Sunday, November 02, 2003

The Streets of Jakarta

The Streets of Jakarta

Slept late last night and woke up late this morning. It has been raining for the past couple of days, quite heavily at times, but this morning, the sun was scorching the sidewalks when I emerged from my hotel.

The weather in Jakarta is actually a lot more pleasant than KL's. The hottest day in Jakarta is still relatively bearable. KL's climate is a bit like Surabaya's--hot, stuffy and stifling. The weather is not a problem in Jakarta, the pollution is.

Despite the pollution, there are a lot of people who spend their entire day in the streets--asongans, ojeks, pengamen, beggars and street hawkers. Along Jalan Wahid Hasyim where I live, I see people playing cards, carrom and chess, oblivious to passers-by. Some of these street vendors actually sleep and do all their household chores like ironing inside their small wooden cubicle stalls from where they also sell cigarettes and mineral water.

Sometimes you encounter Kodak moments--like a child bathing and splashing in a pail of water by the streets. At other times, you see heart-wrenching scenes of babies sleeping on the sidewalk. Some sights are downright disgusting, such as people peeing everywhere. The telephone booths outside Sarinah are popular peeing places. Ocassionally you even see the female beggars stripping and changing their clothes right in the middle of the busy sidewalk!

And amidst all these, there will be people eating soto and sate kambing on makeshift tables by the roadside; cars, buses and bajajs will be whizzing past inches away from them, enveloping everyone in clouds of dust and smoke.

Sights like these amazes me. These people live their lives completely in the open. They make great photography subjects. But I think I have been taking too many of such photos lately. Even the beggars are beginning to know me.

Now everytime I pass them by, they'll be shouting "foto, foto!".

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