Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Start in Jakart(a)

Also known as: The disposal and subsequent resurrection of my Lonely Planet guidebook

Well first of all, my hairdryer in this new hotel sounds like a weedwacker. Every morning I try to use it, and I’m constantly afraid it’s going to start chopping away at my hair. And it took me an awfully long time to grow out my bangs. So if you see pictures of me with wet hair, don’t think it’s a lack of hair drying technology. Weedwackerish technology is more like it.

Here is my basic schedule:
1 week in Jakarta for information sessions and orientation
3 weeks in Bandung for language and teaching classes
8 monthsssss in Palembang actually teaching

I’m in the Bandung part right now, but I want you tell you all about Jakarta.

I am painfully ignorant of Bahasa Indonesia. Luckily, that’s ok, because I’ll be taking three hours of courses every day to learn it. Bahasa, as it turns out, means “language.” So they speak “the language of the Indonesians.” In the US, we speak Bahasa Inggris or “the language of the English.”

The words, the few that I know, are very fun. For example, taxi is “taksi.” Mexico is “Meksiko.” I like to pretend it’s some sort of fun kids’ language where everything is spelled phonetically. I should be kaytee from the yew-ess-ay. (I know, you’re saying “Kaytee, they just don’t use X’s like we do. Well, it’s more than that.) But those are just a few of the fun words. The rest? I have absolutely no idea. Naci goreng is fried rice; I’ve got that one down.

A lot of people have Kindles or electronic book readers. I guess I’ve always sort of snubbed my nose at those. You know, you can’t smell a Kindle. You can’t stick a photograph of your cat between the pages of a Kindle or see little old chocolate smears on the pages of your Kindle. As it turns out, however, a Kindle doesn’t take up a third of your luggage and cost you lots of rupiah in airport security, either. I might have been wrong about this one.

The flight into Jakarta was so bumpy. I have flown in a lot of planes, and I’ve never been this nervous. I guess the sky was pretty cloudy, too, and that didn’t help. We flew Garuda, the government airline, which is supposed to be the best one. It did feel really appropriate to sort of mini-crash to the ground. BAM! HERE GOES NINE MONTHS! A smooth landing wouldn’t have had the same effect.

The scenery reminds me a lot of what I saw in Mexico. (Meksiko!) Trash everywhere, horrible road conditions, houses so unbelievably close together you wonder how people have room to breathe. But that makes me wonder if the remote parts of Mexico really looked like Mexicoooo as much as they looked like any poor, undeveloped area would.

Here are a few of the things we did in Jakarta:

Two dirty, crazy, flea-market style malls
(The prices were low, but so was the quality of what the vendors were selling.
I didn’t buy anything, but I did find a shoe store that changed over some of my American money.)

One really nice, really expensive mall
(This one was downtown and nicer than any mall I’ve seen in the US.
I’d say brand name prices were comparable, if not more expensive.)

The Museum Seni Rupa dan Keramik
(Ceramics Museum with a few paintings, too.
This was sort of disappointing, but it only cost 10 cents, so I shouldn’t complain.)

A seafood restaurant whose name I should have remembered
(I think 7/8 of us ordered naci goreng after smelling the kitchen.
I tried an Indonesian beer here, though! It was surprisingly good—definitely a light flavor. Expensive, though; it was about $1.70 for one can. On a side note, there were small cats all over the balcony of this restaurant where we were sitting. I think the waiter confused my delight for disgust and just starting kicking them off the roof when he saw them. It was terrible!)

An attempt at Blowfish
(This restaurant was reviewed really well in my Lonely Planet Indonesia, my 924-page guidebook that makes my shoulder hurt everywhere we go as it weighs down my purse.
After spending about 40 minutes in a taxi, we finally got there. The taxi left, and the guard told us it had closed a year ago. Well, crap. Luckily, there was another nice French-style restaurant around the corner. And it happened to be right next to the Marriott/Ritz, where the bombings were earlier this summer. I would never have sought those hotels out on my own, but I’m glad we saw them. )

And the highlight of Jakarta for me:
Dunia Fantasi: The Indonesian Amusement Park
(This was truly the coolest thing I’ve done so far, and it’s how my Lonely Planet book made its way back into my heart.
I’m shocked that the Disney Company hasn’t shut this place down. You walk down a main street before stopping at the princess’s castle. They have a ride with little dolls from around the world that sing “It’s a Small World.” There are spinning ‘Native American’ teacups and flying elephants. Whatever— it’s exactly what I needed.

We didn’t get on the rides that went upside down, but we were able to walk right on to nearly everything else. The scrambler-style ride in particular was an interesting experience. You know how there’s usually someone in a booth with a microphone off to the side of every ride? Well this guy sure had a personality, and he either hates or loves Americans, I’m not sure which. He made the ride go faster than any I’ve ever been on like that. And he would shriek into the microphone with this maniacal laugh every time he sped it up. Like “HAAAAAAAAAAAA HAHAHAHA HAHHHAAAAA HAAAAAA YEAAHHHHHH!” This all as you spin around and around and your Lonely Planet guidebook starts to put a hole in your rib. Then he slowed the ride down and stopped it, before suddenly pushing it to full speed again with a rousing encore of “HAAAAAAAAAAAA HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA YEAHHHHH HAHAHAHAAAA!”

The other rides were awesome: We went on an Mars boat-style ride where you got a laser gun and had to shoot the aliens before they attacked. They had a 3D simulator ride where you felt like a log going through processing in the Arctic or something. They had a “tilt house,” where you walk through a perfectly normal house, except it’s all shifted about 30 degrees and reallllyyyy makes you dizzy.

Abby Tohline from Ball State put it perfectly, and I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting her: “The thing I love about cheap Asian amusement parks is that you always have the vague feeling that you're about to die.”)


  1. Loved the comments about the Asian amusement park--but, nothing like good ol Cedar Point. Now that you are in Bandung what is on the agenda, other than language and teaching classes? I assume that you will be getting a crash course on how to be a teacher.....Good luck with all of that. Dad

  2. That vague, dying feeling follows me everywhere across Indonesia : )

  3. Your descriptions are amazing!!! And that water/restaurant owner needs to be kicked off the ledge. Poor kittehs!!!:-(