The Daily Post at WordPress.com just so happened to use the word “Surface” as its prompt for the day; they encourage writers to make brief posts based on prompts–generally one-word–and hope to empower bloggers to maintain a daily posting regimen. I remember that about this time a year ago– or was it two years now?– I set a daily post goal for myself. Needless to say, it didn’t pan out. I had a great time blogging this past academic semester on a private writing group blog with some of my friends also undertaking writing projects (I was finishing up my comparative piece on healers in the US Midwest and in East Java, Indonesia– the “capstone” of my Fulbright, I guess I could say) and kept up with daily writing for the better part of three months, about which I posted regular recaps. But this blog has really been sorely neglected since I started tutoring for Pearson, which necessitates a lot of click-clacking away at the keyboard and lots of oft-grueling screen time. I also found myself using this blog as a travel stories platform more frequently than for its original purpose–longreads about my experiences travelling here and learning new things about Indonesian/Javanese culture–since I didn’t experience as much personal need for the therapeutic value of posting things of that nature anymore. I guess this is a Third Goal fail, but it’s not like I wasn’t still teaching you all or some audience somewhere about Indonesia or continuing to do the good work of increasing the peace, as an RPCV; of course, I’ve been a very actively engaged RPCV in terms of maintaining a substantial relationship with Indonesia, and as a side note I must say I’m damn proud of some of the work the other RPCVs from this country are doing for Indonesia as well as for the States… regardless of whatever failures not writing on this blog in recent months may indicate, I’m back, at least for now– the therapeutic appeal is real since I’ve moved to the capital city of Indonesia, the “big durian,” the world’s most congested megacity, the seat of power in all forms in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country and 3rd largest democracy in the world: Jakarta. I moved two days ago.
Now, surface. After this very long and rambling introduction, it’s time to move on with the prompt. Surface. I’m planning to stay here for a short amount of time, and I know already that I’ll barely scratch the surface of this massive city. The population is 10 million more than NYC, and the population density is 10,000 more per square mile; the metro area of Jakarta is half that of NYC. As it goes with Indonesia, a lifetime wouldn’t be enough. If we speak further of surfaces and these two cities, it’s important to let you know that Jakarta has no metro system since it’s so close to the sea and is, in fact, sinking annually by not insignificant amounts into that sea. Around the archipelago, Jakarta is most famous for its traffic jams, pollution, and general haziness. The buildings shoot upwards to the sky and the gray haze, but the people are most often not found inside those skyscrapers but rather, depressingly, are all stuck somewhere on the pavement, immobile, hot, and frequently irritated. I once saw a view of the city at night from an airplane, and the highways and sidestreets were glowing like a fluorescent lightbulb in a ceiling: a solid tube of light, radiating from a track… and of course, motionless. The streets are where most life in this city is spent, it seems.
To get around in this city without a motorcycle or the patience to sit under the heavy air while waiting for the chance to push forward a few meters every few minutes, I’ve started using Uber and GoJek/Grab (uber-like motocycle services, the equivalent of which I don’t think we have in the States yet. Thankfully, one of my PCV friends taught me how to use both of these, and even more thankfully, both of them exist; the fixed rates are the best option compared to metered taxis, and the services offered will make life much easier. The Jakarta taxi drivers have been pissed about the surging popularity of services like GoJek and Uber, though, but the protests of recent months and other demonstrations understaken to purposefully block roadways have subsided; I understand their plight, but my god, how can we pay so much for so little? Maybe they’ll just quit and become Uber drivers… although Uber people are everywhere already. GoJek is wonderful because I can order food from basically anywhere and have it delivered for a roughly $0.75 fee. They’ll also purchase and deliver groceries, send cleaning staff, or arrange a massage therapist and bring them over, among other things.
And actually, a nice young GoJek driver just brought me a bag full of Indian food. Time to eat… hold that thought.
More soon (including pictures).