Thursday, January 16, 2014

Jakarta, My Crazy City: 5 things that make Jakarta it's cray ol' self

Jakarta is a crazy city. People may think New York is crazy, but wait till they step foot in the capital city of Indonesia. Perhaps, I should begin with an obvious precaution that Indonesia, in itself, is cray. Another precaution would be despite having very unusual facilities, lifestyles, and people, Jakarta is home. Of course, one could debate that a weirdo like yours truly would love a weird city like Jakarta, but hey, at the end of the day, I'm just happy to be home. So, here we go, five weird things you can find in Jakarta.

Jakarta is not entirely made of banana trees and jungles
I. An obsession with statues, especially indecent ones. As a child, when stuck in traffic, I'd look at the tugus, another word for statues, and observe its details. For instance, Patung Pemuda Membangun, which is located in Senayan, is of a man holding up a beacon of fire. Built to inspire the young generation to move forward and build the country. Another is Patung Dirgantara at Pancoran, which was created to symbolize Indonesians ability and will to explore the skies. To conservatives, both statues may not be the most descent public display, however they symbolize what is Indonesia. Living in Jakarta, with these statues around me, I grew more intrigued by its meaning and its importance in history. Jakarta, essentially, is one of the most important geographical centers of Indonesia. It is also home to many historical moments and reminders.

II. Jakarta Traffic. Jakarta traffic is a sight to behold. Many foreigners leave the city shuddering at the constantly congested streets. Well, maybe I'm exaggerating. The streets of Jakarta are not always jammed, but there are times that it has taken me two hours to travel for 21.0 km. Yes, the traffic can be bad and disgusting, but for me, a lover of the jam and an outlier, constant congestion provides time to think, observe and really take everything in. It allows you to take a break from constantly moving in this modern society. Furthermore, it transforms cars to restaurants and beds. The things that I have seen as a result of Jakarta traffic is amazing, be it a car with reclining seats, the TransJakarta, or VIP guests going to the event with an ojek (a person who brings people around on his/her motorcycle).

III. Jakartan's reaction to banjir or flooding. In a recent post, I spoke about the miracle that is Jakartans' reaction to flooding. For the past few years, Jakarta has been experiencing annual flooding, sometimes occurring more than once a year. The flooding in Jakarta, though frequent and devastating, rarely hinders Jakartans from getting on with their day. Moreover, it doesn't stop us from remaining cheerful despite the constant rain and the pool that has emerged in front of our houses. For some reason, more Jakartans tend to smile at the flood, rather than complain about it. Maybe we're all freaks of nature, but I think it's more of a case of surrendering. What's done is done. Of course, this might be counterintuitive for those who struggle to make some sort of social change. However, it might be a lot more effective for us to fret prior and after the incident, rather than during the disaster itself. At the end of the day, though, I am always amazed by the reaction that many Jakartans share about our annual flood.

IV. Squatting toilets. Believe it or not, I am a lover of squatting toilets. Up till sixth grade, I'd even stand on public sitting loos to pee. Despite being potty trained with sitting toilets, I have developed a distrusting relationship with public toilets. Somehow, by some weird rationalization, I believe that squatting toilets are much more hygienic than sitting toilets as the surface area that touches the toilets is minimized completely. Whether or not I love squatting toilets is not the core of this section. Jakarta is a lovely city because it still accommodates these "primitive" inventions. In the airport, the first thing I often do is head to the lady's room to find a squatting toilet that would somehow make me feel at home. Despite adopting Western ideologies, Jakartans continue to provide squatting toilets to squatters and those who can't squat, like yours truly.

V. Fancy-ass Malls. In contrast to the wonders that are squatting toilets, Jakarta is home to some of fanciest malls I have ever seen. Yes, this might be a reflection of the lack of exposure I've had or a lack of good taste, but Jakarta malls certainly trump the ones I've seen in New York and London. We don't have just one Saks or Harrods, we have several, each equipped with its own section for clothing, eating and reading. Why do we need such fancy malls? Perhaps, it's because we virtually live in them. It might be a vicious cycle, whereby due to increased activities in malls, there is an increase number of malls. As the malls become better and better, more people flock to it. However, who really cares about this chicken and egg situation? The bottom line is, Jakarta malls are the bomb.

*Author owns the right to use the photo above

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