Blue cart, green fence

as photographed through a taxi window in north Jakarta.


Junk food of the week: Tamarind chews

“Sugar-frosted bunny poops,” my friend and coworker Howard dubbed these. In fact they are little chewy jellies of tamarind, the supersour fruit much loved by Indonesian and Indian cooks.

I thought these were going to be chocolate-based, so I was glad I asked before popping the first one in my mouth. They were pretty tasty, though — tangy and sweet and fruity, and they don’t stick to your teeth like a jellybean or gummi bear.

Baby naming

Our neighbors had a baby-naming ceremony over the weekend and invited us to stop by. It was a half-day affair that mostly consisted of praying, so we weren’t really expected to stick around for the whole thing. In fact, most of the neighborhood seemed to be wandering by to stand around, listen to the prayers and drumming, and congratulate the proud parents.

The hosts set up a little sound system in front of the house and hired a group from the neighborhood. I thought they were quite good.

Let me know if you have problems with the video; I can’t get it to play back properly, but our internet is really bad at the moment.

The music may have been done by men, but the ceremony was clearly for the women. A large number of female relatives had been brought in from a remote location, and they occupied the front room of the house, looking very sparkly in their best headscarves. Sometimes they listened to the music and prayers that were happening out front, and sometimes they had their own prayers, led by a woman.

Apparently the highlight of the ceremony is when a lock of the baby’s hair is cut. Tragically, I missed this part. I was told it wouldn’t happen for another twenty minutes, so I scampered home to get another memory card, and when I got back it was over. It’s one of the few times I can think of when something happened ahead of schedule here.

I did manage to snap a nice picture of parents and baby, though.

He’s on fire

When some friends began talking about trying “fire therapy,” I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d be watching Chad get set ablaze.

Sure enough, we ended up doing it a few weeks ago, at the acupuncturist’s around the corner. The fire part was actually the culmination of a series of steps. First there was the belly massage, which according to Chad felt partly ticklish and partly weird. Our friend Dave seemed to find his facial expressions amusing.

Then things got a little scarier: they put in some acupuncture needles and hooked them up to a rather dodgy-looking (if you ask me) little electrical device.

The resulting current made the needles jump rhythmically, as you can see in the video below. Chad found this interesting at first but then it started to get uncomfortable.

Then it was time for the fire. They covered Chad and Dave with a few layers of damp towels. Then they soaked the top towel in alcohol and torched it with one of those clicky barbecue lighters.

This part actually seemed rather pleasant. The “patients” reported a warm but not hot sensation on the skin. Chad found it refreshing and said he would do the fire part again. He didn’t look so eager to repeat the electropuncture experience. As for me, I avoid any kind of health treatment that looks like it could put me in the hospital. But the people seemed perfectly pleasant, and skilled, and I wouldn’t mind going back there for something less incendiary, like a plain old massage.

You can get Chad’s side of the story, by the way, at


Frenchified names are definitely in vogue these days. If you want, you can go get a banana and chocolate crepe at the D’Crepes stand at any mall, and then buy the latest CD from Maliq n D’Essentials, followed by a beer at D’Place on Wahid Hasyim street (a stone’s throw from two Oh La La cafes).

My favorite, though, is La’ Dunky salon, right around the corner from our apartment. I got a really great $2 haircut there once. Unfortunately, they’ve cut my hair three times …

That blue awning is not actually the salon, by the way; it’s a warung and motorcycle taxi stand. La’ Dunky itself is quite presentable.

As Chad might say, it’s all très Fake French.

A tug-of-war with Mother Earth

I was walking to the busway when I passed these guys pulling on a rope connected to something down in the sewer system. They were doing a one, two, three HEAVE! sort of thing, and whatever it was they were pulling on didn’t appear to be moving at all.

They’re all wearing hats because the rain was just pounding down; taking a break did not seem to be an option, at least in the boss’s mind.