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Jakarta Moments: Highs and Lows

Jakarta is a city that fills you with the highest highs and the lowest lows. Within the same day you can have the best moments and then the worst. The last two weeks have been filled with moments like these for me.

Two Saturdays ago, my Indonesian tutor and friend Niar invited me to her home to cook (will post recipes soon). After we had eaten we heard beautiful gamelan music wafting in the air. Niar’s neighbor across the way has a gamelan set on his second floor. Niar popped over and asked if we could all come in and watch. The group of 50- and 60-year-old Indonesians welcomed us into their home.

They played for us, then they let us take over their practice for an hour and learn how to play, much to everyone’s delight.

We laughed and played gamelan in the beautiful afternoon light. Then we were feed snacks of fried bananas and sweet Indonesian tea. The group wanted a photo with us at the end and one of the women kept saying, “I love you” because that was the only phrase she knew in English. This was probably the best afternoon I’ve had in Jakarta and it was in the presence of complete kind strangers and old friends who we had cooked with earlier.

But then on Monday, I hit a low point.

On my way into work at 7:20 a.m. my bag was torn open and I was pick pocketed. I noticed the minute I stepped off the bus (hello gaping hole in bag!), so the damage was minimal (cards cancelled etc.), but it was the feeling of it. A few ripe mangoes, meat on sticks and beers later that evening I felt better. It can happen in any major city on public transport, but it never feels good.

And yesterday, I was making a final visit to my tailor to pick up a dress and jacket and the cab driver we took was hopelessly lost. Chloe and I counted, he stopped over 8 times to ask for directions. We got incredibly frustrated and finally we paid and decided we would wander the ritzy Pondok Indah area and find it ourselves. A large black SUV pulled up next to us and a man rolled down his window. His wife and he smiled and asked, “Are you lost? We saw your cab stopping for directions.” We told him where we needed to go, and he told us to hop in. So we sat next to his 7-year-old daughter who in perfect English said, “Dad, go left!” Needless to say, in about two minutes, we were where we needed to be. So despite the pick pocketing experience, my memories of Indonesia will always be of the people, from all strata of society, and how warm, welcoming and willing to go out of their way to help a lost pale red head they were.

My last day at the office is fast approaching and then the summer of my dreams begins. Family and friends are coming to visit and travel. So I’ll be in Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Laos and Cambodia. I’ll be in and out of Indonesia, so this is not a final farewell to the Big Durian. I’ll try and blog as I can, so stay tuned for much, much more. Happy summer and happy travels to all!

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. I have days like that in Jakarta as well. Sometimes it all gets too much and other times I just love it. It’s the disparity between the very rich and the incredibly poor that really gets me down. Have a wonderful summer Lydia and happy travelling. :)

    June 24, 2012
    • Lydia #

      Thank you, Lottie. I plan to post blogs Internet permitting.

      The disparity here gets to me too. Everyday after work I cross the street on an overpass and the woman who sits with her baby begging and the man with no feet, always make me sad. Here, I just have no idea what the solution is. Back in the US I would donate food to charities. Not sure what the equivalent is here.

      June 24, 2012
  2. Beautiful post – it makes me miss Jakarta so much.

    June 24, 2012
  3. mms1130 #

    Hi Lydia! So interesting to read your take on another bit of the world, and your pictures are beautiful. I’m still living in Phnom Penh until September, so it’d be great to see you if you come here! Good luck with your travels; sounds awesome.

    June 30, 2012

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