JAKARTA - I have had it with being stuck in the back of a taxi going nowhere fast, and ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers who speed about with seemingly little regard for either mine or their own safety.
So, I have taken matters into my own hands. I bought a bicycle. Yup. A "push-bike" that I have to manually move with the power of my legs.
Most people think I'm crazy. One guy at work even said that I was planning my own funeral. "Madness!" he cried. "What about the men who hang around at night? It's not safe for a woman to be cycling in the dark."
But, to be fair, most "things" seem to be dangerous. It has gotten to the point where I am afraid to talk about what I do in my free time because everything is unsafe. "You take taxis, alone?";"You walk to the shop?"; or "You eat with a knife?"
Now, I can't pretend that my decision to get back on the saddle was for any noble reason. No, my main motivation was, in a word, gorengan (deep fried snacks). Gosh, how I love those deep-fried patties of joy. So does my waistline, unfortunately, which happily collects each one and stores it somewhere near my now-AWOL midriff.
My love for gorengan wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the fact that getting regular exercise in this city is all but impossible. People complain about the traffic, but the traffic is so terrible because no one walks!
And why does no one walk? Because Jakarta's sidewalks seem to have been designed by someone entering the later stages of dementia. There are over-road bridges that have steps either side of the road-but no bridge; there are sidewalks that dead-end, and there are so few crosswalks that motorists have no idea what the noise and blinking lights are telling them to do.
One afternoon I was taking a stroll around Gambir and was about to walk past the American Embassy, which I noticed had been barricaded off from the street. That's a good idea, I thought, as I clambered over it to make my way to the sidewalk; the barricade protects pedestrians from the crazy traffic careening down this busy thoroughfare.