An Outsider’s Perspective on the Rich-Poor Divide in Jakarta and Sexual Harassment Experienced as a Foreign Woman

  I have an almost “obsessive” love for Indonesia. It’s like a person falling into a relationship. Even though you know the other person’s countless shortcomings, you are still deeply fascinated by them.
  ”Before I moved here, everyone told me that Jakarta was dangerous.” Emily, a European girl, said when I had dinner with her. I said, and all my Indonesian friends told me the same thing, so I was very nervous every time I was in Jakarta.
  Emily has lived in Indonesia with her husband for many years and she speaks fluent Indonesian and Javanese. She used to live in Yogyakarta. After moving to Jakarta, she liked it very much because Jakarta has convenient public transportation (provided you can understand Indonesian).
  Emily and I had a great chat and walked together for a night. Then she took the local train home and I decided to try walking back. With the endorsement of “foreigner” Emily, I became bolder. This was my first time walking at night in Jakarta.
  In fact, my uneasiness about this city mainly comes from the huge gap between the rich and the poor, the unfamiliar language, and the warning of “Indonesian Chinese exclusion” in most people’s minds. Unlike the capitals of most countries, where you can always find a few people who are fluent in English to ask for directions, in Jakarta, English is almost useless and you can only rely on translation software for everything, and the probability of “errors” is quite high. The huge gap between rich and poor makes Jakarta look like a deformity. On one side is a giant department store that requires security checks when entering, and on the other side is a fly stall where “motorcycle taxi” drivers gather. And when I walk on the street, I am often stared at blankly by street vendors – do they really hate Chinese people that much? And there are obviously a lot of Chinese here, so you should get used to it, right?

  Rich Chinese don’t hang out on the streets, they’re usually in cars and department stores.

  My Indonesian friend gave me an answer: “Because you are too white.” “Don’t all Chinese look like this?”
  I think this is a bit baffling. The friend added: “Rich Chinese don’t hang out on the streets, they are usually in cars and department stores.” I think this answer is quite subtle, but also somewhat reasonable.
  This is not my first trip to Indonesia alone. In my impression, most Indonesian people are actually gentle and polite, and they are quite helpful. Emily felt the same way. She said that when she traveled to other countries, some people helped to earn tips. She originally thought that Indonesians were the same, but she later discovered: “They really want to help you.” Because I am in
  Indonesia There were so many wonderful experiences like this that I let my guard down. Late one night, I took a taxi to a park where many transgender people were said to gather because I was curious about the living conditions of Muslim transgender people.
  At the beginning, the taxi guy patiently used translation software to help me explain the ecology here, but his topics gradually made me feel uncomfortable: Are you staying in a hotel alone? Do you want to accompany you? Do you like Indonesian boys? How about I go to the hotel and kill the chicken for you?
  It was midnight and he and I were the only ones in the taxi, which made me feel nervous. I said I was going home, and the taxi boy took me back angrily. Along the way, he still tried to sell me “horse kills chicken”.
  I thought this was just an occasional behavior. After all, personal behavior cannot represent everyone. However, when I took a tuk-tuk the next day, the tuk-tuk driver asked me the same question: Do you want to go to your hotel and kill a chicken for you?
  I’m sure this isn’t culture, it’s sexual harassment!

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