Jakarta First Impressions

We traveled to Indonesia with no expectations of what it would be like except for the Bali portion of the movie, Eat, Pray, Love and what we had heard from others. I knew of the Balinese Gamelan ensembles from my World Music Cultures class at BYU. That’s it. Here is what we have discovered so far:

– Indonesians are super nice, and tiny. Many of them that we have interacted with speak some English and are really friendly. Landon is an oddity here with his blondd hair, so we get lots of attention for that. It is not annoying, constant picture taking attention, but more just smiles and teenage girls giggling and cooing at him attention. And occasional hair touching, but nothing I can’t handle. Two teenage girls approached me yesterday and asked if they could take a picture with me. I bet they were under 5 feet. They were so tiny! Most of the men are smaller than me and then poor Austin is towering over everyone.

View out our window!

– Compared to India, Indonesia is fairly modern. We are staying in a nice part of town with luxury hotels, big office buildings, and new malls, but in general as have moved about town, there seems to be less poverty. Even the lean-tos and shacks that some live in seem to be made of better materials, and there are more cars on the road along with a ton of scooters. No auto rickshaws that we have seen so far.

– Indonesia is about 80% Muslim. That means that many of the women wear the head scarves and long sleeves and dresses or pants. Many of the women don’t wear head gear, though, so I have not felt too out of place except for being one of just a few white folks walking around.  We have not felt looked down upon or unsafe in our adventures so far. In my knee length shorts and short-sleeved shirts I am again the least dressed person on the street. There are many mosques and prayer rooms, and I love the haunting notes of the call to prayer.

– Food options abound: One of my big worries anywhere we go is my ability to find food to feed my family. We have not gone to an Indonesian food restaurant yet, but at our breakfast buffet they have some fried rice and noodle dishes that I think are Indonesian and are delicious. Just slightly spicy, with meat and vegetables- kind of like Thai food. In our wanderings, we have seen Dominoes, Pizza Hut, and many more A&Ws than I have seen the in the Chicagoland area. There are KFC restaurants and other fried chicken restaurants, because I guess everybody likes fried chicken. We ate yummy Chinese food last night at our hotel, and the night before had Outback Steakhouse at the brand new Lotte Mall. We also went shopping and found peanut butter, which makes feeding Landon and making sure he is getting protein a lot easier. We were very jet-lag tired when we went to the store the first time, so I’m looking forward to going to Lotte Mart (the same place we shopped when staying in Korea) and getting more food.

– It is hot, humid and pollution is a problem: Coming from the crisp, cold fall weather of Chicago to the middle of Spring going into Summer here is a little bit of a shock. I enjoy warm weather, though, so that isn’t as big of a deal for me. I guess it usually rains a bit more here and that helps to keep the pollution down. Unfortunately it hasn’t rained for a couple days so it is very hazy/smoggy outside.

– TRAFFIC!: We took a taxi to an attraction about 11 km away yesterday. We decided to let the taxi go and call for a new one when we wanted to come back because we thought we would be at this site most of the day. Well, the driver was not very happy that we didn’t want to pay him $8/hour to sit and do nothing, so he took his sweet time coming to get us and then took us for a ride down some crazy congested streets on the way back to the hotel. Traffic lights are installed, but are incredibly long so the same half hour ride to the place in the morning took 1.5 hours in the afternoon. Thankfully Landon was asleep for most of that time. It was bumper to bumper the whole way, with scooters whizzing in between the cars, buses coming within inches of our van and going through already narrow streets with one side of the road dug up. It made for some crazy sights! Also, they drive on the left side of the road here, so that always takes some getting used to.

I had no idea there were so many islands!

One thing I noticed as we were driving is that there were these elaborate hanging flower things made out of bamboo that signified where weddings were being held. We probably saw six or more of them on our way home, including one by our hotel for a couple that was getting married in the ballroom. Take home message: traffic is horrendous here and without a subway system, it most likely will get worse before it gets better.

– They take security seriously. A few years ago there was a terrorist attack at the Ritz-Carlton in Jakarta- across the street from our hotel. To get anywhere near the hotel now, first the vehicle is checked by a dog as well as several security officers. Once inside the entry, every bag is put through a machine and people go through the metal detectors. It is comforting to know that they want everyone to be safe in the hotel.

We like Jakarta, but we are super excited to actually go to our final destination- Cilacap (pronounced Chilachap), once Austin’s work permit is ready. It’s an hour flight on a single-engine prop plane- wish us luck and long life!

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