Thursday, May 26, 2011

Welcome to, Jakarta

As the jetlag has finally worn off and I have feeling in my lower limbs again, it's time to welcome you all to America, er Jakarta, Indonesia. The introduction says it all, I think, but suffice it to say that things aren't that different from a big city in the US here - Probably more NY or LA, as opposed to DC or Philadelphia. I arrived pretty late on Wednesday night and got through customs, immigration and baggage claim with no problem. I exchanged some money and headed to the taxi stand where instead of getting the nice black Mercedes to take me to me to town, I essentially wound up in the back of someone's minivan praying the entire 50 minute drive that I was going to arrive at my destination, not at a brothel. Talking to the taxi driver and coordinator was my first sign that I was in a foreign land. I'm pretty sure I slipped into negotiating in Bambara when he told me the price was 280,000 Rupiah (about $30, but it sounded like WAY more in my head). So we set off to Kemang, the neighborhood/district of Jakarta where I'm staying. This big city - of which only a fraction I actually saw - introduced me to brand new cars (including the bright green Mazda 2!), Harley Davidson, Starbucks galore, and huge shopping malls touting Burberry, Gucci and the likes. The whole time I'm thinking, "Okay, did I really get off the plane in Jakarta?" Once we arrived in Kemang, essentially the foreigner area of Jakarta, it really turned into little-America. KFC, McDonalds and Pizza Hut, and then some other random foreign restaurants like an Irish Pub, German Beer Garden and endless Dim Sum choices. Trying to take it all in, we eventually arrived at my abode and I couldn't have been happier. All I really needed was a horizontal sleeping surface and water to feel human again.

By way of where I'm staying - the Chief of Party (Director of the project, for those of you not familiar with "aid-speak") for the MCHIP Project, Anne, has graciously offered her guest room for my stay. Her family is sweet and her pool looks inviting, though the weather hasn't been too awesome yet.

All in all, my arrival was exactly what I would have expected a 12:00 AM after a 29 hour trip - interesting. I'm looking forward to exploring a bit more of the city and starting on work. More to come!