We were in Jakarta from Saturday until Wednesday night, I thought it would be easier to talk about my entire visit all grouped together. At first, I did not know what to think of it, my first impression was TRAFFIC. If you have ever been to Atlanta or LA and have experienced traffic there, that is nothing compared to Jakarta. Everywhere we went took at least an hour if not longer; one day it took us 3 hours to get to where we needed to go. Why, because on the last Sunday of every month the main roads are closed for pedestrians, runners, and bikers. What an idea right, just make the traffic worse so people can get some fresh smog in there lungs. The smog, it’s like a haze over the whole city, brown and dingy. And the roads just seem to go in any directions, narrower than Connecticut, and wind all around; the whole time we were there, I had no idea where I was going or coming from. Thank goodness we had a driver; I would never be able to tell someone how to get me back home. At first, I thought we were just going around in circles, starting in a big circle and getting smaller! However, Jakarta grows on you like every big city and I did find the beauty within.
Let’s first talk about where we stayed. I want to say Thank You to David, Restu, Rustam, and Ramsey, Grandmother, and the staff for taking care of us and giving us a place to stay. Their home is in South Jakarta, or that was what I was told, and it is very private amongst much chaos. The grounds make you feel as if you are in paradise and you forget about the big city, the traffic, and pollution. All the windows and doors are left open and I felt as if I was back in Bali when inside the gates. Also, I have to mention, Restu and David just had twin boys in January. They are so so so cute, we did not want to leave them. Thanks again.
Ok, now my favorite subject…FOOD. Most of the time I had no idea what I was eating or what was in it; I just ate it and if I didn’t like it, I secretly spit it out. Also, Adam decided to catch up with my food adventures and try some new cuisines. His first was air dried whole fish, head and all! They were tiny though; he says they were like a fish jerky, slightly fishy and salty with an odd crunchy texture. He also ate cartilage from the knee of a cow cooked in a spicy curry. YUK! I am sorry, but I just couldn’t do it! Hours after eating it, he kept shivering at the thought of the gelatin like texture. I played it sort of safe and ate none of the above. Overall, the food was really good and we tried many Indonesian dishes. Just to name a few: mei goreng – fried noodles, nasi goreng – fried rice, Ketoprak – sprouts, rice cake, shrimp crackers, peanut sauce – like a peanut butter sandwich without bread and rice cake instead (which we ate from a street cart, again can’t believe I did it, but I did not get sick, but convinced Adam enough to make him feel sick for the night.)
*before I go on, I just want to pause and tell you about GSE (grapefruit seed extract). It is like a cure-all, a citricidus. It is a strong concentrate of grapefruit seed and is diluted in various amounts for many things. Someone told me that if you ingest it, diluted of course, you can eat anything in Asia. That’s what she did anyway, so every time Adam and I eat something “sketchy” we use it. It has worked so far and I also found out it is really good for acne! You can find it at health food stores or Whole Foods if interested.
OK back to the food, kue mangkok – similar in taste to a fortune cookie but looks like a thin fried pancake with a green center, lots of fried bananas, Bali orange (it’s like a cantaloupe size grapefruit, a little sweet and a little sour, really good). The last night we were taken to eat Padang, which is where Adam did his experimenting. A large group of us sat down at a table and they stack little bowls of food on your table. Weirdest part to me was, if you don’t touch it, you don’t pay for it and they put it back to be served to someone else. I did not know this until after dinner, kind of made my stomach turn, but all in all everything I tried was good. Just to name a few dishes: chicken with soya sauce, chicken with fried shaved coconut (my favorite), corn fritters, dried (I mean really dried) beef, fried cow skin (like pork skins but fried), Padang sate (which I would not try because no one was really up front about the body part it came from) some curries, and for dessert, I had young coconut (or a fruit that is the cousin of the coconut, can’t remember the name) with a snow cone type thing on top, and pink syrup. Also, Yanti, Restu’s cook, made us excellent home cooked meals everyday!
Teaching took up most of my time, so we were unable to do much site seeing. We did go to malls, which seems like the place to hang. It may not seem fun, but it makes since, it is so hot and smoggy out, you really don’t want to be outside much. There are malls everywhere and they have everything you need. I went to a mall everyday we were there. We ate, drank, shopped, viewed art, walked around, and had meetings all at the mall.
We did fit in some cultural things on Sunday. Illenk was our tour guide and he did a great job. We started at the puppet museum, I saw a puppet performance in Bali, but it was nothing like normal puppets. They are beautiful and come in all shapes and sizes, even larger than life sizes! We also went to the Jakarta history museum and learned about the Dutch and Chinese in Indonesia. The furniture being showcased really shows how the two cultures mix. Then we had ice cream at the first ice cream parlor in Jakarta, Ragusa. It was really crowded and the ice cream was excellent, but you have to eat it super fast before it melts away. It is made by an old method so it doesn’t stay frozen as long. Our last stop was, of course, the mall; not to shop though. This mall was holding an exhibition of works from various galleries all over Jakarta. It was nice to see many different styles all together without having to travel in much traffic from gallery to gallery.
At first, our trip to Jakarta seemed like it was going to be more painful than enjoyable, but thanks to Dewi, Illenk, Yanti, Cici, Shonda, and Cikal school students and teachers, it was an experience we will never forget. Thanks for guiding us through Jakarta and opening our eyes to what it has to offer. We both feel it was a life changing experience and actually look forward to going back one day.