After 21 hours of soaring through the sky, we finally planted our feet in Indonesia! Culture shock hit hard the second we left the airport and set foot into the taxi. Knowing that Jakarta has been named the city with the worst traffic congestion in the world, I was holding on to the edge of my seat the whole way, but our driver’s severe case of flatulence during our thirty-minute ride to our hostel made the experience that much more unique and unforgettable. Eyes wide open, nose plugged. As though driving on the left side of the road wasn’t unfamiliar enough; driving in the middle of the lane, inches away from other vehicles, weaving in and out at high speeds, no turn signals in use, was far beyond anything I could’ve ever imagined.
Jakarta’s traffic laws are very intriguing. Here are some of the bizarre ones;
- Drivers often use the shoulders as passing lanes
- Honking is used to signal that other vehicles are too close
- Most cars do not have functioning lights or turn signals
- In an emergency vehicle accident, an ambulance does not come to your aid, someone on the scene of or involved in the accident must drive the injured victim to the hospital.
- Many Indonesian families only have a motorcycle as transportation, therefore seeing four people on a motorcycle is quite common.
Using the bathroom here is a whole other story. The first woman’s bathroom I used was surprising. The toilet was on the floor, with two footprints engraved on either side to help you squat. Most restrooms do not provide toilet paper, but instead provide a hose to spray yourself off afterwards. However, in the rare occasion that toilet paper is provided, flushing the paper down the toilet is a major no-no! You must wipe and throw your garbage in the open, communal trash can beside your bare feet; “shoes off please” signs are placed just outside the door. I’m still trying to break this habit I’ve developed over 20 years!
The locals here have a heart of gold. Curiosity, smiles, and helpfulness is surrounded all around us. Kevin and I certainly stood out in Jakarta. However, being the minority here is a very welcoming and beautiful thing. After our first “can I have a photo with you” question arose, the same question never stopped; and I loved every minute of it. Although their English was broken, “beautiful” was the word they used to describe Kevin and I. After each photo taken with them, their appreciation and gratitude showed immensely through their smiles and kind, soft handshakes. Everyone here has been so helpful; showing us the way to the ATM, guiding us across the congested traffic streets (cross walks do not exist here) warmed my heart with so much joy.
For our very first stop, we couldn’t have chosen a better place to explore. Tomorrow we take flight to Makassar where we begin our first volunteer project! Stay tuned for many more adventures, crazy stories, and life experiences!