Just as in any city, Jakarta has a spectrum of living conditions. Recently, Mark and I went out for dinner (just the two of us!!!) On our way we drove through a typical Jakarta neighbourhood. It’s difficult to take a picture through the window of a moving car, so my photos are not ideal and I will do my best to describe what we saw.
Most streets are insufficiently wide for the amount of traffic, but the winding neighbourhood streets are even narrower, often only wide enough for one car, yet somehow two manage to get through. Streets twist and turn, following no logical course, often crossing over the many rivers that flow through this city. Lining the sides are stalls and storefronts of all sorts; vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables, hot soto mie, ayam or bakso (noodle, chicken or meatball soup), mix drink vendors, electronics stores, a sewing shop with a man and his machine ready to work, motorbike repair shops, building supply vendors and so much more. Most stalls are crammed together occasionally allowing for narrow alleys to other parts of the neighbourhood to which this outsider hasn’t ventured. Parked motorbikes dot the roads and moving bikes wind their way through the streets and down the narrow alleyways. Men push or pull carts with food or products to sell, or filled with recycling or other various materials. Sometimes you’ll see a child or two riding on top. Kids seem to be everywhere, eating a meal, following a parent, squeezed onto a bike, or riding their own bicycles, navigating an environment so familiar to them.
It’s a busy place, there’s so much to take in.
As we near a major road, I see the sign for a KFC I’ve never noticed before and we pass the entrance to a very large apartment tower. This street is now 6 lanes across with bus lanes in each direction. The buildings are bigger and gradually the small shops are gone and only the massive city buildings are left but not before I notice a building crammed and busting from ground to roof, with… bags of garbage.
At first, this is all so new and different, you just look and look and let it sink in. As we drive this path each week to church, it’s becoming familiar and less overwhelming. I love to see how the world works. People are making a living and shopping for their needs. They are together, they are laughing, they are waving and smiling, they are doing life and it is a sacred thing.