Selamat all times of day from the wilds of Indonesia. To get things started right, I think we need a list, perhaps of things I had remembered and things I had forgotten.
1. That the water is not potable
a. because the canals are so clogged with trash they can barely move
b. and because the water from the tap is vaguely greenish. (Don't take baths.)
2. The thick, almost overly sweet-smelling air of the tropics
a. with an acrid overlay of pure pollution
b. and sometimes the stench of rotting garbage.
3. The call of the mosques echoing through the (relatively) cool twilight
a. and the constant roar of motorcyles, buses, cars, trucks, and bajaj
b. and never forget the tinny Indopop blaring from every radio.
4. That Indonesians are kind, gentle, polite, and friendly
a. and will always smile in exchange for a smile
b. and will never, ever, ever leave a person alone.
5. That crossing the street is like a giant and deadly game of Frogger
a. but it's not as scary as, say, Cairo
b. and sometimes, if you're lucky, a friendly member of the Indonesian Special Forces will step in the road and stop three lanes of traffic for your crossing.
I'll be in culture shock mode in a month or two, I'm sure, but for now I'm still in the honeymoon phase. Jakarta is overcrowded, dirty, smelly, and noisy, but every so often in the midst of the hubbub I am struck, in the spirit of Proust's madeleines, by a tiny thing--a word, a smile, a smell, an "Allahu Akbar" over the loudspeaker--that reminds me of my years here and makes me think: this is coming home.
May all my homecomings be this way!