CAR-FREE SUNDAYS IN JAKARTA

If you ask anybody who’s been to Jakarta, he would most likely say that one of his unforgettable (or maybe forgettable) experience in this city is the heavy traffic.  On a typical day, frustrated  people get stuck in Jakarta’s infamous macet (traffic jam) praying to high heavens that they make it to their appointments, or that their bladders won’t explode in transit, or that they won’t choke on the fumes from the vehicles.

But once a week, the main thoroughfare transforms into a people-friendly zone and virtually becomes a park of sorts.  Every Sunday, from 6:00-11:00 AM, Jalan Sudirman and Jalan Thamrin are closed to private and public vehicles (except for the TransJakarta).  Jalan Sudirman is Jakarta’s counterpart to our Manila’s EDSA so imagine that whole stretch being closed to traffic, what a bliss!  What started as a once-a-month environmental drive in 2007 garnered support and encouragement from the public that it became a regular Sunday  pollution reduction program in 2012.

And because Jl. Sudirman is a stone’s throw away from our building, it has become our family’s Sunday morning exercise to run/walk/bike along Jakarta’s busiest street.  So if you happen to be in the city on a Sunday,  enjoy a short escape from the bustling macet and head on to Jl. Sudirman for a morning of fitness, fun, food, and people watching.

Sharing with you some car-free Sunday scenes below…

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The TransJakarta is the only motorized vehicle allowed in Jl. Sudirman and Jl. Thamrin.

The TransJakarta (bus rapid transit) is the only motorized vehicle allowed in Jl. Sudirman and Jl. Thamrin.

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Little Boy at the most popular Jakarta landmark, the Sudirman Roundabout (Bundaran)

Little Boy at the most popular Jakarta landmark, the Sudirman Roundabout (Bundaran)

Enjoy leisure or serious biking in front of the perennial bottleneck, Grand Indonesia.

Enjoy leisurely or serious biking in front of the perennial bottleneck, Grand Indonesia.

Car-free Sundays are perfect recreational time for family and friends.

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Also a preferred day and venue for various programs, promotions and causes…

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Save Our Sharks!

Save Our Sharks!

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Flash mob!

Flash mob!

The traditional Indonesian "Ondel Ondel" or folk puppet performance

The traditional Indonesian “Ondel Ondel” or folk puppet performance

Don’t worry about getting hungry and thirsty along the way ’cause you won’t.

food carts

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Water station in almost every corner

Water station in almost every corner

Coffee to go! Anon'ng sabi ng Starbucks? :)

Coffee to go! Ano’ng sabi ng Starbucks? 🙂

If you’re lucky, you’ll chance upon some free sampling treats for freeloaders like me hehe…

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Free fruit cups for everyone!

Free fruit cups for everyone!

I always know where to find Little Boy when he gets lost in the crowd :)

I always know where to find Little Boy when he gets lost in the crowd 🙂

HOME RUN!

HOME RUN!

“A Sunday well-spent brings a week of content.”

Happy Sunday everyone!!!

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THREE YEARS OF JAKARTA JOURNEY… and Counting

Three years ago today, I came to Jakarta, Indonesia with only a suitcase and a heart full of dreams and anxieties.  I left my family, friends and career back in Manila to start a new life with Dear Hubby and Little Boy.

It felt like only yesterday when this great big adventure began (click here for the story).   Three years hence, I am now promoted as the CEO of this house making sure that all household operations run smoothly… never mind if I burned some toasts.  And speaking of promotion, I have leveled up from  the Little Boy’s “cockroach playmate” to a hostaged princess!  My greatest achievement so far if you ask me.  Yes, Little Boy and I have already established a real mother-son bonding ever since I decided to take on this new “career path”.  No more earthworm and insect roles for me on our playtime!

The prospect of moving to a new country where you don’t know anybody could be quite scary but Indonesia has been good to us, we felt right at home.  While other foreigners would complain about the pollution, traffic, corruption, etc. we would shrug them off and move on to the next challenge.  Thank you Manila for preparing us for the tough times :)! It’s been a fun roller coaster ride and I have come to appreciate our host country’s culture, people, language and food.  I’m still discovering a lot about this city, this country, about me and about ourselves.

Thank you to all our new friends who took us in as their own family.  Thank you to the Pinoys who have been here before us and welcomed us like old friends.  Man, the Pinoy hospitality is insanely alive anywhere in the world.  Mabuhay! 🙂

Those clothes on that suitcase from three years ago can hardly fit anymore and my dreams certainly got bigger and grander.  I still get those anxiety pangs once in a while but (to borrow a line from a movie) “I’m a lot braver, bolder and fiercer now” ever ready to head to where ever this adventure would take us and make wonderful memories out of it.

Cheers to all of us and may we always be eager to face a new day, a new month, a new life ahead!!!

This photo was taken on our first morning in Jakarta.

This photo was taken on our first morning in Jakarta.

DISCOVERING THE STREETS OF JAKARTA

They say that to fully experience a different country, you must explore it by taking its local transportation. Let me take you for a ride to the streets of Jakarta, Indonesia and share with you one of my first Diva Discoveries.

BLUE BIRD TAXI
Owned and operated by the  Blue Bird Group,  the Blue Bird taxi is a common fixture in the streets of Jakarta and rightfully so because it comes highly recommended by everyone in town. They’ve earned their good reputation of being safe, honest, efficient and reliable.  You can get picked up anytime anywhere too! I mean, the kind of pick up where you make a call or send SMS then they’ll be at your doorstep. They also have the posh Silver Bird Executive Class,  the black Mercedes Benz E-Class series.  Wish I could try it someday… when I do my groceries maybe? 🙂

TRANSJAKARTA BUSES
In lieu of a metro train,  they have the TransJakarta which is a Bus Rapid System (BRS) launched in 2004.   It works as our regular MRT (Metro Rail Transit) i.e.  it has  designated pick-up and drop off stations (shelter) where the tickets can be bought too.  The seats face the aisle to accommodate more passengers and are likewise equipped with built-in speakers announcing  the shelter names in Indonesian and English languages.  The buses run on special lanes separated by concrete blocks.  I have a feeling these special lanes are only special on specific time of the day,  I often see other cars (including our own) navigating through these designated lanes.

image by: wikipedia.org

MOTORCYCLES
I’ve never seen this much motorcycles in the streets before, they literally swarm the Jakarta roads!  The first time I saw them I thought there was a motorcycle parade or something 🙂  And unlike in the Philippines where I see mostly men ride them, EVERYBODY uses it here.  Women executives, mothers bringing their kids to school,  a very old man buying his meds, a young boy on his way to deliver lunch packs, an entire family  of five who has gone shopping (well, this one is a common site in Manila too hehe).  And as a sheer display of  multi-tasking,  they can do other tasks while riding their motorcycles i.e. smoking, texting, and talking on the phone.

OJEK
I guess by now you’ve heard about the infamous traffic situation in Jakarta. Well, where there’s a problem lies a solution.  Ladies and gentlemen…. Presenting, the motorcycle taxi also known as the Ojek! Everyday you’ll see  students, executives, locals and foreigners take this mode of transportation.  Oh the convenience it gives.  You know how motorcycles can “fill in the blanks” weaving through the roads, right?  I bet you’ll make it to your appointment on time, dead or alive.  Just a few tips should you decide to ride one:
1. Avoid wearing white.  Unless  you can pull off that I-attracted-all-of-Jakarta’s-smog look.

2.  Bring some cologne.  You still would want  to smell fresh when you get to your destination, wouldn’t you?

3.  Bring your own helmet.  Go figure 🙂

Ojek stations are found in every street corner.

image by: jakarta.usembassy.org

BAJAJ
Once in a while you’ll chance upon one of Indonesia’s traditional transportation vehicles, the bajaj.   Equally popular in India, the bajaj is Indonesia’s counterpart to Thailand’s Tuk-tuk and the Philippines’ Tricycle.  It can seat up to five passengers… well, depending on their sizes of course.  They can operate on designated areas  only and are not allowed to  use the main roads.  Hence, the ride may be circuitous at times but could be great if you’re up for an adventure.

I hope you enjoyed the ride.  Stay tuned for more as I make more discoveries in this amazing city.

BACK TO THE GRIND

Yes, it’s back to regular programming for me!  Thanks so much for your sweet “get well” messages, they gave me comfort when my taste buds were not working and my skin burned from too much wintergreen ointment.  I knew I’ve recovered from the bug when thoughts of  working in the kitchen suddenly appealed to me (!), anything that will get me out of the bed :).  I am just so glad that I feel better now to attend to quite a number of important events: a recording album launch one evening (not mine of course!), parent-teacher meeting and play date the following morning.  Too bad I didn’t get well soon enough for a very dear friend’s surprise birthday party.  Nevertheless, this domestic diva has managed a balanced life this week.

IMELA KEI’S ALBUM LAUNCH

We met Imel because she’s married to a half Filipino-half Indonesian guy, Marko (of Mike’s Apartment band).  Both have established strong ties within the Filipino circle in Indonesia.   Imel, who is a member of the Ten2Five band, a composer and arranger, recently came out with her first solo album and we’re honored to have been invited to its launch.  ‘Twas my first time to watch her in action (I just see her on dinners and parties :)) and I was blown away by her voice! Imagine Amy Winehouse, Adele and Alicia Keys rolled into one petite frame!

Here's to the "White Lilies" launch!

Marko and his band, Mike's Apartment, opened the launch.

Not only does Imel have a powerful voice, she also has a mean piano prowess!

That night was also Imel's birthday celebration!

Cheers!!!

PARENT-TEACHER MEETING I might just post a separate article on this.  My discussion with Little Boy’s teacher was so interesting we nearly went overtime (each parent was given 15 minutes).  Had there been more time, I would have taken some photos.  I know, I’m weird that way hahaha!

THE PLAY DATE

My co-parent, Irene Connolly, once again opened the doors of her lovely home for a play date.  Their house is an ideal place for kids to run around and get busy in.  It’s spacious enough to have bicycles, toy cars, scooters and skate boards running simultaneously INSIDE the living room area .  She has two little girls but the collection of toys can likewise be enjoyed by the boys.  The tent and the trampoline are always a guaranteed hit with the kids too.  I don’t know how she remains calm and composed when kids play on her white couch and eat spaghetti on her equally immaculate carpet!  And because she’s such a gracious host, her kitchen is a favorite cook-out “playground” among the moms too 🙂

The calm before the storm.

Aaaand the chaos begins...

Girls just wanna have fun!

The kids having a blast...

Getting all the kids together for a group photo was a challenge!

See you again soon, moms!

DOMESTIC BECOMES ME

image by Royalty-Free/Corbis

If you’ve read the “About The Diva” page then you’ll know that before I took on being domestic, I was once a full-time corporate slave in the marketing rat race.  A job that requires frequent travels, late nights, crazy deadlines, stressful presentations, and regular visits to the salon.  No. I just made the salon thing up, that was self-imposed 🙂 My point is, I was a weekend mom– a term better than “absentee mom”, don’t you think?

Anyway, my son practically grew up with the nanny. We were so lucky to have one who was with us before the Little Boy came until the time when we had to move overseas.  She was ever dependable and I totally trust her with the boy so I felt no jealousy when he uttered Ate” before learning the word “mommy”…. none at all… Okay, I wanted to scratch her face when I first heard that but hey, she was taking good care of my boy while I was gone so I should be cool with that.  When weekends would come and it would be my turn to look after him, Little Boy would give me a puzzled look.  He was too young to talk so I could just see his thought balloon saying “Who is this woman???” to which I would reply, “Anak, ako ang tunay mong ina.” (Son, I’m your real mother).  That would be his cue to cry.  When the nanny would come home from her day-off, he would run towards her and exclaim “I miss you, Ate!”.  Again, no jealousy there even when he would only give me a wave when I would get home from a week-long trip.  And when he finally learned to talk, he even coined a nickname for his nanny: Ate Cute, while he calls me The Stepmother. Darn those fairytales!

Little Boy and Ate Cute enjoying Baguio City while I was attending an official event in Burnham Park.

Then Dear Hubby got an opportunity to get cross-posted overseas, a career break that was hard to resist.  I knew that a regional assignment was his biggest dream… second to having me as his wife, of course! “Living separately was never an option”, he said.  Making sure that family relocation was part of the package, he was bent on taking our little family with him.  Isn’t he the sweetest?  It took countless discussions (some of them intense) to finally got me packing.  You see, it wasn’t easy letting go of a corporate post handling breakthrough projects in the Philippines’ biggest manufacturing firm. But I was willing to give up career for love – showbiz??!! 🙂

I gotta give props to Dear Hubby because he got everything laid out when he made the relocation “pitch” to me– complete with a visual presentation!  And by presentation I didn’t mean a lap dance but snapshots of potential residences and their facilities, etc.  He had all my concerns covered i.e. double income in Manila vs. single income in Jakarta, education, safety and security, medical benefits etc.  And to make things convenient for me, he got me a brand new MacBook Pro so I could reconnect with family and friends back home. I told him it was too much and that I’d be happy with a Sony Vaio.  He just replied “You’ll love that, it’s idiot-friendly.”  Okay, I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by that, he just wanted everything to be easy for me.  Sweet ‘no?… He also got me an iPod to keep me company while alone at the gym, a BlackBerry for easy communication even while I’m mobile, and a large, hot pink, hard-luggage (this one nailed it!).  He is just sooo sweet! One more suck-up comment like this and he just might get me the latest iPhone or iPad this time… oh, but an iron curler will do 🙂

Well, here we are in Jakarta, Indonesia which the three of us call home (for now) building our new family life together.  We could be in another city in another country in a few years but still together and making some more memories.

How about you?  Any wonderful beginnings or breakthroughs in your life recently?

And the journey begins...

Day 1 in Jakarta, making a fresh start...

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