To my amazement, my body clock was adjusting as admirably as I could imagine. With little jet lag holding me back in the morning, I made my way down to scope out the offerings for breakfast, hoping that there would be something worth eating since we’d be dining here every morning. Well, no worries once I feasted my eyes on the cornucopia of food on display. With 8 large stations from which to create a multicultural breakfast, some tough decisions were going to be made. Do I go for the hometown favorites from the pancake bar, hit up the omelet station which offered up Indonesian flare, load up on different variations of beef or chicken that seemed better suited for a dinner, or go experimental and try the plentiful options that I honestly had no clue what they were? Being that the goal of this trip is to immerse yourself in the culture, I decided to spread out and try the Indonesian food first, and wow, it was amazing. I hate to sound like all I care about is food, but believe me, we were dining like kings and queens. It was a great way to start the day. Knowing that indulging may have occurred, I proceeded to head over to the pool to take a couple of laps. Alone in the pool, I could see into the distance numerous buildings, many of them being erected as I swam. With little work to do on the agenda as to allow people to acclimate themselves to the time change, I had to just wait until lunch for the first official meet up. Lunch was again provided at the same location, with new yet similar offerings. I went light with a salad (and maybe some dessert) since little time had passed in between. After this meet up where we heard various recommendations for how to conduct ourselves in the city, we boarded a bus to check out the nearby national monument. I had a front row seat in the bus to witness the legendary chaotic congestion of Jakarta roads. As chaotic as the roads were, which they most definitely were, they still weren’t as bad as I pictured. None-the-less, our calm bus driver seemed never flustered by the weaving of motorcycles in front of him, the people crossing the street in the middle of the highway, or the seemingly endless gridlock through narrow corridors of highway. I was able to enjoy on the bus the beauty of Jakarta, with the spectrum of poor shanty looking buildings towered by mammoth skyscrapers nearby. Once arriving at the national monument drop-off., for the first time in which I can imagine perhaps ever, I felt what it was like to be stared at. In order to make it to the monument, we had to cross a crowded market place, where nearly eyeball was fixated on us, but never to look us directly in the eye. Staying closely to the group, I offered a smile with no reciprocation. Past food huts, coconut water stands, and people hawking American t-shirts, we finally made our way to the gates to the monument, some 300 yards or so away. Taking pictures continually, it was an impressive structure that looked like a cross between the Olympic torch, the Washington Monument, all sitting in a candle dish. As we got close enough for a group selfie, it was still apparent that we were being gawked at. Finishing another group selfie, a brave soul came to us to ask if he could get a picture with the group. We were puzzled, but happily obliged. This seemed to break the ice with whatever tension the group had and with any trepidation that the locals having with us. After the selfie with one group, another group wanted our group photo, followed by another, followed by another. Slowly but surely, we were beginning to feel like celebrities. Later I was singled out by a woman and her aunt, wanting a picture. I made sure that we used my camera for my own collection as well. This happened again too. This flattering experience for the group eventually did get old as it was hard to really enjoy the surroundings, but as I write this, realize that yeah, it was a pretty amazing experience to be welcomed like this. The last group that came by was a group of Boy Scouts and asked us to pose with them and say something for the camera. We hilariously butchered their request, but they had no worries. Heading back was a much different feeling then when we arrived as the ominous town that I felt was replaced with awkward welcoming arms from the city. We were as curious about them as they were of us. Taking the bus back to the hotel, we had more time again to ourselves to keep adjusting to the timeshift. Luckily since I seemingly had already done so, I hung out and caught up on photos after calling home and seeing Aiden smile when I played peek-a-boo over FaceTime. Finally night crept on us and it was time to go to dinner at a restaurant in Jakarta. The place was a traditional Indonesian restaurant. Thankfully there were others in the group that were willing to share their meal so we could each sample the cuisine. The food was to die for as it felt like a combination of Chinese, Indian and Thai. Fully stuffed, we headed back home to the hotel, ready for another day of adventure to follow tomorrow.
About Matthew Cottone
Experience the World! This is my creed I bring to my classroom and my life. I'm a World Studies teacher at Van Hoosen Middle School and I have a passion for learning and experiencing the world.