The words of the police officer who dragged me across the road as I struggled to understand Jakarta vehicle protocol – there is none to be frank. Pavements do not exist and if they do they crumble underfoot. The waste waterways are only 2 foot from your side and the stench is unbearable. The pace of the scooters and vehicles are frantic.
When I arrived last night I arrived into a land of unknown I was immediately surprised with the amount of people literally sitting taking up base on the street with their small market stalls. Food stalls are extremely common and they sit with the dirt of the roads and the soot from the pollution of the constant movement of vehicles covering their clothes. I was in awe. I am extremely open to my mind being opened and my horizons being broadened and that is exactly what this first hour was doing. On my left at 11:30pm I had the stench of the market stalls but on my right I had skyscrapers launching into the darkness (no street lighting) and watching the top twinkle in the smog. Already I was confused. The next day…today…has been even more confusing.
3 meters of poverty exists in this city. I am fortunate I am living in – what I thought was just a simple hotel but no this is like a proper marble resort in the middle of literally a local slum. Outside the gates sat a man smoking over fish on a grill while his feet being avoided by the passing scooters. The street is full of trash and dirt and then you look to my place and the cleaner is scrubbing the same bit of marble for the last 5 minutes. This is 9am.
As I walk around – its evident I ain’t going to get far. I am in no way going to be able to get to where I want to go. Pavements as I said are non exsistent. The buzz is unimaginable. The one way I can get to a place is grabbing on the back of a man on a scooter – so that’s what I did. When I was 16 – 20 I had a scooter so I was comfortable on the back of one. Actually it was great. The first driver – called Sam – pointed out places in broken English. Remember I have been in this city for 14 hours and already my observations are mind blown. As we passed somewhere I asked to jump off. It cost £1.70 for a 30 minute scooter ride – mind blown. But why I stopped was a few streets that were interesting. Its ok mum and dad we stuck to the speed limit and stopped at all road law markings. No overtaking was done at all.
The first street was absolutely full of market stalls. People standing smoking. Chatting. Leaning over old Samsung phones and nokia’s – no TVs just men sitting in small circles. Right, literally behind them, is a tennis academy with elite players who have just came off a bus which parks in the middle of the road. They wear Nike, Adidas and other global brands. They were being coached. And then again in front of them 100 metres down – at literally the entrance two children play with the dirt on the ground in bare feet – building stuff using there imagination with the stones. If this does not explain and express how this idea of 3 metres of poverty is happening then I don’t know what will.
(This may look peaceful but believe me it is not one bit…)
Globalisation has took this city forward slightly but there is a still a lot to do and be done with infrastructure. Cities cannot just throw up skyscrapers, marble hotels and try and take the city forward in terms of becoming a global city. In my opinion you cannot do that when there is barefooted individuals – and I mean hundreds upon hundreds – on the streets. There is no city in this world that does not have a problem with social division but Jakarta was an eye opening experience to a whole new level of poverty deprivation.
My next event is in Jakarta and even although today I could have went to two events – a Catholic Wedding in the Jakarta Cathedral and a political rally for the up and coming elections – I wasn’t able to because my phone had 1% and I had to get home before it ran out of battery. But actually it was nice to just watch the city and understand that for the next 6 days I am somewhere that every corner is going to surprise me.
But overall Jakarta is going to be a city that will be unknown and can only get even more interesting as I sit in a café the now with people smoking around me listening to Akon – globalization eh?