Saturday, May 14, 2005

Port Call

Saturday, 14 May, 2005: 22:30

Today was my last full day in Jakarta. We leave for Banda Aceh tomorrow morning at 6 AM. It was a free day. Tom, one of our capacity building experts from DC is recovering from a nasty three days of GI problems. He definitely looks the worse for wear, but has been holed up in the bathroom for the last three days and wanted to get out. Barbara, Tom, and I went to the old Jakarta port. There are dozens of schooners from the early 1900s docked at the port. They are still used to carry lumber and supplies to and from the outlying islands. Some travel as far as Japan… They are old and we’re talking old school. They have masts and sails. From what we could glean, they are in port for about 21 days… that’s how long it takes to load and unload the boats. There is a narrow food wide gang plank to and from the ships. We saw workers carrying one or two pies of wood from the ship at a time. We also checked out a local market. The river was so filthy. You can’t even begin to describe. I saw human excrement, diapers, you name it. I also saw my first rat… at least I can’t ever remember seeing one in my life… of course, I knew a girl in middle school who had a pet rat… but this one of those scary-disease carrying varieties.

We ended up at the Café Batavia. This is the a landmark in Jakarta. It was outside the Dutch Governor’s residence and you truly feel like you are walking back in time when you go in. Dark mahogany interiors, paneled walls, ceiling fans. You somehow expect Cary Grant or Greta Garbo to walk to you and ask for a light. Beautiful bathroom… Tom and I both had to go, but the urinal was trough style and mirrored from floor to ceiling. I’m just getting to know Tom and that was just a bit too much for me. I used the stall instead.

We met Ricardo at a big shopping mall. They have a floor with different theme restaurants. After much deliberation, we decided to go for Japanese Shabu. It’s a lot of fun, sort of a cook your own experience. You sit at tables with a pot of boiling water in front of you. You order your meat and vegetables and essentially cook your food. The Swiss have something very similar called “Fondue Chinoise.” At the end, your water is pretty murky. You add the rest of your vegetables, a few seasonings, and then presto, you have an awesome soup. A nice way to end my time in Jakarta. I’ve heard that Banda Aceh is a pretty big city… but I somehow doubt that they will have Shabu.

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