To call Jakarta grey would be a redundant description of any big city. Instead, I will glamorize it by saying Jakarta is silver.
Silver shades outline the hundreds of thousands of motorcycles, buses, trains and vehicles that contribute to Jakarta’s insufferable traffic. Reportedly, the world’s worst, and I certainly can attest to it. There’s silver in the multitude of motorcycle helmets, and in the reflection of side mirrors, the drivers colored mainly by their clothing and facemasks, filtering out the pollution. Dark clouds of smoke erupt from exhaust pipes, concentrating into the silver haze that masks buildings and hides the sun, making it seem like it’s melting rather than setting.
Silver is embedded in the pavement, in the machinery conducting various construction projects, in the unpainted tin roofs and fencing of small houses and properties, and within the countless massive malls found all over the city, spread in between highways and skyscrapers, some that may gleam in the heat of the day, if natural light can reach them.
A brown and silver coating skims above most waterways, littered with plastic and other types of waste, exhuming scents so rancid I cannot even begin to describe them. Jakarta: scented urban decay.
This hectic capital city has all the negative aspects of Java – the crowdedness and litter – without the natural beauty of a more remote location like Bondowoso, or the charm, warmth and friendliness of village people. It’s been difficult to love this city—even hard to like it at all—but just as my time here starts ending, I’m beginning to grow accustomed to it. Maybe, I’ll even miss it.
Just a little, though.