End of Ramadan Is Near!

Dear Newsbreak,

How is everyone? Hope you’ve finished the book project and made headway with the health fellowship. Maybe you’re also reeling from the hostage situation at Quirino and other MAJOR MAJOR news of late.

I miss the chaos of the Philippines because I can identify with it more. Things have been picking up in Jakarta. Work has been going better, ever since I decided to stop complaining and just focus on doing well. My boss has actually been smiling at me. It’s unnerving yet comforting at once. Let’s see how long I could keep this up.

A lot of interesting things have happened to me over the past few weeks. After my Singapore visa run, I met a Canadian chiropractor named “Dr. Mark” (his stage name for corporate speaking engagements) on the flight back and that’s how I scored a free chiropractic session. He says my spinal vertebrae are just dying to be released of tension after 23 years.

I almost didn’t get through immigrations in Jakarta because I wasn’t issued a return ticket by my office, and the officer seemed to suspect (rightly) I was illegally working here or trying to. But then chiropractor comes and argues on my behalf and officer disappears into a back room to talk to his superior and voila, he comes back all smiles and ready to put a stamp my passport. Though, on the cab ride back (shared with Dr. Mark which on hindsight is really dumb), he had his hand creepily nestled under my thigh. Is this payment for a good deed?

Then a week into work, Purple and the copyedit crew and I checked out Stadium bar in Kota, the old Dutch quarter, which is notorious for offering hookers and drugs. Of course, Purple and I just looked at it as a lesson in drug and human trafficking. We didn’t take drugs or take home prostitutes. We got up close and personal with a sexy lady boy, though. Had better legs than mine.

We hopped bars and later lost track of each other until I was stuck with my sleazy co-worker, C, who later attempted to get me to have sex with him. Though inebriated, I had the good sense to say no, but it was a pretty traumatic incident nevertheless. Spare me venereal disease. I’ve also been exploring a lot of restaurants with my friend DW, who is really nice and acts as a sounding board for all my woes. Haha.

I’ve also finally figured out where the good food is sold– really expensive groceries and delis. I have been on the lookout for soy sauce (Indonesian soy sauce is sickly sweet and syrupy. Yuck), vinegar (I want SUKA!!) and good meat.

For the copyediting crew’s cultural immersions, we have scheduled a regular movie screening wherein we pick out Indonesian pirated DVDs without subtitles and watch them at our boss’s apartment. Our first such film was “The Menstruating Ghost of Puncak,” which was banned by ulemas in February because of its sexual content and provocative title. But I suspect they banned it because of its ridiculously bad plotline and poor execution.

The sex scenes were all simulated, we didn’t see a menstruating ghost and there was absolutely no value in watching it. I thought it would be an allegory for abused women or something (in Islam, when you’re menstruating, you’re considered dirty), but it was just complete trash. I look forward to the next crap film. If anything they’re good Bahasa teaching material.

It’s almost the end of Ramadan, Lebaran, and I’ve been seeing a lot of fireworks lately (though these are contraband), a portent of all the joyous celebrations to come. The fact people could freely use fireworks also says a lot about police enforcement, huh? We even fired up some firecrackers in a parking lot and people applauded. Amid all the Idul Fitri excitement, the imams’ prayers, blaring from loudspeakers atop every mosque, have also been more exuberant (vitriolic?) lately.

I am always jarred awake at 4am by a screaming imam’s voice magnified by amps. I kind of miss Catholic bells. Anyway, it’s nice how my mood has moved in step with the somberness of Ramadan before gradually shifting to a more optimistic outlook. I like to think that’s because I’m already in sync with the city. Who knows if the city and I live together long enough, we might have the same menstrual cycle.

Please kwento. I miss you all.



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