I’ve just celebrated the third anniversary of my arrival in Jakarta. Three months. It feels like I have been here longer, but time has magical properties.
There are two “new bule” privileges I still cling to jealously. The first is conferred by the fact that most Indonesians expect me to be ignorant and a little bit thick. The laughs and giggles I provoke among locals seem to be good-natured, and I am forgiven for all sorts of dumb things I say and do.
Maaf and terima kasih to all of the security people, waiters, nurses, bank tellers, co-workers, shop assistants and drivers who help me good-humouredly on a daily basis. Hopefully, I am improving, but I’ll never be able to do anything about being two metres tall.
Also, I cling to the privilege of homesickness. Admittedly homesickness is not the sole prerogative of foreigners; after all, most Jakartans are from somewhere else.
Last weekend, I escaped from Jakarta for two days. This is neither cheap nor easy to do and will be the subject of future columns. The options are surprisingly limited, they aren’t cheap and they’re mostly not relaxing.
The best answer I currently have is Bali. There are plenty of evening flights, Bali’s airport is efficient, and the drive from the airport is usually manageable. If you can’t enjoy yourself in Bali, you’re really not trying.
However, Bali is not a cheap weekend. Most of the south-east corner of the island is a tourist ghetto and by the time I get home, I need a holiday.
Bali also gave me a roaring case of homesickness. Bali made me miss things that are completely unavailable in Jakarta. After three months in Jakarta, I had forgotten how important these things are and how much I miss them. Some of them I had forgotten even existed.
First and most important was clean air.
In Bali, I was able to fill my lungs with clean air. There were footpaths (and clean air) so I could go for a walk. I did not have to drive everywhere. You could see for kilometres and there were empty, ocean horizons (thanks to the clean air). You could sit outdoors in a café (in clean air), watch the world go by, and not shuttle from one air-conditioned bubble to another. You could eat real Italian bread, not over-sweetened cardboard.
I even patted a dog.
Unfortunately, despite my best efforts and the presence of thousands of my compatriots, I could not find a decent Australian meat pie. And I really, really wanted a meat pie.
I was not a happy bule when I arrived back at my Jakarta apartment, exhausted and pie-less, at 11 pm on Sunday.
The next day, I started desperately googling “Jakarta best Australian meat pie.”
And I struck gold. I bought the best meat pie I have ever eaten. Made right here in Jakarta by Santi on santiscomfortfood.com
Homesick no more. Thank you, Santi. Thank you, Jakarta.