The author, smiling winningly Scott Raymond home

Live from Jakarta...

24 Oct 2003

…on the slowest connection ever. Truly painful. I ended up buying a new camera before I left Singpore, which I’m very happy about. So, I’ll have more pictures to upload, but I may not be able to from here, given the sad state of the connections I’ve found.

The first line of my guide book reads “Jakarta is not a city which renders its charms openly.” And I’ve more or less found that to be the case, depending on what you consider charms to be. The first person I talked to was a taxi driver who tried to convince me that the best rate into the city was 300,000 rupiahs, when the metered rate ended up being 45,000. Nothing a little comparison shopping didn’t solve, but still. When I got to the cheap-hostel part of town, and walked down the street looking for place, a girl called out to me “hey mister, where you from?”. I answered, the US. “Oh, America!,” she exclaimed, then frowned, “I hate America.” I wasn’t wasn’t quite prepared for that. “Um, well,” I said, “America loves you.” and kept walking.

My guide book also advised that no one, locals or foreigners, goes anywhere in Jakarta on foot, because of the intense heat, pollution, and frighteningly hard-to-cross streets. So of course I’ve been walking all day, because it seems to me that’s the best way for a city’s ‘charms’ to be ‘rendered’. So I went to the top of the national monument, explored the largest mosque in southeast asia, and saw some babies being baptized in the cathedral. In between those places, I walked a hell of a lot, saw hoards of homeless people sleeping in alleys, completely sweat through everything I’m wearing, sat and watched some sort of political protest, saw a woman get thrown from the sidewalk into the street by a motorcycle, and watched some kids play soccer.

I’m also slowly learning that not everyone who strikes up a conversation as you’re walking past is trying to swindle you. Many of them are. But many, interestingly enough, seem to have no motive other than being friendly and curious and wanting to practice English. Still, it takes force of will for me not to completely mistrust everyone by default, like I would at home. ;-)

Also, just to be on the safe side, I’m now telling everyone I’m Canadian.