Jakarta Blues

No, not blues in the Robert Johnson/Mississippi Fred McDowell/Miles Davis sense.

Blue is the color of the cabs you want to take in Jakarta: Blue Bird Taksi (Taxi) are cabs I have found most trustworthy around here.

To answer a few questions: yes, I am in an apartment in Jakarta, which I have rented for the months of January and February, the break between fall semester 2009 and spring semester 2010. No, I have not permanently relocated to Jakarta. Yes, I am enjoying the warm weather, though mostly because there are air conditioners all over the place. That said, it’s less hot here than it is in Korea in the summer — that’s because it’s the rainy season now. Not so rainy, but the dry season is dryer and hotter.

While here, I’m working on a novel, the title of which I’m not yet sure but it’s grown out of a project the working title of which longtime readers of this blog will recognize: A Killing in Burma. I’m currently finishing up a few shorter fiction projects and some work-related stuff, while researching a bunch of Southeast Asian countries, because the story promises to sprawl out across a few places — Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Indonesia (how convenient!) but also Haïti, Netherlands, and who-knows-where-else? (Well, I have a few ideas but surprises are mine to keep to myself for now.) At present, I’m about halfway through my current book in the stack of research texts I brought along, A History of Modern Burma by Michael W. Charney, which is quite interesting for historical background — though I’m glad I managed to pick up a discounted, last-edition Lonely Planet guide to Myanmar (and phrasebook) just before flying.

I’m also checking out some exotic ingredients I can pack up and carry home for the batches of beer I plan to make. Randy Mosher’s book Radical Brewing has some references to “jaggery” (called “ger” in Indonesia, and similar names, I think, in other parts of the Muslim world), which is a kind of creamy, rich palm sugar. I’ve had beer made with the stuff in Laos, and it’s heavenly; that’s the one ingredient I’ve found that I’m definitely bringing home in quantity, but I suspect there will be more things to try out, too. the beers in Jakarta are, well… nothing particularly worth writing home about so far, though the “Storm Beer” line (out of Bali) is somewhat interesting. (I had to go to a posh grocery shop in a big mall to find that stuff, though: the main brands seem to be Anker and Bintang, with a few other import like Carlsberg and Guinness widely available too.)

In any case, I am over the  food poisoning episode mentioned on Twitter and Facebook. I’m told it’s common for newcomers to Jakarta.Internet connectivity is mostly available, but spotty in speed, quality, etc. I’ll be making some weekend trips, and sometimes busy with stuff, so it may take me a few days to get around to emailing you back if you try contact me. Patience!

I will, however, be making a great effort to blog more regularly than I was doing last semester. It was a busy, wild time, but it’s better now. Of the few posts I have planned at the moment:

  • a discussion of a few films I’ve seen recently, including Sherlock Holmes, Avatar, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and, a few months ago, District 9
  • a review of (my friend) N.K. Jemisin’s soon-to-be-released debut novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
  • some thoughts on a couple of student articles I’ve been editing lately for the campus magazine, especially one on the commonly bandied-about phrase (in Korea, in relation to the Internet and Western media) “distorted and unhealthy conceptions of sex”
  • some publication news, which I think I’ll probably post right now while I have a working connection in a nice little coffee shop amusingly named “Mr. Bean”…

3 thoughts on “Jakarta Blues

  1. Val,

    Thanks! I am… and you?


    Well, if you’ve nothing to do with it. But man, you can use it for all kinds of stuff. I had some in coffee and it was beautiful. If you are indeed certain you want to give it away, I’ll definitely take it off your hands.

    By the way, was checking out coconut sugar the other day. Now that is some weird, weird stuff. I can totally see myself not knowing what to do with that… but I think I’ll snag a kilo or two and try make some stout or pale ale with it, too. :)

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