Sunday, December 22, 2013

I love Jakarta Traffic: One girl's psychotic idea of her hometown

Describe Jakarta in one word: Traffic

The capital city of Indonesia, Jakarta is the center for entertainment, politics and business. Home to 9.608 million people, the city is infamous for its congested streets and alarming level of air pollution. More than a blemish on the face of the largest archipelago on earth, Jakarta traffic does not seem to budge despite recent installations of public transportation, such as the Transjakarta Busway. Even so, the government continues to strive to decrease blockage by generating other policies, such as the three-in-one program in 2003 and newer modes of public transport, including an MRT line, which have yet to take shape.

Today, I shan't babble on about the negativity that continues to clout my hometown. Yes, the traffic is horrendous, especially with the rain. Yes, it has and will persistently cost us time, money and energy. Yes, our patience has nearly run out. But, to be absolutely honest, I (sort of), no, actually really, love Jakarta traffic.

Loving That

Alright, take a second, that must have been a lot to take in. Breathe. Look around if you are currently stuck in one of the many notorious street clog ups. Refrain from glancing at your watch and realizing that you are minutes away from the beginning of the meeting and still miles away from the restaurant.

Perhaps, I am high on chocolate or blood-poisoned by the insidious pollution. Maybe, this is all caused by a harrowing bias that grew in me as a born and bred Jakartan. It may also be part of being on holiday from college, you know the overcoming sentimental sensation of being at home, where you could suddenly tolerate all the tediously boring and maddening aspect of life. Nevertheless, my burning love for the traffic here endures.

How so? What magical beans did you eat? Are you mental?

Though, I will never be certain that I am free of mental problems, I know that traffic jams should not be a thing to love, especially since I am well-known to be constantly anxious and nervous. Ironically enough, I hate being late. Most of the time I am five to ten minutes early to appointments. Last semester I consistently came to a 9 AM class thirty minutes prior. You would think that having a pet peeve for tardiness would make me avoid traffic, but instead it has yet to deter my love.

Well, traffic jams, especially in Jakarta, allows time for me to think. The serenity of sitting in a moving vehicle, whilst observing the hectic and rather disquieting streets of Jakarta, provides numerous inspirations, which manifests into stories, essays, and this blog. Another key word is moving. Surprisingly enough, being in traffic still involves movement. Little by little the car transports me from one point to another. Traveling in Jakarta sans the jam may take up to twenty minutes. With traffic, I get approximately an hour of sleeping time. Of course this is all thanks to the driver of the vehicle. The other important part of sitting on a congested street is the room to attend to life's other demands, such as answering texts, emails and even reading. The jam also provides us with the opportunity to engage with others, particularly our traveling companions. I have had some of the funnest and deepest conversations in the car as we maneuver through traffic.
Jakarta skyline
My strange fondness for Jakarta traffic might have something to do with my time in the Big Apple. Living in New York, where telephone service is hard to find and my legs are constantly on the run, drains me out. I hardly have time to recharge, ruminate and communicate. Instead, I move as swift as possible before crashing. Moreover, I am required to be alert at all times. Watch the door, see who just entered the cart, check if your phone and belongings are still with you, carefully swipe your Metro Card, run to catch the train, agh! My experience in New York City has definitely strengthened my joy for the congested roads of Jakarta.

Each day Jakarta accommodates millions of people, including its own population as well as citizens from neighboring areas and provinces. As the center of Indonesian modernity, Jakarta should be more effective in the future. However, without sounding too optimistic, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Though many Jakartans abhor the traffic, do note that others appreciate it. I guess, each one of us are susceptible to our very own beliefs and responses. Mine is just another brick on the wall of thoughts, just like Jakarta is just another city on the map. And at the end of the day, we build this city of ours.

*Author owns rights to all photos above

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