I’m in the process of editing our entire Web site (www.smilinghillbatam.com), which we will be updating, redesigning and such in the weeks ahead. The site is a treasure trove of pertinent information about my new home, right down to recommending restaurants and discos, or giving pointers on the bar girls. I found the following, describing the type of restaurant we went to last Saturday night.
PUJASERAS are outdoor food courts in the Malaysian tradition, with a number of
warungs (small stall-like kitchens) serving meals to tables in an open air communal dining area. It is quite in order to select some items from one warung’s menu and some more from another.
Usually, there is also a bar serving soft drinks and beer, and “beer girls” who wear the livery of the various beer companies. It is quite normal then for a group of you at a table to order a Tiger beer from the Tiger girl, Bintangs from the Bintang girl, and Carlsbergs from the Carlsberg girl. Hardly efficient, but all part of the charm of the pujasera experience. Often, though not always, the beer girl from one company will happily bring you another brand because she has an arrangement to share the commission with her “sisters.”
Toilets are usually basic – squat pans and urinals only and generally a bit smelly. Toilet paper is conspicuous by its absence. There are hand wash basins in the toilet areas and at convenient locations around the dining area. (This is important, as often the food is consumed by using your fingers.)
The pujaseras offer some of the best quality and best value authentic Indonesian/Chinese
food available. The food is cheap and beer is about half the price of the bars – in fact, often matching supermarket prices.
I’m now in the habit of having all three daily meals at Goodies. The food is good, the portions substantial and the menu is long and varied. So, I’m trying to go through the menu one meal at a time, trying to avoid having the same thing twice (although I did have pizza twice – it’s enough for an extra meal or snack at home). Lately, I’ve been trying the Indonesian fare. Yesterday’s was a slow-cooked beef shank with mashed and gravy, but it was way too spicy for my wimpy palette. It was tasty, though. Today for lunch I tried mei garung, which is fried noodles and vegetables with seafood. Pretty good and more than I could eat. It comes with a fried egg on top.
While I’m still not sure what my meal allowance is here, I’ve been told it should be enough
to cover all my meals. That makes trying everything out at least once a little easier.
Don’t question my integrity
One of the nice aspects of my travel is the appreciation I find in every country for my profession. When I’m asked what I do for work, and I say I’m a journalist, the reaction is usually one of respect. It’s a nice change from the U.S., where journalists are vilified as members of the elite, as purveyors of untruths. I’m not sure when, in America, actually being smart and educated and aware of the facts became bad attributes for a person to have, but that seems to be the current attitude of many Americans.
I thought I had left such moronic behavior behind two years ago, but it reared its ignorant head again the other night. Unfortunately, I let boorish behavior get to me. It was an American, of course, who rankled me, a poster boy for the “ugly American” stereotype, an arrogant expat who not only spoke badly about other countries and cultures, but didn’t seem to even care for his own country much.
For the most part, I ignored his boorish behavior. But when he used my profession as a way to discredit something I had to say, which was factual and supported by others at the table, I had to let go. It went something like, “He’s a journalist, and you know how ‘they’ are.”
So I got in this man’s face. I told him that what journalists do, unlike the vast majority of Americans, is they research the topic at hand. They find the facts before making a statement or writing something about the topic. They don’t go off half-cocked. They learn the facts before making an opinion. And I told him I didn’t like him denigrating my profession, one I’ve toiled in honestly for more than 40 years. I probably didn’t articulate my feelings as well as I would have liked, but my point was understood.
I did all this to a customer, a rather burly one at that, which was not a good idea. But I will not be cowed by a bully. After my tirade, I left the table to talk to two Aussies at another table, and to cool off, returning a few minutes later where I received an apology. I do find it ironic, perhaps sad, however, that I’m able to get along great with all these people from other countries, other cultures, but the one that gets under my skin is an American.