Sunday, 20 January 2013

An open letter to Sydney and how I escaped the Jakarta flood

Dear Sydney,

I have been living here for the past decade or so and am rather embarrassed to admit that for the most part, I have been complaining about a lot of things that (in retrospect) I should not be complaining about. Can I get a free pass and attribute this childish act to the fact that I was, in fact, childish and immature?

I whined about the lack of "life" here, it seemed as if everybody is asleep by 7pm (keep in mind, this was a decade ago). The shopping malls cease trading at 6pm on most days, except for Thursday. There really is no entertainment after dinner, except those activities that involve a lot of alcohol, and also the movies. I was not (and still am not) a big movie fan, so this was a pretty big deal to me, okay.

I complained about how everything was/is seemingly crazy expensive here. There is some truth in this one, as Sydney is the second most expensive city in the world, closely following Tokyo. But Sydney is also a pretty good place for living, something that I have always taken for granted. Nothing is for free, thus the high living costs.

There are a lot of other things that I whined about - some of those things involve prejudices, racist encounters and the like. This was Sydney more than a decade ago. A lot have changed since then and the Sydney we know in 2013 is a lot more tolerant and open than it has ever been before, and I am not just saying this because I have been here a long time. Try to be the receiving end of these unpleasant situations BEFORE you say anything about it in the comments section of this blog which is moderated, thankyouverymuch. (This means, if you leave some dumb-ass comment, it will just be deleted.)  

Appreciating what we've got is an acquired skill. Even till today, I am still learning.

I narrowly escaped the floods in Jakarta.

On Thursday morning (1/17), we woke up to the road in front of the house being flooded. Some brave drivers in some fancy four-wheel-drive were still on the road, and believe it or not, some trishaws. (Yes, the Indonesians have trishaws too.) It was quite amusing that day because while we were trapped in the house, there was still power and clean water. It was all good. Cable TV provided an endless source of entertainment, although what we were more engrossed with was the live coverage by TVOne and MetroTV (I think those were the two stations that were doing the live coverage throughout the day).

Friday morning (1/18) we woke up to a rising water level that nearly reached our house. I should mention that at this stage, almost all of our neighbours were already flooded. We lost power and water this morning. The sky was overcast, while this meant that the house was still cool, it also meant it was nearly darkness. Well, semi-darkness. We navigated our way for half the day, watching the people walking in the street in front of the house nearly swimming. My parents were oddly calm. I was silently freaking out and told the boyf that I wanted to fly out soon.

My Dad agreed. So I got to work, with a dying cell phone (we could not charge them because well, there was no power) and with no internet (this, quite unfortunately, was not due to no power, but this is another story altogether) and thanks to a very kind and loving brother managed to change the tickets to a flight out to Sydney that evening. Sometimes we got lucky like that, you know. The next flight out was on Sunday. There was no way that I was staying in a house with no power for more than a few hours. (I know, this sounds so fucking spoilt, but you try to be in this situation and tell me if you would behave differently - and remember the water level is rising quite rapidly.)

My parents got the task of getting us out of the house, luggage and all. I told the boyf that we were leaving in an hour (this was 12pm, and we did not know what sort of logistical nightmare is ahead of us). I was met with a confused look and "how are we going to get to the airport?". Truth was that, I did not know, and I told him so. But we needed to pack and get ready and just go with the flow (of events, not water).

Thank God I had great parents and a great boyfriend.

We packed.

Dad got us a red boat that could accommodate all of us plus our suitcases and we sat on the boat being pushed by two people.

"Can you fit three people plus three suitcases? Come and have a look."
"How much"
"Up to you"
"Jangan gitu, jadi ga enak saya. Berapa?"
"Terserah aja"

That trip costed $10 (AUD). Fortune favours the brave.

Long story short, we got to some dry land, and Dad managed somehow to get us to the airport where we spent the next 2 hours eating KFC. My phone died by this stage and for the first time ever I cursed the Blackberry for being so difficult to start once it is switched off. My poor father spent the night restless because he did not know whether we made the flight. (Sorry, Dad, this was unintentional, I promise.)

We made the flight. I wanted to curse Qantas for its terrible service, but I didn't because I was just so fucking grateful for being on the flight.

We reached Sydney and got an Indonesian taxi driver (oh the irony) and got talking about the flood again.

We got home, and I called Dad.

Just in case some of you are thinking that I abandoned my parents (gees, seriously people, do you not think I have a heart), they fled that day, no doubt via a boat too.

The things I appreciate about Sydney.

Where I currently reside, there is no flood. Sydney has better drainage systems and if anything, is running out of water than being flooded by water.

Sydney is safer than a lot of the places that I've been to in this planet. I take it for granted that I can walk in the streets alone.

I complained about the local and state and federal governments, nitpicking all the little bits and pieces that I think they could have done better. Truth is that, the jobs they are currently doing, are pretty good. With the exception of some silly bike policy, which, upon further reflection, is not really the government's fault, but more the rude, inconsiderate bikers' faults.

Sydney has some awesome waterfront views. I always take this for granted.

Sydney has a public transport system. Yes, it needs a lot of improvements and upgrades, but it is functioning.

I complained about taxis in Sydney. Truth is that they are fine, I just have to not look at the state of the taxis that I have been in the past few years. I say this because they did their jobs of getting me from point A to point B in one piece.

I shall try harder to appreciate you more.

Yours truthfully,

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