Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Life in the Bubble
First, a note about life in Jakarta. In Toronto, if you want to go to a given destination, you can walk there, drive there, bike there or take the TTC. The sidewalks are broad, the TTC is reliable, safe and fairly direct (if not extensive) and if your in a car, the roads are wide and parking is plentiful, if a little pricy. In Jakarta, the sidewalks are either non-existent, or absolutely taken up by street vendors called "abang-abang". This means that walking even a short distance, say 15 minutes, becomes difficult (you will get hassled by the vendors and other types trying to hawk their wears or maybe pick your pockets) and the sidewalk might suddenly end and become the gate wall of the next building. So, rather than walk somewhere, or park near your destination and walk the remaining distance, you take a taxi directly to the door, or park in an underground garage of a mall. Consequently, there is quite a lot of shuttling between one enclosed area, such as a mall which may have an extensive open air courtyard but is still sealed off from "the street" and another, such as a restaurant in a strip mall complex, again sealed off from the streets. All the mall entrances have security checks, ostensibly for bombs but also to restrict access to the priviledged. I was in a car that dropped a local off in her area and at the entrance to her neighbourhood, there was a gate and three watchmen, again restricting access. This is a huge adjustment from Toronto, and to those who complain about inequality in TO, they should see this city, where the elite are hermetically sealed off from the "masses".