Thursday, October 20, 2011

A week in Jakarta

I went to Jakarta to quickly sort out my multiple re-entry permit, but ended up extending and spending almost a week there. It was a dramatic change of pace from the daily routine in Padang.

 Armed with an address for a vegetarian restaurant, I headed towards Central Park without knowing exactly what I was looking for. I ended up in a huge mall. This is not a comfy mall where you might expect a Walmart or a Target and you can loaf around in your pajamas. This is the type of mall where I wander around terrified I’m going to knock something over and break it because my lifetime salary would not pay for it. There were French brands that I previously thought only had one store in New York and one store in Paris. Apparently they also have one in Jakarta?!?

This got me thinking. Development doesn’t exactly stand out when you are wandering around in Padang -I have caught myself wondering who exactly classified this is a rapidly emerging economy! My shock at seeing Central Park caused me to go on a grand tour of Jakarta’s mall scene and I have to say that it blew me away. Suddenly I could understand all the talk about Asia rising. There isn’t just one large mall. There are 10s (or maybe 100s) of huge shopping malls that each seem to have more land area and a bigger economy than the state of Delaware. I had to take notes to find my way around!

But in between these great malls I saw something else.  I saw open sewage and overcrowded transportation systems.  I saw homeless people sleeping under the freeways.  I saw a man who needed mental help and woman who clearly was living a life of abuse.

I’m not writing this because I came up with some grand solution or I have some great philosophy to espouse.  I don’t know all the answers.  I just spent a week bouncing between excitement at seeing development in this country and sadness at seeing how many people seem to be left behind.  It is obviously hard to photograph the richest and poorest people in the city so these photos should give you an idea of the types of things I was seeing.  


  1. Susan, thanks for posting. The majority poor always seem to be left behind and forgotten. This seems to be a global epidemic problem. The prosperity of the nation isn't measured by how many are homeless or living in poverty, instead, by how many mega malls there are. Sad! Something is most definitely wrong with this picture! Jen

  2. So now I expect your next post to address the solution to this problem. :)
    I always explain to all my art history friends how my sister is in a field where she finds real problems and solves them (unlike some of us... :P), so now I need a solution from you! :)

  3. Jen I completely agree. I keep seeing it in the news with respect to America, but it just became clear how widespread the problem really is.

    Mary: I wish.