web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: February 2007
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Monday, February 12, 2007
How Long, Now?

How many of you out there still obsess over music, with the same intensity as you did in school? I’m surprised I haven’t gotten over it – I thought that by now I’d be settled in sanity and would count crotchet as my hobby or I’d be making cute dining chair covers in my spare time.

Not that that’s any indication of being able to kick the music habit, as far as my Vedder-devotee sister can tell.

Here is my current madness -- I know it's been on the shelf for a bit now, but I still like it. It's better than the more recent Window in the Skies, and no matter what Big Country fans may say, it is better than the Skids original. I’ve memorised the lyrics, got the song both live and recorded, and downloaded the video from youtube. I’m going to look for the guitar tabs now, and make my husband play the chords while I yell the words from my porch.

Until my kids tell me to shut up, of course.


A Post Post

Heavy clouds have cleared away, and the house have survived. We didn't have electricity for a while (my neighbour was wrong -- they did shut us down), and the phones weren't working for a while, but we're okay. During the worst of raining, we had only about 3 inches of water -- that's just a puddle compared to the rest of the city. Our greatest emergency was getting in and out of the car without soiling our shoes. We missed a couple of days of school, we couldn't access the internet, but hey, there was never a time when we were hungry or sick or stranded in water.

The same can't be said about the thousands of people still living underneath flyovers.

It's the most futile, wretched thing : to be sorry for the displaced many and to be able to help no more than a few. My friend Mbak Lela, a Jakarta Post veteran, spent her bonus on food and medicine and with her husband, she went round to as many shelters as she can to distribute the rations. We're one of the most miskin Malaysians in Jakarta, we didn't have a lot of money to spare, so we did the best that we could : help just one posko banjir at a nearby kampung which needed some baby formula. I think it helped alleviate our guilt, more than it lessened their burden.

My husband told me a story he heard on the radio, at the peak of severe flooding. Schools were closed, roads were submerged in water, and according to Mbak Putri (half of my favourite morning talk-show - Mbak Putri and Mas Rafiq), the rich tante-tante's of South Jakarta had nowhere to go. So what do they do? The tante's and their children inundate supermarkets and buy everything in sight, just in case the flooding gets worse. Now, Mbak Putri said, while she was enjoying the sight of pretty tai-tais ruining their hairdo's in the throes of panic buying, she noticed two women, very plainly dressed, buying lots and lots of blankets. She asked those ladies what the purchase was for. Oh,we just wanted to give these to the poor people who are suffering from cold in the flood shelters, they said. They paid for the blankets and bundled them into a bajaj and left. In the meantime, observed Mbak Putri, our over-cautious consumers waited for supirs underneath porches, with trolleys laden with food.

Ya, tapi tak tahu juga kan? Maybe the food was bought for people like Juriyanto and Mardani, in the flood-stricken, poverty-stricken Kramat Jati. Their eleven month old baby, Satrio, fell sick after they took refuge at a shelter. Preliminary medical treatment didn't help, and last Thursday, before they could bring him to a hospital, the baby breathed his last.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Bang Yos, the Governor of Jakarta, has requested for the Manggarai floodgates to be released. Pak Didik, the TV3 correspondent in Jakarta said the last time they allowed that to happen, water reached Monas and the Presidential Palace, both further inland from Manggarai than us.

My neighbour though, is confident nothing will ever happen to Menteng. She's lived here for more than 30 years, she said, and the worst flooding was just knee-deep. "And they'll never cut off the electricity", she assured," Megawati lives at the back, and Suharto lives across the street. Nggak mungkin loh!"

I think people in Pompeii said the same thing about Vesuvius.

Still, we can't help but worry when we drove down our street to Cikini and saw that the small bridge near Jalan Surabaya is now a gushing stream. Children were swimming in the streets, yes, in the streets, in the rapid tea-coloured water. We're watching that closely, because Jalan Surabaya is a mere five minute walk from the house.

School called to say its closed tomorrow. My kids rejoiced. They're loving this disaster.

About 40 Malaysian students from Trisakti are putting up at Wisma Malaysia, in Jalan Cokroaminoto, which is about 15 minutes from our house. When we visited them this afternoon, we saw they had the standard Malaysian emergency food : sardines and rice for lunch. Kak Ros and Abang Elias, who run the place, look exhausted and they're quickly running low on supplies. Most supermarkets are out of food and drinking water, and they can't immediately replenish. The weary Kak Ros said for now, there's only eggs and potatoes left in the pantry, and it looks like that's the menu for dinner. So Saiffuddin, the kids and I are making a huge pot of stew and bubur pulut hitam and sending them over. We tried to get other Malaysians to help, but apart from my friend Iza, who has promised gulai telor for tomorrow, others are rather reluctant because they're worried about their own families, too. I'm a little, teeeny weeny bit dissapointed, but I can understand their concern. There's no telling how long this will last. Besides, most of them are in South Jakarta, and there's no guarantee they can safely get through. We live the closest, so we're the ones who should help.

Saiffuddin and I wish we can also do something about the thousands of Jakartans who are stranded without food, water and medicine, and who are sitting ducks because more rain is expected tonight and they can't leave. Some families are now sleeping on railway tracks and toll roads. So far twenty people have died because of the cold, electrocution or rapid currents. There's so much to be done, but because Jakarta is so huge and so densely populated, coordination of relief efforts is no easy task. Saiffuddin and I are planning to check out Palang Merah Indonesia tomorrow to see if they need volunteers. We're already feeling guilty because we sat on our hands, which could have very well been put to better use.


Saturday, February 03, 2007
A River Runs Through It

It's nearly eleven at night, and the whole family is up, wide awake. The house is usually asleep by nine, but not tonight. In about 15 minutes, the River Ciliwung, already swollen with rainwater from drenched Bogor and Puncak highlands, is expected to overflow its banks. We live about one kilometre away from Ciliwung.

Saiffuddin and I are relying on the assumption that whoever is running
Jakarta will probably do all that is humanly possible to keep the floods from inundating Menteng, where we live. Just a few minutes away are the houses of the Vice President, two past Presidents, the American Ambassador, and the owner of two TV stations. We live in a modest single storey, right in front of Kali Grissek, and we can't exactly say we're rich, but we're banking that the old-moneyed people of Menteng will get the usual preferential treatment, even from Mother Nature, even if it means the Governor of Jakarta would have to send down thousand of troops, all armed with ceboks to scoop out the offending water.

We also think that we'd be okay because look, you simply cannot allow floods to happen to Barrack Obama's former school, SD Menteng Satu in Jalan Besuki. That's like hallowed ground now.

Jakarta's mayhem began Thursday evening, when the skies poured open and kept on pouring. By Friday morning, the main byways slowly became waterways. Flashfloods halted traffic, several main buildings were swamped, and some offices and schools were closed or allowed their students and workers leave early. Trisakti and Tarumanagara, both respectable universities, were in worst hit West Jakarta, and a radio DJ joked that these two can now re-print their brochures and add that they now have waterfront colleges. Rain didn't subside until the afternoon, by which time some places were engulfed in almost three metres of water. Telephone lines were down, and did not improve since. The main road to the airport was inaccessible to cars, and desperate travellers, some of whom were businessmen in coat and tie, jumped on the backs of dumptrucks to catch their flight. Thousands, thousands of people climbed up to their roofs and waited for help. While most did -- thanks to the fact that this year is election year and political parties are eager to be remembered -- a handful did not. The news today said an old woman and a four year old died of hypothermia, because they could not get treatment in time. Four others died of electrocution. Four young boys were swept away.

We watched the news unfold with some fascination, because I have never been in a flood as big as this, even though as a child I lived in Terengganu, where banjir is a yearly occurrence. We gawked at the gushing rivers and canals like accident spectators. We saw people wade through hip-high water in the middle of the Jalan Sudirman business district and hop on wooden carts or gerobaks to get through. We watched as TV reporters tried their best to outdo each other in their standuppers. Each one simply must report while standing in the torrential flood, and it can't be chicken-feed knee-deep water, no. One young man had water up to his neck and could barely keep his microphone from getting short-circuited. Another was clinging to a rubber boat, emphatically telling viewers that his feet can no longer touch the bottom.

Everyone had a story. Like how one man had to sleep at the office because all roads leading home was underwater. Or my friend, who had to spend the night in her submerged car because her husband left her, presumably to look for help, and couldn't return. She said the worst thing was the fact that she really, really needed to pee.

This afternoon, the weather was threateningly gloomy, but it didn't rain and we thought the worst was over. Not likely. As I write this, water from upstream
Bogor and Puncak is rushing down to sea and Jakarta is in its way. We heard that the Manggarai water-lock, which is in the next suburb, will be released, so that the torrid Ciliwung River can do as it pleases. Some inner-city neighbourhoods are already in four metres of water tonight, and the snaky Ciliwung is expected to overflow by 6 metres. Suddenly the prospect of being hit by floods seems actually possible, and no army with ceboks can impede the water. In the very least, we're expecting for electricity to be cut off, should surrounding suburbs get overwhelmed.

Saiffuddin, previously stoic, decided we should stock up on supplies. So off we went this evening to the nearest supermarket, where others apparently had the same idea. People were pushing out trolleys with boxes and boxes of instant noodles and gallons of water. Batteries and torchlights and nylon tents flew off the shelves. We had to fight for the last two packs of candles with a man who had frantic eyes. He won.

A docent once told me that if you look out the main balcony of Museum Sejarah Jakarta, the former Batavian stadhuys, you would realise that the Dutch colonialists tried to build
Jakarta in the image of Amsterdam. This city, too, is built mostly below sea level, with canals criss-crossing the metropolitan. That it is prone to floods is a given, but Jakartans will tell you that the worst ones happen every five years. The last catastrophe occurred in 2002.

We're only at the start of the wet season, said the weatherman. Wait till the end February, he said when the rains will really come. I’m going to persuade Saiffuddin to buy a perahu. In the meantime, he’s sleeping with all our passports in his pocket.