a month in Jakarta

it’s been…a month??!!

valentina citra
5 min readSep 14, 2023
Photo by Refhad on Unsplash

It’s been a month since I started a new life in this big city. I believe that the first time I arrived in Jakarta, I looked like someone who was lost. Well, I still am, I guess. I’m the embodiment of a misfit puzzle piece. I don’t really belong here.

This 496-year-old city is too big for 25-year-old me. For a girl who was born in a small city and grew up in a suburban area, Jakarta feels intimidating. An intimidating place where I never thought I would set foot in there. In my mind, Jakarta is just a city that I’d visit only at the weekend for the concerts I’d attend.

But look at me now. Life has left me stranded in Jakarta, a jungle of concrete, a land of opportunity.

Jakarta is also, a city that demands changes.

Jakarta forces you to move fast, walk fast, and work fast. Everything is fast because 24 hours isn’t enough when you live in this city. It forces you to learn a new skill; how to not lose shit when you’re trapped in the traffic, how to fight for a seat in public transportation, how to sleep while you sit or stand in the bus or train, how to read the map and signage, how to not shy to ask, that you’ll probably need a knee and/or ankle support, that you probably will be a mutant since the air in Jakarta is polluted as shit, etc.

It also changes you because you’ll call 5 km distance is far since that will take an hour to commute because of the damn traffic. It changes you to be an I-don’t-give-a-damn person to the extent of almost no empathy because everyone is minding their own business. I once was on the bus on my way back from work and there was this pregnant woman asking for a priority seat. And yes, you can guess it. No one stood up to give their seat in the ladies’ section until someone from the back seat did so.

I guess it’s easy for the heart to change into a stone heart if you stay in this city for too long and not nurturing the gentleness within you.

“Do not trust anyone. If you already have a high trust issue, make it go higher.”

That was what my friend warned me. While I know that actually, human relationship is transactional — a symbiosis mutualism, I think Jakarta brings that mutualism to a whole new level. Everyone is in an unwritten transaction and when you no longer bring benefits, you’ll get rid instead.

Still remember how that friend asked me why I treated him to a coffee and a simple humble dinner in the warmindo — a cheap diner. I laughed and replied, “Why not?”, I just wanted to treat a good friend of mine who picked me up and gave me a short night ride along the Sudirman area when I was about to cry and that kiddo suspected me. Funny. How silly of him to think that way.

But then again, will I find a genuine connection in this transactional city easily?

The disparity in Jakarta is no joke. I work in that tall building but I dislike the view since I can see the pollution furnishing the sky. It reminds me that this city is just trying to mess up my lungs and most likely shorten my lifespan. But when the sky is bright, the view of the sunset that gives an orange hue to the sky is beautiful too. I like seeing the sunset from my workplace while letting my mind wander somewhere.

Besides the visible pollution and lovely sunset, I’m also able to see the densely populated habitation. Hiding between the skyscrapers and the city’s lights, like trying to fight for a place between the massive concrete.

And while I was busy running and chasing my bus, I saw a boy with a box in front of him asking for mercy and money from anyone. When I was walking to the bus stop, I saw this person in a clown costume fall asleep while sitting with a box in front of them. Just as I saw people spend millions of rupiah just to buy insignificant things, the second after I could see people smiling just because they can sell a tissue for three thousand rupiah.

Those things and how messy this city’s landscape never fail to piss me off. Especially when the government ignores those problems, these problems, and makes a silly-stupid statement or policy.

One of the good things about Jakarta is the availability of public transportation. Although yeaaaaa, it’s not that superb. It’s nothing if you compare it to Singapore. Sure it’ll feel like a war zone or a zombie apocalypse at the rush hours and you’d still be stuck in the traffic sometimes if you take the bus. But compared to other cities in Indonesia, the public transportation in Jakarta is the best.

There are a lot of ways to reach a place. However, how wise and smart you are at deciding the route choice will be the main key.

Another good thing in Jakarta is: that you’ll never run out of entertainment form.

You could find any events that suit your taste every week. Whether it’s just a meet-up with your community, going to GBK for sport or picnic, going to one art gallery to another, visiting the libraries (omg a lot of libraries I love it), concerts, having a picnic in a park with your friends, going to the mall (too many mall istg), hitting the gym, getting drunk in a bar, or just strolling around the city, seriously, there are a lot and you can choose anything you want.

The weekend seems like a short time to keep your sanity, to breathe between the hustles. And two days of the weekend sometimes aren’t enough.

And of course, I miss my friends, my family, and the slow life that I had back in the Semarang.

The hustles and bustles of Jakarta somehow make me sentimental. It’s kind of funny how the loudness in this city isn’t strong enough to drown my longing and the loud voices in my head. Isn’t it hilarious when there are a lot of people in this city yet you can easily feel lonely? Again, I have to remind myself that the road of adulting is one of the loneliest roads a man ever takes no matter where they are or where they go.

A month in Jakarta. And I hope I won’t be wolfed down by this city.



valentina citra

a living mayhem with wandering mind | write in ina / eng | @aleviannt_