Last Friday, 28 September 2007, was marked as my 24 months back in Jakarta. It was longer than I expected. I was hoping I will be back travelling around the world sooner and yet, the only place that I’d been abroad within this 24 months was twice visits to Singapore. Well, things was not always working the way we want it, I suppose.

Looking Back

Contemplating my 24 months here, I’ve got some important things to write about. Some of you probably already know I am now teaching as an adjunct faculty1 at Binus University International and doing a bit of freelance Information Architecture and User Experience Design consulting. The teaching part is great, as I always love teaching (used to work as an AutoCAD instructor back in mid-90s) and the consulting part is a bit hard since not many people in Jakarta or Indonesia in general understand the importance of good user experience. Not that I am complaining but the level of providing good experience (in software or website) is quite lagging here. I will write more about this issue some other time, as I think it is quite important that the world of software and website development in this country to be aware of this issue.

After 24 months, my fear was becoming the truth. This city somehow sucks up the positive energy. What I planned to be a temporary relief after months of desperation living without job in Germany is becoming my daily routines. Somehow the dream of living and working abroad again slowly begin to diminish as I trapped in the daily issue concerning work, horrible traffic and high living cost. It is unbelievable but somehow I manage to survive day by day, months by months and 2 years straight. But it was not without price. Somehow along the way, I lost my positive and upbeat attitude. They are not completely disappear, of course, but they are not becoming my major attitude anymore. It was slowly interchangeably with cynicism and sarcasm which I personally dislike. It was not surprising that I am not the only one who had this sort of attitude. Almost everybody I met here shares the same kind of approach toward Jakarta’s daily life. As I said previously, this city is a sucker of positive energy.

Looking back 24 months ago, I asked myself; did I regret my decision to return home? Honestly, I had to say I did, a bit. I could actually stay abroad longer (after all, I’d got a year of extended German’s visa after I graduated) but in the moment of desperation and longing for the country I always love, I decided to return and braced myself for impact. It did impacted me quite hard, mentally and physically (I lost 4 kg of weight after 2 months living back in Jakarta and not gain anymore weight since that). So yes, some part of me wish that I should took the other fork of lane 24 months ago but some of me actually glad that I decided to return.

The Danger of Being Common

Why glad? Because, even though Jakarta is not a good place to living, I learned a lot from it. It was amazing how much this city taught me about life, the universe and everything. I am still amused by the fact that most people in Jakarta are taking things for granted, just because they never know that there are better things out there. If you ask any Jakarta’s residence about traffic jam, almost everybody will said that “it was normal…”. Strange, I never thought ‘traffic jam’ is normal. Even until now, I consider traffic jam is a proof of lack of discipline and low competency of the local government but yet, for Jakarta’s residence it is considered as ‘normal’. Not only about traffic, but most people in Jakarta are considering bribery, dirty politics, incompetent government officer and law enforcement, corruption, violence, stupid television shows and dramas, anarchism, racism or tribalism, low tolerance and many negative things are just ‘normal’.

I don’t want to be like them. Quoting from Hiro Nakamura from Heroes TV series;

Ando: There are twelve and a half million people in this city. Not one of them can bend space and time. Why do you want to be different?

Hiro: Why do you want to be the same?

Ando: Because that’s what I am. The same.

Hiro: It’s what we all are. Homogeneous. Yogurt.

Ando: Yogurt???

Hiro: You don’t understand. I want to be special.

Ando: We are not special. We’re Japanese!

Hiro: Fine. Stay here. Be just like everyone else. I wanna boldly go where no man has ever gone before.

Of course I can not bend space and time, that would be a wishful thinking, but Jakarta taught me that in order to live to the fullest here is to take 180° approach toward everything ‘normal’ here. It will be a hard and painful journey. Sure, it would be stupid to be rigid and stiff with the principe but even the flexibility should has its own limit. The right term would be “wise”. Understand the limit, expand the limit, move beyond the limit, rinse and repeat. Be the one with great principle and stick with it. As Jennie S. Bev said wisely “Be One in A Million, Not One of A Million“.

This learning opportunity about life, the universe and everything in Jakarta is something that made me glad with my decision to return home. This is the place where I learn how to appreciate what I had and what I will do next.

Then Comes the Dip

This train of thought bring me to the next question: Is this the Dip? Or is this the Cul-de-Sac? or even worse, is this the dreaded Cliff?2

At this moment, I am not sure. I want this to be the Dip but looking at all the facts around me, this one has tendency to become the Cul-de-Sac. Sure, my teaching career is great and my consulting job is getting better but somehow, deep down inside, I believe that I could and should do something greater than this. I love what I am doing right now but is this the best option or the only available option in this place? I still have many things in my head that I want to do or participate but as I said, living in Jakarta really sucked all the energy left after I am done with my daily routine. It feels like at the end of the day, all I want to do is take a long break and get a full rest before jumping into the fray of chaos next day.

These are things that I still want to take a part of: I still want to put my hand in the Web 2.0 amazing world, I still want to contribute in strategic online marketing implementation, I still want to take a swim in the viral marketing sea, I still think the “Web Strategist” (Thanks to Jeremiah for introducing me with this amazing job description) is one of the best job out there, I still believe that video and computer game is the ultimate challenge for user experience designer, I still want to pursue a higher degree and I still believe that I could do better if I am living abroad. These things are my Dip.

The Challenge

So if any of you are involved with those beautiful things mentioned above, offer me a challenge. If the challenge is good enough then I will accept it and pack my bag in no time to move on to the next great thing.

It’s been 24 months. It’s about time.

Footnotes:

  1. adjunct faculty: a teaching position below full-time faculty hierarchy but above part-time faculty. Usually teach for 12-20 hours a week. «

  2. For those who are unfamiliar with these terms, read The Dip by Seth Godin. It is a little and short (only 80 pages!) book about when to quit (and when to stick). This little book is full of gems about becoming the best in the world. You could try to find it in any book store in Jakarta, or you could buy it at Amazon, or if you are really a cheapskate, you could borrow mine. Just ask, cheapo. «