Jakarta: Mulsim yet sinful and decadent yet poor yet friendly

This place is in-sane. The people are mostly Muslim, but you can hardly tell. There is a Mosque about every 250m but I barely hear the call to prayer and certainly the locals only pay it a little more attention than the Bule (white foreigners). To be honest, I have been struggling with a few inner battles the last few days. The turmoil of being surrounded by prostitutes, pimps, poor people, paedophiles (In my book any 50+ old man that is paying for sex with a 20 YO is just as morally reprehensible as a paedophile, so may well be called one, although technically doesn’t fit the description. If he gets it for free with no impost on the free will of the girl/boy that is a different story) and drug dealers. I strictly do not participate in any of these activities. I’ve never done recreational drugs other than alochol, I don’t intend to ever do drugs and I intend never to pay for sex. Thats my position and it is strictly personal and pretty inflexible and its grounded into my identity and my ego identity – what I want to be. I refrain from applying it to any others although I have been known from time to time to question friends on their motive and thought process.
Biggest Mosque in South East Asia – Jakarta.
 Picture courtesty of: www.residentialimage.blogspot.com
The problem here in Indonesia is that there is a lot more grey area. In Australia, if you want a prostitute you would go to a brothel (I’m assuming your not stupid enough to use a street prostitute since its illegal and health risks would be appalling). Point is, your prepared for it. Your first impression of the persion is as a prostitute and chances are your in-bred bias and the fact you know they are doing what they are doing for money, not because they like you is going to mean your probably not going to develop that much of an attachment to them. Here, your tour guide, or your favourite bar tender or a girl you meet in a bar may provide ‘special’ services.
For example, I made friends with 2 locals, Kris and Julia after they were introduced to me by a Kiwi – Daren. He had nothing but praise for them and he came across as being pretty consistent with me in character and in what he was looking for from a holiday. Both Kris and Julia have been a bunch of fun to hang around with and have been very helpful, even though I explained that I was here really for work rather than sight-seeing. We will often play pool together for hours or sit and drink. Kris is always up and down talking to people trying to find clients and I provide him a legitimate reason to be in the pub and also a reference I guess. First greay area – is Kris a friend or a tout? My response now, both.
At first I thought Julia and Kris were together, they work together, rent a room in the same hostel as me together (this is common though to save on accommodation costs, especially since most of the locals only sleep about 3 or 4 hrs at a time max). When I questioned them on this they had a good laugh and said they were just friends. We have had a couple of late nights all together now and while I tend to pay for more than my fare share both Kris and Julia are always offer and never take advantage, whilst on occasion a few others have tagged along and to put it politely, they only joined us once. To put it in perspective, to shout Julia and Kris dinner and a beer each costs me about $5 AUD, in return I get help with catching buses, taxis, navigation, where to eat, where not to eat, who to talk to and who not to talk to and someone to eat dinner with!
Golden Crown Discotheque (and ‘massage parlour’)
Picture courtesy of http://www.jakarta100bars.com/

Kris recently headed off on a tour job for a few days and I noticed that Julia started hanging out with a few of the more obvious unsavoury types and her behaviour changed subtly to match. Although no open proposition was ever made, it did get me thinking that it was on the table if I asked, whether paid or unpaid I don’t know but it was enough to alter my perception of the existing relationship for the worse unfortunately, to the extent now that we hardly hang out. I find that sad and wish I was capable of dealing with this in a way that enabled me not to bias my thinking based on the environment and the surroundings, a way to prevent that thought of “I wonder if this person is genuine” popping into my head.

6 thoughts on “Jakarta: Mulsim yet sinful and decadent yet poor yet friendly

  1. Thats the point though Demelza, you don't meet a prostitute who is 'on the job' so to speak in pubs/clubs in Australia. You might meet one who is 'off the job' but by the probability of this is very very small, compared to Jakarta where the odds are probably reversed, depending on where you go out and still quite high comparatively speaking even at the good places.

    To put it in Jakarta context, on a night out travelling from my Hotel to a good club and back again when I first got here I'd be likely to interact with at least 2 each way on the trip, and another 1 at least at the club. Thats each night. In Australia you might see the ones that are 'on the job' but your chances of meeting one 'off the job' are so small you would be unlucky to meet one in a hundred trips to the club.

    Of course, this brings into question the definition of 'on the job' which is again ambiguous here because arguablly here they are never 'off the job'.

  2. Sorry but I disagree. True that you may not encounter a prostitute as easily in oz but I disagree that what they want will only be sex for money. If you met them in the same context that you are the pros in Jakarta..ie a pub/club then the scope of what they want would be the same relationship, friendship, sex for fun or sex for money. After all they're still just like us except their choice of job is a little different.

  3. Of course you are correct, we wonder if people are genuine all over the world. Here though it seems you have to consider more angles because their is so much more that you have in comparison to them.

    The easiest example is the prostitutes – because the scale of what they may want can actually vary between just being friends, to sex for fun, to being in a relationship with a Bule, to sex for money. At home, firstly you will rarely if ever encounter a prostitute on the street and scondly you know the scope of what they want extends to only sex for money.

  4. Maybe I'm more cynical than you but in my experience wondering if people are genuine happens where ever you are. Maybe in Indonesia it might be more obvious that people tend to develop relationships in order to gain something rather than to just 'be friends', whether that gain be assistance with business or pleasure.

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