Jakarta is really starting to feel like home. The workers at my most frequented restaurants know my usual order, I can get around my neighbourhood without Google Maps, I have a group of friends that hold game nights, and overall, I feel quite settled.
Jake and I live in a kost, which is an Indonesian boarding house, where both of us rent our own rooms. To be honest, I’m not too sure how many rooms or people there are in our kost, but if I had to guess, I would say around 60. It reminds me of a less social college dorm. The rooms have no windows, but there are a couple of balconies on the second floor I can walk down to check the weather or get some fresh air (though the air is never too fresh in Jakarta).
We live in a residential area surrounded by other kosts, gated houses, small warungs, and friendly people. Every time I step outside and walk down the street, I get waved at, stared at, and smiled at. Often, I have an eager ‘Hey, mister’ called out to me. In Bahasa, there are many titles to address different people, and ‘mister’ (along with ‘bule,’ which is the Indonesian word for foreigner) seems to be the title used to address foreigners, even women. The first couple of times it happened, I looked down at my outfit and thought, “What am I wearing to make people think that I am a man?!” but now it makes me smile, and I even find it a little endearing.
The other day while I was waiting for my usual lunch of nasi ayam bakar (grilled chicken and rice), a couple of young boys popped their heads over the fence next door and they looked at me, looked at each other, and broke out laughing. I waved to them, they waved back, and one of the boys said ‘Good evening’ even though it was noon. I said ‘Selamat sore’ (good afternoon in Bahasa), and again both of the boys stared at me, then at each other, and then broke out in laughter. One of the boys disappeared for a minute and then came back with a workbook and sat on the bench opposite me. I realized as he opened it up in his lap that it was an English workbook. He would say a number in Bahasa and hold up the corresponding number of fingers, and I would say the number back to him in English. Every time I did that the boys would laugh and eventually I was laughing too. I ate lunch with a big grin on my face that day.
In July, Jake and I went to Yogyakarta. We joked that the trains are the only things that run on time in Indonesia because every train we have taken so far has arrived and departed at the exact minute written on the ticket. It is pretty incredible. Travelling east, we were greeted with spectacular views of mountains, rice fields, and volcanoes. We rented a scooter from our hostel which let us leave before sunrise to beat the heat and the crowds at the temples. I love riding on the back of scooters; it has quickly become one of my favourite things about Indonesia. However, there is no way I was prepared to drive one through the traffic of a busy city. Luckily, Jake took on that responsibility. Despite a rocky first ride where I was sure I was going to fall off the back of the scooter, Jake turned out to be quite the driver. However, I tried my hand at driving it on a stretch of quiet road outside the city. It was quite fun; but, I have a much greater respect for my grab drivers anytime they do a U-turn because it took me about a minute to figure out how to turn around the scooter without barrelling into the ditch. I can be a little bit of an anxious driver, so I was very proud of myself for giving the scooter a go.
As we passed the three-month point of this internship, I became very cognizant of the limited time I have left here. I know that as soon as that six-month timer is up, I can never quite return to the life that I have now. Even if I were to return to Jakarta, all my friends wouldn’t be here, nor would they be the same people they are now. I wouldn’t have the same job, and I wouldn’t be the same responsibility-free university student that I am now. I am trying to soak it all up now before the next two and a half months fly by as I am sure they will. So for now, I am happy and so grateful to be here.