Thursday, April 13, 2006
Tuesday we went to Singapore to renew our visas. We had a few hours to kill before getting on the plane, so I figured we should go hang out at a wi-fi cafe we'd heard about. This was a thoroughtly brilliant plan, except for two small details: 1) their internet connection wasn't working and 2) we got caught in a flash flood.
I didn't think much about the rain when it started. There's sometimes a period of heavy rain in the afternoon, but it always ends quickly. Except this time. It poured. And poured. And poured. Pretty soon I abandoned my magazine and joined the crowd staring from the balcony of the second-floor cafe at the scene down on the street. Taxis were driving in water as high as their hoods. A food vendor went past, pushing an almost totally-immersed cart. (I made a quick mental note to lay off the food carts for a few days.) Kids started swimming in the street. Adults who wanted to get anywhere had to take their shoes off, roll up their pants and wade.
Even tap water here is full of icky stuff. I don't want to think about what's in the gutter water. I just watched in amazement.
Finally it stopped raining and the waters began to recede. We carefully walked down the street and hailed a cab. The driver got out, shaking his head and laughing.
"Banjir," I said, which means "flood." Stating the obvious in a jovial tone - that's as close as I can get to a witticism right now in Indonesian.
We set out and immediately became embroiled in a full-blown Jakarta traffic jam. It was block after block of gridlock, with motorcycles weaving in and out, bajajs trying to squeeze through, and everybody honking at each other.
"Banjir macet," (bahn-jeer mah-chet) the driver laughed. "Flood traffic." And so it was - flood traffic all the way to the toll road, turning a 1-hour drive into more than two.
And Singapore? Well that's a whole other story - and a blog entry for later.