A memoir-type story about my own experience as a freelance journalist covering the abortive communist coup attempt in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept 30, 1965.
Juan, being part Chinese, was very fond of Chinese food. He took me very often to sumptuous dinners in several restaurants in Jakarta’s Chinatown, known locally as the Glodok area. These restaurants were hole-in-the-walls located in small alleys whose owners were fluent in Chinese. They were not the restaurants on major streets usually frequented by Chinese food lovers among expatriates living in Jakarta or even by Chinese Indonesians. I was amazed, and actually amused, to hear Juan speaking fluently in Chinese with the restaurant owners, then switching to Indonesian when talking to the non-Chinese-speaking waitresses and to Spanish as he spoke to me. I’m talking here about a senior diplomat heading the Mexican Embassy in Jakarta – there was no ambassador at the time. We were driven into the small alleys by the embassy’s chauffeur, dressed in an immaculate white uniform with his cap on, in the embassy’s black Mercedes 280S bearing a diplomatic plate number with the Mexican flag sticking up from the front bumper.
A lady in her late 50’s with a very colorful personality I met in the Ramayana Bar was K’tut Tantri, the author of the book Revolt in Paradise. The book, translated into Indonesian as Revolusi di Nusa Damai, was first published in London in 1960. It has been tranlated into over a dozen other languages. K’tut was an American of Scottish descent whose real name I can never find out. The book tells of the exciting story of her life beginning from the time she arrived from Hollywood in Jakarta, then known as Batavia. It was in the 1930’s and she was a young woman in her early 20’s. No sooner had K’tut got to Batavia than she drove all the way by herself to Denpasar, Bali. There her life became exciting and colorful, first as a princess adopted by a Balinese king, later as the first expatriate who built a hotel in Kuta. She went to Surabaya in East Java and got involved with the Indonesian freedom fighters. She became a clandestine radio broadcaster supporting the struggle for Indonesia’s independence from the Dutch colonial government. To top all those acts of adventure and bravery she got imprisoned by the Japanese who occupied Indonesia during World War II. K’tut died in Sydney, Australia, at a ripe old age of 89 in 1997.
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