Living in Yogyakarta offers up a plenitude of opportunities – if you are willing to take a chance, say yes and follow through. Last weekend was one of those opportunities as I packed my bag and headed for the big smoke to take the opportunity to make my Asian football debut for the Jakarta Bintangs.
Jakarta or the “big durian” (apparently) is a massive city about a hours flight west of Yogya, home to 26.6 million people in the greater-Jakarta urban area. I landed in Jakarta on Friday afternoon and after negotiating with a smooth talking car rental fellow (scam artist), set forth on what would be an epic journey to my friend’s house, a mere 30km (according to Google Maps) from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. Those of you that have heard about Jakarta (or have been) may have heard about the traffic, generally worse in the afternoons, generally worse on Fridays. I had plenty of time to contemplate this fact as I rotted in peak-hour traffic for three hours. Three. Long. Hours. Three hours of my life that I will never get back. Thankfully Jas and Jack had not accompanied me on this little sojourn otherwise the little man may way have worn-out his almost endless supply of good nature. I arrived at my mate’s house tired, ready to eat and ecstatic at the prospect of some time perpendicular!
That night we led an expedition into two fantastic extremes of Jakarta nightlife – one, a mature roof-top bar with views of the city skyline, classy cocktails and pleasant mood lighting; the other a bustling open air bar pumping out trance hits from the early 2000’s, packed full of underage, scantily clad expat and gado-gado (mixed race) children getting completely rat-faced! Our little group of five dramatically drove the average age of the second bar skywards while we sat sipping bourbon and Cokes, smoking shisha and admiring the three mid-teens that managed to vomit near us within thirty minutes of each other. Impressive effort at 9.30pm. Vastly different to what I’m used to after nearly two months of monk-like living in the kampung, but entertaining all the same.
The next day feeling refreshed and relaxed from sucking shisha and drinking all night – the perfect preparation for a game of Aussie-rules (not too dissimilar to my Albany days). Today I was making my debut for the mighty Jakarta Bintangs in a much hyped game against the Malaysia Warriors, who were turning up with AFL Premiership winner Trent Croad at full forward. The Bintangs (NB: Bintang is Indonesian for “Star”, not just a beer and is actually pronounced “Bin-tung”) were formed by a group of expats suffering Aussie-rules withdrawals in 1995 and play regular games against teams from around South-East Asia. After the team (unfortunately) found out I was a nurse, I spent my warm up strapping players ready for the big clash. I enjoyed the first half basking in the warm familiarity of the “pine”, then launched in to my Asian Football debut with gusto, and a fair degree of rustiness in the second half. I managed to get a few kicks, lay a tackle on man-mountain Mr Croad and kick what was reportedly goal of the day. Happy days. The Bintangs ran out convincing winners in the end partly due to a stronger bench and home ground advantage.
In my experience football clubs around Australia are always very similar. A healthy dose of camaraderie with “the boys’” and a “few beers” mixed with carcinogenic barbeque offerings and meat pies are commonplace, and the Jakarta Bintangs are no different. The club has focused intensely on local development and runs a junior competition for Indonesian kids in the area, with a few players stepping up for our game and not looking out of place on the field. Following presentations we headed back to the “clubhouse” (an inner-city sports bar full of bules [see here] and “bule-hunters”), for more drinking and to chat with the opposition – always easier after a win. This led to heading off to a crowded Jakarta nightclub with “the boys” and more drinking, dancing and revelry. Good times had by all until I had to drag my sorry corpse out of bed after two hours sleep to make my (eventually 1 hour delayed) flight back to Yogyakarta.
So concluded an interesting weekend away from sleepy little Yogya town, a great runabout for the Bintangs and a bit of partying. Jakarta is so far removed from our lives in Yogya – it was great to see, and I’ll probably be back for more footy, but I think Yogya’s cruisey lifestyle and laid-back attitude (plus lack of spirit-draining traffic) is more my style.