24 February 2011


Jakarta, Indonesia: There's that thing about the noonday sun and I ought to know better.

Yesterday I took a walk, a simple walk. I took a taxi from my hotel to Sunda Kelapa - the old harbor here in Jakarta, one of my favorite places on the planet. I got there at about 10:30 in the morning and started heading out the jetty with the 15th century on my left and the 21st on my right. I soon picked up some company - a nice fellow who wanted me to buy a "Dayak" blowgun he was selling. I didn't want that but I was happy enough to have someone to practice my Indonesian with, so we walked together chatting happily about this that and the other for the better part of 1-1/2 hours. I'd pause to take pictures every so often. I bought us bottles of water to drink. There was no shade and, well, what they say about the equatorial sun is true - it's relentless.

I was having too good a time to notice.

So then we parted company and I walked over to Pasar Ikan - the fish market - and the neighborhood of Pluit that is nearby. And I walked around there for another hour and a half or more, pausing to take pictures, chat with people and look at stuff.

And there was some shade, not a lot but some, and as usual when I am walking around a place I love or somewhere new, I wasn't noticing that I might, just might be possibly getting tired and overheated.

I thought I might walk over to Cafe Batavia in the oldest colonial part of the city and have lunch. But I got somewhat turned around, possibly due to the fact that my brain was lightly poaching in my skull.

I walked across the river on a bridge and the stench nearly made me gag.I walked along and over numerous canals that might have once been nice, shady places to rest but are now teeming cesspools (literarlly) of feculence.

I knew things were getting dire when I began to regularly hear all the laughing. People in Indonesia are generally incredibly friendly, sympathetic, empathetic even, and certainly tolerant of the wacky ways of us bule. But that doesn't mean they won't laugh at you when you deserve it.

I deserved it. My walk around town had become some sort of perverse parade. See the sweat drenched, bright red, saggy clothed white guy shuffle past. I made light of myself to those I passed: "Saya bule panas." ("I am a hot white guy.") But after a while I couldn't even get that out.

I came to my senses at a big street and fell into a taxi, asking him to take me back to the hotel. I haven't left it since. I think I'm suffering from all sorts of exposure - to the sun, to the heat, to pollution, to mostly my own stupidity.

I'll get better and probably go out and do something similar again. Should you happen to read somewhere that I have keeled over dead in some exotic locale, don't waste much sympathy on me.

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