Today marks one month in Indonesia. To celebrate, I headed out of our Indonesian-flavored American bubble to see real Indonesia. We drove about three hours out to a town called Bogor. Although our named destination was the Botanical Garden located there, the road trip was the real goal.
Important note: We had a lot of fun laughing at some of the craziness on this trip. That said, I already love this country and many parts of its culture!
I realized three things about myself on this trip:
My back is worse than I thought (thanks to six hours on a motorbike)
I never want to be famous.
Now, “road trip” probably pulled up a different mental picture for you than what our day actually looked like. We had to squeeze down side streets, breathe exhaust fumes in crazy traffic, swerve around potholes, avoid 12-year-old moped drives and the chicken transporter, and navigate through the street markets and intersections (they’re not so good at taking turns here). This is where I learned that my back is worse than I thought. Here are a couple of glimpses of what it actually looked like:
By the time we got there, we were all quite hungry and wanted to find food before we hit the gardens. After voting down the idea of street food, we decided to try the food court in the nearby mall. This is where I learned that I am claustrophobic.
Now, let me explain to you something about the (gazillion) malls here: they’re enormous. We’re talking seven story, slides taking you down floors, roller coasters winding through, endless food court crazy. We weaved through the mass of people on the main level as quickly as we could, and headed to the fourth floor food court. Coming up the elevator, we were attacked by four or five Indonesian women trying to entice us with their menus. Needless to say, we were surprised when we saw only a few shabby, Indonesian-food restaurants; we’re used to having many clean, varied options! We did, however, find this:
[They love Obama here, he lived here for a little while.] Didn’t make it feel much more homey, though. In fact, between the moldy ceilings, greenish tint, and the child’s ride playing off-tune songs that hinted it had serviced American children in the 80’s, the place looked like the perfect set for a zombie apocalypse.
This whole trip, in general, is where I learned that I never want to be famous. You see, where we live, there are lots of bules (boo-lays). [Definition: bule is the Indonesian equivalent of the Spanish gringo (white person).] We may draw an extra stare or cat call, but they’re basically kept to a level at which you can learn to ignore them. Not so in Bogor! We’re not talking “what is a bule!?” status, but we had definitely achieved the “oh my gosh what’s a bule doing here!?” level. I was stared at, yelled at, pointed at, waved at, laughed at, smiled at, danced for, questioned – you name a kind of attention, it was focused this way. By the time the day was over, I just wanted to go hide in my apartment, away from all of the eyes. Lauren, a friend I went with, narrated rather accurately when we had an entire bus of people staring at us, “Now kids, if you look to your right, you’ll see what we call a bule!”
Finally, we made it to the botanical gardens. Anything in the vicinity of Jakarta is rather consistently covered in smog, so I thoroughly enjoyed the blue skies that formed the ceiling of the garden. Also, seeing so many new plants was fascinating!
I’m sure this was just the first of many adventures exploring Indonesia!