If you asked me six months ago what I’d be doing with my life now, living in Jakarta was not on the agenda.
I’ve been in Indonesia for just two weeks and have fallen in love with the people, culture, place and food. This was not something I was expecting to feel when I applied for the ACICIS Journalism Professional Practicum.
I applied for the program to enhance my career as a journalist and to broaden my knowledge of the world, as well as learn to be independent.
Indonesia has not been what I expected, here’s a list of what I thought before I arrived, arriving and two weeks in Jakarta.
Before arriving in Jakarta:
- It’s going to be dirty,
- The air is going to be thick,
- There’s going to be a lot of people catcalling and harassing you because you’re a foreigner,
- Avoid the back streets,
- Don’t attempt to walk across the street,
- Don’t ride on a motorbike,
- It’s going to be hard to communicate with the locals,
- Squat toilets,
- Don’t eat street food.
First day arriving in Jakarta:
- Wore my backpack on the front because I was scared of being pickpocket-ed,
- Lots of smoke in the air – mainly from cigarettes,
- Avoided eye contact with the locals/people who I thought looked suss,
- Sweating – a lot,
- Found it a little bit difficult to breathe,
- Lots and lots of high risers – heaps of shopping malls,
- Traffic was overwhelming.
Two weeks in Indonesia:
- Started to wear my backpack normally,
- The locals are so nice – genuine people with a story to tell,
- The best stories come from the back streets,
- Body has adapted to the atmosphere in Jakarta – less sweating and can breathe easily,
- Best food comes from ‘warungs’ (street food),
- Have been catching Go-Jeks (motorbikes) to travel around,
- My Bahasa Indonesia is improving – I know basic Indonesian and am able to form conversation with the locals – with the help of hand gestures!
- Have made life long friends with my housemates!
- Have travelled to Bogor and Anyer Beach,
- Visited the National Monument, Museum National and local markets
- Have learnt a lot about Indonesia and Jakarta.
One of the best decisions I made was to make friends with some girls from Sydney before travelling to Jakarta. We were all very nervous about going to a different country – it was my first time travelling by myself. Together we gained the confidence to walk around in a group at night to the warungs for some snacks and now we’re also confident when getting into a taxi and communicating with the driver about where we want to go.
When we finally gained the courage to walk the back streets, we found the best people and their stories. I met some refugees from Syrian and Jordan – this surprised me. They have been living in Indonesia for three years, six months and counting. They’re in limbo, waiting for their paperwork to be processed by the UN so they can be moved to another country – and yet they still manage to keep a smile on their face!
The stories from the back streets of Jakarta reminded me of why I wanted to be a journalist. I want to tell the stories that aren’t told and to educate people about the world.
When travelling with “Orang using” OR “bulai” also know as “foreigner” you will be asked to take plenty of selfies – which just showed how beautiful Indonesians are. They’re genuinely friendly and willing to help out when they see a lost bulai.
The highlight of my trip so far is visiting a learning centre for refugee children in Bogor. The children there have been through so much, left their home with their families in search of a better future for themselves and yet they still had so much innocence and hope in their eyes. They were so eager to learn – most students loved learning English!
I have experienced so much in the last two weeks, I honestly don’t know how I’m going to say goodbye to Indonesia. I’m going to make the most of the time I have left, so if you have any suggestions of places to go/visit please comment below!