It's dirty. I rate the pollution rate on any particular day by how many buildings I can see from my 26th floor balcony. If haze blocks out more than the dozen or so in a kilometer radius, it's going to be a day to avoid the great outdoors. Most Jakartans, when forced to go outside, do so only with a mask on. I can literally wipe the grime off my face with a tissue by the time I get back from work. Ew. It's also apparent that elementary school education does not put the same heavy emphasis on not being a "litter bug" as it does in America. Evidence of this is everywhere: the taxi driver who brushed an empty water bottle onto the street before I could crawl in - cringe, my coworkers who toss straw wrappers on the ground as we walk - cringe, etc. I have a theory about how littering is actually an extension of living within a service-based culture where everyone relies on someone else to do tasks like cleaning, laundry, cooking, etc. Someone will come along with one of those crazy, stick brooms sooner or later. Why make the effort to find the ever-so-elusive trash bins? But, I digress.
One four-hour plane ride and several visa stamps and customs forms later, and I was in a new county. With my backpack on, I stepped out of the airport trying to fit the role of the intrepid, world traveler as best I could. Being outdone by the tall gangly, dreadlocks wearing hippy guy beside me (there's one on every flight, I swear!), I resigned myself to just trying not to get ripped off by a taxi company, which happened anyways. Oh well.
I could have taken a taxi the whole 2-hour trip to Clark, where I was to meet up with Chuck and his teammates, but this would run close to $40, so I decided to take the cheaper, but much more complicated route of the bus. Besides, a taxi ride wouldn't have made much of a blog post. Luckily for me, English is taught as a second language in PI, so most street signs are in English and nearly everyone speaks a little at least.
So, taxi to bus station (480 pesos - roughly $12). At the bus station, I asked the local security officer to identify which bus was going to Clark and found an empty seat in the back of the bus (40 pesos - $1). I was soon joined by a Filipino angel named Christine. I'm really not sure how I would have made it the rest of the way to Clark without her assistance. I found out (much to my horror) that the bus did not, in fact, go all the way to Clark. Instead, once I got to Clark, I needed to get into one of these:
|Don't be deceived. It's actually much smaller than a school bus. I stand at least as tall as a jeepney.|
This mystical creature is called a Jeepney, and PI is famous for them. They are ridiculously cheap (15 pesos - way less than a dollar), but a little like riding an earthquake to your destination - if I may quote my boyfriend, who is Filipino-American and familiar with such things. Also, there is the matter of fitting. This is what it looks like on the inside:
|I stole this picture from Mr. Google, but I wanted you to get the idea of the size inside.|
Now, let me remind you of the size difference between your average Asian and, say, me. As Christine climbed easily into the back of the jeepney, I stared quizzically at the Alice-in-Wonderland door and hoped I would just get smaller as I approached the doorway. It was close, but somehow I fit.
Christine was heading in the same general direction as me, but we had to part ways one leg short of the parade grounds where I needed to meet Chuck. Christine guided me toward another jeepney and talked to the driver before instructing me to contort my body once more and climb inside. Once inside, I held out a random assortment of peso coins to the driver and let him take his pick. Which he did, very honestly. Another 15 pesos and I was off to my final destination. I was relieved to step out of the jeepney and see a field full of frisbee players.
The rest of the three-night adventure was smoothing sailing. I got to see Chuck in all his frisbee-wielding glory and to meet his friends, all of whom were supremely cool. Together, they made up the Guambats, an all-American ultimate team made up of mostly attorneys, engineers, and one 6'8" secret weapon nicknamed "Bubba."
Ultimate has a very unique culture of it's own, as I was to learn this trip. There were entire teams dressed up as clowns, many men dressed as women (but I promised not to post those pictures), and lots and lots of vodka. Now, there were some serious moments. Chuck's team played with dedication and came out with a much improved standing from the previous year's tournament. Other teams, in the "A" bracket were unbelievable to watch. It was obvious that frisbee was somewhat more than just a hobby for them. I was happy to learn that the Guambats took the game a little less seriously.
In three days, I didn't get to see much else of the country beyond it's unique public transportation options and the impressive Mall of Asia (huuuuuuuuge), but it was the reset button I needed. I cleared my mind and lungs and did it all with some great friends old and new. I can't wait to go back!