Monday, September 15, 2014

One of these things is not like the others

One of the primary reasons for this adventure is so that we can explore other cultures.
T and I have a dive-right-in attitude about exploring new spaces. Before my arrival he had already checked out some options around the city so he has been dying to take me on some short adventures.

My first Sunday, aided by the fact that I was still in the grips of jet lag, and therefore, awake at 5 am, we went to the "Car-Free Day" where one of the main streets of the city is closed off to traffic from 6am-11am on Sunday morning. The benefit of this is two-fold; one it is decreasing the air pollution in a city that badly needs it and two it gives the people in the city a chance to ride their bikes, skate, and walk and see people. Jakarta has very little green space so this is a great opportunity for people to walk around without being in a mall.

T and I walked the full length of the street and back and enjoyed the carnival-like atmosphere. There were lots of food vendors, musicians and people watching.

This Sunday, my husband who knows me well. took me shopping.

Now, I admittedly enjoy a nice mall, but I really love a good market. One of my favorite things to do in Ohio is go to the Springfield Extravaganza twice a year. A trip to Paris wouldn't be complete for me with out the Marche de Puce . 

I have scoured markets in Sydney and Hong Kong as well. Always looking for treasures and enjoying the sights.

For this trip we went to Blok M. It is a reasonable walking distance from our house so we didn't have to battle the traffic and it could serve the benefit of further familiarizing me with the area.

Blok M is not really a shopping center but more like a giant market encased in a seven story building. Each floor specializes in something different from books, both second hand and new, batik, electronics and dvds. The top floor has an arcade, food court and a movie theater. 

It is a bit of a rabbit warren, but also laid out in reasonably neat rows.  The vendors invite you into see what they are selling, always in a polite way. Prices all seemed reasonable but this is definitely a place you should bargain.

I found two lovely batik skirts that I paid a total of $20 for. I'm sure I could have gotten a better deal, but I am still struggling with the American guilt. Maybe that will change, but not for now.

Both these adventures served to remind me of one major thing. I look different here! 

There is no blending in for me. T and the kids have that blended Asian look that makes them stand out as being somehow different. so they have dealt with the looks and the open ended questions even the most rude on "What are You?"

I, however, have always lived in a country where I am visually easy to peg and that makes me blend in. But with lots of blond hair that has gone full on curly with the humidity in this country I stand out among the locals. 

I did the math. Jakarta's population is 10.18 million. Of that there are about 22,000 expats living here. About 75% of these foreigners are Asian. That means that there are about 5,500 people in the city who are from North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Africa. The chances of those people being blond is about 25% so there are about 1,300 blonds in a city of 10 million. 

And even though I see my "tribe" through the week as I travel about in expat-land when I go out among the general population, I feel like a rare, blue-footed booby. 

I will say my favorite response usually comes from the young girls who's eyes grow big and aren't afraid to giggle and wave. So far we've only had one person ask to take their picture with us. And, thankfully no one has just reached out and touched  my hair yet. I am hoping the fact that Indonesians think the head is sacred and you shouldn't touch another persons head will keep that from happening.

T reminded me I could always wear a headscarf.

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