This picture was taken our first morning in Indonesia. It was March of 2003. We were staying in a guesthouse in Jakarta while our immigration paperwork was being processed. It is strange that at such a momentous time I do not have many clear memories. Perhaps it was the location of the guest house. It was located in a busy, downtown area of Jakarta. The street was full of offices and small stores, of which we knew little to nothing. In this photo Timberley and Anna were taking a walk to a grocery store a few blocks down the road. Little did we know at the time that the dirty, slightly odiferous convenience store down the road was part of one of the largest and finest grocery chains in the country. The dirt was not from the store itself. It was simply everywhere. In one newspaper, Jakarta had the nickname “The Big Smoke.” At street level the pollutants are horrible. The exhaust from busses and trucks is so thick at times that one is unable to see through it. If you get caught in the middle of a large blast from an accelerating bus, you are momentarily blinded in a thick black fog.
The smell of Jakarta, and of the grocery store we visited, was not as bad as I had imagined before we arrived. Much of the foul odor inside the store came from the fruit section. The large, round, thorny durian fruit filled the boxes in the produce section and filled the air with its pungent and unmistakable odor. Years later I was driving into Semarang for church one Sunday morning. I had the window of the car rolled down to enjoy the morning air. As I approached Semarang I had to roll the windows up because of the bad odor. At first I thought it was durian season. But then I realized it was just people outside burning their trash.
When we returned to Indonesia early in 2007 after spending seven months in America Anna got off the airplane in Jakarta, took a big, long sniff of air, and said, “Oh, I just love the smell of Indonesia!”