‘Traffic’ is the very first word that comes in asians’ mind when they think about Jakarta. A lot of words have already been spent to describe it, but I guess my European friends know nothing about.
10 millions inhabitants, several millions of cars, even more millions of motorcycles. Poor infrastructure: there isn’t any subway, trains are massively full and can only connect suburbs with center. Buses are divided into two categories: the first is Metro Mini, some very old buses with tiny seats and without any door, they don’t have stops. To get off you have to tap the roof twice. Cost, 16 euro cent per ride, including music entertainment provided by beggars playing guitar or everything else that can produce a sound.
The second type of bus was thought to replace a subway service: Transjakarta has his own lane, and the lines connect with one another. What are the differences with a proper subway then? Well, they stop at traffic lights, the coaches frequency is never enough, and nobody ever fines private cars who drive in Transjakarta lane.
About the taxi infrastructure, by the way, I cannot have any complaint. You never wait more than 3 minutes to find one, and they are, compared to other countries, extremely cheap. For instance, a thirty minute ride can cost you the equivalent of 3 or 4 euros.
But where public infrastructure lacks, creativity from individuals often supplies. Here comes the Ojek . Ojeks are nothing more than private motorcycles whose owner stands on a bench waiting for costumers to carry around. They allow us to save a huge amount of time and they are not expensive either, you can always bargain. My negotiating skills are getting better and better: last week after getting lost very far from home I could bring the price from 5 down to 2 euros for a 25 minute ride.
As you can guess, transportation problems strongly influence life habits. People need to live close to their workplace not to waste hours in the traffic. On weekdays, you most likely hang out with coworkers right after 17.30, or spend the evening chatting with your blackberry. On weekends, the time spent travelling from one place to another will be probably more than the time actually spent in your chosen destination. And several times you just do less things or don’t go out at all because it will take too long to get there.
Of course, also us poor AIESEC interns suffer from traffic problems. When it comes to gather many people or go to different places in the same day, it’s a disaster. One group will maybe arrive one hour later, people will need to sleep over at someone else’s or stay out all day because it takes too long to get home and back. I think I will remember this when I complain about trenitalia or ACTV =)
Apart from this, I’m enjoying Jakarta. Many new interns have just arrived and i always adore hanging out with international people. They’re always enthusiastic to do things and it’s never boring even if you do nothing special. Also, it’s good from a cultural point of view: we showed to a chinese girl videos from Tiananmen Square, she knew nothing about it. I hope she was joking, but she said she won’t show it to others for fear of disappearing :O
However, process of adaptation is still ongoing. My indonesian is still poor and not improving, and my stomach hasn’t gotten used to spicy food either. But I must say I appreciate indonesian people, they’re probably the humblest and most helpful people in the world. They work so hard and are always ready to sacrifice. An example is the lady in picture below. She walks with her cart every morning down my road to find a corner and sell groceries. The other man is selling ice cubes to restaurants.