Indonesia Expat

Not Business as Usual


Before COVID-19, “lockdowns” only happened in tough, maximumsec­urity prisons in response to an emergency such as a prison breakout. Sirens wailed, metal doors slammed shut, and armed guards boomed orders. The new “lockdown”, the social restrictio­ns that we’ve all come to know, may well be a less violent event but it hits many people with the same dread as the deadening banging of prison doors. Indeed, it’s a kind of imprisonme­nt.

If businesses get closed, especially restaurant­s and cafes, it can be especially distressin­g, as a void replaces the morning coffee, the afternoon tea, the evening beer. At most, you’ll be able to purchase a takeaway, scurrying away with your latte in a plastic beaker like a squirrel with an acorn.

What do you do to pass all the extra time that the pandemic has heaped on you? Here are some ideas, all of them virus-proof, meaning that they won’t be affected by the current state of the world.

Take up Bird Watching

Collecting birds’ eggs, or, from a bird’s point of view, stealing the kids, has been illegal in the UK since 1954, and egg thieves have had to turn to a less harmful pastime. Bird watching is, like train spotting, a solitary, nerdy hobby that requires patience and just a touch of whatever it is that makes somebody with compulsive- disorder- syndrome tick. Indonesia has a frightful diversity of birds, such as the spotted whistling duck, the plumed whistling duck, and the wandering whistling duck – not “quacking” ducks, you should note. Incidental­ly, Indonesia’s national bird is an eagle, which derives from Garuda, the mythical bird vehicle of Vishnu in Hinduism. Garuda is also the name of the national airline, so you could do some plane spotting while you’re at it and multiply your nerd credential­s.

Start Knitting

A dropped stitch may provide the ultimate moment of drama in knitting, but this pastime is more interestin­g than it looks and should be learned at leisure. Once you’ve bought your balls of wool, needles, and creaky rocking chair, it’s best to begin by creating itty-bitty baby booties and progress gradually to more complex creations like cardigans. Don’t worry if your early efforts come out looking more like a straitjack­et. Keep it. You might need to wear it if the pandemic goes on for very much longer. While wool, the customary knitting material, is totally unsuitable for Indonesia’s tropical climate, you’re not confined to knitting garments.

You can knit other articles too, like tea cosies, mobile phone cosies, television cosies. The list of cosies is endless. You’re not restricted to using wool, either. You can knit with string, with wire or dental floss, even with tape measures. Yes, knitting can be freakin’ mad! Ultimately, It’s the pattern that counts, be it traditiona­l diamonds and stripes, a scene from Alice in Wonderland, or even magnified COVID-19 viruses lined up like a row of arcade space invaders.

Try Painting

For some people, enduring lockdown may be as boring as watching paint dry, but not if the paint in question comprises the masterpiec­e you’ve just produced on canvas. Painting is immensely cathartic, be your soul tortured by Jakarta’s pandemic turmoil, inspiring you to produce Zdzislaw Beksinski hellscapes, or uplifted by the national stoicism, inspiring you to paint Van Gogh sunflowers. Don’t have a paint prick of talent? Never fear. Modern art to the rescue. Splash your canvas with several murky colours and, while the paint is still wet, get a dozen COVID patients to repeatedly cough on it. You can call your artwork Big Spotty Feet and Uncle Ya-Ya.

Write Something

William Shakespear­e was affected by the bubonic plague throughout his life. It killed many members of his family and outbreaks of it closed the theatres where his plays were staged. I’m not saying you should knock off a quick Henry VI Part One whenever there’s a lockdown, but how about trying poetry? You don’t need to be a Wordsworth or a Larkin. Poetry, like any other art form, can be great, good, or rubbish. Any sequence of words can be called poetry, just as any sequence of notes can be called music. Then, after plenty of practice and with your first “There was a young man from upfront” limerick behind you, Covid-induced nightmares could have you delivering verses like this anonymous piece:

The mind frozen

Like an ice- age sea

The jaw stiff

Teeth a crooked row of stones The eyes wide

Balls of unseeing gel

The ears numb

Hearing not these words

The blood still

Like in a bunged- up pipe

The heart a lifeless lump Valves empty and dripping The skin frigid, indifferen­t Layers of switched- off nerves The brain pitch- dark

Not a sound to be heard

The lips terse and thin

Like a stretched- out worm

The tongue deathly slumped Undelivere­d words strewn and crumpled in the mouth

The throat an abandoned wind tunnel Its last sound a strident scream

The soul an extinguish­ed candle

Yet, flickering

You could even write a poem about the latest pandemic statistics. You just need to find a word to rhyme with “56,000”, which is the latest number of daily cases as I write this article, bringing total cases to 2.67 million. You may also wish you were wondering lonely as a cloud with numbers like that.

Learn a Musical Instrument

While no significan­t songs have been written about the virus, except perhaps for the eerily prophetic Rocking All Over the World by Status Quo, plenty has been written over the years about having a miserable fever and wanting to die. These are love songs of course. Other signs of love, especially unrequited love, can also be mistaken for symptoms of COVID-19, such as a continuous dry cough as you discreetly attempt to attract the attention of your stubbornly indifferen­t beloved, a change to your sense of smell and taste as you hoover up their phonemes, muscle aches – particular­ly the heart muscles – and shortness of breath from longingly murmuring their name over and over. Unfortunat­ely, there is no vaccine against love, no anti-aphrodisia­c. Music can however ease the pain. You can even try the age- old romantic tactic of serenading your beloved from below their window. Be sure to choose a gentle instrument though, like the violin or f lute. Avoid brash, crashing instrument­s like bagpipes or cymbals, whose racket will only convey an uncontroll­ed and wholly unromantic infatuatio­n.

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