FROZEN IN TAMAN ANGGREK

Being mistaken as an Indonesian helps take the edge off the touristy mien when I’m walking with friends around Central Jakarta. We blend in with the throng of people milling about the malls, eating at Pizza Hut or taking in the cool breeze at Fatahillah Square. The charade comes to an end when the rapid-fire Bahasa Indonesia zooms past our heads especially my curly-topped one.

“Silahkan. Selamat siang. Dari mana? Kamu orang Philippine?” they politely remark, which is met with my widest grins followed by a pleading look at my friend who has knack for picking up languages faster than you can say hello. The polyglot has the Indonesian accent down to pat even!

Orang Philippine,” he answers in the same manner as he perused the menu that time we were at Pizza Hut near the landmark pasar swalayan Gelaeh.

It’s the speech cadence that throws me off-guard. The words seem to roll into one long word and by the time I’ve deciphered the gist of the sentence, an awkward silence has settled in. But the lost-in-translation moments are easily hurdled and jalan-jalan around Indonesia promises excitement.

A taxi would have ferried us to the other side of town much faster, but we three musketeers decided to take the angkot number 58 to Uki, changing to bus 46 to take us to one of Indonesia’s numerous malls, Taman Anggrek, which is near the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. The dusty rose-color mall features an ice-skating rink and was an enticing proposition to spend the holiday as the entire Muslim kingdom began Ramadan. Doing the Math before leaving our apartments, taking the angkot and bus was definitely cheaper than taking a cab. The fare each person to the other town on the angkot was only Rupiah4, 500 and Rupiah2, 000 (one-way) from Bekasi to Uki to Taman Anggrek.

Angkot 58 flew down the highway. The driver careened down the asphalt with the skills of an F1 driver, outrunning the cabs and private vehicles. We reached Uki in half an hour and, within a couple of minutes, after expertly dodging oncoming vehicles to cross to the other street, we were safely ensconced at the back of an old Japanese-made bus.

Taking the bus in Indonesia, I discovered, requires dexterity. Forget about proper bus stops and buses coming to a stop to let passengers off and on. Bus 46, to my astonishment, slowed down in the middle of the street to pick up commuters so we had to jog and skip on to the bus. Similar to the bus system in Manila, a conductor walks up and down the packed aisle of the bus to collect payment without skipping a beat in his mental computation of change. Without any air-conditioning and with windows that only opened less than half way, the heat can be stifling particularly when the bus gets stuck in a jam, but the unbearable heat is deflected by the parade of motley characters who board the bus.

Street children shove small envelopes to awake and sleeping passengers in the hope of seeking donations for their “educational” needs. In a couple of minutes they’re back to collect them and quickly alight from the bus to board the next one. Close at their heels are various hawkers – one peddled Muslim caps, which, like the children, he placed on in the hands or on the laps of the passengers and collected several minutes later; another sold packets of peanuts and tamarind candy. He also subscribed to the same modus operandi.

Following the entrepreneurs were various buskers of different ages who provided the entertainment for the one-hour journey to Taman Anggrek. Most sang Indonesian songs and carried improvised donation pouches fashioned out of bags of potato chips. On our way back to Bekasi from Taman Anggrek – a journey that took almost two hours due to a massive traffic jam – a young minstrel caught my attention with his good rendition of a Jason Miraz song, including the vocal acrobats of the singer. I would have requested for another song but he alighted at the next stop. My friend’s amateur minstrel one time was a mute woman who valiantly sang a song of praise accompanied by rhymed clapping. Unlike the rest of the stolid commuters, he was moved by her singing that he gave her Rupiah1, 000.

Taman Anggrek is a five-level mall that features popular clothing brands in Asia (i.e. Marks and Spencer, Zara), food and beverage outlets (i.e. KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s dessert kiosk) and a sprinkling of famous American icons such as Baskin & Robbins, Dunkin’ Donuts, Sizzlers (with the additional American Grill) and Starbucks. Singapore has a toehold in the mall with an outlet of Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Old Chang Kee (the squid balls looked smaller), and Bread Talk while the Philippines is represented by clothing store Kamiseta. Bookstores are limited to two – Gramedia, which had a limited range of English books displayed in a room labeled Imported Books, and Spectrum, a toko-buku specializing in university textbooks on varied subjects.

The ice-skating rink is on the third floor and at 1130am had a throng of beginner, average and advanced skaters. Regular fee is Rupiah38, 000 for two hours of zigzagging on the ice and is inclusive of locker and skates made from China but students get a 50-percent discount. About one-fourth of the rink was cordoned off for skaters taking lessons when we stepped on the ice. Wrapping my fingers around the rails, I made my way slowly around the rink until I got to the cordoned area where I threw caution to the wind and gingerly skated to get to the other side.

I dodged children, who put me to shame with their nonchalant skating, sprightly hockey players simply enjoying the ice, giggling teenage girls posing for the camera (it’s not allowed unless you get tapped on the shoulder by a rink attendant) and first-timers on the ice. My nose and toes were ice cold, and my fingers felt like they were nearing frostbite, but I zigzagged around the rink all the while experiencing flashbacks of Ice Castles for the next hour or so.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by I_am_aoisoba on August 28, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    ice castle kamo? so mega sing song ka ng “Please don’t let this feeling, it’s everything that i am…”

    Reply

  2. A Fantastic post, I will be sure to save this post in my Mixx account. Have a great evening.

    Reply

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