Sat waiting for the airport bus, I found myself both chuckling, thankful, and thinking ‘how on earth?’
Chuckling at the cacophony of sound as the buses were called out to multiple destinations, by multiple people, at the same time. The clip I recorded doesn’t do it justice. By the time I thought to record it, things were much more chilled out.
Thankful, that I have had the privilege to learn Bahasa Indonesia. I reminisced on doing this kind of travel, and trains too, with very little language. Sitting on the edge of my seat, straining my ear to hear something that vaguely sounded like my destination, scanning all the buses for some indication of where they were headed. – And back then, there weren’t the lovely flatscreens that might have given you some kind of a clue.
I found myself thinking how on earth would a tourist navigate this? It also made me think that traveling while foreign can be a befuddling collaboration of excitement and trepidation, stress and relaxation.
I also found myself thinking about how much one can miss when you lack understanding of how things are done elsewhere. When you don’t know the culture, norms, and practices of a place and its people, you can both lose out on some valuable experiences, and potentially misinterepret things you see or hear. Seeing them through one’s own cultural lenses, filtered by one’s own worldview, limited by one’s own frame of reference and expericence.
Now obviously, there is only so much a tourist can learn while on holiday, and no tourist is gonna manage to master the delightful ways in which truly local transport, and crossing the road works here during a short visit. They may possibly think there are no rules of the road*, or green cross code, but there are; and there is a synergy to crossing the road that does make sense once you’ve been here and doing it a while.
Having said this, if as people we are predisposed, or have the mindset to endeavour to truly learn about another place, culture, point of view etc., even a short visit, or momentary interaction can provide us with opportunities to do so. Conversing, even briefy, with someone can allow us to expand our knowledge, and build connection. We just need to be open to knowing that our ways, are not necessarily ‘the way.’ Which doesn’t mean throwing out, or negating all you know and value. It means having, or creating room, to hear, know, and prehaps value something else as well.
Wow… who would have thought waiting for my bus would have given rise to such thoughts and considerations : )
If you do get to come to Indonesia, I do recommend trying to travel local if you can. The airport bus which goes to several central points in the city, can cost as little as 30,000 IDR (£1.72/2.12USD). My journey took less than 40 minutes. Granted, there are times when traffic is crazy, and so it would take longer, but it is still an opiton worth considering. Additionally, we now have the airport-city rail link. I’ve heard positive feedback from people who have used it.
- *While searching for a link to a brief description in conjunction to ‘rules of the road’, the 1st result was a blog post entitled: Rules of the Road: A Traveller’s Guide to Driving in Indonesia. Parts of it made me burst out laughing, as I know exactly of what the writer writes.
- Discover Your Indonesia’s guide to travel options from Jakarta Airport. You’ll also find lots of other useful info and advice on how to discover and enjoy Indonesia on their website.