Life Update : If you haven’t seen me on the go for a while, it’s because I am now working full time – as a writer/storytelling consultant as I put it. Yes, that means a drastically drier year of traveling, but I am embracing a new phase of life I’m excited about, settling in a job I look forward to, how crazy does that sound? Yes, this may be a work honeymoon phase but I let myself bask in it while I still can. And yes, my family complains sometimes that I can’t travel as much and I envy their laidback schedule sometimes, but not much really. That being said, this does not mean I will stop writing about where I go – and last week was a particularly exciting one.
As we all know (and for the unfortunate ones, experience), Jakarta’s traffic is a horrible thing I wouldn’t wish for my worst enemy. Nine years years ago, I remember reading that Jakarta will get totally congested and stand still in four years. It was five years ago and these days, it feels like that prediction has come true. For some reason, I have made peace that Jakarta is not capable of change and doesn’t deserve brighter days even though the idea of MRT has been around for few decades now, it just remains so – a thought. Thank God, some people higher up FINALLY acted on this.
I have never been so happy to be so wrong when MRT phase 1 was actually built, bit by bit (not when announced, or thought about – built in front of my eyes!!!). Oh, the prospect of my city having an efficient commuting system. I understand that it was a painful process for us too, with road closures and constrictions at places where construction was going on – creating worse congestions than before. Hey, no rainbows without rain right?
It feels like the construction goes on and on and on, looking back it did take 6 years to complete the first phase. I was in high school when it started and now I go to work, so that’s how long it takes – but it is great that it actually happens! Slowly but surely, the foundations are built, stations above or underground, and soon enough, test trains would pass by while I drove or worse, got stuck in traffic – a promise of a better life for Jakartans, a life of less time spent in traffic and more time for things that matter.
Then one day, an invitation to come down and try the train came through work, before it officially launches in March. We gathered at MRT Jakarta’s office and got briefed about the MRT. There will be 13 stations total with 6 underground stations (Senayan-Bundaran HI) and 7 above ground (Sisingamangaraja, Lebak Bulus), we would go on a loop from Bundaran HI to Lebak Bulus and back. One way would take half an hour and I half laughed, are you serious?! no way! Well, there’s only one way to find out.
Since construction was not completely done, we had to wear protecting gears and began our descend, amidst midday Bundaran HI traffic. We were in another Jakarta, underground. Everything is still covered but spotless, hollowed out space for future retail, ticket machine, the platform and finally, the familiar wheeze and sound of the train and there the train was.
We got on and took our boots off. Yep, we were walking barefeet inside the train. The floor was still covered in a strip of paper, so that our shoes didn’t damage it (like those so-called celebgram who took the test trains and stood on the chairs, yo really have you got no brains). There was also a dedicated, priority space and I’m happy to say it’s disability-friendly! The engineers would pass by couple of times making sure that everything was running smoothly. It was smooth, literally. Not only commuter-line smooth, it was Singapore-MRT smooth. After the initial awe subsided, I got
a tiny bit emotional.
I was used to commute in different countries, unfamiliar places. It felt surreal that I recognise each station’s name before I ever got on it, after all these are places I go to my whole life. It felt surreal to look out when the train began to ascend to its first station above ground. It felt surreal that the train got very close to where I live in just few minutes and reaching its final destination in exactly that, 30 minutes.
Soon enough, MRT will become a staple in many lives and I expect nothing less from you than taking care of it and using it responsibly.
From the deepest of my heart, I thank every hand and heart who move mountains to connect and change Jakarta. This is just the beginning, but thank you for being the ones who are dedicated and crazy enough to make this idea come true.
Let’s commute together, shall we?
Until next time,
Special thank you to MRT Jakarta for inviting Big Change Agency for the test ride!