When I first moved to Jakarta in 2008, I was only 23. This time, I’m 27. People who are older than that still will guffaw at my moaning about aging or whatever, but there’s a fundamental difference in one’s brain from 23 to 27. At 23, one doesn’t consider as fully the consequences of riding on ojeks (motorcycle taxis) as one does at 27. The synapses have fused in a way now that every time I get on one I am consistently aware that it is a death machine, that the crappy helmet I’ve been given is about as useful as wearing a plastic bag on my head, etc.
Yet I still get on them. Does that mean I am braver? I very much doubt it. But I’m definitely less frustrated here than I was the first time around. More zen. Probably because I speak enough Indonesian to navigate life this time and also because, compared to my six months in a least developed country earlier this year, Indonesia is walk in the park.
Before I used to wish I fitted into clothes from Topshop and pine after all of the clothes. Now I only pine after some of the clothes, because I think some of them are just weird looking.
It’s still appealing to be able to go out to some dark place and dance around until you forget that ojeks are unsafe again.
As for the city itself, what has changed since I left in 2010? Everyone still hangs out in malls, the traffic is still terrible, infrastructure is still failing, pollution is still an issue. There are less frozen yoghurt stores and more stores selling Rainbow Cake. Some of my favourite dinner places in the Plaza Semanggi food court have closed. Bakrie’s Epicentrum has opened, though it is yet to pull huge crowds, and my old local Pasar Festival has managed to become popular despite still being one of the crappier malls in Jakarta. Plaza Indonesia has become more baffling, with more weird extension bits that I get lost in.
I definitely get cracked on to by taxi drivers way less, which is both a blessing and a concern.
The middle class is just growing and growing, that’s clear.
Everything is more expensive than it was before.
The new hipster trend is to ride fixie bikes through the horrible traffic, because ojeks aren’t dangerous enough.
More and more of the cool kids have K-pop-influenced hairdos.
The posh hotel brunches are still amazing.
All songs still have the word ‘cinta’ in them.
The best way to make yourself known in a new workplace is still to sing dangdut karaoke at a work event.
Places like Social House and Canteen and other hip cafes are still playing that same CD of loungey covers of popular songs sung by some twee sugar sweet Asian singer.
There’s still that magic time when the mosques are all doing the call to prayer and there’s a pollution-tinged lovely sunset and the skyscraper lights start to twinkle…. and then the moment is usually ruined by car horns beeping loudly or people revving motorcycles with no mufflers.
That sums up my observations so far.
But it has been easy to arrive back. Strangely enough, it has been easier for me to move back here than it was to move back to Australia at the start of 2011.
Maybe I belong amongst the chaos… in a city that just keeps moving despite all of its failings.