Probably just like your place, for the last few weeks the White Monkey Palace has been infested with children. As part of the annual mid-year child exchange, known colloquially as the “school holidays,” we received two — one of each gender — from friends and family at opposite ends of Jabodetabek. Other friends had children arrive from as far afield as Padang and Merauke.
The pair we ended up with were about the same age — 12 — and had the same body type: super skinny. They both looked rather like small supermodels and yet ate copious quantities in a stately fashion at four-to-five sittings a day. I suppose watching computer screens all day and half the night whets the appetite. Because, despite living in straitened circumstances with their respective families in the distant outer suburbs (both families probably have incomes close to the famous USD 2-a-day poverty line), both kids nevertheless sported portable electronic devices used for playing video games, the same as richer kids have in Indonesia and, indeed, the rest of the world.
It seems that the younger generations of the world, whether they hail from the Upper East Side in Manhattan or the Left Side of the Railway Line in Jakarta, will have grown up playing exactly the same video games for as many hours a day as they can possibly squeeze out of their harassed and exasperated parents. They will have connecting them not English as their lingua franca but the “aaargh”s and “oooooh”s of their screen avatars and the same reminiscences to share of parents who were tardy in providing the latest device update or game.
One wonders what children did before there were such devices. Broke into cars, perhaps? Or maybe they just sat hunched in their rooms staring hopefully at the space 30 cm in front of them, waiting for it to coalesce one day into a computer screen. I cannot recall doing so when I was a wee lad but I suppose it’s difficult to remember things thought while in a coma, in which, who knows, perhaps I was. Presumably, today’s children will assert I might as well have been.
You will note that the computer-game phenomenon is largely confined to children of the male variety: our girl-child guest had brought along a device borrowed from her little brother (a forced loan which apparently led to so much wailing that the device had to be recalled) but made little use of it, as revealed by spot checks and interrogation. Rather, she preferred to engage with the boy in banter while he killed aliens or beat the English at football (like everyone else), revealing an early tendency for understanding the male animal and working with it rather than against it.
We did manage to prize them both out of the room and take them to a swimming pool where they were supposed to frolic in a physical fashion. However, the boy found it too cold and spent most of the time rugged up staring into space, no doubt wishing he was back thrashing the English again, while the girl paddled about apparently having a thoroughly pleasant time.
I may be drawing a long bow here, but given these observations it’s hard not to consider the female of the species the superior being.