Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Muslim, a Jew and an atheist walk into a mall

Celebrating Christmas and Boxing Day in Yogyakarta with my friends Talya, a card-carrying member of Chicago's Hyde Park Jewish community, and Christian, a recent Muslim convert. We marked the birth of Jesus by shopping for batik--Christian now owns a handmade sarong--and by eating lunch at Pizza Hut, visiting Starbucks, watching a matinee showing of Tron, and searching out the best beef burgers in town.

We then wrapped up the evening watching a very solid Indonesian Stones cover band work through a dozen standards, including Little Red Rooster from the early days. The singer completely inhabited the Jagger persona, slinking around stage in a little brimmed flop hat and lisping in a British accent between songs. The guitarists slung their Telecasters low and aped Richards in tandem. During an intermission I asked if they'd play Ventilator Blues and they said they didn't know the song. Instead, they played It's Only Rock 'n Roll.

Christmas breakfast 2010.

Christian and I are staying in a nice little guest house where we sleep without air-conditioning under giant mosquito nets. Lodging's about $7.50 per night, which includes a fruit plate breakfast and cup of Indo coffee. The guy who runs the place looks exactly like Mark Wahlberg and is missing most of the big toe on his left foot, the result of a childhood bicycling accident, he said. He wears flip-flops and on his left foot sticks the sandal thong between his second and third toes.

The malls of Jogja were packed yesterday and Santa-themed clothing and hats were popular with retail staff and holiday celebrants alike. There's a significant Christian population in Indonesia but there's no way they alone are driving the kind of foot traffic and commercial-Christmas saturation I've seen here and in both Jakarta and Surabaya. The holiday is very much an American-style shopping bonanza and I'll be looking for some clearance specials later this afternoon.

Tonight, keeping with the Western Christmas in Jogja theme, I think we're bowling a few frames. Right after some sightseeing at a nearby Hindu temple complex. Not sure yet if I'm headed to Bali for New Year's but looking like it. Very happy holidays to everyone reading. Will have some more written stuff up here soon. In the meantime, I'll try to get some pics up from various travels.

From the nautical album:

On the water in Hoi An.

Hoi An fisherman and wife.

Mekong tour boat in Luang Prabang.

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