The following is a one day account in the life of an American tourist (aka: me) in Jarkarta, Indonesia:
7:30a – Wake up and mosey downstairs for an international buffet-style breakfast. Although my walk to the hotel restaurant is brief, three different staff members greet/accost me (by name) before being seated at my table. I am scolded twice for pouring my own coffee while eating. Hotel service is almost too impeccable.
8:51a – Exit hotel and prepare for my walk to the research facility. At this point in the week, I've got my route optimally mapped out: narrowest segments of the road identified (best spots for crossing the street), where the sidewalks start & end (use these as much as possible), and which intersections to avoid (due to impassible traffic). I shudder to think about my first day mistake of putting “Elephant” on my headphones before venturing out on my initial walking excursion (overstimulation at its finest – it took almost 10 seconds before I realized that listening to music as a pedestrian might be a fast-track ticket to an early coffin).
10:32a – Morning coffee served at the facility. It arrives the same as always, with the automatic assumption that copious amounts of sugar should already be added. I try my best to finish it, but can only stomach about half of my cup. It certainly didn’t take long to learn about the Jakartan sweet tooth; every snack served is a fruit, dessert, or pastry (chips, pretzels, or nuts do not seem to exist).
3:00p (sharp) – Loudspeakers from the local mosque emit the Islamic call to worship. This happens five times a day, but the mid-day broadcast seems the most noticeable. Approximately 13% of Muslims live in Indonesia, making it the largest Muslim-majority country in the world.
5:57p – Return to hotel. The stench of raw sewage permeates the air to a slightly stronger degree in the evening; the water trench that flows parallel to me on my walk back helps add to the effect. On two occasions during my walk, I see trash burning near the side of the road, which helps remind me of the city’s drastically different social classes living alongside one another.
6:03p – Once again, I find myself mesmerized by the rush hour traffic. It is absolutely insane, and baffles me how drivers do not get into more accidents. All the roads are extremely busy/crowded and there are barely any street signs or traffic lights. What’s more, there is no grid design for the roads, so getting lost is a constant risk.
6:10p – Arrive at hotel. As is customary at most commercial buildings, I go through a metal detector and submit my belongings to search. No one is exempt from the scrutiny of security!
8:16p – Time for dinner at the only local restaurant (e.g., NOT a street vendor) within walking distance. It is raining, so I borrow an umbrella from the hotel. I have difficulty finding the restaurant, but as I drawn near, I spot a security guard. I approach him to inquire about the location. He immediately escorts me to the entrance and offers to hold my umbrella while I dine. I politely decline, but it’s no use – he insists. After a short discussion, I eventually comply – knowing that it will require a small gratuity to retrieve my umbrella after my meal. This strikes me as somewhat corrupt, but I do my best to shrug it off.
9:47p – Off to a recently opened beer garden to socialize with new friends, whom I met through our research project’s translator. I find myself quickly capitalizing on the advantages of being in the company of Jakartans: instant access to more affordable beer prices, facilitation of meeting local residents, and the opportunity to learn a new card game. The game required a wager of 20,000 rupiah to play and I was sworn to “promise” that I would honor my debt upon losing. Upon hearing this, I (of course) promptly informed the players that:
- A promise was not necessary, because I did not plan on losing
- My unwavering integrity would prevent me from skipping out on any debts owed, in the unlikely event of losing (after all, 20,000 rupiah is only about $1.60 anyway)
As it turned out, I held the high score until the final round, at which point I lost everything and ended up finishing last...clearly, I got hustled! (But I managed to be a good sport and paid the winner my 20k rupiah.)
Needless to say, after all was said and done, it was an interesting trip…