Sunday, August 22, 2010

Getting there

I arrived in Jakarta this morning from Singapore after about a day and a half of travel from ORD. Thus concludes an incredible month of Leaving Chicago that saw my 93-year-old grandma die and a bad and freakish west suburban flood wipe out about 275 books and sundry other stuff I'd stored in my mom's basement before heading overseas. The very end of that month also brought news that my dog, Olive, has terminal lymphoma. This rotten and honestly heartbreaking fucking development came just a day before Olive and Missy left for a new life in the green hills of western Mass., and it means that my goodbyes with the dog a week and a half ago were permanent. Thinking about that scene and about the inescapable hard truth of Olive's diagnosis makes me sad, even here, half-way around the world, caught up in all the shock of the new that attends meeting and greeting 43 new acquaintances--almost all of them young going on younger--as we jump into the relatively unknown, together and individually. I brought Olive's old collar and tags and will carry them with me throughout this trip. Great dog, good friend and sweet companion. She'll be nine in November, and that just wasn't enough time with her.

Not much to say yet about Indonesia. Arrived this morning and we were bused to the very swank Aston Marina hotel in Central Jakarta. Short organizational meeting followed by health-saving six-hour sleep. Took a walk near the hotel tonight, down a busy thoroughfare lined with open-air vendor booths and carts and the enclosed street eateries called warungs. Lots of cigarettes, pop, fried rice, fried seafood, skewered chicken, skewered squid. I'd read sidewalks are mostly a myth and found this to be true; lots of walking in the street, sharing space with small-displacement motorcycles, rickety little motorcycle cabs, and the occasional diesel bus. Sampled zero food but found a couple places that look promising for later in the week.

These shops and tents and carts, spilling all over what would be the public way, were lined up along an arterial thoroughfare opposite a large shopping mall complex that was closed for the night. Guards posted outside the mall, and traffic barricades too. Other side of the street, significantly more approachable if jarringly ad hoc. Guy directing diners into one of the more promising seafood joints was actually sitting on a stool in the near lane of this busy street. He simply put a couple cones in front of him and traffic steered around his perch. Getting around him--which I'm guessing was the point--meant walking into the middle of the street, and who wants to do that? Have a seat. Grab a dinner! But if you walk into the street, beyond the cones and around the hawker, the motorcycles and moto-cabs will drive around you, too. Everyone just squeezing by.


  1. Very cool, Brett. The town sounds like Nola or Vegas, with barkers in the street. I've invited a few of your friends to folo this blog, fyi. Hopefully fan base soon! Ang

  2. I don't know about a fan base. But I'll read the damn thing from time to time. Living Volcanically? That sure does sound inspired by a certain Ms. Elizabeth Gilbert. Who will star in your movie?

  3. And the fan base begins ...

    So sorry to hear about Olive, such a sweet dog (once I was no longer scared of her)! Can't wait to read about your adventures, though. And the town sounds more like Lagos ... beware of the enticing street food!