Sunday, 30 October 2011

Wildlife in Jakarta

Jakarta, the sprawling over populated, over polluted, over concreted, over development city is a city I have visited like no other. And everytime I go somewhere different in Jakarta the more I realise that the city is impossible to describe.
The lack of parks and green spaces here is clearly visible yet there are lots of little gardens and green areas either for play or allotments for people growing stuff. Some sidewalks have been entirely turned into garden centres and each plant very well looked after. Amazing.
Yet the city lacks large green spaces or the lungs it needs to breathe. Saying that, after some research through the internet I found the following. Please click each fact to gain more information

Jakarta has 4 million trees 
Paris has 480,000 trees the most of any european city
New York has 5.2 million trees
Tokyo has over 490,000 trees

So Jakarta has a lot of green out there, and whether the figure is correct or not is anyones guess but I would imagine it has to be somewhere near true. However the number of trees here is not as many as there should be.

Anyway I digress.

After seeing a photo in blog about mangrove in Jakarta and then after  some research I eventually found the place and what I could see there. So feeling like the intrepid explorer, I took a taxi with my fiance to Muara Angke, North Jakarta. Helps if the taxi driver knows where that is. Sadly he did not.
So after leaving Pluit, you head west and reach another part of Jakarta which is more like a frontier town than part of a bustling metropolis. Snarled with traffic of course but the chaos was worse and the feeling was more foreign and more unfamiliar than any other part of Jakarta I have been too. On one side of the road small housing and shops and the other large signs for apartments, golf, huge gates to guarded coastal housing areas and a total lack of natural presence. It took over an hour to find this Muara Angke and then another 30 minutes to find the entrance to the conservation park.

Finding the entrance was not easy but we stopped the taxi, paid and wandered in. On walking up the steps into a small entrance area, there was no information and no one to see and it looked run down and unloved.

We carried on into the conservation area and were eventually met by a ranger of some sorts and some workmen, who seemed fairly displeased we were there and told us firmly and politely that we needed paperwork to enter the conservation area or pay 10,000 each. We paid. Someone mentioned 50,000 of course but we paid the 10,000 and went further in.

The wooden walkway was in need of repair and there were workmen working as slowly as they could at fixing them watched by the birds and monkeys that were hanging around.

All the moaning aside. Once we started further into the park, the area opened up, silence returned, fresh air could almost be breathed and the only noise other than the aircraft overhead was the chatter of birds in the reed beds and trees and the noise of monkeys ahead. The area is beautiful. You could forget where you were within an instant.

So what wildlife did I see in the park. Well there are lot of butterflies for a start. The water is teeming with life, the plants the trees, the mangrove all visible and apparent. There were lots of birds of all sorts in the distance that rose up and settled down. Egris and Heron type birds. All very noisy.

I saw lizards and a baby monitor lizard roaming freely. With the swamp and marsh land, you could almost imagine seeing crocodiles waiting to attack something or someone. There was also a family of monkeys near the entrance and also on the walk. The second bunch of monkeys did not seem to bothered I was near but were also not too friendly to the idea of letting me walk through them as they did what ever monkeys do.

So there we have it. Real  nature in the city that no one really knows about or seems to care about. I am certain like most places here, if the Muara Angke Conservation park was developed and financed it would be a huge draw to tourists to visit a wilderness not far from Starbucks and to experience a landscape and the joys of being in it.

I hope to return there again soon not armed with bits of paper as I still do not know whose permission I need to get in but with my camera and a wish to explore it further. Now how do I charter a boat to see it from the other side?

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Nokia 700

My love affair with Blackberry, Blackberry messenger, being wired to the internet seamlessly and effortlessly and have all the creature comforts a top of the range executive phone could offer has finished exactly a year after it began. In that time I went through 3 different phones (Curve, Bold and Torch).
I guess my frustrations with Blackberry are over exposure in terms of communication and being contactable 24/7. Luckily for me the lack of robust and continuous phone signal where I live slowed down the amount of messages. In the past couple of months, there is almost no signal after 9pm until around 5am for some unknown reason. 
How long I remain with IM3 I don't know but as there is nothing better at the moment, I guess until I move away from Tanjung Duren.

So, my last Nokia was my best Nokia, a  touch screen music phone which I loved but went all fruity as it was the 'in thing' and went back to keypad and eventually with the torch back to touch screen. But it was a sliding phone and eventually to be honest I got bored of sliding it up and down to type etc. Knowing owning a Blackberry was coming to a close I started looking around for another phone. Samsung are great but not something I wanted really. The tab is OK for me but not a hand phone. I don't want an Apple. That really leaves Nokia, the old faithful but not really up to date but has more to offer than Blackberry in respects of free applications, quality cameras and simple operation. 

The Android market is good but limited as I am in Indonesia and Apple is too controlling. Nokia it is then.
After searching through the extensive list of phones I settled for a Nokia 700. Its a touch screen, simple to use and the most upto date phone Nokia has released. It was not expensive and does everything I need it to do. Also the camera is great and the phone is both responsive and quick. Sadly like everything connected to phones it is let down by the signal and the service offered by Indosat but I will cope.

It has 4 home screens all of which can be modified and changed to what you like. However it is very small and I am not and I have big hands and fingers but the keyboard is easier to use and more responsive than my torch. It is far simpler to type and correct which is useful.
The phone does not have specific software for Twitter or Facebook but here in Indonesia there is a free mobile service for Facebook and setting up mobile Twitter is a piece of cake. Email no issue and it is all push which makes its simple to use. 

So pretty much it is idea for me, despite its size and weight I am sure I will be happy with this for a while and I cant see me going back to Blackberry in a hurry (unless it is free, fully paid for and part of a job I required to do and as I cannot see that happening for a while, lets not worry about it).

Before I start ranting about Central Park, I should say, this phone feels fun unlike the Blackberry which is professional and serious. And Fun is more a challenge. Oh and it has Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja for free. :)

So in order to purchase the said phone required me to go to a store and buy it. As I was in Central Park Friday evening with Yovita hunting for a place to eat, we popped into the Nokia store and on seeing that the Nokia 700 was available decided to go and buy one after dinner. On return to the store after eating, they would not take a debit card as they has already reconciled the money (30 minutes before closing) and so I would have to come back on Saturday and to get price cheaper (they charge for cards anyway) I would need cash. Central Park Nokia store wanted 3,130,000 rupiah and also to come back at 3pm to see the same sales girl who was keeping a phone for me.

After finishing work on Saturday I went to Puri Mall and visited the Nokia store there. I had the cash with me and they had the phones for sale. The cost was 3,060,000 so 70,000 cheaper than Central Park and they had all colours whereas CP did not have black. So I bought the black one. Within 15 minutes I had the phone, tested the headphones, battery, set the phone up, got the receipts and was heading home. Easy.

Today after breakfast in CP I went to the phone accessory shops to find a holder for the phone. Much to my displeasure and relative surprise, it was a straight no 'we don't have' from 4 different shops. There was not even a hint of help. I guess because I am western and don't speak Indonesian but this is another example of sales prevention by stores towards people. Seems it happens a lot to me. Annoyed and angry I went to Carrefour. 

I made it round Carrefour with relative ease and despite dead fish in the live fish tank, people totally ignorant of other shoppers around them hitting you with trolleys, flies walking over the fruit, I got everything I needed, did not have to queue (gasp) and even my cherry tomatoes, which never have a barcode and therefore means someone has to get a price from somewhere, was dealt with quickly and promptly. 

And the best thing is The Walking Dead is on tonight, series 2. Should be great.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A guest blog from a Londoner :0)

Firstly, I would like to thank Luke for the invite to write a guest blog for him. I've known Luke for years, we met originally in Malaysia when he helped me escape from a German lesbian who was stalking me through a rain forest (true story); Luke has been one of my closest friends ever since.

I was briefed to write something which demonstrated stark comparisons and current issues, so welcome to the ramblings of a mad woman; here we are and off we go...

I was away from the UK three years in total, half of which was spent in Asia where the bartering system is alive and well. I initially enjoyed (then later found rather exhausting) the interaction between a shop keeper and myself. In the independent shops full of tourist tat, clothes, jewellery or cell phones, one can't go in, pick something up, then simply ask how much an item is and expect to be given a fixed price.

No. No. No.

Instead, there is a time honoured game played between the purveyor and his customer; the item must be presented to you by the shop keeper, never the correct item, but something that is similar to in many ways, but not quite what you had in mind that will just have to do you for today as there is nowhere else that may stock anything like what you wanted. As an example, one may forget buying one’s favourite shampoo, you may have the local knock-off equivalent that probably smells better but just doesn't seem to ever rinse out in the shower. This seems fair enough until your hotel owner has great joy informing you that this is, in fact, dog shampoo therefore making you wonder precisely how far down the hippy trail you have accidently wandered.
The initial price tag of the item may alter according to many variables; for example the time of day (possibly higher when he's just setting up for the day or lower if you are asking for the "sunset price") or maybe the perceived wealth of the customer (the price for a poor local farmer will be substantially lower than that of a rich American backpacker). I've been told that the perfect barter results in the buyer feeling as though he's been ripped off a little and the seller experiencing the discomfort of feeling he could have charged more for the item at hand. Quite how they are both going to know that they have reached that point is anyone's guess, I can't say that I've ever been able to walk away knowing this is what has happened.

This is worlds away from the First World system of commerce; to the point that, when I returned to Europe, I had to have a friend go to the supermarket with me the first time for moral support. I drifted through the revolving doors and was faced with a gargantuan warehouse stuffed full with a world of goods, all stacked neatly and labelled with the price. One could merely glance at the shelf to find out the value of the item, none of this guess work that I had, up until so recently, been subjected to. The total cost of a basket of goods could be predicted and if anything it went down thanks to 2-4-1 deals and the like.

Utter bliss...

Until, that is, I went to the check out.

Here, dear reader, I was confronted with the "Self Service Checkout". Instead of being greeted by a smiling checkout chick asking me if I wanted to pay by cash or card (no, I don’t have a frigging loyalty card), I was subjected to making a ritual offering to the demon who lives inside the magical touch-screen box. It progressively traumatises the unsuspecting shopper by a number of methods. Frequently it falsely accuses you of attempting to steal the 19 pence Value Strawberry Yogurt because the scanner didn't really scan it before you put it in the bag (even though you would swear on your Grandmother's grave that you hear the demon "beep" it's accent half a second ago). It asks questions such as "do you have any of your own bags?", thus making one confront the reality that one has forgotten their eco bags and therefore is helping to destroy the planet just a little bit more by using up 2 of their shiny new bags; which they then charge you tuppence each, just to really piss you off.
Lo-and-behold the miserable shopper who puts their purse on any of the touch sensitive scales; thou shalt burn for tickling of such sensitive technology. And Cashback? You must be joking! The belly of the demon needs feeding! It is not about to serve you your wealth, don't be so very silly. How very dare you for such a thought crossing your mind.

Every time you can't make the bastard machine work, you have to summon the utterly uninterested teenage assistant (who hates the demon machine far more than you and I may fathom) to kick it into submission for you. Each time you think that you are going to get arrested for that yogurt that didn't scan, or maybe that you told the demon that the Capsicum was red and not green. Don't get your Capsicums muddled up, the demon knows the truth that lies beneath...

By the time you've left the shop you are in a worse mood that you were when you went in, but this time you will have no one to shout at.

Not healthy. Not healthy one bean.

What's any of this got to do with anything at all though?

In these days of rioting, occupations of various central business districts (Wall Street, Auckland and London being three of which I'm currently following), dwindling family values where people feel more and more disempowered and have increasingly distant relationships with the people who we share our cities with, it is sad to see that yet one more valuable human interaction has been so swiftly whipped away out of our daily lives from before our very eyes. We are becoming more and more distant from the people who share our living spaces which has created loneliness and isolation from within the crowd.

I'm not technophobic by any stretch of the imagination, I have techno-joy and am usually inseparable from my Android phone and laptop, but it's the fighting with unfeeling, uncaring, unknowing computers (such as the self serve checkout ) instead of working with fellow humans which worries me. How are we to correct this when people are being replaced by beeping machines containing demons which need to be satisfied?
Although bartering drives me to distraction, I loved the social challenges it brought and the lessons it taught me; how to be good natured in defeat or gracious in victory, how to develop and maintain a relationship with an individual or team of individuals in a constructive way which can then be built upon over the time that I am a patron of the establishment. By removing the human, we've not only lost the opportunity for personal growth, but also a degree of community adhesion. These simple daily interactions create social conversation; about how the area is developing and forming, what Mrs So-and-so is up to these days or the state of the local council. If local people are not engaged in conversation with their neighbours here, then where are they to do it? Not in the pub, people are too busy getting drunk and forgetting to treat each other nicely. Not in the coffee shops, people are too busy reading and poking their iPhones. Not on the Underground, people are too busy looking at anything other than each other to avoid interacting with the person that who they are nose to armpit with during crush-hour.

Without these forced social interactions, in places such as the local shops, society will eventually fail to talk to each other.
Then what?

I've already figured out that were I ever to find a job that allowed me to work from behind a computer at home then I would never have to leave the place ever again. Everything can be mailed to me from Ebay etc and groceries delivered from Sainsbury’s Online.
Will people eventually become segregated into those who hide behind their computers and those who are the invisible servants who create and deliver the goods?

Is this the city in which you wish to live?

I sure as hell don't.

Come out into the city and play with us, there is a whole world to talk to :0)

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Mid October

The more I live and travel through the city the more I feel I see, learn and understand and therefore can rationalise why to everything I see and hear. That way it helps me accept and continue to appreciate what it is I have and how lucky I am to live in another country.

It also makes me realise that I actually know about living in two countries and therefore I know twice as less than before. Perhaps I have a better perception now and deeper awareness of what is going on around me, not that it makes any difference as it would happen any way whether I was here or not.

I often, I think, mention life as an expat and the challenges it brings and whilst you can settle as an expat you are and remain an outsider to everything as you will never catch up with the way of life in the country you move to, on the flip side the life you left behind is almost as alien now as the one being led.

The world is such a big place when you travel it but when you are in one place, big becomes small and foreign becomes familiar but the questionable remains questionable.

There are 400 Sumatra tigers left and they wont last long thats for sure. It is a huge shame and their possible extinction is such a tragedy to witness but actually I don't believe there is anything anyone can do about that now.. The worlds insatiable thirst for cheap Palm nut oil,exotic hardwoods and the most simple of reasons, that man needs to farm to support his family is creating the deforestation and loss of habitat for tigers and wild animals in general. People protest, raise money and demand action but it won't happen. The desire to change is not strong enough. The people who live in these areas want what we have and want to be rich and happy and successful and not be ignored and feel important. When that is their focus, what difference will a few less trees make?

Those watching CNN, or reading the Guardian etc and see reports about the loss of natural habitat get very upset. Start typing on their Macbook about how disgraceful this is, then get into their BMW, and head to the shops for new clothes a nice meal and then return to the family home and forget about it.

They expect someone far far away living a difficult life with little government support to sort it all out for them. Nah it wont happen.

In the city there are people who entertain passer-bys with monkeys dressed in dolls clothes or hats and they treat these animals terribly and it is a sad and cruel thing to watch. Some watch, some pay, some clap, some walk on by. But this form of entertainment has been going on for so long that is almost cultural and part of life where it happens. Will it be stamped out? No. Is it really important ? In the scheme of things, Yes I guess so but in real terms I can't say it is as there are more pressing issues at hand.

The Jakarta Globe published some amazing facts about the wages people are earning.The article can be found here and it is about the need to spend money repaving roads in the slum areas of the city.

 I quote "Data from the city’s social affairs agency say there are 7,315 street children in Jakarta, while the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) estimates that this year there were 363,000 people in the capital surviving on no more than Rp 355,000 per month. - 355,000 = less than 26 quid a month."

So however much we moan and groan and complain really, is it worth it? If I thought about it I would think none of us would want to live on that money and certainly would not be prepared to give up our creature comforts to try to. Yet and I try to explain this to my students when I am feeling philosophical.

Children with limited education who spend their time flying kites and making do with what they can find and living best they can compared to the children stuffed in the back of the Alphard with TV screens in headsets, playing on their Blackberrys and using their PSP, growing fat on KFC and sugar, who are actually happier.

You decide. Its all relative.

So it's Mid October, the wedding deposit has been paid, and the countdown to having a holiday has begun. Its been a while since I stepped foot on another island (Bidadari is not included as it was a day trip) and so I am more than looking forward to that. I am beginning to realise I do need it.

I have been working lots and spent the weekend at Puri Mall supporting the center in an Education Fair. I must say those 6 hours went by so very.....

But I did my bit, it was a useful and purposeful exercise and I am sure to think about doing it again if I am told to.

Getting back from Puri Mall to Central Park was harder than it needed to be as I got into a Bluebird. Bluebird is the most trusted and used Taxi in the city. However this driver did not know where Taman Anggrek was so I got out and got into a Diane and took the toll. The toll was nose to tail rammed and so it took over 45 minutes to do the 8 kilometers back. The traffic and the lack of manners by the other drivers was outrageous. Seriously sometimes you have to wonder what is wrong with people who show no respect for other people on the road. Driving 2 ton killing machines you would think that perhaps they should. I don't see the argument 'Gods will' and 'only God knows our destiny' as an excuse to drive badly putting you, your family and me in harms way.

Still I got back and just before the sky burst and the rain fell heavily for an hour. I was going to use the Heavens opened but I had just spoke about god so I did not want to make another religious reference.

However I have has some successes such as learning to transfer money into a Mandiri account from Permata with limited assistance. Correctly setting a network 3 internet account and keeping my tab in credit. Using Microsoft Office 2010 effectively, downloading free Ebooks from the internet. Can't say where from just in case someone reports me. And most amusing of all being described as Edward Cullen. Ha Ha Ha, got to smile at that one.

Time to find some Max Brooks books. Bring on World War Z

Happy times and have the most Sunshiny days

Monday, 3 October 2011

Updates and things

Just some updates I thought might be useful to share and some thoughts which I felt are prudent to share looking at what is being read or visited through my blog pages.

If you are looking for the update to trains to Bogor - scroll down

I got a lovely letter from Google the other day telling me that they had pulled a blog post from another of my blogs due to a copyright complaint and to visit a website to review the complaint. They also told me to amend it or delete it or have the whole blog deleted. I have yet to sort the post out and despite looking the website they told me to go to, I found nothing.
Odd really as the post was just random facts about Indonesia, information that can be found freely available in books, blogs, news sites etc. And whilst I understand intellectual property rights of the owner, the internet is full of copy, imitation and recycled information. As the phrase goes - Imitation is the best form of flattery. I have never not said that some of the things I have found or added to my blogs were all my own work but rather shared from other sites. Quote is from a certain Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832).
My photos which I put on my blog are often downloaded by others to which I am often amazed and delighted that people take them, I have put a small comment on my blog about it , but I also acknowledge the fact that by putting my pictures out there, then they can be used by others. I don't feel angered or annoyed by these things as its a choice.

  This picture seems to  be the most downloaded image from my blog

Still moving on.

I want to update on this blog page some information connected to another blog page 'Trains to Bogor' as I feel things have changed so drastically that some of the information is out of date.

The express train is no longer running from Bogor to Jakarta and vice versa, instead all trains stop at all stations and whist there are AC trains etc, the journey now takes a while longer.

Something else I learnt about trains is a way people get robbed by people on them and this happened to a friend of mine just recently. While waiting for a train, she was using her phone near the platform edge when a train rumbled by. Her phone was snatched from her by someone leaning far out of the train and looking for things to snatch and then once they have something, the people they are with pull them back in. She could do nothing as the train keeps going and there really is not anyone to complain to.  So be careful. I know of people riding as passengers on motorbikes having bags ripped off them by other motorcyclists and recently a teacher had people attempt to stop her car by telling her her tyres were flat. Her car was surrounded by bikes. Luckily she kept going.

I guess everything is pretty much the same to getting better in many many ways. I have recently been able to rediscover the joys of reading popular modern fiction of all sorts thanks to an e reader and access to many  free torrent e books, so much so I am over-whelmed by books to read and now often just switch off the TV and read for a few hours. I have some far collected about 250 free Ebooks from different sites and of different types. Horror, war, fantasy, crime thrillers everything to keep me amused. I have also found more books for school in PDF format which are proving again useful.

I really enjoy reading, be it books, papers, blogs, you name it. I wish I could inspire the students I have to read and enjoy reading as I feel it would help their studies, their understanding of the world, their creativity, their thought process, everything but alas. It is not meant to be. However we do offer reading classes for 3-5 year olds and the classes are full and the students seem to be progressing and that is such great news.

And on that note, time for a read