Yet again my feet will feel the gravel of a well worn path. It is the mixture of fear and excitement that grips you in the anticipation of serendipity. Of adventure. Navigating the unknown and unfamiliar, bringing you that much closer to understanding our existence on this planet. It is the beauty of complete alienation and working your ways towards common understanding. It is the reaffirmation that harmony exists in the world.
This story begins, as many adventures do, at the airport. My thoughts fresh with the good times and good-byes and the pang of regret leaving friends and family behind. The feeling magnified by others around me experiencing similar thoughts and emotions. I never really liked the departure gate at airports – always filled with tears and hugs that don’t want to let go. Such a stark contrast to the infinite joy seen at arrivals. Hugging my parents, I lifted my backpack, and walked steadily into the airport. Entering those sliding glass doors, my mind switched modes and it was game time.
Navigating airport security is a battle and I fight like a bo$$. It’s an art to know what documents to have readily accessible, how to quickly remove all metal items and laptops all while keeping the line moving. My flight took me from LAX to Tokyo to Singapore then finally to Jakarta. This meant a lot of airport security. I’ve also learn to reset my sleep cycle on the plane. For this trip the time change was about 12 hours, which meant turning night into day. So I stayed up for as long as I could, until it was night time in my place of destination, then slept. Still feeling the jet lag, but am able to function at regular hours and will adjust quickly.
Singapore Airlines has amazing service. During the first drink service, I wanted coffee but they informed me that they had none until the meal service. However, 5 minutes later, they had brewed a pot and the stewardess had remembered exactly who had wanted coffee. The food was also phenomenal, my first meal was chicken katsu with soba noodles. It ended with Haagen Dasz Vanilla ice cream and a cup of coffee.
The entertainment is also awesome. The picture at the start of this post is a language learning program I can access on my screen. I also watched several movies and many episodes of Game of Thrones. Financial Times was made available at each stop and usually some other local papers. It made the flight go by painlessly. Tokyo and Singapore also had impressive airports with free WiFi, sleeping seats, 24 hour restaurants and really nice shops.
Finally I reach Jakarta, taking Blue Bird Taxi from the airport to my spot at the Sofi Residence. A quaint room just to hold me over until I can find something more permanent. Semi-rested and wanting to keep my internal clock on Jakarta time, I shower and go exploring. Why waste time, right?
Per the Choy/Peace Corps way, I hit the streets looking for good street food. Tired and with almost no Indonesian language, it is hard to know what I should order, how much it will cost and where the good places are. I find a man who speaks Mandarin and so I patronize his shop. My first meal is “Ayam Goreng,” which was a fried chicken in the sauce. Unfortunately, hunger overtook my tourist instinct, so I have no pictures of it. I also had a “Juice Cappucino” which was a really good iced coffee type drink.
Re-energized I explore the area around me trying to create a mental map and gain a sense of direction. However, the life of the city is in these smaller back roads that weave and turn and end at random places. Eventually, I end up where it seems like all the good street food is located (below, and the smoke is a delicious BBQ fish).
However, full and tired, I don’t feel like wrestling trying to order something, so I take a mental note and move on. (I know dad would be disappointed that I didn’t at least get a little bite to eat…but I’ll make up for it.) By now the random wandering is taking it’s toll so I begin following large crowds. Most people are walking into what looks like the back of a building and entering through a doorway of large plastic strips, like those going into a large supermarket refrigerator. Everyone else is going there, must be something interesting. Immediately wonderful AC hits me (I’m not used to the heat yet, so I’m sweating profusely.) The inside of the building doesn’t look like anything special, and in front of me are a couple of elevators. So I continue following. As I turn the corner, like a mecca of modernity, a multi-storied mall is revealed in front of me. Mal Ambassador. Tons of people fill it from top to bottom. Rows and rows of electronic stores, photography stores, cell phone stores, clothing stores…anything you could think of. Later, I would find that this connected to the ITC building which held a Carefour, the equivalent of a Walmart, and more swap meet like stands. I walk in awe for a bit, buy a couple of items I need and proceed to make my way back.
After having done this type of exploration many times in the past, I usually can tell when I’m going to get lost. And this is what happened. I got lost within the mall, finally got out, then had to make my way back to the guest house. Although a few landmarks looked familiar, I found myself going in circles or into completely new areas. Not everyone knows the street I’m looking for because it is a small path in a sea of many. I got down how to pronounce “Anggrek 5,” having to ask so many people where it was. One girl got frustrated trying to explain it to me, she gestured that I get a motor bike. 2 hours and 15 bajillion inquiries later, I got back, with an adapter for my electronics and ready to blog.
Well there you have it. A poetic introduction and a brief summary of my first day. This blog will probably take esoteric turns as I am prone to do when I become introspective. But it should also have posts that are just updates and stories into the following days. I hope you enjoy my writing and please comment and leave feedback. Terima Kaish (Thank you.)