After a few weeks of hearing about it, we finally got up the gumption to check out Car-Free Day in Jakarta.
This has been going on here since 2007 and weekly since 2012. On Sunday mornings from 6 until 11 am they close several of the main thoroughfares to auto traffic and it is open for several miles to pedestrians and bikers only.
It probably doesn’t do much for the overall pollution levels, but I think it must do wonders for peoples sense of well being.
We made a few mistakes. One, I live with a teenager and it’s hard to move her along too quickly on weekend mornings. Two, we decided to take a cab to the other end of the pedestrian area. Cutting off the main drag to cars only serves to make traffic everywhere else a little worse, so our taxi ride took a while. But we saw some new sights along the way.
While we live near “flower street” with all the flower and plant stalls, we also passed “statue street” and “mirror street.” Stall after stall of purveyors of all these items. I guess keeping them all together stimulates competition and shopping around.
Lots of time in the cab, but we did have a good hour or so walking on the street and you could just sense how people were more carefree. Being able to stroll without fear of collision or accident was so relaxing for people. Gaggles of people were walking and biking and talking and laughing. Every once in a while they would start hooting. There was some singing and portable sound stages and of course food carts.
After being here two weeks we finally decided to sample some food from a cart. Knock on wood, thus far we’ve been able to stay pretty healthy gastro-intestinally. We wash our veggies and sanitize our dishes. We avoid ice and tap water. Z has been really fastidious and if I slip up she chimes in “Oooh, Daddy’s eating human waste!” Then I go and quickly wash my food again.
Anyway, I was hungry and after scanning the row of carts for my choices we opted for Roti Coklat. Stringy fried bread drizzled with sweetened condensed milk, covered in chocolate sprinkles and drizzled in another layer of condensed milk. All of this handled with pretty sanitary techniques, including gloves! Not sure if that was for us Bule or not. It was the best breakfast $0.80 could buy.
Z has been walking a line with her race. At a soccer team bonding event the other day, all the white girls were named for some event. Who knows what? But, Z noted that she wasn’t called out as a white person which was fine with her. She said she wasn’t really slotted with any other group either.
Then today, walking down the street, we were both quite aware of all the eyes being on us. She,more than I, was the clear minority and the clear person of interest and she said she felt significantly out of place. This may take some getting used to.
Along the way, I was handed a handbill for a weight loss clinic. Maybe it was random, maybe I was being profiled.
At 11 am, on the dot, a police van, sirens blaring, starts at the end of the road and leads cars safely back up the main street and within minutes the whoosh of traffic fills the air and all the pedestrians retreated to the gutters, side streets and malls. Life in the big city was back to normal.