Jakarta Weather part dua
Hey party people!
Welcome back to the blog! We're still on the series What Makes Jakarta, Jakarta (to me).
This week I'm talking what to wear over here in Jcity as well as diving into the intriguing topic of Masuk Angin... Let's begin!
Who, What, When, WEAR
Indonesia weather is hot, so you want to dress appropriately.
Most people's concern about what to wear comes from the fact that Indonesia is predominantly a Muslim country and while that concern is appropriate, you will find that you CAN wear shorts and tank tops here in Jakarta because it is quite a modern city.
However, if you find yourself in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood or area that has not seen their fair share of expats, be advised that wearing something a bit revealing can garner a few stares and if that makes you feel uncomfortable it's best to avoid showing cleavage or wearing short shorts.
I experienced this a bit in my old neighborhood where I would wear exercise shorts and a tank to go running. I found most women in my neighborhood would wear yoga pants while running outside and while I usually try to be culturally sensitive I just. could. not. even. with yoga pants and running and the hot weather.
Another thing to think about is this: if you are an expat living in Jakarta you probably will find yourself in the wealthy category of economic status (whether you feel wealthy or not!) You will visit malls and have privileges that half of Indonesia does not, which means you will go to the grocery stores in malls, you will go to the movie theater in malls, you will probably eat lunch in a nice air conditioned restaurant. This means you will be rubbing elbows with the wealthy people of Jakarta and you may find that when you go to said mall to grocery shop or see a movie, most Jakartans dress up. Now this, of course, varies to a degree because no one person has the same sense of style HOWEVER if you dress like you would on the beach of Bali to a Jakarta mall you may feel a tad bit out of place.
This leads to the predicament I find myself in when thinking about what to wear. First I don't want to be hot. Like it is THE WORST to be hot and not wear exercise sweat absorbant clothes. I guenuinly wish I were a better person but when I get inescapably hot… I can sometimes get ANGRY and useless and take my frustration out on people I love (aka my poor husband). In my defense, Jakarta hot is EXTRA- It is a muggy, stuffy, sweaty, suffocating hot... but if the Eleanor Roosevelt quote is true that:
"A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water."
Jakarta weather is a daily test of character and heaven help me…put me in hot weather and Jakarta heat shows me how I need to be a better person!
So with all that said I find that in Jakarta it's best to wear layers. A nice scarf attached to your bag could become a shawl should you ever become blessedly cold in air conditioning or bring along a cardigan to throw over your sleeveless shirt if you don't want any stares.
Ok so, now, lets talk MASUK AGIN.
It is my opinion that most cultures have beliefs when it comes to weather, specifically hotness and coldness.
For example, I am Puerto Rican and two cultural beliefs that played out when spending my summers at my grandmothers house in Puerto Rico every summer had to do with the tile floors and air conditioning.
Every year for the entirety of my SUMMER spent in Puerto Rico my grandmother would plea with me to put on slippers if ever I dared to walk barefoot on the tiled floor of her house. Why is that?
Because the tile was cold and I could catch a cold walking on it with my bare feet.
This makes absolutely no sense to me considering her house DID NOT HAVE AIR CONDITIONING. I repeat…IT WAS HOTTER INSIDE HER HOUSE THAN OUTSIDE THE TROPICS OF PUERTO RICO.
But that was the logic… so I wore slippers inside. The end.
It was also dangerous to have a fan blow on you because this could cause a neck ache. I still to this day don't know how this can occur but you best believe it was mentioned every time I sprawled myself out in front of a fan because- did you read the previous paragraph? MY GRANDMOTHERS HOUSE IN PUERTO RICO HAD NO AIR CONDIDTIONING AND I STAYED THERE ALL SUMMER LONG. Maybe that is why I have issues with being so hot to this day? Puerto Rico summer trauma. Case solved.
But Chinese people also have beliefs, not necessarliy pertaining to weather but pertaining to heat in ones body. When I spent six months in China I was shocked to hear about the Chinese custom of a woman not bathing for a month after she gives birth. The reason: Giving birth releases a lot of heat from one's body and therefore in order to restore heat within her body she should refrain from taking a shower after giving birth (which could cause even more heat to escape her body) and she should also spend the month after giving birth eating broths in an attempt to restore the heat balance. This is also, presently, a tradition among many Chinese Indonesians in Jakarta! They even have special ladies who you hire to work for you the month after you give birth. (Another post for another time!)
Do all of these stories concern weather? Well technically no, but we'll get to how this all applies by the end- I promise! My point here is a lot of cultures have belief's that pertain to heat and cold (and as a byproduct, the weather) which seem logical to them but which mmmaaayyybbbeee can't be proved by actual science.
Which leads me to MASUK ANGIN or, literally translated, "entered air/wind", translated loosley: trapped wind.
This is basically why you will find small babies wrapped in heavy blankets complete with socks pants and hats in the Jakarta heat, to put it simply, you do not want them to catch MASUK ANGIN.
This is also why if you dare to have your small child run around in only a diaper because, why not? S/He is literally sweating in only his diaper- you will kindly be asked repeatedly if you need help putting clothes on your child.
This is one of the reasons many Indonesians may prefer to be hot rather than sit in the direction of the a.c breeze - a luxury if you ask me! But not very healthy to an Indonesian who believes in Masuk Angin!
The best English equivalent I can think of is when someone says they have "caught a cold". But for Indonesians Masuk angin is not just a cold. Mauk Angin is also a feeling. It can be the reason you have a headache, stomach ache, feel sore or achy, dizzy or nausous. Basically it could be all encompassing for why you feel unwell and wind is to blame.
The reason why I want to include MASUK ANGIN in a post about weather is because it can be the most FRUSTRATING reason why you remain hot and Indonesians don't seem to understand that you are MISERABLE and just want the darn ac to blow on you or have the window open to let in a little breeze! Indonesians aren't intentionally trying to be difficult (which you may have the tendency to think if you are in the frustration stage of culture shock!) It's more than likely that they are concerned with you catching a bad case of Masuk Angin and are causing you to be hot in an attempt to protect you from it!
So what is the cure?
Well other than not allowing wind to enter your body in the first place there is also a little trick that Indonesians call "kerokan". Basically a way to release the trapped air in your body. The belief is that taking a coin to your skin releases the wind and makes you feel better. It's as simple and easy as that.
Of course there are other remedies such as getting a massage, going to the sauna to sweat it out, taking medicine, or drinking traditional juice mixtures (known and "Jamu") but either way the trapped wind must come out and best to never let it enter at all!
One day when I was getting a massage at home (via Go-Massage one of the come to your door massage options I will talk about in a future post) I told the massage therapist to pay special attention to my shoulders because they were sore. The whole time she rubbed my shoulders she kept making 'tsk tsk' noises and being especially dramatic about the status of my back. When I asked her if everything was ok she basically told me that it would not matter how hard she massaged my shoulders I would not get better because I had so much Masuk Angin. The proof was in how red my back was when she touched it. Now usually I would roll my eyes at this diagnosis but in this situation I thought, what the heck, let's test out this Masuk Agin theory! And much to her joy, I told her I would be willing to get a kerokan treatment. This being the case, she gladly took out a coin, her special oils, and proceeded to rid me of the trapped wind by rubbing it repeatedly all over my back...making it turn redder than I'm sure it was before the treatment but that's not really the point of this story.
Did it hurt? Not at all! Did it work? Honestly.... I'm not sure!
I do know that anytime our family got sick our live in nanny would do regular kerokan treatments on herself and the woman hardly EVER got sick.
As for me, I did feel less sore on my shoulders the next day... but was it because the feeling of soreness was replaced by the feeling of a slight sunburn on my back?
In short Masuk angin is REAL to people in Jakarta, whether it is "real" or not, and a considerable amount of respect- or at least empathy for this cultural belief must be applied. A turning off of the AC or a suggestion for you to put socks on your child's feet, even when it is so hot outside, is not as much of a slight as it may sound-its actually an Indonesian trying to care for your health, their health, or the health of your loved ones.
So are you a believer? Has your mom, dad or grandma taught you certain beliefs when it pertains to being sick and the weather? I'd love to hear them! Until then tune in next week when I describe another primary concern when living in Jakarta- that I wish wasn't a concern at all: Traffic. You think you know traffic from your city in the US... that's cute...let's compare notes!