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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Traffic in Jakarta

At first glance, Jakarta must have some of the most courageous people ever to sit behind the wheel. If one were to ride around Jakarta with the windows rolled down and with their arms poking out intermittently, they would be left limbless within the half hour. The only rule that seems to matter is whether or not your car will fit where you want to go. Lanes be damned–Some streets don’t even have lane markers. Driving on the sidewalk is fair game for motorcycles usually, but sometimes even for the car, as is driving on the opposite side of the street. When I first witnessed my driver merge onto the main street, I thought for sure that we were going to get hit and that my driver was insane, but thankfully following the first rule in traffic, cars on the main street will slam their brakes for incoming obstacles. If there are two lanes, a line of three cars will inevitably end up driving side by side, with a row of motorcycles moving along filling in the gaps, and a couple of bajaj puffing flatulence where they can(the baggi is an Indian motorcycle taxi that looks like it has been patched together from a pair of twenty year old lawnmowers). If there is a holdup in traffic, street peddlers will squeeze by the vehicles selling nuts, toys, fruits, and magazines. It is not unheard of to sleep your way through traffic at the speed of 1km/hour.

The Bajaj

If the drivers here are courageous, the motorcyclists here must be pathologically suicidal. And the streets are filled with them. They are nearly always at risk of a car door opening, or a distracted driver clobbering them. They are constantly weaving, juking, jiving, between cars with only inches to spare. They scrunch up in groups of four or five next to two cars in a two lane road. Brake, accelerate, and popping out suddenly into open space is their motto. The roadways often drop off into slimy waterways without warning. I’m told that some motorcyclists accidentally fall into this small sewer ways. Suicidal I say.

When one thinks of the traffic in Jakarta, one pictures crunching bones, cringing faces, falling buildings, and then one pauses and begins to appreciate it. It actually contains an enormous amount of trust and reason between the commuters. Motorcyclists know that drivers are aware on all four sides of their vehicle at all times, and they are spatially aware of the size of the car. They trust the cars on the road to not hit them, as the speed by inches away from the cars. I saw a brave girl calmly text on her smart phone while riding on the back seat of a motorcyclist. I’ve never seen a man walk so casually across a road with cars and motorcycles whizzing by inches from his body. Ah! Trust amongst the people!

Looking closely at the reason why lane driving is not popular, I think that since the car is so close to the edge of the road, that driving inside them constantly is probably dangerous itself. When more cars approach, they drift back inside the lanes until the congestion passes. Another way motorists in Jakarta do is honk seemingly without reason. One type is the warning honk. They’ll honk before doing something singularly dangerous, they’ll honk to let the motorist peeking down a busy street, that they should watch out, they’ll also honk for help from people on the streets. People wait in areas where cars will be backing out of driveways, or making difficult turns onto a main road. They spring to action, helping direct them through the traffic for a small tip. People are always around to help drivers park their car, as most spots are incredibly tight. Help driving is sorely needed here, and these people serve to fulfill the need. Human ingenuity is always working to fulfill needs shown by the market.

The infrastructure here is poor, there is no beating around the bush on this, and more improvement can be easily had but when given the lemon of 18 million inhabitants, poorly organized roads, and no subway system to speak of, the commuters of Jakarta have made lemonade. Put 18 million American drivers in the same city, there will be a motorcycle smashing into a car instantaneously, traffic will slow to a crawl in no less than five minutes, emergency vehicles will fail to reach the accident, and by sundown, traffic will have completely jammed to a permanent halt. The Javanese built their own method of traffic, without rules or dictates from above. They had to, and it works barely, mysteriously, and beautifully. It is a wonderful example of spontaneous order.

Street signs here are a complete mystery to me. Reading them is like reading tea leaves, and even then, only if you can actually find them– they blend in with nearly every kind of local flora. The ones I failed to find, I am convinced are just missing. The addresses here have unbelievably long names, that list the main street, and the alley ways to turn into, as well as the actual street name and number. Given infrastructure, it actually makes a bit of sense. In any event, the drivers here have memorized the insane, zig-zags, the one way streets, the back alleyways, the levee crossings. It is all a very painful display of both chaos and order, of commerce and bureaucracy, of poverty and wealth, patience and frustration, mass communication, and a general just get on with it attitude.  At some point I should say that unless the infrastructure is improved, the city looks like it will fail despite its marked skill in navigating an impossible number of cars on the road.

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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Making Rice

By Erica

By Nivi

This week’s challenge was to write a story about making rice. The story could not include philosophical musings or wacky events.

Btw sorry I have no idea how to make this an attractive blog post, and I didn’t want to post them all individually…….

Here are the stories:

By Alex:

Those bright, blaring bulbs were buzzing above me, like a swarm of mosquitos on a summer night down in the bayou. Those electric insects were soon joined in harmony by the ribbit-ribbits of my rumbling tummy. So many hours in this cotton white, starched and sterile laundry—a man was bound to starve for sustenance. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

American Dream

I have been ridden with traveler’s diarrhea the last few days.  But here is a bit of offensive writing I wrote in the meantime.  A note: I think the American Dream used to be something inspiring, but now…

Time and time again, my journey through the public school system made a great big pother about the American dream, what it is, what it inspired in me and my family, how it has changed over the years, how lucky we are as Americans. Too dumb and too young to write anything of significance at the time I must have written the most boorish and mindless papers on the topic that must have put even my over caffeinated and Prosac ridden school teachers to sleep. At any rate, I got around to thinking about the topic again, and here is what resulted. It probably would have received a failing grade and a teacher parent meeting.

The American Dream: It is about wealth without action. It is opportunity without creativity. It is about significance without excellence. It is equality without civility. It is about scrambling for superiority to your neighbors without friendship. It is guilt without vice. It is pity without nobility. It is about happiness without achievement. It is life without happiness. It is the glory of mediocrity. If it is dead, good riddance, though I have doubts I will ever see it perish. If anything it will morph into something even more hideous.

A 5 paragraph essay? Pah! A collective dream amongst cads and third rate men is bound to be inspiring, hypocritical, and smell of cheap car salesmen. Forcing a child to write about how it affected him and his family is akin to asking him to reminisce how wonderful it was the last time he and his family got conned at the jewelry shop.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2012 in Patrick, Political

 

Hollow

By Erica

I’ve been experimenting with different types of work nights to accomplish the Writer Dream. Yesterday, Nivi, Charles, and I had a creativity party. Nivi chose the word “hollow” as our theme. Charles played the piano, Nivi drew, and I wrote. Here are the results: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Jakarta

My first day in Jakarta was like a quick jab to the face, I didn’t know what to expect. If you have never been to Jakarta before, it will knock your face about–there is no escaping it. Right off the bat, I witnessed first hand the delightful indifference of the custom workers. I was let through so casually that one might mistaken it as entering a local high school play. It was wonderfully amateur and made no qualms about it. There was a pretense of security of course, but I suspect that in general, most security is insufficient to do any real good– at least the Indonesians have the sense to not fuss over it. After a porter heaved my bags onto a cart, he was even kind enough to escort me to my driver, who was waiting for me outside. I was welcomed with smiles everywhere my eyes wandered, and people were patient and more than happy to help an obviously bumbling, wide-eyed foreigner. Getting through customs was pleasant enough, it was quick and I was on my way in a matter of minutes. The focus then could turn to where it should be: exploring the damn place. On the surface and compared to America, Indonesia has a much better entryway than the US. No degradations, a welcoming spirit and a sucker punch square in the face, such things are the essential foundations of a civilized world no?

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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Patrick, Pictures

 

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Breaking Rules

I decided to move to Asia, at an age of 24, having never been outside the North America. This is a big step for me, for anyone. Most of you probably don’t know the real reason of my trip. I wasn’t really sure myself, I told people that I was looking for work. Some of you thought I already had work set up in Asia. Some of you I didn’t even tell. The reason I left is, I mostly wanted to get away from you. Yes you.

Although the general mindset of Americans did play a factor in my decision, I was joking of course; nothing was personal. The truth is that I wasn’t sure why I left either. I was tossing and turning miles above the Pacific rationalizing this and imagining that. Questions plagued my mind.

Did I come because I wanted to live somewhere in Asia? What if Asia sinks into the background on the world stage? Was the main motivating factor, really business opportunities in Asia? Or was I just looking for a job? Did my life just need a sense of adventure here? Where in my life was there a void to fill? Was there something about myself that I wanted to remake? What was so bad about me?

As my flight landed in Korea, I would say that I came to a much clearer reason. Put simply, I like breaking rules. If I can succeed at doing what I hope to accomplish here, run a business, invest successfully in long term trends guided by a deep understanding of geopolitics, gobble up real estate, and make myself an indispensable resource to people looking to accomplish things. So many rules will be broken. These rules are the false ones, governing life, the real rules that govern life are much more hidden and subtle. Here are some rules that deserved to be smashed methinks.

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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Patrick, Pictures

 

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The Calm Before the Storm

The 3rd day before my departure, I finally did some of my own shopping.  Well, not really entirely my own–Butler came along with me.  It has been about time. I don’t really have much to say, the main point of this post was really just to establish a place where I can blog, and my friends and Family can keep up.  I hope to post many adventures up here.  Family post on our blog, since we are so scattered across the place so we have a nice place to catch up.  Facebook is a little creepy, and phone calls aren’t as good for keeping up with a big family.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Patrick