the tropical equivalent of a snow day…

In Virginia we had snow days…in Jakarta we have flood days. I knew that I was moving to a country with monsoon season and I knew that there would likely be floods…but for some reason the concept of flood days didn’t occur to me.

Thankfully so far in Jakarta there is no major damage due to the floods. My town isn’t under water, but we can’t venture too far out because much of Jakarta is currently flooded, which means the roads are closed…and the parts that aren’t flooded have extra traffic jams.

What I find interesting is how people aren’t really freaked out by the floods. They treat it very much the same way we treated snow days back in Virginia. It happens a couple times every year…so for the most part people are prepared for it. People who can work from home stay home and wait for the water to recede—just like we would wait for the ice to melt. Those who have to go into their office brave the insanity and go in. I think people like getting an unexpected excuse to stay home and chill with their friends and family.

I really enjoyed the bonding experience of snow days with my roommates in the past, so I’m kind of excited to get to experience the tropical equivalent with my housemates here in Jakarta.

space, time, lines, and airplane boarding…

Culture is a funny thing. Certain actions or behaviors become socially “normal” to us and we no longer really think about them, we just do them because that’s just how things are. The perfect place to see varying cultural norms (particularly ones regarding to space, time, and lines) is in the airport. 

Yesterday when I was getting ready to board my flight from Jakarta to Dubai, I was surrounded by mass chaos. Everyone piled into the waiting area and sat as close to each other as possible. Once boarding began, 90 minutes late, everyone disregarded the person calling the boarding regions and rushed the gate en mass–forming a giant glob of people all trying to enter the plane at the same time. 

 Fast forward 15 hours when I was sitting at my gate with Europeans in Dubai getting ready to board my flight for Madrid. Everyone was sitting down and spread throughout the whole waiting area. When the Emirates people called passengers to board based on their boarding regions, people stayed sitting until their region was called. Once their region was called, they formed an orderly line to enter the plane, ahead of schedule. 

 Without consciously thinking about the situation, I was taken aback by how bizarre the orderliness of boarding the boarding in Dubai was. I felt out of place without the mass craziness around me. It seemed strange that people would stick to lines and board ahead of schedule. Crazy to think that four months ago I would have felt more at home in the orderliness, but now it just feels odd. 

The funniest part about the whole experience was that I hadn’t even realized how much I had adapted  to the Indonesian norms of space, time, and lines until I felt out of place in what I had previously considered “normal.” At the time, I didn’t fully realize that the Jakarta airport experience was chaotic, because that’s just how things are in Indonesia. I guess it’s a good sign that I am adapting to the way life works there, because that’s home for the next two years. Who knows, maybe in six months I won’t even like straight lines anymore.

numbers are not sequential

So I know that this goes against all the math principles I learned in school, but numbers are not sequential…at least not in regards to building numbers in Jakarta. When trying to find a house in any other part of the world I’ve visited, you find the street name and the house numbers go in order–either up or down depending on which direction you walk or drive. Well, in Indonesia it doesn’t quite work that way. 

Wednesday I was on my way to the sub district health office for a meeting with the director of maternal and child health for the north Jakarta sub district and was trying to find her building. In general it is difficult to find a new location, but streets signs are more of an option rather than a necessity here. But even once you find the correct street, it’s hard to find the actual building you are looking for. So on Wednesday, we got on what we thought was the right street but we couldn’t find #29. We passed #2, #98, #17 (in that order), but could not find 29. I was so confused as to why the numbers were in no particular sequence–there weren’t even odd numbers on one side and even numbers on the other–it just seemed completely random. 

However, I learned from my boss that there actually is a reason for the un-sequential house numbers. Apparently when roads change names, the numbering of the houses starts over for the new houses, but if you are a current resident of a house on the street you have the option of keeping your previous house number–even though the name of your street changes. That is why you end up with houses next to each other numbered 4, 25, 7, 240, 10. 

I find it quite confusing, but it certainly makes for an adventure any time you try to find a building you’ve never been to before!