Jakarta is an urban behemoth. New York City is four times larger in size, but Jakarta has six million more people, creating a population density of almost 10,000 per square kilometer. The Special Capital Region of Jakarta is broken into five regencies or cities: North, South, East, West, and Central. Each of these regencies is further broken into districts. We live in Kelapa Gading, a district of North Jakarta. Known for its shopping and restaurants, self-sufficient Kelapa Gading is a city within a city. The district is tagged as middle to upper class, and there is a high percentage of residents who are Chinese, Korean, or Chinese-Indonesian. Kelapa Gading is also known for its horrible traffic (an impressive reputation in Jakarta) and susceptibility for flooding (we experienced Flooding: the Sequel last week, and just barely got the students and ourselves out of the school Wednesday morning).
The Paladian Park Apartments are made up of five high-rise buildings and two hotels. It is just off the main drag, within walking distance to our school, our grocery store Lotte Mart and the Mall of Indonesia, one of the four major malls in Kelapa Gading. There are two swimming pools, tennis courts, playgrounds, a convenience store (conveniently stocked with beer), an Indonesian-style restaurant, and a small, poorly maintained gym. Its how I imagine life in a retirement home- we even have a free shuttle service to the malls that leaves from the Clubhouse, the common area of the complex. Laundry and dry cleaning is on the first of three floors of below ground parking. Reflexology, massage, hair salon, hired drivers, and taxi services are also available. The overkill but friendly security borders on silly- all vehicles sign in at the entrance, guards are stationed at the Clubhouse and on the ground floor of each tower. When we first arrived, I asked if there was something I should be concerned about, but I was told no, its just a way of providing more jobs. Although a bit shabby since its construction in the 1990’s, it is still a descent place to live in this area of Jakarta.
We live in Tower A on the 15th floor. Well, actually the twelfth- its bad luck to have floors numbers with a 4 or 13. It is a small but cozy three bedroom apartment overlooking the ass-end of another mall and sections of Kelapa Gading. We have all the amenities of a Western apartment except an oven (scarce in these parts) and a clothes dryer (not really needed in these parts). Tap water is not drinkable in Indonesia, so we have a water cooler near the kitchen. The kids have been so trained not to drink from the tap that Cian tattles when he sees someone getting water from the faucet on TV. Hot water is only in one of our bathrooms for showering- if you’re quick about it. Despite these developing country quirks, there was a certain sense of relief when function took precedence over aesthetics in our new residence. Since housing is paid for by our school for all teachers, we will always be right alongside the Jones’s. Our apartment won’t be featured in Architectural Digest, but between apartment living and a house keeper, we gained hours a week back to spend time with our kids and friends.
Most of the teachers including us have become fond of our little Kelapa Gading. Since many of the Western expats live in South Jakarta, it sometimes feels like we’re a border settlement, but there’s something special about being one of the relatively few bule in the area. Its nice to get out and away regularly, but in the vast city sea of Jakarta, its a comforting place to return.