One Flag Over Jakarta

An amusement park feels somewhat beside the point after you’ve driven through a single rush hour in Jakarta. 

I stayed for a week during a rainy November several years past, working with a core team of aviation educators and the various authorities to establish an outline for better pilot training in Indonesia. During that week, we commuted to an outlying airfield from the Grand Hyatt through multiple lanes of chaos, down side streets, and over shortcuts I could never replicate. The journey took us the better part of two hours each way—most days, except for the time it took three. 

We stopped for a jam of some kind one afternoon, and there we sat, staring out of the window of the van at the rainbow-colored steel frames of what had been a roller coaster, a ferris wheel, and a tilt-a-whirl. A tattered flag waved over the scene. We called this sad collection “One Flag Over Jakarta,” after the Six Flags parks we remembered from our younger days.

Back in the international district for the evening, we went out with a group, and I had my first beef rendang—the signature dish of Java island, if there could be such a singular thing. Later than night, a Bintang to settle my stomach from its spices, plus more Pringles in a new flavor—the perfect dessert. I’d wake to a quieter morning, an early jog around the gardens, and fallen flowers from the night before.

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