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Day and night at the alun-alun in Malang YOGYAKARTA - During the last year I regularly brought a visit to Malang. There I visited a Dutch friend who had stayed in Indonesia some years more than I did, and please read that 'some' as a big understatement. It doesn't really matter in fact, however someone who has lived here for so many years can be a huge source of information about many subjects. He sure is for me at least. Every once in a while I can learn from specific situations which still make me go 'huh?'. Outside that I like to spend some of my time there at a somewhat crowded place. Like in many cities and villages that is the central square or alun-alun. Often a nice place to submerge yourself entirely in the local situation and current events.

At the alun-alun of Malang you will find the big mosque of the city, painted in pastel green colors and provided with more than enough loudspeakers to broadcast the daily five prayers over a big part of the city. The sound however is clear enough to be pleasant. Not too sharp, which is more common, but a nice found that doesn't even overwhelm all other sounds of human activity when a call for prayer is performed here. Two buildings to the right, seen from the central square, is the Protestant Immanuel-church. The bells don't work anymore because there are no people for it anymore, said one of the office employees of the church. Cat can just be true indeed. I can't do it for them as well.

Old Dutch writings are still visible on the biggest mailbox near the main post office at the alun-alun in Malang.
Old Dutch writings are still visible on the biggest mailbox near the main post office at the alun-alun in Malang.

Clockwise we see department store Sarinah, department store Alun-Alun and some older buildings that belong to a local church as well. Then the main post office and Hotel Pelangi, which used to be named Palace Hotel. That's about it for what most important and remarkable buildings around the square here. At the edge of the square are some police booths with enough stock of somewhat lazy police officers who prefer to sit on a bench with a cigarette rather than to look for tickets. Quite amazing actually. Pedestrian crossings to the square however are crossings without any guarantee. However the rule is that pedestrians can go first, this rule has disappeared from most Indonesian lives for a long time already.

In the afternoon

On a nice and warm afternoon I was looking for a place to sit under one of the many trees on the square. Just some time relaxing between hawkers that sell toys, drinks and snacks. Quite simple but effective if I want to get some rest. How strange it may sound, getting some rest on the square is perfectly possible however it will always be crowded here. For sure this is related to the fact that I am a 'foreigner' and I will always be seen by people who want to have some form of a conversation. Preferably in English, however most just can't speak it. With more ease than earlier I transfer to Indonesian which, because they even less expect that, causes the creation of new subjects for the conversation. So the circle is perfectly round again and I can still spend some time with too much obligations.

The Immanuel-church at the square.
The Immanuel-church at the square.

When buying a glass of iced tea and a bowl of baso (meat balls in soup with some mee) at one of the kaki lima (food stall) at the edge of the square I enter a new phase. Just joining the others I was always taught. With that I would make it. Now I am sure that my parents would never have meant that I would end up in Indonesia, but joining others is something that I manage to do pretty well at the end. While sipping away the white mee I am sitting in between a mom of two who just finished shopping for the day and a jukir (parking attendant) in his brightly orange outfit. Just like the Dutch national soccer crew is about to play a game. The orange paper horns and plastic orange hears are missing however.

The parking attendant starts a short conversation with me but really has to get back to work. I am not the only visitor here. However motorbikes are cheaper, the guy is willing to collect another 1,000 Rupiah by blowing his whistle one more time. I still feel the need somewhere to buy such a whistle as well so I can counter-whistle any parking attendant trying to help me. I would leave without paying since I don't have to expect an official ticket as well. Maybe that is exactly the reason why they all wear a somewhat oversized orange outfit with large pockets. After the first half of the game the guy returns only to finish his meal, one meatball remaining. With some loud sounds the last pieces of onion and vegetables disappear in his mouth. The second half is about to begin.

The big mosque two buildings to the left of the church.
The big mosque two buildings to the left of the church.

The young woman with the two children is too busy to start a conversation however she tried to do so. Maybe she was waiting until I started it. I didn't start, because my bowl was empty as well. About time to go home, because there were other things to do than just to sit of course. It would be something if I had to sit down for the day here. Maybe a day was still possible, but the average unemployed person - cigarette in the land, tattoo in the neck, plastic bag with al their belongings in their hand - doesn't just sit here one day, but most likely years. I am pretty sure that one day they will get bored of it.

At another day earlier this year I had just got out of the blue bemo (public transport) when I had to cross the square diagonally to reach my destination. Again I wanted to sit down for a while so I could have a drink in the shadow. A young guy, about my age, approached me and excused himself and asked if he could sit down. No problem at all as I didn't own the square. Soon he started telling his story. This Balinese guy had ended a relation which lasted several years and had came to Java to sleep under a tree in Malang to forget about that love. He was maintaining it for twenty days already. He didn't want to go back to Bali anymore because he didn't want to see his ex-girlfriend. I think there are other ways to solve that issue, but this one was rather amusing if I have to be honest.

When I visit Malang again, I will ask him if he really doesn't want to return to Bali, because that is the location where people get huge amounts of money directly from the pockets of tourists. Not here in Malang, because on a normal day I don't even bring my wallet, just some cash money for the day. It was worth while trying for sure; lying below a tree all day is not a way to earn money anyway.



Posted in Travel @ 22 December 2007 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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