Taking a Starbucks Break on Car Free Day

My December goal is to get down 1,000 words a day. So far, I’m 2,250 behind so this word vomit will get me rolling.

A frequent conversation among the Australians I hang out with is how the four-hour time difference between back home (not you, Perth) and Jakarta is probably worse than the decent twelve hours with the US. No one feels sorry for us, nodding off at 10pm which is really 2am if you think about it. The good thing about it though is last night I was asleep by 9pm so was more than ready to head to Car Free Day at 7am — an aberration I must take advantage of before returning to my usual habits of lying in bed before ordering some sort of chicken dish on GoJek at 11am.

It’s too hot. It’s always too hot. I’m staying near Harmoni but I’m getting the bus one stop to Monas anyway. Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the anti-Ahok 212 demo. I didn’t go but there were a lot of people at the Carrefour Duta Merlin afterward wearing white. I got in a conversation with a man who runs the hotel last night about it all. Usually I’d have tried to return to my quiet time but he kept saying ‘we’ instead of ‘them’ so I indulged, lots of leading questions about Ahok and Jokowi. I learnt a lot and quickly. Anyway, you wouldn’t be able to tell anything happened at Monas yesterday if it weren’t for Jakarta Post publishing a story about the FPI calling for a sharia-led Indonesia.

I love Car Free Day. I don’t think you could do it in Australia easily. I like those ideas about turning city-centres into largely car free spaces, but I don’t think that works either. Canberra has a good middle ground where cars have to go super slow and give way to pedestrians in the city. Of course, there’s always some mental driver with NSW plates accidentally running down public servants and pensioners but my second favourite hobby is berating people doing the wrong thing so even that is forgivable to me.

Car Free Days are around the world though. I didn’t know this, when I first moved here I thought Indonesia had invented it. But you can get them in Europe and North America. I’m not sure if they’re also first thing in the morning but I doubt it. Too cold! In Jakarta it’s too hot for me constantly, but leaving the house to walk from Monas to HI (okay okay I only got as far as Starbucks Sarinah) is not so bad at 7 in the morning. If Australia had Car Free Days in our cities that early on a Sunday it would be populated by 20 year olds leaving the clubs high as hell.

I like Car Free Day a lot. I like the funny mix of things to do and see. The women screaming AQUAAQUAAQUAAQUA and waving water bottles at me, the Jakmania boys who seem to always be out no matter when in the season it is, vendors selling some of the creepiest Upin and Ipin merch I’ve ever seen. I only had two things to do today — get a new SIM card and get some batagor — and I did both at stalls within 50 metres of each other. There’s groups marching for World AIDS Day and older women doing stretches in the forecourts of office buildings.

I have to work hard to fall back in love with Jakarta over the next few weeks. It’s not Jakarta’s fault, or mine really. I had a bad year this year and don’t feel great anywhere. I’m worried this could tar Jakarta for me, like how I hate being back in Melbourne and will probably never live there again because of how shit it was towards the end. I know I can make myself love Jakarta again because the things I do love about it are too odd to explain when people back home ask me why I like it here so much.

My favourite things about Jakarta are the teenage girls in hijabs gagging during Idul Adha and getting ojeks through Tanah Abang in the middle of the night where kids play soccer on the road and old men sit in warung smoking. I like going to Glodok and rooftops with my friends. I love going to the cinema, but probably do that too often. Likewise I love getting on the beers in Blok M, but too often probably. I like going to yoga and getting a chicken katsu curry after. I do that just often enough.

I know what I need to do: more language lessons less drinking on weekdays. More exploring less lying in bed watching America’s Next Top Model reruns on Starworld.

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