After getting ready this morning, I decided to take a taxi from the hotel to Old Town Batavia. The hotel concierge relayed to the driver where I wanted to go and we were off. The taxi driver first headed west and then soon was driving south. I asked the driver where he was going and pointed behind us toward north, saying that is where he should be driving. He then drove around in a circle before finding a local man to ask directions. Both the local man and the driver thought I wanted to go to a place called “Hotel Batavia”; I tried to explain I wanted to go to the old square where the museums are located; neither the driver nor the local knew enough English to understand me, so after wasting about ten minutes, I told the driver to forget it and exited the taxi. I was now further away from my destination than when I started and I was now walking again in the bright sun, just as I had done yesterday (if you want something done right . . .). I decided to stop and consume a cafe mocha and some pastries for much needed energy to continue on. After that meal, I headed north to the old square.
After walking for about an hour, I reached the square and after drinking some apple-flavored tea, I went in to the Museum Wayang. The museum has a collection of traditional Indonesian puppets; there were two-dimensional and three-dimensional puppets, life-size wooden three-dimensional puppets, shadow puppets, toy puppets made out of bamboo, western-styled puppets, masks, and musical instruments used for the puppetry shows. There were some explanations on popular characters and the stories of the shows they are usually featured in. Near the museum’s exit there was a gift shop selling puppets and a showcase of how they are born from a block of wood. I talked to one man who is a puppeteer and he told me regularly puts on shows in the U.S. Embassy, he has been to Boston to put on shows, and helps teach aspiring puppeteers – currently they have a class of twenty-five students. He also told me that since it is Ramadan, there currently are no puppet shows in Jakarta or most of Java, but I may be able to see a show in Bali since most of the population there is Hindu.
I then walked north again to the Museum Bahari. First I climbed up the steps of the watchtower to look around at the local skyline. I then entered the main museum which exists in an old warehouse. The museum displayed the history of Jakarta as a major trading port from precolonial days to today. The main trade commodities supplied by Jakarta to Europe, as well as Asia, were silk, tea, coffee, spices, tobacco, palm wine, and ceramics; the Dutch East India Company (the acronym is “VOC”, from the Dutch title of “Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie”) who ruled over Jakarta in the colonial period were making plenty of money off of the trade in Jakarta that they were sending four million guilders back to the Netherlands every year, helping to boost the economy of the Dutch Kingdom. The museum also had a number of various types of traditional boats on display, as well as dioramas on traditional Indonesian legends related to the sea and Sunda Kelapa Port.
After the Museum Bahari, I walked through the neighboring market and slum, just as I had done yesterday. I must have come just as school was let out because I was greeted by wave after wave of children in white and green uniforms, greeting me and giving me “high-fives”. I also watched some younger children enjoying a small, mobile ferris wheel operated by one man using foot peddles. Once again, even in the slums, everyone was very friendly to me and I felt very safe – a feeling I would not have in America’s or much of the rest of the world’s ghettos.
I then wound up my tour for today and walked back to the hotel. I am starting to get used to navigating through the onslaught of traffic and obstacles on the sidewalks; soon, I too, shall fearlessly cross the streets as the locals do. Later on I left the hotel to seek out food; I bought a few bottles of tea at a convenience store about a mile away from the hotel and then I stopped a McDonalds and bought a barbeque beef wrap and french fries with curry chicken seasoning (they had the usual stuff on the menu as well, but I went with the unique foods); I then walked back to the hotel to eat my meal. Afterwards I stepped back outside and discovered it was pouring rain and lightning was striking frequently, hopefully the foul weather will clear by tomorrow.