Karaoke last night was such a blast. I sang for the first time since my wedding. I’m a little sad that they didn’t have the artists I wanted (Warren Zevon, Arcade Fire, The Doors, Bruce Springsteen, et al) but I did find a few that I could sing. I found the most blatantly American song available (America, by Neil Diamond) and wailed on it. I also did pretty decent at Billy Joel. I must practice more.
There are some random tidbits that I’ve noticed over the last few days I would like to share.
– Shops. Most streets are lined with constant outdoor shops. People hawking everything from watches to food to international travel. Some are professional, others quite cheap. It’s the polar opposite to the traditional western style of shops where you have to go in; here, the shops come to you.
– People. There are SO many people EVERYWHERE. So many, in fact, that it seems that jobs must be invented in order to supply everyone with employment. Anywhere you park, even a grocery store parking lot, you must pay an attendant. It’s only like ten cents, but still. U-Turns are manned by traffic wardens (some uniformed, some not) that use flags/signs to stop oncoming traffic in order to allow you to turn. It’s customary to tip these folks every time they help you out. Again, not much, but it’s something.
– Western Frugality. I’ve met several people on the road from Europe or the US that get so upset when they are charged ‘tourist’ prices instead of local prices. I do not understand why a difference of 40 or 50 cents should get anyone in a twist; these people live on pennies. If my additional monies help them out, so be it. I am getting into the swing of bargaining but, at the end of the day, it’s a respect issue for me. Indi told me about her experience getting a cab to Lupi’s in Surabaya: She walked down a row of taxis at the train station, many people offering transport. A ways down the line, she sees an older gentleman with Coke-bottle glasses leaning against the wall, lost in thought. She walked up and smiled. He noticed her, perked up, and said, “Taxi?” She nodded and he hobbled to his cab; one leg was a bit shorter than the other. The other drivers sneered and gave the guy trouble, even blocking his car in for a little bit before allowing him to get en route. During the drive, he was happy to speak the English that he knew and he told her his dream was to be a taxi driver in NYC. He drove directly and didn’t pad the time in the cab. Indi tipped him a little over a dollar and his whole face lit up when she refused change, smiling from ear to ear. He even stuck around to make sure Indi got inside the house proper. That dollar meant so much to him.
– Mushollas. Gas Stations, malls, and many other businesses have mushollas on site; that is, small mosques that can be used for convenience. Very interesting concept. As a side note, the religious culture here has been nothing but respectful and generous to us. People are genuinely curious about western beliefs and how Christians feel towards the Islamic faith.