Where to begin?
I’m home again, and outside the surf is pumping. There’s a salt haze right across the beach that makes it all look vaguely like a dreamscape, and tilting my face up to meet the warming sun and our endless blue sky does nothing to dislodge this odd sense of hyper-reality. Sometimes it’s so beautiful here that it’s hard to keep looking.
Jakarta was a blast, although not in the way DFAT is concerned about. The truth is I felt incredibly safe the whole time. It has to be one of the most non-threatening places I’ve ever been, although in fairness to all those violent extremists out there dedicated to making the world a frightening place – because I’d hate to offend them by suggesting they’re not on their game – I will say we were in a pretty soft, very controlled environment, so maybe we just missed their no doubt worthy efforts at getting our attention. Maybe there were trouble spots and terror cells and lunatics aplenty, but I didn’t see them. True, I wasn’t exactly mixing it up with the fanatics – unless you count the other journalists, who were a rabid lot after a couple of drinks in the lobby bar – but even so, I found Union Square in Washington D.C a much, much scarier place to be a woman walking alone down the street.
This is a good thing. I was unduly afraid before leaving for this trip, and all the worst case scenarios bobbed around in my mind like so many dumplings in a greasy soup. The language of terror is so evocative and now so (terribly, yes) familiar. When Australians think ‘Indonesia’ these days, ‘Bali Bombing’ is not far behind. It’s a toxic game of word association that allows you to forget the millions of peace-loving, obliging, sweetly smiling Indonesians in favour of the mere handful of brainwashed shitheads responsible for the loss of life in the embassy and tourist attacks. It’s intellectually lazy of us that we discount the logical case for the much more unlikely, sensational one, and I feel duly abashed for having fallen for it. I fell for it. In worrying so excessively about visiting Indonesia, I fell for the hysterical hyperbole as quickly as any jihadist, and basically the second I landed on Indonesian soil, I realised what I had done, and I gave myself a bit of a hard slap around the chops. Wake up. Yes, use common sense, yes, listen to official warnings, yes, do your homework, but Jakarta is a peaceful place full of generous, friendly people. Teeming with them, in fact. And how bewildering they would find it, I think, to know just how worried I’d been.
If you ask me, ignorance is the biggest enemy in just about all things. And I’m glad to say I’m now slightly less ignorant of the reality of life in Jakarta than I was a week ago. Only slightly because it was a quick trip with a full itinerary that mainly involved the Trade Expo, which was the reason we were all there, but it’s enough that I’d like to go back, and enough that I can say I won’t be anywhere near so quick to push the panic button the next time I’m on my way to a Muslim country. There are dangerous people everywhere, that’s true, but you know what? I’m so completely positive that we’ve got ’em covered.