Monday, November 8, 2010

Goin' Fishin'

In the flooded road a little girl plays while the mini buses and motorbikes splash by.
This is the road to the Muara Angke fish market in the very north of Jakarta, and it is sour with urine. Awful matter clogs the open drainage ditch to the right. Beyond, solid garbage is building new land into the sea. Styrofoam icebergs crest the stagnant black filth.
It's nine in the morning on Saturday and the market is quiet. "It's lively in the evenings," says a cockle seller. "The market starts at seven and runs through til dawn." He removes a lit cigarette from his mouth and wedges it between the lips of a cockle on a platter.

"You're writing?" another man asks."Do you write for Playboy?"
Other traders approach to watch.
"She's writing."
"What is she writing?"
"Look at that. It's good."
"I want to learn to write fast."
"Do you live in a village in England?" the Playboy fan asks. His companions jeer. "There are no villages in England," they chide.
"Actually, I do. But it is very small. My village has only fifteen houses in it."
They look at me hesitatingly, unsure if I am teasing.
"Do you have ducks in England?"
Into the market rolls the ice truck. Great slabs of ice are manually lifted from the truck and layered onto the cracked pavement above a drainage ditch. The iceman has a rag to pad his shoulder. The frozen blocks will be smashed in ice breaking machines and sold to traders and fishermen.
In the shade of an empty fish stall, three men idle. Their bicycle-taxis are parked outside. They have a long passenger seat fixed to the frame behind the cyclist's seat. Tied to the handlebars are empty drink cans with stones inside which rattle when shaken. "My bell," explains the owner.
Gapi owns a pink fishing boat. It takes 25 men out to sea each night, returning eight hours later. "We have the capacity to hold between four and six tonnes of fish, but last night we brought in just one," he reports. "You could come with us one night. Bring a handycam. Last year three Spanish journalists joined us. It was good."
So that's it, I'm goin' fishin'.


  1. They're great pics! I've been immensely enjoying reading this blog, which is capturing the mundane life of Jakartans!

  2. Thanks spew-it-all, I am really pleased you enjoy it.

    It seems that mundane life in Jakarta has some extraordinary aspects to it, and that you don't actually have to leave the city in order to find adventure.

  3. Wow, I love the verbatim dialogue, and the detail shots. I could almost smell the filthy water. Bleh!