18 September 2008

Indonesian Guest Post - Andrea

Andrea is sweating it out in Jakarta, Indonesia and is finding the girl on girl touching about as frustrating as I am the man on man.

Well it is almost 2 months since I arrived in Jakarta and it has been the biggest best experience of my life so far. Jakarta is a city with a population of approximately 10 million people with another few million commuting from outside the city to work every day. It has no centre, sprawls for k's and k's with the poorest slums built around the base of amazing sky scrapers. It is never quiet here and the city is in your face all day and night. The traffic jams are horrendous with 5 km trips frequently taking 3 hours. I would walk everywhere if it wasn't for the pollution, the heat as well as the condition of the footpaths, which are covered in food stalls, beggars and motorbikes (at least these things are on the parts of the footpaths that are not gaping unmarked holes with 10 ft drops into untreated sewage.) The people are fantastic and stare at you until you smile then they crack the biggest grins I've ever seen. My work is with the Department of Education on a World Bank program that aims to bring up the standards of teachers in Indonesia so that by 2016 every teacher in Indonesia (there are 2.7 million of them) has a University qualification of at least 4 years in length. I am writing training for staff who will go onto training the teachers. The poverty here is crazy. 21 women died in a stampede in East Java on Monday, they were all trying to get a ramadhan gift from a rich man which was the equivalent of $3.30 each and there was this big rush to get to the front and the women who died were mostly elderly, widowed and really week from the 2 weeks of fasting which was just the most horrific thing. I've heard about similar occurences many times before but never in the country where I am living. The worst thing about tragedies like that is that there is so much money in Jakarta, and Indonesia has an abundance of valuable resources like oil, gas, coal etc however the money and the power is controlled by the tiniest percent of the population and the resources abused by the big companies that already have heaps of money. If Indonesia had a good 30 year plan they could easily be a middle-economy by then but a lot of the people in power are just far too interested in filling their own pockets. The rainy season has just started so I have had to buy candles for my apartment, extra water and prepare for calling in flooded to work which will be a novelty the first time but irritating not long after. The fasting month is upon us which is great for me as the work day is 8-3 but tough for everyone else. No food, water, cigarettes or sex from dawn to dusk which has resulted in some occasionally irritable and often very tired colleagues (sleeping more at their desk than they do in any normal month.) One of my favourite sites was walking through a food court just before the fast broke and seeing all the shop assistants bracing themselves for the onslaught of parched and hungry people who appeared in a matter of seconds. I thought it was strange to hear that a lot of people apparently put on weight during the fasting month as they don't eat all day then eat at least 2 meals before bed and get up at 3.30am to eat again before the fasting begins for the next day. I'm looking forwards to the next 10 months and am sure I will see something every day that will make me think "What the ???"

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