Shutterfly update

Apparently, Shutterfly has completely changed the look of my photo site without notifying me, and has taken out important features that I use to make the site look nice. This is something they are allegedly “working on,” but please bear with me until the site is back up to par. In the meantime, you can still see all the photos, it’s just not organized the way it should be.

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Selamat tinggal masa lalu… (Alternate title: 101 Things I Learned in Indonesia)

…and there’s still more to say about Indonesia. You know, I remember the first entry I posted upon arriving, where I noted all the 101 ways you can die here (and there are many!). But ironically, I feel that in Indonesia, I have learned more about how to live. I learned a lot here, and I’m sure there are 101 things that this country has taught me: Here is where I learned how to ride a motorbike. Where I learned what pineapple and watermelon really taste like. Where I learned that jellyfish stings really hurt…and that you should really take an antihistamine if you get one. Where the word “orang-utan” comes from. Where I learned how to pee in an Asian toilet. How to dance dangdut. Where I conquered my fear of flying, and that nothing tastes better than red snapper grilled on an ocean beach and eaten on the sand.

But Indonesia is also where I learned to trust the unknown, to let go. That time really will heal a broken heart. That friends can be found in the most unlikely places, and that a smile goes a long way. It’s where I learned that no matter how many places you’ve seen or people you’ve met, there is still so much in this world to surprise and fascinate you. Really. And most importantly, I learned that there is nothing –nothing– to be afraid of.

For those lessons, Indonesia, I will always be grateful.

Pictures of four months of adventures and life lessons here.

selamat tinggal masa lalu
selamat datang lembar baru
selamat tinggal cinta lalu
selamat datang cinta baru…

World Music Showcase #5 – Mega Music Blowout

I had this whole list of bands I wanted to talk about eventually, but the news of my immediate promotion (yay!) has meant that I had to leave Indonesia sooner than expected – much sooner. But I still really want you all to know about the awesome music coming out of this country, so I decided to compile them into one big best-of-Indonesia entry. Here are just some of the best bands I’ve found on Indonesia’s exploding music scene:

NIDJI

Likened to Indonesia’s version of Coldplay, this band has the whole alt-rock-pop vibe going for it: a curly, bushy-haired bespectacled nerd singer, interesting videos, the slightest hint of Brit-pop poshness, and an enormous amount of sing-alongability. “Biarlah”is a regular for cover band performers, and “Jangan Lupakan”, romantic and sentimental, is my personal favorite (it’s even partially in English!). They have a MySpace page where you can listen to their hit “Hapus Aku”, and they even have a Wikipedia entry!

LETTO

I discovered Letto by accident through Youtube (well, the “accident” was more like a journey that started with a Wikipedia entry on orangutans and ended with pop music videos, but anyway…). I like Letto’s unusual rhythms and slightly offbeat, slightly cheezy style and piano instrumentation. “Sampai Nanti, Sampai Mati” is the catchiest, I think, and reminds me of a lazy summer afternoon, though I like the guitar solo of “Ruang Rindu”, which, for some reason, always makes me think of Scotland. Check out their website for cheezy photos and not-quite-grammatically-correct English lyrics. What’s not to love?

RAN

This is my favorite of the four bands showcased this week. I bought this CD the same day I left Indonesia, and I haven’t stopped playing it since. I LOVE it. The brand-new band’s jazzy, swingy melodies and the combination of smooth voices and cute English rap make them easy to listen to and easy to enjoy. The video for “Pandangan Pertama” is simple but cute (and gives you a little Bahasa lesson), and Hanya Untukmu” is so catchy it has been stuck in my head for about a week straight now. “Warna Warni Dunia” is the soundtrack for my entire Indonesian experience, and only makes me smile (and want to dance) every time I listen to it. Put on this CD, have some wine, and groove the night away…

MALIQ & D’ESSENTIALS

One day I said to my friends, “Hey guys, there’s this jazzy song I really like but I don’t know how it goes or what it says or who it’s – ” and both of my friends, in unison, shout, “Maliq and D’essentials!” So I immediately escorted myself to the nearest CD shop (read: pirated CD stand…sorry Maliq) and bought it, and sure enough, the first song, “Dia”, was the one that had been going through my head (and radio) all day. Then these same friends told me about a concert that very night, so I escorted myself right over there, too, and was not disappointed. It was actually a concert of four bands in one, and Maliq was definitely the highlight. I like their smooth, jazzy electrofunk, duet voices, and sly lyrics, and had to smile when I looked around the concert and noticed one hundred Indonesians -and me- singing along to “Funk Flow” together and generally getting our collective groove thing on. Check out their MySpace page and new official website (all in Bahasa, sorry) for more info. 🙂 Just try to listen to it without at least tapping a foot or shaking a hip – go on, I dare you!

Other honorable mentions include Glenn Fredly, Radja, Padi, Peterpan, Ungu, D’Masiv, Afgan….and the list goes on and on!

in the thick of it

Some of you may already know, but….I am in the Philippines!

….but more on that later. I haven’t mentioned it yet because I feel like there’s still so much I want to say about Indonesia, and I want to say it in the right order. I don’t want to talk about Manila and its crazy buses and its cheap fluorescent glitz until I’ve talked about Jakarta and its traffic and its loveable chaos and its music…but it’s been so hard to write about it. Actually, I’ve been trying to write about Jakarta for months, but nothing ever seems to come close to encompassing everything I see, everything I want to describe that goes flying by my car window every day.

…It would not be much of an exaggeration to say that I have seen all of Jakarta through the window of our van.

I feel like everything I have seen there has been just slightly blurred and usually accompanied by an exclamation of, “Hey, look at- ” as whatever has caught my attention rushes by, disappearing behind the curve of a narrow, nameless alley that I will never be able to find again.

But, still, I feel like I have also seen Jakarta up close, as we’d maneuver our Toyota minivan through alleys barely big enough for motorbikes, with two precarious ditches on either side where sewage flows by, and we have to scrape by kaki lima food stands, and get close enough to bus bumpers to see the layers of chipped red-and-blue paint and the metal that is rusting away under the corners.

On Jakarta’s harried highways, I have seen things carried on the ubiquitous motorbikes that require an amount of innovation in modes of transport (not to mention good balance) that I would never have imagined possible. Cases in point: motorbikes with any or all of the following:

-three full-size adults
-three full-size adults accompanied by eighteen shopping bags and five purses
-seven small children (okay, I’m exaggerating, but I have seen FIVE kids on a motorbike)
-bundles of grass so high that it’s almost impossible to tell there’s a motorbike in front of it
-gas canisters (hanging precariously close to the searing-hot muffler and dangling by nothing more than twine…)
-people driving AND carrying surfboards, ladders, bamboo reeds, or anything that looks as if it could be used as a javelin
-live chickens (yes), strung by their necks in bundles from the backseat
-live goldfish, like the kind you buy at the carnival in plastic bags full of water
-a bakery…a little glass cabinet full of pastries and little breads…

Oh, and I have even seen a little machine with a motorcycle on the front and a mini carousel on the back, like those little car rides for children that cost a quarter outside Wal-Mart. And this guy just pedals this carousel around all day, and like a Midwestern ice cream truck, kids come chasing after him for a ride.

…and the buses, always full, always crowded, always old, usually weaving in and out of traffic with one guy who hangs out the back and motions for the cars behind to let the driver in as the thing leaves behind a cloud of black smoke so thick that the bus actually disappears from view. The funniest thing is that each bus has a name, usually something slightly dirty in English (despite the conservative Muslim culture) like “Sensual Lips” and “Love Me Tender”, scrawled in chipped fluorescent paint on the back window.

…but still, my favorite part of Jakarta traffic jams is watching the world go by. Despite the fact that there are really no sidewalks in the city and the pollution is unbearable after just a few minutes outside, Jakarta has a constant rhythm of people, food stands, snack sellers, peddlers, children, hubcap shops, palm trees, potted plants, corrugated tin roofs and bright painted tarpaulins advertising gado-gado and soto ayam. I love its mismatched, thrown-together style and faded colors. I love its piles of rice cakes and nasi goreng and bottles of sweet black tea. I love its plastic shine and marble sparkle and even its muddy sluggishness. Jakarta is not afraid to get dirty and not afraid to show its raw side, but it smiles all the same and tries its best with truly good intentions, and for that I have to admire it.