Monday night we hooked up with John and his Indonesian friend Ardi, who has become our friend too, to check out the Idul Fitri celebrations.
The holiday marking the end of Ramadhan traditionally includes beating on big drums and chanting. In engine-obsessed Jakarta this has been expanded to include riding around in, and especially ON, vehicles, while beating drums, chanting, honking horns, setting off firecrackers, singing, etc.
Ardi brought along a rented public minivan, three ear-bustingly loud horns, two drums made from pieces of old tires stretched over the ends of PVC tubes, and ten kids from his old neighborhood, so we were well equipped.
Chad and John hopped right up on the roof of the van, but I opted for an inside seat.
The streets were jammed. We were trying to get to Monas, the National Monument, for some kind of gathering, but the police kept turning us away because they were supposed to be discouraging people from riding on roofs.
Ardi yelled for everybody to get inside, so the kids all came crawling in through the windows and diving through the door, tripping over each other and the box of bottled water on the floor and blowing horns and laughing.
The cops were not fooled by our newly innocent appearance, and they still wouldn't let us in. We took some wrong turns and wandered through tiny back streets. Then we got a flat tire.
While we were waiting, I took my camera out. Jakarta is a great place for photography, because everybody wants to have their picture taken. Suddenly all the guys in uniform were our buddies.
We passed big trucks with twenty or more people on top, waving Indonesian flags and homemade banners. We saw more than one flag bearing the logo of Slank, a rock band with a huge following.
At Ancol we sat looking out at the dark ocean for a long time. Our gang, who ranged in age from maybe 10 to teens, seemed remarkably well-behaved. They didn't run off or demand treats or complain that they were bored. We chatted and watched boats sail around. Finally, a little after midnight, John and Chad and I caught a taxi home. Ardi and the kids were planning to stay out until 3. We said goodbye on the dark beach, with firecrackers going off, vendors peddling fishcakes, and prayers sounding intermittently from nearby mosques.