My second day in Jakarta, Indonesia is coming to a close and so far this trip has proven to be pretty amazing. I arrived in Singapore a couple of days before most of the program to spend time with my friend Kati, who has been teaching at a Polytechnic school this past year. Thanks to her, I really felt like I got a more authentic experience than I would have otherwise. During my first few days I didn’t battle jetlag so much as I did the incredible humidity. My body is just not built for this type of climate. In Singapore the temperature ranges from about 85-95 degrees throughout the entire day, with a constant humidity of 90%. Needless to say, if I spent more than about 10 minutes outside I broke a sweat (and that’s only if I’m standing still!). But I think many other of the SEA track has fared better.Once I resigned myself to the fact that I would be sweating for the next four weeks, I decided to explore the city with Danielle. We walked around the sprawling financial district, Chinatown, and Little India. To me, Singapore was a great transition into Asia. Primarily because it felt like I was in a really really clean New York City. If it weren’t for all of the Asian people around me I could have sworn I was in the U.S. Even many of the signs were in English!
When the rest of the program arrived, we began a week full of classes and company visits. Thankfully we were always done by about 5:30 so that we could explore the city at night. In fact many of us checked out the casino at the Marina Bay Sands hotel, and almost all of us came out on top! (I won $85, though I subsequently spent almost all of it that same night). Marina Bay has one of the best views of Singapore, and some of the most expensive drinks I’ve ever had. I paid $30 for one Singapore Sling! But my favorite night was one of my last of the trip. We had finished classes, and after enjoying a tour of Tiger brewery (and the accompanying free drinks) with Dean Z and the SEA track several of us headed over to the casino after dinner.
By around midnight, I left and met up with my friend Kati on Haji Lane in the Arab quarter. It is right next to little India, and at that time of night it was a very Singaporean place to be. I highly recommend visiting the area at night for anyone who wants a more authentic feel for how many of the younger locals go out. On Sunday morning we were all aroused by a 4:45am wakeup call so that we would be on time for our 5:30am bus to the airport.
Once we all safely arrived in Jakarta, I experienced the most drastic extremes of wealth in my entire life. We started the day by visiting Sunda Kelapa, which is a port in Jakarta. Indonesia is comprised of more than 17,000 islands, and lacks a highway system. Instead, they ship everything by a huge system of boats, some of which are more than 100 years old! We then took these little canoes or skiffs to the slums. It was an odd feeling walking around such poverty in a large group and taking pictures. We were assured by our guides that it wasn’t rude to take pictures, as long as we showed the children their pictures if they were around. Once we finished the tour, we all jumped into tuk tuks to our next destination, the Cafe Batavia. The ride alone was most definitely an experience because I’d never felt so unsafe traveling in a vehicle. It was as if I were in an amusement park ride that had never been tested. So naturally it was a blast! After lunch we arrived at our hotel…the 5-star Ritz Carlton. Basically we went from extreme poverty to excessive opulence. It’s hard to describe in words witnessing such a drastic change.The hotel is extremely comfortable, and I’ve been having a phenomenal time! I’m glad to still have a few weeks left and am extremely excited for Thailand and Vietnam.
Submitted by: Sam Muffly