When people arrive here and see the chaos they look at me like I must be mad to have lived here for so long and be raising my family here. Often I agree with them. What is this city anyway?
When I came here over 12 years ago, never once did I imagine that this was a long term thing. Never did I imagine that my sister would join me, that I would meet my husband or that I would have 2 kids who would call this city their home. Never did I imagine that I would become one of those families who puts their whole family (baby included) on a motorbike.
Since I arrived, so many people have come and gone from my life; all of them not from here. A few are sad to leave, but the majority are itching to get out after having felt constrained by the traffic, the pollution, the rivers that smell like sewage, the lack of parks, the corruption, the frustration of everyday life, the poverty and the feeling of total congestion. I get that, and sometimes I feel it to the depths of my bones. The endless waiting, the non stop hot sweaty weather. Sometimes it is enough to make you mad.
That is not all that Jakarta is. I have to acknowledge that part of my love of Jakarta comes from my white privilege; people like seeing “bules” (white people) on the street so will call out to you and smile at you, I have enough money to stay in a house in a small complex where my children can play and I can employ someone to clean my house and cook my food. Yes, that is a total luxury, and it is a fabulous way to be a working mother.
There is something else here. What is it?
Is it the way that everyone looks after each other? The feeling of community? That people have endless patience for my children and make it their aim to make them laugh?
Is it the endless choices of food that can be delivered to my doorstep? Is it the people that wheel their wares outside my house? The moving markets? Street food?
Is it the feeling of the unexpected which wakes me up from my stupor every day?
Is it the feeling of appreciation I feel when my mother-in-law sends over her delicious cooking for no good reason except she wanted to share?
Is it the near death experiences on motorbikes that makes me appreciate just surviving in hell each day?
I don’t know. But in this #newnormal, I want to take the time to explore these things. To try some new things and to look at Jakarta with fresh eyes.
What are your favourite things about Jakarta?