Sunday, November 08, 2009

Play for Today

This week, I thought that I'd indulge the big kid in me and check out a couple of options that frustrated parents can employ in order to shut their offspring up for a few hours and get a bit of peace. Now I don't, to my knowledge at least, have any children myself as I am always scrupulous about taking precautions. In fact, I usually don a full beekeeper's outfit during my romantic dalliances. However, there is no law to say that you have to have kids in order to enjoy a bit of playtime and so I scuttled down to the Waterbom Park in Pantai Indah Kapuk as I had a complimentary ticket for its second anniversary day. I then relived my childhood with an afternoon of splashing about and sliding.

Pantai Indah Kapuk itself is a pleasant suburban area up by the coast, about halfway down the airport toll road. Apparently, PIK has been known to flood like a bitch in the rainy season however during my visit, the green fields and open spaces proved a welcome relief from downtown Jakarta. Inside, Waterbom was packed with nuclear families all out for a few snatched hours of fun before their WiFi brained sprogs threw up in the SUV on the way back into town.

The slides proved to be great fun and include one that shoots those brave enough to take up the challenge, down into a splash pool at, allegedly, 70 km per hour. Once was enough for me on this particular thrill ride and I’m man enough to admit to being utterly terrified on my rapid descent. Indeed, some of the more portly sliders also made me fear for the structural integrity of the slide itself. Some of these kids will never make the Olympic Games at this rate I fear, unless fried chicken eating is introduced as a new event.

Waterbom also features a mini rafting river which transports one under waterfalls on an inflatable tube. This was absolutely jammed with punters of all ages during my visit. Probably it would have been better if I had donned one of the natty full body 'burkinis' that some of the more devout ladies were wearing in order to protect my peachy skin, as I suspected that the junior urine content of the fluid sloshing around in said attraction was pushing 50%.

It was all good fun though and after a thorough shower I headed back into town for a spot of go-karting down at Speedy Karting, which you'll find on Jalan Gatot Subroto opposite the Hero near Pancoran. Here, budding Jenson Buttons can enjoy a five minute race in a motorized shopping trolley, navigating a track marked out by used car tires. Now this was actually enormous fun and sure beats crawling through the city's traffic jams. All of your thwarted pedal to the metal aspirations can be thrillingly indulged down at Speedy. A five minute race will set you back Rp.55,000 and you even get to take your racing balaclava and gloves home with you. A nice little bonus if you're the sort of person who enjoys wearing a balaclava and gloves about the house.

Alas, many of the city's poorer kids don't have the necessary folding stuff at their disposal to be able to afford such bourgeois pleasures as water sliding and karting. Sadly, what with Jakarta's woeful lack of parks and green spaces, the best that my local urchins seem to be able to get up to is a quick kickabout in the street. This entails them having to stop their game every 30 seconds as yet another car comes past. Rapping on my windscreen and clapping arhythmically comes a close second as the hobby of choice. Rp.1000 kites are also popular and perhaps, at some unconscious, symbolic level, seductively embody the idea of escape and slipping the bounds of the city's surly, sweltering gravity.

The lack of parks in the city is indeed a sad thing as I believe it's very important for kids to have somewhere to go where they can climb trees, set fire to things, sniff adhesives from plastic bags and get invited to see puppies by strange men. All kids need their play.

According to the noted play theorist, Stephen Nachmanovitch, play is the root and foundation of creativity in the arts and sciences. Writing, painting, composing, inventing... all creative acts are forms of play and thus adequate freedom to play and explore as a child is vital for person’s future creative development.

Play is also explicitly recognized in article 31 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on November 29th, 1989. The convention states that:

"Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts."

So there you have it. Refuse to give the little horrors their ball back and you could find yourself in The Hague with Radovan Karadzic.