Life as An Expatriant in Jakarta

Ramadan Sky - Nichola Hunter

Title: Ramadan Sky

Author: Nichola Hunter

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publication Date: Sep 26th 2013

Page Numbers: 102 pages

 

Blurb

A contemporary twist on a classic story of forbidden love, set in Jakarta, capital city of Indonesia.


When Vic accepts a teaching position in Jakarta, she has already been working and travelling in Asia for many years; she thinks she knows what to expect. However, before long she becomes troubled by the casual coexistence of vast wealth and woeful poverty, and by the stark differences in freedom and power between the men and the women. It also becomes apparent that there will be no support or companionship from her fellow Westerners and colleagues.

Fajar has lived in Jakarta all his life. He gets by, loaning money from friends and family, spending his nights racing, and his days working on the roads as an ojek driver. When he impresses a customer with his understanding of English, he sees an opportunity. He dedicates himself to being the woman’s driver – taking her to and from work, running her errands. He thinks he’s won big.

Neither Fajar nor Vic expect to find friendship and solace in their strange arrangement. But, before long, they will step outside the mores of their cultures together, crossing a boundary that will shake both of their lives

 

What I Thought

What could I say about this novella, besides the almost perfect details of all of the familiar things that Nicola Hunter had described about my country (or the capital city, actually)?

It is a sunny day, but nothing shimmers or sparkles.

 

There is one particular woman I pass every day on the way to my office. She sits on the concrete in the hot, damp weather with faraway expression of cattle. A filthy baby lies on a square of cloth next to her and, next to that, a child scratches at ulcerated leg.

 

I especially don't understand the casual, uneffected way that the rich people seem to trample all over the poor. You have everything that belongs to everybody else locked up in your own impenetrable vault, and down in the street, where there should be hospitals and schools, there are more of these malls going up.

 

On Sunday afternoons you see the well-heeled families of Jakarta eating dim sum and ravioli in the vast, expensive eateries sitting at the tables while maid stands up next to them, holding the baby.

Familiar, is it? I would complaint nothing for those descriptions, because for some reasons, it was accurate. It doesn't mean that the whole cities in Indonesia like that, but everything happened in Jakarta (especially the bad things, like fires, demonstrations, etc) always became the national issues. And for the result, people always thought that: THAT was Indonesia looked like.

 

The main story of this novella is more like a sinetron (Indonesian soap opera), with Fajar, a poor ojek driver, who had a relationship with two (or more) women. Aryanti, is his true girlfriend (means he will married her soon) and Vic, an Australian teacher, to whom Fajar made an affair. The story about their relationship also predictable (how could you can't predict a triangle love story?) but how Nicola Hunter gave her personal opinions about things happened made the story more interesting. The intriques happened during the Ramadan, so that's the novella title came from (also, Fajar and Aryanti were Muslims, but the way they followed the Islam's rules were differents).

 

It also told with three POV's, so the reader would know what exactly happened in the three main characters lifes, including the morals and the way Indonesian people ruled their days and, also what the foreign citizen things about Indonesian society, especially in Jakarta (and Tangerang, maybe).

 

I, personally, like this novella. There were few authors, especially not an Indonesian, who brought an idea about a love story which put Jakarta as the location. And with this novella, Nicola Hunter also spoke her minds about people which must struggled with poverty:

When you are young, of course, it is easier, because of the perfect body and the flawless skin ans the belief that the future might bring anything at all. When you get older, it's harder. The dissappointnent starts to show through the cracks, and cheap clothes do not forgive an ageing body. It is only youth that can outshine poverty

And she also brought a religion's issue, that religions through the poor people in this country means nothing, besides made them such as the hypocrite people, or just a cover to avoid other people judgement

There are many naughty girls in Jakarta. They will wear their jilbab every day, and keep their faces very sweet and pure, but once inside a room with a man, it is a different story. We find them on Facebook from internet cafe, and meet them in Jakarta Raya.

 

Fajar is a conventional Muslim. He will break the rules, but only in the way they are allowed to be broken.

I think this is also an issue in this country. How money could be master of people soul and nothing besides it matter. And so do the ex-pats though about Indonesian employees, which usually got the lower position from them in their own country. Mostly Jakarta's people fight with poverty and made them selves not in the trap of it. Government with their renewed rules also made it getting worse (outsourcings and jobs field policies, and so many others). That's why, those ex-pat, with their different government, different rules an

 

Opening Lines

I thought about leaving the phone, complete with an entire story in the text messages, on the seat of the airport.