The Umbrella Ojek


Indonesia has gone through political, racial and economic instability, colonization, social unrest, terrorism threats and corruption scandals and it just copes. So when the monsoon makes its annual appearance, no sweat. In other countries with regular rainfall, merchants set up stalls to sell umbrellas. But in Indonesia, it’s children who pop up everywhere. You’ll find these kids magically appearing under bridges, at parking lots and even the entrance of your office with big umbrellas in their hands, ready to offer their services. They are called ojek payung.

In a major city like Jakarta, 38% of the trips made daily are on foot. Although Indonesians are accustomed to rain, not many like getting wet. Ojeks walk around barefoot and charge between Rp2000 - Rp5000 ($0.12 - $0.50) for a short trip: from the entrance of a supermarket to your car, for example. On a good stormy day, an ojek can earn up to Rp100,000 ($10.29).

Some go extra lengths to earn more. The enterprising few might set a rate of Rp5000m, but once they’ve assisted you to the midpoint of your destination, they will ask for more or threaten to make you walk the rest of the way under the pouring rain. More experienced kids might form teams and target specific areas. At the end of the day, the leader splits the income between his bocahs (teammates), plan a strategy for the next day and pray for a heavier, bigger storm to fall.


Creative Commons photo via


Writer KC Hong is from a long, long line of Chinese people. Thankfully, her grandparents decided to settle in Malaysia. At the age of 3, she was sent off to school because her parents couldn’t stand her chattiness. But after years of being a full-time Asian, she is finally rebelling and embracing that chatty kid. You may find this part-time Asian writing, doodling or getting lost.