A question that my students never fail to ask me is ‘what do you think about Jakarta?’
I know the place gets ripped a lot, but my genuine real answer is: I like it. The food is delicious, the weather means I never have to wear a coat, the people are warm and friendly and I’ve never had so much fun as I have had over the past two and a half years living here. Saying this, dear Jakarta has one giant, laborious drawback that one must from day one accept, grit their teeth and get on with it. The traffic. Like the sun is in the sky, it is here everyday; blaring and mind-melting. I have spent a lot of my time here sat in a taxi, rooted in ridiculous congestion – so with all that time I had, I spent part of it sleeping, most of it absent-mindedly gazing out the window and a few minutes here and there formulating the effort of a poem below. So please read on, my ode to Jakarta’s traffic; The Macet Song.
The Macet Song
A standstill. Stuck. Stuck in the mud,
These cars and bikes are moving slower than they should,
Sat in the back of a cab and knowing the ride will be long,
I whipped out my notebook to write the Macet Song.
Jakarta’s people have qualities you can’t miss,
Amity and charm – but punctuality does not exist,
And who could blame them, with the roads out of check,
Swarmed full of cars, buses, kopajas and ojeks.
You’d have thought this ten minute trip would be a cinch,
But every five minutes, you crawl a small, sad inch,
Amongst the smoke and engines, patience is a virtue,
So relax and ignore that this could all mentally very hurt you.
My taxi driver sighs and rests his head in his hands,
Ahead a sardine-tin view of tired, crammed cars spans,
He looks up in his mirror and wearily says to me,
‘Di Jakarta, ada macet, setiap hari.’
Traffic, gridlock, jammed – whatever you say,
Macet is a word I learnt on my very first day,
And since then whilst weaving through rush hour manic,
Have I, on many occasion, sent the text: ‘Sorry, gonna be late. Traffic.’
Unheard of is ‘just going for a cruise’,
Like the weather in England, here traffic is the news,
So as you sit there for another long hour and a half,
All you can do is sit, fight back the tears and laugh.
*Don’t worry Jakarta, I still love you regardless!