Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.
The first day of my working week in my new job had been an easy one. The second day was easier still. The normal hours for adult language classes are between 1pm and 9pm, but I didn’t need to start until 2pm and I was timetabled to finish by around 7pm. However, restless sleep, a 4am call to prayer and noisy neighbours at 8am meant that I had another early, crude awakening. A swim would help, I thought.
After my dip in the pool, which lasted all of about thirty minutes, (ten of those minutes were spent puffing and panting as I sat and dried off in the morning sun) I had another couple of hours to kill. EF were no longer paying for my taxis so I decided this would be a good time to familiarise myself with the Transjakarta Busway system. With a good few hours before I was due to start at the school, I figured I had enough time to risk getting lost. The worse case scenario if I did get lost and found myself in some part of the city I wasn’t supposed to be in was that I could get a taxi to take me back.
I had printed off a Google map of the area where I was living and noticed that there was a busway stop just a few hundred metres from Centro City Aparthotel near a place called Indosiar (pronounced In-dos-i-ar). I had downloaded a Transjakarta Busway app and just about managed to work out that I could get to Central Park within a few stops with a single changeover at a place called Grogol Stasiun. It was still only a little after nine in the morning so I had almost five hours to don my shorts and a t-shirt, get to Mallville, have some breakfast, get back to my apartment and change into appropriate, formal, teaching clothes and still have time to go back to the school. But the best laid plans of mice and men get lost in the random irregularity and sticky heat of Jakarta.
Despite the Google map showing the Indosiar stop to be just a few hundred feet from my apartment, Jakarta decided otherwise. My sense of direction isn’t the greatest – it is, in fact, totally shit – but according to Google Maps I was definitely going in the right direction when I headed out to look for this nearby bus stop. The map definitely positioned it near the Ibis hotel on the other side of Jalan Daan Mogot, which placed it almost directly adjacent to Centro City.
After walking for half an hour in the searing heat, on treacherous paving, through thick exhaust fumes, I found myself on the other side of the highway overpass about five hundred yards away from where the bus stop should have been and there was still no sight of it. I was hot and bothered and I grumbled and growled under my breath as I cursed the damned city. Then I caught sight of some buses on the other side of the highway parked up in what looked like a coach service station. I knew the Bahasa for ‘I want’ (saya mau), so I crossed over and walked up to a group of men at one of the pumps and said in my worst Indonesian; “Saya mau Indosiar bus stop.” They all laughed at me.
I don’t really know what the guys at the bus filling station said, but using the best of non-verbal communication, and the KFC, Ibis hotel and Centro City Apartments as landmarks, I realised that the they were telling me that I was going in the wrong direction and that I had to walk all the way back. So cursing and grumbling and stopping every few minutes to say to someone “Saya mau Indosiar”, after another half an hour of sweating my back out in the searing heat, walking across treacherous paving, through thick traffic and exhaust fumes, I found myself back where I had started. So for the last time I repeated my request – “Saya mau Indosiar” – to one of the random locals on the street and they pointed me in the totally opposite direction to where the stop was located on the Google map. ‘What the fuck is wrong with this city?!’ I thought. Or was it just me?
It was now about half past ten and I was hot, sweaty, pissed off and hungry. I couldn’t decide whether to risk getting on the bus and getting lost and being on the wrong side of town and having to get a taxi back into the school whilst inappropriately dressed, or whether to head back to the apartment to get changed – wasting another half an hour whilst getting hungrier and hotter and more bothered. I still had a good three hours, but I didn’t know how long the bus would take, so I decided I should go back to my apartment, get a cold shower and cool off, then start again. I wouldn’t get to the mall for another hour, but then I could have some form of breakfast and kill whatever remaining time I had left using the internet in the school.
The sunny morning had been pretty much wasted searching for a bus stop. However, on the plus side, I now knew how to get to the school using the Transjakarta Busway. It turned out to be pretty straightforward and only took around thirty or forty minutes to get from apartment to classroom. That had been the hardest part of the day, the rest turned out to be mercifully easy going. The final part of our induction was simply familiarising ourselves with the office IT, sorting out logins and passwords for email and intranet, and getting the material prepared for our first weeks’ lessons. Aside from that, we were pretty much given a free day. The best news for me however, was finding out that I’d been gifted a long weekend.
Because my allocated days off were Monday and Tuesday and I had worked those days in the first induction week, Debbi let me have the Sunday off at the end of the week to balance up the rota. This meant that I had three whole days. Three whole days was enough to get out of Jakarta and go somewhere in Indonesia that wasn’t shrouded in smog and polluted by traffic. This was an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss, but I didn’t have much time to plan. Plus, there was still the issue of sorting out my apartment.
It had been well over a week and Suki still hadn’t followed up any of her apartment leads, which was starting to piss me off, and I think she knew it. I understood that she was working a lot of hours, but I was also aware that she was living in rather lavish, expat comfort over in Kemang and perhaps wasn’t quite as motivated as I was to get things moving. Also, because she was working between the Surdiman school in central Jakarta and the Taman Anggrek school in the west of the city whilst living down in the south of the city, I didn’t have too many opportunities to liaise with her to get things sorted out. Although I had told her about Belgian Jeff’s place, she wanted to take a look for herself. So as our second day had finished early, I arranged for us to go over to see the apartment that evening.
Jeff himself wasn’t available to do the viewing, but his Indonesian wife Evi was. Whilst Evi was showing Suki around the apartment I got something to eat in one of the cheap restaurants in the ground level units of Mediterinia 1. About twenty minutes later Suki returned and she seemed relatively happy with what she had seen of the Belgian’s apartment. She had even managed to negotiate a settlement of 8,500,000 IDR per month for the rent with Evi, internet and bills included. This represented an improvement on the 9,000,000 that her husband had initially proposed. The monthly service charge was 400,000 and the deposit would be 5,000,000. We also had a few days to confirm, so my mind was now a lot more settled.
Later that evening Belgian Jeff called me to find out if I had made a decision about his apartment. I told him I would let him know by the weekend deadline Evi had given us. He then invited me over for a game of tennis later that evening. ‘Why not’ I thought. If Mediterania Gardens was going to be my home for a couple of months then I guess I should sample some of the onsite amenities.