This is Jakarta
Hello friends! Welcome back to the blog!
So I wanted to start my first Monday installment with a little glimpse of what life is like here in Jakarta and I'm going to do that by...quoting someone else!
I know I know, this is my personal blog so shouldn't my first Monday installment be in my own words?!
Probably...but as I stated before- I love to read- and this Monday I wanted to share with you an excerpt from the book Culture Shock! Jakarta. I think there is something about these words that will not only bring Jakarta to you but also articulate the mindset, struggles, culture, and character of this ever expanding, unique city.
So take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee...maybe some kopi luwak, which is Indonesian coffee that is gathered from the "partial digested coffee beans of the Asian palm civet" (which is basically a nice way of saying the palm civet's poo) No? not your thing? then maybe just a Sumatra blend
and let's dive in!
"Look closely and see that everything is slightly broken, slightly chipped and cracked, slightly skew-whiff.
On paper, it shouldn’t really work at all. City planners would have given up at the drawing board had someone given them the plans for the city that exists today. It’s wonky, lopsided. It’s a mutant. It’s the wrong shape. There’s no apparent logic behind its design—it seems to have just happened this way.
It has been said before, and it’s true: Jakarta is all of Indonesia concentrated into a single fat Mother City—Ibu kota kita.
For some, those coming from the West, where clean streets, freedom of speech and equal opportunity are taken for granted, it may seem nothing less than the end of the world....
A world of improbable extremes. A world where any notion of apparent ‘logic’ is out the window; where saving face outweighs any other obvious course of thought. A world where individual opinions are blurred into a single collective mentality. Where people will actually ‘lie’ rather than risk offending you with what might be the truth. A world where, for the most part, people are forced to accept all manner of conditions, without even a murmur of protest.
It’s certainly not an easy place. Indonesians themselves go into culture shock when they come here. On the face of it, it doesn’t appear to make any concession to being sympathetic to anyone. But given time and patience, and a certain understanding, Jakarta will lodge itself in the heart of anyone who has lived there. Part of you will hate it, part of you will love it. And part of you will hate yourself for loving it. Ultimately, however, you shouldn’t have to gripe about Jakarta—it can’t help it after all. It didn’t mean to be like this."
In all my three years here, when I find myself feeling lost or frustrated, I keep coming back to this quote because I feel it to be such a compassionate outtake on this ginormous city and it helps me to find some grounding and empathy for this place- especially that last sentence "it didn't mean to be like this".
My second year here I met a friend who lived in Jakarta for five years, went back to America to live and then decided to MOVE back here for another three years. When I had heard her story I couldn't help but think, "What? WHY?!" (Probably because during this time I was deep in the throws of culture shock, the frustration/distress stage - whatever you like to call stage 2- I was IN it... more on that in the blog later!)
But I stuck her story in the back of my mind as a sort of hope- "See Tatiana, people can like this place so much that they CHOSE to come back here", though I could not at the time fathom why. But now after three years living here I can say I'm starting to get it. This place is NOTHING like my American upbringing but that doesn't make it bad. Hard at times, yes, but would you believe me when I say that life here is always an adventure or a spectacle, there is so much to learn from the people here and it can also, at times, be so much easier than life in America? This place is a real paradox... and the more you begin to understand this - the more you'll get to know Jakarta!
So on that note come back next week for a post on The Top Ten Things That Make Jakarta, Jakarta (to me).
Thanks for dropping by!