As we left the city to get to the airport, it was inevitable that we were caught in the middle of its famous traffic jams, I wondered again, how people function in this city. Then I realized that I didn't consider this particular situation to be a traffic jam because we were, at least, at snail's pace, moving. If the vehicle didn't move and stayed still for more than 15 minutes, that would be a traffic jam.
We saw the sun set through the exhaust fumes and smog that hung low over the city. We passed by Mangga Dua again with its gigantic buildings. Mangga Dua is not as snooty or posh. But I like the area for its homey vibe. The food selections are much more exciting than the Central area. Try conquering all the malls in Mangga Dua. I guarantee you'll get lost in all of them because they're kinda inter-connected. Heh. What I haven't done, is to check out the nightlife in Mangga Dua. Think I'm too chicken to go on my own.
The colleagues and I talked about this real problem and possible solutions. How to get around the traffic jams? Any urban planner worth his salt would be able to offer multi-prong solutions. But would it work for this city? It isn't just about addressing the root of the traffic jams, we know it also involves a myriad of political considerations, social issues and business concerns. Increasing toll gantries or its prices isn't going to work. It wouldn't be as simple as widening the roads. That's another mess of legal tussle to think about. Smash the roundabouts? Relocate the capital? Shift the government offices? Move the business district elsewhere? Our lopsided frog-at-the-bottom-of-the-well views wouldn't be what the city thinks important. Whatever the solution, the powers-that-be seem to be taking a comfortable pace in trying to resolve it. And that's the way traffic jams in Jakarta will be for the next 20 years.
In Jakarta, I shrugged off the punishing Singapore mode and systems of work and eased into their systems and culture. In short, they're my hosts and we're guests. While we've certain conditions to fulfil and push for, we must also understand, accommodate and accept our hosts' way of doing things. We do not judge. We adapt and try to gently go around certain scenarios and situations as best as we can.
And I ponder, how do we create meaningful work relationships in this city without knowing the language? Without that proficiency, our relationships remain superficial, tenuous and courteous. There can't be more depth or substance. The newspapers in Jakarta regularly (if not daily) paint this not-so-fantastic image of Singapore in its various ongoing corruption trials. Well, currently, the authorities are still extremely angry with the portrayal of a facet of Bali by a Singaporean and they're getting ready to file grounds for his arrest.
I keep getting this sense that Singapore is some sort of pesky little brother, or at worst, an unwanted neighbor when the governments spar over political matters of say, defense cooperation agreements. I ask, is it because the city is insular? It doesn't need us? Or we just don't know the courtesies necessary to build a relationship with more depth? We don't have savvy political skills? Are we being too presumptuous and overbearing in various matters? Does being cosmopolitan in our outlook, policies and practices result in alienating our Southeast Asian neighbors?
Remember, the country isn't that different from China, Indonesia's sizeable domestic market and natural resources will keep it afloat. It doesn't need anyone else. Whatever it has decided to do, is perhaps, out of acknowledgement of its membership in a global community.