Thursday, March 16, 2006

the goatway

So you are here. On the airplane video screen you watch your plane dip toward Sukarno-Hatta Airport. Already you can feel the heat through the metal skin. Bump to a stop. Long lines for visas and customs but the immigration officials seem almost jolly, joking and smiling. They like to pound their stamps down on the documents with a bang, so the sounds of administrative approval fill the room like rifle blasts. Bang bang bang ... more people pour into the crowded city.

Heft your leaden baggage. Plow through the crowds of taxi drivers hawking their services, keeping your head down, muttering "tidak mau, tidak mau" ... "don't want, don't want." Find a guidebook-approved Blue Bird Taxi. The highway toward the city is busy but flowing. There are goats next to the road. Whose goats?

Toll road into Jakarta. Tin-roofed slums built out of scraps. High-rises. A sprawl of buildings unrelated by style or function, spreading out under a blanket of smog. Monuments. Palm trees. Flowering bushes.

Hotel Arcadia. Air-conditioning. The bliss of a hot shower washing away 34 hours' worth of travel grime. A hard but comfortable bed. Oblivion.

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