In and around Jakarta

Friday, January 29, 2010 — today went by myself and did a clown workshop for poor kids hosted at a little school here in Jakarta.  These children are “economical orphans”, i..e., they do have parents but their parents are too poor to take care of them, so a foundation sponsors their food and education.  I take a taxi to get there.  He doesn’t know where to go.  Luckily, I have the phone number of a contact at the school, who helps us navigate through the backstreets of this area of southern Jakarta.

When I arrive the kids – all fifty or so of them – are seated inside the classroom with an empty space cleared in the center.  They look at me quietly and expectantly as I walk in and set up my things.  Not a peep.  I turn around, walk into the center, look around at everyone, smile, and exclaim “Salamat sorey!”  “Salamat sorey,” they respond.  “Huh?”  I make as if I don’t hear them.  “Salamat sorey!!,” they yell ten times louder.  “Huh?” again.  “Sorey!!!,” they shout at the top of their lungs.  Helps to pump us up and get things going a bit!   Everybody ready to be clowns?  “Siep?” “Siep!!!”  Let’s get in a circle.  We pass a clap around.  Then start some funny movement games.  The kids are fantastic.  We’ve got a great connection, they are totally game to play and we have a blast together.   Of course, when it comes to their offering their own ideas, each one individually, they turn shy.  But little by little they loosen up and come up with great ideas of a silly movement or clown walk or animal we can play.  When I encourage them to make it bigger and louder, to exaggerate what they’re doing, they freely go for it.  The energy and enthusiasm is almost overwhelming. I’ve started speaking some Indonesian, using some key words to direct the action, which of course helps in communication and connection.  Before I know it, over an hour has passed by.  I am drenched in sweat, as usual.  A good day!

The next day we do a show in the middle of an intersection of a neighborhood, like street theater, surrounded on all sides by kids and adults alike.  A Yayasan (Foundation) has brought a group of kids from an orphanage and the whole neighborhood gathers around as well to watch.  Great fun, good show!

We also go to the kampung of Taluk Gong, northern Jakarta.

The following week, I go alone to Rawamangun, a kampung to the west of Jakarta to join Ibu Madrik’s afterschool group of poor kids from the neighboorhood.  I do a little performance and a workshop.  Then the sky breaks open and rain floods down.  It takes me about two hours to get home through the rain and traffic.

We mostly go to one location per day for a performance and or workshop.  It is hard to do any more, because the traffic in Jakarta is so bad that it takes about an hour or two each way just to get there.  That makes for a full day with a lot of time just spent in the “macet” (traffic jam)!  At first I didn’t think it was so bad.  Then I realized what Dan was talking about.  One time it took about an hour to drive the distance it would take ten minutes to walk!   If I’m running errands by myself I prefer to take an ‘ojek’, i.e., a motorcycle taxi, it’s usually a bit faster because they can weave in and out and get around the stuck cars.

Friday, February 5 —

Fantastic show with the kids in Bintaro Baru kampung in southern Jakarta.  This is another garbage-picking community.

We arrive and walk down a narrow street, down a hill, into a dark alley-way lined with doors to people’s homes, where Dan finds the de facto “chief” of the village, who then takes us to where he suggests we perform.  It is the village garbage dump. Hmm. An open field strewn with garbage — one enclosed area contains loads upon loads of garbage, and everywhere else around, if you look closely, the ground is covered with old garbage bags, plastic wrappings and whatnot.  There is a grassy area and perhaps we can do it there, but upon closer inspection it is also full with plastic bags and bottles and since the grass is tall it’s hard to tell really what is in there.  Not a good idea, since we (or I, especially) fall down on the ground a lot.  We then find next to it a small even area of mostly dirt, which is where we end up doing the show.

When we arrive the kids are flying kites, what I have learned is a popular pastime among poor kids here.  They are simple structures made out of paper and plastic.

I leave to change into costume, and by the time I return, tons of children have gathered excitedly to watch the show.  We perform in the round surrounded by about 200 kids, and adults, too.  They are a wild bunch and very responsive.


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