Friday, January 9, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities

The number of high-end night clubs, restaurants, and shopping centers in Jakarta - like the one pictured here with a 7-story slide cascading through it - never cease to amaze me. Prices are high, even by Western standards. But that is only part of the story. Other realities co-exist, like that of a 66-year old man who was recently interviewed by the local paper.

Joyosudarmo is a tukang ojek - or bicycle taxi - driver, and he spends from 6 am to 4 pm everyday serving customers, for which he earns between $3 to $5 per day. When asked when he planned to retire, the dignified man said, "As long as I have the strength to pedal my bike, I will work. I do not want to be a burden to anyone."

If you care to look, disparity here stands out in stark contrasts. It torments me because I know that I don't really understand - or fully appreciate - the nuanced lives of people in this country. I don't know in which ways I need to change my own life - and the choices that I make on a daily basis - to have more of an impact on bridging the enormous gulfs that I see. But I can say, that it is increasingly difficult to enter one of the chic establishments here without being painfully aware of what it would take for a bicycle taxi driver or many of the other 250 million people in this country to earn what I could so easily spend on that night's meal or entertainment. And I do know, that somehow I have to align more of my life with that awareness.


Tony Stayner said...

Janine, Enjoying your blog. You give a feel for life there and your posts are thoughtful. Loved the picture of the santa on a bike in the shark tank and am still imagining the chocolate martini. Thoughts about harmony linger. Hope your holidays were merry!


Jen Worth said...

Happy New Year, Janine! You have eloquently voiced the tension I feel when traveling in Africa...most Moroccans I spoke to about it say that awareness is the most important thing...awareness and continued spending. For me, I'm not sure that's sufficient but, its a start. Hope all is going well with your project and that Mike will return to join you soon!


Sharkey! said...

Your post does leave one with unsettling questions, for sure. For example, if someone actually went down a seven story slide, how fast would they be traveling at the bottom? Cuz, I mean, they must be bookin!


littlepurplecow said...

I feel that too. The talent and time you use to document and share your experiences will help build awareness. I agree with Jen - awareness is most important. A good starting point.