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Jakarta: an overall reflective week (#3).

It’s been an overall wonderful week, both business plus personal. I’ve learned a ton about myself and the way I perceive the world. A lot of reflecting this week as well.

I’m still pretty idealistic – thank goodness, I think this is a good thing. I’m still a romantic – wish this could change this for my sake, but at this point it’s probably innate. Why even try to change who I am?

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View of the sunset from my room.

The one month break from landing in Taiwan to flying to Jakarta was the longest I’ve stayed grounded in four months. Traveling is very tiring, and I’ve been tired this entire week, but it’s been a tremendously rewarding five days filled with insight and introspection.

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View of the financial district from my room, which is amongst the wealthiest part of the Jakarta.

Food:

Getting away from Taipei was great. The cigarette smoke was really getting to me, as was the unhealthy food I’ve been eating. Indonesian food has been kind. I’ve found very healthy choices in both the hotel buffet and the nearby mall/hotel food courts. Also ate free meals from work meetings.

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Cost of Living:

Being here for a week is really humbling. Damn, we are so spoiled. By we, I’m talking about every Californian I know. I’m really understanding why everyone believes so much in The American Dream. I’m definitely part of the 1% in this city. The average monthly salary here is absolute chump change to me. The food prices here, even in the hotels and malls in the most expensive part of the city, is nothing compared to Bay Area prices.

Weather:

The sidewalks are fairly upheaved. Some noticeable damage, enough to the point where folks definitely cannot text and walk without hurting themselves. The streets get partially flooded from the rain, which is unpredictable and sudden – no flash storms in California. No rain in California, to be exact.

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Street corner 0.5km away from my hotel.

The humidity. This isn’t even summer, yet I’m sweating within three minutes just by standing. I’ve been told that the weather has been nice this week. Mid 80s, humidity at 70%, flash thunderstorms. I see, I’m spoiled.

Daily Life:

The girl that has been opening the front door to the hotel, I can’t stop thinking how little money she makes from doing that. From standing, smiling, and pulling on a door. Or those working in the food service industry in these hotels. Or those street vendors selling food and cigarettes on street corners.

The traffic can get incredibly terrible. My 8.4km taxi ride, or about 5 miles, took 45 minutes this noon. On the highways, due to traffic, an absolute abundance of people walk in the middle to sell food or small items to those in their cars. Some are honest, others are aggressive crooks. Imagine people doing this on the 405 in Santa Monica. Or the 880 leading into San Francisco. That’s unimaginable.

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Stuck in traffic on the overpass on one of the highways.

Phone plan: BlackBerry with unlimited data costs $10 a month. iPhone with unlimited data costs $15 a month. My 90 minute full body massage cost $20.84. My 30km taxi ride on Monday in the executive luxury taxi cost $15. The same distance ran me $60 in Denver, which isn’t even an expensive city.

There aren’t really any crosswalks. Rather, it’s more of dodging traffic while you cross the street. I’ve done that all week, and it was actually pretty fun. The cars never fully stop; they assume you’re going to get out of the way in time.

A gentleman told me today that every “Bule” or White person in a slightly derogatory tone is automatically perceived as super rich. These people would love to work for $8.00 USD per hour. That’s more than the one day salary of a lot of folks here.

Even worse than Taiwan, a lot of homes/buildings are made of sheet metal that has rusted over. Only a few sections are wealthy. My meeting on Tuesday took me to a gated community called Lippo Village, which I’ve learned is a place inhabited mostly by foreign expats. Go figure. My meeting today took place in Kemang Village, which was essentially a dozen super highrise luxury hotels/business hybrids.

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A typical house in Lippo Village.

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On the 22nd floor of one of the Kemang Village buildings.

There was a 21 year old waiter/cashier that I spoke with very briefly tonight. I asked him to order on my behalf at the restaurant. In his very broken English, he gave recommendations and I confirmed the choices. The food tasted great, and I tipped him for his efforts. Had I been born in Indonesia, that could have easily been me. So much of life is determined by nurture/location. That American Dream, man.

I’m scared. Amongst many other countries, I’ll be visiting India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh in the upcoming months. I’m scared of the culture shock. But this is really necessary. This is exactly what I want to see, and I’m hoping it helps me be a more appreciative, kind person in general.

I’m coming back to Indonesia for two weeks in July, in which I’ll be in Jakarta and Bali and other areas. Hope to explore more of this country then. Sorry to say, but I’ll also engage in some bourgeoisie hobbies in Bali and, according to Sameer, scuba dive the most beautiful waters in the world.

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