Tuesday, June 21, 2011


City from the freeway in from airport

Jakarta!  The way these names roll off the tongue gives the city an erotic feel.   There’s pleasure in saying it.   And it is a magical city, a city of contrasts and contradictions.  There are many malls here that are elegant.  I felt under dressed, just walking through with a Hawaiian shirt, long baggy pants and flip flops.  The city is alive at all hours, with cars honking and competing with buses and motorcycles and becaks (rickshaws) for precious space on the highway.  There are more Colonels here than in Kentucky and if you want a burger, it’s not hard to find a Burger King.  But forget pork, this is a country that is over 80% Muslim.  The road out to the airport is a modern freeway which traffic moves along and seems light years away from the intercity where there are there are alleys and canals filled with filth. It’s hot and so very humid.  With the looming buildings, the air seems stagnant.  It’s polluted, the air filled with exhaust of millions of vehicles and the age old process of burning trash.   There are high rise apartments with garden terraces and shanties that are built under bridges and by the railroad tracks.

Napping in Kota
I first flew into here on the sixth and spent two days here.  At first, I just took it easy and recovered from the flight.  I had a “hostel room” in a high rise overlooking a fancy pool.  The room was one of two in a small apartment.   Only one of the nights did I share the apartment with other guest, two Basque surfers who were looking to surf on some deserted point in Southwest Java.  The rest of the time, I had the apartment to myself.  I enjoyed swimming in the evening (which comes early this close to the equator) was pleasant.  I found nearby wifi spots where I could enjoy a drink or a cup of coffee.  I purchased a phone that would work with SIM cards.   On my second day in the city, I headed to Kota (Indonesian word for city).  Kota is the old city in Jarkarta, where the Dutch lived and ruled what was then known as the Dutch East Indies.  First I walked around to get my bearings, and then went to the museum, only to discover that they were closing in a few minutes (they closed at 3 PM!).  But it was fun to see the old town and, in a way, I felt that I hadn’t gone that far from Western Michigan (which has also been under Dutch influence).  In the square at the old town, you could rent bicycles and big hats and pretend that you’re a Dutch colonial living in Jakarta and many school children were doing just that. 
Dutch Houses in Kota
Biking on the plaza in Kota
Bus walkover (to transfer from one line to another)
After walking around and snapping a few photos, I headed back.  I paid my 3500 IRD (about 40 cent) which gave me access to the bus system (It took me two transfers to get back to where I was staying).  I  had no comprehension as to how bad the traffic can be in Jakarta at rush hour.  It’d taken me about 40 minutes to make the trip to Kota, the trip  home took me well over 2 hours, most of it waiting in queue as there are hundreds of people to pile into a bus that can only take a few more people.  The buses run frequent, but there are not enough.      

With Praise Team after a 6 AM Worship Service!
The morning that I left on the 10 AM train to Yogyakarta, I was met at 5:30 AM by a driver of a local church which has a connection with the Luke’s Society.  Dr. Jim Spindler had contacted their representative there.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t in town, but arranged for me to meet with Petra, his pastor.  He invited me to a 6 AM prayer service.    The church is in a high rise office complex (There are three churches in this high rise!)  They have two floors, one which is for worship and the other for offices, education, and children’s worship.  We met in the children’s worship center and I was little shocked (I had assumed this was where they worshipped) at the space ship design of the room.  Everyone sat on mats, crossed legged, and for nearly 45 minutes we sang praise songs, led by a small band (keyboard, bass and drums with three singers).  It started out more contemplative, everyone sitting on the floor including those leading the singing.  Occasionally a prayer or scripture was thrown in.  I could pick up some of the meaning of the words and was shocked to learn that in Indonesian, the Christians use “Allah” for God.   Then, as the service came to a close, everyone stood for a few more songs (one was in English), followed by a prayer for the Holy Spirit to descend.   Several people came forward and the Elders of the church prayed for them as the place broke into tongue.  This was the first indication that this was a Pentecostal Church.  A woman who was being prayed over fell backwards and was caught by the person behind her.  Then it was over.  Petra said that these early morning services (there was about 50 people in attendance) are in preparation for the celebration of Pentecost which was the upcoming service.  Afterwards, we had breakfast that included Javanese coffee and nasi timbel (sweet rice wrapped in a leaf).   Petra then took me to the train station for the trip to Jogyakarta.    

with Petra at train station
daughter of food seller
 After eight days of touring across Java, I came back to the city on the Argo Lawu, an executive class train from Solo to the capital city.  It’s an eight hour trip and costs $255,000 (Or about $30, for roughly a 300 km ride).  Like the earlier train, this one is air conditioned and has outlets in the seat allowing me to run my computer and to charge my ipod.  Yet, even the executive class trains have limits and my window was cracked.  But it was a good ride.  I got back into the city at rush hour.  After dropping off my bags, I headed back to the train station on a ojek (motorbike taxi that is cheaper and faster than a regular taxi), where I met Naomy, a Christian (she is Lutheran as are most members of her tribe who were evangelized by a German missionary).  After eating, she took me around under the station and introduced me to some street kids with whom she volunteers to help them get an education.  The girls are early teens and they live under a bridge.  Their parents have menial jobs of cleaning up around the station (generally each bathroom has an attendant that keeps it clean and sells toilet paper for those not wanting to use the traditional “cleaning” methods).    The girls were all excited and I was shocked at how clean they were (since they have to clean themselves in the train station).  But laughed and smiled, even though they’d soon be sleeping on the dirt under the bridge.

Food court in Kota
Afterwards, I bid them farewell and took a cab back to my room and prepared to leave Indonesia the next morning.   A driver picked me up for the airport at 7 AM.  I was again amazed at how modern the airport is, especially when compared to how many people in Jakarta lived.   


  1. There be but one God yet why would not one of his many names not be Allah?

    Seriously for all the poverty it sounds like you're seeing the beginning of a much more modern infrastructure than what we have in America.

    Again travel safe.

  2. Amazing pictures, can't wait to see more! Hope the safe and comfortable travels continue!

  3. What an exciting and interesting life you are leading out there in the vast unknown, and from the sounds of it really great people. Did get to ride on of those bicycles built for two? The little girls were just darling in their Dutch style(?) hats and those Dutch style houses too beautiful. Not so sure about sharing an apartment with strangers, although those surfers may have been interesting to talk to for you....I had no idea that the city would be that progressive, (of course as with everywhere there is always the other side of town. I's just a good thing you don't get yourself into a traffic jam on your way to a flight or a ride on the rails. As for your Hawaiian shirt it looks pretty fashionable to me! Very nice! Your posts just amaze me how much real life you soak up in such short of time Sage. Take care! Karen

  4. Well, I got out my globe to see where the heck you are. Your adventures continue to be fascinating, and I'm glad, thanks to modern technology, I can keep up with you. And will continue to do so, inshallah. Thinking I'll dust off my copy of THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY.

  5. Thanks for the second mail. The first hit the "junk box."

    I just got back from Ocracoke (loved it!!!!!), and will be back to catch up here later.


  6. That's wonderful that you could attend that service. This traveling must be fascinating.

  7. Colorful clothing!

    I've thought the same thing since the first time you mentioned Jakarta. Seems like a fun name to say.