Driving.

Growing up, I always dreamed that I would someday fall in love with a boy.  A handsome boy.  My hypothetical beloved, handsome boy would have (or rent, or somehow acquire) a motorcycle.  While hypothetical beloved, handsome, motorcycle boy drove, I would sit on the back of said bike and enjoy the ride.

Now I am (partially?) grown up, and have realized that the boy is a completely unnecessary part of that dream.  Silly younger self.  Why sit behind a boy when I am perfectly capable of acquiring a motorbike and driving it myself?

If we’re being completely honest, I discovered this a few years ago.  And proceeded to almost run a motorbike through the front window of a casino. And ended up riding behind a handsome boy.  But that is a story for another day.

Current self is a much better motorbike driver.  As a congratulations-for-being-able-to-drive-a-motorbike-somewhere-besides-through-a-window gift to myself, I purchased a new toy 🙂

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Isn’t it just the cutest!?  It’s called a Scoopy, and it’s a relatively popular scooter in Indonesia.

I am absolutely loving it!  Not only has my motorbike allowed me a new source of freedom and a fresh form of adventure, but it’s been an outlet for de-stressing.

When at school grading late or needing to unwind before bed, I’ll take Scoopy on a quick ride, usually touring Bulevar Palem Raya, the street that both my apartment and school reside on.  It’s probably the smoothest, straightest road in the area, and is relatively empty at night.  I can go fast enough that my worries can’t catch up and I can be free to appreciate the breeze blowing by (a rare luxury here).

Unfortunately, this driving bliss is not always the case.

Note: If you have any maternal relation to/feelings for me, you can just stop reading here and be reassured the previous part of my post (:

Although I have been pleasantly surprised by how quickly I have grown accustomed to my bike and the driving patterns of Indonesia (they drive on the left side of the road!), we wouldn’t want things to be too easy, now would we?  In order to increase the challenge and make things interesting, several level-ups have been added into the equation.

1.  Speed limit signs here are simply a suggestion worth laughing at. I would compare them to the “no chewing gum” rule in my high school Spanish classes.  Strangely enough, all of the speed limit signs are written in English (tuck this piece of information away, we will return to it later).  Anyway, to solve this problem they have installed speed bumps and staggered half gates (so you have to drive in an ‘S’ shape through them) on all of the roads.

2. White people get picked on. Yup, you heard me.  Let’s come back to the English speed limit signs – why is this the case, when maybe 5% of the population is English-speaking?  Because we are the only ones expected to follow the “rules”.  From what I have seen, I could swear that a police job description here reads something like “Allow all Indonesians to pass peacefully, but if you spot a white person, try to pull them over for something.”

3. People drive like they walk here.  No one cares where you are or where you are trying to go.  Driving here, you often wonder whether the drivers around you are in some sort of game, in which they gain points for cutting people off.  Clarification to this comparison:  drivers do not feel the need, as walkers do, to travel at the speed of a handicapped turtle.  Further clarification: pedestrians do continue at this speed, despite the fact that vehicles are attempting to drive.

4. Right of way does not exist.  Oh, you would like to turn right (the equivalent of an American left turn), sir?  Sure, please cut me off as I attempt to continue on my straight path.  Don’t worry, I will slam on my brakes in a last-ditch effort to avoid you.

5. Men. White girls are considered attractive here, and there aren’t too many of us.  Apparently, white girls riding motorbikes is a rare find.  Through this I have already learned (many times) that having men drive alongside you, talking to you in some unknown language, honking, and making obnoxious noises can be rather distracting.  I must say, though, that there is nothing more satisfying than leaving them in the dust.

6. Racecar tracks. Lippo Karawaci, my current city of residence, was a planned city, meaning that they whole thing was mapped out, and then built.  When they were designing it, they decided to make the main street a racing circuit.  While this is a cool idea, it makes everyday driving difficult – if you miss one minor branch-off, you have to continue around the entire circle again in order to correct your mistake.  With the crazy amounts of traffic, this means that 1) you end up driving in a lot of circles, and 2) others, who don’t want to drive in circles, make some pretty crazy moves to avoid doing so.

Despite some of the more comical traffic patterns here, I have absolutely loved having my motorbike and being able to navigate my way through my small pocket of Indonesia.  There is something about the open-air driving, being subject to the sights and smells and sounds, that makes you feel like you are experiencing the country in a more real way.  And I have a feeling that maybe, just maybe, I would at times miss the challenge and excitement of driving here, were I to move to a calmer area.

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