Monday, May 30, 2011

Jakarta Weekend

Since I arrived in Jakarta, I've been pretty underwhelmed. I'm not sure why I didn't ask more questions or prepare better (oh wait, I was super busy until the day before I left!) but I arrived feeling really unprepared to be here. I was mentally prepared for Mali, or another West African country, and soon realized that I couldn't be the farthest away from Mali. The neighborhood that I'm living and working, Kemang, is Western-central. The best supermarkets are here and all of the Western amenities - yoga studios, fast food, a Pizza Hut that looks nicer than most American restaurants, you name it. Being secluded to Kemang, I started to think that all of Jakarta was like this, and even worse that all of Indonesia was like this. Luckily, this weekend Isti and her husband Agum took me out and about.

Agung and Isti at dinner

Saturday we went to Pondok Indah Mall, which I swear is the nicest mall I've ever been to. We really came here to browse since everything was so expensive. There were two huge department stores and others like Marks and Spencer, Espirit, Mango, Zara, and too many others to remember. This mall was really two malls, connected by a walking bridge (presumably crossing the busy street below) and was super crowded as well. After going here, I pretty much hated Jakarta and just wanted to get out of town. It's nice to have the option of going to a mall - there are no malls, and nothing even comparable to a mall in Mali - but consumerism has really taken over here.

Saturday's excursion wasn't planned, Isti just showed up to pick me up. Sunday, however, we had planned to go shopping after we went to a wedding. When I found out we were going to a wedding, I was super excited (since I still haven't been to any weddings as an adult except for my own) and it was an Indonesia wedding! After Isti and Agum picked me up, we started driving to East Jakarta and I finally got outside of Kemang. Jakarta is certainly more developed than I'm used to, with highways and tolls and the like, but it was great to see fruit vendors lining the streets at the big bus station, people selling their goods while weaving in an out of traffic, and driving through what I can only compare to downtown Bamako and Grande Marche area. I felt at home and immediately reconnected to this foreign place that I was starting to dislike. As a wedding guest, we arrived to greet and eat and then leave. Of course I snapped a shot of the lovely bride and groom.

Chandra and Indiri - Indiri is Isti's cousin from her father's side.

After the wedding outting, we drove through Central Jakarta to South Jakarta to the Ambassador Mall and then Plaza Semanggi for dinner. Since Jakarta has a population of almost 12 million, you can imagine the insanity of traffic and parking. At the Ambassador Mall, we entered the parking lot, but just kept driving until the 5th level (there were no options for parking below that) and excited to start looking. The cars were packed in and some shoppers even left their cars in neutral so the parking attendants could move them, in a straight line of course, if necessary. I think this mall had 7 or 8 levels and the stores weren't as glamorous as the previous day, but much more in our budget. Since a lot of the clothing industry invests in South/Southeast Asian countries for their manufacturing, this mall had "seconds" from stores like Banana Republic, H&M and Zara, but everything was super tiny (probably why they were seconds).

View of South Jakarta, from either the 5th or 6th level of parking at Ambassador Mall.

View of South Jakarta from Plaza Semanggi at dusk.

It was nice to finally see a bit more of Jakarta than I had seen in the previous week, and it gave me hope that our trips out to the districts will be fruitful and full of lots of work. I think Jakarta is a nice city to come to after 2 months in the field (much the same way I felt about Bamako), but right now it just feels a little bit too much like America to me.