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

The Indonesian Markets

Every day very early in the morning Lu Lu and our cook would go to the open market in Jakarta. They would take one of the Bechaks. The average Bechak man can make a dollar a day by pedaling people around. Lu Lu would always give them more than they asked for. The word spread around the Bechak owners about Lu Lu being so generous. Every morning there were several Bechaks waiting in front of our apartment building, as they knew Lu Lu and the cook would go to the market. One morning I went along.

A Bechak is a three-wheel bicycle with a very comfortable lazy chair in the back. It has a covered top and when it rains it has a transparent plastic cover in the front. The man who pedals the bike has to do all the muscle work. I was amazed - as little as those men are, how strong they are in their legs. Some of them wear shorts and you can really see their muscle development from pedaling those Bechaks every day. I felt a little guilty when I was sitting very comfortably in the Bechak and this little man was pedaling his heart out to get me to the market.

Indonesian bachak (bacak) 

The open market looks like it's the market for the poor people. The sanitation was very poor. The market was packed with people buying their green vegetables, fish and chicken. Mothers carrying their babies on their backs — it's a scene I am not used to and do not see every day. I was taking pictures left and right; not too far from where Lu Lu and the cook were doing their shopping. Those little people kept looking at me and some asked me to take pictures of them. I was the only Caucasian on the market and people stopped and kept looking at me. As poor as some of those people are, they are very friendly and happy. Their children are very good looking and some of the little ones just run around without any clothes. It's too hot for the little children to wear so many clothes, and it seems they are very happy running around without them. Lu Lu bought a fresh killed chicken, and as all of their meat products they are sold in the open air and are just covered with flies. You could never sell products like that in the U.S.A. as people would be scared to death to catch some kind of bacteria from the meat products. Somehow those people, their bodies have adapted to the environment they live in. There were so many kinds of fresh fruits on the market. I bought several of them. Whatever you buy you always have to bargain with the seller. From the market the Bechaks took us back to our apartment again where Ies was waiting for us to have a hearty breakfast. After our breakfast Ies and the chauffeur drove us to Ratu Plaza to buy some batik. This is a very elegant shopping center and only the very rich could shop there. Lu Lu bought about $300 worth of batik material. For myself I bought a very fancy batik shirt which I could wear in the summer time at parties in Washington. For lunch Ies took us to a restaurant and treated us to some good Indonesian food. On the way home the driver stopped at a very nice bakery where we took some pastries home. As always the cook had cooked a good dinner, and Bob and Ies decided to join us for dinner that night. After dinner we talked for a while and by 10:30 PM we all felt it was time to say good night.

When we got up in the morning it was already very hot outside. It must have been during the rainy season because it rained off and on during the day. It's very noticeable, because the humidity is very high. Our apartment was very comfortable with the air-conditioner. When it rains, it rains very hard and the water comes streaming down the road like a river. As soon as the rain stops the sun shines all over the place. Early in the morning the city is very noisy. You don't need an alarm clock to be awakened. At four in the morning you wake up by all the noise from all the Moslem Mosques playing all their religion prayers. This goes on all over the city as each mosque has its own loudspeaker in the top of the tower. All of this shouting and praying is done to get the attention of the people to come to the mosque to pray. 95% of the people in Indonesia are Moslems, that's why there are so many mosques in the city. All of this is done several times a day. If you live here daily you really don't need to wear a watch to keep up with the time of day, as all around the city the mosques on exact time during the day will always reminding you it's time to pray again.

Early in the morning all kinds of street vendors ring their bells all around the neighborhood. Most of them are on tricycles where they carry their whole kitchen. Indonesian people's breakfast is a little different than ours. I didn't see too many of them eating ham and eggs for breakfast like a lot of us do. Lu Lu and the cook went to the open market again and I stayed home to write some postcards to all of my friends.

After lunch Ies and the chauffeur came to our apartment and took us for a sightseeing tour out in the country. We drove about 90 miles away from the city of Jakarta. We saw the people work in the muddy rice paddies. Large groups of buffalos were grazing around, and the kids who had to look after them were playing games with each other. The kids jumped with other kids on top of the buffalos, but I noticed that the buffalos were as kind as they could be. The buffalos just kept on grazing and never paid much attention to what the kids did around them. It just looks like one big, happy family.

CONTINUED: Disparity of Economic Levels
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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