Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Night in Jakarta


Stepping outside of my pavilion in Jakarta, the humid breeze feathers warmly across my face. Across the narrow road, a tall coconut tree is silhouetted against the tropical sky, its jagged fronds moving gently in the night air. The stars twinkle slyly above, as I wonder for the umpteenth time how I could have come so far away from my family to live in this foreign place.

Glancing to my right, past the lush foliage, I see the red glow of a cigarette. My landlady is sitting outside of her house. Laughter punctuates the dull murmur of voices emanating from behind the house. Another marathon card game is evidently in progress. It will go on all night. Something white catches my eye on the tree dividing our properties. I notice that she has covered the belimbing, or yellow star fruit, with a plastic bag to prevent the birds from getting it.

Looking up the street, I see the neighbor is ordering noodles from the street vendor. Framed in the glow of a gas lantern hanging precariously from his push cart, the vendor pulls noodles from a steaming vat, tops them with crisp fried onions, pale chunks of chicken, and hands the plate to my neighbor. Somewhere in the darkness, the call of the sate vendor echoes through the night: “Saataaayyyyyy!”

Suddenly, the Muslim call to prayer rises into the blue black sky, propelled by speakers from every mosque in the city. “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” The eleven o’clock call to prayer reminds me that my bed is also calling. I turn and go back into my house. Shutting my door on Jakarta, I go to bed. jkb2001

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