Wednesday, September 26, 2007

First Impressions of Indonesia

I arrived at the Jakarta airport very early morning Wednesday. This is my first time in Indonesia. I'm south of the equator for the first time in my life. I had high hopes for this first leg of the journey with the American Association of Community Colleges. After all, the island of Java has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?

The visit here got off to a good start. They have a nice little airport that I will get to see a couple more times later this week. It is very convenient to be able to pay $10 US at the airport to get a 7-day visa, so that was good. It was cool to walk through customs and see my name on an electronic sign (where was my camera on that one?) where they were prepared to take me to the hotel. So yes, my first 20 minutes in Jakarta were just fine.

However, the overall first impressions are not that favorable. On the trip to the hotel I started to see how bad the traffic is here. Don't be in a hurry to go anywhere. Interesting how the road had lines painted indicating two lanes of traffic but at no time was there less than three lanes of traffic. For some reason the traffic here feels different than the crazy traffic in other Asian countries. Maybe it's because there are many more individual cars and fewer scooters, bikes, and the like. We get to the hotel and the taxi (taksi) is searched by guards with electronic scanning devices and assault rifles before they open the huge iron gate to let us in to the hotel drop-off area. I also have to walk through electronic airport-like security to get into the hotel lobby. So far this doesn't feel like a very safe place. I've never felt that way in Vietnam or China. The broadband Internet connection here is anything but broad. Slow to do anything and very choppy for Skype calls back home to the family. This place has a very different feel than everywhere else that I have traveled in Asia. I've only been here 12 hours, so I'm hoping that I have a different impression by the time I leave at the end of the week. Today was mainly a day of rest after about 32 hours in travel status. AACC events start bright and early tomorrow morning.

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