Friday, July 16, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking

Pros of living in Jakarta:

1) 24/7. You can buy pretty much everything whenever and wherever you are. This includes food and beer. There is ample selection of food at any time of day/night and some bars stay open all night or long enough that you don't care that it's time to go home.

2) Cheap cigarettes. I was paying upwards of $8 for a pack of cigarettes back home. In Jakarta, a pack is around $1. You can also smoke pretty much anywhere in Jakarta (don't know if this is a pro or not)

3) Great Food. I enjoyed having really good, properly made pizza back home. There were a few other delicacies that I was happy to have but the novelty of that wore off quickly. Jakarta has excellent food from all over Asia and it is possible to eat fresh food pretty much every day. A lo
t of food back home is processed. The portions back home are massive! I'm glad to be back here eating rice and less than 2000 calories in one sitting.

4) Endless Summer. It's always hot in Jakarta. It rains a lot but the temperature is pretty static. There aren't 10 degree fluctuations from day to day which makes it a little easier to handle. You also know what to expect. It's either going to rain or it isn't.
Side note: Fahrenheit is stupid and you sound stupid when you use it...

5) Transit. There are countless ways to get to where you need to go in Jakarta. These include multiple types of buses, taxis, motorbike taxis, and bajajs. The best part is that all you need to do is go stand by the road and they will come to you. Back home, if someone wasn't driving, I was pretty much stranded or forced to take a very expensive taxi.

6) Cheap & Easy. Everyday items are dirt cheap in Jakarta. Street food is abundant and inexpensive. Everyday items don't break the bank. Gas is around 45 cents a liter and never cha
nges. Lighters don't cost $1.79. Beer may be the only exception to this.

7) Bidets. If you've never used a bidet before, you don't know what you are missing. Nobody uses toilet paper in Jakarta. Every toilet has a spray nozzle sitting next to it for you to spray you know what. It is 1000 times cleaner. Toilet paper is horrible. This is hands down the number one thing that I missed about Jakarta when I was back home. It's a kind of difficult thing to explain so I didn't bring it up much when I was there.

Cons of Living in Jakarta:

1) Traffic. Saying that there is traffic in Jakarta is kind of stating the obvious. I kept making the mistake of overestimating how long it would take to get to places back home. 10 km drives only take 5-10 minutes, not 2 hours. It was funny to hear friends and family back home complain about the traffic when there were more than 5 cars at a street light.

2) Endless Summer. Yes, this is a pro and con. I don't miss cold weather but things never change here. The sunset is at the same-ish time throughout the year. Christmas doesn't seem so festive and nobody really appreciates a beautiful day in Jakarta. The late sunsets back home were awesome. I often forget people's birthdays or important days since it's hard to make a distinction between May or November in Jakarta.

3) Music. Most bars/restaurants in Jakarta all play the same music. I know the lyrics to more pop songs than I would like to. When a band is playing at a place in Jakarta, I often leave since the sound mix is horrible. Often, the high notes from a guitar make your ears twitch a bit. I saw quite a few excellent local musicians playing on a random night at random places back home. I also saw a great concert and could have seen a couple more if I had the money. The radio back home has countless stations that play countless genres of music.

4) The Internet. On a good day in Jakarta, the Internet sucks. It took a trip back home to make me fully realize this. I felt like an old man who was fascinated by being able to watch youtube videos without waiting for them to load. You can watch pretty much anything instantly and can download at shockingly fast speeds. I get pretty excited when I can download at 50 kb/s in Jakarta.

5) Lack of Green Space. There aren't really any parks in Jakarta and not many people have back yards. People back home were starting to think that I was weird because I often wanted to walk to places nearby or hang out in their backyards all day long. This makes me feel bad for my dog more than anything (kasian-jing).

6) Stranger in a Strange Land. No matter how long I live here or how well I learn the language, I'll always be a 'bule'. This will never change. It took me years to realize this. Back home, I'm just another face in the crowd.

7) No Family. I've made some lifelong friends here but friends come and go. Family is forever. Seeing my family, especially my sister's baby made me realize that. Wish there was some way that the other side of the world wasn't so far away. I guess Skype helps.

No matter what way I slice it, I'd never be content being here nor there. So I'll just have to look on the bright side of things. The durian may be spiky and smell bad but there's some good stuff in there.