You may think that living in Indonesia offers a beach bum lifestyle of living in a canvas hut on the beach, lazy afternoons swinging in a hammock and existing on a diet of fresh fruit, picked from the tree only that morning. Life in Jakarta, capital city of Indonesia, couldn’t be more different.
One of the most densely populated cities in the world at twenty two million people, Jakarta has an unavoidable pollution problem, open sewage can be seen everywhere throughout the city, it is heavily trafficked with all manner of vehicles most of which would be unlikely to pass the NCT in Ireland and of course all of these are contributing to the filthy air in Jakarta.
Coming from Ireland, these are the kind of details that you don’t necessarily ask, it doesn’t matter how many people live there, doesn’t matter about the traffic, instead the making or breaking of any country for an Irish person is the weather. To date my expatriate postings that delivered fully on extreme weather conditions, Irish people love nothing more than a conversation about weather. To the point that in Abu Dhabi I found the weather unnervingly stable, making it impossible to make polite climatic conversation, such as, ‘it’s meant to brighten up in the afternoon’ or ‘it’s going to get ever worse tonight’, that kind of thing, casual chit chat that usually takes place in the local shop, in a taxi, on the phone to home, it works everywhere, except Abu Dhabi where there was constant sunshine.
However, the constant sunshine and intense heat stories, never grew stale when on the phone to home, ‘I put a line of washing out at 11 and it was in and dry by 12’ or ‘the springs on the trampoline snapped last summer with the heat’, people at home loved it, asked all the time about the incessant heat, but may have felt a little outdone when they reported a 22⁰c scorcher in July and all they got back was, ‘it’s 51⁰c here in Abu Dhabi’.
The reports have remained just as dramatic here in Jakarta. Plonked almost directly on the equator, the island of Java has a typical equatorial climate. The temperature is almost constantly thirty degrees, the sun shines for a few hours of the date, intense, glorious sunshine and in the afternoon and into the night, the heavens open with torrential downpours and windows shuddering thunder and lightning that can last long into the night. Of course being Irish we love the drama, nestled inside with the curtains open looking out at rain rasping off the ground, the A/C going full blast and tutting, ‘that’s some rain’, ‘there’ll be floods tomorrow’, every bolt of lightning evoking a comment, ‘that one was close’. These evenings are so intense that I cannot miss the opportunity to phone home and boast, first I let the conversation flow a bit, casually enquiring about the weather and secretly pleased when the response is ‘very wet here all day’, I take my chance, tilt the Skype camera to the torrent outside and do the voiceover, ‘look at this for rain’, deflated, the caller goes off the phone, unable to compete my dramatic conditions, I had won the weather war again.
It seemed a whitewash competition until I got the call last week from home, Storm Darwin had hit reeking devastation across Ireland. Rated one of the most destructive and violent storms to have ever hit Darwin left thousands of homes were without power, many buildings across the national were destroyed, thousands of homes flooded, the country was in chaos. I had nothing, the night was calm in Jakarta for once it looked like Ireland was going to win the telephone weather war.
But fear not, just the next day, Mount Kelud on the Island of Java, same Island as me, decides to erupt, spewing red hot ash and rocks across a ten mile radius. Two hundred thousand people are evacuated from their homes in the surrounding thirty six villages near Kelud. 1,731-metre Kelud in east Java, home to 120,000,000 people was rumbling for several weeks and was under close observation, it erupted only ninety minutes after the alert went to the highest level. Ninety minutes to find shelter when there are 119,999,999 others doing the same.
Mount Kelud is one of the 130 active volcanos on the Island of Java. On the phone home to Ireland, this was a clear win for me, but let’s just call off the weather war. I win though – ok?