Week 1: Jakarta
Around 5:30 PM, I awoke in a heavy sweat. The slime wasn't a product of any bad dream, but of course from Jakarta's intense humidity and heat. I was only asleep for an hour and half, but it felt like a week. The fourth call to prayer of the day had woken me. The previous three calls that day seemed to remind Jakarta of a hush they were obliged to maintain. This time, the multiplicative voices of men seemingly coming from the house next door, the tree across the street, and the muted skyscrapers from the city center felt more like a last effort audition before God. Enough with the sleepy rehearsals, now was their chance to shake those vocal chords up-down, left-right, backwards-forwards and wake up those sweaty americans!
As I stepped outside my room, the damp blanket of clouds fell onto my shoulders. I perched on the balcony, rubbed my eyes, and fought through the solution of stagnant fumes and millions of gallons of evaporated water to focus on the skyscrapers several miles away near the heart of Jakarta. Maybe tomorrow we would explore the city center. For now, we were to "take rest" as Pak Dygdha called it. The 11 hour time difference left our bodies confused, and with our circadian rhythms attempting to find the beat of the 106th meridian east of Greenwich, I felt oddly justified in sleeping the day away. I gulped my 90 degree water from my Nalgene and worked through the past 24 hours in my head, separating dreams still vibrating in my consciousness from the sights and sounds of our arrival into Indonesia.
We arrived into the airport around midnight. Two full calendar days, 22 hours on planes, and 27 hours after lifting off from the East coast, Connor and I stepped off the plane and into the modest Jakarta airport. Waiting at baggage claim, the inaugural sweat bead materialized from my temple. After grabbing our bags, we headed towards the exit where we were to meet a representative from IBEKA. We scanned for a sign saying Mr. Tyler or Mr. Connor, but our search was empty. Just as we turned around to double check our Either sleepy, quietAfter A quick 10 minute drive through highways, two lane streets, and alleys just wide enough for one Ford 4x4 and a motorcycle leaned at just the right angle to avoid confrontation with a mirror, we arrived at the home of Ibu Puni, the Executive Director of the NGO are working with. With everyone asleep, Pak Adi showed us to our room with chuckling, “I hope you don’t mind sharing the bed.”
“Not a problem at all,” Connor and I returned.
We said goodnight to Pak Adi, immediately applied deodorant, thanked each other for the kind gesture, and fell into the bed.
The next morning, we took our first trip to the office on the back of a scooter. This was the first time I felt any sort of breeze since the stubborn jet of icy air which pounded my eyes all the way on the flight from Tokyo to Jakarta. Unfortunately, this breeze was anything but icy. Rather, the ride on the back felt more like an express tour of Jakarta’s sticky heat. A little pocket of heat on one street corner, and another grease filled pocket on the next block. But those thoughts didn’t last long.
It was easy to forget about the heat as we swerved and honked our way past other pedestrians, cars, and scooters. I smiled wide, breathing in the life of this Jakarta neighborhood. We careened past kittens, street vendors, flower shops, and children mending kites. Stares quickly turned into smiles once I initiated the greeting met us at every turn. I had finally arrived.
The next five days, Connor and I spent time in and out of the office getting to know the people and mission of IBEKA. Expecting to be welcomed into the new job with an itinerary and work-plan, I found neither. Instead we were greeted only with warm smiles, home-cooked meals, and vague references to the work we would be doing. This cultural difference in attitude towards work was quite alright with us!
We spent our days floating in and out of the office, exploring Jakarta, and having chats on occasion with IBEKA staff about what sort of assistance we could provide. Highlights of the week include: riding around on Go-Jeks (Indonesian's two wheeled Uber), visiting the national monument, buying our own Batiks, having dinner with very friendly people who knew someone who knew someone who knew someone whom Connor and I know back at duke, having dinner with a Duke alumnus, and smiling and laughing with the children.
5/25 10:50 PM
Haven't made the time to explain the rest of the first week. Oh well, I'll fill in later. Long story short, we couldn't be happier with the group we're working with. Passionate, thoughtful, and empathetic people working to change lives around Indonesia. Hopefully we can help them do their job a little bit better. Now for some packing and rest before our 3:00 AM wake-up.