My Busway Day: It Begins

This summer, while transitioning between jobs, I had two glorious weeks off. I decided spend one of these magical free days traversing Jakarta on the Busway. It seemed like a fun way to see parts of town I don’t normally get to. Plus, I actually thought I might be able to ride all the lines in one day, which turned out to be a pipe dream.

(Members of my family will now be wincing, because riding all the busway lines in a day is exactly what our late Uncle Jack would have done, and Uncle Jack was definitely a bit of an Odd Duck. I guess biology is destiny, after all.)

I got to our local station, Benhill, at around 7 a.m. Things were hopping — lots of foot traffic, lots of road traffic.
,The breakfast vendors were in full swing. This guy is selling sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, probably with a little chicken inside, as well as an assortment of pastries. These people start early — probably by 5, although I’ve never been around to see — and they’re usually gone before 9.

Here’s another pastry basket. Don’t be alarmed by the green bread — it’s flavored with pandan, Indonesia’s answer to vanilla.

The station wasn’t too crowded. I waited inside for about five minutes, thinking about the warning a taxi driver had given me a month or two before: Watch out for men in suits and jackets on the busway. They’ll hypnotize you and steal your wallet and cellphone! I saw some guys in business attire, but they seemed to be innocently reading the paper. Of course, that was probably their cover.

Finally the bus came. I had decided to ride all the way up to the Chinese end of North Jakarta and then double back to get on one of the East-West lines. This was cheating, in a sense, since I’ve done the north-south trip many times … but I also know it’s the best line on the busway, and I wasn’t in a hurry to start dealing with long lines and packed buses. So I set off to Kota.

to be continued …

Kopi Susu: The Official Music Video

Long time no post! All I’m doing these days is work, and I can’t write about work for a variety of reasons including 1. corporate confidentiality and 2. I don’t want to.

Here is a classic dangdut song about my blog featuring two stars of the 70s and 80s, Mansyur S. and Elvy Sukaesih. I’ve been sneakily subtitling it on my Mac at work over the last week or so. Since I’m in a list-making mood, here are a few of the reasons why I love this video, besides the obvious one:

1. The soaring eagles, drifting swans and nibbling chipmunks. (Er … nibbling chipmunks?)

2. The bad acting.

3. The great singing. These guys have feather-light voices that dance all around the notes without ever straying off key.

4. Elvy Sukaesih busting out what look like little Balinese-dancer style head moves.

5. Mansyur S. waving a banana around naughtily. And is he really pretending to wipe drool off his chin?

“Basket eyes,” by the way, are eyes like baskets — always hungry to be filled.

Props to Novia and Ade for help with the translation!


Due to the 12-hour time difference between here and the US, we got the election results on Wednesday morning. It was weird to have it all happening while I was at my desk at work. Some people stopped to watch the speeches.

Joya, Howie, Haviva, Me, Chad

The big celebration was later, at – naturally! – a shopping mall. It was organized by Democrats Abroad. They had a huge screen to show a video of the acceptance speech, and bands, and beer, and a balloon drop.

It was a lot like a post-election party in the States, so it scratched that itch to feel American. It reminded me of many an election night I’ve spent in a hotel ballroom with my microphone and notebook, waiting for the candidate to come out and make a speech.

There were plenty of Indonesians celebrating, too. As you may have heard 50,000 times on CNN, Obama is quite popular here.

I got an extra shirt, figuring someone would want it. Today one of my workmates who’d seen pictures of the party asked me in desperate tones, “Do you know any way I can get an Obama shirt?” When I gave it to her, she was pretty happy.