Selamat pagi! Good morning from Jakarta, land of exhausted Peace Corps volunteers!
We arrived here on Thursday after a short flight from Bangkok and caught a bus to our hotel. The bus ride was about an hour long, and we met a couple of our staff including our medical officer, who’s extremely kind. Initial impressions… hot, humid, beautiful, busy. There are so many motorcycles and bajaj that streets here are constantly congested.
We arrived and checked in Thursday night and finally met our country director over dinner on the top of the hotel, in the open air. There was an amazing view of the Jakarta skyline. It seems the skyscrapers stretch from one end of the horizon to the other; I’ve never seen such a sprawling city center, not even in New York.
Yesterday was our first day of pre-service training… I think. We’re all still reeling from the flight and time changes. My poor feet and ankles are twice their normal size by the end of the day. Hopefully today will be different! We’ve started our bahasa Indonesia classes, begun our medical briefings, and learned a lot more about our upcoming trip to East Java. We’ll be staying with host families, five volunteers and one staff member per “cluster,” two clusters per “link,” and two links that are across a large road (and reasonably far apart) from one another. Every couple of weeks we’ll meet at the “hub” for more classes and activities, and weekends will be free for travel with our families, by ourselves, or with other volunteers.
We’ve met some amazing (and improtant) people since arriving in Jakarta. Our safety and security officer is an amazingly kind East Javan man who took us out to supper our first night free on the town… although we only went a couple of doors down. Still, he’s been so helpful and patient with us! Our language instructors are both equally patient. The American staff are great and full of information and experiences. We’ve also met the deputy governor of tourism and culture in Jakarta, the American ambassador to Indonesia (who was very serious and quick to inform us rather sternly what a “big deal” it is that we’re here), and a bunch of former PCVs who are now living in Jakarta (though they served all over the world). We met them over dinner last night, though everyone was so tired that I don’t think we took as much advantage of their presence as we would have liked. Yesterday was our first full day of training and language classes and that, on top of the weather and jet-lag, made for a tired bunch of superheroes.
The food here has been great! We’ve had all sorts of nasi, lots of fruity soups and fresh fruit, delicious savory soups (although the tom ka last night was so spicy that I took one bite and coughed for three minutes), great juices, excellent coffee with gula, and meat dishes that I gobble up like nobody’s business. A few of us will be starting a blog to keep recipes and photos of food, which we’ll compile in a year into a cookbook for the next group of volunteers (who will arrive in a year). So keep an eye out for that! It’s going to be great!
As far as cultural adjustments… we’re not using squatty potties yet! But we’re getting practice using the sprayers. Heh. Also… everyone is so nice and they like to laugh at us, but I’d rather appear silly for trying something that have people resent me for being closed-minded.
Today, we have a full schedule, including two hours of language class. Though we’re busy through dinner, I think our friend Pak Wawan (our safety and security officer; I don’t want to use anyone’s full name, so I’ll just use initals) will take us out to find some dessert and maybe look around at a mall. Wonder how we’ll get there… taxi or bajaj?
After our outing, I’ll try to post my new pictures. I’ll also try and get the link to our group flickr page!
Sempai jumpa nanti!!