Firstly, so as there is no misunderstanding, let me state quite clearly that I love you, sincerely and deeply. Rarely have other places in the world treated me so well but a few issues have come up in our relationship that I need to talk to you about, so I hope you will understand.
Do you know what pavements are for?
I think it is instructive in this instance to use the American term sidewalk, as it conveys the two essential elements: a space to walk on by the side of the road. You have many things at the side of your roads but a space to walk on is not one of them. Sure, on occasion you have a flattish surface, masquerading as a space for pedestrians but it is immediately covered with as many objects as possible, all designed to impede progress on foot: parked vehicles; cafe tables and chairs; boxes that businesses couldn’t be bothered finding internal storage for. Should any space appear, someone will inevitably start carrying out their work, anything just as long as those pesky pedestrians don’t get to use it. In places where any of the above are inconvenient, the local authorities leave sewage traps: large pits facilitating a plummet into a nameless sludge to catch the unwary. Rules dictate that any length of walking space greater than 4m must be broken up by an obstacle insurmountable by the disabled or infirm. Particularly popular are huge kerbs scalable only by the tall or particularly athletic. In Indonesia the place for pedestrians is on the road, along with impatient cars and demented scooters, who only regard you as an unnecessary obstacle to them arriving at their destination in the shortest possible time.
What time do you have breakfast?
A number of hotels I stayed in were decent enough to include breakfast in the cost of the room but let me make it perfectly clear: I do not want to be woken up at SIX O CLOCK IN THE FUCKING MORNING to eat it.
Have you heard of coffee filters?
You produce some absolutely wonderful coffee, which, when ground retains a proportion (not less than 10%) which has all the solubility qualities of brick-dust but without its tendency to sink to the bottom. Many other Asians have mastered the art of pouring the coffee through a cloth bag arrangement to remove the larger sedimentary particles. You, it seems have not.
Why are you not all thieving bastards?
Look at the picture below. Notice anything strange? No self-respecting westerner would think of leaving their helmet on a bike for longer than five seconds, knowing full well it will not be there when you return. Can’t you produce opportunist thieves like any civilised country?
When does the call to prayer stop?
I may be a heathen infidel but I am truly moved by the sublime beauty of the Azaan, the call to prayer and have gladly listened to it throughout the Islamic world and don’t even mind being woken up before dawn to listen to its stirring tones. The modern convenience of amplification provides an effective means of calling the people to the mosque to pray but I think you will find that once they are in the mosque the amplification becomes superfluous, but not with you, where everyone within a kilometer radius is treated to another hour of proceedings at the same deafening volume. It is also admirable that you let the kids have a go as you train them in the skill of Quranic recitation: a spiritual art form that even a sofa couldn’t fail to feel at least a faint stirring of the soul but does the whole town have to listen to some tuneless twelve-year-old wailing away?
Do the memory banks of Facebook Indonesia need to be clogged with quite so many photos of foreigners?
It seems only reasonable that after getting to know someone for a little while that you may wish to have a photo of them or maybe one of you together. However, you love us so much that to have a photo of a foreigner is a delight to be treasured, such that you will run up to any of us in the vicinity and ask to take a picture. With the wonders of modern technology you can now post it onto your Facebook page, as if to play foreigner Top Trumps with your mates. There are many much nicer images than those of me you could be sharing with everyone, such as a bag of coal or a park bench. Of course now that the insidious disease of the selfie stick has reached such epidemic proportions in Asia, this problem will surely soon require some famous people to produce a charity single to support the afflicted.
Why are your buskers in Java so shit?
When that fount of knowledge on all things Indonesian, Derek Freal of the Hoildaze blog tweeted words to the effect, that in Indonesia they pay buskers to go away rather than because they like them, he had more retweets than with any other subject, such is the resonance of this issue with your subjects as well as visitors. You don’t have to be a virtuoso to be worthy of a passerby’s spare change but having some grasp of the concept of tuning an instrument tends to be a reasonable requirement. Again, you don’t need to have the voice of an angel but something akin to shouting incoherently does not generally make you worthy of even people’s bus tickets, let alone hard cash. Some coach journeys in Java see a steady procession of buskers getting on and off but even by the time the second tuneless pillock has interrupted the more preferable sound of the traffic any vestige of charitable impulses has been erased from the passengers.
Yogyakarta did seem to be the spawning ground for these aural terrorists but it did have a few notable exceptions. Firstly were the blind buskers because they could actually sing in tune with their instruments, which were also in tune. Secondly were a few tragic cases of individuals, who in many countries would be kept securely in comfortable institutions and cared for in a humane way. Hence I applaud these people for overcoming overwhelming odds and no discernible understanding of creating music in order to earn an honest wage. Finally were the transsexuals, who although largely unencumbered by any degree of talent, actually appreciated that people want to be entertained, which they achieved with aplomb. I would be most grateful if you could inform those that do not fit into the above three categories, that it is bad enough to have to listen to Coldplay under any circumstances but when done by someone with virtually no comprehension of the English language or western melody and harmony, it would be far more preferable to listen to something Indonesian performed vaguely competently or even better, nothing at all.
Are you in a hurry to get there or not?
The prospect of an Indonesian reaching a destination a few hundred metres away on foot is a foreboding of Himalayan proportions, which at least gives local transport providers a guaranteed wage. But, once out of wheeled transport you amble at such a glacial pace that us foreigners behind you would be screaming, “get a fucking move on”, if you weren’t all so bloody lovely that is.