Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Are You Trying to Cool Down All of Jakarta?

OK I admit that I am a little set in my ways but I am not an OCD person, that's for sure (1234 1234 1234). That being said, I have certain (let's call them) peeves. One of my biggest ones is closing doors. Keeping doors closed in Jakarta is not the norm for many. A lot of people don't even have doors or windows for that matter. Me, I like my doors closed for one of 2 reasons. The first one is that mosquitoes will enter. The second is that opening doors lets air conditioned air escape. I am definitely my Father's son as I can still hear him saying "Are you trying to heat the front yard?" when I'd leave doors open as a child. Well Dad, at least we had screen doors and windows. Screens appear to be a luxury in this country.

The correlation between having a door open (especially at night) and mosquitoes coming into one's house seems pretty straightforward to me. A hundred million or so people on this island don't seem to agree with me on that one. I've lost count of how many times I've closed the front door behind someone entering or exiting my house. When I've tried to explain that mosquitoes live outside and therefore leaving the door open entices mosquitoes to enter the house, I've met many a blank stare. Quite a few of the maids that have worked for me have been given the whole speech about not opening the doors and windows in my bedroom when they clean. They've often replied that the windows must be opened every day in order to allow "angin" (wind) into the bedroom. I've responded that I appreciate them cleaning my room but I'd prefer they not open the windows since I can't stand having mosquitoes in my bedroom when I'm trying to sleep at night. They usually nod and continue opening doors and windows every day since they figure that I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm not sure if you've ever had the pleasure of experiencing a mosquito attack in your bed but it is extremely unpleasant. It usually involves them flying so close to your ears that the buzzzzzzz pulls you out of a dead sleep. If it isn't that, it is sometimes as little as 1 mosquito jumping on your arm or leg biting your repeatedly. For me, this is about as enjoyable as eating glass. I'm sure that Indonesians hate it as much as me but many just don't seem to make the connection between open doors and mosquitoes. The last maid I had insisted on having the doors open all day long, especially while she cooked. Despite my pleading, she insisted that the doors must be open because the house needed to be aired out to prevent it from being "bau" (smelly) inside. She didn't seem to be worried about the extreme heat in the kitchen. Finally, I decided that I would give her good reason to close the doors. I showed her the 12 flies that I had killed the night before (with my electronic mosquito racquet, one of my favourite toys) and explained that these flies likely came from the pile of cat crap in front of the house or an unseen dead rat's carcass. Despite my pointing out how extremely unsanitary it was having flies in the house, (not to mention the annoyance of mosquitoes) she patronizingly told me that she sanitized the house every day and that my house would be dirty and smelly if she didn't open the doors. Luckily, her food was fantastic. I guess it's hard to break old habits, especially if one has lived their whole life in a dwelling with open doors and dozens of mosquitoes and flies inside at all times.

The whole air conditioning thing is a different story. Most A/C's in this country are the wall unit kinds. To the best of my knowledge, central A/C for homes doesn't exist in this corner of the world. These wall units always come with a remote control. The mastering of these remotes is a difficult task for some. I've tried in vein many times to clarify what the word "AUTO" means as far as climate control. These A/C units seem to be pretty good at maintaining a certain temperature. You simply choose a temperature (I like around 24 C) and put the fan on "AUTO". This means that when the room gets cool, the A/C reduces it's power an when it warms up, it cools a bit more. Many people (including the vast majority in my workplace) prefer to set the A/C at 16 C and the fan on full power. This inevitably creates an extremely cold room as the A/C unit will just keep pushing out more and more cold air without end. When it gets too cold, they will then turn the A/C off or start pushing random buttons without bothering to ask the eternal question:"What does this button do?". When it gets really hot 20 minutes later, they will turn the A/C back on at full power while fanning themselves with a paper and so on and so forth. I've given up any attempt to explain this further and instead prefer to laugh at people scrambling to find the A/C remote every 15 minutes.

What I persist with is trying to convince people to leave doors closed when the A/C is running. My workplace is semi-outdoor. This means that there are air conditioned rooms with open air hallways. Therefore, leaving doors open is like trying to cool down Jakarta. My dad would have a heart attack if he came here. I'm not talking about doors being left open for minutes but hours. When attempting to get people to close doors, my requests are usually understood and acknowledged. When they are not, I ask people if they open windows in cars while having the A/C running. The usual reply is "of course not!". This is when I point out that leaving a door open is the same concept only in a larger space. My main reason for keeping A/C air inside is not for the power bill (I'm not paying it at work) but instead an environmental one. It is also of note to point out that Jakarta is prone to the occasional afternoon blackout due to excessive power consumption. Does this encourage people to limit their power use? Of course not. The majority of my co-workers agree that it is a good idea to close doors of rooms with A/C running and try their best to remember to do so. Their best isn't very good. I'd say the average person remembers to close the door 40% of the time. When they see me closing the door for them, they apologize and promise to try harder to remember. Their intentions are sincere, especially as some are environmentally conscious but I do feel as if I am fighting a losing battle. I've already given up on the notions of recycling or composting in Jakarta so I don't want to be an energy waster as well. Maybe running air conditioners with doors and windows open could help reverse the effects of global warming, NOT.

The oddest part of all this in my mind is that I constantly have a fleece available at work for the instances where a room is too cold to deal with. I hope the irony of wearing a fleece in a tropical metropolis is not lost on you. What is even stranger is that the average Jakarta born Indonesian believes that Bandung is very cold at night when temperatures can fall to a bone chilling 20 C. I don't and never will understand how these same people can manage to sit in an air conditioned room who's temperature is at 14 C and dropping while wearing a short sleeved shirt and sandals, all the while looking content. Meanwhile, I'm shivering in the corner wishing that I'd brought my scarf and mittens to work.

1 comment:

  1. LOL! I have an auto door closer on my bedroom door (Ace hardware), it stops me yelling out the question, "were you born in a tent?" to the kids and Co!
    Great blog!