I met a Jamaican in Jakarta. Actually, I met him virtually, while I was still in Aceh.
Back in February when the imigrasi issues in Banda Aceh started getting alarming, I decided that I needed to let the Jamaican honorary consul in Jakarta know that I was in the country, just in case I got thrown into Acehnese immigration jail and needed his help. So I emailed him and let him know who and where I was. He responded by welcoming me to the country and copying a bunch of other Jamaicans so we could be in touch with each other if we wanted to. To be perfectly honest, I had no interest 1 way or another; since I didn’t leave Jamaica to hang out with Jamaicans and since homesickness is never an issue for me, I didn’t really care if we ever got together or not.
However, this 1 Jamaican man emailed me to say that I was welcome to use his guest room any time I was in Jakarta. “Well,” I thought, “that’s nice of him, but no way! I don’t know this man, I don’t know anything about this man so there’s no way on God’s green earth that I’m sleeping in his house.” I figured if I was ever in Jakarta, I’d meet him for lunch or dinner and call my duty done.
Then I moved from Banda Aceh to Jakarta. During that time of movement and settling in, I didn’t once think about this man or recall his existence. I went through my thing with the idiot “boss,” started getting used to never, ever wearing shoes, settled into my new classes and responsibilities, and generally got on with life in Jakarta. But this man did not forget about me.
While A and I were in Bali around the end of April, he emailed to say that he had been travelling for a few weeks but would be back in Jakarta soon and that if I wanted to get away from Aceh for the May 5th and 6th holidays, I was welcome to use his guest room. I told him that I was actually living in Jakarta now and that although that weekend was a national holiday, I still had to work but maybe we could meet for lunch or something. After a couple of back and forth emails, he invited A and me to his house for breakfast one Sunday morning. I thought this was great because it gave me a chance to check him and his house out with company that I trusted; A could observe him and let me know if she picked up any creeper vibes from him.
So we went to breakfast at his house on the first Sunday of May…and had a really delicious time. We ate fruits, toast (TOAST!!! Toasted in a toaster!!!), jam and boiled eggs, drank good Balinese coffee and had a nice conversation. We met his dog (“Awwww…puppy!” said dog-loving A), scoped out his guest room and checked out his (really nice, uptown) neighbourhood. After we left, we agreed that he was a nice older gentleman who seemed to be on the up-and-up and was a good person to know for networking reasons, so I decided that I’d take up his offer of the use of his guest room the next time he made it.
Fortuitously, he made it right on time. A left on a Tuesday morning near the middle of May and I spent the next Sunday (my day off) hanging around the centre and getting crawled on by a cockroach while I showered. I resolved that I would not spend another Sunday hanging around the centre if I could help it. So I finally responded to a Whatsapp he had sent me a couple of days before and accepted his offer to use his guest room. We agreed for 2 Sundays hence.
Now, people, don’t think I was being reckless by going to stay at this man’s house who I had only met once. There are a couple of things that you should consider. First, I needed a break from grime and critters. The roach trying to climb me put me in a really bad place mentally and I just had to get out of here even for 24 hours. Second, couchsurfing is a real thing. Airbnb, anyone? Every night, half a million people around the world stay in other unknown people’s homes and don’t get molested or murdered. And finally, I’ve come to realise that expatriates are really helpful, kind and generous people. They are kind in ways that non-expats are not. As a rule, non-expats are suspicious of unsolicited generosity and view acts of kindness from strangers or near-strangers with cynicism. Because I was unused to it, I was a little mistrustful of this phenomenon at first but now I’ve accepted it. It’s just their nature. (Oh, my goodness, I just this minute realised that I’m an expat too! Woo-hoo! I never thought I’d count myself among that number.)
For all those reasons, I covered myself in prayer and departed to go stay at his house.
We agreed that I would spend 2 nights there – Saturday (after work was over) and Sunday. Since I had to go to immigration on Monday morning to apply for a visa extension, I’d have to leave early but he was OK with that. So as soon as classes were over on Saturday evening, I ordered up a Go-Jek and headed out.
Pause. Let’s talk about the Go-Jek. An ojek is a bike taxi. Go-Jek is a bike taxi app. It’s totally boss! You download this app on your phone and create an account (no credit card needed), then you can order up a Go-Ride (bike taxi), a Go-Car (regular taxi), Go-Food (they pick up your food for you), Go-Mart (they do your grocery shopping), and a myriad of other services. You can even get a Go-Massage! There’s a rival service called Grab and there’s also Uber Bike. You can’t step foot out your front door in Jakarta and not see Go-Jek or Grab bike riders zoom by in their green and black jackets and helmets. This app also lets you know who your driver will be and how far away they are. It’s a really great app and I’m gonna have so much fun with it.
I must also say here that I totally enjoyed my first Go-Jek ride. I hadn’t been on a bike since I left Aceh and I didn’t realise that I missed it until I got on the Go-Jek that Saturday night.
So, I headed out to the Jamaican’s house that Saturday night. He fed me a healthy dinner and told me to help myself to breakfast in the morning. I spent that Saturday night, all day Sunday and Sunday night feeling supremely grateful for no mosquitos, no roaches, no rats, a comfy bed, a shower I could actually shower in (although there was no hot water…bummer), a flushable toilet that I could sit on, and AC. I slept, read, hung out by his gorgeous pool in his cool, peaceful courtyard, wandered around the nearby plaza for an hour, washed my hair standing comfortably in the shower, ate nice, healthy food and just generally reveled in the experience. It was a very welcome respite. Monday morning came all too soon; I ordered up my Go-Jek and headed back to the centre.
It wasn’t an exciting weekend but I wasn’t looking for excitement. I just wanted to sleep and live and be in a clean, roach-free, healthy environment for a few hours. That’s what the Jamaican gave me for 2 nights and a day.
He says I can come back when I want. We’ll see.