Flashback – Life on the 32nd Floor: Jakarta

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I’ve now been in living in Jakarta for around two years and six months. Here’s a little somethin’ somethin’ I wrote after my first five months into the move in 2012…

It was 11.47 am – and I needed to be present at work in precisely thirteen minutes. Where are my keys… where are my keys…aha! On the floor where they should obviously be – ok off we go! I closed the door behind me, locked it, double checked, and then proceeded with the nine steps it takes to get to elevator. Living on the thirty-second floor, it sometimes takes a minute or two or ten, for one of the four elevators to travel upwards to the dizzying heights of Tower A.
Ping!
The steely lift doors open and what am I confronted with?
Two propaaa Laandan GEEZERS.
Both with shiny bald heads that rippled and melded into the back of their necks , with biceps and forearms heavily illustrated with tattoos, one donning a gold ring in his earlobe – and both conversing in thick cockney geezer accents.
‘…Yeh so he said we didn’t have to do it in the end, mate.’
‘Haha, what a plonker.’ (He actually said this.)
‘Ha yeh I know mate, I know. He’s got a lot on his plate at the moment though. Gotta cut him some slack you know.’
‘Yeh yeh. Fair nuff. So we’s goin round later, yeh?’
‘I’ll see, mate. Well knackered you know. This heat’s doin ma head in.’
‘I’m not complainin. Cats and dogs back home ain’t it mate.’
(…Honestly, it was that much of a picture perfect stereotype.)

Ch-whaaaaat?? Who are they?! Why are they here?? Should I ask? I wonder whether they can tell I’m from England too. Or not from Indonesia maybe. I want to talk to them. What in the world are two Laandan blokes like this doing in Jakarta?! Ok, here it goes –
Ping!
Damn.
The steely lift doors opened once again, showcasing the ground floor lobby corridor in front. The two geezers stepped out ahead of me into the corridor and then through the lobby door. Lost forever. I wondered whether they had noticed me at all – they’d both just made my morning way to work a whole lot more interesting. What were they doing in Jakarta?!
I decided if I ever saw them again, I’d pluck up the courage to ask them. Channelling my inner stalker, I’ve been on the look-out for them ever since. It’s been about four weeks now since this happened and no sign, not even a tiny glimpse of any cockney ripple necks about at all.

And then I thought, I wonder if people here think that about me?
Because I’m of Indian ethnicity and that, I don’t look distinctly English (or ‘bule’ as Indonesians say to refer to Westerners) – but people here can tell I’m most definitely not from Jakarta. A twenty-three year old girl, here living by herself in Jakarta. What is she doing here?!
In one weeks’ time, I will have been here exactly five months (saya sudah tinggal disini selama lima bulan – one of the few phrases of Bahasa I’ve learnt while I’ve been here, GET ME). I have fully adjusted to the beautiful and bustling Jakartan life – but every now and again, like a sneaky ninja armed with a cold wet fish, it will pounce out of nowhere and slap me across the face – flippin ‘eck, I’m living in Indonesia. How did I end up here?!
I love my life here, but sometimes it just feels so surreal, like I’m living a dream, having another life on the other side of the world from my home in little old Derby.

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The first time it hit me was during my second month here. It hit me in the same way as when you’ve drunk that little bit too much and it’s tipped you just over the edge. Your legs are overcome with a numbness and a mini whirlwind enters your forehead – and it all happens when you least expect it. This happened to me, except I wasn’t sitting around sipping on potent cocktails, I was instead walking back to my apartment from one of the many malls in Jakarta, hands full of grocery bags and mind floating somewhere between what I was going to have for dinner that night, my holiday in September and duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh duh BATMAAAN (I’d seen The Dark Knight Rises a couple of hours before; WELL intense) – and then, just like I’d been injected with novacane, a very strange, surreal feeling came over me. Wow, I’m in Indonesia. By myself. Doing my weekly shop and doing this walk home – because this walk home was part of my life for now.

And three months later, on Sunday 14th October, I will be making that same walk home at some point today.
Many people have a love-hate relationship with Jakarta, which to a certain extent I can understand. But for me, life out here in the behemothic Indonesian capital is more than good. Apart from the insane component of Jakarta’s colossal traffic, which one must (reluctantly) accept very soon on, I truly cannot complain. With a constant temperature of 32 degrees, a cuisine so varied and appetizing (whether it be on the heated porcelain dish of a swanky restaurant, or wrapped up in brown paper from a smoky, aromatic hawker stall) along with a population of friendly, good humoured and very smiley people, all is good here. Add to that a pretty fun job and some cool friends and colleagues, and I’m a very lucky person. To more or less choose to go work in a country I had never been to, and didn’t know much about – and for it to all work out? I couldn’t ask for more.

So with that, I shall end this soppy love-fest for all things Indonesian, will myself from off my bed and go make that walk to the grocery shops, that walk that is very much part of my life now.

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5 comments

  1. Aaaaw! Love this post! It is weird but I feel that way about England, still somewhat surreal in moments. When I think ‘tourists’ to some people in London, when I know full well that I am not a Londoner myself either. weird. I ask myself all the time “what the hell am I doing here?” hahaha. This is such a good post.

    1. Am glad you liked it, thank you so much :) I’m pretty sure it’s the kind of surreal feeling many people can relate to, but it’s a feeling that no matter how long you’re there for it just doesn’t go away – but in a good way I guess! It keeps reminding you how exciting the place is, right? How long have you been living in London for now?

      1. I have been in England around 8 years maybe..that is hell of a time, Im still refusing the idea of staying here forever haha.

  2. Gabby Hakim · · Reply

    Great post, Saira! I was smiling reading this. Such an amazing writer! xx

    1. thank you so so much, you are too kind gabsta! :D nice to see you here on wordpress :)

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