Jakarta Bound is a travelogue about life in one of the largest and most densely populated cities in South East Asia.
As had become my new routine, I started the day with a swim, which was proving to be an invigorating morning tonic. I was now up to twenty unbroken lengths (ten breaststroke followed by another ten of front crawl). As I was drying off, I was approached by a round, little African man with bulging, sleepy eyes and a happy face. He started speaking to me in some foreign language I didn’t recognise or understand; “What?” I replied.
“You are from Morocco?” he then asked in English.
“No” I said, “I’m from Manchester. England.”
“Ooooh – I t’ought you were my friend from Morocco”, he said. He then introduced himself and his colleague; “My name is Duda, this is my friend Ali.” Ali was a slimmer, but equally short man. He smiled at me warmly as he offered his hand.
“Where are you from?” I asked them.
“We’re from Tanzania. What are you doing in Indonesia?” he asked me. I told him I was an English teacher and asked him what he was doing here.
“Business” he said, “Jakarta a very good place for business.” He then smiled, wished me a good day and he and his colleague walked to the sheltered area of the uncompleted bar that was at the other end of the pool. There seemed to be quite a few African’s who were staying at the Grand Prix Inn, but I had never spoken to any of them until now. I wondered if they were all here on business. Surely they couldn’t have been at the Centro City for a holiday!
My morning swims were helping me face the day with enthusiasm. It would have been nice to use the Centro City gym on occasion, but it was apparently closed due to a leak in the roof. It had been closed all the time I had been there so God knows how long it had been closed before I came, or when they planned on getting it opened again. I suppose just saying you have a gym on the website and promotional flyer is good enough. The pool bar also looked as if it had been incomplete for a very long time, and there were dozens of cracked and broken tiles around the pool that hadn’t been replaced, or even filled, just waiting to slice open a naked toe. Centro City really was a shit place to stay and didn’t do much to enamour me with Jakarta. However, once I got my own place, I was sure that I would be a lot more comfortable and feel a lot more optimistic about living here.
I arrived at the Mediterania complex at around midday with no plan of action other than optimism. I knew there were plenty of estate agents in the office units on the ground levels of both buildings, so I spent the entire afternoon asking around for available accommodation. However, by the time the working day had approached its end my moving options looked no better than they had in the morning and my optimism had faded.
I had spent the whole day doing a lot of waiting around in air conditioned offices and answering a lot of questions about where I was from, what I was doing in Jakarta, how long I was staying, how much money I wanted to spend and what kind of apartment I was looking for – “Manchester, England… Teaching English… At least six months… No more than five million for a one bedroom apartment and I want to pay monthly…” Unfortunately, to this final answer the response was always the same – “Sorry mister, we only have twelve month contract.”
My first day of apartment hunting had been hot, frustrating and ultimately fruitless, but tomorrow was another day and I was determined to remain positive.