It has taken me a while to feel at home in Jakarta. Living and working overseas is a transient lifestyle and while there are many benefits, there is one drawback: I am away from my home and family most of the time. When I think of home, I am reminded of my mom preparing Sunday roast dinner and every Sunday we would sit down as a family and eat and spend time with each other. I still miss home and those Sunday roast dinners but now Jakarta is where I am based.
I live in a beautiful neighborhood and it is my sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of daily life and the stresses of work. This is the street that I live on. It is beautifully tree-lined and it is one of the reasons that I love living in my neighborhood. The pollution can be bad in Jakarta, but I fool myself into thinking that because I live around so many trees, the air is cleaner in my neighborhood.
At the risk of dating myself, my house is similar to Melrose Place in that the house has been divided into four flats that are surrounded by a pool. I live in one of the flats upstairs. My place is small but it has lots of light and a beautiful view of the gardens. Budi is the day guard and he watches over the house.
The gardens and pool create an ambience of tranquility from the concrete jungle of the city. Immediately as I walk through the gate I feel the stresses of the day melt away.
I love going to cafes to read the papers and have a coffee or do some of my correspondence. Harvest cafe is at the end of my road. It is the “Central Perk” of my neighborhood. I love the fact that I can walk to Harvest from my house and on sidewalks. Jakarta has very few sidewalks and so to be able to walk on sidewalks is very exciting. Harvest serves the best cakes and hot chocolate.
When I need to do my grocery shopping, Ranch Market is just around the corner. It has such a great neighborhood feel to the place. The selection at the market is pretty good and I can usually buy whatever I need. However, there are times when it has been difficult to purchase Western products because of government bans and restrictions or high duties on these products. Western products can be expensive; for example, a jug of Tide is around $21, a big bag of Lays chips can cost around $6, the other day I was able to buy 3 apples for almost $15 US. Food can be expensive and interestingly enough, the healthier that I want to eat, the more expensive the food is. Most times, I’ll buy wild salmon that comes from Tasmania, Australia but it is pretty expensive as you can imagine because it is imported into the country.
The wine shop around the corner from me opened up recently and the selection is amazing. I sometimes forget that I am in Jakarta when browsing in this store. However, one look at the high prices quickly reminds me that I am living in a Muslim country that frowns upon alcohol and so in order to discourage consumption, the government taxes liquor 400 percent. The cheapest bottle of wine is $17 US. A cheap bottle of vodka could cost $80 US. One would think that given the price of alcohol, I would drink less but this isn’t the case.
One of the best perks of living overseas is being able to have a massage at such a reasonable price. Last week, during my Spring Break, I had a massage almost every day. The price – $10 US for an hour! Sometimes I come home from work and walk over to KENKO to get a massage to help release the stress of the day.
Orchids are one of my most favorite flowers. When I walk out the gate of my house, the side of the road that my house is on is lined with flower stalls like this one. The stalls extend for about 1/2 km down the street. The variety of tropical flowers and greenery that is sold here is incredible.
I have to admit though that there are times when I get frustrated with living in a developing nation, part of the reason is that things don’t always run efficiently or I miss having the freedom to move around a city because the traffic is crazy and public transportation is poor or the pollution is bad and I miss clean air or there are no parks where I can go running or biking. When I get to a point where I need a reprieve from daily life in Jakarta, I walk across the road to the Dharmwagnsa Hotel for one of their famous martinis and then, all’s right in the world. The hotel reminds me of the Muthaiga Country Club in the film Out of Africa. It is a gorgeous and an oasis of tranquility.
The architecture while modern is distinctively Indonesian. It is a contemporary interpretation of 1950s Kebayoran Baru – the name of the neighborhood that I live in. Walking into the hotel, I am swept away into another world by the distinctly Balinese decor. The design of the lobby lounge creates a level of intimacy unique to this residential luxury hotel.
Indonesia has been my host country for the past couple of years. I like my home and where I live, but I do know that this is only home until the next posting.