I have been living in Jakarta for exactly 10 years this year, so as my ode to this endearingly dodgy city, I have written a guide (in alphabetical order, of course) of what Jakarta means to me. As the whole article is super-long and will probably wear out your enthusiasm after the letter K, I will divide it into 4 parts. This is part one: A to F.
It might be the fact that I’m a 23-year-old female living in a city where there is a double standard for women. It might be the fact that the sweltering heat and the noisy streets and the focus-stealing cracked pavements constantly make my day just a wee bit harder. It might be the fact that I receive a side of annoying harassment on a daily basis with my breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whatever triggered it, it’s there. The evil spawn of a bustling metropolitan city called angst.
That orange, three-wheeled contraption with the agility of a mountain lion and the roar of a sexually frustrated gorilla. The driver is no doubt also a possessor of catlike reflexes himself to be able to maneuver such a nimble vehicle through the clogged streets of Jakarta without incident.
I used to depend on bajajs as my main means of transport, they’re so abundant and efficient, but now they’ve gotten more and more expensive, I might as well pay for a taxi ride. Bajajs are still fun though, if you can zone out all the surrounding noise, stench and smog, who knows, you might score a sexual experience from it.
A few years ago, when I still hated this city with a conscious vengeance, I had a habit of asking random people to tell me at least one good thing about Jakarta in their opinion to help me slowly stitch up the fissures that the hatred had carved in my heart (mkay, dramatic much?). So off I went on my search for some comforting insight and the most recurring sentence to end the answers I received was: “…but still, at least the food’s good.” And there was my deliverance.
The food in Jakarta is amazing. Cheap, non-stop service, rich in variety and taste with the right amount of dodgy-unsanitary-spices to give that little bit of ‘zing’ on your tongue. It was like a seraphic revelation for me to discover Jakarta’s hidden culinary treasures. I’ve gained 10 kilos since I’ve been here and I’m proud.
DVD’s for under a dollar
Whether it’s the American or Canadian or Australian or Singaporean or Hong Kong dollar, you can still get a DVD for it in Jakarta. The highest I ever paid for a DVD was 8000 rupiahs. When I just had bought The Sex and the City Box Set, seasons 1 through 6, and told my friends abroad about it, I’d feel so giddy. The envy they would give me. Little did they know I paid less for that DVD collection than what they got for a daily salary on minimum wage there. Bwahaha.
It’s nice to live in a developing country where simple technology and art are a luxury meant to be pirated.
You’re thinking, “WTF?” right? Okay well check this out. The article behind the link is about a Padang restaurant that was discovered to have fake boiled eggs in their gulai. The factory-manufactured eggs were made in China, where else? (China, I bow down to your mastery of faking expensive goods to sell them at a more reasonable price so that fresh graduates still mooching off their parents’ money like me can survive the fast advancements of globalization.)
I hope I’ve never consumed anything fake before while eating in Jakarta. But hey, I’m still alive now, so I don’t regret the culinary conquests I’ve subdued while here. You’re not a grown-up until you’ve had a taste of a fake boiled egg.
Right, so Indonesia is an Islamic country still on the border of democracy and on the fence about the right to free speech, I understand the taboo of sex as a subject here. But on a personal level, as others would agree, it bites being a non-conservative woman with a moderately liberal point of view in Jakarta.
I’ve gone through my share of being called a “wanton, free-spirited chick” because of my opinionated stance on freedom of sexuality. Whether it be education, medication, or plain old fornication, I think a person should embrace it as part of their lives and accept the fact that life without lust belongs in the heavens, not here. I’m not encouraging a life of unchaste debauchery or anything, sex in moderation is healthy, n’est-ce pas?
For me, being open-minded about sex in Jakarta feels like the witch-hunts of Salem, but set in an urban landscape. Similar to how Baz Luhrmann would do it if it were a movie.