and now comes the serious stuff...
29.12.2011 - 02.01.2012 26 °C
So here I am sitting in my kos (better known as boarding house) room, surrounded in air-conditioned comfort with hot water, HBO (among other cable TV channels), and Internet at my bedside – that’s what $500 can buy you for six weeks in Jakarta. Oh, and did I mention that they do your laundry and clean your room as well?! Anyway I guess I better tear myself away from all these activities for a bit to tell you what I’ve been doing since I got to Jakarta…
Well first of all, with everything we’ve been doing, it’s worlds away from the summer holiday mode and post-New Years’ hangover that I can imagine people are struggling through in the heat at home. The morning after I got here the program started with orientation, which we all thought would be those lame ice-breaker games you play all during week one of semester (even in Masters!) but in fact it was a lecture that convinced us that we are pretty much all going to get dengue fever and see some sort of terrorist activity while we’re here (don’t worry Mum, I’m totally kidding!) But I guess they did have to go through all that safety stuff, and with the dengue, it is apparently really common here – even the First Lady has it at the moment! Obviously it’s not ideal to have it, but they said diseases like dengue and typhoid are really common here, almost like a flu, and they know how to treat them properly here, unlike at home where people panic just at the mention of the word (after all, apparently the rich here make Australia’s rich look like beggars, and money talks!) So pretty much the deal is here if you get sick, go to the hospital – it’s cheap (well you can get it back on travel insurance), clean, air-conditioned…pretty much like a kos, except they feed you too!
After a morning of inspiring lectures, we had to go find a kos, which we thought we’d have done in an hour so we could spend the rest of the afternoon by the pool. The university hosting us, Atma Jaya, had some students, known as LOs (liaison officers), volunteering to help us around uni and with finding a kos. They are so cute! It’s seems like it’s a massive honour for them to help us, and they were so patient as we traipsed around for hours, as it turns out that we were quite picky! Apparently Jakartans don’t really do walking – well the footpaths or lack thereof demonstrate that – so they must have been buggered as we were all stuffed! (Also the paper where I’m doing my internship, the Jakarta Post, ran an article today entitled “Walking should be made something we don’t just do on a Sunday”…haha) We were lucky to have them though, as they all speak close to impeccable English, where as the guy who owns/runs our kos mainly speaks English via hand gestures. He has a daughter though who goes to Monash at Clayton, so it’s lucky that she’s on holidays at the moment and in Jakarta. It seems as far as English speaking goes here, people either learnt it all the way through school and uni, and so are fluent and don’t need to study it any more, or they speak little to none. Unfortunately for us, the latter are people like taxi drivers and waiters, so I had a very unfortunate nasi goreng incident the other night, where I asked for fried rice with no meat, and it came out and all that was on it was meat! Even fish!
So being persistent on the first day of kos-hunting paid off, as it meant that we had all of New Years’ Eve off. After a rather leisurely start, we went to the old Dutch part of town, called Kota, which is a big square surrounded by old colonial style buildings, that let’s face it have seen better days, and in the middle there are people selling all kinds of things on picnic rugs or off the back of their bikes (even ribbons like rhythmic ribbons!) Jakarta isn’t really a tourist town, so we were practically the only white people there, and the number of teenagers that came up to us to take photos with us on their mobile phones or interview us for their English assignments was crazy! It was a really cool vibe there though, especially with the building atmosphere for New Year’s Eve.
Our last night of 2011 kicked off would you believe it, at the 7/11 next door to our hotel. That may make us sound like dropkicks, but believe it or not it’s the place to be seen – when we got there, there wasn’t a spare table…perhaps we should have called ahead to reserve one? Anyway, 7/11 here pretty much doubles as a family restaurant and a bar. It’s like how you can buy beers and Smirnoffs at convenience stores in Thailand, except here it’s ‘cool’ to drink them at their point of purchase. And it’s cheap. And they don’t ID you.
Like at many hotels, the tariff is way more expensive on New Years’ Eve, but to make it worthwhile they put on some kind of dinner for you. We stuck pretty local, because obviously on New Years’ Eve it’s hard to get a taxi anywhere in the world, let alone in Jakarta! Actually it’s probably not really that hard to find a taxi, but to get one that will be able to move somewhere is a different battle altogether. So we went to a little bar near the hotel, then when it got close to midnight, we went out on the street as we were staying near the Monas, the main monument in Jakarta, where all of the fireworks were meant to be. However, with a million people meant to be going there, we didn’t get very close. We just walked as close as we could and stood in the middle of the street amongst all of the motos carrying families of four, who had stopped in a gridlock to do exactly the same thing that we were. It was an awesome atmosphere, seeing all of these people (and a lot of them in headscarves) sitting on their motos taking photos of the fireworks on their phones, or in some cases letting the fireworks off themselves. When it was all over, we stood back to see just how they were all going to get out of there…and really props to them, they had it figured! Fifteen minutes after the fireworks had finished the traffic was moving relatively well and people had even gone back to work on some construction sites – talk about making the most of night shift pay on a public holiday!
The night continued on in a similar fashion as to how it was before the fireworks, and before we knew it, it was 2012. However, New Years’ Day meant moving day, not sitting around at home doing nothing, unless perhaps it’s lifting the paper to see if Ponting’s going to be played in the New Years’ Test. Needless to say, pretty buggered again! Although New Years’ Day was one of the girl’s birthdays, so we went out for dinner (where the abovementioned nasi goreng incident took place…)
Today was down to business. Day one of four-hour Indonesian language classes, which are set to continue daily for the next two weeks. Luckily for me the Indonesian’s choose not to include things like past tense and irregular verbs in their language, which makes life a bit easier. Also lucky for me, I am in the beginners’ class! However, if there was a pre-beginners’ class I feel like I would be more suited to that, seeing at the end of class today one guy came up to me and said “Gee, I’m so glad your in my class”, as in “because you don’t make me look so bad.” And I thought I was doing well! But really it’s not that bad. The teachers are lovely – very fast paced, but lovely – and they do a good job at giving us breaks with free food and coffee. I wonder if that will continue, or if that was just a first day sweetener… Then this afternoon’s lecture was on Indonesian politics (we have a different topic about Indonesia every afternoon apparently), which was given by an Indonesian political guru and was very interesting, although rather complex, especially for the second day of the year.
So yes. That is life here so far. But actually I must say, it’s amazing how safe you feel on the streets and stuff here. I know the idea of Indonesia spooks a lot of people out, especially with the whole Islamic side of things, but really everyone on the street just wants to say hello to you and that’s it. Wandering the streets on New Years’ Eve I’ve never felt safer really, as no one drinks and it really is just a big family celebration. So no stress.
Anyway, I must hit the hay seeing as prayers start at 5am! We looked to see if there was a mosque near this kos actually and couldn’t see one, so they just must be hidden everywhere. Or maybe that’s just why they pray so loudly, so they don’t have to go to the mosque but people can still hear that they’re praying…who knows…maybe I’ll find out in the religion lecture later this week. But with that backed up with another four hours of Indonesian, it’s definitely time for bed…I would try and be smart and try to say goodnight in Indonesian, but I’ve only had four hours so far…give me another week!