A Jakarta road with a motorcycle before some storefronts

Early Thoughts in Jakarta

I’ve been in Jakarta, Indonesia for a couple weeks now. The jetlag took a few days to get over, but I did eventually get used to being 11 hours ahead. Luckily, it did not take as much time to acclimate to the weather, since it is very similar to Washington, DC this time of year: hot and humid.


I arrived in Jakarta in the midst of the Eid holiday celebrations. As such, for a few days after I arrived, the city was almost empty, as people left the city to see their families or just to take a holiday. Soon after, however, citizens returned from their holiday and the city returned to its bustling self—including its infamous traffic, which came back with a vengeance. The city just broke ground on its first underground rail transit system (the MRT) and, according to a number of Jakartans I’ve spoken with, has made efforts in the last year to expand the number of sidewalks. Nonetheless, Jakarta remains a motorist’s city.


Arriving in Jakarta during Indonesia’s biggest holiday is an interesting experience. The celebration of Eid seems to manifest itself in varying levels of jubilation, piety, and commercial opportunism that I usually associate with the month of December. It’s also been a couple of months since the Indonesian presidential election—and only a few weeks since the post-election riots that rocked Jakarta—but, at least on the surface, there does not appear to be much evidence of political rancor.


My language studies are progressing well, I think. My instructors suggest that I will be ready to begin intermediate level Bahasa Indonesia within a couple of weeks. Without the generous grant from the Sigur Center, I would likely never have had the chance to devote so much of my time to improving my language abilities. All in all, I look forward to continuing my journey exploring Jakarta, Bahasa Indonesia, and Indonesia itself.


Michael K, MA, International Affairs 2019
Sigur Center 2019 Asian Language Fellow
Language Studies Indonesia


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