The rainy season has undoubtedly begun here in West Java, and EF has been piling on plenty of overtime during the past few weeks. These two things have been the main reason that Josh and I haven’t done anything exciting since our trip to Bogor at the beginning of last month; during the few hours that we’re not at school, we’re usually curled up at home or in a coffee shop with a good book  as thunderstorms crash overhead–not that we’re complaining about having extra time to read!

On Saturday, though, we felt it was time to get out of town for a day and see something new. There were a few different things we wanted to do in Jakarta, and this seemed like a great chance to practice our train-taking skills. We went to the train station, purchased our tickets, and boarded our train when it arrived thirty minutes later. (We haven’t been able to find a timetable, either online or at any of the stations, so it’s just a matter of waiting at the right platform until a train shows up.)

The first train was packed when we boarded and it only got more crowded as we got closer to Jakarta. Our route required one transfer, so we got off at the right station and went to the platform that was (mis)labeled with our destination and waited. And waited. And waited.

Indonesia is not known for being punctual, and there were a few other people sitting at the platform, so we waited patiently for an hour before finally admitting defeat and trying to figure out where our train actually was. As it turns out, multiple trains had come to the actual platform where we should have been waiting, and we would have realized that much sooner if we had been able to understand the announcements.

Exhausted and sweaty from standing so long in the midday heat, Josh and I both decided to ditch the activities that involved being outdoors, which left us with one thing on our agenda: A few days before, we had discovered that our favorite movie was showing in 4DX at the cinema in a mall called Grand Indonesia. We went straight there from the train station. The moment we entered the mall, we were in awe.

Grand Indonesia

Indeed, it was the grandest mall we had ever seen, and by the time we had gotten to the cinema on the eighth floor, we were dazzled. We bought our movie tickets, and had plenty of time before the show started, so we explored more of the mall and stopped at one of our favorite restaurant chains, Pancious Pancakes, which had conveniently just opened a location at this mall.

And as if Josh and I didn’t already feel like we were leading lives of luxury, I had a serendipitous miscommunication with our server while ordering, which we only discovered a few minutes later when something called a “crepe cake” arrived at our table. I’m certain we didn’t see anything like that on the menu, but we were not about to argue–it was obviously a sign that we were meant to indulge after a long week!

Crepe Cake

After having dessert for dinner, we decided we should probably try to find something nutritious (especially since we knew we wouldn’t be able to resist getting popcorn with our movie), so we wove our way through endless strips of restaurants and food stalls within the mall and settled on a Japanese restaurant, where we enjoyed some veggies and also a pretty nice view over part of the city.

JakartaFinally, it was time for our movie, so we made our way back to the cinema and waited among other excited movie-goers until it was time to file into the theater. For anyone who doesn’t know what a 4DX movie is, it’s where there are flashing lights, moving seats, splashes of water, blasts of wind, and sprays of scents at relevant moments throughout the film. Josh absolutely loves the commercial for 4DX that plays every time we see a movie. This particular movie, Snowpiercer, is set on board a train, so our seats lurched every time the train jolted, in addition to many other added features.

By the end, Josh and I decided that the special effects didn’t add anything to our understanding or enjoyment of the movie itself. After all, we’ve already spent hours analyzing and discussing and admiring this movie from every angle, so the 4D features didn’t tell us anything new about the film. However, it was a fun experience to have, and we definitely felt that it justified our trip into Jakarta.

We felt a slight culture shock upon emerging from the closed ecosystem of the cool, pristine mall into the dirty, muggy, crowded city streets. As we wove our way through uneven, poverty-stricken, cockroach-infested streets back to the station, Josh and I realized that in a very short time span, we were able to see both the richest and the poorest sides of the city.

The mall had given us several hours of distraction and entertainment but our return to the outside world reminded us that we live in a country that is far from perfect, and we continue to hope that we’re teaching a generation of students who will grow up to make positive changes here.

Love, Elizabeth

*All photos were graciously provided by Josh.