Friday, January 10, 2014

7 Things I Miss About Jakarta

Nostalgia: a side-effect of a time well-spent

In just one semester, I will graduate from Sarah Lawrence. Despite being abnormally excited at the prospect of plunging into the world, head-first, I struggle to wrap my head around the idea of being a twentysomething, an individual who is expected to be responsible for herself, to be a so-called "adult". Living in the U.S. for the past few years have not been the easiest task in the world. I reckon that my life has seen most turbulence during college, than the seventeen years prior to it. Looking back, it's a miracle that a sixteen year old could make such a big leap from her comfortable life in Jakarta to the "mean streets" of New York City.

The next six months will be full of nostalgia and memory. Perhaps, one of the most compelling results of studying in the States is my newfound appreciation and love for my hometown, Jakarta. So here goes...
A View of Jakarta
I. The Wildcard: The pungent smell of the Jakarta plumbing system. In the past, I'd rarely go to the bathroom immediately after passing immigration. Instead, I would go directly to the luggage claim area and leave, neglecting the need to take everything in: the people, the language and the humidity. However, after entering college, whenever I returned home, I would take a moment to visit the loo. The smell of water scattered all over the bathroom floor, the open nature of the squatting toilet, and the dripping faucet act as introductions to the pungent smell of the sewer system that would welcome me outside. Even though, research shows that the smell is closely related to memory, who would have known that I would associate my time in Jakarta with the smell of dampness, the plumbing system and ickiness.

II. Been There, Done That: The traffic. As noted in a previous article, I bask in Jakarta traffic. The honking, lights and the mere sight of a congested road often act as catalysts for brilliant ideas. Yes, Jakarta traffic is infamous for its ability to make Jakarta the Most Twitter City and to increase most people's heart rates. However, it is also the one thing that allows city dwellers, especially those who have the privilege to travel by car, to relax and take a moment to breathe. Moreover, it leads to the next point on my list.

III. The high tolerance level. Jakarta, perhaps, the birthplace of Jam Karet, a term that describes one's chronic tardiness. Jam translates to watch or time, while Karet means rubber. Together, they mean flexible, fluid time that somehow allows us to disregard basic tenants of respect, such as coming to a meeting on time or you know, not standing up a blind date for two hours. Despite having a superfluous hatred for Jam Karet, I have learned to appreciate the surprising tolerance level that surrounds it and even reinforces it. Somehow, the high tolerance level that exists at home effectively helps me avoid constant stress from being on top of my sh*t. It provides a much-needed, illusionary sanctuary where I can take a breathe and slow down.

IV. Admittedly: The freedom. One of the most blameworthy aspect of Jakarta and Indonesia is the system. "Allegedly," fueled by corruption, the government is well-known for multiple loopholes. For instance, I've heard, if you get pulled over by a cop, hide some cash in the palm of your hand and discretely hand it over. Magically, you'll be back on the road in a few minutes. Though, I am not much of a felon, I often find myself appreciating this broken down system. For once, I can casually saunter in to make an ID. For once, I can allow myself room to make tiny mistakes. For once, I am not scared sh*tless of the authority. Though, most of my "adoration" for the Jakarta system comes for personal anxiety, it has definitely given me the opportunity to shake off my demons and take life more casually.

The Chaos That Is Jakarta
V. Obviously: The "Support System". Though, this may come as a surprise to most foreigners, Indonesian households are maintained and built on a support system. A group of individuals with varying specialties are generally employed to make life that much easier. A minimum amount of staff, I believe, has definitely taken the load off of my shoulders. As a student in New York, I am left to my own devices. I regularly spend ten hours in a week to prepare my meals, go grocery shopping, clean the house, do the dishes, do the laundry, and so on. Yes, at the very least, I am thankful that I have a house to clean, clothes to wash and meals to eat, but sometimes it hinders me from doing other things in life, be it continue writing a book, hanging out with friends, or finishing next week's readings. The support system that most Indonesians have allow us to branch out, do other things, and also, in some way or form, benefit the larger society by providing employment.

VI. #IsItEvenWorthMentioning: Family and Friends. Before leaving for the States, I knew how much I love my parents and how much fun my friends were. I also believed that I could live without both of them for long periods of time. After a meltdown on the first week of school, it was cemented that I needed my mommy and daddy more so than I thought. After two and a half years of school, a.k.a. this January, I realized how much I missed my friends, the ones that valued our friendship enough to show their vulnerability and accept mine. At seventeen, I thought that I only needed me, myself and I, and perhaps, a bit of cash and determination, but as I stepped into my twenties, I realized the amount of energy and support that we require and absorb from our loved ones. So, yes, past Robyn, who wrote that title, yes, it is damn worth mentioning.

VII. Unexpectedly: All things Jakarta. Jakarta is a metropolitan iced by smog. The heat and humidity may get to you but there is nothing like sitting in a car in the middle of one of Jakarta's roads. The view of the skyscrapers that I know all too well or the sight of cars that do not exist in the U.S., conjures irreplaceable memories. The constant sun never fails to lift up my mood, while the humor never fails to make me laugh harder than I have in the past few months. Jakarta, a concrete jungle that likens New York City, is home. And, despite prior belief that my home could be a mobile entity, I have learned, a bit too recklessly, that it is set in a suburb of Jakarta that is rapidly growing just like the neighborhood kids that biked through the streets a mere twenty years ago.

Warning: The use of some explicit terms

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