If you had told me 12 months ago that I would be riding through Indonesia on the back of a motorcycle, clutching at my driver’s waist with white knuckles, I would’ve laughed in your face. Except that’s exactly what I’ve spent my summer holidays doing.
Before my six-week visit to Indonesia, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had some people tell me what a beautiful country it is and how I was going to love it, and others warn me about street gangs and corrupt governments. While, I definitely haven’t experienced either of the latter, throughout my time here studying journalism with the Australian Consortium for In-country Indonesian Studies (ACICIS) this is what I have observed:
One: It’s not about the journey, it’s about the destination
Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, is renowned for having some of the highest traffic congestion levels in the world. With a population more than 10 times larger than Australia’s, it often seems like a miracle to me that the city isn’t in constant gridlock. I’d estimate that I’ve spent around 70 per cent of my time here in traffic, and during that time I’ve learnt a valuable lesson from Jakarta’s road users: patience.
Two: Jakartans wait for everyone
Oh, you’re 50 minutes late to work? No worries; chances are your boss is too. People in Indonesia understand that time is flexible, calling it “jam karet” or rubber time. This is a big contrast to back home where if I’m three minutes late to my job at Boost Juice I’ll receive an angry “where u???” text.
Three: There is nothing more liberating than sitting on the back of a motorcycle
When the traffic finally gets moving, there’s something so surreal about flying through Jakarta at 80 kilometres an hour while texting your mum ensuring her you are, in fact, being safe. Although I spent my entire first week refusing to go on a bike, it’s the only way to get anywhere nearly on time.
Four: Learning the language is always important
One of the hardest parts about being in a different country is not being able to communicate effectively. At the start of my trip, I spent a lot of time just assuming people could speak English, which was very ignorant of me. I’ve learnt a bit of Indonesian now but if I could give only one word of advice to someone looking to travel, it would be to try and learn at least some of the language. It makes ordering from street vendors that much easier.
Five: Dance Monkey knows no borders
On one of my first days here, my taxi driver, upon learning I was Australian insisted on putting on Tones and I’s hit single. Love it or hate it, somehow everyone knows that damn song.
Words Madison Bogisch
Photography Jordan White