

Irine, head of Central Jakarta’s social agency, said the soup kitchen will operate for three days. “We will provide three meals a day,” Irine said.

“Our soup kitchen can feed 660 people. We also have blankets as well as school uniforms for the children.”

Local Rita said that in the 20 years she has lived in the neighborhood, she had seen three major fires.

“The last time was in the 1990s and it was bigger than this, but this one affected more people since the area has become so packed,” she said.

Subejo, head of operations at the Jakarta Fire and Disaster Mitigation Office, said his office had conducted fire safety trainings for locals, but the program could not reach all Jakartans.

“We have a budget restraint, but next year we will intensify the training so people shouldn’t have to wait for us to put out the fires,” he said.

Zuleka, 23, said the only fire prevention notification she received came a couple of years ago when the head of her neighborhood unit told residents to purchase fire extinguishers.

“But who can afford fire extinguishers? I don’t think anyone bought it,” she said.

At least two more fires broke out on the same day in Central and North Jakarta.

Additional reporting by Zaky Pawas

28 September 2011

Bandung (Day 2)

Iswani and Pak Kadam had passed a chilly evening. While we, of course, relished the change from humid Jakarta to Bandung, even at dinner the night before Iswani had worn a lightweight weatherbreaker and Pak Kadam a long-sleeved t-shirt.

First stop was again the university, dropping off I and M for their morning meeting. As Pak Kadam then hunted down the off-the-beaten-track address of the batik showroom and workshop, we passed the following scenes:
 Durian season.
 Used tires with a bit of life left in them on sale.

Batik Komar's wisata (tour) branch on Jalan Cigadung Raya Timur I,  where one can belajar dan belanja (study and buy). 
The shop.
 The amazing workshop — which I highly recommend to anyone with time to spare in Bandung. The order of photos reflects our path through the batik-making area, not the steps of the process.
Reconstruction of a Javanese home.
Silk screening -- not a traditional part of batik creation, but this "factory" experiments with contemporary ideas. While the owners began in 1998 with Cirebon motifs, they've now evolved their own style.


Applying wax with a cap.

My personal guide, an ITB design graduate, standing in front of a selection of caps. This is only a small sampling of those available.
Working on batik tulis (written = hand-drawn).

Cap manufacture.

Exiting past the silk-screen area.

Batik motif on denim, drying on a clothesline.
Tree I can't identify (like most) in courtyard.

Bandung street scenes after Pak Kadam and I pick up Iswani and Michael at the university. 
 We liked the Warung Pasta sign. A warung is usually a dimly lit stall offering traditional Indonesian dishes.

First stop on way to volcano: lunch. Another delicious meal, this time at d'Seuhah Da Lada. Seuhah, we learned, means "panting after" and lada is pepper: the restaurant is known for its spicy food.
Order being taken.
Bamboo ceiling beams.
Views from our raised gazebo.

Iswani and Pak Kadam.
We didn't leave the table hungry.
Beef ribs (I think) on left; tahu and tempe on right.
Chilis in kecap manis.
Can't identify these vegetables.
Sate kelinci. We had seen lots of rabbits for sale as we exited the immediate Bandung area, but only Michael and I, trained by our stays in France, were willing to eat the meat.
Gurame bakar.
The fish when we had finished. Iswani commented ruefully, "kuncing akan menangis": the cat will cry.
The grill on which fish was barbecued.
The restaurant's aviary . . .
. . . and garden


A warung across from where we were eating.

A while later, a strong stench of hydrogen sulfide announced that we were approaching the national park dominated by the volcano Tangkuban Parahu (overturned boat). It last erupted in 1959 — for more details, see Michael's blog: http://throughthesandglass.typepad.com/through_the_sandglass/2011/07/crater-delta-tephra-sand.html.

Tea plantations and other scenes as we made our way back to Jakarta.


Tea leaves and pickers.

Design and color of mosque you don't see very often here.

To conclude, more proof that the Monty Python sketch on How To Recognize Different Types Of Tree From Quite A Long Way Away is not standing me in good stead. Anyone out there willing to hazard a guess? These snaps don't really do justice to the brilliant scarlet/coral blossom.