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Fifty Years of My Life (1939 - 1990)
A Memoir by Jeff R. Noordermeer

Arrival in Jakarta

From Singapore to Jakarta was about a 1 1/2 hour flight. When we arrived, our friend Mrs. Ies Prajogo was waiting with her chauffeur. It was very hot and it felt good being driven around in an air-conditioned car. Here I was in the country I had heard so much about. During my elementary school days we learned so much about Indonesia. We even sang Indonesian songs in the classroom. The stories we heard from our teacher about this fascinating archipelago made any young man eager to go to this part of the world. Of course in my younger years I could only dream about it. And here I was in the country I always wanted to see. Our friends had a very nice apartment in the city of Jakarta and a very modern large home in the fashionable neighborhood of Indah. Only the very rich people lived there. We chose to stay in the apartment. The apartment was very convenient. In the apartment we had our own cook and a girl who did the laundry for us. There was an open market not too far from the apartment. For Lu Lu it was like being back in Burma again. Just being able to go to the market every morning with the cook was one of the happiest moments of the day for Lu Lu.

We had met our friends, Bob and Ies Prajogo, in Washington D.C. Bob and Ies met each other when they were students at the Michigan University. Bob received his Ph.D. in Physics, and Ies her Masters in Librarianship. They married during their student years. After they graduated, Bob started his own business in Indonesia, but Ies stayed in the U.S. for a few years as she was offered a job with the Library of Congress. Upon her return to Indonesia she became the Library Director of the American Cultural Center.

During the years she worked for the Library of Congress she was our neighbor friends. When Ies returned to Indonesia we stayed in touch with each other. When Ies found out we were planning a trip to Asia she insisted that we come to Indonesia.

In the Indonesian society Bob and Ies were classified as rich people. They had their own chauffeurs, cooks, cleaning maids, gardeners, and even a guard to open their front iron gates of their large home. We were like one of the family, and with all those services we were spoiled. But I must honestly admit, I loved it... who wouldn't?

There is no comparison between the city of Singapore and Jakarta. It's like day and night. The poverty in Jakarta is so noticeable. You see masses of people living in the most unbelievable conditions. On the roads you see hundreds of Bechaks. This is one of the cheapest transportations around other than taxis. Whatever is available for transportation you can see on the streets. The main roads are always packed with traffic. There is not much of driving courtesy. Each is on his own and tries to get through the traffic as fast as he can. On traffic lights where we have to stop, little children will knock on your door and beg for money. We were told by our chauffeur never to roll down the window. He said if you start giving them some money your car will be mobbed. On the next traffic light we had to stop. Tourists are always more of a begging target than the local people who live there. It's a sad scene seeing all those kids on the street begging for money. If you look past all the poverty you see, there is something nice about the culture. The markets on the side of the streets look very interesting. All around the city you can see self-made kitchens on wheels that will sell hot soup and so many other varieties of food. I thought they were very convenient for people who don't like to cook. Jakarta, with its population of over 7 million people, always has people on the street. Our chauffeur did a fine job whenever he took us through this city with its masses of people. As hot as it was we were very lucky staying in this very comfortable apartment.

CONTINUED: The Indonesian Markets
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© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora

- Foreword
- Old Rotterdam
- World War II
- After the War
- Coming to America
- Washington, D.C.
- Southeast Asia
- Philosophy of Life

- Book Index