This is one of the capital’s odder days. Jakarta’s Highland Gathering
is a well-established part of the expat calendar, and the organisers claim it has become the largest of its kind outside Scotland. It’s a chance for The Expat World And His Wife to relax unharassed and be surprised at just long it is since you met old so-and-so. It may well have been at last year’s do.
First held in 1974, the gathering has grown from a small-time act of whimsy into an international extravaganza, capturing the national media’s attention every year with its big Aussies massacring logs with chainsaws, parachutists, caber tossers, kilted bagpipers, the likes of whom are, unsurprisingly, unrivalled throughout Indonesia. In fact, so thoroughly alien is the event, that when you see a queue of Western children waiting their turn to be knocked off a greasy pole, it’s altogether possible to forget that you are actually in Jakarta. Which, of course you’re not. Held for many years in Rasuna Said, then in the Senayan complex, it is now thanks to sponsorship hosted some 40 kilometres to the west of Jakarta in the extensive grounds of the Pelita Harapan School in the new town of Lippo Karawaci.
Indonesia is always well represented at the gathering in terms of traditional dance displays, stone-jumping and rival bagpipe and kilt frenzies from Sumatra. The Indonesian authorities, however, very nearly made the gathering a caber-free event, when, in 1975, the caber was refused permission to enter. The way round this minor detail was to fly the caber back to Britain and then ship it out to Java where it could be unsuspectingly tossed overboard and left to drift ashore in north Jakarta.
The Gathering has been cancelled a few times when national events, such as the abdication of Suharto in 1998 and the Bali bombs of a few years later, have dampened spirits or had a scary security dimension. More recently, as a precaution against ‘terrorist plots’, which may or may not have been illusory, publicity for the Gatherings has been very last minute and largely on the gossip grapevine. Held over a weekend, the authors really enjoy the Sunday when we can be found in one of the hospitality tents waiting for the closing fireworks display, probably the finest in Indonesia.
Oooh. Aaah. Wow.[fr. Culture Shock-Jakarta by Derek Bacon & Terry Collins. pub. Marshall Cavendish, August 2007]
And this year's do is on Sunday. Local residents may be surprised because not one advertisement seems to have been placed in the mass media. Whether this is due to scary 'security' concerns or whether the expat organisers, who generally mix in business circles, want to keep it in-house, so to speak, I wouldn't know. One bit of gossip I've picked up is that the British Embassy has not given its blessing this year.
And that smacks of plain paranoia.
Or has Scotland already seceded from the Untied Kingdom?
Labels: British Embassy, Highland Gathering, Jakarta