19: School Night

Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.

Loewy sign

After Suki had told me she had changed her mind about us sharing an apartment, I contacted Belgian Jeff and explained that I wouldn’t be able to afford his place on my own. He quickly put forward the idea of Simon and I renting his place together. I told him that this might be an option and I would get in touch with Simon to speak with him about it. I got the impression that Jeff was as desperate to rent his apartment as I was to find one, so I told him that I was also considering other apartments that I had seen that were a lot cheaper. He then started to ramble on about how his apartment was much bigger than the others I had seen – although he hadn’t seen them himself – and how his place was fully equipped – internet, cable TV, washer/dryer and luxury massage chair. He even suggested that he could rent out the little room that was adjoined to one of the bedrooms in the apartment. He said this would make the price even more affordable. But I made it clear to him that this wasn’t an option for me. Why he thought anyone would want to have a stranger living in a room annexed to their bedroom, I don’t know. The idea of someone walking through your bedroom to get to their bedroom every night was ridiculous. However, such a ridiculous suggestion was not so surprising coming from the offbeat Belgian. So I told him I would discuss sharing with Simon and hopefully I could give him a decision one way or the other very soon.

Whilst the apartment hunting wasn’t going too well, I was enjoying my new teaching job. I was already developing a good rapport with the students and the Indonesian staff in the school, who treated teachers with the kind of professional respect that is typically reserved for our medical and legal peers. Most of the English teachers working in Indonesia are American or Australian, so as the only English English teacher at the school I was somewhat of an exclusive novelty. This was strange for me as a Northerner. I would never have thought that my Mancunian dialect would ever be taken as a pure form of renounced pronunciation.

The EF system of a continuous timetable of short 50-minute Powerpoint lessons that moved along with pace and variety meant that the day passed quickly. However, when I finished work at nine I couldn’t wait to get out. My work environment wasn’t generating any kind of social engagement so I was looking forward to meeting Simon and seeing some more of Jakarta’s social scene for myself. When you’re away from home it’s important to make new friends quickly or it can become very lonely.

Simon had sent me a text message earlier with the address and directions to Loewy’s to give to the taxi driver. I’d told Suki where I was going and she knew the place. She told me I could get the busway most of the way there, which would probably save me some time and some money. The evening hours between seven and ten were one of the many peak traffic periods in Jakarta and I’d found taxis take about half an hour just to leave the Taman Anggrek area. I was a little short on cash after paying for my weekend break and I already knew that drinking in Jakarta wasn’t cheap. Also, Simon had been at a networking event since around six, so I didn’t want to have him waiting on me for too long. Not knowing how much I would spend throughout the course of the night or how long it would take me to get to Loewy’s, saving time and money by getting the busway seemed like a good idea.

I grabbed something to eat at the mall and returned to the Grand Prix Inn to have a shower and get changed. I had barely got out of the shower and had a couple of hits of Jim Beam by the time I got another text message from Simon asking how long I would be. Jakarta’s tropical time vacuum had managed to swallow up a couple of hours and it was already after eleven. So I hurriedly got dressed, downed a final glass of Jim Beam – straight – sprayed on some Hugo Boss before heading out to the busway, which I now knew was a short five minute walk from my apartment.

I took the busway to Grogol, changed for Central Park where I took route 9 toward Pluit as far as Semanggi. I got off the bus and walked along the long overpass to the main highway where I found an Express taxi waiting. I got in the car and used my pre-set dialogue from Google translate to give the driver directions to Oakwood, the development complex in Mega Kuningan where Loewy’s is. I managed to arrived just before midnight.

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