When I was on the flight to Indonesia, the first thing I noticed was that the departure card stated that, under Indonesian law, there was a death penalty for drug traffickers. This made me keep a close eye on my belongings and be wary of the people around me.
But having lived in Indonesia for a month, I’ve learned that most of the people are friendly and kind. They’re particularly helpful to foreigners.
One day, I took public transport to meet my Indonesian friends. When I arrived at Busway, I was uncertain where to go next, but fortunately a helpful Indonesian woman accompanied me until we reached Plaza Semanggi.
When I met my Indonesian friends, they all made conversation with me in a friendly way as if we’d known one another for years. They also shared their food and drink with me, using the same straw or spoon.
The great thing about young Indonesians is that they enjoy making friends and social networking. I usually make friends with Indonesian women when I use public transport because they’re so friendly and kind to me. They give me their name cards and often contact me later.
From my observations, Muslim women have the freedom to hang out at night with their friends. Is this because Indonesia is a safe country, or because good public transport is available at night? I think the answer is both.
For only 3,500 rupiah (40 cents), you can travel anywhere in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, at any time. I’ve noticed that even at 9:30 pm, there are lots of people, many of them women, on public buses.
The disadvantage of buses is that they’re usually packed with passengers, so you have to fight for a seat. Sometimes I have to stand very close to the people around me because there are no seats available.
And when the bus driver slams on the brakes, it’s a bit like a stampede or dancing on stage (if there are only a few passengers standing up).
I also have to take a few transits that require me to walk a fair way to catch another bus.
Almost everywhere, even in public places, I can smell cigarette smoke. The streets are littered with cigarette butts, and there are thousands of cigarette sellers.
One day, I was astonished to see two children under 16, in their high-school uniform, smoking cigarettes. I’d like to know what factor pushes more and more people, even children, to smoke.
Some people say the media in Indonesia doesn’t play a big enough role in educating people about the dangers of smoking, but actually influences them to smoke.
The traffic in Jakarta is chaotic. Many young drivers modify their cars’ mufflers so they make a loud noise, turn on their headlights in the daytime and drive very fast.
What is strange is that there are thousands of vehicles but very few traffic police on busy roads. I often see ordinary people and security guards performing tasks the police should be doing, and being given money by grateful travellers.
One afternoon, I could hear disco and hip-hop songs in the distance. The sound came nearer and nearer, and I was surprised to see two men, wearing sexy women’s clothes and thick make-up, dancing happily in front of me to music from an MP3 player.
I thought it was rather odd, and funny, that they were doing this to make some money.
Now I want to share my work experience. I have a two-month internship as a reporter on the Jakarta Post newspaper.
The work environment here is less pressured. I’ve noticed that the newsroom is often filled with the long, loud laughter of editors having discussions. Most important, reporters are not allowed to conduct interviews over the phone, so I have to interview people face to face.
Language is a big chall-enge. Some of my sources don’t speak English, so I have to find a person who can speak English to act as my translator.
All in all, I enjoy living in Indonesia, because I can learn a lot about the outside world to broaden my knowledge and experience.
I hope I can share that knowledge, and those experiences, with Cambodians.