Thursday, March 13, 2014

Jakarta Diaries

When Reid first told me he was being sent to Jakarta, Indonesia for his first Foreign Service post I had no idea where that was. Literally none. Next to to math, science, organizational skills, time management, and self control around sugar and French fries, geography is my weakest subject.

So, of course, it makes perfect sense that I would end up in an environment where one of the common ice breakers when I meet people right after "what is your name" is to ask where in the world they are just returning from or preparing to go next.

I think I've got masking my blank stare into a knowing smile, nodding and saying something like,"Ah...yes Mauritius," down to a science. Sometimes I even add a delighted chuckle as if I'm reminiscing about a boat/scooter/camel ride across a lake/road/desert on my last trip to Mauritius. Then I politely excuse myself, run to the restroom and in the privacy of my bathroom stall frantically google "Mauritius."

It was armed with this geographical ignorance combined with never having traveled overseas, or even having a passport before, that I headed to Indonesia to join Reid.
(Love makes us do crazy, crazy things.)

The following is the first post in my series "Jakarta Diaries." These are writings from my experiences while living in "The Big Durian."  (I figure if you wanted purely facts you would be googling "Jakarta" from the privacy of a bathroom stall instead of reading my blog.)

Jakarta Diaries:

After 19 plus hours we arrived in Jakarta!
Although I was completely exhausted when we arrived it was impossible not to feel excited and have my head on a swivel as we drove from the airport to our house.

Jakarta seems like a place full of contrasts.
There are beautiful trees, tropical flowers, and lush green foliage under a polluted smog filled sky.
The landscape can go from rice paddies surrounded by tiny shacks built from mismatched scraps of painted corrugated metal sheets to a tall modern skyscraper in less than 20 feet.
As we drove through downtown Jakarta I saw barefoot vendors pulling dilapidated wooden street carts in front of high end shopping malls with stores like Cartier and Louis Vuitton.

Even the people here seem to be a contrast. Although most live in what we in the United States would consider extreme poverty, they are an extremely friendly, warm, and happy culture. Everyone smiles and seems genuinely good natured.

Woman are addressed as Ibu or Bu (pronounced Boo) and men are called Pak (pronounced Pock). Everywhere we I go I hear "Halo Bu!"

Reid told me his local staff at the embassy are almost all women (Bu's) and there were only two men on his staff. Only two Pak's. Get it?! Tupac?! 2Pac!!
Maybe it's funnier when you're ready to collapse from jet lag.

First Indonesian meal!


  1. One of the greatest benefits of traveling around the world is to see that no matter where we go, people are still just people.

    Whatever things we love, they have things that they love. Whatever things we hate, they also have the things they hate.

    There is really no "right" and no "wrong" there is only perspective.

  2. Daniel that is so very true. I find myself slowing down now when I start to instantly react to something I as "gross" or "weird" and thinking about some of the things I love as an American that might come across really odd to another culture. It's something I see as a real gift or benefit to traveling. People are still just people.