Jakarta and many major cities across Indonesia is spreading with malls, malls and more malls. It's disheartening. The only time I enjoy shopping is when I'm shopping for food or kitchen gadgets. Where most women will collect shoes and handbags, I have an ecclectic collection of kitchen gadgets and more than enough china to serve an army. It's my one weakness. And if there is anything I envy, it is someone who cannot cook but has an ultra modern kitchen with all the to die for amenities. Almost every mall here has a hypermart. I know I should be cost conscious, hypermarkets are cheap but they are also exactly what they claim to be, HYPER and packed with people. The din of the crowds instantly gives me a migraine. So I choose to quietly do my shopping off hours at smaller grocers or specialty shops for ingredients required for Western dishes and traditional markets to stockpile on fresh spices, fresh fish and meats.
Going to traditional markets reminds me so much of my late mother. I used to accompany her when I was young to "Pasar Klewer" in Solo, to buy batik cloths to bring back to NY and sip "Jamu" (herbal drinks) while she bargained her way. Then we'd proceed to the wet market to buy produce, meats and freshly cut chicken - which always freaked me out. Seriously, back then you would choose a live chicken and they's cut it infront of you. Later at home when she cooked it, I wouldn't eat it. To this day - if I've seen it alive then it will never make it to my plate. I guess that's the part of me that is Western influenced. These traditional markets were so dark and filthy, in my mind I can still recall all the smells from the spices to the fresh meat & salted fish.
I make it a point to go to a traditional market at least once a month - they are much cleaner than they were when I was a child. It's so colorful and interesting to go - somewhat like an adventure. There's always something new I discover. Unfortunately, traditional markets have suffered somewhat with the hypermart boom. It's tough to compete. On days when I'm feeling a bit down - I go to the market to not only shop but to observe their world. I watch the trucks unload the produce sack by sack, talk to the vendors who work so hard for so little that if the price they set for something is reasonable, then I don't even bother to bargain. I just don't have the heart. What I do notice about most of the vendors is that despite their hardships, they're able to still serve with a warm smile. It's a big reality check for me and the reason why I never complain about life's challenges. It's very simple, be thankful...and every thing else will just fall in place...eventually.