What to write, ah, what to write? How does one go about summing up their experiences working in a foreign country in a blog post?
Should I talk about the heat, how the air-conditioner at work only kind of works and my face is always sweaty? Should I discuss the food, tell you that Ayam Bakar and Nasi Uduk are my favorite, but that I don’t feel too positively about Indomie? Or maybe you want to hear about the people, how kind they are and how many times they call me miss and ask my name every day.
I’m not really sure where to begin, so I’ll start at the end.
It’s Thursday and its almost the end of the work day. I’ve just finished reading about the cocoa industry in Indonesia and am taking a break before starting in on the coffee industry. Today I’m working on the post-processing of a paper about keeping value-adding agricultural activities in Indonesia to increase farmer income. Yesterday I was at a school in West Java photographing a graduation ceremony at an Islamic elementary school. I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow.
The air-conditioner is on high, for once, and the office is nice and chilly for a change. I’ve taken off my fancy pink shoes which I bought for 2.50$ Canadian at the flee-market last week and am wriggling my free toes. Someone on Spotify is yoddling in my headphones.
It’s been almost a month and a half since landing in Jakarta, and five weeks since starting work here at CIPS, the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies. I spend most of my week in the office, which is located in the middle of Suburban South Jakarta. In this one neighbourhood we have rooms for rent at 90$ Canadian a month, and rooms for rent at 900$ Canadian. We have people who can hardly afford the shoes on their feet, and people who live in fancy western buildings and pick their own fresh bananas from balconies with gold railings. The room we live in is somewhere in the middle. We share the bathroom with a cockroach named Ernesto, but have a nice air-conditioner and warm water most of the time.
At 6:00, when the work day ends, we walk out past rows and rows of parked motorbikes and onto the wild streets, holding up a magic hand to let oncoming cars know we’re crossing and hoping they stop. Last month was Ramadan, and work would end 15 minutes earlier at 5:45 when our co-workers broke their fast with sweet snacks in the common room. Now there are no snacks, and work goes until 6:00. I miss Ramadan sometimes.
My camera is heavy around my neck on workdays. I lug her to and from work Monday through Friday, just in case something interesting happens, and something usually does. When I first arrived the plan was to take a picture of one of the many cats roaming the streets of Jakarta every day. A-cat-a-day. I’d snap a shot of one cat in the garbage heap, one on a fancy balcony, one sleeping on a motorbike, one in a garden, one begging in a food stall, one trying to sneak into CIPS. But my computer storage is almost full of cat photos now, so I’ve decided to switch to rats. While there aren’t fewer rats per say, they move faster and are harder to get photos of.
My camera and me went traveling during Eid, the long holiday after the Holy month of Ramadan, and my poor camera went through a lot. She struggled through the mist from a boiling sulfur waterfall, endured being bumped against trees on the way up a volcano, and stayed positive in the face of heavy rain on the way down. But if she’s still with me after all that, then I don’t think she’s going anywhere anytime soon.
My camera and me have made some new friends on our adventures, and expect to see lots more with them in Jakarta. The adventures have only begun.
There’s no more yoodling in my headphones. Instead someone’s playing the bagpipes.
So far life in Indonesia has been…. Life. I would love to say that in this month I’ve discovered who I am and what I want to do in this big world, but I haven’t. There’s so much more to see, and do, so many more things to experience.
Work is almost over now, and when it’s done I’ll take a subway into Central Jakarta to buy an external hard drive for my photos. Then we’ll grab some Nasi Uduk or Ayam Bakar (or Nasi Uduk and Ayam Bakar… one can hope right?), and head on home to get ready for bed so we can start the adventure all over again tomorrow.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll listen to some piano at work, or maybe I’ll go visit somewhere new in Jakarta with my coworkers. Come what may, me and my camera are ready for it.
Fun Little kitty on a mountain in Bandung
For more cats pictures: @maevesmilligan