All the World's a Classroom
…is the view I get when I head home from campus. I have come to associate it with the peace of homecoming, the quietness of a day’s end, and the coming rest. It is especially precious on Fridays. On this particular Friday, this certain poem seems to match the mood of my day, my week.
From word to word I roam, from dawn to dusk.
Dream in, dream out — I pass myself and towns,
A human satellite.
I wait, am hopeful, as one who waits at the rock
For the spring to well forth and ever well on.
I feel as bright as if I tented somewhere in the Milky Way.
To urge the world to feel I walk through lonesome solitudes.
All around me lightning explodes sparks from my glance
To reveal all light, unveil faces everywhere.
Godward, onward to the final weighing
overcoming heavy weight with thirst.
Constantly, the longings of all born call out, “Is anyone around?”
I know each one is HE, but in my heart there writhes a tear;
When of men and rocks and trees I hear;
All plead “Feel us”
All beg “See us”
God! Lend me your eyes!
I came to be, to sow the seed of sight in the world,
To unmask the God who disguised Himself as world–
And yes, I wait to be the first to announce “The Dawn.”
– from “Human, God’s Ineffable Name,” by Abraham Joshua Heschel
Two Sundays ago my mom took me to a place in Jakarta that I had never visited before, even though I was born and raised in the city. Located in the recreational complex in North Jakarta (Ancol) where you would find amusement parks, marinas, Sea World, etc., Pasar Seni, or the Art Market is one of the less popular subsections of Ancol.
We went there to get a customized wood carving for a gift, and there were plenty of shops to choose from. The market is comprised of many small galleries and shops, and its setting natural and open, producing the feel of a traditional market, devoid of modern and sophisticated architecture. The artists are local or regional, and nearly all pieces displayed there, statues, paintings, shadow puppets, etc., are original and handcrafted. In many cases, the artists themselves are attending the shops.
In other words, it was a sea of talents. One may expect that such a place would be buzzing with visitors and tourists. But that Sunday, the market was empty. The shops were open, the artists were there, but the entire time we were there, we did not pass by or see another visitor. This is not always the case of course, since there are local events and festivals held at Pasar Seni from time to time. But if one were to compare the statistics of the parks in Ancol, I would venture a confident guess that Pasar Seni is the least visited part of the complex.
It really is a shame that Pasar Seni and the artists there are underappreciated. Indonesian artworks are usually very intricate and elaborate, and their price tags would be much higher if they were brought to other countries. I got a 31″ x 23″ oil painting for about $9 USD – not the highest quality, but still very good. Some of the large paintings there were simply breathtaking, and they cost about $600-$800 USD, way lower than similar pieces found elsewhere.
The guy that I bought the wood carving from sold it for about $16 USD, including customization. He was from Bali, as were many of the artists there, and I think he made the carvings himself. When we asked when we could pick up the final product and whether his shop would be open on Idul Fitri (or Eid ul-Fitr, end of Ramadan, extended public holidays in Indonesia), he said we could pick it up any time we want. He would be there 24/7, since apparently, he sleeps on the floor of his shop, about a 5 meter x 5 meter space with many wood carvings of different shapes and forms.
I’m very curious about the livelihood of these artists…
I really think that more people should visit Pasar Seni in Jakarta, even just for a walk. It’s a fascinating place, one that stores many interesting stories, I’m sure. You get to see beautiful artworks, interact with the artists themselves, and get a good deal. If you were looking for a gift or a piece to decorate your home, try visiting Pasar Seni instead of art shops in malls or department stores. You will likely find a better deal and you get to support local artists directly. You can bargain for lower prices, but I’d say don’t bargain too much. I’m sure the artists would appreciate it.
Or, The Thrill of Being in a Developing Country
Each time I go home, I have to reacquaint myself to Jakarta because it’s always a different city that I come home to. My 3+ years absence makes this process much more noticeable, since a lot has happened during that period of time.
Take the area around my house. Entirely new buildings have emerged, replacing the older structures, which were not so old in the first place. I could hardly recognize the street a block away from my house, which are now filled with restaurants, a health center, and a car showroom, all newly built.
Certain areas of the city are emerging business districts. New high rises are in construction whose lights glow at night and are quite enchanting. These complexes look less cluttered to me (and believe me Jakarta is a cluttered city), so I find these urban changes exciting.
I like being in a place that’s dynamic, where you can’t stay and operate the same way for years at a time. Jakarta is a place that forces its occupants to be versatile, adaptable, and creative, though not always in a good way. Some things are definitely worse, like traffic. Just yesterday, it took me 1.5 hours to get to a place that’s supposed to be reachable in 20 or 30 minutes max a few years back. Some people adapt to that by breaking the law, i.e., lots of motorcyclists ignore red lights. Some people develop patience.
But basically, the fascinating thing about being in a developing country is to actually experience the development daily. It is visible and its effects influence the way you operate each day. Someone said to me the other day, “We cannot see Jakarta 2012 anymore. When you see the city, you have to see Jakarta 2020 or 2030.” Being an optimist that I am, I think Jakarta 2020 will be a fascinating place, cleaner, healthier, and more organized. And the road to get there, the problem solving that will be required and the lessons learned, will be even more fascinating than the end result.